Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To James Warren, 11 February 1776 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 11 February 1776 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dr sir Philadelphia Feb. 11. 1775 i.e. 1776

Mr. Archibald Buchannan, and Mr. Walter Tolley both of Maryland, and hearty Friends of America, introduced to me by my Friend Mr. Chace Chase, are bound to the Camp, and Mr. Chace requested a Letter from me.


Chace is a Man of common sense.

I received your Packett.1 I am obliged to you for opening the Letter from our Friend Mr. Adams, and if you had opened all the others, you should have been equally welcome, altho I would not give a similar Permission to more than two or three other Persons in the World. I have no Correspondences for private Amusement, or Personal Interest, and therefore most Letters to me, might be seen by any public Man of public Virtue, good understanding and Common Decency without Danger, Inconvenience, or offence. But as so many Persons who have not all those Qualities, become in the Course of things public Persons, We cannot be too cautious I find what We write, whom We write to, and how it is conveyed.

I have Seen the Copy of a Letter.2 Let the Writers Passions fume away, unnoticed. Peepers often Spy disagreable objects. Let them pay for their Peeping. I have Reason to complain of Negligence in one Gentleman and I fear, of Unkindness in another upon this occasion, but I will not complain. They shall take all Advantages against me that they can get. They cannot hurt me nor you. The only Advantage they have got upon this occasion is to torment themselves, and gratify others. The Gentleman promised me to deliver those Letters into the Hand of Mr. S. A. but he did not.

I have only this Moment to write. Yours, sincerely,

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll., filed under 11 Feb. 1775); docketed: “J A Lettr Feby. 11. 1776.”


Warren to JA, 31 Jan. (above), was accompanied by a packet of letters that had arrived at Watertown after JA had left for Philadelphia. Among them was the letter from Samuel Adams to JA of 15 Jan., which Warren had opened, and which is printed above under its date.


That is, Robert Treat Paine to Warren, 5 Jan., enclosed in Warren's letter to JA of 31 Jan. and there printed.

To John Trumbull, 13 February 1776 JA Trumbull, John To John Trumbull, 13 February 1776 Adams, John Trumbull, John
To John Trumbull
Dr Sir Philadelphia 13 1 Feb. 1776

I take this opportunity by Mr. Romain to write you one Line more for the sake of reminding you of my Existence, and requesting that you would favour me with authentic Evidence under your Hand of yours, than any Thing I have to Say.

Politicks are a Labyrinth, without a Clue—to write you on that subject would be endless. N. York I think is now in critical state, but I hope We shall Save it. Mr. Dickinson is to march at the Head of a Battallion of Philadelphian associators to the Assistance of, Gen. Lee 22and Lord Sterling.2 He has this afternoon been harranguing the Battallions in the State House Yard with the Ardor and Pathos of a Greecian Commander, as it is reported.3

By Intelligence hourly arriving from abroad We are more and more confirmed, that a Kind of Confederation will be formed among the Crowned Skulls, and numbskulls of Europe, against Human Nature.

Prussia, defended itself last War, against France, Spain, Germany and Russia, not with standing its Vicinity to those Empires and Kingdoms. America, will have a Combination not less Formidable to resist perhaps, but We are Three Thousand Miles off. If these Colonies are not as Powerfull as Prussia what is the Reason?

It will be said Prussia is an absolute Monarchy, America, a Chaos at present and it can be at best, but a Republic.

To this I answer, So much the better. For, that a Monarchy absolute or limited is better for War than a Republic I absolutely deny. On the Contrary look through the whole World and universal History and you will find that Republics have been invariably the most warlike Governments, and you will find no Instance of a Republic conquered by a Monarchy, by Arms, nor any other Way but by Corruption and Division. If therefore the Colonies can be Secured against Corruption and Division I think with the Blessing of Heaven, they may hope to defend themselves. In all Events they will try the Experiment. Pray write me your Connecticut Politicks. You, mix the Caution and Jealousy of Athens with the Valour of Sparta. But dont let your People forget or neglect to cultivate Harmony and preserve the Union.

Your Friend

RC (PPRF); addressed: “To Mr John Trumbull New Haven Favoured by Mr Romains”; docketed: “John Adams Esqr to John Trumbull Feby. 20th 1776.”


Although JA left space for the day of the month, he did not insert it. Despite the docketing, the 13th would appear the proper choice, for on that day four battalions were “drawn out” (Joseph Hewes to Samuel Johnston, 11–13 Feb., in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:344–345; see also Burnett's note 2 for No. 501, 1:348).


William Alexander (1726–1783) of New Jersey claimed the title of 6th Earl of Stirling, although his claim had been disallowed by the House of Lords in 1762. Alexander became a brigadier general in March 1776 and was promoted to major general about one year later ( DAB ).


The occasion for reinforcing Lee and Stirling at New York was the arrival of Sir Henry Clinton in the harbor on 4 Feb., the same day that Lee arrived to begin organization of the city's defense. It was widely believed that Clinton would land troops, but in actuality he was passing through on his way to the Carolinas for a British expedition against Charleston. When it became apparent that Clinton posed no real threat to New York, orders to the Pennsylvania militia were canceled on 15 Feb. (Alden, General Charles Lee , p. 98–99; Pennsylvania Gazette, 21 Feb.).