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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 47 of 53, 6 - 14 September 1776


as such, or to have acknowledged that Body, but to have consulted with Gentlemen of that Body, in their private Capacities, upon the Subjects in his Commission.

"His Lordship did not incline to give Us any farther Account of his Powers or to make any other Propositions to Us, than those which are contained in Substance in the foregoing lines.

"I have the pleasure to assure you, that there was no disagrement in Opinion, among the members of the Committee, upon any one point. They were perfectly united in Sentiment, and in language, as they are in the Result of the whole, which is, that his Lordships Powers are fully expressed in the late Act of Parliament: and that his Commission contains no other Authority, than that of granting Pardons, with such Exceptions as the Commissioners shall think proper to make: and of declaring America, or any part of it, to be at Peace upon Submission: and of enquiring into the State of America, of any Persons, with whom, they might think proper to enquire confer, advize, converse and consult, even although they should be Officers of the Army, or Members of Congress; and then representing the Result of their Inquiries to the Ministry, who, after all, might or might not, at their pleasure, make any Alterations in the former Instructions to Governors, or propose in Parliament any Alterations in the Acts complained of.

"The whole Affair of the Commission appears to me, as it ever did, to be a bubble, an Ambuscade, a mere insidious Maneuvre, calculated only to decoy and deceive: -- And it is so gross, that they must have a wretched Opinion of our Generalship, to suppose that We can fall into it.

"The Committee assured his Lordship, that they had no Authority, to wait upon him, or to treat or converse with him, in any other Character, but that of a Committee of Congress, and as Members of independent States. That the Vote, which was their Commission, clearly ascertained their Character. That the Declaration which had been made, of Independence, was the Result of long and cool deliberation. That it had been made by Congress, after long and great Reluctance, in Obedience to the possitive Instructions of their Constituents; every Assembly upon the Continent, having instructed


their Delegates to this [Purpose, and since the Declaration] has been made And published, it has been solemnly ratified and confirmed by the Assemblies: so that neither this Committee, nor that Congress, which sent it here, have Authority to treat in any other Character, than as independent States. . . . One of the Committee Dr. Franklin, assured his Lordship, that in his private Opinion, America would not again come under the domination of Great Britain: and therefore it was the Duty of every good Man, on both sides the Water, to promote Peace, and an Acknowledgment of American Independency, and a Treaty of Friendship and Alliance, between the two Countries. Another of the Committee, Mr. John Adams, assured his Lordship that in his private Opinion, America would never treat, in any other Character, than as independent States. . . . The other Member Mr. Rutledge concurred in the same Opinion. . . . His Lordship said he had no Powers nor Instructions, upon that Subject: it was entirely new. -- Mr. Rutledge observed to his Lordship that most of the Colonies, had submitted, for two Years, to all the Inconveniences of Anarchy, and to live without Governments in hopes of Reconciliation: But now had instituted Governments. Mr. John Adams observed, that all the Colonies had gone compleatly through a Revolution. That they had taken all Authority from the Officers of the Crown, and had appointed Officers of their own, which his Lordship would easily conceive had cost great Struggles: and that they could not easily go back. And that Americans had too much understanding, not to know that after such a declaration as they had made, the Government of Great Britain never would have any Confidence in them or could govern them but by Force of Arms."



A Letter from John Adams to a Friend in Massachusetts dated

"This Day, I think has been the most remarkable of all. . . . Sullivan came here, from Lord Howe, five days ago, with a Message, that his Lordship desired a half an Hours Conversation, with some of the Members of Congress, in their private Capacities. . . . We have spent three or four days, in debating, whether We should take any notice of it. . . . I have to the Utmost of my Abilities, during the whole Time, opposed our taking any notice of it. . . . But at last it was determined by a Majority, 'That the Congress, being the Representatives of the free and independent States of America, it was improper to appoint any of their Members to confer in their private Characters with his Lordship. But they would appoint a Committee of their Body, to wait on him to know whether he had Power to treat with Congress upon Terms of Peace, and to hear any Propositions that his Lordship may think proper to make.'

"When the Committee came to be balloted for, Dr. Franklin and your humble Servant, were unanimously chosen. . . . Mr. Rutledge and Colonel Lee (Richard Henry Lee) had an equal Number: but upon a second Vote, Mr. Rutledge was chosen. I requested to be excused, but was desired to consider of it, till tomorrow. My Friends here advize me to go. . . . All the staunch and intrepid, are very earnest with me to go. . . . And all the timid and wavering agree in the request: So I believe I shall undertake the journey. I doubt whether His Lordship will see Us: but the same Committee will be directed to inquire into the State of the Army, at New York, so that there will be business enough, if his Lordship makes none. It would fill this Letter Book to give you all the Arguments, for and against this measure, if I had Liberty to attempt it. . . . His Lordship seems to have been playing off a Number of Machiavillian Maneuvres, in order to throw upon Us the Odium of continuing this War. Those, who have


been Advocates for the Appointment of this Committee, are for opposing Maneuvre to Maneuvre, and are confident that the Consequence will be, that the Odium will lie upon him. . . . However this may be, my Lesson is plain, to ask a few Questions and take his Answers. I can think of but one Reason for their putting me, upon this Embassy, and that is this. An Idea has crept into many minds here, that his Lordship is such another as Mr. Hutchinson: and they may possibly think, that a Man who has been accustomed to Penetrate into the mazy Windings of Hutchinsons heart, and the serpentine Wiles of his head, may be tolerably qualified to converse with his Lordship.

"

. Yesterdays Post brought me, yours of Aug. 29. The Report you mentioned 'that I was poisoned upon my return at New York, I suppose will be thought to be a Prophecy, delivered by the oracle in mystic Language: and meant only that I should be politically or morally poisoned by Lord Howe. . . . But the Prophecy shall be a false one."

Extract of another Letter to a Friend, dated Philadelphia September 14th, 1776.

"Yesterday Morning I returned with Dr. Franklin and Mr. Rutledge from Staten Island, where We met Lord Howe, and had about three hours Conversation with him. The Result of this Interview will do no disservice to Us. It is now plain, that his Lordship has no Power, but what is given him in the Act of Parliament. His Commission authorizes him to grant Pardons upon Submission: and to converse, confer, consult and advize, with such Persons as he may think proper, upon American Grievances, Upon the Instructions to Governors and the Acts of Parliament, and if any Errors should be found to have crept in, his Majesty and the Ministers were willing they should be rectified.

"My ride has been of Service to me. We were absent but four days. It was an agreable Excursion. His Lordship is about fifty Years of Age. He is a well bred Man but his Address is not so irresistable, as it has been represented. I could name you many Americans in your own Neighbourhood, whose Art, Address and Abilities are greatly superiour."



Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 47 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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