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TO JAMES LLOYD. - 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 JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 24 April, 1815.
I have not yet treated your letters to me, which I esteem above all price, with the respect they deserve, nor indeed with common civility. I cannot but hope, that in the great order of things, which we for the moment are so apt to think confusion, some good may accrue to our country from this correspondence.
In your favor of February 6th, 1815, you have given a proverb, a maxim of more value to the statesmen of this nation than diamonds. “The progress of the horseman can only be proportioned to the speed of his horse.” Had Hamilton, the “commander-in-chief” of both houses of Congress, of all the five heads of departments of General Washington, and consequently of the President of the United States, been aware of your principle, and acted upon it, the revolution of 1801 would not have happened. There is no rodomontade, no exaggeration, Mr. Lloyd, in this language. In essence, it is strictly true.
Your allusion to the trial of Captain Preston and his soldiers, touches me more nearly than you can imagine. To this hour my conduct in it is remembered, and is alleged against me to prove that I am an enemy to my country, and always have been. It was one of those cases, of which I could give you the history of many, in which my head or my heart, and perhaps a conspiracy of both, compelled me to differ in opinion from all my friends, to set at defiance all their advice, their remonstrances, their raillery, their ridicule, their censures, and their sarcasms, without acquiring one symptom of pity from my enemies.
I could give you several other anecdotes, curious enough, perhaps memorable, of the same kind, which, if you wish to read them, shall be at your service. At present, I will confine myself to one.
After the battles or skirmishes of Concord and Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775, the militia of Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island, marched to Cambridge, Roxbury, Medford, Charlestown, &c., to drive the British army into the sea; and if their first ardor had not been restrained by considerations of the Union of the Colonies, they would have done it.
When, in the beginning of May, Congress met, no man knew whether the skirmish at Concord, the battle of Lexington, or the assembly of an army of militia at Cambridge and the other neighborhood of Boston, in hostile array against his Majesty’s regular, disciplined, and veteran troops and fleets, would be approved or condemned by that continental assembly. Those who had been members the year before, that is, in 1774, and now met the same gentlemen again, I assure you had great reasons for doubts and apprehensions, fears and jealousies.
The army at Cambridge had poor arms, no cannon but the Hancock and Adams, no tents, no barracks, no provisions but from day to day, no clothing for change, no magazines, very little powder, and but few balls. Congress could not be brought to look the crisis in the face. It was easy to see that the members dared not, either on the one hand, to command or advise the assemblage about Boston to disperse and go home, or on the other, to approve and adopt it as a continental army. A majority of them lived in hourly expectation of news, that the British troops had marched out of the town of Boston, and scattered the militia of New England, at Cambridge, to the four winds. For the opinion, that four or five thousand regulars could march where they pleased in America, was not peculiar to parliament or ministry. As many believed it in this country, in proportion, as in England. But when days and weeks passed away, and instead of any such intelligence, all accounts agreed that the Britons were completely imprisoned in the town, they began to think what must be done, and the people began to be clamorous that something should be done. Should they give up the contest? No. The people, at least the Whigs, out of doors, and in their own colonies, would stone them. Should they adopt the army at Cambridge, or raise a new one of their own? This last project would require a long time, and it was very uncertain whether it would ever be practicable. If they adopted the army now on foot, who should command it? A New England army under a New England General, they were pleased to say, would be dangerous to the other colonies, for no man then dared to utter the word State or nation. Who, then, should be General? On this question, the members were greatly divided. A number were for Mr. Hancock, then President of Congress, and extremely popular throughout the United Colonies, and called “King Hancock” all over Europe. A greater number (can you believe it?) were for General Charles Lee, then in Philadelphia, extremely assiduous in his visits to all the members of Congress at their lodgings, and universally represented in America as a classical and universal scholar, as a scientific soldier, and as one of the greatest generals in the world, who had seen service with Burgoyne in Portugal and in Poland, &c., and who was covered over with wounds he had received in battles. In short, this General Lee was a kind of precursor of Miranda. He excited much such an enthusiasm, and made as many proselytes and partisans. A number were for Washington. But the greatest number were for Ward.
In the midst of this chaos, the Massachusetts delegates daily received letters from their friends and constituents at home, entreating them to urge Congress to a decision, for the army wanted many things, and every thing was uncertain. The anxiety of New England, and her members in Congress, may be well imagined, may be easily conceived. In this state of things, John Adams, who had previously taken unwearied pains with his own colleagues, and with other members, in private, to form some plan and agree upon something to be done, without success, met Samuel Adams in the State House yard in Philadelphia, from various walks and avocations. “What shall we do to get Congress to adopt our army?” said Samuel Adams to John Adams. “I will tell you what I am determined to do,” said John to Samuel. “I have taken pains enough to bring you to agree upon something, but you will not agree upon any thing, and now I am determined to take my own way, let come what will come.” “Well,” said Samuel, “what is your scheme?” Said John to Samuel, “I will go to Congress this morning, and move, that a day be appointed to take into consideration the adoption of the army before Boston, the appointment of a General, and officers; and I will nominate Washington for commander-in-chief.”1
. . . . . . . . . . .
From this narration it appears, that Washington was the creature of a principle, and that principle was the Union of theColonies. He knew it, and it is not wonderful that he preached union. But is it not wonderful that one party should now found their arguments in favor of union, principally on the authority of Washington, and that the other party, in his name, and under pretence of his authority, should intrigue and cabal the destruction of the Union? Good God! Is there a man or woman in the United States, of common sense and information, who wants the authority of Washington to prove the necessity of Union? Is there one who can abuse the name of Washington, to influence a separation or division? From this narration it also appears, that the boast of your correspondent, Mr. Randolph, is vain and unfounded. We owe no thanks to Virginia for Washington. Virginia is indebted to Massachusetts for Washington, not Massachusetts to Virginia. Massachusetts made him a general against the inclination of Virginia. Virginia never made him more than a colonel.
. . . . . . . . . . .
Would Mr. Randolph now say, that John Adams was “ill-omened” in his exertions to get Washington appointed a general, not only against the judgment and inclinations of his own colleagues, but of the most respectable and able of the delegates from Virginia herself?
Is there, Mr. Lloyd, in the history of nations an example of submission to a mere point of policy, to be compared to the compliance of New England, their general, their army and all its officers, with an arrangement, which placed a total stranger over the heads and bodies of them all? At a moment, too, when they were flushed with victory at Bunker’s Hill? For a victory indeed it was, the most important event, and to this day, the most glorious action in the history of North America. It gave unshaken confidence to the people, from New Hampshire to Georgia, in their own valor, which nine tenths of them to that hour had doubted. It was not owing to any want of sensibility, I assure you, Sir, that no public remonstrance was made, and no public murmurs heard. Poor John Adams, upon his return to the army and his constituents, had enough to do to apologize for the part he had taken in the change. “Was there ever known, in the history of the world, an instance of changing the commander-in-chief of an army in the sight of an enemy, and in hourly expectation of another battle more bloody and desperate than the first? Was it not unexampled to supersede a general, a commander-in-chief, universally esteemed, beloved and confided in by his army and their country, by appointing another, an entire stranger, whom they had never seen, whose name they had scarcely heard? Was there another army or country that would submit to it? Was it not astonishing that a high-spirited, independent militia had not shouldered their firelocks and marched home? or at least refused to receive the new commander? Was it not to have been expected, that the officers would have resigned their commissions, when such a flight of officers of high rank, all strangers, was sent and placed over them? How could you, in such critical circumstances, assist in putting the cause of your country at such imminent hazard?”
These questions, Mr. Lloyd, and many other questions of similar import, were put to me wherever I went, by my best friends, and I had no other way to soften their hard thoughts, but by appeals to their patriotism, by urging the policy and necessity of sacrificing all our feelings to the union of the colonies, and by panegyrics upon Washington, Lee, Gates, Mifflin, Reed, &c. In a few words, I was subjected to almost as bitter exprobratious for creating Washington commander-in-chief, as I had been, five years before, for saving Preston and his soldiers from an unrighteous judgment and execution. Are not these facts as new to you as any political tale that could be brought you from Arabia, or by a special messenger from Sirius, the dog-star?
Should I take the oath of Thuanus, the great martyr to the faint ideas of his age, of religious liberty, “Pro veritate historiarum mearum Deum ipsum obtestor,” would you believe me? It is sufficient for me to say that the facts are true, and I attest them with my hand.
[1 ] The account which follows is a mere amplification of that given in the Autobiography, vol. ii. pp. 416-418, and omitted on that account.