Adams Papers

To John Adams from Thomas Greenleaf, 16 July 1778

From Thomas Greenleaf

Great Britain Forton-Goal, July 16th 1778

Honored Sir

Pardon the presumption of addressing you in this manner at this unhappy Crisis of my life. Considering the distinguish’d nobleness of your sentiments, and your present exalted station as a support and defender of the American, glorious, Cause and persons, I at once resolve that this is an incumbent Duty on my part, and cannot entertain the least doubt but it will be attended too with that sympathy which is an immutable attendant on the hearts of ev’ry Great Man.

On Monday, the 25th. May, 1778, the Brigantine Angelica1 of sixteen six-pounders and ninety-eight Men, Congress Commission, Wm. Dennis Commander (myself Lt. Marine on board) sail’d from Boston, and on Saturday the 30th. May was Captured by the Andromeda Frigate, Guns twenty eight, Genl. Howe on board. The Brigantine was scutled, our treatment —————2 our Cloathing chiefly lost; had we fewer Garments the spectators would doubtless have judg’d we were not of the fallen race; from thence we were conducted to this abstruce confinement; but, thank God, thro’ the benevolence and generosity of our British friends our spirits we support, notwithstanding our tabernacles are quite enervated and meagre.

I am at present intirely ignorant of what is in the power of our friends in France as to assisting us in our present situation small sums will be of great service to us, or, individuals; as you may judge, Sir, from Capt. Thompson, Capt. Porter, &c.

I preferr’d writing to you, Sir, imagining you will, after seeing my Name, recollect the family of Joseph Greenleaf, Esqr.

If there is nothing allowed us by Congress, in this our distress’d situation, I will obligate myself to return with interest any sum, you may please to send for my relief, when I get to Boston.

I will thank you in a particular manner if you will please to convey in the safest and most expeditious way the inclos’d letter to my father. With the greatest Veneration, I am, Honored Sir, Yr. most Obedient Humble Servant

T. Greenleaf3

NB. The above is nearly a Copy of a letter I have sent by another rout lest this should not get safe to hand. If you will please to direct your letter to be left at the Revd. Thomas <Rand’s>Wrens in St. Thomas Street, Portsmouth I shall get without fail with whatever it contains.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The Honble. John Adams Esqr; Passey near Paris France” docketed: “Thomas [Greenleaf]” in CFA’s hand: “July 16th:” in an unknown hand: “1778.” A portion of the docket entry has been cut off.

1The Angelica was a privateer, presumably with a commission from the Continental Congress (Allen, Mass. Privateers description begins Gardner Weld Allen, Massachusetts Privateers of the Revolution (Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections, vol. 77), Boston, 1927. description ends , p. 74).

2Greenleaf left a space here, possibly because he thought that, considering his position, he should not be too specific about his treatment.

3Thomas Greenleaf escaped from Forton Prison, to which he had been sent on 7 July, and may have been the “Mr Greenleaf” who carried JA’s letter of 27 Dec. to AA in America. Greenleaf, who later became a noted New York city printer, was the son of Joseph Greenleaf of Boston (Marion and Jack Kaminkow, comps., Mariners of the American Revolution, Baltimore, 1967, p. 78; Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963-. description ends , 3:141; 1:198, note 4; James Edward Greenleaf, comp., Genealogy of the Greenleaf Family, Boston, 1896, p. 196, 77–78). For JA’s opinion on aid to prisoners in general and to Greenleaf in particular, see his reply of 8 Sept., apparently not sent (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 93).

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