Front Page Titles (by Subject) 9 Jan. 1777: SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 9 (Letters and State Papers 1799-1811)
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9 Jan. 1777: SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS. - 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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SAMUEL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS.
Baltimore, 9 January, 1777.
I have every day for a month past been anxiously expecting the pleasure of seeing you here, but now begin to suspect you do not intend to give us your assistance in person. I shall therefore do all that lies in my power to engage your epistolary aid. You will by every opportunity receive my letters, and, I dare say, you will be so civil as to answer at least some of them.
I have given our friend Warren, in one of my letters to him, the best reason I could for the sudden removal of Congress to this place. Possibly he may have communicated it to you. I confess it was not agreeable to my mind; but I have since altered my opinion, because we have done more important business in three weeks than we had done, and I believe should have done, at Philadelphia, in six months. As you are a member of Congress, you have a right to know all that has been done; but I dare not commit it to paper at a time when the safe carriage of letters is become so precarious. One thing I am very solicitous to inform you, because I know it will give you great satisfaction. If you recollect our conversation at New Haven, I fancy you will understand me when I tell you, that to one place we have added four, and increased the number of persons from three to six.1 I hate this dark, mysterious manner of writing, but necessity requires it.
You have heard of the captivity of General Lee. Congress have directed General Washington to offer six Hessian field-officers in exchange for him. It is suspected that the enemy choose to consider him as a deserter, bring him to trial in a court-martial, and take his life. Assurances are ordered to be given to General Howe, that five of those officers, together with Lieutenant-Colonel Campbell, will be detained, and all of them receive the same measure that shall be meted to him. This resolution will most certainly be executed.
We have this day passed a recommendation to the Council of Massachusetts Bay of a very important nature.1 It will be sent by this express to the Council, to whom I refer you for a perusal of it.
Our affairs in France and Spain wear a promising aspect, and we have taken measures to put them on a respectable footing in other parts of Europe; and I flatter myself too much if we do not succeed.
The progress of the enemy through the Jerseys has chagrined me beyond measure; but I think we shall reap the advantage in the end. We have already beat a part of their army at Trenton, and the inclosed paper will give you a farther account which we credit, though not yet authenticated. The late behavior of the people of Jersey was owing to some of their leading men, who, instead of directing and animating, most shamefully deserted them. When they found a leader in the brave Colonel Ford, they followed him with alacrity. They have been treated with savage barbarity by the Hessians, but I believe more so by Britons. After they have been most inhumanly used in their persons, without regard to sex or age, and plundered of all they had, without the least compensation, Lord Howe and his brother (now Sir William, knight of the Bath) have condescended to offer them protections for the free enjoyment of their effects.
You have seen the power with which General Washington is vested for a limited time. Congress is very attentive to the northern army, and care is taken effectually to supply it with every thing necessary this winter for the next campaign. General Gates is here. How shall we make him the head of that army?
We are about establishing boards of war, ordnance, navy, and treasury, with a chamber of commerce, each of them to consist of gentlemen who are not members of Congress. By these means, I hope, our business will be done more systematically, speedily, and effectually.
Great and heavy complaints have been made of abuse in the Director-General’s department in both our armies; some, I suppose, without grounds, others with too much reason. I have no doubt but as soon as a committee reports, which is expected this day, both Morgan and Stringer will be removed, as I think they ought.
To the eighty-eight battalions ordered to be raised, sixteen are to be added, which, with six to be raised out of the continent at large, will make one hundred and ten, besides three thousand horse, three regiments of artillery, and a company of engineers. We may expect fifty or sixty thousand of the enemy in June next. Their design will still be to subdue the obstinate States of New England. It was the intention that Carleton should winter in Albany, Howe in New York, and Clinton at Rhode Island, that, with reënforcements in the spring, they might be ready to attack New England on all sides. I hope every possible method will be used to quicken the new levies, and that the fortifications in the harbor of Boston will be in complete readiness. Much will depend upon our diligence this winter.
The attention of Congress is also turned to the southward. Forts Pitt and Randolph are to be garrisoned, and provisions laid up for two thousand men, six months. By the last accounts from South Carolina, we are informed that late arrivals have supplied them with every thing necessary for their defence.
I have written in great haste, and have time only to add, that I am, with sincere regards to your lady and family, very cordially your friend,
P. S. Dr. Morgan and Dr. Stringer are dismissed without any reason assigned, which Congress could of right do, as they held their places during pleasure. The true reason, as I take it, was the general disgust, and the danger of the loss of an army arising therefrom.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Baltimore, 3 February, 1777.
It may not be a misspense of time to make a few observations upon the situation of some of the States at this time.
That part of New York, which is yet in our possession, is pretty well united and pretty firm. The Jerseys have recovered from their surprise, and are lending as much assistance as can well be expected from them. Their Assembly is now sitting, and is said to be well disposed to do what it can. The Assembly of Pennsylvania is also sitting. They have abolished the oath1 which gave so much discontent to the people, and are gradually acquiring the confidence of the people, and opposition has subsided. The Delaware government have formed their Constitution, and the Assembly is now sitting. Maryland has formed its Constitution, and their Assembly, now sitting in consequence of it, is filling it up. There is a difficulty in two of the counties, but this will last but a little while. In Virginia, Governor Henry has recovered his health, has returned to Williamsburg, and is proceeding in his government with great industry. North Carolina have completed their government, and Mr. Caswell is Governor. In Virginia and North Carolina they have made an effort for the destruction of bigotry, which is very remarkable. They have abolished their establishments of Episcopacy so far as to give complete liberty of conscience to dissenters, an acquisition in favor of the rights of mankind, which is worth all the blood and treasure which has been or will be spent in this war. South Carolina and Georgia completed their government a long time ago. Thus I think there are but three States remaining which have not erected their governments, Massachusetts, New York, and New Hampshire.
These are good steps towards government in the State, which must be introduced and established before we can expect discipline in our armies, the unum necessarium to our salvation. I will be instant and incessant, in season and out of season, in inculcating these important truths, that nothing can save us but government in the State and discipline in the army. There are so many persons among my worthy constituents, who love liberty better than they understand it, that I expect to become unpopular by my preaching. But woe is me, if I preach it not. Woe will be to them if they do not hear.
P. S. I am terrified with the prospect of expense to our State, which I find no possibility of avoiding. I cannot get a horse kept in this town under a guinea a week. One hundred and four guineas a year for the keeping of two horses is intolerable, but cannot be avoided. Simple board is fifty shillings a week here, and seven dollars generally. I cannot get boarded under forty shillings, i. e. five dollars and a third, a week, and fifteen for my servant, besides finding for myself all my wood, candles, liquors, and washing. I would send home my servant and horses, but Congress is now a movable body, and it is impossible to travel and carry great loads of baggage without a servant and horses, besides the meanness of it in the eyes of the world.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Baltimore, 12 February, 1777.
The certificates and check-books for the loan-office I hope and presume are arrived in Boston before this time, and, notwithstanding the discouraging accounts which were given me when I was there, I still hope that a considerable sum of money will be obtained by their means.
It is my private opinion, however, that the interest of four per cent. is not an equitable allowance. I mean that four per cent. is not so much as the use of the money is honestly worth in the ordinary course of business, upon an average for a year; and I have accordingly exerted all the little faculties I had, in endeavoring, on Monday last, to raise the interest to six per cent. But after two days’ debate, the question was lost by an equal division of the States present, five against five. New Hampshire, Massachusetts Bay, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Virginia on one side, and Rhode Island, Connecticut, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, on the other. Here was an example of the inconvenience and injustice of voting by States. Nine gentlemen, representing about eight hundred thousand people, against eighteen gentlemen, representing a million and a half nearly, determined this point. Yet we must not be startled at this.
I think it my duty to mention this to you, because it must be astonishing to most people in our State, that the interest is so low. I know they are at a loss to account for it upon any principles of equity or policy, and consequently may be disposed to blame their delegates; but you may depend upon it, they are not in fault.
I tremble for the consequences of this determination. If the loan officers should not procure us money, we must emit more, which will depreciate all which is already abroad, and so raise the prices of provisions and all the necessaries of life, that the additional expense to the continent for supplying their army and navy will be vastly more than the two per cent. in dispute, besides all the injustice, chicanery, extortion, oppression, and discontent, which is always occasioned everywhere by a depreciating medium of trade. I am much afraid of another mischief. I fear that for want of wisdom to raise the interest in season, we shall be necessitated, within a few months, to give eight or ten per cent., and not obtain the money we want after all.
I have been so often a witness of the miseries of this after-wisdom, that I am wearied to death of it.
Had a bounty of twenty dollars a man been offered soldiers last June, it would have procured more than the enormous bounties that are now offered will procure. Had government been assumed in the States twelve months sooner than it was, it might have been assumed with spirit, vigor, and decision, and would have obtained an habitual authority before the critical time came on, when the strongest nerves of government are necessary; whereas now, every new government is as feeble as water, and as brittle as glass.
Had we agreed upon a non-exportation, to commence when the non-importation commenced, what an immense sum should we have saved! Nay, very probably we should have occasioned a very different House of Commons to be chosen, the ministry to have been changed, and this war avoided. Thus it is. You, who will make no ill use of these observations, may read them, but the times are too delicate and critical to indulge freely and generally in such speculations. It is best, I believe, that no mention should be made that the rate of interest has been again debated, lest some saving men should withhold their money in hopes of compelling the public to raise the interest. If the interest should never be raised, those who lend in our State will fare as well as others; if it should, the interest of all will be raised, that which is borrowed now as well as that which shall be borrowed hereafter. I sincerely wish that our people would lend their money freely. They will repent of it if they do not. We shall be compelled to emit such quantities, that every man, except a few villains, will lose more by depreciation than the two per cent. Not to mention again the scene of anarchy and horror, that a continuation of emissions will infallibly bring upon us.
The design of loan-offices was to prevent the farther depreciation of the bills by avoiding farther emissions. We might have emitted more bills promising an interest, but if those had been made a legal tender like the other bills, and, consequently mixed in the circulation with them, they would instantly have depreciated all the other bills four per cent., if the interest was four, and more than that, too, by increasing the quantity of circulating cash. In order to prevent these certificates from circulation, and consequently from depreciating the bills, we should give them such attributes as will induce men of fortune and others who usually lend money, to hoard them up. The persons who usually lend money are, 1. Men of fortune, who live upon their income, and these generally choose to have a surplusage to lay up every year to increase their capitals. 2. Opulent merchants who have more money than they choose to risk, or can conveniently employ in trade. 3. Widows, whose dower is often converted into money and placed out at interest, that they may receive an annual income to live upon, without the care and skill which is necessary to employ money advantageously in business. 4. Orphans, whose guardians seldom incline to hazard the property of their wards in business. 5. A few divines, lawyers, and physicians, who are able to lay by a little of their annual earnings. 6. Here and there a farmer and a tradesman, who is forehanded and frugal enough to make more money than he has occasion to spend. Add to these,—7. Schools, colleges, towns, parishes, and other societies, which sometimes let money. All these persons are much attached to their interest, and so anxious to make the most of it, that they compute and calculate it even to farthings and single days. These persons can get six per cent., generally, of private borrowers, on good security of mortgages or sureties.
Now, is it reasonable in the State to except that monied men will lend to the public at a less interest than they can get from private persons?
I answer, yes, when the safety of the State is not in doubt, and when the medium of exchange has a stable value, because larger sums may be put together, and there is less trouble in collecting and receiving the interest, and the security is better. But the case is otherwise, when men are doubtful of the existence of the State, and it is worse still, when men see a prospect of depreciation in the medium of trade. All governments in distress are obliged to give a higher interest for money than when they are prosperous.
The interest of money always bears some proportion to the profits of trade. When the commerce of a country is small, lodged in few hands, and very profitable, the interest of money is very high. Charles the Fifth was necessitated to give twenty-four per cent. for money; afterwards it fell in Europe to twelve, and since to six, five, four, and three.
I think I shall never consent to go higher than six per cent., as much as I am an advocate for raising it to that, and in this I have been constant for full nine months. The burden of six per cent. upon the community will very soon be heavy enough. We must fall upon some other methods of ascertaining the capitals we borrow. A depreciating currency we must not have, it will ruin us. The medium of trade ought to be as unchangeable as truth, as immutable as morality. The least variation in its value does injustice to multitudes, and in proportion it injures the morals of the people, a point of the last importance in a republican government.
15 March, 1777.
Thus far I had written a long time ago, since which, after many days deliberation and debate, a vote passed for raising the interest to six per cent. If this measure should not procure us money, I know not what resource we shall explore.
To read this will be punishment enough for your omission to write to me all this while. I have received nothing from you since I left Boston.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 18 March, 1777.
I had this morning the pleasure of your favor of February 22d, by the post. This is the first letter from you since I left you.
You are anxious to know what expectations are to be entertained of foreign aid. I wish, Sir, it was in my power to communicate to you the little that I know of this matter; but I am under such injunctions and engagements, to communicate nothing relative to foreign affairs, that I ought not to do it; and, if I was at liberty, such is the risk of letters by the post or any other conveyance, that it would be imprudent.
Thus much I may say, that we have letters from Dr. Franklin and Mr. Deane; both agree that every thing is as they could wish; but the Doctor had but just arrived, and had not been to Paris, and, therefore, could know nothing of the Cabinet. The noted Dr. Williamson is arrived, full of encouraging matter; but what confidence is to be put in him, or what dependence is to be had in his intelligence, I know not. Franklin, Deane, and Williamson all agree in opinion that a war will take place. The reception that is given to our privateers and merchantmen in every part of the French dominions, is decisively encouraging. Wickes, who carried the Doctor, took two prizes. Persons enough offered to purchase them without condemnation or trial, and to run the risk of the illegality of it; perhaps they may be ransomed. Thus much you may depend on, that you may have any thing that France affords in the way of manufactures, merchandise, or warlike stores, for sending for it. I can go no further as yet. Congress have done as much as they ought to do, and more than I thought they ought to have done, before they did it. I will hazard a prophecy for once, and it is this, that there will as certainly be a general war in Europe, as there will be a kingdom of France or Spain. How soon it will be, I will not precisely determine; but I have no more doubt that it will be within a year to come than I have that it will be at all.
TO JOHN AVERY, JUNIOR.
Philadelphia, 21 March, 1777.
I had this morning the pleasure of your favor of the 7th instant, and am glad to learn that my letter to you of the 10th of February was conveyed safely to your hand, and am obliged to you for communicating the resignation inclosed in it to the honorable Board.1
It would give me a great deal of uneasiness, if the honorable Board should not proceed forthwith to fill up the vacancy, if I thought, as you seem to suggest, that they would postpone it until they should see me; because the public must suffer in the mean time, and the vacancy must be filled up, after all, with some other gentleman. The resignation, you saw, was the result of long and anxious deliberation, was founded in reasons that will not alter, and, therefore, there will be no change in my determination. The difficulty you insinuate of finding a proper person, is merely imaginary. There is not a more suitable person in the State, nor belonging to it, than the very worthy gentleman who now presides in that court; and other gentlemen enough may be found to fill the place which will be left open by the removal of him and his honorable brothers, much more suitable to sit in that seat than I am.
The hope you give me, that our quota will be ready in a few weeks, rejoices me much. We want nothing but an army, new in the field, to answer our purpose. I had this morning the pleasure of a conversation with Major-General Mifflin, who assures me that he has tents of the very best quality completely ready for an army of twenty thousand men to take the field, and that, in three weeks, he shall have enough completed for ten thousand more; that he has intrenching tools enough completed for the whole army the whole campaign; that he has camp-kettles and canteens enough, and that he has horses, wagons, and magazines of forage ready. So that this department, which was last year in so much disorder, which occasioned us such losses of men, baggage, and stores, is now in a good arrangement, and promises more comfort to the army. We are making every regulation in our power in the medical department, and a fine cargo of drugs has arrived, in addition to a large quantity before purchased by Dr. Shippen. So that we comfort ourselves with hopes that the health of the men will be better provided for than last year. In the commissary’s department, I am informed that large quantities of meat have been salted down, that the men may not be obliged to live altogether upon fresh beef, as they did the last summer, in the extremest heat of the weather, which was thought to be prejudicial to their health.
We are doing every thing in our power for the discipline and the comfort of the army. Nothing in this contest has ever given me so much pain as the sufferings of the soldiers in sickness and for want of discipline, to which, indeed, that sickness was in a great measure owing.
You had good reasons for your expectations that we should have a hard struggle with Great Britain. Whoever has attended to the policy of the British court, and studied the characters which composed it, from the year 1761, must have seen abundant evidence of a fixed design to subjugate America to the complete domination of parliament; must have observed how systematically they have proceeded with all their art and all their force to accomplish this detestable purpose. Whoever was acquainted with the national history, must have been convinced how completely their government was corrupted, and the persons concerned in it lost to all the ties of honor, virtue, and religion;—ties which once restrained that nation; ties which alone can restrain any people from robbing and plundering all whom they think in their power. Whoever was acquainted with America, knew how unprepared she was; how inexperienced as statesmen and warriors; how unprovided with warlike stores; how defenceless in fortified places; and, what is infinitely worse than all the rest, how much infected with that selfishness, corruption, and venality (so unfriendly to the new governments she must assume), which have been the bane of Great Britain. Every such person, therefore, must have expected a hard struggle. Hard as it is, however, it will succeed. May Heaven direct us, and conduct us safely in due time to liberty, to virtue, and, of course, to glory!
TO WILLIAM TUDOR.
Philadelphia, 22 March, 1777.
Yours of the 16th I got yesterday. If Howe imagines that one fourth of Pennsylvania are Quakers, he is mistaken one half; for, upon the most exact inquiry, I find there is not more than one in eight of that denomination. If he imagines that ninety-nine in one hundred of those are his friends, he is mistaken again, for I believe in my conscience that a majority of them are friends to nobody but themselves; and Howe will find them full as great an encumbrance and embarrassment to him as we have found them to us.
The acquisition of Philadelphia would give Howe a temporary éclat, it is true, in Europe and America, but it would in the end prove his destruction.
Beware of those who make so free with the epithets of “sordid,” “selfish,” “ungenerous,” and “ungrateful,” &c. Let them look at home. The other colonies, it is true, contributed to support the poor of Boston. But for whose good did Boston resign her whole trade? For the good of all the others, as well as her own. And did not all the others go on with their trade to their vast profit, while Boston lost it all? If Boston had not, with a magnanimity and generosity hitherto without example or parallel in America, resigned its trade, and nobly stood the shock, Boston would have been the undisputed mistress among the slaves of America, and have drawn the wealth of the continent to herself, and so she would now, if the States should submit; because there is no other place that the crown officers of all denominations will resort to in such numbers. There would be the most numerous army, there the most powerful fleet, and there the whole board of excise, customs, duties, and revenues. For whose interest did Boston continue without trade and without government, and submit to a trifling force within herself? I remember a petition from Boston to Congress for leave to cut Gage and his troops to pieces, which was absolutely refused. To whom was it owing that all the rest of the continent besides Boston continued their exports nine months after all imports were stopped? Whereby millions were lost to the continent, whereto, in all probability, this whole war is owing. I am not by this, however, justifying the policy of Massachusetts in regulating the prices of goods, which laid them under the necessity of prohibiting exportations. But other States ought not to complain of this, because the continent is procuring supplies from New England at one third of the price which they give for the same articles in other States. But they found they could not regulate the prices of things without prohibiting exportation, because other States, or persons belonging to them, were about purchasing every thing at the stated prices, and then exporting them at an immense profit.
As to the Massachusetts getting money, it is all a joke. They have lost their staple in this quarrel, which no other State has done. The fishery, I mean, which has destroyed their trade. Indigo, rice, tobacco, wheat, iron, the staples of other States, are not affected by this war like the fishery, the mast-trade, and lumber, which were the trade of Massachusetts. The privateers fitted out in that State belong to Congress, and to persons belonging to other States, I suppose near one half of them; and, besides, the continent could not carry on the war without the Massachusetts. Their seamen have supplied the army with every thing almost. Where, then, is the ingratitude? Do not be concerned about the Union. These peevishnesses I have been a witness to a long time. It is envy at bottom. They see the superiority of the Massachusetts to every one of them, in every point of view, and it frets them; but it will fret away.
Farther, for whose good has the Massachusetts sacrificed their trade, and privateers too, by their embargo? A restraint that others have not been pleased to subject themselves to, although it is more wanted both for manning the army and navy in them than it was in her. I hate disputes of this sort, and I never begin them; but when Massachusetts is attacked, I never have and never will fail to defend her, as far as truth and justice will warrant me, and no farther. There is a narrow spirit in many people, which seems to consider this contest as the affair of Boston and the Massachusetts, not the affair of the continent. All that they have to do is to get the character of heroes by their bravery, to wear genteel uniforms and armor, and to be thought to lay Boston and Massachusetts under vast obligations. For my own part, I think the obligations mutual; but if there is a balance, it is clearly in favor of Massachusetts. I ever disdained, in Congress, in the most decisive terms, all obligations to any State or person, and I ever shall. The cause must be supported as a common cause, or it must fall. I will never solicit charity or favor as a politician, much less acknowledge obligations to others, who are under the strongest of all. Are there not persons who insinuate themselves into your army with a design to foment prejudices, excite jealousies, and raise clamors?
TO WILLIAM GORDON.
Philadelphia, 8 April, 1777.
I had your favor of 27th March by this day’s post. That this country will go safely through this revolution, I am well convinced; but we have severe conflicts to endure yet, and, I hope, shall be prepared for them. Indeed, there is one enemy, who to me is more formidable than famine, pestilence, and the sword; I mean the corruption which is prevalent in so many American hearts, a depravity that is more inconsistent with our republican governments than light is with darkness. If we can once give energy enough to our governments, and discipline enough to our armies, to overcome this base principle of selfishness, to make citizens and soldiers feel themselves the children of the commonwealth, and love and revere their mother so much as to make their happiness consist in her service, I shall think we have a prospect of triumph indeed.
Your design, Sir, of collecting materials for a history of the rise, progress, and issue of the American Revolution, is liberal and generous; and, as you will find it a laborious undertaking, you ought to be encouraged and assisted in it. I should be very willing to contribute any thing towards so useful a work. But, I must frankly tell you, there is very little in my power. So far from making collections myself, I have very often destroyed the papers in my power, and my own minutes of events and their causes. We are hurried away in such a kind of delirium, arising from the multiplicity of affairs, and the disorder in which they rise in review before us, that I confess myself unable even to recollect the circumstances of any transaction with sufficient precision to assist an historian. There are materials, however, in possession of the Secretary of State, and others in the War-Office, which will be preserved. The Massachusetts Bay, however, was the first theatre, and your history should begin at least from the year 1761. Your correspondent, whoever he is, has a talent at panegyric, enough to turn a head that has much less vanity in it than mine. Sometimes, however, the extravagance of flattery is an antidote to its poison. I shall not, however, be made to tremble to think of the expectations that will be formed from me by such wild praises. No such attributes belong to me; and I am under no concern about answering to what may be justly expected of me. Alas! who is equal to these things?
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 27 April, 1777.
Yours of April 3d I received. I must confess that I am at a loss to determine whether it is good policy in us to wish for a war between France and Britain, unless we could be sure that no other powers would engage in it. But if France engages, Spain will, and then all Europe will arrange themselves on one side and the other, and what consequences to us might be involved in it, I do not know. If we could have a free trade with Europe, I should rather run the risk of fighting it out with George and his present allies, provided he should get no other. I do not love to be entangled in the quarrels of Europe; I do not wish to be under obligations to any of them, and I am very unwilling they should rob us of the glory of vindicating our own liberties.
It is a cowardly spirit in our countrymen, which makes them pant with so much longing expectation after a French war. I have very often been ashamed to hear so many whigs groaning and sighing with despondency, and whining out their fears that we must be subdued, unless France should step in. Are we to be beholden to France for our liberties? France has done so much already that the honor and dignity and reputation of Great Britain are concerned to resent it; and if she does not, France will trifle with her forever hereafter. She has received our ambassadors, protected our merchantmen, privateers, men-of-war, and prizes, admitted us freely to trade, lent us money, and supplied us with arms, ammunition, and warlike stores of every kind. This is notorious all over Europe. And she will do more, presently, if our dastardly despondency, in the midst of the finest prospects imaginable, does not discourage her. The surest and the only way to secure her arms in this cause, is for us to exert our own. For God’s sake, then, do not fail of a single man of your quota. Get them at any rate, and by any means, rather than not have them.
I am more concerned about our revenue than the aid of France. Pray let the loan offices do their part, that we may not be compelled to make paper money as plenty, and, of course, as cheap as oak leaves. There is so much injustice in carrying on a war with a depreciating currency that we can hardly pray with confidence for success.
The confederation has been delayed, because the States were not fully represented. Congress is now full, and we are in the midst of it. It will soon be passed.
God prosper your new Constitution. But I am afraid you will meet the disapprobation of your constituents. It is a pity you should be obliged to lay it before them. It will divide and distract them. However, their will be done. If they suit themselves, they will please me.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 29 April, 1777.
I have but a few moments to write, and those it is my duty to improve, and faithfully to tell you, that unless you exert yourselves and send forward your troops, it is my firm opinion that Howe will recruit his army as fast as Washington, and that from Americans. The people of New York and New Jersey have been so scandalously neglected this winter, that they are flying over to Howe in considerable numbers. Nay, our army under Washington is so dispirited by conscious weakness, that the spirit of desertion prevails among them, and there are more go over to Howe from our army than come from his to ours, two to one.
Every man of the Massachusetts quota ought to have been ready last December. And not one man has yet arrived in the field, and not three hundred men at Ticonderoga. It is our weakness, and want of power to protect the people, that makes tories and deserters. I have been abominably deceived about the troops. If Ticonderoga is not lost, it will be because it is not attacked; and if it should be, New England will bear all the shame and all the blame of it. In plain English, I beg to be supported or recalled. The torment of hearing eternally reflections upon my constituents, that they are all dead, all turned tories, that they are smallbeer, which froths and foams for a few moments while it is new, and then flattens down to worse than water, without being able to contradict or answer them, is what I will not endure.
By a letter from A. Lee, 20th February, Burgoyne is coming with ten thousand Germans and three thousand British to Boston. They will go first to Rhode Island, I suppose. From thence they will join Howe, or go to Boston, according to circumstances. If you make up a decent force under Washington in the Jerseys, Howe must order them all to him, or he will be demolished, for he has but a small force at present. If you leave Washington weak, they will march to Boston.
TO JAMES WARREN.
Philadelphia, 6 May, 1777.
About ten days ago I had the boldness to make a motion that a navy board should be established at Boston. Certain gentlemen looked struck and surprised. However, it passed. I have moved, I believe fifteen times, that a nomination should take place. Certain gentlemen looked cold. Two or three days ago, the nomination came on. Langdon, Vernon, Deshon, Dalton, Orne, Henley, Smith, Cushing, and Warren, were nominated. This day the choice came on. At last, Vernon, Warren, and Deshon, were chosen. The board is to appoint its own clerk, who is to have five hundred dollars a year.
I hope you will engage in this business and conduct it with spirit. You cannot be Speaker, and do this duty too, I believe. I think the town of Boston will be offended. But I could not help it. This you will not mention. The salary for the commissioners is fifteen hundred dollars a year. You will have the building and fitting of all ships, the appointment of officers, the establishment of arsenals and magazines, which will take up your whole time; but it will be honorable to be so capitally concerned in laying a foundation of a great navy. The profit to you will be nothing; but the honor and the virtue the greater. I almost envy you this employment. I am weary of my own, and almost with my life. But I ought not to be weary in endeavoring to do well.
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Williamsburgh, 16 May, 1777.
Matters in our part of the continent are too much in quiet to send you news from hence. Our battalions for the continental service were some time ago so far filled as rendered the recommendation of a draught from the militia hardly requisite, and the more so as in this country it ever was the most unpopular and impracticable thing that could be attempted. Our people, even under the monarchical government, had learnt to consider it as the last of all oppressions. I learn from our delegates that the confederation is again on the carpet, a great and a necessary work, but I fear almost desperate. The point of representation is what most alarms me, as I fear the great and small colonies are bitterly determined not to cede. Will you be so good as to recollect the proposition I formerly made you in private, and try if you can work it into some good to save our union? It was, that any proposition might be negatived by the representatives of a majority of the people of America, or of a majority of the colonies of America. The former secures the larger, the latter, the smaller colonies. I have mentioned it to many here. The good whigs, I think, will so far cede their opinions for the sake of the Union, and others we care little for.
The journals of Congress not being printed earlier, gives more uneasiness than I would wish ever to see produced by any act of that body, from whom alone I know our salvation can proceed. In our Assembly, even the best affected think it an indignity to freemen to be voted away, life and fortune, in the dark. Our House have lately written for a manuscript copy of your journals, not meaning to desire a communication of any thing ordered to be kept secret. I wish the regulation of the post-office, adopted by Congress last September, could be put in practice. It was for the riders to travel night and day, and to go their several stages three times a week. The speedy and frequent communication of intelligence is really of great consequence. So many falsehoods have been propagated that nothing now is believed unless coming from Congress or camp. Our people, merely for want of intelligence which they may rely on, are become lethargic and insensible of the state they are in. Had you ever a leisure moment, I should ask a letter from you sometimes, directed to the care of Mr. Dick, Fredericksburgh; but having nothing to give in return, it would be a tax on your charity as well as your time. The esteem I have for you privately, as well as for your public importance, will always render assurances of your health and happiness agreeable. I am, dear Sir, your friend and servant,
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Philadelphia, 26 May, 1777.
I had this morning the pleasure of your agreeable favor of the 16th instant, by the post, and rejoice to learn that your battalions were so far filled as to render a draught from the militia unnecessary. Draughts are dangerous measures, and only to be adopted in great extremities, even by a government the most popular; although in such governments draughts will, perhaps, never be made but in such cases,—cases in which the people themselves see the necessity of it, which is widely different from draughts made by monarchs to carry on wars in which the people can see no interest of their own, nor any other object in view than the gratification of the avarice, ambition, caprice, envy, revenge, or vanity of a single tyrant. Draughts in the Massachusetts have not been unpopular, as they have been managed; for the persons draughted are commonly the wealthiest people, who become obliged to give large premiums to their poorer neighbors to take their places.
The great work of confederation drags heavily on; but I do not despair of it. The great and small colonies must be brought as near together as possible, and I am not without hopes that this may be done to the tolerable satisfaction of both. Your thought, Sir, that any proposition may be negatived by the representatives of a majority of the people, or of a majority of States, shall be attended to; and I will endeavor to get it introduced, if we cannot succeed in our wishes for a representation and a rule of voting perfectly equitable, which has no equal in my mind.
Nothing gives me more constant anxiety than the delays in publishing the journals. Yet, I hope gentlemen will have a little patience with us. We have had a committee constantly attending to this very thing for a long time. But we have too many irons in the fire, you know, for twenty hands, which is nearly the whole number we have had upon an average since last fall. The committee are now busy every day in correcting proof-sheets, so that I hope we shall soon do better. A committee on the post-office, too, have found a thousand difficulties. The post is now extremely regular from north and south, although it comes but once a week. It is very difficult to get faithful riders to go oftener. And the expense is very high, and the profits, so dear is every thing, and so little correspondence is carried on except in franked letters, will not support the office. Mr. Hazard is now gone southward, in the character of surveyor of the post-office, and I hope will have as good success as he lately had, eastward, where he put the office into very good order.
We have no news from the camp but that the General and army are in fine spirits, and begin to feel themselves powerful. We are anxiously waiting for news from abroad, and for my own part I am apprehensive of some insidious manœuvre from Great Britain to deceive us into disunion and then to destroy.
We want your industry and abilities here extremely. Financiers we want more than soldiers. The worst enemy we have now is poverty, real poverty in the shape of exuberant wealth. Pray come and help us to raise the value of our money and lower the prices of things. Without this we cannot carry on the war; with it, we can make it a diversion.
No poor mortals were ever more perplexed than we have been with three circumstances at once, any one of which, coming alone, would have been sufficient to have distressed any people. I mean a redundancy of the medium of exchange, a diminution of the quantity at market of the luxuries, the conveniences, and even the necessaries of life, and an increase of the demand for all of them, occasioned by two large armies in the country.
I shall ever esteem it a happiness to hear of your welfare, my dear Sir, and a much greater still to see you once more in Congress. Your country is not yet quite secure enough to excuse you for retreating to the delights of domestic life; yet, for the soul of me, when I attend to my own feelings, I cannot blame you.
B. FRANKLIN TO JAMES LOVELL.1
Passy, 17 October, 1777.
I received your letter (without date) communicating a method of secret writing, for which I am obliged to you. I have since received yours of July 4th.
I was very sensible before I left America, of the inconveniences attending the employment of foreign officers, and therefore immediately on my arrival here I gave all the discouragement in my power to their going over. But numbers had been previously engaged by Mr. Deane, who could not resist the applications made to him. I was concerned in sending the four engineers, and in making the contract with them; but, before they went, I had reason to dislike one of them, and to wish the agreement had not been made, for I foresaw the discontent that man was capable of producing among his companions, and I fancy that if, instead of America they had gone to Heaven, it would have been the same thing. You can have no conception of the arts and interest made use of to recommend, and engage us to recommend, very indifferent persons. The importunity is boundless. The numbers we refuse, incredible. Which if you knew, you would applaud us for, and on that account excuse the few we have been prevailed on to introduce to you. But, as somebody says,—
I wish we had an absolute order to give no letter of recommendation, or even introduction, for the future, to any foreign officer whatever. As to the instruction passed in Congress, respecting French officers who do not understand English, we never made it known here, from the same apprehension that you express. All that understood a little English would have thought themselves entitled to a commission, and the rest would have undertaken to learn it in the passage.
With great esteem, &c.
P. S. I inclose some papers, given me by the Baron Steuben, a Prussian officer who is gone over. Perhaps there may be useful hints in them.
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY.
Braintree, 6 December, 1777.
My Dear Sir,—
You must expect for the future to find in me, situated as I am by a blissful fireside, surrounded by a wife and a parcel of chattering boys and girls, only a dealer in small politics.
I find the same perplexities here that we felt at Yorktown, a general inclination among the people to barter, and as general an aversion to dealing in paper money of any denomination; guineas, half joes, and milled dollars in as high estimation as in Pennsylvania. The monied men, I am informed, generally decline receiving paper for their debts; many refuse; and it is said all will, very soon. There is a whispering about among the richer sort that an act is necessary for allowing a depreciation or an appreciation, as the case may be, upon specialties; and the poorer sort look cunning, and give hints that the rich are aiming at a depreciation.
I mention these facts, and leave you to draw your own inferences. I know and feel the delicacy of the subject, and am restrained by certain prudential considerations from writing my own sentiments freely. Two things I will venture to say. One is that I am sick of attempts to work impossibilities, and to alter the course of nature. Another is, Fiat justitia, ruat cælum. The rapid translation of property from hand to hand, the robbing of Peter to pay Paul, alarms and distresses me beyond measure. The man who lent another a hundred pounds in gold four years ago, and is paid now in paper, cannot purchase with it one quarter part in pork, beef, or land, of what he could when he lent the gold. This is fact, and facts are stubborn things in opposition to speculation. You have the happiest, nimblest spirit for climbing over difficulties, and for dispersing mists and seeing fair weather, when it is foggy or rainy, of any man I know. But this will be a serious perplexity even to you, before it is over. I am not out of my wits about it. It will not ruin our cause, great as the evil is, and if it was much greater. But it torments me to see injustice both to the public and to individuals so frequent. Every man’s liberty and life are equally dear to him; every man, therefore, ought to be taxed equally for the defence of his life and liberty. That is, the polltax should be equal. Every man’s property is equally dear both to himself and to the public: every man’s property ought to be taxed for the defence of the public in proportion to the quantity of it. These are fundamental maxims of sound policy. But instead of this every man who had money due to him at the commencement of this war, has been already taxed three fourth parts of that money, besides his tax on his poll and estate in proportion to other people. And every man who owed money at the beginning of the war, has put three fourth parts of it in his pocket as clear gain. The war, therefore, is immoderately gainful to some, and ruinous to others. This will never do.
TO JAMES LOVELL.
Braintree, 24 December, 1777.
I cannot omit this opportunity of acknowledging the receipt of your kind favor of the 27th or 28th November, I say one or the other of those days, because, although the letter has no date, yet it says it was written on the day when a certain commission was voted me, and both the commissions are dated the 27th, although the copy of the resolution of Congress, by which I was appointed, is dated the 28th.
I should have wanted no motives nor arguments to induce me to accept of this momentous trust, if I could be sure that the public would be benefited by it. But when I see my brothers at the bar here so easily making fortunes for themselves and their families, and when I recollect that for four years I have abandoned myself and mine, and when I see my own children growing up in something very like real want, because I have taken no care of them, it requires as much philosophy as I am master of to determine to persevere in public life, and to engage in a new scene, for which, I fear, I am very ill qualified.
However, by the innuendoes in your letter, if I cannot do much good in this new department, I may possibly do less harm than some others. The want of a language for conversation and business is, however, all the objection that lies with much weight upon my mind. Although I have been not ignorant of the grammar and construction of the French tongue from my youth, yet I have never aimed at maintaining or even understanding conversation in it. And this talent, I suppose, I am too old to acquire, in any degree of perfection. However, I will try, and do my best. I will take books, and my whole time shall be devoted to it. Let me entreat the benefit of your constant correspondence.
[1 ]This probably refers to the resolve passed on the 30th December, directing commissioners to be sent to Vienna, Spain, Prussia, and Tuscany, in addition to France. By the selection of Arthur Lee to go to Spain, two new persons only were added, Messrs. Izard and William Lee.
[1 ]Recommending an attack upon Nova Scotia. See the Secret Journals, vol. ii. p. 51.
[1 ]To maintain the Constitution. See Reed’s Life of Reed, vol. ii. p. 19, note.
[1 ]Of the place of Chief Justice. Vol. iii. p. 25, note.
[1 ]This letter, found among the papers of Mr. Adams, has not, it is believed, yet been published.