James Madison Papers

To James Madison from John Adams, 23 January 1795

From John Adams

Philadelphia January 23. 1795

Dear Sir

Will you be so good as to read the inclosed Letter from Dr Belknap and tell me, from your Recollection of what passed in Congress in 1779. 1780 & 1781, whether there is any Colour for the Imputation cast on our Country by Dr Kippis.1 I cannot say as Dr Belknap has been informed that Dr Kippis is my Correspondent. I never wrote a Letter to him or received a Letter from him that I recollect. I visited him and he visited me. I often heard him in his Pulpit, and frequently met him in society in London, and ever conceived and entertained a good opinion of his Candour, and a great Idea of his Information. I doubt not he wrote what he believed: hut he has certainly been misinformed.

I doubt not he will readily correct his Error, as soon as he shall be convinced of it. And if you will be so obliging as to recollect what passed within your Knowledge relative to Dr Franklin’s Recommendation, and write it to me, I will convey it to Dr Belknap and perhaps take some other Measures to shew that Dr Franklins Liberality of sentiment was never censured, but on the Contrary was Admired by his Fellow Citizens. With great Esteem I have the Honour to be, sir your most obedient

John Adams

RC (MHi). JM evidently returned the RC and its enclosure in his 3 Feb. 1795 reply to Adams, for the RC was printed with the correspondence described in n. 1 below. See also Adams to Jeremy Belknap, 4 Feb. 1795 (MHi: Belknap Papers).

1The Reverend Andrew Kippis was pastor of the London Presbyterian congregation in Princes Street, 1753–95. In his article on Capt. James Cook in Biographica Britannica (2d ed.; 5 vols.; London, 1778–93), 4:235, Kippis recounted that in 1779 Benjamin Franklin, as U.S. minister to France, had recommended that American warships not attack Cook, who was then expected to return to Europe from his last voyage of exploration. Kippis erroneously claimed that Congress had countermanded Franklin’s order. The issue was somewhat moot, for the Hawaiians killed Cook before his ships reached Europe. Jeremy Belknap, corresponding secretary of the Massachusetts Historical Society, nevertheless brought Kippis’s error to the attention of Adams and other American political leaders. Belknap published their testimonials denying Kippis’s allegation, including JM’s 3 Feb. 1795 reply to Adams, in the Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 4 (1795; Evans description begins Charles Evans, ed., American Bibliography … 1639 … 1820 (12 vols.; Chicago, 1903–34). Roger P. Bristol, ed., Supplement to Charles Evans’ American Bibliography (Charlottesville, Va., 1970). description ends 29049): 79–85.

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