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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 5


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Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0247

Author: Adams, John
Author: Adams, Abigail
Recipient: Rush, Benjamin
Date: 1778-02-08

To Benjamin Rush, with Postscript by Abigail Adams

[salute] My dear Sir

Two Days ago, I was favoured with your polite and elegant Letter of January 22. I have received so many of your Letters, within a few Months, containing such important Matter, in So masterly a style, that I am ashamed to confess I have answered but one of them, and that only with a few Lines.1 I beg you would not impute this omission to Inattention, Negligence, or Want of Regard, but to its true Cause a Confusion of Business. I beg Leave to assure you that I hold your Correspondence, inestimable, and will do every Thing in my Power to cultivate it.
Whether I shall be able to render, any valuable Service to our Country in my new Capacity, or not, is to me very uncertain: all I can Say with Confidence is, that whether in that, or any other, I will never knowingly do it any Injury.
In Spight of all the Reflections that are cast upon human Nature, and of all the Satyrs on Mankind, and especially on Courts, I have ever found or thought that I found Honesty to be the best { 403 } Policy, and it is as true now as it was 3000 years ago, that the honest Man is seldom forsaken.
Your Sentiment that we are but half taught in the great national Arts of Government and War, are I fear too just. And I fear that the Subject which is at present most essentially connected with our Government and Warefare, I mean Money is least understood of any. I fear the Regulation of Prices will produce ruin sooner than Safty. It will Starve the Army and the Country, if enforced, or I am ignorant of every Principle of, Commerce, Coin and Society. Barter will be the only Trade.
You are daily looking out for Some great military Character: Have you found none? Let me intreat you my Friend to look back on the Course of this War, and especially through the last Campaign, and then tell me, whether many Countries of the World, have ever furnished more, and greater Examples of Fortitude, Valour, and skill, than our little states have produced. We dont attend enough to our Heroes, and are too indulgent to those of opposite Characters. Barton, Meigs, Green, Smith, Willett, Gansevort, Harkemer, Starks, Arnold, Gates, and many, many others, have exhibited to our View, a series of Actions, which all the Exertions and Skill of our Enemies, have never equalled in the present Contest.2 I dont mean by this to derogate from the main Army, or its Commander. Brandywine and Germantown, can witness both Bravery and skill tho unfortunate. The great Fault of our officers, is Want of Dilligence and Patience. They dont want Bravery or Knowledge. Let them learn to attend to their Men, to their Cloaths, Diet, Air, Exercise, Medicines, Arms, Accoutrements &c. In short let our Officers learn to keep their [Men] 3 in Health, and to keep them together at their Duty, not let 2500 Men run away to guard Baggage Waggons through a Country, where there could be no Enemy, and I would answer for the Bravery of our Armies, for their Discipline and good Dispositions. If one may venture to prophecy, I think you will see in another Campaign, Still greater Exertions of Heroism and Magnanimity.
The Idea that any one Man alone can save Us, is too silly for any Body, but such weak Men as Duche,4 to harbour for a Moment.
I am very glad you have not laid down your Commission and I conjure you, by all the Tyes of Friendship to your Country, not to do it.5 Men who are sensible of the Evils in the hospital De• { 404 } partment are the most likely to point them out to others, and to suggest Remedies—Patience! Patience! Patience. The first the last and the middle Virtue of a Politician.
The Lady you mention will not go abroad, a Thousand Reasons are against it. It would be too much Happiness for him, who is your sincere Friend and most humble sert
[signed] John Adams
P.S. Mrs. Adams presents her Complements to Dr. Rush and thanks him for his kind notice of her, and assures him that she shall stand in need of his prescriptions of Condolance, and should Esteem it an honour to have them Administerd by his Hand, as she is certain from his Skill and judgment in humane virture they would serve as restoratives to the pained Heart, and anxious mind of his Humble Servant
[signed] Abigail Adams
Be so good Sir as to present my regards to your Lady.
RC (MB); docketed: “John Adams & wife February 8th: 1778”; LbC (Adams Papers).
1. Not found.
2. In a daring raid Col. William Barton of Rhode Island in the summer of 1777 captured Maj. Gen. Richard Prescott and his aide, for which feat the congress had awarded Barton “an elegant sword.” The congress also gave formal recognition to Lt. Col. Marinus Willett, Col. Peter Gansevoort, and Brig. Gen. Nicholas Herkimer for their bravery in repelling St. Leger's forces ( JCC , 8:580, 709; 9:771–772). Smith remains unidentified.
3. Word supplied from Letterbook.
4. Rev. Jacob Duché, whose prayers had inspired early sessions of the congress, became a loyalist in 1777 ( DAB ).
5. Rush resigned on 30 Jan. ( JCC , 10:101).

Docno: ADMS-06-05-02-0248

Author: Lovell, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1778-02-08

From James Lovell

[salute] Dear Sir

Yours of Janry. 9th is before me.1 Deane had inclosed to Congress a long minute corresponding history of what you sent me.2 He doubted whether Mr. R M had communicated to us what had been sent of the kind formerly therefore he wrote to him lately with flying seals under cover to the President. Mr. R M had been indiscreet in remarking to T.M. upon the Conduct of the Commissioners as not acting candidly in their Representations; for which he has made through Congress very lengthy Apologies, and totally discarded his infamous brother. I am not able to write minutely to you but I endeavour to send Papers which speak for themselves. The long and short of Affairs is that if we can [obtain?] assistance to meliorate our currency we may laugh at Britain.
{ 405 }
Poor Weeks is gone to the Bottom of the Sea with a very valuable Cargo3 and every Soul but one who was preserved by a floating Ladder 3 Days before he was taken up.
Burgoynes Affair was known in France and the english ministry concealed the proceedings about Philadelphia. It does not appear by the Kings Speech that Auxiliaries are coming. The Detention of Burgoyne will disconcert the Ministry most horribly. An Incursion into Canada is making by Fayette Conway and Stark.4 I think the prospect is good. You will take Minutes of any intelligence worth notice written to Mr. S A or other Friends. I fear to keep Packets open as Posts and Expresses are altogether uncertain, depending upon information obtained about the River.
I have directed Mr. Dunlap at Lancaster to put up Sheets of the 2d. Vol of Journals and forward to you under Cover to the Navy Board. I hope they will be delivered by the Bearer of this. Your Chest shall go by the first Carriage of Money—unless Bat Horses5 are made use of. I suppose you cannot want the Contents except for your Children though I have not been the less industrious to send them upon that Supposition. But I should risk a total Loss if I sent them to any Stage short of the east side of Hudson's River. If I can get the Chest on to Hugh Hughes,6 I am sure he will push it to Boston.
I have written to Mr. Dana to contrive at Camp to get your other things forwarded from Mr. Sprouts home wherever it may be. The Baron Steuben has been most cordially received by Congress.7 If he should be so received at Camp it may tend to introduce many advantages into the Quarter Masters Department at least. We had determined upon the following arrangements before his arrival. 1 the military duties as laid down in Books 2 Forrage Master 3 Waggon Master to purchase and direct Horses Carriages &c. 4 Agent for the purchase of Tents Tools &c.8 We have also taken the purchasing business from the Director General of Hospitals and made the Deputy Directors act as Purveyors; The Director General with the Physician and Surgeon General to order the Invoices and the two latter to publish in the Hospitals forms of Receipts which are to be the vouchers for all Expenditures, acquainting the Treasury with the forms by immediate duplicates.9 We hope to save thousands and ten thousands of Dollars by having appointed Auditors for the Camp accounts, but how we shall secure what is due from Paymasters { 406 } and other Officers who have quitted the Service I cannot tell. Exchequor Courts would allarm the People.
1. Not found.
2. MacCreery's letter to JA of 29 Sept. 1777 (above), telling of the drunkenness and debauchery of Thomas Morris, brother of Robert and superintending agent for the Secret Committee of the congress. According to Lovell, JA had furnished him with a copy of the letter ( Adams Family Correspondence , 2:403). Transcripts of Deane's letters to Laurens and to Robert Morris are in PCC, No. 103, f. 88–103.
3. Lambert Wickes of the Reprisal went down in a storm off the Grand Banks on 1 Oct. 1777. The American commissioners had hoped to load his ship with saltpeter, anchors, and cordage, but the captain had insisted that he could not take a cargo if his ship was not to be too low in the water for swift sailing to avoid British vessels (William Bell Clark, Lambert Wickes, New Haven, 1932, p. 359, 332, 340, 342).
4. The plan for a quick raid to be led by Gen. Stark was expanded to a full-scale invasion under Lafayette, who insisted that his command be considered not as an independent one but as subordinate to that of Washington's. Lafayette was also determined to have McDougall or Kalb as one of his generals to reduce the importance of Conway, whom he detested (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 3:129; JCC , 10:87, 107; Lafayette in the Age of the American Revolution: Selected Letters and Papers, 1776–1790, ed. Stanley J. Idzerda and others, Ithaca, N.Y., 1977–, 1:267–270). Lafayette's instructions emphasized finally the purpose of the expedition as one of destruction and seizure of supplies; he was not to aim at holding the country or bringing Canadians to the American side “but with the greatest Prudence and with a Prospect of durable Success” (Lafayette Papers, 1776–1790, 1:263–267). On the evolution of these instructions, see Louis Gottschalk, Lafayette Joins the American Army, Chicago, 1937, Appendix V. But see Patrick Henry to JA , 5 March, note 2 (below).
5. Horses that carry baggage of officers in a campaign ( OED ).
6. On Hugh Hughes, see vol. 3:207, note 1.
7. On 14 Jan. the congress accepted Baron von Steuben's services as a volunteer and asked him to go at once to Washington's camp ( JCC , 10:50).
8. The Board of War reported these proposed changes to the congress, which accepted them on 5 Feb. ( JCC , 10:102–103, 126).
9. Resolutions affecting the administration of hospitals were passed on 6 Feb. (same, 10:128–133).