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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2

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.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0013

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1776-06-26

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I have written so seldom to you, that I am really grieved at the Recollection. I wrote you, a few Lines, June 2. and a few more June 16. These are all that I have written to you, since this Month began. It has been the busyest Month, that ever I saw. I have found Time to inclose all the News papers, which I hope you will receive in due Time.
Our Misfortunes in Canada, are enough to melt an Heart of Stone. The Small Pox is ten times more terrible than Britons, Canadians and Indians together. This was the Cause of our precipitate Retreat from Quebec, this the Cause of our Disgraces at the Cedars.—I dont mean that this was all. There has been Want, approaching to Famine, as well as Pestilence. And these Discouragements seem to have so disheartened our Officers, that none of them seem to Act with Prudence and Firmness.
But these Reverses of Fortune dont discourage me. It was natural to expect them, and We ought to be prepared in our Minds for greater { 24 } Changes, and more melancholly Scenes still. It is an animating Cause, and brave Spirits are not subdued with Difficulties.
Amidst all our gloomy Prospects in Canada, We receive some Pleasure from Boston. I congratulate you on your Victory over your Enemies, in the Harbour. This has long lain near my Heart, and it gives me great Pleasure to think that what was so much wished, is accomplished.
I hope our People will now make the Lower Harbour, impregnable, and never again suffer the Flagg of a Tyrant to fly, within any Part of it.
The Congress have been pleased to give me more Business than I am qualified for, and more than I fear, I can go through, with safety to my Health. They have established a Board of War and Ordinance and made me President of it, an Honour to which I never aspired, a Trust to which I feel my self vastly unequal. But I am determined to do as well as I can and make Industry supply, in some degree the Place of Abilities and Experience. The Board sits, every Morning and every Evening.1 This, with Constant Attendance in Congress, will so entirely engross my Time, that I fear, I shall not be able to write you, so often as I have. But I will steal Time to write to you.
The small Pox! The small Pox! What shall We do with it? I could almost wish that an innoculating Hospital was opened, in every Town in New England. It is some small Consolation, that the Scoundrell Savages have taken a large Dose of it. They plundered the Baggage, and stripped off the Cloaths of our Men, who had the Small Pox, out full upon them at the Cedars.
1. The Board of War and Ordnance, embryo of the U.S. War Department, was instituted on 12 June 1776; on the following day JA was named first among five members and hence became chairman or “President.” He continued in this post until the close of his service in Congress late in 1777, or in other words throughout the entire period that the Board's work was directed exclusively by civilians. To that work, which soon imposed a crushing daily burden of correspondence and administrative detail, he was to give more time than to all the rest of his duties as a member of Congress put together. See JCC, 5:434–435, 438; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:242; 3:342, 360, 394–395, and passim.
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.