Papers of John Adams, volume 3

To William Heath, 5 October 1775 JA Heath, William To William Heath, 5 October 1775 Adams, John Heath, William
To William Heath
Philadelphia Octr. 5th. 17751 Sir

I never had the Pleasure of a Correspondence or any particular Acquaintance with you, which can justify the Freedom I have taken of giving you this Trouble: But as the good of our Country, which I know is your first Consideration, is my Motive, I presume you will think it a Sufficient Apology.

In the present State of America, which is so novel and unexpected, and indeed unthought of by Numbers of Persons in every Colony, it is natural to expect Misapprehensions, Jealousies and Misrepresentations in Abundance: and it must be our Care to attend to them, and if possible explain what is misunderstood and State truly what is misrepresented.

It is represented in this City by Some Persons, and it makes an unfriendly Impression upon Some Minds, that in the Massachusetts Regiments, there are great Numbers of Boys, Old Men, and Negroes, Such as are unsuitable for the service, and therefore that the Con-184tinent is paying for a much greater Number of Men, than are fit for Action or any Service. I have endeavoured to the Utmost of my Power to rectify these Mistakes as I take them to be, and I hope with some success, but still the Impression is not quite removed.

I would beg the favour of you therefore sir, to inform me Whether there is any Truth at all in this Report, or not.

It is natural to suppose there are some young Men and some old ones and some Negroes in the service, but I should be glad to know if there are more of these in Proportion in the Massachusetts Regiments, than in those of Connecticutt, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, or even among the Rifle Men.

You may depend, sir upon my Using the most prudent Caution, in the Use of your Letter, and especially of your Name but I could certainly make a good Use, of a Letter from you upon the Subject. Great Fault is likewise found in Several Parts of the Continent of the Massachusetts Officers, whom I believe, taken on an Average, and in Proportion to Numbers to be equal at least if not Superiour to any other Colony.

I must confess I had another View in giving you this Trouble which was to introduce to your Attention, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch and Coll Harrison, a Committee from this Congress to consult with the General and with the New England Colonies, concerning a Plan for future Armies. Mr. Lynch is from S. Carolina, Coll Harrison from Virginia, both Gentlemen of great Fortune, and respectable Characters, Men of Abilities and very Staunch Americans. Dr. Franklyn needs no words of mine. I am, sir, with great Respect, your very huml servant,

John Adams

RC (MHi:William Heath Papers); addressed: “To William Heath Esqr Brigadier General in the American Army Cambridge Per favour of Mr. Lynch”; docketed: “from Jno Adams Esqr Octr. 5th. 1775.”


On this same date, JA wrote a similar letter to Gen. John Thomas, introducing the committee members and asking about boys, old men, and Negroes among Massachusetts regiments. In addition, he asked particularly about the qualifications of Henry Knox and Josiah Waters as engineers (RC offered for sale, The Collector, March 1948, p. 57).

From Charles Lee, 5 October 1775 Lee, Charles JA From Charles Lee, 5 October 1775 Lee, Charles Adams, John
From Charles Lee
Camp Oct'r the 5th 1775 My Dr Sir

As you may possibly harbour some suspicions that a certain passage in your intercepted letters have made some disagreeable impressions on my mind I think it necessary to assure You that it is quite the 185reverse. Untill the bulk of Mankind is much alter'd I consider your the reputation of being whimsical and eccentric rather as a panegyric than sarcasm and my love of Dogs passes with me as a still higher complement. I have thank heavens a heart susceptible of freindship and affection. I must have some object to embrace. Consequently when once I can be convincd that Men are as worthy objects as Dogs I shall transfer my benevolence, and become as staunch a Philanthropist as the canting Addison affected to be. But you must not conclude from hence that I give into general misanthropy. On the contrary when I meet with a Biped endow'd with generosity valour good sense patriotism and zeal for the rights of humanity I contract a freindship and passion for him amounting to bigotry or dotage and let me assure you without complements that you yourself appear to me possess'd of these qualities. I give you my word and honour that I am serious, and should be unhappy to the greatest degree if I thought you would doubt of my sincerity. Your opinion therefore of my attainments as a Soldier and Scholar is extremely flattering. Long may you continue in this (to me) gratissimus error. But something too much of this.

Before this reaches you the astonishing and terrifying accusation or rather detection of Doctor Church will be reported to the Congress. I call it astonishing, for admitting his intentions not to be criminal so gross a piece of stupidity in so sensible a Man is quite a portent. And supposing him guilty, it is terrifying to the last degree—as such a revolt must naturally infect with jealousy all political affiance. It will spread an universal diffidence and suspicion than which nothing can be more pernicious to Men embark'd in a cause like ours, the corner stone of Which is laid not only on honour virtue and disinterestedness—but on the perswasion that the whole be actuated by the same divine principles. I devoutly wish that such may not be the effects.

We long here to receive some news from the Congress. Now is the time to shew your firmness. If the least timidity is display'd, We and all Posterity are ruin'd; on the contrary at this crisis courage and steadiness must insure the blessings of liberty not only to G Britain but perhaps to all Mankind. Do not go hobling on, like the Prince of Liliput, with one high heel'd shoe one low one, for you will undoubtedly fall upon your noses evry step you take. It is my humble opinion that you ought to begin by confiscating (or at least laying under heavy contributions) the estates of all the notorious enemies to American Liberty through the Continent. This wou'd lighten the burthen which must otherwise fall heavy on the shoulders of the Community—that afterwards you should invite all the maritime powers of the world into 186your Ports. If they are so dull as not to accept the invitation—weed yourselves from all ideas of foreign commerce—and become intirely a Nation of Plowmen and Soldiers. A little habit, and I am perswaded you will bless yourselves for the resolution but I am running into an essay, shall therefore to prevent pedantry and impertenence stop short with once more assuring you that I am most huly and affectionately yours,

C Lee

My respects to your namesake and let me hear from you.

Spada1 sends his love to you and declares in very intellegible language that He has far'd much better since your allusion to him for He is carress'd now by all ranks sexes and Ages.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Gen. Lee. Octr. 5. 1775.”


The name of one of Lee's dogs.