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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0085

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Gordon, William
Date: 1777-04-08

To William Gordon

[salute] Dear Sir

I had your Favour of 27 March by this Days Post. That this Country will go Safely through this Revolution, I am well convinced, but We have severe Conflicts to endure yet, and I hope shall be prepared for them. Indeed there is one Enemy, which to me is more formidable, than Famine, Pestilence and the sword, I mean the Corruption which is prevalent in so many American Hearts, a Depravity that is more inconsistent with our Republican Governments, than Light is with Darkness. If We can once give Energy enough to our Governments, and Discipline enough to our Armies to overcome this base Principle1 of Selfishness, to make <the People feel themselves> Citizens and soldiers, feel themselves the Children of the Commonwealth, and love and revere their Mother so much, as to make their Happiness consist in her service I shall think We have a Prospect of Tryumph indeed.
Your Design, sir of collecting Materials for an History of the Rise, Progress and Issue of the American Revolution, is liberal and generous, and as you will find it a laborious Undertaking, you ought to be encouraged and assisted in it. I should be very willing to contribute any Thing in my Power, towards So usefull a Work. But I must frankly tell you there is very little in my Power. So far from making Collections myself I have very often destroyed, the Papers in my Power, and my own Minutes of Events and their Causes. We are hurried away in such a Kind of Delirium arising from the Multiplicity of Affairs, and the Disorder in which they rise in Review before Us that I confess myself unable even to recollect the Circumstances of any Transaction with sufficient Precision to assist an Historian.2 There are Materials however in Possession of the Secretary of State, and others in the War Office, which will be preserved. The Mass Bay { 150 } however was the first Theatre and your History should begin at least from the Year 1761.3
Your Correspondent, whoever he is, has a Talent at Panegyrick enough to turn an Head that has much less Vanity in it, than mine. Sometimes however the Extravagance of Flattery is an Antidote to its Poison. I shall not however be made to tremble to think of the Expectations that will be formed from me, by such wild Praises. No such Attributes belong to me: and I am under no concern about answering to what may be justly expected of me. Alass! Who is equal to these Things?
The Affair of the Treasury of H.C. is a delicate Business,4 and as I have no particular Connection with it, I believe it will be most prudent for me to mind my own Business, and give myself no Trouble about that.
Mr. Hastings's Petition will be attended to, I believe, and hope, and his allowance made more adequate to his Merit and services.
I hear a Committee is come to the Jersies, to know how many Troops are to be posted in our State. I hope, our State will not think of detaining any of them. For the Lands sake let Us have an Army this Year to oppose an Army, that the Campaign may be neither so disastrous, or so disgracefull as the last.
I should be glad to hear from you as often as your Leisure will Admit, and I am with Respect yours &c.
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “Sent.”
1. The rest of this paragraph was interlined. The sentence was to have ended with the final ten words of the paragraph, which were crossed out and then repeated after the addition was made.
2. For Gordon's use of JA 's papers, see Adams Family Correspondence , 1:229–230 and JA, Papers , 3:313, 332–333, 403.
3. The final two sentences of this paragraph were interlined.
4. Treasurer John Hancock's delays in giving an accounting of the funds of Harvard College, for which he was responsible, was becoming a scandal. See vol. 4:111, note 4.

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0086

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Greene, Nathanael
Date: 1777-04-13

To Nathanael Greene

[salute] My dear sir

In considering a Letter from the General, sometime ago, in the Board of War, it was agreed to report to Congress a Resolution, approving of the Laboratory at Sprin[g]field, and such a Report was made, but upon some Opposition to it, it was ordered to lye on the Table, where it has lain ever since. I will, move to have it taken up and determined. Some Gentlemen will oppose it, par• { 151 } ticularly the President, I believe, thinking Brookfield the best Place. I am not very clear myself, that it is the best, but from a greater Confidence in the Opinion of General Washington and General Knox, than in my own, I voted for it, and shall continue to do so.
I will hazard a Conjecture, concerning the Motions of the Enemy, in which very few here agree with me. I think they are neither to move up Delaware, nor Hudsons River untill they have a Strong Reinforcement. They are turning their Men out upon Staten Island to graze—to breath a fresh keen Air, and to take a Course of Exercise for the Recovery of their Health. Depend upon it, sir, their Army, at this season of the Year, is too Sickly relaxed and enfeebled, to take the Field, and it is too early if they were healthy. It would lay a foundation for a sickly disastrous Campaign.
It is not to be expected that every State will furnish, their full Quota of Men, nor shall We have occasion for such a Number, unless the Enemy, have a Reinforcement greater than We have any Idea of at present. I can have no Conception of the Necessity of Sixty or Seventy thousand Men to oppose an Army of Ten or Eleven thousand, in one Place and another of seven or Eight only in another. Our Men are as good as theirs, and I am not afraid to treat them Man for Man. If our Officers will not lead their Men I am for Shooting all who will not and getting a new set. It is high Time for Us to abandon this execrable defensive Plan. It will be our Ruin if We do not. Long Lines, and defensive Systems have very near, undone Us. Our Men New England men especially universally detest and despise, defensive operations, and are dispirited by them, in such a manner as to be good for nothing. But they will follow a Spirited enterprizing Officer any where. We dont understand Sufficiently the Doctrine of Diversions. One Thousand Men upon Long Island would find Employment for three or four Thousand of theirs. So might a few others upon Staten Island. But our Army has ever been such an hugh enormous Mass of Deadness and Torpor, that I dont wonder their Inactivity has bred the Plague among them.
We must have a fighting enterprizing Spirit conjured up in our Army. The Army that Attacks has an infinite Advantage, and ever has had from the Plains of Pharsalia1 to the Plains of Abraham, the Plains of Trenton and Princeton. I will perish if our Troops behave ill if you lead them on to an Attack.2
{ 152 }
LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “Intended for G. Green but not Sent, being too unpolite.”
1. The fertile plain outside the city of Pharsalus in Thessaly, where Caesar decisively defeated Pompey.
2. JA was answering several comments in Greene's letter of 5 April (above). The oblique attack on Washington's generalship was reason enough not to send the letter.