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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 1


This note contained in document ADMS-06-01-02-0006
5. This letter was first printed in the Nantucket Gazette, 1 Feb. 1817, followed by JA to Cushing, 19 Oct. 1756, below. It there has the caption “To Mr. Charles Cushing, School Master, in Newbury,” which we may assume is the address on the cover of the unlocated original. The contributor of both letters, who signed himself “P.,” gives no hint of how these “literary curiosities” came into his hands. Both were reprinted in the Boston Daily Advertiser of 5 March 1817, and a few days later Charles Cushing, son of the recipient, wrote to JA from Roxbury a letter very apologetic in tone, saying he could not possibly explain how these private letters, long in a trunk in the family's possession, got into circulation except by an act of theft, which he considered an “atrocity” that would have greatly distressed his father (Cushing to JA, 10 March 1817, Adams Papers). In a prompt reply, JA reassured the younger Cushing that he should give himself no further trouble about this “riddle”:
“The Letters, while they have afforded some amusement to my Friends, have excited many tender recollections as well as serious reflections in me. I was like a Boy in a Carrefour in a Wilderness in a strange Country, with half a dozen roads before him groping in a dark night to find which he ought to take. Had I been obliged to tell your Father the whole Truth, I should have mentioned several other pursuits, Farming, Merchandize, Seas, and above all War. Nothing but want of Interest and Patronage prevented me from inlisting in the Army. Could I have obtained a Troop of Horse or a company of Foot I should infallibly have been a Soldier. It is a problem in my Mind to this day whether I should have been a Coward or a Hero.” (To Charles Cushing, 13 March 1817, NhPoA; LbC, Adams Papers.)
Two early transcripts of both letters to Cushing, probably from the Advertiser text, remain among the Adams Papers. An entry in J. Q. Adams' Diary for 19 Aug. 1829 explains their presence: “copies of them made by Mrs. S. B. Clarke [Susanna Boylston (Adams) Clark (later Treadway), a niece of JQA] were among my Son George's { 15 } papers, and the Lieut. [Thomas Boylston Adams Jr., a nephew of JQA] has recopied them at my request in my father's last Letter Book.”
RC of the present letter appeared at least once in the autograph market before 1948; it was lot 3 in the Hess sale at the Anderson Galleries, New York city, 24 Jan. 1908.
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/