Plea of Said Joseph is Bad and Insufficient

in about Warren

Date: April 7, 1772

Authors: John Adams, Samuel S. Quincy, and Ebenezer Goldthwaite

The plaintiffs protest that Warren has illegally evicted several members of the Green family from a piece of land in Hanover Street occupied by a house “and other buildings.” The endorsements record the pleas of the parties to the suit: “And the said Joseph [Warren] comes & defends & saith he is not guilty…as the Pl[ain]tfs. have declare’d in their Writ…John Adams And the said Plaintiffs answering Liberty of waiving this Demurrer on the Appeal say the Plea of the said Joseph is bad & insufficient in Law & thereof pray Judgment for their Damages & costs. Samuel S. Quincy. And the s[ai]d Joseph saith his Plea is good & sufficient & therefore prays Judgement & for his costs. John Adams.”

Source: Christie’s auction Books, Americana, Manuscripts 2003, USA, lot #1. Full text, sale price, owner, and current location of the document are unknown to me. See auction listing here. last accessed 6/19/2012, no photo. Though not having the benefit of an archivist’s verification of authenticity, I tentatively accept this as an original document as described.

Commentary: Descendant Samuel Abbot Green’s description of the rental of the Green’s house on Hanover Street in late 1770, missed this documentation altogether. All was not sweetness and light between Joseph Warren and the Green family. Warren’s expansion into the entire house was not a smooth process. Following the death of matriarch Mrs. Green in December 1770, Joseph Warren evicted “several members of the Green family” from the house. Who were they? Were these the servant and Negro mentioned at the time of the original rental, or other people? This episode occurred just a month following Warren’s memorable 1772 Boston Massacre Oration, though the two episodes appear to be unrelated. Did Joseph patch up things with his landlord subsequent to this lawsuit, paving the way for Green descendants to view relations between their forebears and Joseph Warren as always being cordial? In a separate interaction we have observed that Joseph Warren was capable of publicly excoriating medical and political colleague Dr. Thomas Young, while later reconciling and doing important work together.

John Adams represented his friend Joseph Warren in this litigation. References to this dispute do not appear in John Adams’ papers as compiled and published at the Massachusetts Historical Society. Interest in the long-gone Hanover Street structure is enhanced by the iconic events that transpired there.  Dr. Joseph Warren dispatched Paul Revere and William Dawes from his home office to warn of British Army movements on the evening of April 18, 1775.

Here is Christie’s description of the document from their 2003 catalog:

“ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President Autograph endorsement signed twice (“John Adams”), 10 lines plus signatures on verso of a partly printed document, Boston, 7 April 1772, setting out the lawsuit of Green vs. JOSEPH WARREN, also signed by Samuel S. Quincy (1735-1789). 2 pages, small folio, endorsements on verso, recto with printed text accomplished in manuscript, legal text signed by Clerk Ebenezer Goldthwaite, minor stains.”

“An unusual document linking two highly important Massachusetts patriots: Joseph Warren (1741-1775), killed at Bunker Hill, and John Adams, later the second President. The document is also signed by loyalist Samuel Quincy. In 1770, John Adams had taken on the controversial defense of Captain Thomas Preston, a British officer, and his men, charged with murder in the Boston massacre. Samuel Quincy, the plaintiffs’ attorney in the present case, had been the special prosecutors whom Adams had faced in the celebrated Boston massacre case, which ended with the acquittal of six defendants and the manslaughter conviction of two others.”

“The plaintiffs protest that Warren has illegally evicted several members of the Green family from a piece of land in Hanover Street occupied by a house and other buildings… Warren played an central role in the independence movement in Massachusetts, and in 1774 drafted the famous Suffolk Resolves. He served as President of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in 1775 and was killed in the battle of Bunker Hill, June 17, 1775. Quincy, Adams’ old opponent in court, remained loyal to the British crown and left Massachusetts with the British in 1776, dying in exile in England in 1789. Legal documents such as this, from Adams’ pre-Revolutionary war legal activities, are surprisingly scarce.”

Relative to scholarly and biographical pursuits, this is a discovery document.

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