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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 5


Search for a response to this letter.

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0040

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Warren, James
Date: 1777-02-03

To James Warren

[salute] Dear Sir

It may not be a Mispence of Time to make a few Observations upon the Situation of Some of the States at this Time.
That Part of New York which is yet in our Possession is pretty well united, and pretty firm. The Jerseys have recovered from their Surprize, and are lending as much Assistance as can well be expected from them. Their Assembly is now Sitting, and are Said to be well disposed to do what they can. The Assembly of Pensilvania, is also Sitting. They have abolished the oath1 which gave so much Discontent to the People, and are gradually acquiring the Confidence of the People, and opposition has Subsided. The Delaware Government, have formed their Constitution,2 and the Assembly is now Sitting. Maryland has formed its Constitution—and their Assembly now sitting in Consequence of it, are filling it up. There is a Difficulty in two of the Counties,3 but this will last but a little while. In Virginia Governor Henry, has recovered his Health has returned to Williamsbourg, and is proceeding in his Government with great Industry. N. Carolina have compleated their Government, and Mr. Caswell is Governor. In Virginia and North Carolina, they have made an Effort, for the Destruction of Bigotry which is very remarkable. They have abolished their Establishments of Episcopacy so far as to { 76 } give compleat Liberty of Conscience to Dissenters,4 an Acquisition in favour of the Rights of Mankind, which is worth all the Blood and Treasure, which has been and will be Spent in this War. S. Carolina and Georgia, compleated their Governments, a long time ago. Thus I think there are but three States remaining which have not erected their Governments, Massachusetts, N. York and New Hampshire.5
These are good Steps towards Government in the States which must be introduced and established before We can expect Discipline in our Armies, the Unum necessarium to our Salvation.
I will be instant and incessant, in season and out of Season, in inculcating these important Truths, that nothing can Save Us but Government in the State and Discipline in the Army. There are So many Persons among my worthy Constituents who love Liberty, better than they understand it that I expect to become unpopular by my Preaching. But Woe is me if I preach it not. Woe will be to them, if they do not hear.
I am terrified with the Prospect of Expence, to our State, which I find no Possibility of avoiding. I cannot get an Horse kept in this Town under a Guinea a Week. One hundred and four Guineas a Year for the Keeping of two Horses, is intolerable, but cannot be avoided. Simple Board is fifty shilling a Week here, and Seven Dollars generally. I cannot get boarded, under forty shillings, i.e. five dollars and a third a Week for myself and fifteen for my servant—besides finding for myself all my Wood Candles, Liquors and Washing. I would send home my servant and Horses, but Congress is now a moveable Body, and it is impossible to travell and carry great Loads of Baggage without a servant and Horses, besides the Meanness of it, in the Eyes of the World.
RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To The Hon. James Warren Esq. Speaker of the House Boston”; docketed: “Mr. J A Lettr Feby. 5. 1777”; LbC (Adams Papers).
1. Pennsylvania, in the control of the Radicals or Constitutionalists, who drafted the state constitution, required voters and officeholders to take an oath to uphold the constitution, a requirement that was interpreted by many to mean accepting it in toto. Since many deemed the document too extreme in its departure from commonly accepted principles, the oath became a major source of political friction. It was not abolished at this time, but it was ignored successfully in some instances. In Philadelphia, for example, the first elections were held without oath-taking (Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776–1790, Harrisburg, 1942, p. 16–17, 20).
2. Delaware established its constitution { 77 } on 21 Sept. 1776, without resorting to ratification by the people (Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 1:562, note a).
3. Maryland completed its constitution on 11 Nov. 1776 and put it into operation without popular ratification (same, 3:1686, note a). Strong opposition to this conservative constitution, which upper-class leaders had drafted and which provided high property qualifications for officeholding, and opposition to independence itself, caused turmoil in more than two counties; in his Letterbook, JA mentions only Worcester and leaves a blank for the other. Those on the eastern shore particularly suffered from loyalist rioters, which disgruntled militiamen were too disorganized to put down effectively (Ronald Hoffman, A Spirit of Dissention: Economics, Politics, and the Revolution in Maryland, Baltimore, 1973, p. 186, 193–195).
4. North Carolina completed its constitution on 18 Dec. 1776, and it became operative without popular ratification (Thorpe, Federal and State Constitutions , 5:2787, note a). Disestablishment was provided for in Art. 34, but Art. 32 technically made Roman Catholics ineligible for public office, although this provision was not enforced (Elisha P. Douglass, Rebels and Democrats, Chapel Hill, 1955, p. 131, note 46). The sixteenth section of Virginia's Bill of Rights, which preceded its constitution of June 1776, provided for the “free exercise of religion according to the dictates of conscience,” but JA probably had more specific reference to the legislative act that in Dec. 1776 suspended payments to Anglican clergymen. Formal disestablishment did not come until 1786, with passage of Jefferson's famous bill introduced by Madison (Thorpe, 7:3814; Douglass, p. 309).
5. Connecticut and Rhode Island continued under their virtually self-governing charters until the 19th century.