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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2


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Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0150

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1777-04-06

John Adams to Abigail Adams

You have had many Rumours, propagated among you, which I suppose you know not how to account for. One was, that Congress, the last Summer, had tied the Hands of General Washington, and would { 200 } not let him fight, particularly on the White Plains. This Report was totally groundless.—Another was, that at last Congress untied the General, and then he instantly fought and conquered at Trenton. This also was without foundation, for as his Hands were never tied, so they were not untied.—Indeed, within a few days past a Question has been asked Congress, to the Surprize I believe of every Member there, whether the General was bound by the Advice of a Council of War? No Member of Congress, that I know of ever harboured or conceived such a Thought. “Taking the Advice of a Council of War” are the Words of the Generals Instructions, but this meant only that Councils of War, should be called and their Opinions and Reasons demanded, but the General like all other Commanders of Armies, was to pursue his own Judgment after all.1
Another Report, which has been industriously circulated, is, that the General has been made by Congress, Dictator. But this is as false as the other Stories. Congress it is true, upon removing to Baltimore, gave the General Power, to raise fifteen Battallions, in Addition to those which were ordered to be raised before, and to appoint the Officers, and also to raise three thousand Horse, and to appoint their Officers, and also to take Necessaries for his Army, at an appraised Value.2 But no more. Congress never thought of making him Dictator, or giving him a Sovereignty.
I wish I could find a Correspondent, who was idle enough to attend to every Report and write it to me. Such false News, uncontradicted, does more or less Harm. Such a Collection of Lyes, would be a Curiosity for Posterity.
The Report you mentioned in your last,3 that the British Administration had proposed to Congress, a Treaty and Terms, is false and without a Colour. On the Contrary, it is now more than ever past a doubt, that their fixed Determination is Conquest, and unconditional Subjugation. But there will be many Words and Blows too, before they will accomplish their Wishes.—Poor abandoned, infatuated Nation.
Infatuation is one of the Causes to which, great Historians ascribe many Events: and if it ever produced any Effect, it has produced this War, against America.4
Arnold, who carries this, was taken in his Passage from Baltimore. He sailed with Harden, for Boston. They took 15 Vessells, while he was on Board the Man of War. Your Flour was highly favoured with good Luck.
{ 201 }
1. See Congress' resolution of 24 March on this subject ( JCC , 7:196–197).
2. See resolutions of 27 Dec. 1776 (same, 6:1045–1046).
3. AA to JA , 8–10 March, above.
4. LbC ends at this point.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0151

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1777-04-06

John Adams to Abigail Adams

This Evening Major Ward deliverd me Yours of 23d. of March.—It is a great Pleasure to me to learn that your Flour has arrived. I begin to have some opinion of my good Fortune. If I could have been certain, of the Vessells escaping the many Snares in her Way, I would have sent a dozen Barrells.
The Act, my dear, that you were so fond of will do no good.1 Legislatures cannot effect Impossibilities. I detest all Embargoes, and all other Restraints upon Trade.2 Let it have its own Way, in such a Time as this and it will cure its own Diseases. The Paper emitted by the states jointly and separately is too much, it is more than enough to purchase every Commodity and every Species of Labour that is wanted, and this Excess of Quantity is the true Cause of the Artificial Scarcity of Things, but the Price of this will be in Proportion to the Demand, in spite of all Regulations.—To save my self the Trouble of thinking I will transcribe for your Amusement a few observations of Lord Kaims, on the subject of Money, Scarcity, Plenty, and Demand. Read them, compare them with the Increase of Money in America, the Decrease of Goods and Labour, and the Increase of Demand for both, and then judge whether the Regulations and Embargoes can do any good. . . .3
LbC (Adams Papers); note at the foot of the text reads: “Sent. most of it”; but no RC has been found.
1. The Massachusetts act fixing the prices of wages and commodities; see AA to JA , 8 Feb. and note, and 23 March, both above.
2. In Dec. 1776 the General Court had laid an embargo on all private vessels, forbidding them to trade with any but American coastal ports and banning the export of a long list of foodstuffs and other goods from Massachusetts. Though modified in one way or another in the following months, the embargo carried very heavy penalties for violations, was extended in February to goods carried out of the state by land as well as water transport, and (as shown by frequent allusions in letters that follow) was much complained of. See the numerous resolves relating to the embargo, Dec. 1776 – May 1777, in Mass., Province Laws , 19:713–714, 721–722, 773–774. 808–810, 928.
3. The remainder of this very long letter, omitted here, is a transcript of very nearly the entire fourth section, entitled “The Origin and Progress of Commerce,” in Henry Home, Lord Kames' Six Sketches on the History of Man, Phila., 1776 (Evans 14801), the abridged first American edition of his Sketches of the History of Man, 2 vols., Edinburgh, 1774. The passage copied { 202 } by JA runs to more than 4,000 words and is taken from Six Sketches, p. 78–96, with a few omissions and JA 's usual small copying errors. In it Kames explains wage and price fluctuation in terms of the classical law of supply and demand, drawing examples, as was his way, from all over the known world.