A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive
Next Page
Previous Page

John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 46 of 53, 29 August - 14 September 1776

Extract of a Letter from John Adams to  [illegible Colonel William Tudor, dated

"So! The Fishers have set a Seine, and a whole Schull, a whole Shoal of Fishes, have swam into it and been caught. The Fowlers have set a Net, and a whole flock of Pidgeons have alighted on the bed, and the Net has been drawn over them. . . . But the most insolent Thing of all, is sending one of those very Pidgeons, as a Flutterer to Philadelphia, in order to decoy the great flock of all. . . . Did you ever see a decoy-Duck? or a Decoy Brant?". . .

Extract of a Letter from John Adams to Colonel James Warren, dated

"Before this time, the Secretary, (Mr. Samuel Adams) has arrived and will give you, all the Information you can wish, concerning the State of Things here. . . . Mr. Gerry got in, the day before Yesterday very well. . . . There has been a change, in our Affairs at New York. -- What effects it will produce, I cannot pretend to foretell. I confess I do not clearly foresee. Lord Howe is surrounded with disaffected Americans,Machiavilian Exiles from Boston and elsewhere, who are instigating him, to mingle Art with Force. . . . He has sent Sullivan here, upon his parole, with the most insidious, 'tho ridiculous message which you can conceive. . . . It has put Us, rather in a delicate Situation, and gives Us much trouble.

"Before this day, no doubt, you have appointed some other Persons to come here and I shall embrace the first Opportunity, after our Affairs shall get into a more settled train, to return. . . . It is high time, for me, I assure you: Yet I will not go, while the present fermentation lasts. -- I will stay and watch the Crisis; and assist Nature, like an honest Physician, in throwing off the morbific matter."

Another Letter from [John Adams] to Colonel [James ]Warren, dated

"I am going tomorrow Morning, on an Errand to Lord Howe; not to beg Pardon, I assure you, but to hear what he has to say. . . . He sent Sullivan here, to let Us know, that he wanted a Conversation with some members of Congress. . . . We are going to hear him; but as Congress have voted, that they cannot send Members to talk with him, in their private Capacities, but will send a Committee of their Body as Representatives of the free and independent States of America; I presume his Lordship cannot see Us, and I hope he will not; but, if he should, the whole will terminate in nothing. Some think it will occasion a delay of military Operations, which they say, We much want. -- I am not of this mind. . . . Some think, it will clearly throw the Odium of continuing this War, on his Lordship and his Master. -- I wish it may. . . . Others think it will silence the Tories and establish the timid Whigs. -- I wish this also: but dont expect it. But all these Arguments and twenty others, as weighty, would not have convinced me of the Necessity, Propriety or Utility of this Embassy, if Congress had not determined it. . . . I was totis Viribus, against it, from first to last. But, upon this Occasion, New Hampshire, Connecticut and even Virginia, gave Way. . . . All Sides agreed in sending me. The staunch and intrepid, such as were Ennimies as much as myself to the measure, pushed for me, I suppose, that as little Evil might come of it, as possible. . . . Others agreed to vote for me, in order to entice some of our Inflexibles, to vote for the Measure. -- You will hear more of this Embassy. -- It will be famous enough. Your Secretary, (Mr. Samuel Adams) will rip, about this measure, and well he may. Nothing I assure you but the Unanimous Vote of Congress, the pressing Solicitation of the firmest Men in Congress, and the particular Advice of my own Colleagues, at least of Mr. Hancock and Mr. Gerry, would have induced me to have accepted this Trust."

A Letter from John Adams to Samuel Adams, (then in Boston) dated

"Dear Sir

Tomorrow Morning Dr. Franklin,

Mr. Edward [Rutledge and your humble servant sett off to see that rare] Curiosity, Lord Howe. . . . Dont imagine from this that a Panick has spread in Philadelphia. . . . By no means. . . . This is only refinement in Policy!. . . It has a deep, profound reach, no doubt! So deep that you cannot see to the bottom of it, I dare say!. . . I am sure I cannot. . . . Dont however be concerned. When you see the whole, as you will e'er long, you will not find it very bad. . . . I will write you, the particulars, as soon as I shall be at Liberty to do it."

A Letter from John Adams to Samuel Adams, then in Boston, dated

"In a few Lines of the 8th. instant, I promised you, a more particular Account of the Conference.

"On Monday last, the Committee satt off, from Philadelphia, and reached Brunswick on Tuesday night. . . . Wednesday Morning they proceeded to Amboy, and from thence to Staten Island, where they met the Lord Howe, by whom they were politely received and entertained.

"His Lordship opened the Conference, by giving Us an Account of the motive which first induced him to attend to the dispute with America, which he said was the honor which had been done to his Family by the Massachusetts Bay, which he prized very highly. . . . From whence, I concluded in my own mind, that his Lordship had not attended to the Controversy, earlier than the Port Bill and Charter Bill, and consequently must have a very inadequate Idea of the Nature, as well as of the rise and progress of the Contest.

"His Lordship then observed that he had requested this Interview that he might satisfy himself, whether there was any probability, that America would return to her Allegiance: but he must observe to Us, that he could not acknowledge Us, as Members of Congress or a Committee of that Body, but that he only desired this Conversation with Us, as private Gentlemen, in hopes, that it might prepare the Way, for the Peoples returning to their Allegiance, and to an Accommodation of the Disputes between the two Countries. That he had no Power to treat with Us, as independent States

or in any other [Character than as British Subjects and] private Gentlemen. But that upon our Acknowledging ourselves to be British Subjects, he had Power to consult with Us. That the Act of Parliament had given Power to the King, upon certain Conditions, of declaring the Colonies to be at peace: and his Commission gave him Power to confer, advise and consult, with any number or description of Persons concerning the Complaints of the People in America. That the King and Ministry, had very good Dispositions to redress the Grievances of the People and reform the Errors of the Administration in America. That his Commission gave him Power to converse with any Persons whatever in America concerning the former Instructions to Governors, and the Acts of Parliament complain'd of. That the King and Ministry were very willing to have all these revised and reconsidered, and if any Errors had crept in, if they could be pointed out, they were very willing they should be rectified.

"One of the Committee, Mr. Rutledge, mentioned to his Lordship, what General Sullivan had said, that his Lordship told him, he would sett the Act of Parliament wholly aside, and that Parliament had no right to tax America, or meddle with her internal Polity. His Lordship answered Mr. Rutledge, that General Sullivan had misunderstood him, and extended his Words much beyond their import.

"His Lordship gave Us, a long Account of his Negotiations, in order to obtain Powers sufficiently ample for his Purpose. He said, he had told them (the Ministry, I suppose he meant) that those Persons whom you call Rebells, are the most proper to confer with, of any, because they are the Persons who complain of Grievances. The others, those who are not in Arms, and are not, according to your Ideas in Rebellion, have no Complaints or Grievances. They are satisfied, and therefore it would be to no purpose to converse with them. So that, his Lordship said he would not accept the Commission, or Command,untill he had full Power to confer, with any Persons whom he should think proper, who had the most Abilities and Influence. But having obtained those Powers, he intended to have gone directly to Philadelphia, not to have treated with Congress

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 46 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.
Next Page
Previous Page