A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
close

Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0085

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1774-07-05

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dr.

I cant be easy without my Pen in my Hand, yet I know not what to write.
I have this Morning heard a Dialogue between Will. Gardiner and a Captain Pote of Falmouth.1 Gardiner says he cant subscribe the Non Consumption Agreement, because he has 100 Men coming from England to settle upon Kennebeck River, and he must supply them, which he cant do without English Goods. That Agreement he says may do, at Boston, but not in the Eastern Country. Pote said he never would sign it, and rail'd away at Boston Mobs, drowning Tea, and tarring Malcom.2
James Sullivan at Dinner told us a Story or two.—One Member of the General Court he said as they came down Stairs after their Dissolution at Salem, said to him “Tho we are kill'd we died scrabbling, did not We.”—This is not very witty I think.
Another Story was of a Piece of Wit of Brother Porter of Salem. He came upon the Floor and asked a Member “What State are you in now?” The Member answered “in a State of Nature.”—Ay says Porter, “and you will be d——d before you will get into a State of Grace.”
I spent an Hour last Evening at Mr. Wyers with Judge Cushing. Wyers Father, who has a little Place in the Customs came in. He began, upon Politicks and told us, that Mr. Smith had a Fast last Week which he attended. Mr. Gillman preached, he said, Part of the Day and told them that the Judgments of God upon the Land, were in Consequence of the Mobbs and Riots, which had prevailed in the Country—and then turning to me, old Wyer said “What do you think of that Mr. Adams?”—I answered, I cant say but Mobs and Violences may have been one Cause of our Calamities. I am inclined to think that they do come in for a share: But there are many other Causes; did not Mr. Gillman mention Bribery and Corruption, as another Cause?—He ought to have been impartial, and pointed out the Venality which prevails in the Land as a Cause, as well as Tumults.—“I think he did” says Wyer.
I might have pursued my Enquiry, whether, he did not mention the Universal Pilfering, Robbery and Picking of Pocketts, which prevails { 125 } in the Land—as every Mans Pockett upon the Continent is picked every Day, by taking from him Duties without his Consent.
I might have enquired whether he mentioned the universal Spirit of Debauchery, Dissipation, Luxury, Effeminacy and Gaming which the late ministerial Measures are introducing, &c. &c. &c. but I forbore.
How much Profaneness, Leudness, Intemperance, &c. have been introduced by the Army and Navy, and Revenue—how much servility, Venality And Artifice and Hypocricy, have been introduced among the Ambitious and Avaricious by the british Politicks of the last 10 Years?
In short the original faulty Causes of all the Vices which have been introduced, these last 10 Years, are the Political Innovations of the last 10 Years. This is no Justification and a poor Excuse for the Girls who have been debauched, and for the Injustice which has been committed, in some Riots. But surely the Soldiers, Sailors, and Excisemen, who have occasioned these Vices ought not to reproach those they have corrupted. These Tories act the Part of the Devil—they tempt Men and Women into sin, and then reproach them for It, and become soon their Tormentors for it.
A Tempter and Tormentor, is the Character of the Devil.—Hutchinson, Oliver, and others of their Circle, who for their own Ends of Ambition and Avarice, have procured, promoted, encouraged, councilled, aided and abetted the Taxation of America, have been the Real Tempters of their Countrymen and Women, into all the Vices, sins, Crimes and follies which that Taxation has occasioned: And now by [them]selves and their Friends, Dependents, and Votaries, they a[re] reproaching those very Men and Women, with those Vices and follies, Sins and Crimes.
There is not a Sin which prevails more universally and has prevailed longer, than Prodigality, in Furniture, Equipage, Apparell and Diet. And I believe that this Vice, this Sin has as large a Share in drawing down the Judgments of Heaven as any. And perhaps the Punishment that is inflicted, may work medicinally, and cure the Desease.

[salute] I am &c.,

[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree To be left at Mr. Adams's Office in Queen Street Boston”; endorsed: “No 5.”
1. William Gardiner was a son of JA's client Dr. Silvester Gardiner of Boston. Jeremiah Pote, a loyalist merchant, fled the following year to New Brunswick; one of his daughters had married a brother of the loyalist lawyer David Wyer, frequently mentioned in these letters (William Willis, History of Portland, from 1632 to 1864, Portland, 1865, p. 456, note).
2. John Malcom (or Malcomb), an unpopular customs collector, was tarred and feathered in Boston in Jan. 1774, and the incident became the subject of { 126 } satirical prints soon afterward issued in London. See a very fully documented account by Frank W. C. Hersey, “Tar and Feathers: The Adventures of Captain John Malcom,” Col. Soc. Mass., Pubns., 34 (1943):429–473, which reproduces several of the prints.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0086

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1774-07-06

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Mobs are the trite Topick of Declamation and Invective, among all the ministerial People, far and near. They are grown universally learned in the Nature, Tendency and Consequences of them, and very eloquent and pathetic in descanting upon them. They are Sources of all kinds of Evils, Vices, and Crimes, they say. They give Rise to Prophaneness, Intemperance, Thefts, Robberies, Murders, and Treason. Cursing, Swearing, Drunkenness, Gluttony, Leudness, Trespasses, Maims, are necessarily involved in them and occasioned by them. Besides, they render the Populace, the Rabble, the scum of the Earth, insolent, and disorderly, impudent, and abusive. They give Rise to Lying, Hypocricy, Chicanery, and even Perjury among the People, who are driven to such Artifices, and Crimes, to conceal themselves and their Companions, from Prosecutions in Consequence of them.
This is the Picture drawn by the Tory Pencil: and it must be granted to be a Likeness; but this is Declamation. What Consequence is to be drawn from this Description? Shall We submit to Parliamentary Taxation, to avoid Mobs? Will not Parliamentary Taxation if established, occasion Vices, Crimes and Follies, infinitely more numerous, dangerous, and fatal to the Community? Will not parliamentary Taxation if established, raise a Revenue, unjustly and wrongfully? If this Revenue is scattered by the Hand of Corruption, among the public Officers, and Magistrates and Rulers, in the Community, will it not propagate Vices more numerous, more malignant and pestilential among them. Will it not render Magistrates servile, and fawning to their vicious Superiours? and insolent and Tyrannical to their Inferiours? Is Insolence, Abuse and Impudence more tolerable in a Magistrate than in a subject? Is it not more constantly and extensively, pernicious? And does not the Example of Vice and Folly, in Magistrates descend, and spread downwards among the People?
Besides is not the Insolence of Officers and Soldiers, and Seamen, in the Army and Navy as mischievous as that of Porters, [or]1 Sailors in Merchant Service?
Are not Riots raised and made by Armed Men, as bad as those by unarmed? Is not an Assault upon a civil officer, and a Rescue of a { 127 } Prisoner from lawfull Authority, made by Soldiers with Swords or Bayonets, as bad as if made [by] Tradesmen with Staves?
Is not the Killing of a Child by R.2 and the slaughter of half a Dozen Citizens by a Party of Soldiers, as bad as pulling down a House, or drowning a Cargo of Tea? even if both should be allowed to be unlawfull.
Parties may go on declaiming: but it is not easy to say, which Party has excited most Riots, which has published most Libels, which have propagated most Slander, and Defamation.
Verbal Scandal has been propag[at]ed in great Abundance by both Parties. But there is this Difference, that one Party have enjoyed almost all public Offices, and therefore their Deffamation has been spread among the People more secretly, more maliciously and more effectually. It has gone with greater Authority, and been scattered by Instruments more industrious. The ministerial News Papers have swarmed with as numerous and as malicious Libels as the <Whiggs> antiministerial ones. Fleets Paper, Meins Chronicle,3 &c. &c. have been as virulent as any that was ever in the Province.
These Bickerings of opposite Parties, and their mutual Reproaches, their Declamations, their Sing Song, their Triumphs and Defyances, their Dismals, and Prophecies, are all Delusion.
We very seldom hear any solid Reasoning. I wish always to discuss the Question, without all Painting, Pathos, Rhetoric, or Flourish of every Kind. And the Question seems to me to be, whether the american Colonies are to be considered, as a distinct Community so far as to have a Right to judge for themselves, when the fundamentals of their Government are destroyed or invaded? Or Whether they are to be considered as a Part of the whole British Empire, the whole English Nation, so far as to be bound in Honour, Conscience or Interest by the general Sense of the whole Nation?
However if this was the Rule, I believe it is very far from the general Sense of the whole Nation that America s[hould] be taxed by the british Parliament. If the Sense of [all] of the Empire, could be fairly and truly collected, it would appear, I believe, that a great Majority would be against taxing us, against or without our Consent. It is very certain that the Sense of Parliament is not the Sense of the Empire, nor a sure Indication of it.
But if all other Parts of the Empire were agreed unanimously in the Propriety and Rectitude of taxing us, this would not bind us. It is a fundamental, inherent, and unalienable Right of the People that they have some Check, Influence, or Controul in their Supream Legislature. { 128 } If the Right of Taxation is conceded to Parliament, the Americans have no Check, or Influence at all left.—This Reasoning never was nor can be answered.
[signed] John Adams
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. Abigail Adams Braintree To be left at Mr. Adams's Office in Queen Street Boston”; endorsed: “No 4.”
1. MS: “as.”
2. Ebenezer Richardson, a customs officer in Boston, shot and killed a boy named Christopher Snider on 22 Feb. 1770, in an affair that was a prelude to the Boston “Massacre”; see JA, Diary and Autobiography, 1:349–350.
3. Thomas and John Fleet's Boston Evening Post, a conservative paper which expired in 1775; and John Mein and John Fleeming's short-lived and markedly tory Boston Chronicle, 1767–1770.
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/