Adams Papers

To John Adams from John Williams, 20 August 1785

From John Williams

August the 20— 17851


When the dispute between America & the English ministry, first commenced; I summon’d a meeting of Americans and planters, in order to frame a petition against the measures, then agitated; it was sign’d by us and presented to each branch of the Legislature—2 after the war broke out, I wrote to the People of England under the signature of the Man of Ross, & inforced the doctrine of peace, and when my Speech intended to have been spoken on the Hustings of Guild-hall, was publishd;3 I certainly was admitted to General Conway & he soon after our meeting, made a Motion for chaining up the Savage of War in America—4 Lord Rockingham promised to appoint me a Commissioner to treat with Doctor Franklyn, but Mr. Oswald a Scotch Gentleman was inserted in my promised Embassy—5

My letters to the People of England, are in a desultory manner, collected & addressed to the Greatest Politician in England—6

When the Islands were restored, instead of being made a Governor, as I expected, I was appointed, Compt. of Grenada.7 on my Arrival I admitted all ships from America: but since my departure, a different system has been adopted—

I hope, your approbation will not be withholden from The Crisis of the Colonies: written with a wish to form a Commercial Union, which every friend to each country ought, in my humble Opinion to promote—8

I have offerd to act as a Commissioner to treat with Congress and to go to America on this business, so near my heart, without any Salary—

Whenever agreeable to you, I will chearfully wait on you; as I have the honor / To be / with the / Highest respect— / Your Most Obedient / & Most H Servant

John Williams
At the Revd
Mr: [Shewries?]—

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “Jno. Williams 9. Aug. 1785.”

1John Williams (d. 1791), former inspector-general of customs at the port of Boston, was the father of Jonathan Williams (1754?–1780), JA’s former law clerk (Sabine, Loyalists description begins Lorenzo Sabine, BiographicalSketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, rev. edn. by Gregory Palmer, Westport, Conn., 1984. description ends , 2:434; vol. 2:104). In a 19 Oct. 1769 Diary entry recounting an evening spent at John Williams’ house, JA wrote that Williams “is as sly, secret and cunning a fellow, as need be” (JA, D&A description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 1:344). There is no indication of any further correspondence between Williams and JA.

2There were numerous petitions presented to Parliament and the King protesting measures being taken against the American colonies, but two signed by Williams were those of 26 March and [ante 11 May] 1774 protesting the Coercive Acts adopted in the wake of the Boston Tea Party. Among the other signers of those petitions were Edward Bancroft, John Boylston, Benjamin Franklin, Ralph Izard, Edmund Jenings, Joshua Johnson, Henry Laurens, and Arthur and William Lee (Franklin, Papers description begins The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, William B. Willcox, Claude A. Lopez, Barbara B. Oberg, Ellen R. Cohn, and others, New Haven, 1959–. description ends , 21:155–157, 214–216).

3The two pamphlets that Williams mentions here have not been identified, but he did author several others, including The Rise, Progress, and Present State of the Northern Governments . . . and on the Circumstances and Conjectures which have Contributed to Produce the Various Revolutions which have Happened in Them, London, 1777.

4Williams probably refers to the reconciliation bill introduced by Gen. Henry Seymour Conway on 5 May 1780, for which see vol. 9:324.

5There is no indication that Williams was intended to negotiate the Anglo-American peace. In any event, Richard Oswald was the Earl of Shelburne’s agent at Paris prior to the Marquis of Rockingham’s death in July 1782; he was named to negotiate the peace following Shelburne’s assumption of the ministry (vol. 13:15, 176, 412).

6Possibly A Series of Letters Addressed to the Greatest Politician in England, London, 1780. It is listed in Adams, Amer. Controversy description begins Thomas R. Adams, The American Controversy: A Bibliographical Study of the British Pamphlets about the American Disputes, 1764–1783, Providence and New York, 1980; 2 vols. description ends , 2:732, but there it is given no attribution.

7Williams served as comptroller of Grenada in 1784 (Journals of the House of Commons, repr. edn., London, 1803–, 42:128, 129).

8Williams’ latest pamphlet was The Crisis of the Colonies Considered: With Some Observations on the Necessity of Properly Connecting Their Commercial Interest with Great Britain and America, London, 1785.

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