Front Page Titles (by Subject) THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
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. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 20 August, 1813.
I can, at length, furnish you with a copy of the proceedings of the Congress, held at New York, in 1765; it is inclosed herewith. After diligent inquiry, I had not been able to procure a single copy, either in manuscript or print, done in the United States, but fortunately met one published by J. Almon, in London, in 1767, with a collection of American tracts, in four octavo volumes, from which I caused the present one to be printed. It may be of some use to the historian at least.
The Marquis de Casa Yrujo, with my daughter, their children and servants, made me a visit on his return from an embassy to the prince regent of Portugal, at Rio Janeiro, in Brazil, last June was a year, and remained here until a few weeks ago, owing to the embargo, war, blockades, &c., when they sailed for Cadiz. The above circumstances, with others, will, I trust, be some apology for my long delay in answering your last esteemed letter.
In the Congress of 1765, there were several conspicuous characters. Mr. James Otis appeared to me to be the boldest and best speaker. I voted for him as our President, but Brigadier Ruggles succeeded by one vote, owing to the number of the committee from New York, as we voted individually. When the business was finished, our president would not sign the petitions, and peremptorily refused to assign any reasons, until I pressed him so hard that he at last said, “it was against his conscience,” on which word I rung the change so loud, that a plain challenge was given by him and accepted, in the presence of the whole corps; but he departed the next morning before day, without an adieu to any of his brethren. He seemed to accord with what was done during the session so fully and heartily, that Mr. Otis told me frequently it gave him surprise, as he confessed he suspected his sincerity.
There was less fortitude in that body than in the succeeding Congress of 1774; indeed, some of the members seemed as timid as if engaged in a traitorous conspiracy. Mr. Ogden, then speaker of the New Jersey assembly, following the example of the president, declined to sign the petitions, though warmly solicited by myself in private, and also by my father-in-law, Colonel Borden, his colleague. The consequence of my mentioning this fact, as I returned to Newcastle through New Jersey, was to Mr. Ogden a burning in effigy in several of the counties, and his removal from the office of speaker, at the next meeting of the general assembly; and to me, menaces of another challenge. The great mass of the people were at that time zealous in the cause of America. Other incidents of that day are recollected, but they are of trivial import.
In the year 1778, and afterwards, until the preliminaries of peace were signed, the members of Congress varied yearly in point of talents and exertions in favor of the revolution. They seemed to be considerably governed by the prospects before them, as they were promising or the contrary; however, a great majority were staunch whigs at all times.
Whatever may be the fate of our government in the United States, I decidedly think with you, for the reason you assign, that a democratic form in France, in the present age, was preposterous. I entertain the same opinion of the Spanish provinces in South America. The form established last year by the Cortes of Spain is admirably adapted to the state of civilization in the peninsula. It is a capital performance, but will be attacked and resisted by the inquisitors, Jesuits, monks, and all the bigots and petty tyrants.
It does not seem to me, that either of your successors enjoys more ease than your predecessor. Mr. Madison has paid too great a deference to the recommendations to office by low and designing men, who stood very much in need of recommendations themselves, though excellent democrats, if they were to be credited. Mr. Jefferson split on the same rock. Many of their appointments have been exceedingly improper. Though General Washington conferred offices on some tories, yet they were capable, and only undeserving.
My paper is drawing to a close; so is my life. I am now in my eightieth year, therefore more than a year older than you. Had you not noticed the quiveration of your hand (an expressive word, though newly used) I should not have discovered it; mine quivers very much when feverish, or agitated by severe exercise; my eyes grow dimmer, my hearing duller, and I have other symptoms of age; but why repeat grievances that cannot be redressed? May you not only continue to enjoy, but increase your health and otium cum dignitate with every other blessing.
Dear Sir, your friend,