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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 20 of 53, June - August 1775

Mr. Hitchbourne was intercepted in crossing Hudsons River by the Boats from a British Man of War, and my Letters, instead of being destroyed, fell into the hands of the Ennemy, and [were ]immediately printed, with a little garbling. They thought them a great Prize. The Ideas of Independence, to be sure were glaring enough, and they thought they should produce quarrells among the Members of Congress, and a division of the Colonies. Me they expected utterly to ruin because, as they represented, I had explicitly avowed my designs of Independence. I cared nothing for this. I had made no secret in or out of Congress of my Opinion that Independence was become indispensable; and I was perfectly sure, that in a little time the whole Continent would be of my Mind. I rather rejoiced in this as a fortunate Circumstance, that the Idea was held up to the whole World, and that the People could not avoid contemplating it and reasoning about it. Accordingly from this time at least if not earlier, and not from the publication of "Common Sense" did the People in all parts of the Continent turn their Attention to this Subject. It was, I know, considered in the same Light by others. I met Colonel Reed soon afterwards, who was then General Washingtons Secretary, who mentioned those Letters to me and said, that Providence seemed to have thrown these Letters before the Public for our good: for Independence was certainly inevitable and it was happy that the whole Country had been compelled to turn their Thoughts upon it, that it might not come upon them presently by Surprize. . . . There were a few Expressions which hurt me, when I found the Ennemy either misunderstood them or willfully misrepresented them. Will The Expressions were Will your judiciary Whip and hang without Scruple. This they construed to mean to excite Cruelty against the Tories, and get some of them punished with Severity. Nothing was farther from my Thoughts. I had no reference to Tories in this. But as the Exercise of Judicial Powers is the without Authority from the Crown, would be probably the most offensive Act of Government to Great Britain and the

least willingly pardoned, my Question meant no more than "Will your judges have fortitude enough to inflict the severe punishments when necessary as Death upon Murderers and other capital Criminals, and flaggellation upon such as deserve it." Nothing could be more false and injurious to me, than the imputation ofany sanguinary Zeal against the Tories, for I can truly declare that through the whole Revolution and from that time to this I never committed one Act of Severity against the Tories. On the contrary I was a constant Advocate for all the Mercy and Indulgence consistent with our Safety. Some Acts of Treachery as well as Hostility, were combined together in so atrocious a manner that Pardon could not be indulged. But, as it happened, in none of these had I any particular concern. . . . In a very short time after the Publication of these Letters I received one from General Charles Lee, then in the Army in the neighbourhood of Boston, in which, after expressing the most obliging Sentiments of my Character, he said some Gentlemen had hinted to him, that I might possibly apprehend that he would take Offence at them: But he assured me he was highly pleased with what was said of him in them. The Acknowledgement from me, that he was a Soldier and a Schollar, he esteemed as an honor done to him: and as to his Attachment to his Dogs, when he should discover in Men as much Fidelity, Honesty and Gratitude as he daily experienced in his Dogs, he promised to love Men as well as Dogs. Accordingly the Cordiality between him and me continued, till his Death.
This Measure of Imbecility, the second Petition to the King embarrassed every Exertion of Congress: it occasioned Motions and debates without End for appointing Committees to draw up a declaration of the Causes, Motives, and Objects of taking Arms, with a view to obtain decisive declarations against Independence &c. In the Mean time the New England Army investing Boston, the New England Legislatures, Congresses and Conventions, and the whole Body of the People, were left, without Munitions of War, without Arms, Cloathing, Pay or even Countenance and Encouragement.

Every Post brought me Letters, from my Friends Dr. Winthrop, Dr. Cooper, General James Warren: and sometimes from General Ward and his Aids and General Heath and many others, urging in pathetic terms, the impossibility of keeping their Men together, without the Assistance of Congress. I was daily urging all these Things but We were embarassed with more than one Difficulty. Not only the Party in favour of the Petition to the King, and the Party who were jealous of Independence, but a third Party, which was a Southern Party against a Northern and a jealousy against a New England Army under the Command of a New England General. Whether this jealousy was sincere, or whether it was mere pride and a haughty Ambition, of furnishing a Southern General to command the northern Army. But the Intention was very visible to me, that Col. Washington was their Object, and so many of our staunchest Men were in the Plan that We could carry nothing without conceeding to it. Another Embarrassment which was never publickly known, and which was carefully concealed by those who knew it. The Massachusetts Delegates and other New England Delegates were divided. Mr. Hancock and Mr. Cushing hung back. Mr. Paine did not come forward, and even Mr. Samuel Adams was irresolute. Mr. Hancock himself had an Ambition to be appointed Commander in Chief. Whether he thought, An Election, a Compliment due to him and intended to have the honor of declining it or whether he would have accepted I know not. To the Compliment he had some Pretensions, for at that time his Exertions, Sacrifices and general Merit in the Cause of his Country, had been incomparably greater than those of Colonel Washington. But the Delicacy of his health, and his entire Want of Experience in actual Service, though an excellent Militia Officer, were decisive Objections to him in my Mind. In canvassing this Subject out of Doors, I found too that even among the Delegates of Virginia there were difficulties. The Apostolical Reasonings among themselves which should be greatest, were not [illegible less energetic Among the Saints of the Ancient dominion, than they were among Us of New England. In several Conversations I found more than one very cool about the Appointment of Washington, and particularly Mr. Pendleton was very clear and full against. Full of Anxieties concerning these Confusions, and apprehending

daily that We should her very distressing News from Boston, I walked with Mr. Samuel Adams in the State house Yard, for a little Exercise and fresh Air, before the hour of Congress, and there represented to him the various dangers that surrounded Us. He agreed to them all, but said what shall We do? I answered him, that he knew I had taken great pains to get our Colleagues to agree upon some plan that We might be unanimous: but he knew that they would pledge themselves to nothing: but I was determined to take a Step, which should compell them to declare them and all the other Members of Congress, to declare themselves for or against something. I am determined this Morning to make a direct Motion that Congress should adopt the Army before Boston and appoint Colonel Washington Commander of it. Mr. Adams seemed to think very seriously of it, but said Nothing. -- Accordingly When congress had assembled I rose in my place and in as short a Speech as the Subject would admit, represented the State of the Colonies, the Uncertainty in the Minds of the People, their great Expectations and Anxiety, the distresses of the Army, the danger of its dissolution, the difficulty of collecting another, and the probability that the British Army would take Advantage of our delays, march out of Boston and spread desolation as far as they could go. I concluded with a Motion in form that Congress would Adopt the Army at Cambridge and appoint a General, that though this was not the proper time to nominate a General, yet as I had reason to believe this was a point of the greatest difficulty, I had no hesitation to declare that I had but one Gentleman in my Mind for that important command, and that was a Gentleman from Virginia who was among Us and very well known to all of Us, a Gentleman whose Skill and Experience as an Officer, whose independent fortune, great Talents and excellent universal Character, would command the Approbation of all America, and unite the cordial Exertions of all the Colonies better than any other Person in the Union. Mr. Washington, who happened to sit near the Door, as soon as he heard me allude to him, from his Usual Modesty darted into the Library Room. Mr. Hancock, who was our President, which gave me an Opportunity to observe his Countenance, while I was speaking

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 20 of 53 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.
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