J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A New John Adams Note?

The Warwick (Rhode Island) Beacon reports that today in North Kingston auctioneer William Spicer will sell a short, ragged John Adams letter—really more of a note. I don’t believe this document is mentioned in the published Papers of John Adams.

The letter is dated “Boston Decr. 26 1772” and addressed to an “old Friend” named William Elliot. The newspaper’s transcription reads:
We are all in a fury here about the Dependency of the governor and the Dependency of the Judges, the Commission for trying the Rhode Islanders for Burning the Gaspee. I wonder how your Colony happens to sleep so securely in a whole skin, when her sisters are so worried and tormented! . . .

[Postscript:] The Fools call it the Independency of the Govr, Judges etc
The letter comments on two political issues. One was the royal inquiry into the destruction of the Royal Navy ship Gaspee, which was disrupting Adams’s court schedule because it required the attention of some judicial figures.

The other was the Crown’s move to pay salaries to royal governors, judges, and other colonial appointees from the tea tax rather than leave it up to the local legislatures to pay those salaries (or delay doing so). The Crown salaries made those officials more independent of local opinion, more dependent on royal favor—hence the semantic debate within the letter.


G. Lovely said...

While I'm familiar with the name, I must admit my woeful ignorance concerning the details of the Gaspee incident. After watching this short video, however, I now see the need to fill that lacuna:


J. L. Bell said...

I recommend the Gaspee Virtual Archives as a good launching point. An excellent site with lots of primary sources and analysis.