Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To William Tudor, 12 April 1776 JA Tudor, William To William Tudor, 12 April 1776 Adams, John Tudor, William
To William Tudor
April 12. 1776

I wish you Joy, sir, of your new Abode. I hope you found, the Houses, Wharves &c. &c., in the Town of Boston which are hereafter to contribute to your Satisfaction in Life, in good order.

I Should be very happy to learn the Condition in which the Town appeared, the situation of the Buildings and the State and History of the Inhabitants, during the Seige, what Tories are left, and what is to be done with them. Very few Particulars have reached Philadelphia. I suppose my Friends have been so busily employed, that they could not Spare the Time to write. I commend them for devoting their whole Time to the Care of the Town and the Fortifications of the Harbour. But as soon as they can snatch a little Leisure, I hope they will write to me.

You talk about Common sense, and Say it has been attributed to me.1 But I am as innocent of it as a Babe.

The most atrocious literary sins, have been imputed to me these twelve Years.

“Poor harmless I! and can I choose but Smile When every Coxcomb knows me by my Style.”2

I could not reach the Strength and Brevity of his style, nor his elegant Symplicity, nor his piercing Pathos. But I really think in other Respects, the Pamphlet would do no Honour even to me. The old Testament Reasoning against Monarchy would have never come from me. The Attempt to frame a Continental Constitution, is feeble indeed. It is poor, and despicable. Yet this is a very meritorious Production.

In Point of Argument there is nothing new. I believe every one that is in it, had been hackneyd in every Conversation public and private, before that Pamphlet was written.

You desire me to send you an oration, but I wont.3 I have too much Contempt and Indignation, at that insolent Performance to meddle with it.

The Ports are open you see, and Privateering is allowed. Is this Independency?

I wish you would let me know whether the Courts sit, and whether Business is done.


I am Sure it is Time that a certain Name and style was discarded. Commissions, Writs, and Indictments should run in another Form.4

The Colony of &c. to the sheriff.

The Colony of to A. B.

against the Peace of the Colony of &c.

This must be the Style.

RC (MHi: Tudor Papers); docketed: “April 12th, 1776.”


See Tudor to JA, 29 Feb. (above).


Pope, Satires, Epistle to Dr. Arbuthnot, lines 281–282. JA has substituted “harmless” for “guiltless.”


Rev. William Smith's An Oration in Memory of General Montgomery (see Tudor to JA, 29 Feb., note 2, above).


JA had made this recommendation in Thoughts on Government, ante 27 March–April (above). On 13 April the House of Representatives gave a first reading to a bill to change the style of commissions, writs, and processes by eliminating the name of the king and substituting that of “the Government and People of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England,” a more radical departure than JA's use of the word “Colony.” The bill also dropped the practice of assigning dates according to the year of the sovereign's reign. The bill was passed on 1 May (Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 4th sess., p. 121, 229; Province Laws , 5:484–485). By removing these last vestiges of royal government, Massachusetts was virtually declaring its independence. See also JA to William Heath, 15 April (below).

To William Heath, 15 April 1776 JA Heath, William To William Heath, 15 April 1776 Adams, John Heath, William
To William Heath
Dear sir Philadelphia April 15. 1776

Altho I never had the Pleasure and the Honour of so intimate an Acquaintance with you as I wished yet I have a long Time, been sufficiently acquainted with your Character, to have the Utmost Confidence in your Patriotism and your Judgment of the true Interest of our Country.

The critical State of the Colonies, at this Time, is the Cause of my writing you, because Providence has now placed you in a situation where you have an opportunity of serving your Country in a civil and political Capacity no less essentially than in a military one.1

There is nothing of more indispensible Importance in the Conduct of this great Contention, than that New York should go Hand in Hand with the rest of the Colonies both in Politicks and War. The Number of the Tories the Weakness and Credulity of Some People, and the Treachery of others, have hitherto prevented that Colony from exerting herself in this mighty Struggle in Proportion to her Strength and Weight.

If you compare the Exertions of Connecticutt, with those of New York you will easily see the Importance of having all the Powers of Government in the Hands of the Friends of the People.

It is now perhaps the most critical Moment that America, ever saw. 120There is a Tide in the affairs of Men, and Consequences of infinite Moment depend upon the Colonies, assuming Government at this Time.

So convenient an opportunity may never again present itself as the present, while a powerfull Army is there, sufficient to overawe any turbulent opposition, and prevent every danger of Convulsion.

To exercise a Government under a King, who has published such a Proclamation and signed such an Act of Parliament;2 to pray for his Salvation, temporal I mean—to take oaths of allegiance—to swear to keep his Secrets—to swear to try Issues between our sovereign Lord the King and a Criminal, at this Time, is such an Absurdity, such Immorality, such Irreligion that I am amazed it can be endured in any one Spot in America.3

Governments must be assumed or Anarchy reign, and God knows the Consequence.

I must beg of you therefore, to endeavour to convince the Citizens of New York and the Inhabitants of the Province as opportunity presents, of the Necessity of this Measure. Depend upon it, you cannot do your Country a more important, a more essential service.

I am well informed that Mr. William Smith, Mr. P. L. and I fear Coll. McDougal will retard and obstruct this Measure.4 I hope they will be perswaded to the Contrary, if they have not they may have herafter the pleasing Reflection that they destroyed their Country.

You must have seen the happy Fruits of this Measure in your own Province, so clearly, as to render it impertinent in me to point out the Benefits of it.

If Nine Months ago the Colonies had assumed Governments, they would have been infinitely better armed, trained, furnished with Ammunition, salt Petre, Powder Works—they would have been rid of the Plague of Toryism. &c.

I have Time only to hint, and that is enough to you, if you are at a Loss to know me, ask General Sullivan. I am your Friend and most obedient servant.

RC (MHi: William Heath Papers); erroneously docketed: “from Jno. Adams Esqr. april 25th. 1777.”


Although the tone of this letter suggests that JA believed Heath was in command, he had been superseded by Israel Putnam on 4 April (Force, Archives , 4th ser., 5:787, 815). JA may have been inspired to write, by the letter he received from Hugh Hughes of 31 March (above), which detailed conditions in New York and commented upon Gen. Heath's arrival.


That is, the proclamation of 23 Aug. 1775 calling for the suppression of rebellion and sedition and the Prohibitory Act of 22 Dec. 1775.


JA's eagerness to have New York replace the name of the king in writs 121and otherwise cease referring to him is further evidence of his conviction that independence in fact, if not in name, could be achieved by indirect means.


The information about Smith and “P. L.” (Philip Livingston) may have come from Hughes' letter of 31 March. The source of JA's feelings about Alexander McDougall, a prominent whig, remains unidentified.