Adams Papers

To John Adams from Robert Purviance, 16 April 1789

Baltimore 16th. April 1789


The Honor I formerly had in a personal acquaintance with you, and the experience I have fully evinced of your attachmt. to my unfortunate Brother Samuel Purviance as well as myself, I am Compelled to the necessity to relate to you the present adversity of the Families of my Brother and self, the loss of my Dear Brother and the Melancholy event that occasioned his fall is to me much more distressing than all the worldly losses I have ever experienced, and in which Event I am satisfied you will Sympathize with his unfortunate Children and Friends. the one deprived of the best of Parents, the other of a sincere Friend and the Community of a Useful Citizen, are distressing and bears me down with sorrow; when added to that the Deranged state of Affairs of that once respectable House.

You were no doubt informed the motives that reduced my Brother & Self to the unhappy Alternative to Surrender our property Real & Personal to the Chancellor of this State on the 30th. day of July 1787, and by that law not Discriminated from the Fraudulent Debtor: We were reduced from a state of affluence with two large Families not less than Fifteen Children (the greater part helpless) to be left at the mercy of the Benevolent, with weaving apparel only, after giving up an Estate of One Hundred and Twenty Odd Thousand Pounds this money at a moderate valuation to satisfy the Demands of about Thirty six thousand pounds—The Trustees by a Most generous act of theirs, proposed to my Brother & Self that if we would take upon us the management of the Estate under their discretion they would give up the Commission to be allowed by the Chancellor, the only method they could devise to Support our Families in the meantime.

In consequence my unfortunate Brother was appointed to look after our Landed Estate in the Western Country and myself to conduct the Affairs of the House here—My Brother before his departure placed his four Daughters, Two with our Friend Mr. David Stewart, one with Mr Daniel Hughes and the other with Mr MacCreery where they still remain, a circumstance truly distressing to me, to see the Children of so tender and careful a Parent scattered as they are, when out of my powers to go thro’ with my own numerous Family of nine Children (and a Tender Mother) without the interposition of Heaven for their relief—Such has been the unfortunate period that I have fallen under, that with all my best Exertions a very small part of the Estate of my Brother & Self has yet been sold and little or none of the Debts yet collected in. To force a Sale at present would I am Convinced not net sufficient to pay the demands; But be as it may, the Real Estate in this Town must be sold this Summer (to satisfy the urgent Creditors) the merits of which I have drawn, the principal resources to go thro’ with my Family, and some little help to the Clothing my nieces. My Nephews (poor fellows) are not in a Way to do more than barely support themselves, nor can I flatter myself from present appearances that they will shortly be able to do more without some Friendly Aid, that would enable my Nephew John Henry Purviance to collect his four Sisters together—All hopes of his fathers safety is intensely given up by me some time since; a melancholy circumstance the Children are unacquainted with; and which I concluded prudence dictated to me for the present to keep them ignorant of. The oldest son after receiving a liberal education as well as Henry the younger, the former now a Clerk to a House in this Town, and Henry about two years in the practice of law at Hagerstown in Washington County where he has done but little as yet—The Exertions of my Brother in particular and my own small abilities not being deficient for a series of years in our Countries preservation, as well as, our Monies at all times at their command, Induces me to hope for the Patronage of our Illustrious Saviour his Excellency the President and the Honble the House of Senate, that through the Kind and Friendly interposition of many of my Friends, and that of my late Brother, they will enable me I trust, by some appointment in this State, to Support & Educate my Children and my Nephew J. H. Pruviance to bring the Offspring of the tender Parent together from being a Burthen on the well disposed; And in order to assist me in this undertaking, I must beg leave to solicit your Friendly interposition with his Excellency the President, and the Honble the Senators of your State &c.

I propose being at New York early in May, where I have to get settled some of our public accounts still lying open. I am perfectly satisfied the Transacting them will not dishonour the late House, nor Injure my intended application—The balance in our favour is heavy and would probably have enabled us to warded off the Sword Blow we met with, had our Country been able to have done us that Justice we did them in our incurring that Debt—

I have the Honor to be with Great Respect / Your Excellencys / most Obedt. & very humble Servt.

Robert Purviance

MHi: Adams Papers.

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