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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0227

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1776-02-11

John Adams to Abigail Adams

[salute] My Dear

Here I am again. Arrived last Thursday,1 in good Health, altho I had a cold Journey. The Weather, a great Part of the Way, was very severe, which prevented our making very quick Progress, and by an Accident which happened to one of my Horses, which obliged me to leave her at Brookfield and hire another, was delayed two days. An Horse broke loose in the Barn and corked2 mine under the fore-shoulder. I hope that Bass upon his Return will find her well.
My Companion was agreable and made the Journey much less tedious than it would have been.
I can form no Judgment of the State of public Opinions and Principles here, as yet, nor any Conjectures of what an Hour may bring forth.
Have been to meeting and heard Mr. Duffill [Duffield] from Jer. 2.17. Hast thou not procured this unto thy self, in that thou hast forsaken the Lord thy God, when he led thee by the Way?—He prayed very earnestly for Boston and New York, supposing the latter to be in Danger of Destruction.
I, however, am not convinced that Vandeput will fire upon that Town3—It has too much Tory Property to be destroyed by Tories.
I hope it will be fortified and saved. If not the Q[uestion] may be asked “hast thou not procured this &c?”
Tomorrow, Dr. Smith is to deliver an oration in Honour of the brave Montgomery.4 I will send it, as soon as it is out, to you.
There is a deep Anxiety, a kind of thoughtfull Melancholly, and in { 346 } some a Lowness of Spirits approaching to Despondency, prevailing, through the southern Colonies, at present, very similar, to what I have often observed in Boston, particularly on the first News of the Port Bill, and last year about this Time or a little later, when the bad News arrived, which dashed their fond Hopes with which they had deluded themselves, thro the Winter. In this, or a similar Condition, We shall remain, I think, untill late in the Spring, When some critical Event will take Place, perhaps sooner. But the Arbiter of Events, the Sovereign of the World only knows, which Way the Torrent will be turned. Judging by Experience, by Probabilities, and by all Appearances, I conclude, it will roll on to Dominion and Glory, tho the Circumstances and Consequences may be bloody.
In such great Changes and Commotions, Individuals are but Atoms. It is scarcly worth while to consider what the Consequences will be to Us. What will be the Effects upon present and future Millions, and Millions of Millions, is a Question very interesting to Benevolence natural and Christian. God grant they may and I firmly believe they will be happy.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. John Adams Braintree.”
1. 8 February.
2. That is, calked: “To wound with a calk, as a horse's leg” (Webster, 2d edn.). Calk (in the sense of a projecting metal point affixed to a shoe to prevent slipping) appears frequently in American colloquial usage as “cork”; thus “corked boots.” See DAE and Dict. of Americanisms under both calk and cork.
3. Capt. (later Adm.) George Vandeput, then commanding H.M.S. Asia in New York Harbor.
4. JA was mistaken about the date. The ceremonies in honor of Gen. Richard Montgomery, who was killed in the American assault on Quebec on the last day of 1775, were not held until Monday, 19 Feb., when Rev. William Smith, provost of the College of Philadelphia, delivered an oration in the “Dutch Calvinist” (i.e. German Reformed) Church in Philadelphia that JA later said was considered such “an insolent Performance” that Congress declined either to thank the orator or to print his speech. However, “The orator then printed it himself, after leaving out or altering some offensive Passages” (to AA, 28 April, below). What offended JA and others were Smith's markedly loyalist sentiments. See entries in Richard Smith's Diary of Proceedings in Congress for 25 Jan., 12, 19, 21 Feb., in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:327, 347, 356, 359 and references in editorial notes there. For Smith's Oration as printed, see “Bibliographical Notes” in JCC, 6:1117–1118; also T. R. Adams, “American Independence,” No. 228a-h.

Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0228

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1776-02-13

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Lee is at York,2 and We have requested a Battalion of Philadelphian { 347 } Associators, together with a Regiment of Jersey Minute Men, to march to his Assistance. Lord Sterling3 was there before with his Regiment, so that there will be about 1000 Men with Lee from Connecticutt, about 600 with Ld. Sterling from the Jerseys, one Battalion of about 720 Minute Men from Jersey and one of the same No. from Philadelphia. We shall soon have four Battalions more raised in Pensilvania, to march to the same Place and one more in the Jerseys.4
Mr. Dickinson, being the first Collonell, and Commander of the first Battalion too, claimed it, as his Right to march upon this Occasion. Mr. Reed, formerly Gen. Washingtons Secretary goes his Lt, Coll. Mr. Dickinsons Alacrity and Spirit upon this occasion, which certainly becomes his Character and setts a fine Example, is much talk'd of and applauded. This afternoon, the four Battallions of the Militia were together, and Mr. Dickinson mounted the Rostrum to harrangue them, which he did with great Vehemence and Pathos, as it is reported.
I suppose, if I could have made Interest enough to have been chosen more than a Lt., I should march too upon some such Emergency, and possibly a Contingency may happen, when it will be proper for me to do it still, in Rank and File. I will not fail to march if it should.
In the Beginning of a War, in Colonies like this and Virginia, where the martial Spirit is but just awakened and the People are unaccustomed to Arms, it may be proper and necessary for such popular Orators as Henry and Dickenson to assume a military Character. But I really think them both, better Statesmen than Soldiers, tho I cannot say they are not very good in the latter Character. Henrys Principles, and Systems, are much more conformable to mine than the others however.
I feel, upon some of these Occasions, a flow of Spirits, and an Effort of Imagination, very like an Ambition to be engaged in the more active, gay, and dangerous Scenes. (Dangerous I say but recall that Word, for there is no Course more dangerous than that which I am in.) I have felt such Passions all my Lifetime, particularly in the year 1757, when I longed more ardently to be a Soldier than I ever did to be a Lawyer. But I am too old, and too much worn, with Fatigues of Study in my youth, and there is too little need in my Province of such assistance, for me to assume an Uniform. Non tali Auxilio nec Defensoribus istis Tempus eget.
I believe I must write you soon, Lord Sterlings Character, because I was vastly pleased with him. For the future I shall draw no Characters but such as I like. Pimps destroy all Freedom of Correspondence.
{ 348 }
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To Mrs. John Adams Braintree.”
1. JA left space for the day of the month but did not enter it. A portion of the text of this letter is printed in Burnett's Letters of Members, where it is pointed out (1:348, note) that the mustering of “the four Battallions of the [Philadelphia] Militia” (mentioned in the second paragraph) was recorded by others as occurring on 13 February.
2. New York City.
3. William Alexander (1726–1783), of New York and New Jersey, who claimed the title of 6th Earl of Stirling, though his claim had been formally disallowed; he was named a Continental brigadier general on 1 March (DAB).
4. See Congress' resolutions of 12 Feb. (JCC, 4:127–128).
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, 2018.