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Adams Family Papers : An Electronic Archive
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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 49 of 53, 20 September - 1 October 1776


to suffer my Character to lie under infamous Calumnies, because the Author of them, with a Pistol Bullet through his Spinal Marrow, died a Penitent. Charity requires that We should hope and believe that his humiliation was sincere, and I sincerely hope he was forgiven: but I will not conceal his former Character at the Expence of so much Injustice to my own, as this Scottish Creolion Bolingbroke in the days of his disappointed Ambition and unbridled Malice and revenge, was pleased falsely to attempt against it. Born on a Speck more obscure than Corsica, from an Original not only contemptible but infamous, with infinitely less courage and Capacity than Bonaparte, he would in my Opinion, if I had not controuled the fury of his Vanity, instead of relieving this Country from Confusion as Bonaparte did France, he would have involved it in all the Bloodshed and distractions of foreign and civil War at once.
A Letter of the 20 and 21st. from General Washington; two of the 19th. from J. Trumbull; one of the 21st. from the Convention of Delaware; one of the 14th from R. Varick; one of the 19th. from Governor Livingston; also, one of the 14th. from General Schuyler and one of the 19th from Colonel Van Schaick, and one from Dr. William Shippen were read:
Ordered that the Letter from Dr. Shippen be referred to the medical Committee, and the rest to the Board of War.
Two Petitions, one from Colonel J. Stark, and the other from Mons. Devourouy, were read and referred to the Board of War.
The Board of War brought in a report, which was read. Ordered to lie on the Table.
The Board of War brought in a farther report. Ordered to lie on the Table.
Congress resumed the Consideration of the Instructions to the Commissioners and the same being debated by Paragraphs and amended, were agreed to.


These Instructions were recorded only on the Secret Journal, and are not therefore, in my Power. They may be found, no doubt, at the Seat of Government, in the Office of the Secretary of State.
Two Letters from General Lee; one of the 24th. of August to the President, the other of the 27 of the same Month to the board of War, both dated at Savannah, being received, were read.
Congress took into Consideration the Report of the Board of War, whereupon Resolved &c. These Resolutions fill two Pages of the Journal.
Two Letters of the 24th. and 25th from General Washington, with sundry Papers inclosed; one of the 20th. from the Convention of New York; one of the 22d. from Joseph Trumbull; one of the 25th. from Colonel John Shee inclosing his Commission; and one of the 25th. from Jon. B. Smith requesting Leave to resign his office of Deputy Muster Master general were laid before Congress and read. Ordered that the Letters from General Washington, be referred to a Committee of five. The Members chosen Mr. Wythe, Mr. Hopkinson, Mr. Rutledge,Mr. J. Adams, and Mr. Stone.
Ordered that the Secret Committee deliver to the Board of War, the Care And Custody of all Arms, Ammunition and other warlike Stores now under their care, or that may hereafter be imported or purchased by them for Account of the United States of America.
The Board of War, to whom the Petition of William McCue was referred, brought in a report, whereupon Resolved, as in the Journal.
Resolved that the Board of War be impowered and directed, on requisition of the General, or commanding Officers in the several departments, to send such Articles of Military Stores, and other necessaries, which they may have in their Possession, or can procure.
Resolved that the Board of War be directed to order the three Virginia Battalions, now on their March to New York, to be lodged in the Barracks at Wilmington; there to remain till further orders.


The Committee to whom were referred the Letters from General Washington of the 24th. and 25th instant, and the Papers inclosed therein, brought in their report, which was taken into Consideration; whereupon many Resolutions were passed, which appear in the Journal, and the Remainder of the Report postponed.
Resolved that a Committee of four be appointed to confer with Brigadier General Mifflin. The Members chosen, Mr. Hooper, Mr. Lynch R. H. Lee, Mr. Sherman, Mr. J. Adams and Mr. Gerry.
Resolved that a Committee of five be appointed to prepare and bring in a Plan of a military Accademy at the Army: The Members chosen Mr. Hooper, Mr. Lynch, Mr. Wythe, Mr. Williams and Mr. J. Adams.
Wednesday October 2. 1776. On this same day, I wrote to Colonel Knox in these Words. "This day I had the honour of making a motion for the Appointment of a Committee to consider of a Plan for the Establishment of a military Accademy, in the Army. The Committee was appointed and your Servant was one. Write me your Sentiments upon the Subject."
As this was, in my Opinion the most critical and dangerous Period of the whole revolutionary War, as all that I had seen and heard and read of the State of our Army made a great impression [upon] my Mind, and arroused the most allarming Apprehension, I will conceal nothing from Posterity. My own private Letters, to confidential Friends, will shew my Opinion at the time of the State of facts, and the measures that were necessary, to retrieve our disgraces. Like Mr. Gifford, I look back, with a sort of Scepticism, on the Application of those days and cannot account for the possibility of finding time amidst all my Employments in Congress and the Board of War, to write and copy the Letters I find in my Books. I had no Secretary or Clerk and all appears in my hand Writing. I wrote to Colonel Tudor

Dr. Sir

Your obliging favours of September 6 from New York and that of the 23d from the Plains of Haarlem, are now before me.

The Picture you draw of the Army, and the disorders which prevail in it, is shocking: but I believe it is just. But We often find, that in the variagated Sc ne of human life, that much good grows out of great Evil. . . . A few disgraces and defeats have done more, towards convincing the Congress, than the Rhetorick of many months, assisted by frequent Letters from the General, and many other Officers of the Army, was able to effect. Before this time you have been informed, that the Articles of War, are passed and printed, and a new Plan for the formation of a permanent and regular Army, is adopted. I wish it may have Success. -- Pray give me your Opinion of it.
The late Events at New York have almost overcome my Utmost Patience. I can bear the Conflagration of Towns, nay almost any thing else, public or private, better than disgrace. The Cowardice of New England men is an unexpected discovery to me, and I confess has put my Philosophy to the Tryal. If I had heard, that Parsons's and Fellows's Brigades had been cutt to Pieces, and had my Father, my Brother and Son been among the Slain, I sincerely believe, upon a cool examination of my own heart, it would not have given me so much grief as the shamefull flight of the 15th. instant. . . . I hope that God will forgive the guilty in the next World: but, should any question concerning this transaction, come into any place where I have a Vote, I should think it my duty to be inexorable, in this. We have none of the particulars, but I conclude, that such detestable Behaviour of whole Brigades, could not have happened, without the worst Examples, in some Officers of Rank. -- These, if any such there are, shall never want my Voice, for sending them to another World. If the best Friend I have, should prove to be one of them, I should think myself guilty of his Crime, and that I deserved his Punishment, if I interposed one Word, between him and death.
I lament the Fall of the young Hero, Henly. But I wish you had been more particular, in your narration of the Enterprize, which proved so glorious and so fatal to him. You are much mistaken in your Apprehension, that We are minutely informed of such Events. We suffer great Anxiety, and the Public suffers many Misfortunes, for Want of Information.


Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 49 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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