Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From James Warren

John Thomas to James Warren

117 John Adams’ Service in the Council: 10–30 August 1775 John Adams’ Service in the Council: 10–30 August 1775
John Adams' Service in the Council
10–30 August 1775
Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

After the official adjournment of the Second Continental Congress on 1 August, another meeting was held on the morning of the next day. Adams may not have left Philadelphia, then, until 3 August ( JCC , 2:239; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:185, note 2). We know that he arrived in Watertown on 10 August to take his seat on the Massachusetts Council, which was then serving as both the upper house and the executive of the province (M-Ar:Executive Council Records, 17:15).

Because Adams did not keep a diary or write letters during August 1775, it is difficult to go beyond the brief references to him in the records of the Council in describing his role in that body. He is listed as being present at Council meetings on nine days between his arrival and 30 August, which are also the days for which the Council on 11 September authorized payment of his expenses (M-Ar:Executive Council Records, 17:15, 28, 29, 31, 37, 39, 61, 66, 69, the dates being 10, 16–18, 22–23, 28–30 Aug.; same, Revolution, Council Papers, 164:91). Adams may, however, have been present on two other days, 19 and 24 August. On the 19th, a report, signed by Adams, concerning the disposition of Thomas Hutchinson's captured letters was presented to the Council, and on the 24th he is recorded as participating in four votes (report, 19 Aug., following Editorial Note; M-Ar:Legislative Council Records, 33:130, 185, 196, 204). For the entire period, the only indications of his individual activity, besides the report on Hutchinson's letters, are these: carrying to the House of Representatives a draft bill on annulling commissions given by former governors and lieutenant governors (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 1st sess., p. 60; text in Mass., Province Laws , 5:420–421); concurring in 28 votes of the Council on various acts and resolves; signing with other Council members in advance printed commissions for justices and inferior court judges; and apparently initiating the appointment of a committee on 23 August to investigate sources of “virgin lead” in Massachusetts, a motion that grew out of his committee responsibility in the congress (M-Ar:33:74–204, 154; JCC , 2:234–235). On 22 August the Council authorized payment of £130 for his expenses at the congress (M-Ar: 17:38). His expense accounts are in Diary and Autobiography , 2:162–167.

Adams' activities outside the Council are conjectural, but he certainly spent much of his time in Braintree. He was probably there on 14 August, when he settled his account with Joseph Bass Jr., and from 25 to 27 118August, as is indicated in his letter to Mrs. Warren (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:167; to Mercy Otis Warren, 26 Aug., below). Accompanied by Charles Lee, he made a tour of the American positions around Boston, but on what day is unknown to the editors (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 3:325). When he attended the Council on 22–24 August, he took Abigail with him to Watertown, but his stay was short, for, as noted, he was back in Braintree on 25 August (same, 2:167–168 and note 1). On 28 August, he left Braintree, stopped at Watertown for three days to attend meetings of the Council, and then continued on to Philadelphia, where he arrived on 12 September (same, 2:168; for the exact day of JA's arrival, see his docket entry on his letter from Edward Dilly of 11 July, above).

Report of Council Committee Regarding Governor Hutchinson’s Letters, 19 August 1775 Massachusetts Council JA Report of Council Committee Regarding Governor Hutchinson’s Letters, 19 August 1775 Massachusetts Council Adams, John
Report of Council Committee Regarding Governor Hutchinson's Letters
19 August 1775

THE COMMITTEE [to consider what is proper to be done with the Letters of the late Govr Hutchinson and how they shall be preserv'd]1 Report, that it is of Great Importance that the Letters and other Papers of the late Governor Hutchinson, be carefully preserved, as they Contain Documents for History of great Moment: and that Evidence, in the hand writing of a Man whose nefarious Intrigues and practices, have Occassioned the Shedding of so much innocent Blood, and brought such horrid Calamities on his Native Country, may be preserved for the full Conviction of the Present and future Generations: and therefore that such of the Letters, and Papers aforesaid, as are not now in the Custody of the Honble Saml Dexter Esqr of Dedham, be delivered to him, and together with those, already under his care, faithfully kept by him, until the further Order of this Court, and that such of them be Publish'd from time to time as he shall Judge proper.

John Adams per Order2

Read and accepted.

Dft not found. Reprinted from (Mass., Province Laws , 19:59).


Brackets in printed version.


No evidence has been found to reveal JA's contribution to this report, but the demonstrated concern for history and the conviction that Hutchinson was responsible in great part for bringing “horrid Calamities on his Native Country” are quite in keeping with JA's attitudes and thinking.