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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0011

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Zabdiel
Date: 1776-06-21

John Adams to Zabdiel Adams

[salute] My dear Sir

Your Favour of the Ninth of this Month was delivered to me, Yesterday by Mr. Whitney, whose Health I hope will be fully restored by the Small Pox for which he was innoculated the day before. Your Letter, Sir, gave me great Pleasure and deserves my most hearty Thanks.
I am fully with you in Sentiment, that altho the Authority of the Congress founded as it has been, in Reason, Honour, and the Love of Liberty, has been sufficient to govern the Colonies, in a tolerable Manner, for their Defence and Protection: yet that it is not prudent, to continue very long in the same Way. That a permanent Constitution should be formed, and foreign Aid, obtained. In these Points and thus far the Colonies, and their Representatives the Congress are extremely well united.—But concerning a Declaration of Independency there is some Diversity of Sentiment. Two Arguments only, are urged with any Plausibility against such a Measure. One is that it will unite all the Inhabitants of G. Britain against Us. The other, that it will put us too much in the Power of foreign States. The first has little Weight in it, because the People of Great Britain, are already as much united against Us, as they ever are in any Thing, and the Probability is, that such a Declaration would excite still greater Divisions and Distractions among them.
The second has less Weight still, for foreign Powers already know that We are as obnoxious to the British Court as We can be. They know that Parliament have in effect declared Us independent, and that We have acted these thirteen Months, to all Intents and Purposes as if We were so.
The Reports of fifty five Thousand Men, coming against Us, are chiefly ministerial Gasconade. However We have reason to fear that they will send several very powerfull Armaments against Us, and therefore our most strenuous Exertions will be necessary, as well as our most fervent Prayers. America is yet in her Infancy, or at least but lately arrived to Man hood, and is inexperienced in the perplexing Misteries of Policy, as well as the dangerous Operations of War.
I assure you, sir, that your Employment, in investigating the Moral Causes of our Miseries, and in pointing out the Remedies, is devoutly to be wished. There is no station more respectable, nor any so pleasant and agreable. Those who tread the public Stage, in Characters the { 21 } most extensively conspicuous, meet with so many Embarrassments, Perplexities, and Disappointments, that they have often reason to wish for the peacefull Retreats of the Clergy. . . .1 Who would not wish to exchange the angry Contentions of the Forum, for the peacefull Contemplations of the Closet. Where Contemplations prune their ruffled Wings and the free Soul looks down to pitty Kings? Who would not Exchange the discordant Scenes of Envy, Pride, Vanity, Malice, Revenge, for the sweet Consolations of Philosophy, the serene Composure of the Passions, the divine Enjoyments of Christian Charity, and Benevolence?
Statesmen my dear Sir, may plan and speculate for Liberty, but it is Religion and Morality alone, which can establish the Principles upon which Freedom can securely stand. . . . The only foundation of a free Constitution, is pure Virtue, and if this cannot be inspired into our People, in a greater Measure, than they have it now, They may change their Rulers, and the forms of Government, but they will not obtain a lasting Liberty.—They will only exchange Tyrants and Tyrannies.—You cannot therefore be more pleasantly, or usefully employed than in the Way of your Profession, pulling down the Strong Holds of Satan. This is not Cant, but the real sentiment of my Heart.—Remember me with much respect, to your worthy family, and to all Friends.
1. Here and below, suspension points are in MS.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0012

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Tufts, Cotton
Date: 1776-06-23

John Adams to Cotton Tufts

[salute] My dear Friend

It is with Shame, and Confusion of Face, that I acknowledge that your agreable Favour of April the twenty sixth, came duely to my Hand and has laid by me unanswered to this Time. There has been as much Folly and Inattention to my own Pleasure, and Interest, in this Negligence as there is of Ingratitude to you, for in the sincerity of my Heart I declare, that none of the Letters of my numerous Correspondents, contain more important Information or more sensible Observations, than yours.
In a Letter I received last night from Boston, I have the Pleasure to learn that your Ideas of fortifying the Harbour have been adopted, and by the next Post or two I hope to be informed that every hostile ship is made to scamper.
{ 22 }
The Danger, you apprehend, that our Armies will be thinned by the Freedom of Trade is real, but perhaps the Restraints laid upon it, by our Enemies may correct the Error, if it is one. The Voice of the People was so loud for it, that it was adopted altho some Persons thought it dangerous, and none expected any great Advantage from it before the next Winter.
You mention Independence and Confederation. These Things are now become Objects of direct Consideration. Days, and Times, without Number, have been spent upon these Subjects, and at last a Committee is appointed to prepare a Draught of Confederation, and a Declaration that these Colonies [are]1 free States, independent of all Kings, Kingdoms, Nations, People, or States in the World. . . .2
There has been the greatest Scarcity of News for the last Fortnight, which has ever happened since the War commenced. . . . I make it a constant Practice to transmit to my Family, all the News Papers, where I presume you get a Sight of them. You will find by them, the Course of political Causes and Effects in this Colony. The Assembly [were] necessitated to rescind their Instructions, and [became] so obnoxious, and unpopular, among the Inhabitants their own Constituents for having ever passed them, as to be obliged to die away, without doing any Thing else, even without Adjourning, and give Place to a Conference of Committees and a Convention.3 Every Part of the Colony is represented in this Conference which is now sitting, and is extremely unanimous, spirited, zealous, and determined. You will soon see Pensilvania, one of the most patriotic Colonies. New Jersey is in a similar Train. The Delaware Government the same.
Maryland is a little beside itself I think, but presently it will blaze out like a Fire ship or a Volcano. New York still acts in Character, like a People without Courage or sense, or Spirit, or in short any one Virtue or Ability. There is neither Spunk nor Gumption, in that Province as a Body. Individuals are very clever. But it is the weakest Province in point of Intellect, Valour, public Spirit, or any thing else that is great and good upon the Continent. It is incapable of doing Us much good, or much Hurt, but from its local situation. The low Cunning of Individuals, and their Prostitution plagues Us, the Virtues of a few Individuals is of some Service to Us. But as a Province it will be a dead Weight upon any side, ours or that of our Enemies.
1. MS: “a.”
2. Here and below, suspension points are in MS. On 7 June Richard Henry Lee had moved “certain resolutions respecting independency,” which he had composed but which were understood to { 23 } be submitted on behalf of the Virginia delegation in accordance with their instructions of 15 May by the Virginia Convention, directing the delegates “to propose [that Congress] declare the United Colonies free and independent states” (Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 1:290–291, 298–299; JCC, 5:425–426). Although, as usual, the Journal does not record the name of either the mover or seconder of this motion, it has been generally accepted that JA seconded it; see his Diary and Autobiography, 3:392–393. Congress deferred considering the resolutions (one of which called for the preparation of a plan of confederation) until next day, a Saturday, when they were debated in a committee of the whole house; the debate was continued on Monday the 10th, but further debate on the first and crucial resolution was then deferred until 1 July; “and in the mean while, that no time be lost, in case the Congress agree thereto, that a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution” (JCC, 5:427, 428–429). On the 11th it was “Resolved, That the committee, to prepare the declaration, consist of five members: The members chosen, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. R. R. Livingston” (same, p. 431). For JA's principal accounts of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in the weeks that followed (until the committee reported its draft to Congress on 28 June), see his Diary and Autobiography, 3:335–337, and references there. His arguments in the debate in the committee of the whole, 8–10 June, are summarized in Jefferson's Notes of Proceedings (Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd, 1:311–313).
3. Two words (in brackets) have been editorially supplied in this sentence to clarify it. For the recent demise of the Pennsylvania Assembly, which had resisted moves toward separation from Great Britain, and its supersedure by a Provincial Conference, which first met on 18 June and was controlled by radicals, see J. Paul Selsam, The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, Phila., 1936, p. 129 ff.
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.