Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From Mercy Otis Warren, 4 September 1775 Warren, Mercy Otis JA From Mercy Otis Warren, 4 September 1775 Warren, Mercy Otis Adams, John
From Mercy Otis Warren
Watertown September 4. 1775 Sir

This afternoon came to Hand your Favour of August 26. May you ever have it in your power to expatiate this Largly on your own Happiness, but I would not have you Imagine when you in your sixteen hours Nap and Dreaming of the Feilds of Arcadia, and are Enraptured with the Happy Elisian and paridisaic scenes at Braintree that you are the only Happy Mortal among your Numerous Circle of Friends. I dare say had they the talent of Easey Discription they would Boast of a share of the Felicities of Life though few can pronounce themselves Compleatly happy Even for a day, either Amidst the Cares the tumults and Follies of the World or the still pleasures of Rural Life.

By your Freind Mr. Collins I thought It my Duty to Let you know I heard from Mrs Adams this day who has been a Little unwell since you left her but is much better.1 I shall Call on her in a day or two 130and Endeavour to Return her kindness to me when in the same situation.

The person who Holds the first place in my heart your invariable Friend has been too unwell this day to take up the pen this Evening or you would have Received the superier pleasure of a Line from him Instead of this Interruption from me.

The ships which Arrived Last Fryday are from Halifax with a few petatoes and a Little wood. The people there are in Expectation of an Attack from a Body of troops which they hear are to be sent down under the Command of Preble and are preparing for Defence.2 If they suffer such terrors from the Name of a Worn out American Veteran what must be their Apprehensions from the Active Vigorous spirited Heros who are Riseing up from Every Corner of the united Colonies to oppose the Wicked system of politicks which has Long Governed a Corrupt Court.

But I ask parden for touching on War politicks or anything Relative therto, as I think you gave me a Hint in yours Not to Approach the Verge of anything so far beyond the Line of my sex.3

The Worthy bearer of this will inform you of all the Inteligence stiring. Tranqulity still Reigns in the Camp. We scarcly hear the Distant Roar of Cannen for 24 hours past.

By a person from Boston Last saterday we Learn they are Building a Floating Batery in town in order to Bombard Prospect Hill. What a Contemptable figure do the arms of Britain make. But I Have no time to write nor have you to Read observations either Natural Moral or political, so shall ajourn any thing of that kind till your Reverie of Compleat Happiness is a Little over and you Descend to touch again in the arts and sciences.

With Great Respect (after the affectionate Compliments of your Friend) I subscribe sir your unfeigned Friend and Humble servant, Marcia

Swift of Boston is Really Dead.4

RC (Adams Papers); addressed by James Warren: “To the Honbl. John Adams Esqr. Member of Congress att Philadelphia per Favr. Mr. Collins”; readdressed: “Favd pr Sol. Southwick N. Port.” At Newport, Collins put this letter into other hands, perhaps because he feared capture by British vessels. Beneath the seal, he added a note to JA:

Newport Sepr. 15th 1775

Having taken passage by water to N. York, thought best to forward this by Post. Thy Friend.

Step: Collins

NB We are wating for a fair wind. We sal'd once, got as far as Point Judah Judith and was oblig'd to put Back with a Head Wind.

131 1.

AA, TBA, and several other members of the household contracted dysentery soon after JA's departure for Philadelphia. The disease reached epidemic proportions, causing many deaths, including that of AA's mother, Elizabeth Quincy Smith, on 1 Oct. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:276–280, 284–285, 287–289 1:276, 278, 284, 285, 287, 288, 289 ).


No expedition under Jedediah Preble, who at 69 years of age had turned down general's commissions from the Provincial Congress and from the Continental Congress, was contemplated. The Americans were, however, planning an attack on Canada, with one force going up the Kennebec River and another proceeding from New York. The commanders were respectively Benedict Arnold and Philip Schuyler (French, First Year , 431–432).


Mrs. Warren misread JA's meaning. His own relaxed mood kept him from discussing serious matters like these. See his rejoinder in his letter to James Warren, 26 Sept. (below).


Samuel Swift, who had been caught in Boston at the outbreak of war and was by August confined to his house under surveillance, died on 30 Aug. (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 9:580–583).

John Adams’ Commission as Justice of the Peace in Suffolk County, 6 September 1775 Morton, Perez Massachusetts Provincial Congress Deputy Secretary Massachusetts Provincial Congress JA John Adams’ Commission as Justice of the Peace in Suffolk County, 6 September 1775 Morton, Perez Massachusetts Provincial Congress Deputy Secretary Massachusetts Provincial Congress Adams, John
John Adams' Commission as Justice of the Peace in Suffolk County

Watertown, 6 September 1775. Printed form with spaces filled in appropriately (Adams Papers); signed by Perez Morton, Deputy Secretary, and fifteen Council members; on the verso in an unidentified hand: “J. Adams Esq.”; docketed in later years by JA: “Commision.”

This commission, listed in Council records under the date of 8 September, was approved at the same time as similar ones for John Hancock and Samuel Adams (Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass. E.1b.c, Reel No. 2, Unit 2, p. 464–465). The commissions made them “of the Quorum,” a distinction reserved for only the more prominent justices in a county. The appointments followed past patronage practice of handing such commissions to members of the Council and the House, a practice that was vigorously protested a few months later by the Berkshire Constitutionalists (Robert J. Taylor, Western Massachusetts in the Revolution, Providence, 1954, p. 28, 83). No evidence has been found, however, that JA ever made use of his commission.

Printed form with spaces filled in appropriately (Adams Papers); signed by Perez Morton, Deputy Secretary, and fifteen Council members; on the verso in an unidentified hand: “J. Adams Esq.”; docketed in later years by JA: “Commision.”

From James Warren, 11 September 1775 Warren, James JA From James Warren, 11 September 1775 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
Watertown Sepr 11th 1775 My Dear Sir

I please myself with the probability that before this you are safely arrived at Philadelphia, after having fine weather for Journeying.1 I hope you will not be disappointed in your wishes with regard to the Spirit and Temper of the Congress. I should have wrote you before if I had been well, but from A Cold I took in the long storm we had here, have been much Indisposed since you left us. Am now better.

Nothing very material has Occurred. The Military Operations are much in the same way as when you was last here. The works on 132Ploughed Hill2 are thought to be Impregnable. They fired at them and Roxbury till they Tired themselves and have now in a manner ceased. We seldom hear A Cannon tho' the natural Effusions of Resentment and disappointment now and then give us an Instance, harmless enough for they never Injure us. All seems to be in a Tranquil state for a war. The greatest difficulty seems to be to govern our own Soldiery. I may say the rifle Men only for I hear of no other. Yesterday the General was Obliged to order no less than 24 of them under Guard. They are the most disorderly part of the Army if not alone so. I have not been at head quarters since Saturday but am told that for some Crime one of them was ordered under Guard. An Attempt was made by a Number to rescue him, upon which they were also ordered to be put under Guard, upon which a whole Company undertook to rescue them, and the General was Obliged to Call out a large detachment from the Rhode Island Troops to Apprehend them, who though prepared for resistance thought proper to submit, and the Ringleaders are now in Custody. I believe he will Choose to make Examples of them. I should were I in his place.3

We have in a few days past a great deal of foreign News, and all seems to agree that both England, and Ireland are in great Confusion. It is said the Irish Parliament have resolved that no more Troops, or Provisions for Troops shall come from there to America, and that several of the Recruiting parties there have been killed. That the whole Kingdom is in an Uproar, and in such an Opposition to Administration as will Intitle them equally with the Americans to the Character of Rebels. The Vessel that brings this Account has been stoped by the Men of war at Rhode Island in her way to Providence, and perhaps many other perticulars Smothered.4 Callihorne5 is Arrived at Boston, and several Letters have been received, and some of them sent out of Boston giveing Assurances that no more Troops will be sent to America, and that the dispute will be soon settled. Oliver Wendal6 told me he had seen one to that purpose from a Man whose Intelligence he could depend on. Other Letters I hear of, which say the People had Obliged the King to promise not only to send no other Troops out, but to recall the Fleet and Army Already here. If all this be true how seasonably will your last Petition arrive to serve as a Mantle to Cover the Nakedness of the Ministry, and to Screen them from the Shame of being forced to a retreat by the Virtue of the Americans. Depend on it they will Catch at it, like a hungry Fish at a Bait, and we must be Content with a Harvest Blasted with Mildew, Cut before it is ripe, and Consequently of little value. Does no Powder Arrive. I wish we 133may be able to give them at least one Blast more, that they may leave us thoroughly Impressed with a Sense of American Bravery and Prowess. If they do go, I know you won't fail to do every thing in your power to furnish us. Money if possible grows scarcer than powder. The last dollar perhaps will be gone Tomorrow, and then I Expect we shall be all din'd with Clamours, and Complaints. We have enough of them Already from the largeness of the Bills.7 1200 Men March this afternoon and Tomorrow under Coll. Arnold for Newberry Port to Embark for Kennebeck in their way to Quebec. I wish they may not be Intercepted, in their passage. Were I to Conduct the matter I think I should march them all the way by Land. Two frigates and a Number of Schooners I am told left Boston Yesterday. Probably to Intercept them. A few deserters come over to us, and several of our rifle men have deserted to the Enemy.

A Ship from Piscataqua for the West Indies owned by Mr. Langdon was taken by the Lively and has been retaken by An Armed Vessel from Beverly and Carried into Cape Ann.8 The Prisoners were Brought to Head quarters on Saturday. I don't find your Friend P: Henry in the List of Delegates from Virginia. How does it happen. It gives me Concern, you know I have a great Opinion of him.9

Our Council are yet seting tho' they Talk of An Adjournment Tomorrow. They seem to have been very Busy. I can hardly tell you what has been done since you left us. Coll. Prescot Sherriff of this County, Coll. Dwight Worcester, Dr. Winthrop Judge of Probate his Son Register, Foster Appointed for Worcester. No Appointments for the Superior Court.10 They seem as much at a loss as ever. I Inclose A Letter left at my Lodgings.11 I Suppose from Braintree and so will give you an Account of your Family. I have been much Concerned about them. Mrs. Adams and almost the whole Family I hear have been Sick. I had the pleasure of hearing last Evening that She was better, and all the rest Except One of the Maids and little Tommy who I don't learn are dangerous. You will please to make my regards to All Friends perticularly Mr. Adams, and believe me to be with great Sincerity Your Friend,


Six regulars put off from Boston in A Boat and were unable to row back against the Wind which blew hard at N:W they say. They drifted on Dorchester and were taken.12

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Warren Sept. 11th 1775.”


JA arrived in Philadelphia on 12 Sept., the day before the first meeting of the 2d session of the Second Continental Congress, which had been 134scheduled for 5 Sept. but had been postponed for lack of a quorum. He had left Watertown on 1 Sept. in the company of Samuel Adams (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:168–169; Samuel Adams, Writings , 3:226; JCC , 2:240).


Washington had taken Plowed Hill on 26 Aug., a site that commanded the Mystic River, and kept control despite British artillery (French, First Year , p. 481).


On 12 Sept., 33 members of Col. William Thompson's regiment of Pennsylvania riflemen were found guilty of “disobedient and mutinous Behavior” and were fined, the money to go to the support of Dr. Benjamin Church's hospital (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 3:490–491). For an eyewitness account of this episode, see Penna. Archives , 2d ser., 10:8–10.


This foreign news is taken from the Boston Gazette, 11 Sept. Compare Force, Archives , 4th ser., 3:168–169.


The reference remains obscure.


Oliver Wendell (1733–1818), Boston merchant and officeholder (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 13:367–374).


Warren writes here as paymaster general. On 1 Aug. the congress had ordered that $500,000 be sent to the army in Massachusetts ( JCC , 2:235–236). By the date of Warren's letter, only $172,520 had reached the province. Washington urged speed and described the army's state as “not far from mutiny” ( Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 3:482, 512–513). On 13 Sept. the congress ordered that $527,480 be sent at once; it arrived on the 29th ( JCC , 2:245; Warren to JA, 1 Oct., below).


The Unity, commanded by Capt. Flagg, was seized by the British warship Lively and retaken by Nicholson Broughton of the schooner Hannah on 7 Sept. ( Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. 2:36, 92–93; Allen, Mass. Privateers , p. 163).


See JA's explanation to Warren, 19 Sept. (below).


Appointments were not made until October.


Probably AA's letter of 8–10 Sept. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:276–278).


Reported in the Boston Gazette, 18 Sept.