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TO DR. J. MORSE. - 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 DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 29 November, 1815.
A history of military operations from April 19th, 1775, to the 3d of September, 1783, is not a history of the American Revolution, any more than the Marquis of Quincy’s military history of Louis XIV., though much esteemed, is a history of the reign of that monarch. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people, and in the union of the colonies; both of which were substantially effected before hostilities commenced.
When, where, by what means, and in what manner was this great intellectual, moral, and political change accomplished? Undoubtedly it was begun in the towns of Boston and Salem, where the British government first opened their designs, and first urged their pretensions.
In the month of February, 1761, the great cause of writs of assistance was argued before the supreme judicature of the province, in the council chamber in Boston; and this important question was tainted from the beginning with an odious and corrupt intrigue. Chief Justice Stephen Sewall, who was an enlightened friend of liberty, having great doubts of the legality and constitutionality of this projected writ of assistance, at November term, 1760, at Salem, where it was solicited by Cockle, a custom-house officer, had ordered the question to be argued before the court at the next February term in Boston; but Sewall in the mean time died, and Bernard, instead of fulfilling the promises of two of his predecessors, Shirley and Pownall, to give the next vacancy on that bench to Colonel Otis, appointed Hutchinson, for the very purpose of deciding the fate of the writs of assistance, and all other causes in which the claims of Great Britain might be directly or indirectly implicated, though Hutchinson was then lieutenant-governor, judge of probate, member of council, his brother, Oliver, secretary, and his brother, Oliver, judge of the Supreme Court; and himself furnished with no education to the law, and very little knowledge of it. When the cause came on, however, Mr. Otis displayed so comprehensive a knowledge of the subject, showed not only the illegality of the writ, its insidious and mischievous tendency, but he laid open the views and designs of Great Britain, in taxing us, of destroying our charters and assuming the powers of our government, legislative, executive, and judicial, external and internal, civil and ecclesiastical, temporal and spiritual; and all this was performed with such a profusion of learning, such convincing argument, and such a torrent of sublime and pathetic eloquence, that a great crowd of spectators and auditors went away absolutely electrified. The next May, Mr. Otis was elected by the town of Boston into the legislature, and for ten years afterwards; during the whole of which period his tongue and his pen were incessantly employed in enlightening his fellow-citizens and countrymen in the knowledge of their rights, and developing and opposing the designs of Great Britain. He governed the town of Boston and the House of Representatives, notwithstanding a few eccentricities, with a caution, a prudence and sagacity, which astonished his friends and confounded his enemies. His fame soon spread though the continent, and three or four years afterwards was emulated by Mr. Dickinson in his Farmer’s Letters; and some other gentlemen in Virginia began to think.
Here, then, Sir, began the revolution in the principles, views, opinions, and feelings of the American people. Their eyes were opened to a clear sight of the danger that threatened them and their posterity, and the liberties of both in all future generations. From Boston these alarms spread through Massachusetts and all New England; and in course to New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, the Carolinas, and Georgia. A general aspiration for a union of the colonies soon followed, the first attempt at which necessary measure was made in a Congress at New York, in 1765, of which Brigadier Ruggles was President, but Mr. Otis the soul. The President and Colonel Partridge, Mr. Otis’s colleagues, were devoted Hutchinsonians. The former ran away. Mr. Ogden, too, a man of great weight in the middle States, also deserted. Timidity was too general. None supported Otis with more uniformity and decision than McKean and Rodney, of Delaware. Both of those gentlemen have repeatedly told me, and Mr. Rodney more frequently, that of all the members of that body, not one appeared to be so complete a master of every subject, or threw so much light on every question, as Mr. Otis.
The rise and progress of this knowledge, the gradual expansion and diffusion of the change in the minds of the people, and the growing hopes of a union of the colonies, and their dependence upon it as the future rock of their salvation, cannot be traced but by a diligent perusal of the pamphlets, newspapers, and handbills of both parties, and the proceedings of the legislatures from 1761 to 1774, when the union of the colonies was formed.
If strength should remain, I may hereafter point to a few periods, in which knowledge made the greatest advances, and the revolution in the understanding and affections of the people made the most rapid progress.
But I must conclude at present, with an assurance of the respect and regard of your old friend,
P. S. I should have candidly added, in its place, that Bernard was not bound by the promises of Shirley and Pownall; but his fault was in appointing a judge so evidently and notoriously partial as Hutchinson. Nor do I approve of Shirley’s and Pownall’s promises of a vacancy before it happened; a practice very common in Europe, and too frequent in America, before and since the revolution. I never countenanced it in any one instance.