Papers of John Adams, volume 8

From James Warren, 29 July 1779 Warren, James JA From James Warren, 29 July 1779 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
My Dear Sir Plymo. N E: July 29th. 1779

I am Told that in the few Letters which have been received from you here you Complain greatly that your Friends dont write to you oftner, and that you seldom hear from America. I easily Conceive such A Situation painful, and have Contributed my Mite to prevent it by writeing by every good Opportunity and long Letters too, for I know that People in high Stations have their Curiosity as well as others, and if they Assume Brevity themselves in their Letters, they Love to have Matters in detail from others. Upon this Principle I filled a large Sheet which went six weeks ago1 per Capt. Thompson in A little flying Schooner, which I dare say will run Clear and deliver you the Letter in safety, and make it Unnecessary to be lengthy in this. Our Spirits have been Alternately raised and depressed by the Accounts we have had at different Times from South Carolina. Sometimes the British Army has been wholly routed, and destroyed, and at others were advancing with A prospect of Carrying Charlestown. In Short the Accounts both here and at Philadelphia have been Interrupted, Confused and Uncertain.2 I dont learn that Congress ever get any regular Official Accounts. I had a Letter from Mr. Lovel of the 18th. Instant, in which he gives such Accounts as they had received from Transient Persons, from which Compared with each Other he dared only to Infer that we might Expect good Tideing from thence. I now hear A Vessel arrived at New London in A short passage, says the Britons had reached their 99Shipping and Embarked. I don't Understand how it is that these fellows can prowl about A Country for six Months, with an army of Continentals and Militia all round them, and then get off without much loss.

Genl. Sullivan is gone into the Woods with about 5000 Men,3 (An Expedition I have no great Opinion of) while the Enemy have been ravageing the Coasts of Connecticut and Burning their Towns &c &c,4 According to the true Spirit of Magnanimity, and Humanity of the Plan Expressed by their Commissioners. If there be no Check to their proceedings it seems to me this is their Plan of Operation, for the present Campaigne. If it be Infamous for its Barbarism, or Contemptible for its Malicious Littleness, British Historians and Poets may reconcile it if they Can to their Boasted national Politeness and Magnanimity, or which is more probable deny the facts. The last we hear of them is at Rhode Island. What Town is the object of the next Expedition is Uncertain. I suppose they will soon work themselves out of Stock on that Side unless and must come round the Cape to find new Objects to glut their Cruelty and revenge.

You will find by the Papers that a Detachment from Genl. Washington's Army under Genl. Wayne has shewn what the Spirit of Enterprise may do if Exerted.5

We Just hear that Count D. Estaing has gained a great Naval Victory in the West Indies.6 I wish it may prove true. If it does probably some of their Ships will be sent this way, to avoid Hurricanes, and Assist us.

Our Continental Ships as well as Privateers have been very Successfull. Many Prizes are sent in. We are now Engaged in An Expedition against the Enemy, who have made a Lodgment at Penobscot.7 About 20 Sail of Armed Vessels of different forces, Sailed about 10 days ago to Join 1600 Troops Assembled at the Eastward. If the Enemy do not draw off their Force, or reinforce them they are stupid indeed. If they do the last, our Fleet may be in danger, and A Capital Loss may Ensue. I gave you an Account in my last of the deplorable State of our Currency, since which an Alarm of danger from that quarter has become so general, as to form Associations of Merchants and a pretty general Convention of delegates from the several Towns at Concord. I have some Expectations from these measures, whether they sprung from Fear, or a resolute Fortitude, from self Interest, or genuine Patriotism. You will see their several proceedings in the Papers.8

In September we are to have A Convention at Cambridge to form A Constitution of Government.9

This is to go by the Mercury Packet Capt. Samson, who Carries dis-100patches of Congress. What they Contain I dont know. I hope some Honourable Appointment for You. I have felt some resentment lately for your detention in Europe without being in A public Active Character and Station. I am however Assured by Mr. Adams that A great Majority of Congress have very favourable Sentiments and designs with regard to you.

There goes Passenger in this Packet Mr. Elkanah Watson10 A Young Gentleman I am told of very good Character. He is Son of Capt. Watson of this Town, and a remote relation of Mine. He has lived and served his Time with John Browne of Providence, and I suppose is now in pursuit of Commercial plans. He Intends to go to Paris, and seems to be possessed of A Laudable Ambition to be taken Notice of by Gentlemen of distinction. You will therefore by some Attention to him Cherish a good Principle in the Mind of a Youth and oblige Your Friend and Humbe. Servt.

J Warren

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Gen Warren”; by CFA: “July 29th 1779.”


Warren's letter of 13 June (above).


Conflicting reports, ranging from claims of a serious defeat for the British to one claiming that sickness prevented the forces of Prevost and Lincoln from clashing, appeared in successive weeks (Independent Chronicle, 15, 22, and 29 July).


During John Sullivan's extensive raiding in the country of the Six Nations in the summer of 1779, he claimed to have burned forty Indian towns along with their crops and orchards. Notable for the savagery of its assaults, the expedition killed or captured few of the enemy and thus did not afford the protection to the frontier settlements that had been intended (Ward, War of the Revolution , 2:638–645).


In early July the British, under the command of Gen. Tryon, burned New Haven, Fairfield, and Norwalk (Independent Chronicle, 15 July).


On 15 July, Anthony Wayne, commanding a brigade of four specially chosen regiments, mounted an attack on the fort at Stony Point, N.Y., a stronghold recently taken from the Americans and considerably strengthened by the British. The fort and its counterpart on the east side of the Hudson River, at Verplanck's Point, formed the gateway connecting the upper and lower Hudson Valley. British possession threatened both the ferry in the vicinity and West Point to the north. Marching under the tightest discipline, Wayne's force cut its way through two abatis, assaulted the fort, and took it in hand-to-hand fighting. The British suffered nearly 600 casualties in killed, wounded, and captured; the Americans, 100. Apart from the boost to morale that the American victory provided, the capture of the fort had no lasting result. Washington decided that it could not be maintained, and the British later recaptured it. The congress awarded Wayne a gold medal and two of his officers silver ones (Ward, War of the Revolution , 2:596–603; Howard Peckham, ed., The Toll of Independence, Chicago, 1974, p. 62). A brief account appeared in the Independent Chronicle for 22 July.


There were reports of the capture of the West Indian island of St. Vincent by Estaing in June, but the fullest report, made by William Bingham, Continental agent at Martinique, plainly implied that Adm. Byron's departure had made the capture possible (Independent Chronicle, 22 and 29 July; see Mackesy, War for America , p. 272–273).


For the Penobscot Expedition, see William Vernon Sr. to JA, 10 April, note 4 (above).

101 8.

The Independent Chronicle of 29 July carried the names of the delegates from the towns of the state, the resolutions that were passed, and an address to the people. The towns were more responsive in choosing delegates than many of them were in electing representatives to the General Court. This convention set maximum prices for “Merchandize and Country Produce” and resolved to regard as enemies to the country those who ignored the price list. It also condemned the selling of gold and silver and the demanding and receiving of either in business transactions.


The convention met for its first session on 1 Sept. See Report of a Constitution, ca. 28–31 Oct. (below).


Elkanah Watson Jr., having recently completed his apprenticeship with the Providence merchant John Brown, was setting off for France to begin his long and successful mercantile career ( DAB ). He was to carry this letter, one of the same date from Mercy Otis Warren (below), and possibly others from AA and Robert Treat Paine. According to Watson, all were intended as recommendations when he sought JA's aid in establishing himself in Europe. Mercy Warren's letter, however, does not mention Watson, and the letters from AA and Paine, if they existed, have not been found. In any event, JA's return to America caused Watson to leave the letters with James Warren rather than take them to France (Watson to JA, 10 March 1780, Adams Papers).

From Mercy Otis Warren, 29 July 1779 Warren, Mercy Otis JA From Mercy Otis Warren, 29 July 1779 Warren, Mercy Otis Adams, John
From Mercy Otis Warren
Sir Plimouth July 29 1779

This Morning your Vigalent and invariable Friend wrote you a long letter which makes it unnecessary for me to take up my pen nor should I have done it by this opportunity but in Compliance with the Wishes of Him who is so partial as to think it in my power to Contribute to the Entertainment of a Gentleman who (from Interest, from Vanity and from more Noble principles)1 has such a Multitude of Correspondents. There is such Variety of Genius occasionally Exerted in this way that were it not for the adverse Circumstances which prevents a safe passage you would have little Cause to Complain that you was Forgotten on this side the Atlantic. Your Head would be Replete with Inteligence and your Cabinet Crouded with Epistolary Lumber, among which if you had Leasure to Retrospect you would find several unanswered from a Lady who makes no Claim to a Reply but from your politeness and Friendship.2 Neither of which will I suspect or Censure till assured in some Future paragraph that you have not time to answer letters but when the Interest of the public or the Indispensable Duties of private Life Require it.

Certain I am did all political, Military, and Gubenatorial observations which are Designed for your perusal, Reach the Gardens of Passy, You would be willing to unbend a little, by indulging to the Familiar style of Female Compotition.

But as most of them have been lost Through Fear, Misfortune, Accident or Treachery, I imagine the Avidity is still kept up, and that you 102open Every paquet with Expectation and desire to Investigate the Plans of statsmen, and survey the Martial Opperations of the Heros of a Country, whose Honour and Happiness you have so much at Heart.3

And though no one is better qualifyed to penetrate the Arcana of American politics than yourself, yet I think you must be surprized at the inconsistency of Character which appears in some, And at a Loss (if not for the stimulus that provoked, yet)4 for the Influance which Carryed into Execution Certain Resolves which have been painful to the best, and a Rich Repast to the Worst Men that Disgrace your Native land.5

How much longer shall we be Embarassed and Distressed by the selfish insiduous arts of Gamblers Courtiers And stock Jobbers among ourselves, while a Mercyless Foe is laying waste our Borders, Burning our Defenceless Cities, and Murdering the Innocent of all ages and Ranks.

The spirit of party has Entered into all our Departments. The Deanites, that is to say the Voteries of pleasure, or the Men of Taste and Refinement make no inconsiderable Figure. Some Deify the phantom Fashion: whether she appears in a French, or British, or American Dress; while others Worship only at the shrine of Plutus.6 Yet the old Republicans, (a solitary few) with Decent solemnity and Confidence: still persevere. Their Hands unstained by Bribes: Though poverty stares them in the Face. Their Hearts unshaken by the Levity, the Luxery, the Caprice or Whim, the Folly or ingratitude, of the times. When we survey the picture we Cannot but sigh with a late Celebrated writer. “Alas! for poor Human Nature.”7

On my way from Boston I lodged a week since, at the Foot of Pens Hill. The Family There are well, and as Happy as possible in the absence of a Tender Husband, And a kind Father. More perticular accounts you will doubtless have by this Conveyance from the Mistress of the Mansion. There I had the pleasure of seing your signature to several short letters8 which lead us to hope our Calamities will be shortned, or Rather not increased.

As from a long Friendship with Him, and a perticular Intimacy with His lady, I feel myself sensibly touched by the Death of Dr. Winthrop. I Cannot but mingle a simpathetic tear on this occasion with you, and His philosopic Friend at Passy. Both of whom, so highly Esteemed, and were so intimetely acquainted with His Virtues, in His literary, patriotic, and Christian Character.

I fear it will be long before Harvard sees a successor that will fill the Chair of the professor with Equal Honour and Ability.


Let me assure you sir, when I began this I designed but one page but you are so well acquainted with the loquacity of the sex that you will Easily beleive I Check my own inclinations when at the Bottom of the Third I subscribe the Name of your sincere Friend and Humble servant

Marcia Warren

RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unknown hand: “Mrs Warren”; by CFA: “July 29th 1779.” Tr (MHi: Mercy Warren Letterbook). For a description of the Letterbook, see Mercy Otis Warren to JA, 15 Oct. 1778, descriptive note (above).


Closing parenthesis supplied.


The editors know of only two letters from Mercy Warren since JA left for Europe, those of 15 Oct. and 15 Dec. 1778 (above). JA answered the first on 18 Dec. 1778 (above), but no reply to the second has been found, although he apparently wrote one; see JA to Mercy Warren, post 3 Aug. 1779 (below).


In the transcript “a Country” is changed to “your Country” and the final clause is omitted. This omission may be significant in light of the later hard feelings that developed between Mercy Warren and JA.


Closing parenthesis supplied.


In the transcript the paragraph that immediately follows was placed after “Alas! for poor Human Nature,” forming the last sentence of the second paragraph below. The first two sentences of that paragraph were attached to the end of this one.


The Greek and Roman god of riches.


In the transcript, after this paragraph as revised (see note 5), there is the following passage: “Dark and inscrutable are the ways of providence: yet only so to us short sighted mortals. I forbear to draw aside the curtain, or indulge a wish to look forward to the blood stained field, to the revolutions of goverment, the convulsions of nature, and the mighty shocks both in the moral, political, and natural world, that are yet to take place, and which are but a combination of incidents to compleat the peice, which for ought we know may be the admiration and astonishment of wondering worlds, that revolve around this little ball, and may be taught by the example of man, to avoid every deviation from the centre of perfection.” Despite the fact that this paragraph does not appear in the recipient's copy, the similarity of its style to Mercy Warren's may indicate that it was part of a draft not extant. In any case, in the transcript it was followed by two paragraphs, the first commenting on the death of Professor Winthrop and the second recounting Mercy's visit to AA, a reversal of the order in the recipient's copy.


Probably JA's letters of 30 Dec. 1778, 1 Jan., and 9 Feb., which AA only received in late July. She received no later letters from JA before his return in August ( Adams Family Correspondence , 3:214–216 3:214–215, 216 ).