Front Page Titles (by Subject) 6 Jan. 1776: TO GEORGE WASHINGTON. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811)
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6 Jan. 1776: TO GEORGE WASHINGTON. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 9.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO GEORGE WASHINGTON.
Watertown, 6 January, 1776.
As your Excellency has asked my opinion of General Lee’s plan, as explained in his letter of the 5th instant, I think it my duty to give it, although I am obliged to do it in more haste than I could wish.
I suppose the only questions which arise upon that letter, are, whether the plan is practicable, whether it is expedient, and whether it lies properly within your Excellency’s authority, without further directions from Congress.
Of the practicability of it, I am very ill qualified to judge; but were I to hazard a conjecture, it would be, that the enterprise would not be attended with much difficulty. The Connecticut people, who are very ready upon such occasions, in conjunction with the friends of liberty in New York, I should think might easily accomplish the work.
That it is expedient, and even necessary to be done by some authority or other, I believe will not be doubted by any friend of the American cause, who considers the vast importance of that City, Province, and the North River, which is in it, in the progress of this war. As it is the nexus of the northern and southern Colonies, as a kind of key to the whole continent, as it is a passage to Canada, to the Great Lakes, and to all the Indian nations, no effort to secure it ought to be omitted.
That it is within the limits of your Excellency’s command, is, in my mind, perfectly clear. Your commission constitutes you commander of all the forces now raised, or to be raised, and of all others who shall voluntarily offer their service, and join the army for the defence of American liberty, and for repelling every hostile invasion thereof; and you are vested with full power and authority to act as you shall think for the good and welfare of the service.
Now if upon Long Island there is a body of people, who have arms in their hands, and are intrenching themselves, professedly to oppose the American system of defence, who are supplying our enemies both of the army and navy, in Boston and elsewhere, as I suppose is undoubtedly the fact, no man can hesitate to say that this is a hostile invasion of American liberty, as much as that now made in Boston. Nay, those people are guilty of the very invasion in Boston, as they are constantly aiding, abetting, comforting, and assisting the army there, and that in the most essential manner, by supplies of provisions.
If in the city a body of tories are waiting only for a force to protect them, to declare themselves on the side of our enemies, it is high time that city was secured. The Jersey troops have already been ordered into that city by the Congress, and are there undoubtedly under your command, ready to assist in this service. That New York is within your command, as much as the Massachusetts, cannot bear a question. Your Excellency’s superiority in the command over the Generals in the Northern Department, as it is called, has been always carefully preserved in Congress, although the necessity of despatch has sometimes induced them to send instructions directly to them, instead of first sending them to your Excellency, which would have occasioned a circuit of many hundreds of miles, and have lost much time.
Upon the whole, Sir, my opinion is, that General Lee’s is a very useful proposal, and will answer many good ends.
SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 15 January, 1776.
Although I have at present but little leisure, I cannot omit writing you a few lines by this express. I have seen certain instructions which were given by the capital of the colony of New Hampshire to its delegates in their provincial congregation, the spirit of which I am not altogether pleased with. There is one part of them, at least, which I think discovers a timidity which is unbecoming a people oppressed and insulted as they are, and who, at their own request, have been advised and authorized by Congress to set up and exercise government in such form as they should judge most conducive to their own happiness. It is easy to understand what they mean, when they speak of “perfecting a form of government stable and permanent.” They indeed explain themselves, by saying that “they should prefer the government of Congress (their provincial convention) till quieter times.” The reason they assign for it, I fear, will be considered as showing a readiness to condescend to the humors of their enemies; and their publicly, expressly, and totally disavowing independence, either on the nation, or the man who insolently and perseveringly demands the surrender of their liberties, with the bayonet pointed at their breasts, may be considered to argue a servility and baseness of soul, for which language doth not afford an epithet. It is by indiscreet resolutions and publications, that the friends of America have too often given occasion to their enemies to injure her cause. I hope, however, that the town of Portsmouth doth not, in this instance, speak the sense of that colony. I wish, if it be not too late, that you would write your sentiments of the subject to our worthy friend, Mr. L—,1 who, I suppose, is now in Portsmouth. If that colony should take a wrong step, I fear it would wholly defeat a design, which, I confess, I have much at heart.2
A motion was made in Congress the other day, to the following purpose; “That, whereas we had been charged with aiming at independency, a committee should be appointed to explain to the people at large, the principles and grounds of our opposition,” &c. The motion alarmed me. I thought Congress had already been explicit enough, and was apprehensive that we might get ourselves upon dangerous ground. Some of us prevailed so far as to have the matter postponed, but could not prevent the assigning a day to consider it. I may perhaps have been wrong in opposing this motion; and I ought the rather to suspect it, because the majority of your colony, as well as of the Congress, were of a different opinion.
I had lately some free conversation with an eminent gentleman, whom you well know, and whom your Portia in one of her letters admired, if I recollect right, for his expressive silence, about a confederation; a matter which our much valued friend Colonel W—, is very solicitous to have completed.1 We agreed that it must soon be brought on, and that if all the colonies could not come into it, it had better be done by those of them that inclined to it. I told him that I would endeavor to unite the New England colonies in confederating, if none of the rest would join in it. He approved of it, and said, if I succeeded, he would cast in his lot among us. Adieu.
As this express did not set off yesterday, according to my expectation, I have the opportunity of acquainting you, that Congress has just received a letter from General Washington, inclosing the copy of an application of our general assembly to him, to order payment to four companies stationed at Braintree, Weymouth, and Hingham. The General says they were never regimented, and he cannot comply with the request of the assembly, without the direction of Congress. A committee is appointed to consider the letter, of which I am one. I fear there will be a difficulty, and therefore I shall endeavor to prevent a report on this part of the letter, unless I shall see a prospect of justice being done to the colony, till I can receive from you authentic evidence of those companies having been actually employed by the continental officers, as I conceive they have been, in the service of the continent. I wish you would inform me whether the two companies stationed at Chelsea and Malden were paid out of the continent’s chest. I suppose they were, and if so, I cannot see reason for any hesitation about the payment of these. I wish also to know how many men our colony is at the expense of maintaining for the defence of its sea-coasts. Pray let me have some intelligence from you of the colony which we represent. You are sensible of the danger it has frequently been in of suffering greatly for want of regular information.
TO JAMES OTIS.
Philadelphia, 29 April, 1776.
As the day of the general election draws nigh, I think it my duty to express my grateful acknowledgments to the honorable electors of the last year, for the honor they did me in choosing me into the council. My station in the continental Congress has made it impossible for me to attend my duty at the honorable board; and as the same cause must prevent my attendance during a great part of the ensuing year, and the dangers and distresses of the times will require the assistance of the whole number, I cannot think it becoming in me to deprive the colony of the advice of a counsellor, for the sake of keeping open a seat for me. I must therefore beg the favor of you, to make my resignation known to the two honorable Houses, and request them to choose another gentleman to that honorable seat, who will be able to discharge the duties of it.
I am, with great respect to the two honorable Houses, Sir, your most obedient and very humble servant,
R. H. LEE TO JOHN ADAMS.
Williamsburgh, 18 May, 1776.
Inclosed you have a printed resolve, which passed our convention, to the infinite joy of our people. The resolve for independency has not that peremptory and decided air I could wish.1 Perhaps the proviso which reserves to this colony the power of forming its own government, may be questionable as to its fitness. Would not a uniform plan of government, prepared for America by the Congress, and approved by the colonies, be a surer foundation of unceasing harmony to the whole? However, such as they are, the exultation here was extreme. The British flag on the capitol was immediately struck, and the continental hoisted in its room. The troops were drawn out, and we had a discharge of artillery and small arms.
If Hopkins’s fleet were in Chesapeake Bay, Dunmore’s fleet might be taken. My compliments to Mr. S. Adams and Mr. Paine. I am, Sir, your respectful, humble servant,
Richard H. Lee.
TO JAMES SULLIVAN.
Philadelphia, 26 May, 1776.
Your favors of May 9th and 17th are now before me; and I consider them as the commencement of a correspondence which will not only give me pleasure, but may be of service to the public, as in my present station I stand in need of the best intelligence, and the advice of every gentleman of abilities and public principles in the colony which has seen fit to place me here.
Our worthy friend, Mr. Gerry, has put into my hands a letter from you, of the sixth of May, in which you consider the principles of representation and legislation, and give us hints of some alterations, which you seem to think necessary, in the qualification of voters.
I wish, Sir, I could possibly find time to accompany you, in your investigation of the principles upon which a representative assembly stands, and ought to stand, and in your examination whether the practice of our colony has been conformable to those principles. But, alas! Sir, my time is so incessantly engrossed by the business before me, that I cannot spare enough to go through so large a field; and as to books, it is not easy to obtain them here; nor could I find a moment to look into them, if I had them.
It is certain, in theory, that the only moral foundation of government is, the consent of the people. But to what an extent shall we carry this principle? Shall we say that every individual of the community, old and young, male and female, as well as rich and poor, must consent, expressly, to every act of legislation? No, you will say, this is impossible. How, then, does the right arise in the majority to govern the minority, against their will? Whence arises the right of the men to govern the women, without their consent? Whence the right of the old to bind the young, without theirs?
But let us first suppose that the whole community, of every age, rank, sex, and condition, has a right to vote. This community is assembled. A motion is made, and carried by a majority of one voice. The minority will not agree to this. Whence arises the right of the majority to govern, and the obligation of the minority to obey?
From necessity, you will say, because there can be no other rule.
But why exclude women?
You will say, because their delicacy renders them unfit for practice and experience in the great businesses of life, and the hardy enterprises of war, as well as the arduous cares of state. Besides, their attention is so much engaged with the necessary nurture of their children, that nature has made them fittest for domestic cares. And children have not judgment or will of their own. True. But will not these reasons apply to others? Is it not equally true, that men in general, in every society, who are wholly destitute of property, are also too little acquainted with public affairs to form a right judgment, and too dependent upon other men to have a will of their own? If this is a fact, if you give to every man who has no property, a vote, will you not make a fine encouraging provision for corruption, by your fundamental law? Such is the frailty of the human heart, that very few men who have no property, have any judgment of their own. They talk and vote as they are directed by some man of property, who has attached their minds to his interest.
Upon my word, Sir, I have long thought an army a piece of clock-work, and to be governed only by principles and maxims, as fixed as any in mechanics; and, by all that I have read in the history of mankind, and in authors who have speculated upon society and government, I am much inclined to think a government must manage a society in the same manner; and that this is machinery too.
Harrington has shown that power always follows property. This I believe to be as infallible a maxim in politics, as that action and reaction are equal, is in mechanics. Nay, I believe we may advance one step farther, and affirm that the balance of power in a society, accompanies the balance of property in land. The only possible way, then, of preserving the balance of power on the side of equal liberty and public virtue, is to make the acquisition of land easy to every member of society; to make a division of the land into small quantities, so that the multitude may be possessed of landed estates. If the multitude is possessed of the balance of real estate, the multitude will have the balance of power, and in that case the multitude will take care of the liberty, virtue, and interest of the multitude, in all acts of government.
I believe these principles have been felt, if not understood, in the Massachusetts Bay, from the beginning; and therefore I should think that wisdom and policy would dictate in these times to be very cautious of making alterations. Our people have never been very rigid in scrutinizing into the qualifications of voters, and I presume they will not now begin to be so. But I would not advise them to make any alteration in the laws, at present, respecting the qualifications of voters.
Your idea that those laws which affect the lives and personal liberty of all, or which inflict corporal punishment, affect those who are not qualified to vote, as well as those who are, is just. But so they do women, as well as men; children, as well as adults. What reason should there be for excluding a man of twenty years eleven months and twenty-seven days old, from a vote, when you admit one who is twenty-one? The reason is, you must fix upon some period in life, when the understanding and will of men in general, is fit to be trusted by the public. Will not the same reason justify the state in fixing upon some certain quantity of property, as a qualification?
The same reasoning which will induce you to admit all men who have no property, to vote, with those who have, for those laws which affect the person, will prove that you ought to admit women and children; for, generally speaking, women and children have as good judgments, and as independent minds, as those men who are wholly destitute of property; these last being to all intents and purposes as much dependent upon others, who will please to feed, clothe, and employ them, as women are upon their husbands, or children on their parents.
As to your idea of proportioning the votes of men, in money matters, to the property they hold, it is utterly impracticable. There is no possible way of ascertaining, at any one time, how much every man in a community is worth; and if there was, so fluctuating is trade and property, that this state of it would change in half an hour. The property of the whole community is shifting every hour, and no record can be kept of the changes.
Society can be governed only by general rules. Government cannot accommodate itself to every particular case as it happens, nor to the circumstances of particular persons. It must establish general comprehensive regulations for cases and persons. The only question is, which general rule will accommodate most cases and most persons.
Depend upon it, Sir, it is dangerous to open so fruitful a source of controversy and altercation as would be opened by attempting to alter the qualifications of voters; there will be no end of it. New claims will arise; women will demand a vote; lads from twelve to twenty-one will think their rights not enough attended to; and every man who has not a farthing, will demand an equal voice with any other, in all acts of state. It tends to confound and destroy all distinctions, and prostrate all ranks to one common level.
TO BENJAMIN HICHBORN.
Philadelphia, 29 May, 1776.
Your agreeable favor of 20th May, was handed me yesterday, and it gave me much pleasure, on various accounts; one particularly, as it gave me evidence of your existence, which for some time past you have suffered to remain problematical. I have long expected letters from you, but yet I cannot find fault, because I believe I am much in your debt. However, if you had considered the situation I am in, surrounded with demands for all, and more than all, my time, you would not have waited for regular payments from me.
I am sorry to see you complain of suspicions. I hoped they were forgotten. Indeed, I think that upon your return they ought to have vanished.1 I have none, nor am I in the least degree afraid of censure on your account, nor of losing a thread of influence. Fortified in innocence, a man should set groundless censures at defiance; and as to influence, the more a man has of it, at least of such as mine, if I have any, the more unfortunate he is. If by influence is understood the power of doing good to the public, or of serving men of merit, this influence is devoutly to be wished by every benevolent mind. But very little of this kind of influence has ever fallen to my share.
* * * * * * *
I am much pleased with your spirited project of driving away the wretches from the harbor, and never shall be happy till I hear it is done, and the very entrance fortified impregnably. I cannot bear that an unfriendly flag or mast should be in sight of Bacon Hill.
You are “checked by accounts from the southward, of a disposition in a great majority to counteract independence.” Read the proceedings of Georgia, South and North Carolina, and Virginia, and then judge. The middle colonies have never tasted the bitter cup; they have never smarted, and are therefore a little cooler; but you will see that the colonies are united indissolubly. Maryland has passed a few eccentric resolves, but these are only flashes which will soon expire.1 The proprietary governments are not only encumbered with a large body of Quakers, but are embarrassed by a proprietary interest; both together clog their operations a little, but these clogs are falling off, as you will soon see.
I dread the spirit of innovation which I fear will appear in our new and numerous representative body. It is much to be desired that their attention may at present be more fixed upon the defence of the province and military operations, than upon opening sources of endless altercation. Unanimity, in this time of calamity and danger, is of great importance. You ask my sentiments of the political system to be adopted. My opinion, I am very certain, will not be followed. We have able men in the colony, but I am much afraid they will not be heard. I hope a Governor and Lieutenant-Governor will be chosen; and that they will be respectable for their fortune, as well as abilities and integrity, if such can be found. The Judges, I hope, will be made independent both for the duration and emoluments of office. There is nothing of more importance than this, but yet there is nothing less likely to be done.
How the representation will be settled, I cannot guess; but I really hope they will not attempt any material alteration in the qualification of voters. This will open a door for endless disputes, and I am much afraid, for numberless corruptions.
I wish I could be at home at this important period. But you will remember that all the other colonies have Constitutions to frame, and what is of infinitely greater delicacy, intricacy, and importance, the continent has a Constitution to form. If I could be of some little use at home, I may be of more here at present.
You kindly and politely express a concern for my health, and, if you have any regard for me, it is not without reason. I have been here four months, during which time I have never once been on horseback, and have found but little time to walk. Such uninterrupted attention to cares and perplexities of various kinds, is enough to destroy a more robust body than mine; but I cannot excuse myself from these duties, and I must march forward until it comes to my turn to fall. Indeed if a few things more were fully accomplished, I should think it my duty to ask leave of my constituents to return home to my garden.
The moment I can see every colony in possession and actual exercise of all the powers of government, and a confederation well settled for all the colonies, under a Congress with powers clearly defined and limited, and sufficient preparation and provision made for defence against the force which is coming against us, that moment I shall return to my family, from which I have been too long divorced. But whether my constitution will hold out so long, must be left to him that made it, to whose wisdom and goodness I cheerfully submit.
N. B. The petition from the independent corps in Boston, gave me great pleasure, and is much to their honor. I did my endeavor to get the prayer granted, but it is at last left to the General.
TO SAMUEL COOPER.
Philadelphia, 30 May, 1776.
Yours of the 20th, was handed me by the last post. I congratulate you upon the first modern election, on the last Wednesday in May, of counsellors as at the first. I could not avoid indulging myself yesterday in imagination with my friends in Boston, upon an occasion so joyful. I presume you must have have had a very solemn and ceremonious election, and wish that no interruption may ever hereafter take place, like that of the last year.
You have given me great pleasure by your account of the spirit and activity of our people, their skill and success in fortifying the town and harbor. But there are several things still wanting, in my judgment. I never shall be happy until every unfriendly flag is driven out of sight, and the Light House Island, George’s and Lovell’s Islands, and the east end of Long Island, are secured. Fire-ships and rafts will be of no service, without something to cover and protect them from the boats of the men-of-war. Galleys are the best engines in the world for this purpose. Colonel Quincy has the best idea of these galleys, of any man I know. I believe he has a perfect idea of the Turkish and Venetian galleys; some of these are as large as British men-of-war, but some are small. Galleys might be built and armed with heavy cannon, thirty-six or forty-two pounders, which would drive away a ship of almost any size, number of guns, or weight of metal. The dexterity of our people in sea matters, must produce great things, if it had any person to guide it, and stimulate it. A kind of dodging Indian fight might be maintained among the islands in our harbor, between such galleys and the men-of-war.
Whether you have any person sufficiently acquainted with the composition of those combustibles which are usually put into fire-ships and rafts, I don’t know. If you have not, it would be worth while to send some one here to inquire and learn. At least, let me know it; and although I have a demand upon me for an hour where I have a minute to spare, yet will I be at the pains, though I neglect other things, of informing myself as well as I can here, and send you what I learn.
We are making the best provision we can for the defence of America. I believe we shall make provision for 70,000 men in the three departments, the northern, including Canada, the middle, and the southern. The die is cast. We must all be soldiers, and fight pro aris et focis. I hope there is not a gentleman in the Massachusetts Bay, not even in the town of Boston, who thinks himself too good to take his firelock and his spade. Such imminent dangers level all distinctions. You must, before now, have seen some important resolutions of this Congress, as well as of separate colonies. Before many weeks, you will see more.
Remember me, with every sentiment of friendship and respect, to all who deserve well of their country. These are all my friends, and I have and will have no other.
P. S. Galleys to be used merely in Boston harbor, the less they are, the better, provided they are large and strong enough to sustain the weight of the gun, and the shock of the explosion. The galleys first built in Delaware River were too large to be handy, and too small to live and work in a sea. We are building two of a different construction. They are to carry two large guns in the stern, and two in front, and five or six three pounders on each side, besides swivels. They are built to put to sea, live and fight in a swell or a storm. They are narrow, but almost one hundred feet long.
TO ISAAC SMITH.
Philadelphia, 1 June, 1776.
Your favors of May 14th and 22d are now before me. The first I showed to Mr. Morris, as soon as I received it. The last contains intelligence from Halifax of the straits to which our enemies are reduced, which I was very glad to learn.
I am very happy to learn from you and some others of my friends, that Boston is securely fortified; but still I cannot be fully satisfied until I hear that every unfriendly flag is chased out of that harbor.
Cape Ann, I am sensible, is a most important post; and if the enemy should possess themselves of it, they might distress the trade of the colony to a great degree. For which reason, I am determined to do every thing in my power to get it fortified at the continental expense. I can not be confident that I shall succeed, but it shall not be my fault if I do not. I am very glad you gave me your opinion of the utility of that harbor, and of the practicability of making it secure, because I was not enough acquainted with it before, to speak with precision about it.
Your observations upon the oppressive severity of the old regulations of trade, in subjecting ships and cargoes to confiscation for the indiscretion of a master or mariner, and upon the artifice and corruption which was introduced respecting hospital money, are very just. But if you consider the resolution of Congress, and that of Virginia of the 15th of May, the resolutions of the two Carolinas and Georgia, each of which colonies are instituting new governments under the authority of the people; if you consider what is doing at New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and even in Maryland, which are all gradually forming themselves into order to follow the colonies to the northward and southward, together with the treaties with Hesse, Brunswick, and Waldeck, and the answer to the mayor, &c., of London, I believe you will be convinced that there is little probability of our ever again coming under the yoke of British regulations of trade. The cords which connected the two countries are cut asunder, and it will not be easy to splice them again together.
I agree with you in sentiment that there will be little difficulty in trading with France and Spain, a great deal in dealing with Portugal, and some with Holland. Yet, by very good intelligence, I am convinced that there are great merchants in the United Provinces, and even in Amsterdam, who will contract to supply you with any thing you want, whether merchandise or military stores, by the way of Nieuport and Ostend, two towns which are subject to the Empress of Austria, who has never taken any public notice of the dispute between Britain and us, and has never prohibited her subjects from supplying us with any thing.
There is a gentleman now in this city, a native of it, and a very worthy man, who has been lately in these towns, as well as Amsterdam, who informs me that he had many conversations there with merchants of figure, and that they assured him they should be glad to contract to furnish us with any supplies, even upon credit, for an interest of four per cent. Other intelligence to the same purpose, with additions of more importance, has been sent here. But the particulars may not be mentioned.
Europe seems to be in a great commotion. Although the appearance of a perfect calm is affected, I think this American contest will light up a general war. What it will end in, God alone knows, to whose wise and righteous providence I cheerfully submit.
TO HENRY KNOX.
Philadelphia, 2 June, 1776.
Your esteemed favor of the 16th of May, came to my hand a few days ago.
You have laid me under obligations, by your ingenious observations upon those books upon military science, which are necessary to be procured in the present circumstances of this country. I have been a long time convinced of the utility of publishing American editions of those writers, and that it is an object of sufficient importance to induce the public to be at the expense of it. But greater objects press in such numbers upon those who think for the public, as St. Drummond1 expresses it, that this has been hitherto neglected. I could wish that the public would be at the expense, not only of new editions of these authors, but of establishing academies for the education of young gentlemen in every branch of the military art; because I am fully of your sentiment, that we ought to lay foundations, and begin institutions, in the present circumstances of this country, for promoting every art, manufacture, and science, which is necessary for the support of an independent State. We must, for the future, stand upon our own legs, or fall. The alienation of affection between the two countries, is at length so great, that if the morals of the British nation, and their political principles, were much purer than they are, it would be scarcely possible to accomplish a cordial reunion with them.
The votes of the Congress, and the proceedings of the colonies, separately, must, before this time, have convinced you that this is the sense of America, with infinitely greater unanimity than could have been credited by many people, a few months ago. Those few persons, indeed, who have attended closely to the proceedings of the several colonies for a number of years past, and reflected deeply upon the causes of this mighty contest, have foreseen that such an unanimity would take place as soon as a separation should become necessary. These are not at all surprised, while many others really are, and some affect to be, astonished at the phenomenon.
The policy of Rome in carrying their arms to Carthage, while Hannibal was at the gates of their capital, was wise, and justified by the event, and would deserve imitation, if we could march into the country of our enemies. But, possessed as they are of the dominion of the sea, it is not easy for us to reach them. Yet, it is possible that a bold attempt might succeed; but we have not yet sufficient confidence in our own power or skill, to encourage enterprises of the daring, hardy kind. Such often prosper, and are always glorious. But shall I give offence if I say, that our arms have kept an even pace with our counsels; that both have been rather slow and irresolute? Have either our officers or men, by sea or land, as yet discovered that exalted courage and mature judgment, both of which are necessary for great and splendid actions? Our forces have done very well, considering their poor appointments, and our infancy. But I may say to you, that I wish I could see less attention to trifles, and more to the great essentials of the service, both in the civil and military departments. I am no prophet, if we are not compelled by necessity, before the war is over, to become more men of business, and less men of pleasure. I have formed great expectations from a number of gentlemen of genius, sentiment, and education, of the younger sort, whom I know to be in the army, and wish that additions might be made to the number. We have had some examples of magnanimity and bravery, it is true, which would have done honor to any age or country; but these have been accompanied with a want of skill and experience which entitles the hero to compassion, at the same time that he has our admiration. For my own part, I never think of Warren or Montgomery, without lamenting, at the same time that I admire, that inexperience to which perhaps they both owed their glory.
TO PATRICK HENRY.
Philadelphia, 3 June, 1776.
My Dear Sir,—
I had this morning the pleasure of yours of 20 May.1 The little pamphlet you mention is nullius filius; and, if I should be obliged to maintain it, the world will not expect that I should own it. My motive for inclosing it to you, was not the value of the present, but as a token of friendship, and more for the sake of inviting your attention to the subject, than because there was any thing in it worthy your perusal. The subject is of infinite moment, and perhaps more than adequate to the abilities of any man in America. I know of none so competent to the task as the author of the first Virginia resolutions against the stamp act, who will have the glory with posterity, of beginning and concluding this great revolution. Happy Virginia, whose Constitution is to be framed by so masterly a builder! Whether the plan of the pamphlet is not too popular, whether the elections are not too frequent for your colony, I know not. The usages, and genius, and manners of the people must be consulted. And if annual elections of the representatives of the people are sacredly preserved, those elections by ballot, and none permitted to be chosen but inhabitants, residents as well as qualified freeholders of the city, county, parish, town, or borough, for which they are to serve, three essential prerequisites of a free government, the council, or middle branch of the legislature may be triennial, or even septennial, without much inconvenience.
I esteem it an honor and a happiness, that my opinion so often coincides with yours. It has ever appeared to me that the natural course and order of things was this; for every colony to institute a government; for all the colonies to confederate, and define the limits of the continental Constitution; then to declare the colonies a sovereign state, or a number of confederated sovereign states; and last of all, to form treaties with foreign powers. But I fear we cannot proceed systematically, and that we shall be obliged to declare ourselves independent States, before we confederate, and indeed before all the colonies have established their governments.
It is now pretty clear that all these measures will follow one another in a rapid succession, and it may not perhaps be of much importance which is done first.
The importance of an immediate application to the French court, is clear; and I am very much obliged to you for your hint of the route by the Mississippi.
Your intimation that the session of your representative body would be long, gave me great pleasure, because we all look up to Virginia for examples; and, in the present perplexities, dangers, and distresses of our country, it is necessary that the supreme councils of the colonies should be almost constantly sitting. Some colonies are not sensible of this; and they will certainly suffer for their indiscretion. Events of such magnitude as those which present themselves now in such quick succession, require constant attention and mature deliberation.
The little pamphlet you mention, which was published here as an antidote to the “Thoughts on Government,” and which is whispered to have been the joint production of one native of Virginia, and two natives of New York, I know not how truly, will make no fortune in the world.1 It is too absurd to be considered twice; it is contrived to involve a colony in eternal war.
The dons, the bashaws, the grandees, the patricians, the sachems, the nabobs, call them by what name you please, sigh, and groan, and fret, and sometimes stamp, and foam, and curse, but all in vain. The decree is gone forth, and it cannot be recalled, that a more equal liberty than has prevailed in other parts of the earth, must be established in America. That exuberance of pride which has produced an insolent domination in a few, a very few, opulent, monopolizing families, will be brought down nearer to the confines of reason and moderation, than they have been used to. This is all the evil which they themselves will endure. It will do them good in this world, and in every other. For pride was not made for man, only as a tormentor.
I shall ever be happy in receiving your advice by letter, until I can be more completely so in seeing you here in person, which I hope will be soon.
TO HUGH HUGHES.
Philadelphia, 4 June, 1776.
Yours of May 29, came safe to hand, and I am much pleased to find that your citizens have behaved with so much wisdom, unanimity, and spirit. Yet I was disappointed that you did not inclose their votes.1
I am very glad that Mr. J. is with you, and hope he will be of great service there; but will he not be for making your governor and counsellors for life, or during good behavior? I should dread such a Constitution in these perilous times, because however wise, and brave, and virtuous these rulers may be at their first appointment, their tempers and designs will be very apt to change, and then they may have it in their power to betray the people, who will have no means of redress. The people ought to have frequently the opportunity, especially in these dangerous times, of considering the conduct of their leaders, and of approving or disapproving. You will have no safety without it.
The province of Pennsylvania is in a good way, and will soon become an important branch of the Confederation. The large body of the people will be possessed of more power and importance, and a proud junto of less; and yet justice will, I hope, be done to all.
I wish you happiness, promotion, and reputation in the service.1
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE.
Philadelphia, 4 June, 1776.
Your favor of 18 May, inclosing the momentous resolution of your wise and patriotic convention, together with the American Crisis, came duly to hand, and yesterday I had the pleasure of receiving the proceedings of the House of Burgesses. I thank you, Sir, for both these esteemed favors.
Is it not a little remarkable, that this Congress and your Convention should come to resolutions so nearly similar, on the same day? and that even the Convention of Maryland should, in that critical moment, have proceeded so far as to abolish the oaths of allegiance, notwithstanding that some of their other resolves are a little eccentric?
Your resolution is consistent and decisive; it is grounded on true principles, which are fairly and clearly stated; and in my humble opinion, the proviso, which reserves to yourselves the institution of your own government, is fit and right, this being a matter of which the colonies are the best judges, and a privilege which each colony ought to reserve to itself. Yet, after all, I believe there will be much more uniformity in the governments which all of them will adopt, than could have been expected a few months ago.
The joy and exultation which was expressed upon that great occasion, did honor to their good sense and public virtue. It was an important event, at a critical time, in which the interest and happiness of themselves and their posterity were much concerned.
Hopkins’s fleet has been very unfortunate; a dreadful sickness has raged among his men, and disabled him from putting more than two of his vessels to sea. To what place they are gone, I know not; perhaps to cruise for transports.
TO WILLIAM CUSHING.
Philadelphia, 9 June, 1776.
I had yesterday the honor of your letter of the 28th May, and I read it with all that pleasure which we feel on the revival of an old friendship, when we meet a friend whom for a long time we have not seen.
You do me great honor, Sir, in expressing a pleasure at my appointment to the bench; but be assured that no circumstance relating to that appointment, has given me so much concern as my being placed at the head of it, in preference to another, who in my opinion was so much better qualified for it, and entitled to it. I did all in my power to have it otherwise, but I was told that our sovereign lords the people must have it so. When, or where, or how, the secret imagination seized you, as you say it did heretofore, that I was destined to that place, I cannot conjecture. Nothing, I am sure, was further from my thoughts or wishes. I am not a little chagrined that Sargeant has declined. I had great hopes from his solid judgment and extensive knowledge. Paine has acted in his own character, although I think not consistent with the public character which he has been made to wear. However, I confess I am not much mortified with this, for the bench will not be the less respectable for having the less wit, humor, drollery, or fun upon it; very different qualities are necessary for that department.1
Warren has an excellent head and heart; and since we cannot be favored and honored with the judgment of lawyers, I know not where a better man could have been found; I hope he will not decline; if he should, I hope that Lowell or Dana will be thought of.
I am happy in your appointment of good Mr. Winthrop,2 whose experience will be useful in that station, and whose conduct and principles have deserved it.
You have my hearty concurrence in telling the jury the nullity of acts of parliament, whether we can prove it by the jusgladii, or not.1 I am determined to die of that opinion, let the jus gladii say what it will.
The system and rules of the common law must be adopted, I suppose, until the legislature shall make alterations in either; and how much soever I may heretofore have found fault with the powers that were, I suppose I shall be well pleased now to hear submission inculcated to the powers that are. It would give me great pleasure to ride this eastern circuit with you, and prate before you at the bar, as I used to do. But I am destined to another fate, to drudgery of the most wasting, exhausting, consuming kind, that I ever went through in my whole life. Objects of the most stupendous magnitude, and measures in which the lives and liberties of millions yet unborn are intimately interested, are now before us. We are in the very midst of a revolution, the most complete, unexpected, and remarkable, of any in the history of nations. A few important subjects must be despatched before I can return to my family. Every colony must be induced to institute a perfect government. All the colonies must confederate together in some solemn band of union. The Congress must declare the colonies free and independent States, and ambassadors must be sent abroad to foreign courts, to solicit their acknowledgment of us, as sovereign States, and to form with them, at least with some of them, commercial treaties of friendship and alliance. When these things are once completed, I shall think that I have answered the end of my creation, and sing my nunc dimittis, return to my farm, family, ride circuits, plead law, or judge causes, just which you please.
The rumors you heard of a reinforcement in Canada, and those you must have heard before now, of many disasters there, are but too true. Canada has been neglected too much, to my infinite grief and regret, and against all the remonstrances which I could make, and many others. This has been owing to causes, which it would tire you to explain, if I was at liberty, which I am not. However, nothing on my part, or that of my colleagues, will be wanting to secure a reverse of fortune there. Dunmore is fled to an island. Our little fleet has had a shocking sickness, which has disabled so many men, that the commodore has sent on a cruise two of his ships only.
The difficulty of defending so extended a sea-coast, is prodigious, but the spirit of the people is very willing, and they exert themselves nobly in most places. The British men-of-war are distressed for provisions, and even for water, almost everywhere. They have no comfort in any part of America.
My good genius whispers me very often, that I shall enjoy many agreeable hours with you; but fortune often disappoints the hopes which my good genius inspires. But in the mean time, I shall ever be happy to receive a line from you. Should be much obliged to you for some account of occurrences in your eastern circuit. Remember me with every sentiment of respect to the bench, the bar, and all other friends.
TO JOHN LOWELL.
Philadelphia, 12 June, 1776.
Yesterday’s post brought me a newspaper of the 3d instant, containing a list of your House and Board; and, upon my word, I read it with more pleasure than I ever read any other list of the two Houses. I do not believe the records of the province can show a more respectable set of representatives or counsellors. Sargeant, Lowell, Pickering, Angier, are great acquisitions in the House; so are Dana and Sewall at the Board, not to mention many other very respectable characters among the new members of each.
From this collection of wise and prudent men I hope great things. I hope that the most vigorous exertions will be made to put the province in the best state of defence. Every seaport in it ought to be fortified in such a manner that you may set the enemy at defiance. To this end, large additions must be made to the cannon of the colony. I wish to know whether they are cast at any furnace in the province; if not, no expense, I think, should be spared to procure them. They are casting them successfully in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Rhode Island. Another article, essentially necessary, is that of muskets. I wish that every man in the province, who can work about any part of a gun or bayonet, was set to work. No price should be thought extravagant.
Saltpetre, it seems, you are in a way to procure in sufficient quantities; but sulphur and lead I have not yet learnt to be made among you. I hope you will take effectual measures to make salt. You must do it. The other colonies are too lazy and shiftless to do any thing until you set them the example.
The defence of the colony is the first object. The second is the formation of a Constitution. In this business I presume you will proceed slowly and deliberately. It is a difficult work to achieve; and the spirit of levelling, as well as that of innovation, is afloat. Before I saw the list of the new election, I was under fearful apprehension, I confess. But my mind is now at ease in this respect. There are so many able men in each House, that I think they will have influence enough to prevent any dangerous innovations, and yet to carry any necessary and useful improvements.
Some of you must prepare your stomachs to come to Philadelphia. I am weary, and must ask leave to return to my family, after a little time, and one of my colleagues at least must do the same, or I greatly fear do worse. You and I know very well the fatigues of practice at the bar, but I assure you this incessant round of thinking and speaking upon the greatest subjects that ever employed the mind of man, and the most perplexing difficulties that ever puzzled it, is beyond all comparison more exhausting and consuming.
Our affairs in Canada are in a confused and disastrous situation. But I hope they will not be worse. We have made large requisitions upon you; how you can possibly comply with them I know not; but I hope you will do as much as you can.
We have no resource left, my friend, but our own fortitude and the favor of heaven. If we have the first I have no doubt we shall obtain the last, and these will be sufficient. All ideas of reconciliation or accommodation seem to be gone with the years before the flood.
I have nothing new to communicate but what is in every newspaper, and I began this letter only to make my compliments to you, and ask the favor of your correspondence. But I have wandered, I know not whither. It is time to subscribe myself your friend and servant.
TO OAKES ANGIER.
Philadelphia, 12 June, 1776.
It was with great pleasure, and perhaps some little mixture of pride, that I read your name among the representatives of Bridgewater, in the Boston Gazette. I rejoiced to find that your townsmen had so much confidence in your abilities and patriotism, and that you had so much confidence in the justice of our cause, and the abilities of America to support it, as to embark your fortune in it. Your country never stood so much in need of men of clear heads and steady hearts to conduct her affairs. Our civil governments as well as military preparations want much improvement, and to this end a most vigilant attention, as well as great patience, caution, prudence, and firmness, is necessary.
You will excuse the freedom of a friend, when I tell you that I have never entertained any doubt that your political principles and public affections corresponded with those of your country. But you know that jealousies and suspicions have been entertained and propagated concerning you. These jealousies arose, I am well persuaded, from an unreserved freedom of conversation, and a social disposition a little addicted to disputation, which was sometimes, perhaps, incautiously indulged. Your present situation, which is conspicuous, and not only exposed to observation but to misconstruction and misrepresentation, will make it necessary for you to be upon your guard.
Let me recommend to you an observation that one of my colleagues is very fond of, “The first virtue of a politician is patience; the second is patience; and the third is patience!” as Demosthenes observed that action was the first, second, and third quality of an orator. You will experience in public life such violent, sudden, and unexpected provocations and disappointments, that if you are not now possessed of all the patience of Job, I would advise you to acquire it as soon as possible. News I can tell you none. I have written to Colonel Warren, Mr. Sewall, and Mr. Lowell, a few broken hints, upon subjects which I wish you would turn your thoughts to. Be so good as to write me any remarkables in the legislature or the courts of justice.
TO FRANCIS DANA.
Philadelphia, 12 June, 1776.
In the lists of the House and Board I was as much pleased to find your name among the latter, as I was chagrined to find it omitted in the former. This is one among numberless advantages of a middle branch of the legislature, that a place may be found in it for such distinguished friends of their country as are omitted by the people in the choice of their representatives. This is an advantage which Pennsylvania never enjoyed and some ignorant pretenders to the art of building civil governments seem to wish should not prevail in other colonies. But, so far from succeeding, every colony on the continent in their new Constitutions, even Pennsylvania itself, will have a middle branch. I hope you will now go on and complete your government by choosing a governor and lieutenant-governor.
I think the province never had so fair a representation or so respectable a House or Board. You have a great number of ingenious, able men in each. I sincerely congratulate the province upon it, and think it forebodes much good. I am anxious to be informed of the state of the province, and of the progress you make step by step. Should be much obliged to you for a letter now and then.
We are drudging on as usual; sometimes it is seven o’clock before we rise. We have greater things in contemplation than ever; the greatest of all which we ever shall have. Be silent and patient, and time will bring forth, after the usual groans, throes, and pains upon such occasions, a fine child, a fine, vigorous, healthy boy, I presume. God bless him and make him a great, wise, virtuous, pious, rich, and powerful man!
Prepare yourself for vexation enough, for my tour of duty is almost out; and when it is, you or Lowell, or both, must come here and toil a little, while we take a little breath.
TO SAMUEL CHASE.
Philadelphia, 14 June, 1776.
Mr. Bedford put into my hand this moment a card from you, containing a reprehension for the past, and a requisition for the time to come.1 For the past, I kiss the rod; but from complying with the requisition, at least one part of it, I must be excused. I have no objection to writing you facts, but I would not meddle with characters for the world. A burnt child dreads the fire. I have smarted too severely for a few crude expressions written in a pet to a bosom friend, to venture on such boldnesses again. Besides, if I were to tell you all that I think of all characters, I should appear so ill natured and censorious that I should detest myself. By my soul, I think very heinously, I cannot think of a better word, of some people. They think as badly of me, I suppose; and neither of us care a farthing for that. So the account is balanced, and perhaps, after all, both sides may be deceived, both may be very honest men.
But of all the animals on earth that ever fell in my way, your trimmers, your double-tongued and double-minded men, your disguised folk, I detest most. The devil, I think, has a better title to these, by half, than he has to those who err openly, and are barefaced villains.
Mr. Adams ever was and ever will be glad to see Mr. Chase; but Mr. Chase never was nor will be more welcome than if he should come next Monday or Tuesday fortnight, with the voice of Maryland in favor of independence and a foreign alliance. I have never had the honor of knowing many people from Maryland, but by what I have learnt of them and seen of their delegates, they are an open, sincere, and united people. A little obstinate, to be sure, but that is very pardonable, when accompanied with frankness. From all which I conclude that when they shall be convinced of the necessity of those measures, they will all be convinced at once, and afterwards be as active and forward as any, perhaps more so than most.
I have one bone to pick with your colony; I suspect they levelled one of their instructions at my head. This is a distinction of which you may suppose I am not very ambitious. One of your colleagues moved a resolution that no member of Congress should hold any office under any of the new governments, and produced an instruction to make him feel strong.1 I seconded the motion, with a trifling amendment, that the resolution should be, that no member of Congress should hold any office, civil or military, in the army or in the militia, under any government, old or new. This struck through the assembly like an electric shock, for every member was a governor, or general, or judge, or some mighty thing or other in the militia, or under the old government or some new one. This was so important a matter that it required consideration, and I have never heard another word about it.
The truth, as far as it respects myself, is this. The government of the Massachusetts, without my solicitation and much against my inclination, were pleased some time last summer to nominate me to an office. It was at a time when offices under new governments were not in much demand, being considered rather precarious. I did not refuse this office, although, by accepting it, I must resign another office, which I held under the old government, three times as profitable, because I was well informed, that, if I had refused it, no other man would have accepted it, and this would have greatly weakened, perhaps ruined the new constitution. This is the truth of fact. So that one of the most disinterested and intrepid actions of my whole life has been represented to the people of Maryland to my disadvantage. I told the gentlemen that I should be much obliged, if they would find me a man who would accept of my office, or by passing the resolution furnish me with a justification for refusing it. In either case, I would subscribe my renunciation of that office before I left that room. Nay, I would go further, I would vote with them that every member of this Congress should take an oath that he never would accept of any office during life, or procure any office for his father, his son, his brother, or his cousin. So much for egotism!
McKean has returned from the lower counties with full powers. Their instructions are in the same words with the new ones to the delegates of Pennsylvania. New Jersey has dethroned Franklin,1 and in a letter, which is just come to my hand from indisputable authority, I am told that the delegates from that colony “will vote plump!”2 Maryland now stands alone. I presume she will soon join company; if not, she must be left alone.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 16 June, 1776.
Your favors of June 2d and 5th, are now before me.
The address to the Convention of Virginia, makes a small fortune in the world. Colonel Henry, in a letter to me, expresses infinite contempt of it,3 and assures me that the constitution of Virginia will be more like the “Thoughts on Government.” I believe, however, they will make the election of their council septennial; that of representatives and governor, annual. But I am amazed to find an inclination so prevalent throughout all the southern colonies, to adopt plans so nearly resembling that in the “Thoughts on Government.” I assure you, until the experiment was made, I had no conception of it. But the pride of the haughty must, I see, come down a little in the south.
You suppose “it would not do to have the two regiments you are now raising, converted into continental regiments.” But why? Would the officers or men have any objection? If they would not, Congress would have none; this was what I expected and intended, when the measure was in agitation. Indeed, I thought, that as our battalions, with their arms, were carried to New York and Canada, in the service of the united colonies, the town of Boston and the province ought to be guarded against danger by the united colonies.
You have been since called upon for six thousand militia for Canada and New York. How you will get the men, I know not. The smallpox, I suppose, will be a great discouragement. But we must maintain our ground in Canada. The regulars, if they get full possession of that province, and the navigation of St. Lawrence river above Deschambault, at least above the mouth of the Sorel, will have nothing to interrupt their communication with Niagara, Detroit, Michilimackinac; they will have the navigation of the five great lakes quite as far as the Mississippi River; they will have a free communication with all the numerous tribes of Indians extended along the frontiers of all the colonies, and, by their trinkets and bribes, will induce them to take up the hatchet, and spread blood and fire among the inhabitants; by which means, all the frontier inhabitants will be driven in upon the middle settlements, at a time when the inhabitants of the seaports and coasts will be driven back by the British navy. Is this picture too high colored? Perhaps it is; but surely we must maintain our power in Canada.
You may depend upon my rendering Mr. Winthrop all the service in my power.
I believe it will not be long before all property belonging to British subjects, whether in Europe, the West India islands, or elsewhere, will be made liable to capture. A few weeks may possibly produce great things.
TO ZABDIEL ADAMS.1
Philadelphia, 21 June, 1776.
Your letter, Sir, gave me great pleasure, and deserves my most hearty thanks.
I am fully with you in sentiment, that although the authority of the Congress, founded as it has been in reason, honor, and the love of liberty, has been sufficient to govern the colonies in a tolerable manner, for their defence and protection, yet that it is not prudent to continue very long in the same way; and that a permanent constitution should be formed, and foreign aid obtained. In these points, and thus far, the colonies and their representatives, the Congress, are extremely well united. But concerning a declaration of independency, there is some diversity of sentiment. Two arguments only are urged with any plausibility against such a measure. One is, that it will unite all the inhabitants of Great Britain against us; the other, that it will put us too much in the power of foreign States.
The first has little weight in it, because the people of Great Britain are already as much united against us as they ever are in any thing, and the probability is, that such a declaration would excite still greater divisions and distractions among them.
The second has less weight still; for foreign powers already know that we are as obnoxious to the British court as we can be. They know that parliament have in effect declared us independent, and that we have acted these thirteen months to all intent and purposes as if we were so.
The reports of fifty-five thousand men coming against us, are chiefly ministerial gasconade. However, we have reason to fear that they will send several very powerful armaments against us, and therefore our most strenuous exertions will be necessary as well as our most fervent prayers. America is yet in her infancy, or at least but lately arrived to manhood, and is inexperienced in the perplexing mysteries of policy, as well as the dangerous operations of war.
I assure you, Sir, that your employment in investigating the moral causes of our miseries, and in pointing out the remedies, is devoutly to be wished. There is no station more respectable, nor any so pleasant and agreeable. Those who tread the public stage in characters the most extensively conspicuous, meet with so many embarrassments, perplexities, and disappointments, that they have often reason to wish for the peaceful retreats of the clergy. Who would not wish to exchange the angry contentions of the former for the peaceful contemplations of the closet?
Who would not exchange the discordant scenes of envy, pride, vanity, malice, revenge, for the sweet consolations of philosophy, the serene composure of the passions, the divine enjoyments of Christian charity and benevolence?
Statesmen, my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for liberty, but it is religion and morality alone, which can establish the principles upon which freedom can securely stand. The only foundation of a free constitution is pure virtue; and if this cannot be inspired into our people in a greater measure than they have it now, they may change their rulers and the forms of government, but they will not obtain a lasting liberty. They will only exchange tyrants and tyrannies. You cannot, therefore, be more pleasantly or usefully employed than in the way of your profession, pulling down the strong-holds of Satan. This is not cant, but the real sentiment of my heart. Remember me with much respect to your worthy family and to all friends.
TO BENJAMIN KENT.
Philadelphia, 22 June, 1776.
Your letters of April 24th1 and May 26th are before me; both dated at Boston; a circumstance which alone would have given pleasure to a man who has such an attachment to that town, and who has suffered so much anxiety for his friends in their exile from it.
We have not many of the fearful, and still less of the unbelieving among us, how slowly soever you may think we proceed. Is it not a want of faith, or a predominance of fear, which makes some of you so impatient for declarations in words, of what is every day manifested in deeds of the most determined nature and unequivocal signification?
That we are divorced a vinculo, as well as from bed and board, is to me very clear. The only question is concerning the proper time for making an explicit declaration in words. Some people must have time to look around them; before, behind, on the right hand, and on the left; then to think, and, after all this, to resolve. Others see at one intuitive glance into the past and the future, and judge with precision at once. But remember you cannot make thirteen clocks strike precisely alike at the same second.
I am for the most liberal toleration of all denominations of religionists, but I hope that Congress will never meddle with religion further than to say their own prayers, and to fast and give thanks once a year. Let every colony have its own religion without molestation.
The Congress ordered Church1 to the Massachusetts Council to be let out upon bail. It was represented to them that his health was in a dangerous way, and it was thought he would not now have it in his power to do any mischief. Nobody knows what to do with him. There is no law to try him upon, and no court to try him. I am afraid he deserves more punishment than he will ever meet.
TO NATHANAEL GREENE.
Philadelphia, 22 June, 1776.
Your favor of the 2d instant has lain by me, I suppose, these eighteen days; but I fear I shall often have occasion to make apologies for such omissions, which will never happen from want of respect, but I fear very often for want of time.
Your reasoning to prove the equity and the policy of making provision for the unfortunate officer or soldier, is extremely just, and cannot be answered; and I hope that when we get a little over the confusions arising from the revolutions which are now taking place in the colonies, and get an American Constitution formed, something will be done. I should be much obliged to you for your thoughts upon the subject. What pensions should be allowed, or what other provision made. Whether it would be expedient to establish a hospital, &c. It is a matter of importance, and the plan should be well digested.
I think with you, that every colony should furnish its proportion of men, and I hope it will come to this. But at present some colonies have such bodies of Quakers, and Mennonists, and Moravians, who are principled against war, and others have such bodies of tories, or cowards, or unprincipled people, who will not wage war, that it is, as yet, impossible.
The dispute is, as you justly observe, in all human probability but in its infancy. We ought, therefore, to study to bring every thing in the military department into the best order. Fighting is not the greatest branch of the science of war. Men must be furnished with good and wholesome provisions in sufficient plenty. They must be well paid. They must be well clothed, and well covered with barracks and tents. They must be kept warm, with suitable fuel. In these respects we have not been able to do so well as we wished. But why the regiments have not been furnished with proper agents, I do not know. Congress is ever ready to hearken to the advice of the general, and if he had recommended such officers, they would have been appointed. Colonels should neither be agents nor sutlers. Congress have lately voted that there shall be regimental paymasters, who shall keep the accounts of the regiments. If any other agent is necessary, let me know it. Good officers are no doubt the soul of an army, but our difficulty is to get men. Officers present themselves in supernumerary abundance.
As to pay, there is no end to the desire and demand of it. Is there not too much extravagance and too little economy among the officers?
I am much at a loss whether it would not be the best policy to leave every colony to raise its own troops, to clothe them, to pay them, to furnish them with tents, and indeed with every thing but provisions, fuel, and forage. The project of abolishing provincial distinctions was introduced with a good intention, I believe, at first, but I think it will do no good upon the whole. However, if Congress is to manage the whole, I am in hopes they will get into a better train. They have established a war-office, and a board of war and ordnance, by means of which I hope they will get their affairs into better order.1 They will be better informed of the state of the army and of all its wants.
That the promotion of extraordinary merit may give disgust to those officers over whom the advancement is made, is true; but I think it ought not. That this power may be abused or misapplied, is also true. That interest, favor, private friendship, prejudice, may operate more or less in the purest assembly is true. But where will you lodge this power? To place it in the General would be more dangerous to the public liberty, and not less liable to abuse from sinister and unworthy motives. Will it do, is it consistent with common prudence, to lay it down as an invariable rule, that all officers, in all cases, shall rise in succession?
I am obliged to you for your caution, not to be too confident. The fate of war is uncertain; so are all sublunary things. But we must form our conjectures of effects from the knowledge we have of causes, and in circumstances like ours must not attempt to penetrate too far into futurity. There are as many evils, and more, which arise in human life from an excess of diffidence, as from an excess of confidence. Proud as mankind is, there is more superiority in this world yielded than assumed. I learned long ago from one of the greatest statesmen this world ever produced, Sully, neither to adventure upon rash attempts from too much confidence, nor to despair of success in a great design from the appearance of difficulties. Without attempting to judge of the future, which depends upon too many accidents, much less to subject it to our precipitation in bold and difficult enterprises, we should endeavor to subdue one obstacle at a time, nor suffer ourselves to be depressed by their greatness and their number. We ought never to despair of what has been once accomplished. How many things has the idea of impossible been annexed to, that have become easy to those who knew how to take advantage of time, opportunity, lucky moments, the faults of others, different dispositions, and an infinite number of other circumstances!
I will inclose to you a copy of the resolution establishing a board of war and ordnance. And, as you may well imagine we are all inexperienced in this business, I should be extremely obliged to you for any hints for the improvement of the plan, which may occur to you, and for any assistance or advice you may give me as a private correspondent, in the execution of it. It is a great mortification to me, I confess, and I fear it will too often be a misfortune to our country, that I am called to the discharge of trusts to which I feel myself so unequal, and in the execution of which I can derive no assistance from my education or former course of life. But my country must command me, and wherever she shall order me, there I will go without dismay.
TO SAMUEL H. PARSONS.
Philadelphia, 22 June, 1776.
Your obliging favor of the 3d of June has been too long unanswered. I acknowledge the difficulty in ascertaining the comparative merit of officers, and the danger of advancing friends, where there is no uncommon merit. This danger cannot be avoided by any other means than making it an invariable rule to promote officers in succession. For if you make a King the judge of uncommon merit, he will advance favorites without merit, under color or pretence of merit. If you make a Minister of State the judge, he will naturally promote his relations, connections, and friends. If you place the power of judging of extraordinary merit in an Assembly, you do not mend the matter much. For, by all the experience I have had, I find that assemblies have favorites, as well as kings and ministers. The favorites of assemblies or the leading members, are not always the most worthy; I do not know whether they ever are. These leading members have sons, brothers, and cousins, acquaintances, friends, and connections of one sort or another, near or remote; and I have ever found these leading members of assemblies as much under the influence of nature, and her passions and prejudices, as kings and ministers. The principal advantage and difference lies in this, that in an assembly there are more guards and checks upon the infirmities of leading members, than there are upon kings and ministers.
What, then, shall we say? Shall we leave it to the General and the army? Is there not as much favoritism, as much of nature, passion, prejudice, and partiality in the army, as in an assembly? As much in a General, as a King or Minister?
Upon the whole, I believe it wisest to depart from the line of succession as seldom as possible. But I cannot but think that the power of departing from it at all, though liable to abuses everywhere, yet safest in the hands of an Assembly.
But, in our American army, as that is circumstanced, it is as difficult to settle a rule of succession as a criterion of merit. We have troops in every province, from Georgia to New Hampshire. A Colonel is killed in New Hampshire. The next Colonel in the American Army to him is in Georgia. Must we send the Colonel from Georgia to command the regiment in New Hampshire? Upon his journey he is seized with a fever and dies. The next Colonel is in Canada. We must then send to Canada for a Colonel to go to Portsmouth; and, as the next Colonel to him is in South Carolina, we must send a Colonel from South Carolina to Canada to command that regiment. These marches and counter-marches must run through all the corps of officers, and will occasion such inextricable perplexities, delays, and uncertainties, that we need not hesitate to pronounce it impracticable and ruinous. Shall we say, then, that succession shall take place among the officers of every distinct army, or in every distinct department?
My own private opinion is, that we shall never be quite right until every colony is permitted to raise its own troops, and the rule of succession is established among the officers of the colony. This, where there are troops of several colonies, serving in the same camp, may be liable to some inconveniences. But these will be fewer than upon any other plan you can adopt.
It is right, I believe, to make the rule of promotion among captains and subalterns regimental only; and that among field-officers more general. But the question is, how general it shall be. Shall it extend to the whole American army? or only to the whole district or department? or only to the army serving at a particular place?
That it is necessary to enlist an army to serve during the war, or at least for a longer period than one year, and to offer some handsome encouragement for that end, I have been convinced a long time.1 I would make this temptation to consist partly in money and partly in land, and considerable in both. It has been too long delayed, but I think it will now be soon done.
What is the reason that New York must continue to embarrass the continent? Must it be so forever? What is the cause of it? Have they no politicians capable of instructing and forming the sentiments of their people? Or are their people incapable of seeing and feeling like other men? One would think that their proximity to New England would assimilate their opinions and principles. One would think, too, that the army would have some influence upon them. But it seems to have none. New York is likely to have the honor of being the very last of all in imbibing the genuine principles and the true system of American policy. Perhaps she will never entertain them at all.
TO JOHN SULLIVAN.
Philadelphia, 23 June, 1776.
Your agreeable favor of May 4th has lain by me unanswered till now. The relation of your negotiations at New York in order to convince the people of the utility and necessity of instituting a new government, is very entertaining; and if you had remained there a few weeks longer, I conjecture you would have effected a change in the politics of that region.1 Is it deceit or simple dulness in the people of that colony, which occasions their eccentric and retrograde politics?
Your late letter from Sorel gave us here many agreeable feelings. We had read nothing but the doleful, the dismal, and the horrible from Canada for a long time.
The surrender of the Cedars appears to have been a most infamous piece of cowardice. The officer,2 if he has nothing to say for himself more than I can think of, deserves the most infamous death. It is the first stain upon American arms. May immortal disgrace attend his name and character! I wish, however, that he alone had been worthy of blame. We have thrown away Canada in a most scandalous manner. Pray did not opening the trade to the upper country, and letting loose the tories, bring upon us so many disasters? For God’s sake explain to me the causes of our miscarriages in that province. Let us know the truth, which has too long been hidden from us. All the military affairs in that province have been in great confusion, and we have never had any proper returns or regular information from thence. There is now a corps of officers who will certainly act with more system and more precision, and more spirit. Pray make us acquainted with every thing that is wanted, whether men, money, arms, ammunition, clothing, tents, barracks, forage, medicines, or whatever else. Keep us constantly informed; give us line upon line.
I fear there is a chain of toryism extending from Canada through New York and New Jersey into Pennsylvania, which conducts misrepresentation and false information, and makes impression here upon credulous, unsuspecting, ignorant whigs. I wish it may not have for its object treasons and conspiracies of a deeper die.
There is a young gentleman bred at college and the bar, an excellent soldier, a good scholar, and a virtuous man, in your brigade, who deserves a station far above that in which he stands, that of adjutant to Colonel Greaton’s regiment. Any notice you may take of him will be gratefully acknowledged by me as well as him.1 Pray let me know the state of the smallpox, an enemy which we have more cause to fear than any other. Is it among our troops? Is it among the Canadians? I mean the inhabitants of the country. Can no effectual means be used to annihilate the infection? Cannot it be kept out of the army? The New England militia will be of no use, if they come in ever so great numbers, if that distemper is to seize them as soon as they arrive.
TO JOHN WINTHROP.
Philadelphia, 23 June, 1776.
Your favor of June 1st is before me. It is now universally acknowledged that we are and must be independent. But still, objections are made to a declaration of it. It is said that such a declaration will arouse and unite Great Britain. But are they not already aroused and united, as much as they will be? Will not such a declaration arouse and unite the friends of liberty, the few who are left, in opposition to the present system? It is also said that such a declaration will put us in the power of foreign States; that France will take advantage of us when they see we cannot recede, and demand severe terms of us; that she, and Spain too, will rejoice to see Britain and America wasting each other. But this reasoning has no weight with me, because I am not for soliciting any political connection, or military assistance, or indeed naval, from France. I wish for nothing but commerce, a mere marine treaty with them.1 And this they will never grant until we make the declaration, and this, I think, they cannot refuse, after we have made it.
The advantages which will result from such a declaration, are, in my opinion, very numerous and very great. After that event the colonies will hesitate no longer to complete their governments. They will establish tests, and ascertain the criminality of toryism. The presses will produce no more seditious or traitorous speculations. Slanders upon public men and measures will be lessened. The legislatures of the colonies will exert themselves to manufacture saltpetre, sulphur, powder, arms, cannon, mortars, clothing, and every thing necessary for the support of life. Our civil governments will feel a vigor hitherto unknown. Our military operations by sea and land will be conducted with greater spirit. Privateers will swarm in vast numbers. Foreigners will then exert themselves to supply us with what we want. A foreign court will not disdain to treat with us upon equal terms. Nay farther, in my opinion, such a declaration, instead of uniting the people of Great Britain against us, will raise such a storm against the measures of administration as will obstruct the war, and throw the kingdom into confusion.
A committee is appointed to prepare a confederation of the colonies, ascertaining the terms and ends of the compact, and the limits of the Continental Constitution; and another committee is appointed to draw up a declaration that these colonies are free and independent States. And other committees are appointed for other purposes, as important. These committees will report in a week or two, and then the last finishing strokes will be given to the politics of this revolution. Nothing after that will remain but war. I think I may then petition my constituents for leave to return to my family, and leave the war to be conducted by some others who understand it better. I am weary, thoroughly weary, and ought to have a little rest.
I am grieved to hear, as I do from various quarters, of that rage for innovation, which appears in so many wild shapes in our province. Are not these ridiculous projects prompted, excited, and encouraged by disaffected persons, in order to divide, dissipate, and distract the attention of the people at a time when every thought should be employed, and every sinew exerted for the defence of the country? Many of the projects that I heard of are not repairing the building that is on fire. They are pulling the building down, instead of laboring to extinguish the flames. The projects of county assemblies, town registers, and town probates of wills, are founded in narrow, contracted notions, sordid stinginess, and profound ignorance, and tend directly to barbarism. I care not whom I offend by this language. I blush to see such stuff in our public papers, which used to breathe a spirit much more liberal.
I rejoice to see in the lists of both Houses so many names respectable for parts and learning. I hope their fortitude and zeal will be in proportion, and then I am sure their country will have great cause to bless them.
TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Philadelphia, 24 June, 1776.
Your favor of May 4th has lain by me till this time unanswered, and I have heard nothing from you since. I have entertained hopes of seeing you here before now, as I heard you intended such an excursion. I was much obliged to you for your particular account of Major Austin and Mr. Rice; the first I find has the command at Castle William. The last is gone to Canada, where, if he lives through the dangers of famine, pestilence, and the sword, I hope General Gates will promote him. I have written to the General concerning him, recommending him to the General’s notice and favor in as strong and warm terms as I ever used in recommending any one. Rice has got possession of my heart by his prudent and faithful attention to the service.
What is the reason that New York is still asleep or dead in politics and war? Must it be always so? Cannot the whole congregation of patriots and heroes belonging to the army, now in that province, inspire it with one generous sentiment? Have they no sense, no feeling, no sentiment, no passions? While every other colony is rapidly advancing, their motions seem to be rather retrograde. The timid and trimming politics of some men of large property here have almost done their business for them. They have lost their influence, and grown obnoxious. The quakers and proprietarians together have little weight. New Jersey shows a noble ardor. Is there any thing in the air or soil of New York unfriendly to the spirit of liberty? Are the people destitute of reason or of virtue? Or what is the cause?
I agree with you in your hopes that the Massachusetts will proceed to complete her government. You wish me to be there, but I cannot. Mr. Bowdoin or Dr. Winthrop, I hope, will be chosen governor. When a few mighty matters are accomplished here, I retreat, like Cincinnatus, to my plough, and, like Sir William Temple, to my garden, and farewell politics. I am wearied to death; some of you younger folk must take your trick, and let me go to sleep. My children will scarcely thank me for neglecting their education and interest so long. They will be worse off than ordinary beggars, because I shall teach them as a first principle not to beg. Pride and want, though they may be accompanied with liberty, or at least may live under a free Constitution, are not a very pleasant mixture nor a very desirable legacy, yet this is all that I shall leave them. Pray write me as often as you can.
It is reported here that Colonel Reed is intended for the Governor of New Jersey. I wish with all my heart he may. That province is a spirited, a brave, and patriotic people. They want nothing but a man of sense and principle at their head. Such a one is Reed. His only fault is that he has not quite fire enough. But this may be an advantage to him as governor. His coolness, and candor, and goodness of heart, with his abilities, will make that people very happy.
TO SAMUEL CHASE.
Philadelphia, 24 June, 1776.
I received your obliging favor of the 21st this morning, and I thank you for it. Do not be angry with me.1 I hope I shall atone for past sins of omission soon.
The express, which you mention, brought me such contradictory accounts that I did not think it worth while to write to you upon it. In general, Sullivan writes that he was intrenching at the Sorel; that the Canadians expressed a great deal of joy at his appearance; that they assisted him with teams and with wheat; that he had ordered General Thompson with two thousand men to attack the enemy, consisting of about two hundred, according to his intelligence, at the Three Rivers, where they were fortifying, and from the character of Thompson and the goodness of his troops, he had much confidence of his success; that he hoped to drive away the enemy’s ships, which had passed the rapids of Richelieu. This narration of Sullivan’s was animating. But a letter from Arnold of the same date, or the next day rather, was wholly in the dismals.
Gates is gone to Canada, and we have done every thing that you recommended, and more, to support him. But for my own part, I confess my mind is impressed with other objects, the neglect of which appears to me to have been the source of all our misfortunes in Canada and everywhere else. Make the tree good, and the fruit will be good. A declaration of independence, confederation, and foreign alliances, in season, would have put a stop to that embarrassing opposition in Congress, which has occasioned us to do the work of the Lord deceitfully in Canada and elsewhere.
A resolution of your Convention was read in Congress this morning,1 and the question was put whether your delegates should have leave to go home, and whether those great questions should be postponed beyond the 1st of July. The determination was in the negative. We should have been happy to have obliged your Convention and your delegates. But it is now become public in the colonies that those questions are to be brought on the 1st of July. The lower counties have instructed their members, as the Assembly of Pennsylvania have. Jersey has chosen five new members, all independent souls, and instructed them to vote on the 1st of July for independence.
There is a conference of committees from every county in Pennsylvania now sitting in this city, who yesterday voted that the delegates for this colony ought on the 1st of July to vote for independence. This vote was not only unanimous, but I am told by one of them, that all the members declared seriatim that this was their opinion, and the opinion of the several counties and towns they represented, and many of them produced instructions from their constituents to vote for that measure. You see, therefore, that there is such a universal expectation that the great question will be decided the 1st of July, and it has been already so often postponed, that to postpone it again would hazard convulsions and dangerous conspiracies. It must then come on and be decided. I hope that before Monday morning next we shall receive from Maryland instructions to do right.
Pray send me your circular letter, and believe me, &c.
TO ARCHIBALD BULLOCK.
Philadelphia, 1 July, 1776.
Two days ago I received your favor of May 1st. I was greatly disappointed, Sir, in the information you gave me, that you should be prevented from revisiting Philadelphia. I had flattered myself with hopes of your joining us soon, and not only affording us the additional strength of your abilities and fortitude, but enjoying the satisfaction of seeing a temper and conduct here somewhat more agreeable to your wishes than those which prevailed when you were here before. But I have since been informed that your countrymen have done themselves the justice to place you at the head of their affairs, a station in which you may perhaps render more essential service to them and to America than you could here.
There seems to have been a great change in the sentiments of the colonies since you left us, and I hope that a few months will bring us all to the same way of thinking.
This morning is assigned for the greatest debate of all. A declaration, that these colonies are free and independent States, has been reported by a committee appointed some weeks ago for that purpose, and this day or to-morrow is to determine its fate. May Heaven prosper the new-born republic, and make it more glorious than any former republics have been!
The smallpox has ruined the American army in Canada, and of consequence the American cause. A series of disasters has happened there, partly owing, I fear, to the indecision of Philadelphia, and partly to the mistakes or misconduct of our officers in that department. But the smallpox, which infected every man we sent there, completed our ruin, and has compelled us to evacuate that important province. We must, however, regain it sometime or other.
My countrymen have been more successful at sea in driving all the men-of-war completely out of Boston harbor, and in making prizes of a great number of transports and other vessels.
We are in daily expectation of an armament before New York, where, if it comes, the conflict must be bloody. The object is great which we have in view, and we must expect a great expense of blood to attain it. But we should always remember that a free constitution of civil government cannot be purchased at too dear a rate, as there is nothing on this side of the new Jerusalem of equal importance to mankind.
It is a cruel reflection, that a little more wisdom, a little more activity, or a little more integrity would have preserved us Canada, and enabled us to support this trying conflict at less expense of men and money. But irretrievable miscarriages ought to be lamented no further than to enable and stimulate us to do better in future.
Your colleagues, Hall and Gwinnet, are here in good health and spirits, and as firm as you yourself could wish them. Present my compliments to Mr. Houston. Tell him the colonies will have republics for their government, let us lawyers and your divine1 say what we will.
TO SAMUEL CHASE.
Philadelphia, 1 July, 1776.
Your favor by the post this morning, gave me much pleasure,2 but the generous and unanimous vote of your Convention gave me much more. It was brought into Congress this morning, just as we were entering on the great debate. That debate took up the most of the day, but it was an idle mispence of time, for nothing was said but what had been repeated and hackneyed in that room before, a hundred times, for six months past. In the committee of the whole, the question was carried in the affirmative, and reported to the house. A colony desired it to be postponed until to-morrow. Then it will pass by a great majority; perhaps with almost unanimity. Yet I cannot promise this. Because one or two gentlemen may possibly be found, who will vote point-blank against the known and declared sense of their constituents. Maryland, however, I have the pleasure to inform you, behaved well. Paca, generously and nobly.
Alas, Canada! we have found misfortune and disgrace in that quarter. Evacuated at last. Transports arrived at Sandy Hook, from whence we may expect an attack in a short time upon New York or New Jersey, and our army not so strong as we could wish. The militia of New Jersey and New England not so ready as they ought to be.
The Romans made it a fixed rule never to send or receive ambassadors to treat of peace with their enemies, while their affairs were in an adverse and disastrous situation. There was a generosity and magnanimity in this, becoming freemen. It flowed from that temper and those principles, which alone can preserve the freedom of a people. It is a pleasure to find our Americans of the same temper. It is a good symptom, foreboding a good end.
If you imagine that I expect this declaration will ward off calamities from this country, you are much mistaken. A bloody conflict we are destined to endure. This has been my opinion from the beginning. You will certainly remember my declared opinion was, at the first Congress, when we found that we could not agree upon an immediate non-exportation, that the contest would not be settled without bloodshed; and that if hostilities should once commence, they would terminate in an incurable animosity between the two countries. Every political event since the nineteenth of April, 1775, has confirmed me in this opinion. If you imagine that I flatter myself with happiness and halcyon days after a separation from Great Britain, you are mistaken again. I do not expect that our new government will be so quiet as I could wish, nor that happy harmony, confidence, and affection between the colonies, that every good American ought to study, labor, and pray for, for a long time.
But, freedom is a counterbalance for poverty, discord, and war, and more. It is your hard lot and mine to be called into life at such a time. Yet, even these times have their pleasures.
TO MRS. ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 3 July, 1776.
Your favor1 of 17th June, dated at Plymouth, was handed me by yesterday’s post. I was much pleased to find that you had taken a journey to Plymouth, to see your friends, in the long absence of one whom you may wish to see. The excursion will be an amusement, and will serve your health. How happy would it have made me to have taken this journey with you!
I was informed, a day or two before the receipt of your letter, that you was gone to Plymouth, by Mrs. Polly Palmer, who was obliging enough, in your absence, to send me the particulars of the expedition to the lower harbor against the men-of-war. Her narration is executed with a precision and perspicuity which would have become the pen of an accomplished historian.
I am very glad you had so good an opportunity of seeing one of our little American men-of-war. Many ideas new to you must have presented themselves in such a scene; and you will in future better understand the relations of sea engagements.
I rejoice extremely at Dr. Bulfinch’s petition to open a hospital. But I hope the business will be done upon a larger scale. I hope that one hospital will be licensed in every county, if not in every town. I am happy to find you resolved to be with the children in the first class. Mr. Whitney and Mrs. Katy Quincy are cleverly through inoculation in this city.
The information you give me, of our friend’s refusing his appointment,2 has given me much pain, grief, and anxiety. I believe I shall be obliged to follow his example. I have not fortune enough to support my family, and, what is of more importance, to support the dignity of that exalted station.3 It is too high and lifted up for me, who delight in nothing so much as retreat, solitude, silence, and obscurity. In private life, no one has a right to censure me for following my own inclinations in retirement, simplicity, and frugality. In public life, every man has a right to remark as he pleases. At least he thinks so.
Yesterday, the greatest question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater, perhaps, never was nor will be decided among men. A resolution was passed without one dissenting colony, “that these United Colonies are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States, and as such they have, and of right ought to have, full power to make war, conclude peace, establish commerce, and to do all other acts and things which other States may rightfully do.” You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the causes which have impelled us to this mighty revolution, and the reasons which will justify it in the sight of God and man. A plan of confederation will be taken up in a few days.
When I look back to the year 1761, and recollect the argument concerning writs of assistance in the superior court, which I have hitherto considered as the commencement of this controversy between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole period, from that time to this, and recollect the series of political events, the chain of causes and effects, I am surprised at the suddenness as well as greatness of this revolution. Britain has been filled with folly, and America with wisdom. At least, this is my judgment. Time must determine. It is the will of Heaven that the two countries should be sundered forever. It may be the will of Heaven that America shall suffer calamities still more wasting, and distresses yet more dreadful. If this is to be the case, it will have this good effect at least. It will inspire us with many virtues, which we have not, and correct many errors, follies and vices which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy us. The furnace of affliction produces refinement, in States as well as individuals. And the new governments we are assuming in every part will require a purification from our vices, and an augmentation of our virtues, or they will be no blessings. The people will have unbounded power, and the people are extremely addicted to corruption and venality, as well as the great. But I must submit all my hopes and fears to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the faith may be, I firmly believe.
Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious effects. We might, before this hour, have formed alliances with foreign States. We should have mastered Quebec, and been in possession of Canada. You will perhaps wonder how such a declaration would have influenced our affairs in Canada, but if I could write with freedom, I could easily convince you that it would, and explain to you the manner how. Many gentlemen in high stations and of great influence have been duped by the ministerial bubble of commissioners to treat. And in real, sincere expectation of this event, which they so fondly wished, they have been slow and languid in promoting measures for the reduction of that province. Others there are in the colonies who really wished that our enterprise in Canada would be defeated, that the colonies might be brought into danger and distress between two fires, and be thus induced to submit. Others really wished to defeat the expedition to Canada, lest the conquest of it should elevate the minds of the people too much to hearken to those terms of reconciliation, which, they believed, would be offered us. These jarring views, wishes, and designs, occasioned an opposition to many salutary measures, which were proposed for the support of that expedition, and caused obstructions, embarrassments, and studied delays, which have finally lost us the province.
All these causes, however, in conjunction, would not have disappointed us, if it had not been for a misfortune which could not be foreseen, and, perhaps, could not have been prevented—I mean the prevalence of the smallpox among our troops. This fatal pestilence completed our destruction. It is a frown of providence upon us, which we ought to lay to heart.
But, on the other hand, the delay of this declaration to this time has many great advantages attending it. The hopes of reconciliation, which were fondly entertained by multitudes of honest and well-meaning, though weak and mistaken people, have been gradually and, at last, totally extinguished. Time has been given for the whole people maturely to consider the great question of independence, and to ripen their judgment, dissipate their fears, and allure their hopes, by discussing it in newspapers and pamphlets, by debating it in assemblies, conventions, committees of safety and inspection, in town and county meetings, as well as in private conversations, so that the whole people, in every colony of the thirteen, have now adopted it as their own act. This will cement the union, and avoid those heats, and perhaps convulsions, which might have been occasioned by such a declaration six months ago.
But the day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp and parade, with shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward, forevermore.
You will think me transported with enthusiasm, but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory. I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph in that day’s transaction, even although we should rue it, which I trust in God we shall not.
TO SAMUEL CHASE.
Philadelphia, 9 July, 1776.
Yours of the 5th came to me the 8th. You will see by this post, that the river is passed, and the bridge cut away. The Declaration was yesterday published and proclaimed from that awful stage in the State-house yard; by whom, do you think? By the Committee of Safety, the Committee of Inspection, and a great crowd of people. Three cheers rended the welkin. The battalions paraded on the Common, and gave us the feu de joie, notwithstanding the scarcity of powder. The bells rang all day and almost all night. Even the chimers chimed away. The election for the city was carried on, amidst all this lurry, with the utmost decency and order. Who are chosen, I cannot say; but the list was Franklin, Rittenhouse, Owen Biddle, Cannon, Schlosser, Matlack, and Kuhl. Thus you see the effect of men of fortune acting against the sense of the people!
As soon as an American seal is prepared, I conjecture the Declaration will be subscribed by all the members, which will give you the opportunity you wish for, of transmitting your name among the votaries of independence.1
I agree with you that we never can again be happy under a single particle of British power. Indeed, this sentiment is very universal. The arms are taken down from every public place.
The army is at Crown Point. We have sent up a great number of shipwrights to make a respectable fleet upon the lakes.
We have taken every measure to defend New York. The militia are marching this day in a great body from Pennsylvania. That of Jersey has behaved well, turned out universally. That of Connecticut, I was told last night by Mr. Huntington, was coming in the full number demanded of them, and must be there before now. We shall make it do, this year, and if we can stop the torrent for this campaign, it is as much as we deserve, for our weakness and sloth in politics the last. Next year we shall do better. New governments will bring new men into the play, I perceive; men of more mettle.
Your motion last fall for sending ambassadors to France with conditional instructions, was murdered; terminating in a committee of secret correspondence, which came to nothing.
Thank you for the paper and resolves. You are atoning for all past imperfections by your vigor, spirit, and unanimity.
Send along your militia for the flying camp; do not let them hesitate about their harvest. They must defend the field before they can eat the fruit. I shall inclose to you Dr. Price.2 He is an independent, I think.
My compliments to Mr. Johnson, Mr. Carroll, and all your friends whom I have the honor to know.
TO JOSEPH WARD.
Philadelphia, 10 July, 1776.
Yours of 1st July came duly to hand. The establishment of the war-office, as you observe, has given me work enough; more than I have a relish for, and of a kind not very suitable to my taste; but I must acquiesce. Should be greatly obliged to any officer of the army for a hint of any improvement in the plan, and for any assistance in the execution of it.
The continual reports of our disasters in Canada have not intimidated the Congress. On the contrary, in the midst of them, more decisive steps have been taken than ever, as you must have seen, or will see before this reaches you. The Romans never would send or receive an ambassador to treat of peace, when their affairs were in an adverse situation. This generous temper is imitated by the Americans.
You hear there is not candor and harmony between some of the members of this body. I wish you would mention the names and particulars of the report. The names, I mean, of the members between whom it is reported there is not candor and harmony. The report is groundless. There is as much candor and harmony between the members as generally takes place in assemblies, and much more than could naturally be expected in such an assembly as this. But there is a prospect now of greater harmony than ever. The principal object of dispute is now annihilated, and several members are left out.
In making a return of your division of the army, pray give us the name and rank of every officer. We want to make an army list for publication.
TO JONATHAN MASON.
Philadelphia, 18 July, 1776.
Your agreeable letter from Boston the 7th July was handed me on Tuesday last by the post.
The confusions in America, inseparable from so great a revolution in affairs, are sufficient to excite anxieties in the minds of young gentlemen just stepping into life. Your concern for the event of these commotions is not to your dishonor. But let it not affect your mind too much. These clouds will be dispersed, and the sky will become more serene.
I cannot advise you to quit the retired scene of which you have hitherto appeared to be so fond, and engage in the noisy business of war. I doubt not you have honor and spirit and abilities sufficient to make a figure in the field; and if the future circumstances of your country should make it necessary, I hope you would not hesitate to buckle on your armor. But at present I see no necessity for it. Accomplishments of the civil and political kind are no less necessary for the happiness of mankind than martial ones. We cannot all be soldiers; and there will probably be in a very few years a greater scarcity of lawyers and statesmen than of warriors.
The circumstances of this country from the years 1755 to 1758, during which period I was a student in Mr. Putnam’s office, were almost as confused as they are now, and the prospect before me, my young friend, was much more gloomy than yours.1 I felt an inclination, exactly similar to yours, for engaging in active martial life, but I was advised, and, upon a consideration of all circumstances, concluded, to mind my books. Whether my determination was prudent or not, it is not possible to say, but I never repented it. To attain the real knowledge which is necessary for a lawyer, requires the whole time and thoughts of a man in his youth, and it will do him no good to dissipate his mind among the confused objects of a camp. Nocturnâ versate manu, versate diurnâ, must be your motto.
I wish you had told me particularly what lawyers have opened offices in Boston, and what progress is made in the practice, and in the courts of justice. I cannot undertake to advise you, whether you had better go into an office in Boston or not. I rather think that the practice at present is too inconsiderable to be of much service to you. You will be likely to be obliged to waste much of your time in running of errands, and doing trifling drudgery, without learning much. Depend upon it, it is of more importance that you read much than that you draw many writs. The common writs upon notes, bonds, and accounts, are mastered in half an hour. Common declarations for rent, and ejectment, and trespass, both of assault and battery and quare clausum fregit, are learned in very nearly as short a time. The more difficult special declarations, and especially the refinements of special pleadings, are never learned in an office. They are the result of experience and long habits of thinking. If you read Plowden’s Commentaries, you will see the nature of special pleadings. In addition to these, read Instructor Clericalis, Mallory, Lilly, and look into Rastall and Coke. Your time will be better spent upon these authors than in dancing attendance upon a lawyer’s office and his clients. Many of our most respectable lawyers never did this at all. Gridley, Pratt, Thacher, Sewall, Paine, never served regularly in any office.
Upon the whole, my young friend, I wish that the state of public affairs would have admitted of my spending more time with you. I had no greater pleasure in this life than in assisting young minds possessed of ambition to excel, which I very well know to be your case. Let me entreat you not to be too anxious about futurity. Mind your books. Sit down patiently to Plowden’s Commentaries; read them through coolly, deliberately, and attentively; read them in course; endeavor to make yourself master of the point on which the case turns; remark the reasoning and the decision; and tell me a year hence whether your time has not been more agreeably and profitably spent than in drawing writs and running of errands. I hope to see you ere long. I am obliged to you for this letter, and wish a continuance of your correspondence. I am anxious, very anxious, for my dear Mrs. Adams and my babes. God preserve them. I can do them no kind office whatever.
TO J. D. SERGEANT.
Philadelphia, 21 July, 1776.
Your favor of the 19th, from Trenton, reached me yesterday. It is very true that we were somewhat alarmed at the last clause in your constitution. It is a pity that the idea of returning under the yoke was held up in so good a system, because it gives something to say to a very unworthy party.1
I hope you will assume the style of the Commonwealth of New Jersey, as soon as your new government is completed. Virginia has done it, and it is the most consistent style.2
It is a great pleasure to learn that you have formally ratified independency, and that your unanimity and firmness increase. This will be the case everywhere, as the war approaches nearer. An enemy’s army brings a great heat with it, and warms all before it. Nothing makes and spreads patriotism so fast. Your ordinance against treasons will make whigs by the thousand.3 Nine tenths of the toryism in America has arisen from sheer cowardice and avarice. But when persons come to see there is greater danger to their persons and property from toryism than whiggism, the same avarice and pusillanimity will make them whigs. A treason law is in politics like the article for shooting upon the spot a soldier who shall turn his back. It turns a man’s cowardice and timidity into heroism, because it places greater danger behind his back than before his face.
While you are attending to military matters, do not forget saltpetre, sulphur, powder, flints, lead, cannon, mortars.
It grieves me to hear that your people have a prejudice against liberal education.4 There is a spice of this everywhere. But liberty has no enemy more dangerous than such a prejudice. It is your business, my friend, as a statesman, to soften and eradicate this prejudice. The surest mode of doing it is to persuade gentlemen of education to lay aside some of their airs of scorn, vanity, and pride, in which it is a certain truth that they sometimes indulge themselves. Gentlemen cannot expect the confidence of the common people, if they treat them ill, or refuse haughtily to comply with some of their favorite notions, which may be most obligingly done, without the least deviation from honor or virtue. Your delegates behave very well; but I wish for you among them. I think, however, that you judged wisely in continuing in Convention, where I believe you have been able to do more good than you could have done here.
I should be obliged to you for a line now and then. Mr. S. Adams received your letter from Bristol. You will see the new delegates for Pennsylvania. What is the cause that Mr. Dickinson never can maintain his popularity for more than two or three years together, as they tell me has ever been the case? He may have a good heart, and certainly is very ready with his pen, and has a great deal of learning, but his head is not very long nor clear.
TO THE DEPUTY SECRETARY OF MASSACHUSETTS.
Philadelphia, 25 July, 1776.
I find myself under a necessity of applying to the honorable General Court for leave to return home. I have attended here so long and so constantly that I feel myself necessitated to ask this favor, on account of my health as well as on many other accounts.
I beg leave to propose to the honorable the General Court an alteration in their plan of delegation in Congress, which, it appears to me, would be more agreeable to the health and convenience of the members, and much more conducive to the public good than the present. No gentleman can possibly attend to an incessant round of thinking, speaking, and writing upon the most intricate as well as important concerns of human society, from one end of the year to another, without injury to his mental and bodily health. I would, therefore, humbly propose that the honorable Court would be pleased to appoint nine members to attend in Congress, three or five at a time. In this case, six or four might be at home at a time, and every member might be relieved once in three or four months. In this way you would always have members in Congress who would have in their minds a complete chain of the proceedings here, as well as in the General Court, both kinds of which knowledge are necessary for a proper conduct here. In this way the lives and health, and, indeed, the sound minds of the delegates here would be in less danger than they are at present, and in my humble opinion, the public business would be much better done.
This proposal, however, is only submitted to the consideration of that body whose sole right it is to judge of it. For myself, I must entreat the General Court to give me leave to resign, and immediately to appoint some other gentleman in my room. The consideration of my own health and the circumstances of my family and private affairs would have little weight with me, if the sacrifice of these was necessary for the public; but it is not. Because those parts of the business of Congress for which, if for any, I have any qualifications, being now nearly completed, and the business that remains being chiefly military and commercial, of which I know very little, there are multitudes of gentlemen in the province much fitter for the public service here than I am.
With great respect to the General Court, &c.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 27 July, 1776.
I have directed a packet to you by this day’s post, and shall only add a few words by Fessenden. I assure you the necessity of your sending along fresh delegates here is not chimerical. Mr. Paine has been very ill for this whole week, and remains in a bad way. He has not been able to attend Congress for several days, and if I was to judge by his eye, his skin, and his cough, I should conclude he never would be fit to do duty there again, without a long intermission, and a course of air, exercise, diet, and medicine. In this I may be mistaken. Mr. S. Adams, between you and me, is completely worn out. I wish he had gone home six months ago, and rested himself. Then he might have done it without any disadvantage. But, in plain English, he has been so long here, and his strength, spirits, and abilities so exhausted, that a hundred such delegates here would not be worth a groat. My case is worse. My face is grown pale, my eyes weak and inflamed again, my nerves tremulous, and my mind weak as water. Night sweats and feverous heats by day are returned upon me, which is an infallible symptom with me that it is time to throw off all care for a time, and take my rest. I have several times, with the blessing of God, saved my life in this way, and am now determined to attempt it once more.
You must be very speedy in appointing other delegates, or you will not be represented here. Go home I will, if I leave the Massachusetts without a member here. You know my resolutions in these matters are as fixed as fate; or if you do not know it, I do. I know better than anybody what my constitution will bear, and what it will not, and, you may depend upon it, I have already tempted it beyond prudence and safety. A few months’ rest and relaxation will recruit me, but this is absolutely necessary for that end. I have written a resignation to the General Court, and am determined to take six months’ rest at least. I wish to be released from Philadelphia forever, but in case the General Court should wish otherwise, which I hope they will not, I do not mean surlily to refuse to serve them. If you appoint such a number that we can have a respite once in six months at least, or once in three, if that is more convenient, I should be willing to take another trick or two. But I will never again undertake upon any other terms, unless I should undertake for a year, and bring my wife and four children with me, as many other gentlemen here have done. Which, as I know it would be infinitely more agreeable, and for the benefit of my children, so in my sincere opinion it would be cheaper for the province; because I am sure I could bring my whole family here and maintain it cheaper than I can live here single at board with a servant and two horses.
TO FRANCIS DANA.
Philadelphia, 16 August, 1776.
Your obliging favor of July 28th I duly received. I am glad to hear that your third freshmanship is a busy one. I think you commence a fourth, at Philadelphia, very soon. I have presumed to lay before the General Court a proposal to choose nine delegates, that their duty may be discharged here in rotation. The service here is too hard for any one to be continued so long, at least for me. Who will be thought of, I know not. I wish they may be characters respectable in every point of view. Mr. Bowdoin, Dr. Winthrop, Major Hawley, General Warren, Dana, Lowell, Sewall, Sullivan, Sargeant, present themselves, with many others, and cannot leave the Court at a loss.
You inform me that the House have taken up the subject of government, and appointed a committee to prepare a form. And although they have not joined the Board in this important business, yet I hope they will prepare a plan which the Board will approve. I fear I was mistaken, when, in my last to you, I foretold that every colony would have more than one branch to its legislature. The Convention of Pennsylvania has voted for a single Assembly. Such is the force of habit; and what surprises me not a little is, that the American philosopher1 should have so far accommodated himself to the customs of his countrymen as to be a zealous advocate for it. No country ever will be long happy, or ever entirely safe and free, which is thus governed. The curse of a jus vagum will be their portion.
I wish with you that the genius of this country may expand itself, now the shackles are knocked off, which have heretofore confined it. But there is not a little danger of its becoming still more contracted. If a sufficient scope is not allowed for the human mind to exert itself, if genius and learning are not sufficiently encouraged, instead of improving by this revolution, we shall become more despicably narrow, timid, selfish, base, and barbarous.
The little pamphlet you mention was printed by Colonel Lee, who insisted upon it so much that it could not be decently refused. Instead of wondering that it was not enlarged, the wonder ought to be that it was ever written.1 It is a poor scrap. The negative given in it to the first magistrate will be adopted nowhere but in South Carolina. Virginia has done very well. I hope the next sister will do equally. I hope the Massachusetts will call their government a commonwealth. Let us take the name manfully, and let the first executive magistrate be the head of the Council Board, and no more. Our people will never submit to more, and I am not clear that it is best they should. The “Thoughts on Government” were calculated for southern latitudes, not northern. But if the House should establish a single Assembly as a legislature, I confess it would grieve me to the very soul; and however others may be, I shall certainly never be happy under such a government. However, the right of the people to establish such a government as they please, will ever be defended by me, whether they choose wisely or foolishly.
Mr. Wrixon has found hard luck in America as well as in Europe. I have never seen nor heard of any reason to doubt the sincerity of his professions of regard to our country. But he is about returning. I am sorry that he has just cause to return. The Baron2 is dead; has not left a very good character.
There is one particular, my friend, in which our province uses her delegates here very unkindly, and by the same means injures herself and all the United States. I mean in not sending us your journals. To this moment, I do not know one step that has been taken to raise the troops for New York and Ticonderoga. Nor the name of one officer, nor when they marched. The interest and reputation of our province suffer beyond measure by such a confused way of doing business. We ought to be minutely informed of the characters and connections of all the officers you send into the service, as well as of their names. You ought to rank and number the Massachusetts regiments, and publish a list of all the officers’ names.
TO SAMUEL H. PARSONS.
Philadelphia, 19 August, 1776.
Your favors of the 13th and 15th are before me. The gentlemen you recommend for Majors, Chapman and Dyer, will be recommended by the Board of War, and I hope agreed to in Congress.
I thank you for your observations upon certain field-officers. Patterson, Shepard, and Brooks, make the best figure, I think, upon paper. It is my misfortune that I have not the least acquaintance with any of these gentlemen, having never seen any one of them, or heard his name till lately. This is a little remarkable. Few persons in the province ever travelled over the whole of it more than I have, or had better opportunities to know every conspicuous character. But I do not so much as know from what parts of the province Shepard and Brooks come, of what families they are, their education or employments. Should be very glad to be informed.
Lieutenant-Colonel Henshaw has been recommended to me by Colonel Reed for promotion as a useful officer. But upon the whole, I think the list you have given me does not shine. I am very much ashamed of it. I am so vexed sometimes as almost to resolve to make interest to be a Colonel myself. I have almost vanity enough to think that I could make a figure in such a group. But a treacherous, shattered constitution is an eternal objection against my aspiring to military command. If it was not for this insuperable difficulty, I should certainly imitate old Noll Cromwell in one particular, that is, in launching into military life after forty, as much as I dislike his character and example in others. But enough of this.
I wish I could find materials anywhere in sufficient quantities to make good officers. A brave and able man, wherever he is, shall never want my vote for his advancement; nor shall an ignorant, awkward dastard ever want it for his dismission. Congress must assume a higher tone of discipline over officers as well as over the men.
With regard to encouragements in money and in land for soldiers to enlist during the war, I have ever been in favor of it, as the best economy and the best policy, and I have no doubt that rewards in land will be given, after the war is over. But the majority are not of my mind for promising it now. I am the less anxious about it, for a reason which does not seem to have much weight however with the majority. Although it may cost us more, and we may put now and then a battle to hazard by the method we are in, yet we shall be less in danger of corruption and violence from a standing army, and our militia will acquire courage, experience, discipline, and hardiness in actual service.
I wish every man upon the continent was a soldier, and obliged, upon occasion, to fight, and determined to conquer or to die. Flight was unknown to the Romans. I wish it was to Americans. There was a flight from Quebec, and worse than a flight at the Cedars. If we do not atone for these disgraces, we are undone.
A more exalted love of their country, a more enthusiastic ardor for military glory, and deeper detestation, disdain, and horror of martial disgrace must be excited among our people, or we shall perish in infancy. I will certainly give my voice for devoting to the infernal gods every man, high or low, who shall be convicted of bashfulness on the day of battle.
P. S. Since the above was written Congress has accepted the report of the Board of War, and appointed Dyer and Chapman, Majors. I had much pleasure in promoting Dyer, not only from his own excellent character, but from respect to my good friend his father.
TO JONATHAN MASON.
Philadelphia, 21 August, 1776.
I had by yesterday’s post the pleasure of your letter of the 12th instant. The account you give me of the books you have read and studied is very agreeable to me. Let me request you to pursue my lord Coke. The first Institute you say you have diligently studied. Let me advise you to study the second, third, and fourth Institutes with equal diligence. My lord Coke is justly styled the oracle of the law, and whoever is master of his writings, is master of the laws of England. I should not have forgotten his Reports or his Entries. These, equally with his Institutes, demand and deserve the attention of the student.
It is a matter of curiosity rather than use, of speculation rather than practice, to contemplate what Mr. Selden calls the antiquæ legis facies. Yet I know a young mind as active and inquisitive as yours will not be easy without it. Horne, Bracton, Britton, Fleta, Thornton, Glanville, and Fortescue will exhibit to you this ancient face, and there you may contemplate all its beauties.
The Year-Books are also a great curiosity. You must make yourself sufficiently acquainted with law-french and with the abbreviated law-hand, to read and understand the cases reported in these books, when you have occasion to search a point. The French language will not only be necessary for you as a lawyer, but, if I mistake not, it will become every day more and more a necessary accomplishment of a gentleman in America.
There is another science, my dear Sir, that I must recommend to your most attentive consideration, and that is the Civil Law. You will find it so interspersed with history, oratory, law, politics, and war and commerce, that you will find advantages in it every day. Wood, Domat, Ayliffe, Taylor, ought to be read. But these should not suffice. You should go to the fountain-head, and drink deep of the Pierian spring. Justinian’s Institutes, and all the commentators upon them that you can find, you ought to read. The Civil Law will come as fast into fashion in America as the French language, and from the same causes.
I think myself much obliged to Mr. Martin for his politeness to you, and should advise you to accept of his kind offer, provided you do not find the practice of his office interferes too much with your studies, which I do not think it will.
TO JOSEPH HAWLEY.
Philadelphia, 25 August, 1776.
It is so long since I had the pleasure of writing to you, or the honor of receiving a letter from you, that I have forgotten on which side the balance of the account lies, at least which wrote the last letter. But ceremonies of this kind ought not to interrupt a free communication of sentiments in times so critical and important as these.
We have been apt to flatter ourselves with gay prospects of happiness to the people, prosperity to the State, and glory to our arms, from those free kinds of governments which are to be created in America. And it is very true that no people ever had a finer opportunity to settle things upon the best foundations. But yet I fear that human nature will be found to be the same in America as it has been in Europe, and that the true principles of liberty will not be sufficiently attended to.
Knowledge is among the most essential foundations of liberty. But is there not a jealousy or an envy taking place among the multitude, of men of learning, and a wish to exclude them from the public councils and from military command? I could mention many phenomena in various parts of these States which indicate such a growing disposition. To what cause shall I attribute the surprising conduct of the Massachusetts Bay? How has it happened that such an illiterate group of general and field-officers have been thrust into public view by that commonwealth, which, as it has an indisputable superiority of power to every other in America, as well as of experience and skill in war, ought to have set an example to her sisters, by sending into the field her best men, men of the most genius, learning, reflection, and address? Instead of this, every man you send into the army, as a General or a Colonel, exhibits a character which nobody ever heard of before, as an awkward, illiterate, illbred man. Who is General Fellows? And who is General Brickett? Who is Colonel Holman, Cary, Smith? This conduct is sinking the character of the province into the lowest contempt, and is injuring the service beyond description. Able officers are the soul of an army. Good officers will make good soldiers, if you give them human nature as a material to work upon. But ignorant, unambitious, unfeeling, unprincipled officers will make bad soldiers of the best men in the world.
I am ashamed and grieved to my inmost soul for the disgrace brought upon the Massachusetts in not having half its proportions of general officers. But there is not a single man among all our Colonels that I dare to recommend for a general officer, except Knox and Porter, and these are so low down in the list, that it is dangerous promoting them over the heads of so many. If this is the effect of popular elections, it is but a poor panegyric upon such elections. I fear we shall find that popular elections are not oftener determined upon pure principles of merit, virtue, and public spirit than the nominations of a Court, if we do not take care. I fear there is an infinity of corruption in our elections already crept in. All kinds of favor, intrigue, and partiality in elections are as real corruption, in my mind, as threats and bribes. A popular government is the worst curse to which human nature can be devoted, when it is thoroughly corrupted. Despotism is better. A sober, conscientious habit of electing for the public good alone must be introduced, and every appearance of interest, favor, and partiality reprobated, or you will very soon make wise and honest men wish for monarchy again; nay, you will make them introduce it into America.
There is another particular in which it is manifest that the principles of liberty have not sufficient weight in men’s minds, or are not well understood.
Equality of representation in the legislature is a first principle of liberty, and the moment the least departure from such equality takes place, that moment an inroad is made upon liberty. Yet, this essential principle is disregarded in many places in several of these republics. Every county is to have an equal voice, although some counties are six times more numerous and twelve times more wealthy. The same iniquity will be established in Congress. Rhode Island will have an equal weight with the Massachusetts, the Delaware government with Pennsylvania, and Georgia with Virginia. Thus we are sowing the seeds of ignorance, corruption, and injustice in the fairest field of liberty that ever appeared upon earth, even in the first attempts to cultivate it. You and I have very little to hope or expect for ourselves. But it is a poor consolation, under the cares of a whole life spent in the vindication of the principles of liberty, to see them violated in the first formation of governments, erected by the people themselves on their own authority, without the poisonous interposition of kings or priests.
TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Philadelphia, 29 August, 1776.
I sit down now in the character of a schoolmaster, or a fellow of a college, to give myself airs, the pedantry and impertinence of which I have no doubt you will pardon, as the precepts I am about to deliver are of such vast importance to the public and so little practised, although they are so very easy and natural.
You must be sensible that intelligence is of the last consequence to the Congress, to the Assemblies, and to the public at large. It ought, therefore, to be transmitted as quick and frequently, and with as much exactness and particularity, as possible. In time of war, the letters from Generals and other officers of the army are usually the memorials and documents from whence annals are afterwards compiled and histories composed. They cannot be too careful, therefore, to transmit circumstantial narrations of facts, any more than, for their own safety, success, and glory, they can omit any means of obtaining the most exact, particular, and constant information. I have suffered inexpressible vexation upon many occasions, when I have seen public letters containing vague sketches and imperfect hints of enterprises and movements both of friends and enemies.
When an officer sits down to write a relation of a skirmish or a battle, I should think his first care would be to ascertain and describe the force of the enemy, their numbers, their commanders, their appointments, their motions, the situation of their encampment, the ground they occupied, or were attempting to possess themselves of. In the next place, I should think he would tell you the number of men which he sent against the enemy, the officer to whom he gave the command, the other general officers under him, the names of the regiments which composed the party, and then give you a detail of the marches and countermarches, the motions and manœuvres of both enemies and friends during the contention, the result of the whole transaction, on which side victory declared herself, and the number of killed and wounded on each side, the number of officers especially, and among them the most eminent by name. All these particulars, together with the loss or acquisition of arms, ammunition, baggage, ordnance, and stores, ought to be related with as much precision as the writer can obtain. Recollect the letter of Colonel Campbell, lately taken prisoner at Boston, relating the circumstances of his captivity; how clearly and precisely he states his own strength and that of his enemy! how minutely he remembers every circumstance of the engagement! When facts are related in this manner, the reader, the public, and posterity are enabled to form a judgment upon the whole, to decide what is the consequence of the event, to determine the character and conduct of commanders and of troops, to ascertain their merit or demerit. In short, to pass just reflections, to praise or blame with propriety, to reward or punish with justice.
Read the relation of the battle between Catiline and his adversaries, in Sallust. You see the combatants. You feel the ardor of the battle. You see the blood of the slain, and you hear the wounded sigh and groan. But if you read our American relations of battles and sieges, in our newspapers or in private letters, or indeed in public official letters, you see little of this accuracy. You are left in confusion and uncertainty about every thing. It may one day be your fortune to be obliged to convey information to the public of the course of the events and transactions of a war, and whenever it is, I doubt not it will be faithfully done. At present, except by the commander-in-chief, and one or two others, it is done very superficially, crudely, and confusedly. A general officer should spare no pains to make himself master of the epistolary style, which is easy, natural, simple, and familiar, and of the historical style, too, which is equally simple, although a little more grave, solemn, and noble. Xenophon, Cæsar, Wolfe, Lee, are all indebted for a very large share of their fame to their pens.
The strange uncertainty in which we are still involved, concerning the late skirmishes upon Long Island, has given rise to the foregoing observations. My friends have been a little negligent in not writing me a line upon this occasion. I think we have suffered in our reputation for generalship in permitting the enemy to steal a march upon us. Greene’s sickness, I conjecture, has been the cause of this. We have not been sufficiently vigilant in obtaining information of the motions and numbers of the enemy after their landing on Long Island, in reconnoitring them, and in keeping out advanced guards and patrolling parties. Our officers do not seem sufficiently sensible of the importance of an observation of the King of Prussia, that stratagem, ambuscade, and ambush are the sublimest chapter in the art of war. Regular forces are never surprised. They are masters of rules for guarding themselves in every situation and contingency. The old officers among them are full of resources, wiles, artifices, and stratagems, to deceive, decoy, and overreach their adversaries. We must oppose art to art. We must not disdain to learn of them. Fas est et ab hoste doceri.
My mind is more and more engaged with the thoughts of the importance of introducing into our army officers of parts and ambition. Captain Lee has been constantly upon my mind ever since you mentioned him. His father’s merit and his own demand promotion for him. Pray let me know who are Nixon’s Lieutenant-Colonel and Major. Who are Learned’s Lieutenant-Colonel and Major? You said there were other young officers of parts and spirit in Glover’s regiment. Let me know the name and character of every one of them, I conjure you.
Have we not put too much to the hazard in sending the greatest part of the army over to Long Island, from whence there is no retreat? Will not the enemy, by making regular approaches upon us, be able to force us, by means of their bombs and carcasses, out of our lines?
So! The fishers have set a seine, and a whole school, a whole school of fish have swum into it, and been caught! The fowlers have set a net, and a whole flock of pigeons have alighted on the bed, and the net has been drawn over them. But the most insolent thing of all is, sending one of those very pigeons as a flutterer to Philadelphia,1 in order to decoy the great flock of all. Did you ever see a decoy duck or a decoy brant?
Thank you for your last letter. There are a few words in it, which contain a hint of something, which, if fact, has been industriously hidden from us. “By the action of last Tuesday, we are convinced that many of our men are cowards.” I beg of you to explain this, in detail. Do you mean the men who were in the skirmish? Those in the lines on Long Island, or those in New York? Do not subscribe your name. It shall be a secret. But I conjure you, as you love your country, to let me know.
We have so many reports here of the infamous cowardice of the New England troops, especially of Fellows’s and Parsons’s brigades, in running away in spite of their two Generals, and General Washington too, that I am ashamed of my country. Pray, let me know the truth, and whether there is less courage in the northern than southern troops. The report of Fellows’s and Parsons’s brigades is confirmed by the General’s letter.
TO SAMUEL COOPER.
Philadelphia, 4 September, 1776.
Mr. Hare, a brother of Mr. Robert Hare, the porter brewer in this city, is bound to Boston. He has boarded some time in the same house with me, and is very desirous of seeing the town of Boston. He is travelling to Boston merely from the curiosity of a traveller, and meddles not with politics. He has an inclination to see the public buildings, your church and the chapel particularly. I should be much obliged to you, if you would procure him the sight of as many of the public buildings in town as you can conveniently.
Our Generals, I fear, have made a mistake in retreating from Long Island. I fear they will retreat from the city of New York next. These are disagreeable events. I do not like these measures. I wish there was more firmness. But let not these things discourage. If they get possession of New York, Long Island, and Staten Island, these are more territory than their whole army can defend this year. They must keep their force together. The instant they divide it they are ruined. They cannot march into the country, for before they get ten miles into the country they are surrounded, or their retreat cut off. They cannot go up the North River to any purpose, because a few months will make ice in it, in which their vessels cannot live. They must keep the most of their ships in the harbor of New York to defend their army. I sometimes think that Providence, against our own opinions and inclinations, has provided better for us in this instance than our own wisdom would have done. Had the enemy’s fleet and army been kept from Long Island, they must and would have made an effort elsewhere for winter quarters. At Staten Island they could not have wintered. They must therefore have wintered at Boston, Rhode Island, or have gone to the southward, to Virginia, one of the Carolinas, or Georgia, and either of these cases would perhaps have been worse for us. The panic which is spread upon this occasion, is weak and unmanly; it excites my shame and indignation. But it is wearing off. If our whole army had been cut to pieces, it would have been shameful to have been so intimidated, as some are or pretend to be. Congress, I hope, will stand firm.
TO JAMES WARREN.1
Philadelphia, 8 September, 1776.
I am going to-morrow morning on an errand to Lord Howe, not to beg a pardon, I assure you, but to hear what he has to say. He sent Sullivan here to let us know that he wanted a conversation with some members of Congress. We are going to hear him. But as Congress have voted that they cannot send members to talk with him in their private capacities, but will send a committee of their body as representatives of the free and independent States of America, I presume his Lordship cannot see us, and I hope he will not; but if he should, the whole will terminate in nothing. Some think it will occasion a delay of military operations, which they say we much want. I am not of this mind. Some think it will clearly throw the odium of continuing this war on his Lordship and his master. I wish it may. Others think it will silence the tories and establish the timid whigs. I wish this also, but do not expect it. But all these arguments, and twenty others as mighty, would not have convinced me of the necessity, propriety, or utility of this embassy, if Congress had not determined on it. I was totis viribus against it, from first to last. But upon this occasion New Hampshire, Connecticut, and even Virginia gave way. All sides agreed in sending me. The stanch and intrepid, I suppose, such as were enemies to the measure, as well as myself, pushed for me, that as little evil might come of it as possible. Others agreed to vote for me in order to entice some of our inflexibles to vote for the measure. You will hear more of this embassy. It will be famous enough.
Your secretary1 will rip about this measure, and well he may. Nothing, I assure you, but the unanimous vote of Congress, the pressing solicitation of the firmest men in Congress, and the particular advice of my own colleagues, at least of Mr. Hancock and Mr. Gerry, would have induced me to accept this trust.
TO SAMUEL ADAMS.
8 September, 1776.
To-morrow morning Dr. Franklin, Mr. Rutledge, and your humble servant set off to see that rare curiosity, Lord Howe. Do not imagine from this that a panic has spread to Philadelphia. By no means. This is only refinement in policy. It has a deep, profound reach, no doubt. So deep that you cannot see to the bottom of it, I dare say. I am sure I cannot. Do not, however, be concerned. When you see the whole, as you will ere long, you will not find it very bad. I will write you the particulars as soon as I shall be at liberty to do it.
SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Boston, 16 September, 1776.
I very gratefully acknowledge the receipt of your letter, dated the2 of August. I should have written to you from this place before, but I have not had leisure. My time is divided between Boston and Watertown, and though we are not engaged in matters of such magnitude as now employ your mind, there are a thousand things which call the attention of every man who is concerned for his country.
Our Assembly have appointed a committee to prepare a form of government; they have not yet reported. I believe they will agree in two legislative branches. Their great difficulty seems to be to determine upon a free and adequate representation. They are at present an unwieldy body. I will inform you more of this, when I shall have the materials.
The defence of this town, you know, has lain much upon our minds. Fortifications are erected upon several of the islands, which I am told require at least eight thousand men. You shall have a particular account, when I am at leisure. By my manner of writing you may conclude that I am now in haste. I have received no letter from Philadelphia or New York since I was favored with yours, nor can I find that any other person has. It might be of advantage to the common cause for us to know what is doing at both those important places. We have a report that a committee is appointed (as the expression is) “to meet the Howes,” and that you are one. This, without flattery, gave me pleasure. I am indeed at a loss to conceive how such a movement could be made consistently with the honor of the Congress, but I have such an opinion of the wisdom of that body, that I must not doubt of the rectitude of the measure. I hope they will be vigilant and firm, for I am told that Lord Howe is, though not a great man, an artful courtier. May God give us wisdom, fortitude, perseverance, and every other virtue necessary for us to maintain that independence, which we have asserted! It would be ridiculous indeed, if we were to return to a state of slavery in a few weeks after we had thrown off the yoke and asserted our independence. The body of the people of America, I am persuaded, would resent it. But why do I write in this style? I rely upon the Congress and the committee. I wish, however, to know a little about this matter, for I confess I cannot account for it in my own mind. I will write to you soon. In the mean time, adieu.
What has been the issue of the debates upon a weighty subject when I left you, and another matter (you know what I mean) of great importance? It is high time they were finished. Pay my due regards to the President, Messrs. Paine, Gerry, Colonel Lees, and other friends.
TO SAMUEL ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 17 September, 1776.
In a few lines of the 8th instant I promised you a more particular account of the conference. On Monday, the committee set off from Philadelphia, and reached Brunswick on Tuesday night. Wednesday morning, they proceeded to Amboy, and from thence to Staten Island, where they met the Lord Howe, by whom they were politely received and entertained. His lordship opened the conference by giving us an account of the motive which first induced him to attend to the dispute with America, which he said was the honor which had been done to his family by the Massachusetts Bay, which he prized very highly. From whence I concluded, in my own mind, that his lordship had not attended to the controversy earlier than the Port Bill and the Charter Bill, and consequently must have a very inadequate idea of the nature as well as of the rise and progress of the contest.
His lordship then observed, that he had requested this interview, that he might satisfy himself whether there was any probability that America would return to her allegiance; but he must observe to us, that he could not acknowledge us as members of Congress, or a committee of that body, but that he only desired this conversation with us as private gentlemen, in hopes that it might prepare the way for the people’s returning to their allegiance and to an accommodation of the disputes between the two countries; that he had no power to treat with us as independent States, or in any other character than as British subjects and private gentlemen; but that upon our acknowledging ourselves to be British subjects, he had power to consult with us; that the act of parliament had given power to the king, upon certain conditions, of declaring the colonies to be at peace; and his commission gave him power to confer, advise, and consult with any number or description of persons concerning the complaints of the people in America; that the king and ministry had very good dispositions to redress the grievances of the people, and reform the errors of administration in America; that his commission gave him power to converse with any persons whatever in America concerning the former instructions to governors, and the acts of parliament complained of; that the king and ministry were very willing to have all these revised and reconsidered, and if any errors had crept in, if they could be pointed out, were very willing that they should be rectified.
Mr. Rutledge mentioned to his Lordship what General Sullivan had said, that his Lordship told him he would set the acts of parliament wholly aside, and that parliament had no right to tax America, or meddle with her internal polity. His Lordship answered Mr. Rutledge that General Sullivan had misunderstood him, and extended his words much beyond their import.
His Lordship gave us a long account of his negotiations in order to obtain powers sufficiently ample for his purpose. He said he told them (the ministry, I suppose he meant) that those persons whom you call rebels, are the most proper to confer with of any, because they are the persons who complain of grievances. The others, those who are not in arms, and are not, according to your ideas, in rebellion, have no complaints or grievances; they are satisfied, and therefore it would be to no purpose to converse with them. To that his Lordship said, he would not accept the command or commission until he had full power to confer with any persons whom he should think proper, who had the most abilities and influence. But, having obtained these powers, he intended to have gone directly to Philadelphia, not to have treated with Congress as such, or to have acknowledged that body, but to have consulted with gentlemen of that body in their private capacities upon the subjects in his commission.
His Lordship did not incline to give us any further account of his powers, or to make any other propositions to us, in one capacity or another, than those which are contained in substance in the foregoing lines.
I have the pleasure to assure you, that there was no disagreement in opinion among the members of the committee upon any one point. They were perfectly united in sentiment and in language, as they are in the result of the whole, which is, that his Lordship’s powers are fully expressed in the late act of parliament, and that his commission contains no other authority than that of granting pardons, with such exceptions as the commissioners shall think proper to make, and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be at peace, upon submission, and of inquiring into the state of America of any persons with whom they might think proper to confer, advise, converse, and consult, even although they should be officers of the army or members of Congress, and then representing the result of their inquiries to the ministry, who, after all, might or might not, at their pleasure, make any alterations in the former instructions to governors, or propose, in parliament, any alterations in the acts complained of.
The whole affair of the commission appears to me, as it ever did, to be a bubble, an ambuscade, a mere insidious manœuvre, calculated only to decoy and deceive, and it is so gross, that they must have a wretched opinion of our generalship to suppose that we can fall into it.
The committee assured his Lordship, that they had no authority to wait upon him, or to treat or converse with him, in any other character but that of a committee of Congress, and as members of independent States; that the vote which was their commission, clearly ascertained their character; that the declaration which had been made of independence, was the result of long and cool deliberation; that it was made by Congress, after long and great reluctance, in obedience to the positive instructions of their constituents, every Assembly upon the continent having instructed their delegates to this purpose, and since the declaration has been made and published, it has been solemnly ratified and confirmed by the Assemblies, so that neither this committee nor that Congress which sent it here, have authority to treat in any other character than as independent States. One of the committee, Dr. Franklin, assured his Lordship that, in his private opinion, America would not again come under the domination of Great Britain, and therefore that it was the duty of every good man, on both sides of the water, to promote peace, and an acknowledgment of American independency, and a treaty of friendship and alliance between the two countries. Another of the committee, Mr. J. A., assured his Lordship, that, in his private opinion, America would never treat in any other character than as independent States. The other member, Mr. Rutledge, concurred in the same opinion. His Lordship said he had no powers nor instructions upon that subject; it was entirely new. Mr. Rutledge observed to his Lordship that most of the colonies had submitted for two years to live without governments, and to all the inconveniences of anarchy, in hopes of reconciliation; but now they had instituted governments. Mr. J. A. observed that all the colonies had gone completely through a revolution; that they had taken all authority from the officers of the Crown, and had appointed officers of their own, which his Lordship might easily conceive had cost great struggles, and that they could not easily go back; and that Americans had too much understanding not to know that, after such a declaration as they had made, the government of Great Britain never would have any confidence in them, or could govern them again but by force of arms.
SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Boston, 30 September, 1776.
I am much obliged to you for your two letters of the 8th and 14th of this month, which I received together by the last post. The caution given in the first of these letters was well designed, and had it come to me as early as you had reason to expect it would, I should have been relieved of a full fortnight’s anxiety of mind. I was indeed greatly “concerned” for the event of the proposed conference with Lord Howe. It is no compliment when I tell you that I fully confided in the understanding and the integrity of the gentlemen appointed by Congress; but, being totally ignorant of the motives which induced such a measure, I was fearful lest we might be brought into a situation of great delicacy and embarrassment. I perceive that his Lordship would not converse with you as members of Congress or a committee of that body, from whence I concluded that the conference did not take its rise on his part. As I am unacquainted with its origination and the powers of the committee, I must contemplate the whole affair as a refinement in policy beyond my reach, and content myself with remaining in the dark till I have the pleasure of seeing you, when I trust the mystery will be fully explained to me. Indeed, I am not so solicitous to know the motives from whence this conference sprang, or the manner in which it was brought up, as I am pleased with its conclusion. The sentiments and language of the committee, as they are related to me, were becoming the character they bore. They managed with great dexterity. They maintained the dignity of Congress, and, in my opinion, the independence of America stands now on a better footing than it did before. It affords me abundant satisfaction that the minister of the British King, commissioned to require, and fondly nourishing the hopes of receiving, the submission of America, was explicitly and authoritatively assured that neither the committee nor that Congress which sent them, had authority to treat in any other capacity than as independent States. His Lordship, it seems, “has no instruction on that subject.” We must, therefore, fight it ought, and trust in God for success. I dare assure myself, that the most effectual care has before this time been taken for the continuance and support of our armies, not only for the remainder of the present, but for a future year. The people will cheerfully support their independence to the utmost. Their spirits will rise upon their knowing the result of the late conference. It has, you may depend upon it, been a matter of great expectation. Would it not be attended with a good effect, if an account of it was published by authority of Congress? It would, I should think, at least put it out of the power of disaffected men (and there are some of this character even here) to amuse their honest neighbors with vain hopes of reconciliation.
I wish that Congress would give the earliest notice to this State of what may be further expected to be done here for the support of the army. The season is advancing, or rather passing, fast.
I intended, when I sat down, to have written you a long epistle, but I am interrupted. I have a thousand avocations which require my attention. Many of them are too trifling to merit your notice. Adieu, my friend, I hope to see you soon.
[1 ]Langdon. The instructions alluded to are printed in Force’s American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. c. 459.
[2 ]See Gordon’s History of the American War, vol. ii. pp. 168-171. The author, from the coincidence in the language, must have had access to this letter.
[1 ]The first allusion is to Dr. Franklin; the second, probably, to George Wythe, as Gordon says the person was from Virginia.
[1 ]It is moderate in tone, but sufficiently comprehensive. It is printed in Force’s American Archives, 4th series, vol. vi. c. 1524.
[1 ]This alludes to the letters intercepted in the hands of Mr. Hichborn. See the Diary, vol. ii. p. 411.
[1 ]These resolves were passed on the 16th of May, confirming the instructions given in January preceding to the delegates, to oppose a declaration of independence. Force’s American Archives, Fourth series, vol. vi. c. 463.
[1 ]Vol. iii. p. 31-32, and the the reference in the note.
[1 ]This letter is printed in a note appended to the “Thoughts on Government,” here alluded to. Vol. iv. p. 201.
[1 ]“An Address to the Convention of the Colony and ancient dominion of Virginia, on the subject of government in general,” &c. See vol. iv. p. 202, note.
[1 ]Mr. Hughes announced in his letter, that the citizens of New York “had a meeting on Monday evening last, when it was agreed, without a dissenting voice, to instruct our Convention on that most important of all sublunary affairs, in order that application may be made to your honorable House.”
[1 ]Mr. Hughes had been appointed by General Schuyler Assistant Quartermaster-General of his forces.
[1 ]Notwithstanding all which, Mr. Paine subsequently accepted a seat on the bench, and served with dignity and reputation for fourteen years, until 1804.
[2 ]“We have appointed good Mr. Winthrop, clerk.” Extract from Mr. C.’s letter.
[1 ]“I can tell the grand jury the nullity of acts of parliament, but must leave you to prove it by the more powerful arguments of the jus gladii divinum, a power not peculiar to kings or ministers.” Mr. C.’s letter.
[1 ]As this note is brief, it is given entire:
[1 ]See vol. iii. page 26, for the instruction, and further comments upon it. The paper is printed in full in Force’s American Archives, 4th series, vol. iv. c. 739.
[1 ]W. T. Franklin.
[2 ]See the letter of J. D. Sergeant in volume iii. p. 55, note. As it is dated at Burlington the 15th, the probability is that this letter was not finished until the 16th.
[3 ]Vol. iv. p. 201.
[1 ]Vol. ii. p. 83, note.
[1 ]Printed in vol. ii. p. 291, note.
[1 ]Dr. Church.
[1 ]Mr. Adams had been appointed by Congress, on the 13th of June, Chairman of this Board. From this date his correspondence with the military officers commences.
[1 ]Compare with this sentiment the statement made by Mr. Hamilton. Hamilton’s Works, vol. vii. p. 689.
[1 ]The greater part of the letter referred to is printed anonymously in Gordon’s History, vol. ii. p. 269. It is a curious specimen of the political manœuvring of that day.
[2 ]Major Butterfield.
[1 ]Nathan Rice, who had been a student in the office of Mr. Adams at the breaking out of the revolution, and left it to join the army, in which he served with credit and distinction.
[1 ]See vol. ii. pp. 488, 489, 503, 504. In a brief but very valuable essay, entitled, The Diplomacy of the Revolution, published at New York in 1852, Mr. W. H. Trescott points out with great clearness the origin of the neutral policy of the United States. The language of this letter is only further corroborative of the correctness of the statement in the autobiography, very properly noticed by him as written at a much later period. See that volume, p. 21, note.
[1 ]“I am almost resolved not to inform you, that a general dissatisfaction prevails here with our Convention. Read the papers, and be assured Frederick speaks the sense of many counties. I have not been idle. I have appealed in writing to the people. County after county is instructing.
[1 ]This resolution is found in the American Archives, 4th series, vol. vi. c. 1845. But no trace of it is to be seen in the Journal of Congress for this day.
[1 ]Dr. Zubly.
[2 ]An exact imitation of this letter is inserted in vol. iv. of this work, p. 56.
[1 ]Letters of Mrs. Adams, vol. i. p. 102.
[2 ]James Warren had been appointed a Judge of the Superior Court.
[3 ]That of Chief Justice.
[1 ]“I hope ere this time the decisive blow is struck. Oppression, inhumanity, and perfidy have compelled us to it. Blessed be men who effect the work! I envy you. How shall I transmit to posterity that I gave my assent?” Mr. C.’s letter.
[2 ]Observations on Civil Liberty, for which Mr. Chase had written.
[1 ]Mr. Mason had been entered as a student in Mr. Adams’s office.
[1 ]“I am told you are alarmed at Philadelphia with the last clause in our charter. That, and another respecting judges, was hard fought; especially that of reconciliation, upon a motion to defer printing the copy till it could be considered.” Mr. S.’s letter.
[2 ]“However, we have formally ratified Independency, and assumed the style of the Convention of the State of New Jersey. This, very unanimously, and the votes go down by this express to the printer.” Mr. S.’s letter.
[3 ]“We are mending very fast here. East Jersey was always firm. West Jersey will now move with vigor. The tories in some parts disturbed us, but they have hurt us more by impeding the business of the Convention, and harassing with an infinity of hearings. But for this we have provided a remedy by an ordinance for trying treasons, seditions, and counterfeitings.” Mr. S.’s letter.
[4 ]“We want wisdom here. Raw, young, and inexperienced as your humble servant is, I am really forced to bear a principal part. Would to Heaven that I could look round here, as when with you, and see a number in whose understanding I could confide. But we have a miserable prejudice against men of education in this State; plain men are generally returned, of sufficient honesty and spirit, but most of them hardly competent to the penning of a common vote.” Mr. S.’s letter.
[1 ]Thoughts on Government.
[1 ]John Sullivan.
[1 ]The letters which follow, relating to the visit of the committee of Congress to Lord Howe, should be read in connection with the autobiography, vol. iv. pp. 75-81.
[1 ]Samuel Adams.
[2 ]Left blank in the original. It refers to a letter written the 18th.