Henry Addison (1717-1789) was born in Prince George's County, Md., in 1717 into one of the most prestigious families in the colony. His grandfather, John Addison (d. 1706), had emigrated to Maryland in 1667 and attained the rank of colonel in the militia, and his father, Thomas (ca.1679-1727), firmly cemented the family's status among the elite, acquiring a sizable estate in the process. Like John Addison, Thomas became a colonel in the militia, and he was appointed to several important offices, as well, including judge of the Provincial Court and member of the Governor's Council.
Henry was the fifth child of Thomas Addison's marriage to Eleanor Smith (1690-1762). After receiving a basic education at home, he traveled to England to matriculate at Queen's College, Oxford, from which he received a B.A. in 1739 and M.A. in 1741. After being ordained as an Anglican priest, he returned to Maryland to assume the rectorship of St. John's Parish in Prince George's County, where he also established a school. Throughout his ministry, Addison was an active defender of clerical integrity in the face of proprietary patronage, and was a strong supporter of the establishment of an American bishopric.
Among the friends that Addison cultivated were some of the most prominent citizens of the colony. Around 1750 he married Rachel Dulany (d. 1774), of the prominent Maryland family, and he grew particularly close to Jonathan Boucher (1738-1804), the well-known English emigré. Addison became an active supporter of Boucher's bid for a parish in Maryland, and Boucher married Addison's sister, Eleanor (Nelly, d. 1774). When the split with England came, the two men left for England on the same ship in September, 1775, remaining in close contact throughout their mutual exile.
Addison never fully explained the reasons for his loyalty to Britain when hostilities broke out, nor his rapid decision to emigrate, but it appears that his devotion to the Anglican church and his English education may have significantly influenced his decision. Certainly, his friendship with the English-born Boucher may have contributed, as well. Addison, by this time nearing 70, settled into exile in Shropshire, where his financial condition soon became a major source of anxiety. He was often in debt, and he commented frequently on his need for a government pension, which never proved quite adequate. The further necessity of supporting his son, Daniel, who had joined him in exile, added to his financial troubles, and Henry's attempts to secure a commission for his son in a British or Loyalist regiment may constitute one response to the press of financial hardship.
Eventually, Addison became disillusioned with the conduct of the war and with the political situation in England, and he came to accept the notion that independence was the best solution for the imperial crisis. Even before the end of hostilities, he decided to return home to Maryland. Addison arrived in New York in 1781, remaining in the occupied city until the British evacuated in 1783, and finally returned to Maryland the following year. He died at home in 1789.
The Henry Addison collection consists of 38 letters written by Addison while an exile in England during the Revolutionary War. The majority of the letters are addressed to fellow exile and brother-in-law Jonathan Boucher. The letters not addressed to Boucher included one letter written to Addison's son Daniel Addison dated March 1, 1779 regarding Daniel's obtaining a commission in the British Army; a letter to George Germain seeking compensation for Addison's loses when fleeing America (April 1777); and a letter to Sir Guy Charleston asking advice in collecting debts and compensation (October 7, 1783). There is also a letter and petition from James Chalmers regarding injustices to his Maryland loyalist regiment enclosed in a letter to Boucher (1783).
Addison's letters document the life of an exiled, loyalist American including his political thoughts, financial hardships, health, and attempts to return to America. The letters describe Addison's life in Shropshire England and his travels though the county. His financial troubles are a frequent topic with Addison commenting on debts he occurred when going into exile, attempts to borrow money, reclaiming debts owed to him, and receiving compensation for property lost while fleeing America. In addition Addison's son Daniel is the topic of many letters as Addison attempted to secure him a position in the British Army, ensure that Daniel will be taken care of after his father's death, and reign in his expensive lifestyle.
In addition the letters provide insight into Addison's thoughts about the war. He comments on military progress, the British conduct of the war and English politics, including his eventual acceptance of independence and willingness to return to America. He also writes about his loyalist sympathies including the connections between loyalism and Anglicanism. Addison also took an active interest in the peace negotiation, particularly the status of confiscated property. Addison's letters written after his return to American detail his own attempts to regain lost property.
The collection also includes transcripts of Addison's letters to Boucher. In addition the collection came to the Clements with transcripts of other letters written to Boucher. The Clements does not own the originals letters.