Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO RICHARD RUSH. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO RICHARD RUSH. - 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.
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TO RICHARD RUSH.
Quincy, 5 April, 1815.
Your two letters of the 27th ultimo have been received, with the inclosures, for all which I thank you.
You ask “some reflections of my own.” My dear Sir, it would require a folio volume to give you the histories, dissertations, and discussions which you require. How can I, sans eyes, sans hands, sans memory, sans clerks, sans secretaries, sans aids-de-camp, sans amanuensis, undertake to write folios?
Let me ask you, Mr. Rush, is the sovereignty of this nation a gift? a grant? a concession? a conveyance? or a release and acquittance from Great Britain? Pause here and think. No! The people, in 1774, by the right which nature and nature’s God had given them, confiding in original right, and original power, in 1774 assumed powers of sovereignty. In 1775, they assumed greater power. In July 4th, 1776, they assumed absolute unlimited sovereignty in relation to other nations, in all cases whatsoever; no longer acknowledging any authority over them but that of God Almighty, and the laws of nature and of nations. The war from 4th of July, 1776, to 30th of November, 1782, six years and some months, was only an appeal to Heaven in defence of our sovereignty. Heaven decided in our favor; and Britain was forced not to give, grant, concede, or release our independence, but to acknowledge it, in terms as clear as our language afforded, and under seal and under oath.
Now, Sir, they say that the late war has annihilated our treaty of 1782, and its definitive in 1783. Let me ask, has it annihilated our independence and our sovereignty? It has annihilated our sovereignty as effectually as it has any one particle of our rights and liberties in the fisheries. We asked not our independence as a grant, a gift, a concession from Great Britain. We demanded, insisted upon it as our right, derived from God, nature, and our own swords. The article in the treaty ought to have been, “The United States have been for seven years, now are, and of right ought to be free, sovereign, and independent States.” But it was not thought necessary to hurt the delicacy of royal or popular feelings by language so emphatical, though so literally true.
Now, Sir, does not the article relative to the fisheries stand upon the same foundation with that of our independence? We claim and demand the fisheries in their utmost extent, from God and nature and our own swords, as we did our independence. And we will have them, God willing.
Neither nature nor art has partitioned the sea into empires, kingdoms, republics, or states. There are no dukedoms, earldoms, baronies, or knight’s fees, no freeholds, pleasure grounds, ornamented or unornamented farms, gardens, parks, groves, or forests there, appropriated to nations or individuals, as there are upon land. Let Mahomet, and the Pope, and Great Britain say what they will, mankind will act the part of slaves and cowards, if they suffer any nation to usurp dominion over the ocean or any portion of it. Neither the Mediterranean, the Baltic, the four seas, or the North Sea, are the peculium of any nation. The ocean and its treasures are the common property of all men, and we have a natural right to navigate the ocean and to fish in it, whenever and wherever we please. Upon this broad and deep and strong foundation do I build, and with this cogent and irresistible argument do I fortify our rights and liberties in the fisheries on the coasts as well as on the banks, namely, the gift and grant of God Almighty in his creation of man, and his land and water; and, with resignation only to the eternal counsels of his Providence, they never will and never shall be surrendered to any human authority or any thing but divine power.
You will accuse me of the bathos, if I descend from this height to any inferior ground; but the same rights from the same source may be deduced and illustrated through another channel.
2. We have a right—(I know not very well how to express it)—but we have the rights of British subjects. Not that we are now British subjects; not that we were British subjects at the treaty of 1783, but as having been British subjects, and entitled to all the rights, liberties, privileges, and immunities of British subjects, which we had possessed before the revolution, which we never had surrendered, forfeited, or relinquished, and which we never would relinquish any farther than in that treaty is expressed. Our right was clear and indubitable to fish in all places in the sea where British subjects had fished or ever had a right to fish.
3. We have a stronger and clearer right to all these fisheries in their largest extent than any Britons or Europeans ever had or could have, for they were all indebted to us and our ancestors for all these fisheries. We discovered them; we explored them; we settled the country, at our own expense, industry, and labor, without assistance from Britain or from Europe. We possessed, occupied, exercised, and practised them from the beginning. We have done more towards exploring the best fishing grounds and stations, and all the harbors, bays, inlets, creeks, coasts, and shores, where fish were to be found, and had discovered by experiments the best means and methods of preserving, curing, drying, and perfecting the commodity, and done more towards perfecting the commerce in it, than all the Britons, and all the rest of Europe.
4. We conquered Cape Breton and Nova Scotia, dispossessed the French, both hostile and neutral, and did more, in proportion, towards the conquest of Canada, than any other portion of the British empire; and would and could and should have done the whole, at an easier expense to ourselves, both of men and money, if the British government would have permitted that union of colonies, which we projected, planned, earnestly desired, and humbly petitioned. In short, we had done more, in proportion, towards protecting and defending all these fisheries against the French, than any other part of the British empire. For all these reasons, if there is a people under heaven who could advance a claim or a color of a pretension to any exclusive privileges in the fisheries, or any rights in one part of the old British empire more than another, that people are the inhabitants of the United States of America, especially of New England. But we set up no claims but those asserted and acknowledged in the treaty of 1783. These we do assert, and these we will have and maintain.
As you ask my opinion, it is that stipulations in acknowledgment of antecedent rights, in affirmance of maxims of equity and principles of natural and public law, if they are suspended during war, are revived in full force on the restoration of peace. Former treaties, not formally repeated in a new treaty, are presumed to be received and acknowledged. The fisheries are therefore ours, and the navigation of the Mississippi theirs, that is the British, as much as ever. I will answer any question you may ask.