John Adams Letter Signed "John Adams." Two page...Click the image to load the highest resolution version.
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DescriptionJohn Adams Letter Signed "John Adams." Two pages with integral address cover, 8" x 10"; Quincy, [Massachusetts]; January 11, 1822. This letter, presumably dictated and then signed by Adams, is to Francis Henderson of Newport, Rhode Island, a Scottish merchant who was married to the orphan daughter of John Laurens, a soldier in the American Revolution from South Carolina and son of Henry Laurens (1724-1792), a merchant, slave trader, and rice planter from South Carolina who became a political leader during the Revolutionary War, delegate to the Second Continental Congress, and later served as President of the Second Continental Congress. Henderson had written to Adams on January 3, seeking his assistance in obtaining financial relief from Congress for his wife and child.
I have recd. your letter from Newport of the 3d. of this month Unable to examine it myself on account of the failure of my eye sight I have had the letter with the documents read to me, and I wish it were in my power to be of any service to you in supporting your claim. To the great merit of Colo. Laurens the father, as a member and President of Congress, and as a Negotiator of the Treaty of Peace I can and do most cheerfully and cordially attest. Of Colo. Laurens's son I can say nothing of my own knowledge having never had the pleasure of any acquaintance with him. When he was special minister to France I was in Holland and know nothing of his negotiations there but by report; by all that I have ever heard his conduct there was mark'd by great spirit, independence activity, diligence, and success, and I have no hesitation expressing my opinion that both the father and the son, are fully entitled to as ample an allowance for necessary expenses and contingencies as any of our foreign ministers have ever received-It should be remembered that in those times no allowance was made for an outfit-It would be improper in me to give any opinion of the construction of resolutions of congress when the present Congress are much more capable than I am in discerning their meaning. I am Sir with the best wishes for the success of your claim, and with great regard
your obt. sert.
On January 3, 1822, Francis Henderson wrote to 87-year-old Adams, stating "As I am a stranger to you, the subject matter of this letter must be my excuse for...addressing you." Henderson then introduced himself as the husband of "the orphan daughter and only child of the late Lieut. Colo. John Laurens of South Carolina, by whom I have one child living,-a Son,-now of age and with me, having finished his Education at the University of Edinburgh." He wrote Adams that he wished to settle "the pecuniary Concerns of Myself and Family; and among other things, the balance of our claim on the United States, arising from Resolutions of Congress, passed on the 1st. of March 1785, in favor of Colo. Laurens's orphan child." Henderson explained to Adams that the accounts growing out of the congressional resolutions did not include Laurens' ministerial expense account, which resulted in Laurens' heirs receiving less financial compensation than they deserved. He enclosed documentation (not included here) reinforcing his case that the heirs were compensated for Laurens' salary but not his expenses incurred during his time as a special minister. In order to strengthen his claim with Congress, Henderson requests that Adams send him a written endorsement of Laurens' heirs' rights under the resolutions passed by Congress. In his letter, Adams responds favorably to Henderson's request as best he can, short of questioning Congress' perceived oversight of Henderson's claim.
John Laurens (1754-1782) was an American soldier and statesman from South Carolina during the American Revolutionary War, best known for his criticism of slavery and his efforts to help recruit slaves to fight for their freedom as U.S. soldiers. For most of 1781, he served as a special minister to France, assisting Benjamin Franklin. Laurens returned to America in time to participate as a soldier in the Battle of Yorktown. On August 27, 1782, Laurens was killed in the Battle of the Combahee River in August 1782. On October 26, 1776, Laurens married Martha Manning in London. In December 1776, wanting to fight in the American Revolution, Laurens sailed for Charleston, leaving his pregnant wife who, unable to risk a months-long journey by sea during wartime, stayed behind with her family in London. Laurens' only child, a daughter named Frances Eleanor Laurens (1777-1860), lost both parents by the age of 8, and was brought to Charleston in May 1785, where she was raised by John Laurens' sister and her husband. Fanny subsequently eloped in 1795 with Francis Henderson. They had one child, Francis Henderson Jr. (1800-1847), a South Carolina lawyer who died young from alcoholism.
This letter shows the elderly Adams recalling his ministerial colleagues and trying to assist the heirs of one of them.
Condition: Flattened mail folds with minor separations at the fold edges. Mild chipping at the edges. Light toning, foxing and soiling throughout. There is an area of dampstaining at the right center edge. Some tearing and paper loss where the wax seal was broken. The majority of separations and tears have been repaired and reinforced with cello tape. The integral fold is nearly completely separated.
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