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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, 22 December, 1815.
You are examining me upon interrogatories. I must tell you the truth, and nothing but the truth; but to tell you the whole truth is impossible. It would require more volumes than I can calculate. I am as incapable of composing or writing them, as I am of commanding the sun to stand still. I can only note a few broken hints.
In 1765, the colonies were more unanimous than they ever have been since, either as colonies or States. No party was formed against their country. The few who voted against the general sentiment, were but a handful. The resistance in America was so universal and so determined, that Great Britain with all her omnipotence dared not attempt to enforce her pretensions. She retreated and resorted to an insidious policy. She was by long practice and habit too perfect a mistress of the maxim, “In bello stratagemata sunt licita,” to forget it upon this critical emergency. She saw, she felt, that she could do nothing without her Chatham. He was called in to command the forlorn hope, and, at the same time, to invent the ruse de guerre. Ducente Chatham, the stamp act was repealed, and the statute passed, that “parliament was sovereign over the colonies in all cases whatsoever.”1 Such was the great Chatham, a great national minister, because he always flattered and gratified the national passion for war, victory, and conquest, but he was not a wise minister; he was not an Elizabeth’s minister; he was not a Cecil. He died a martyr to his idol. He fell in the House of Lords, with the sovereignty of parliament in his mouth. Who, or which, was the most extravagant. Great Britain in openly and avowedly asserting the sovereignty of the seas, Napoleon without asserting, yet attempting to exercise the sovereignty of Europe by land, or Chatham, perishing with the sovereignty of parliament over the whole globe? For if parliament had any sovereignty beyond the realm, they had it wherever they could carry their arms and conquests in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, a more universal empire than Napoleon, Louis XIV., Henry IV., or Charlemagne ever usurped or assumed. When the immortal Chatham had established in the laws of his kingdom and in the minds of his people,—for they were his in a stricter sense than they were those of George the III.,—his fundamental principle, that parliament was sovereign, supreme, unlimited, and uncontrollable over the colonies in all parts of the world, the ministry had recourse to address, intrigue, artifice, and stratagem. Hopes and fears, promises and threatenings, avarice and ambition, were excited; promotion, advancement, honor, glory, wealth, and power were promised; disgrace, ruin, poverty, contempt, torture, and death, were threatened; and this pious moral system was pursued with steady and invariable perseverance for ten years, that is, from 1765 to 1775. And what was their success? Blot it out, my tears! But the recording angel has noted it, and my lamentation would be vain. In the course of these ten years, they formed and organized and drilled and disciplined a party in favor of Great Britain, and they seduced and deluded nearly one third of the people of the colonies.
If you can spare the time and take the pains to inquire, you may find a catalogue in New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, of names, among whom were many men of the first rank, station, property, education, influence, and power, who in 1765 had been real or pretended Americans, converted during this period to real Britons.
Let me confine myself to Massachusetts, and here to a few only of individuals. In 1764 and 1765, Harrison Gray, Esquire, treasurer of the province, and member of his Majesty’s council, and Colonel Brattle, of Cambridge, also a member of his Majesty’s council and colonel of a regiment of militia, were both as open and decided Americans as James Otis. In 1766, Dr. Mayhew, who had been an oracle to the treasurer, died, and left him without a Mentor. Had Mayhew lived, it is believed that Gray would never have been a refugee. But the seducers prevailed, though he had connected his blood with an Otis, by marrying his beautiful daughter to a brother of the Great Patriot, James Otis, Jr.
Brattle was a divine, a lawyer, and a physician, and, however superficial in each character, had acquired great popularity by his zeal, and I must say, by his indiscreet and indecorous ostentation of it, against the measures of the British government. The two subtle spirits, Hutchinson and Sewall, saw his character, as well as Trowbridge, who had been his rival at the bar, for many years. Sewall was the chosen spirit to convert Brattle. Sewall became all at once intimate with Brattle. Brattle was soon converted and soon announced a brigadier-general in the militia. From this moment, the Tories pronounced Brattle a convert, and the Whigs an apostate. This rank in the militia in time of peace was an innovation, and it was instantly perceived to have been invented to take in gudgeons.
Jonathan Sewall, Daniel Leonard, and Samuel Quincy were my brother barristers at the bar, and my cordial, confidential, and bosom friends. I never, in the whole course of my life, lived with any men in more perfect intimacy. They had all been patriots as decided, as I believed, as I was. I have already hinted at the manner and means of Sewall’s conversion.
Daniel Leonard was the only child of Colonel Ephraim Leonard, of Norton. He was a scholar, a lawyer, and an orator, according to the standard of those days. As a member of the House of Representatives, even down to the year 1770, he made the most ardent speeches which were delivered in that House against Great Britain, and in favor of the colonies. His popularity became alarming. The two sagacious spirits, Hutchinson and Sewall soon penetrated his character, of which, indeed, he had exhibited very visible proofs. He had married a daughter of Mr. Hammock, who had left her a portion, as it was thought, in that day. He wore a broad gold lace round the rim of his hat, he had made his cloak glitter with laces still broader, he had set up his chariot and pair, and constantly travelled in it from Taunton to Boston. This made the world stare; it was a novelty. Not another lawyer in the province, attorney or barrister, of whatever age, reputation, rank or station presumed to ride in a coach or a chariot. The discerning ones soon perceived, that wealth and power must have charms to a heart that delighted in so much finery, and indulged in such unusual expense. Such marks could not escape the vigilant eyes of the two archtempters, Hutchinson and Sewall, who had more art, insinuation, and address than all the rest of their party. Poor Daniel was beset with great zeal for his conversion. Hutchinson sent for him, courted him with the ardor of a lover, reasoned with him, flattered him, overawed him, frightened him, invited him to come frequently to his house. As I was intimate with Mr. Leonard during the whole of this process, I had the substance of this information from his own mouth, was a witness to the progress of the impression made upon him, and to many of the labors and struggles of his mind, between his interest or his vanity, and his duty.
Samuel Quincy was born in the same town and parish with me. I was three years at college with him, and as intimate with him, as with any one there. We were sworn at the bar in October, 1758, together on the same day. He was upright at first in his views, though he meddled not much in politics; but he belonged to a club, who affected to be thought neutral, though their real propensities were all on one side. This gentleman could not escape the notice of Hutchinson and Sewall, who had married his cousin. History must search the human heart. Josiah Quincy, Jr., was by many years younger than Samuel, his brother; many years after him at college and at the bar. Possessing more energy of character, more ardor of spirit, more obstinate and patient and persevering application to study and to business, and an eloquence more popular and imposing than all his other qualities, and openly espousing the cause of his country, soon eclipsed his brother, attracted and commanded much more business, and much more important and lucrative business in his profession than his elder brother. Such a rivalry and such a jealousy was more than human nature could bear, at least in this instance. Hutchinson and Sewall perceived it. They accordingly applied their magic arts to him. He was made Solicitor-General, as successor to Sewall, and became henceforward a Tory and a refugee.
My classmate, Brown, a solid, judicious character, was once a disciple of James Otis, and a cordial supporter of him and his cause in the House of Representatives. This I know from his own lips, as well as from his recorded votes. But they made him a Judge of the Superior Court, and that society made him a refugee. A Tory, I verily believe, he never was.
I know the grief, the resentment, and the rage that this narration will excite in many families. But I owe nothing to them, and every thing to truth. I could descend to minuter details and to many inferior examples in Boston and Massachusetts, but these may suffice for the present, as specimens or exemplifications of the arts that were employed in all the colonies for ten years, that is, from 1765 to 1775, to divide the people and form a party in favor of Great Britain. Where is the historian who can and will travel through the United States, and investigate all the similar intrigues in each of them for the same purpose? Yet, without this, the real history of the United States, and especially of their revolution, never can be written. I could crowd sheets of paper with anecdotes and names, which would surprise you, of conversions in the other States. If you insist upon it, I may hereafter give you a few of the most conspicuous names and characters. But I give you notice, that not one of your friends, the federalists, through the continent, will thank you for your curiosity.
There is another very remarkable source of historical information now totally forgotten. So unanimous were the sentiments and so universal the congenial feelings of the people of Massachusetts in 1764 and 1765, that almost, if not quite, every town in the province was aroused to instruct their representatives in the General Court: all breathing the same spirit, all decided against submission. These instructions were read in the House, and it was proposed and expected that they should be published in volumes. But the expense, and especially the repeal of the stamp act prevented it. I know not how well or how ill the records and files of our legislature have been preserved, but these documents ought now to be found somewhere. Still less do I know, how the records of towns have been kept or preserved; but these instructions ought to be in the hands of the town clerks.
There is another large tract of inquiry to be travelled in the correspondence of the committees of the town of Boston with the other towns and States, commonly called the committees of correspondence. For reasons too numerous to be stated at present, I never belonged to any of these committees, and have never seen one of their letters, sent or received. None of them have ever been published; at least, I have never seen one. Nevertheless, I doubt not they exist. Where they are, I know not, and I never knew; indeed, I never inquired. But, in my opinion, the history of the United States never can be written till they are discovered. What an engine! France imitated it, and produced a revolution. England and Scotland were upon the point of imitating it, in order to produce another revolution, and all Europe was inclined to imitate it for the same revolutionary purposes.
The history of the world for the last thirty years is a sufficient commentary upon it. That history ought to convince all mankind, that committees of secret correspondence are dangerous machines. That they are caustics, and incision knives, to which recourse should never be had but in the last extremities of life, in the last question between life and death.
In this year, 1765, the Congress met at New York. Their proceedings must be stated; but it must also be remembered that a part of that body, very important at that time, was hostile to the business, and their influence is visible in the complexion of the results. The assembly, nevertheless, was so prominent a phenomenon as to draw the attention of other nations as well as this, to the question concerning the authority of parliament, and raised the hopes of the people to a union of the colonies, to be accomplished and perfected by future and more universal Congresses, for their defence, protection, and security.
TO DR. J. MORSE.
Quincy, 1 January, 1816.
From 1760 to 1766, was the purest period of patriotism; from 1766 to 1776 was the period of corruption; from 1775 to 1783 was the period of war. Not a revolutionary war, for the revolution was complete, in the minds of the people, and the union of the colonies, before the war commenced in the skirmishes of Concord and Lexington on the 19th of April, 1775.
In 1766 commenced the separation of parties. The stamp act was repealed. Universal rejoicings had run like wildfire through the continent. But Chatham’s declaratory act of the sovereignty of parliament hung like a cloud over the whole American continent. Thinking men and discerning eyes saw it, and amidst all the popular rejoicings dreaded its ominous appearance. The public opinion thought it a brutum fulmen, a mere device to preserve the nominal dignity of Great Britain without any intention of ever bringing it forward into action.
When the General Court met in May, Mr. Otis’s services, sacrifices, and exertions had been so splendid, that the House of Representatives, by a spontaneous and almost unanimous feeling of gratitude, chose him their Speaker. Bernard negatived him. Hutchinson, without whom Bernard was nothing, was instantly believed to be the adviser to this declaration of hostility. The conviction flashed like lightning through the community, that the sovereignty of parliament was not intended to be relinquished, and that future calamities must be expected. The House of Representatives was electrified to such a degree, that when the election of counsellors came upon the carpet, Hutchinson, though Lieutenant-Governor and Chief Justice, and all his brother judges of the Superior Court of Judicature, Court of Assizes, and general gaol delivery, were turned out of the Council, and a general looking for future troubles took place. It was now seen, that every man who espoused the cause of his country, must prepare himself for the fate of a martyr or confessor, and that every man of any consequence, who would betray his country, might expect lucrative as well as honorable rewards; honorable, I mean, in the common sense of the word in the world. It was not long before these apprehensions were confirmed. A bill was brought into parliament, imposing taxes on glass, tea, paper, colors, &c., imported into the colonies. The great Chatham was destined to
Although his name still carried great power, the mortification arising from the loss of so much of his popularity, by his acceptance of a peerage and a pension, the unbounded licentiousness of the press in abusing him for it, and perhaps, above all, the embarrassments he had found in forming a ministry among the factions of Rockingham, Bedford, and Bute, when his brother, Lord Temple, and even the Duke of Portland, deserted him, aggravated the natural and habitual infirmity of his constitution, and rendered him incapable of that activity in business, and that fire which inspired every-body with his own enthusiasm, which had been so conspicuous in all parts of his former life.
This new act of tyrannical taxation rekindled all the fires of opposition and resistance on this side the water. The associations against its execution were universal through all the colonies, and ought to be stated and related in detail, because they illustrate the progress of the revolution in the minds of the people, against the authority of parliament, towards a union of the colonies and a total independence on the one hand, and the progress of seduction and corruption on the other.
Another innovation was contrived, and a board of commissioners of the customs created; but the remonstrances and associations against the execution of the acts were so formidable, that the ministry thought it necessary to send a fleet and army to protect Temple, Hallowell, Paxton, Birch, and Robinson, their adherents and followers. In 1768, there appeared a general disposition to oppose their landing by force; but many gentlemen, apprehending confusion from unconcerted resistance, took measures for inviting a Convention of the province. The circumstances of this year ought to be distinctly developed, and the result of the Convention stated. The fleet was drawn up to fire upon the town, and protect the landing of those illustrious personages, the commissioners and their drunken secretary, and their defenders, the troops, which were given out to be four thousand men, though, probably, they were not half the number. These poor creatures, the soldiers, were in a forlorn condition,—no barracks, no shelter, hungry and cold. The inhabitants shut their doors, and would admit panthers and serpents as soon. The address of their officers upon this dangerous crisis, I shall never forget. They became suppliants, and appealed to humanity. Had the door of a citizen been broken, to let in the soldiers, such was the inflammation of spirits that they would all have been made prisoners before morning; but the officers had too much sense. They put themselves and their men upon the compassionate list. “The poor soldiers were innocent. They knew not why they were sent here. Can you see your fellow-creatures perish in your streets for want of shelter?” Humanity prevailed. The troops were paraded on the common. One regiment appeared every day in Brattle Square, with their left flank before the front of the white house, where I then lived. Every morning I saw from my front windows Major Small exercising his battalion or his regiment, and admired his patient, persevering assiduity no less than the regularity of his men. What were my reflections and feelings at these sights! Poor puppets! you know nothing of the invisible hand, which dances you upon its wires! No more than the cogs and wheels of a clock, of the weights that move them, or the hand which they point to the hour. The men who understand the machinery, and are the first springs of its movement, know no more of what they are doing than you do. They are heaping up vengeance against the day of vengeance, against you, against themselves, and against unnumbered thousands of others as innocent as you. Major Small and I passed each other every day, but never spoke. Twenty years afterwards, we passed each other at public places of amusement in London, as Dido and Æneas passed each other in the shades, and never spoke. The troops lived in Boston for a few months more than a year, as the allied forces now reside in France, the blood of the inhabitants boiling with indignation, and the continent sympathizing with them. Wrangles and quarrels frequently occurred between the citizens and the soldiers; exasperation increased on both sides, till it broke out in the melancholy catastrophe of the 5th of March, 1770. Now appeared the spirit of freemen; multitudes from Boston and the neighboring towns assembled spontaneously the next day, and from day to day. Strong guards were placed in the State House, and every man appeared to be ready at the toll of a bell or the sound of a gun to turn out with his arms. The assembly applied to the governor and council. Mr. Hutchinson was Lieutenant-Governor and commander-in-chief. Colonel Dalrymple was sent for. Samuel Adams appeared in his true character. His caution, his discretion, his ingenuity, his sagacity, his self-command, his presence of mind, and his intrepidity, commanded the admiration and loud applauses of both parties. The troops were ordered to the Castle, and Lord North called them from this time “Sam Adams’s two regiments.”
[1 ] Chatham certainly favored it, but the declaratory act seems to have been a concession to the Yorke family, and to Edmund Burke’s private influence over Lord Rockingham.