Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From James Warren, 19 September 1775 Warren, James JA From James Warren, 19 September 1775 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
Watertown Sepr 19th: 1775 My Dear Sir

I had fixed a determination in my own mind to omitt no Oppertunity of writeing either to you, or my Friend Mr. S. Adams, but I have Indeed so little to say at this time, that I should have thought it hardly worth while to trouble you with a Letter had it not been to Inclose one from Mrs. Adams,1 who with the Children I had the pleasure Yesterday to hear were recovered. I have been much Concerned about them. I presume the Inclosed will give you the State of the Family, and make it Unnecessary for me to Add more. I have been here ever since you left us, without once hearing from you. I wrote to you a week ago, and took pains to Collect every thing I could think of as News foreign or Domestic. Your Intelligence from Abroad is so much better than ours at this Time that I Expect no Success in handing you our foreign News, and of the domestic kind we have very little. We suffer Extreamly for want of it when we meet in the Street. We have not a word more to say than to Enquire after each others Health, or make on Observation on the weather. These are Circumstances so different from what we have been used to, that we are quite out of our Element. Scarcely any one thing has happened since my last worthy of your Notice. We have frequent desertions to us, seldom two Nights without an Instance of that kind. The Night before last were four or five Sailors, by the best accounts given by Gentlemen out of Town. 162The Soldiery are dispirited, by their Confinement, their want of Supplies, and above all by their vast fatigue. They Live in Continual Horror of being Attacked. Their Guards are therefore large, and must be Numerous from the Extensiveness of their works. It is supposed that frequent Shews of Attacking them would soon wear them out. I mentioned this at Head Quarters Yesterday. I hope they will take that Method to harrass them. A Servant of Genl. Howe! deserted about 10 days ago. I heard him tell the General that his Master Constantly set up till one O Clock, and then slept till Morning in his Boots and Cloaths. They seem to be makeing but little preparation for winter. It was reported that they were pulling down the Houses from the Hay-market to the Fortification in order to Erect works to retreat to if they could not hold those they now have.2 They really have begun to pull down the Houses, but it is generally thought to be only for fuel of which they are in great want, and they Choose that place as the Clearing it would be most Convenient for new works if they should have Occasion for more. We have had scarce a Gun fired for 10 days before Sunday Morning when A Number of the Rebels Appearing without their works on Boston Neck, our People fired four Cannon on them which, drove them in, killed two, and wounded five of their Men as we have learned by deserters.3 They returned a smart Fire without any Success, and Yesterday again Roxbury Side had a very heavy Canonade with as little, only one officer very slightly wounded. This is indeed very remarkable as our People Expose themselves without reserve haveing been so Enured to Shott, and shells that do no Execution that they totally disregard them. Cobble Hill is to be possessed and fortified this or Tomorrow Night. Putnam is to be gratified with the Command.4 This must Open a warm Sceen, and will furnish us Abundantly with the Musick of Cannon, and Topicks of Conversation. The Constant Expectation I have had of receiving the Money from Philadelphia has Confined me to this place, Contrary to both my Inclinations and Interest, supposeing it would not do to be Absent when it came. It is not yet arrived. This delay is Astonishing, and I fear will Cause irreperable Injuries to the Army. The Soldiers that are not paid for the Month of August are very Uneasy. The General Can't fulfill his promise to them. The Quarter Master Genl. and Commissary Genl. are both out of money. Their Credit suffering, and their provisions for the Army at a stand, and this at a time when the Season is Approaching that Transportation from distant places will be difficult. Do Apologize to my Friend Adams for my not writeing to him. It is really Oweing to the poverty of the Times. I had no Subject 163without I had entered on Metaphysicks, Mathematics or some subjects foreign from Politics or News which alone Engage my Attention. I will however write him soon, Subject or no Subject. The Councill Adjourned for a week. The Assembly meets tomorrow. Whenever any thing Occurs you shall hear it, and shall on my part be glad to hear of your doings. I want to hear of high Spirited Measures. It is in my Opinion ridiculous to hesitate now, about takeing up Crown officers, and fifty other things.

You won't loose sight of powder, and Money. I wish You Health and every Happiness, and am with Great Sincerity your Friend.

Compliments to all Friends. I forgot to tell you that they are Exerciseing their Wit, and diverting themselves in Boston by versifying the Letters taken from Hitchburne as I hear. I have not been Able to get Sight of it.5

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Sept. 19, 1775 Warren.”


Probably AA's letter of 16 i.e. 17 Sept. ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:278–280).


Such a line would have protected the harbor, particularly the Long Wharf area, and thus supply lines and escape routes.


Reported in the Boston Gazette, 25 Sept.


Actually Putnam did not fortify this hill until November (Frothingham, Siege of Boston , p. 268.)


Almost certainly a broadside entitled A Paraphrase on the Second Epistle of John, the Round-Head, to James, Prolocutor of the Rump-Parliament, in a Liberal Manner; wherein the True Spirit of the Writer Is Preserved (Evans Supplement, No. 42918). Misdated 25 July and probably taken from the intercepted letter as it appeared in the Massachusetts Gazette, the letter in the broadside took the form of a series of sentences and paragraphs, ten in all, taken in order from the original and labeled “verses.” After each piece of text or verse, the satirist contributed a “paraphrase” or unflattering explication.

From Josiah Quincy, 22 September 1775 Quincy, Josiah JA From Josiah Quincy, 22 September 1775 Quincy, Josiah Adams, John
From Josiah Quincy
Sept: 22d: 1775 Dear Sir

Under my adverse Circumstances, I stood, and still stand in great Need of your Advice; and am therefore, very sorry I had not an Opportunity to converse with you, before your Return to the Congress.

Your kind Letter of July 29th is now before me. Were my Abilities equal to my Inclination, you would be amply assisted, in giving Birth to a Revolution, which, I think with you, “seems to be in the Womb of Providence as important as any that has happened in the Affairs of Mankind.”

Agreable to the Old Man's Sentiments, in this enclosed Paper, “the Sword and not the Quill is now to decide the Controversy;”1 Nothing therefore, could revive my desponding Hopes more, than the assurance 164you give me, of a sufficient Plenty of Powder against another Year, and of our own make.

In my former Letter2 I said, that “the Harbor might be blocked up; and both Seamen and Soldiers made Prisoners at Discretion;” which seems to you incredible. Please, to read at your Leasure this following Explanation. There are but two Channels, through which Ships of Burthen can pass to and from Boston. One of them runs between the west Head of Long Island, and the Moon, (so called) and is about a Mile across. This Channel is too shallow for any Ship of War above 20 Guns. The other runs between the east Head of Long Island, and the south Point of Dear Island; and is about a Mile and half from Side to Side. This, the only Channel through which capital Ships can pass, leads (outward bound) through the Narrows (so called) between Gallop's Island and Lovel's Island; where the Channel is not wider than the Length of a 50 Gun Ship. In the opening between Gallops Island and George's Island is Nantasket Road; where, one, is always, and at present, five Men of War are stationed, to gaurd the Narrows from being stop'd up.

Upon the foregoing Facts, I thus reason:

The Moon Island communicates with Squantum Neck, at low Water, almost dryshod. A defensible Fort, therefore, upon Squantum, may be so placed, as to secure a Retreat not only from the Moon, but from Squantum to the Main. One upon the east Head of the Moon, and another, if found necessary, upon the west Head of Long Island, secures the Passage between, and covers a Retreat from the Latter to the Former. Another upon the Summit in the middle of Long Island covers the Shore on each Side, so, as that no Force can land without being greatly anoyed, if not entirely prevented. Another strong Battery from 20 to 40 peices of heavy Cannon at the east Head of Long Island, commands, not only the Ship Channel, but the Narrows, and Nantasket Road, so that no Ship can remain there with Safety; and consequently, by sinking Hulks in the Narrows we might prevent any Ship of Force from going out or coming in. If the Passage thro' the Narrows is not stop'd, I am sensible, a Ship with a fresh Gale of Wind, and flood or Ebb Tide, which is rapid between Long Island and Deer Island, might run through without any great Hazard; but, after the east Head of Long Island is fortified, I can foresee Nothing to hinder, the Narrows being reduced to such a Draught of Water, as that, no Vessel of any considerable Force, can pass through there. This, being effected; as I said above, both Seamen and Soldiers, if they dont escape, by a timely Flight, must become Prisoners at Discretion.

165 166

I have been told, there is in one of the English Magazines, an accurate Draft of the Harbor.3 If you can procure it, upon Examination, you may determin, the Distance and Depth of Water between the Islands aforesaid with Precision; and consequently, whether such a Scheme is practicable or not.

I have thought, and said from the Beginning, that Row Gallies must be our first mode of Defence by Sea; it gives me therefore, Pleasure to hear, our worthy Friend Doctor F——n is employed in constructing some for the City of Philadelphia. I wish I had the same Employment here, for I am very sure, twenty of them, under proper Direction, would have taken or destroyed all those Cruisers and Cutters, that have infested, and done so much Damage, in, the Vineyard and Long Island Sounds in the Course of the Summer past; besides, being a safe Convoy to our Provision Vessels. When I first proposed the Scheme to our Committee of Safety, it was objected, that, we had no Body skilled in the Construction of them. Afterwards I heard of a Ship Carpenter, just escaped from Boston, who had been several Years a Prisoner in a Turkish Row Galley, and had formed a compleat three feet Model of one. It was then objected, that, heavy Cannon, and Powder were wanting. An insuperable Objection, most certainly; which I hope will soon be removed.

Several Vessels have lately arrived in Boston from England; but the News they bring is industriously secreted. The sullen Silence, and dejected Countenances of the Officers, give Rise to various Conjectures. God grant the Truth may be a Dissolution of a venal P——t, a disbanded Army, and an Order for the Ships and Troops here to return imediately Home.

A few Days since, I received a Letter from my Daughter in Norwich,4 in which is the following Passage: “I have just heard that the Ship in which Mr. —— sailed is arrived in England after 28 Days Passage. I have the Pleasure to hear that there is like to be an Accommodation between Great B—— and America, and that speedily.” By the same Conveyance I received the Resolves Petition and Remonstrance of the City of London to their Sovereign. If such a Spirit of Resentment animates that powerfull Corporation upon the first News of Hostilities, what must be their Indignation, when they come to hear all the Circumstances, that have attended, and disgraced the British Arms, both by Sea and Land! Must not such accumulated Disasters, like so many Flashes of Lightning and Peals of Thunder, penetrate the Hearts of a bloodthirsty Scotch Faction with Dispair of ever enslaving Americans, who have fought with such Valor and Intrepedity as must 167exclude all Hope of Success in any future Attempt! Where will those Sons of Violence, H——n, S——l,5 and others of the same Complection, hide their guilty Heads, when called to answer, for the insidious Arts they have been practicing, against their native Country; to the Ruin and Distruction, of countless Numbers of their industrious Fellow Citizens, whose Worth compared with theirs, is as Diamonds to pebble Stones! When I contemplate the Conduct of such infamous Parricides, my Nerves are braced, my Hand feels the Impulse of my Heart, is ready to drop the Pen and grasp the Sword of Vengeance! I feel my Self young again, and long to exterpate them, and the Memory of them from the Face of the Earth! “Is there no hidden Thunder, in the Stores of Heav'n, Red with uncommon Wrath, to blast the men, Who owe their Greatness, to their Countrys Ruin?”6 Oh! that kindred Flame, has ere this, inspired the Breast of every true Briton; and their s——d S——n7 made to feel, what it is to alienate the Affections of the greatest Part of his Subjects, to gratifie the insatiable Avarice and Ambition, of those treacherous Sycophants, who wish to see him dethroned; and his royal Diadem encircling the Head of a Caledonian Exile.8 Must the Trappings of a M——h and his Minions, which wou'd maintain a Commonwealth be provided for at such an immense Expence of Blood and Treasure? Forbid it Heaven! Shall not the virtuous Part of Mankind, finally prevail over the vicious, notwithstanding the Numbers of the Latter and the Scarcity of the Former? They certainly will, if upon every Occasion, the Spirit of Party is sacrificed, to Unanimity and Perseverance. But whither does my Zeal transport Me? I forget, I am transmitting Sentiments to One, who anticipates all, and more than all I have said or can say upon such interesting Subjects. I beg Leave, therefore, to conclude, with my ardent Wishes, that, the Success of your Endeavors to restore Peace and Tranquility; the genuine Offspring of Order and good Government, may be equal to your distinguished Abilities! And that you and yours, may live long to enjoy the happy Fruits of your patriotic Exertions; however infinite Wisdom may see fit to dispose of Your affectionate and faithfull humble Servant,

P.S. Your good Lady is so well recovered of her tedious Indisposition, as to favour us with a short Visit with your amiable Daughter last Monday.

Be so good as to present my Affectionate Regards to good Doctor F——n; and tell him I have wrote three long Letters to him to 168London, and one since his Arrival at Philadelphia; but, having received no Answer fear they all miscarried.

Please to present my Compliments of Congratulations to Colo. Hancock and his Lady to whom I wish mutual and lasting Happiness.

RC (Adams Papers); with enclosure, for which see note 1.


From an enclosure, a letter printed in the New England Chronicle, 24 Aug., and signed “An OLD MAN, from my cottage near Boston.” Probably written by Josiah Quincy himself, it dealt with the exchange of letters between Gen. Burgoyne and Gen. Charles Lee that occurred in July.


Of 11 July (above).


Probably “A Plan of the Town and Chart of the Harbour of Boston, Exhibiting a View of the Islands, Castle Forts, and Entrances into the Said Harbour,” which originally appeared in the Gentleman's Magazine for Jan. 1775 (vol. 45: facing p. 41). This map is reprinted in reduced size in Adams Family Correspondence , 1: following p. 240, No. 9. JA refers to the map in a letter to James Warren, 8 Oct. (below).


Abigail Phillips Quincy, widow of Josiah Quincy Jr. (Josiah Quincy, Josiah Quincy, Jr. , p. 288–289). She may be referring to the arrival in London on 14 Aug. of Richard Penn, who carried the Olive Branch Petition from the congress.


Thomas Hutchinson and Jonathan Sewall.


Written in the margin and its place in the text indicated by an asterisk, this is a quotation with slight modifications from Addison, Cato, Act I, scene i.


Sacred sovereign.


The Young Pretender, Charles Edward Stuart, grandson of James II.