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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 2

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.

Docno: ADMS-04-02-02-0014

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Tufts, Cotton
Date: 1776-06-30

John Adams to Cotton Tufts

[salute] Dear Sir

Your Favour of the 17th. I received by Yesterdays Post. Am much obliged, to you for your judicious Observations of the Spirit of Com• { 25 } merce and Privateering, and many other Subjects, which I have not Time to consider, at present. I mean to express my Sentiments of them in this Letter.1
You tell me a Plan is forming for immediately erecting a Foundery. I wish you would oblige me so much as to write me, who the Persons are who have laid this Plan: whether it is to be carried on by the Public or by private Persons—who are the Undertakers—where the Foundery is to be—whether it is a brass or an Iron Foundery or both? In short what the Plan is in all its Particulars. . . .2 Are there any Artists sufficiently skilled with you? Have you Iron, or Ore, suitable to make Iron, proper for Cannon. Where shall you get Brass? Has Mr. Aaron Hobart of Abington done any Thing at casting Cannon. Has he an Air Furnace? Where does he get his Iron? And where, his Skill and Knowledge?
There are several other Subjects of Inquiry that occur to my Mind, which are of no small Importance.
Musquetts and Bayonnetts are excessively wanted in all the Colonies. Twelve Months ago We were distressed, to a Degree that Posterity will scarcely credit for Powder. This is now over. Now Arms are almost in as much Demand. The Convention of Virginia have taken as bold a Step to get Arms as the Massachusetts did to get Salt Petre. They have passed an ordinance for paying out of the public Treasury Twenty Dollars for every Musquet and Bayonnett which shall be made in the Colony for a year. Pensilvania makes very good Guns and in considerable Numbers. I fear the Massachusetts, in the Multiplicity of their Cares, have not done so much as they might in this Way. I am sure that Province upon a proper Exertion of its Ingenuity and Policy, as well as the Wit and Dexterity of her Tradesmen might make a vast Number of Arms annually. I want to be informed, what Number is now made Weekly or Monthly in the Province. How many are made by Mr. Orr; how many by Pratt, how many by Barrett of Concord, and how many by Pomroy of Northampton. . . . I sincerely wish that the Province would undertake in a public Capacity to encourage this Manufacture, and that they might do it with as much Wisdom and Spirit, and then I know they would have as much success, as they had in the Manufacture of Salt Petre.
There are several other Articles which deserve the public Attention.
Flints begin to be wanted, and I am convinced that those Colonies abound with the proper Flint Stone, and that nothing is wanting but a little Attention to find it, and a little skill, to brake it into the proper Sizes and Shapes. Orange County in New York abounds with { 26 } it, and the People there use no other flints. I wish the general Court would set a Committee to search for it, or recommend it to the select Men of the Towns to look for it.
Sulphur is an Object which lies in your Way as a Philosopher and a Physician. . . . Is it to be found any where in the Province. Our Province has an Advantage of all others, in one Respect, the Division of it into Towns which are incorporated Bodies Politick and have public Officers and frequent public Meetings, gives the General Court Power, by ordering the select Men to call Town Meetings and to insert any subject in the Warrant, to diffuse and circulate any Information or Instruction and a Spirit of Inquiry into the whole Mass of the People at once. If some such Method was taken it is very likely that Sulphur Ore might be found in Plenty.
Lead is another Thing of great Importance, and there certainly is a great Quantity of the Ore in the Towns of Northampton and Southampton. It is a Pity that Something cannot be done to set the Manufacture agoing.
In one Word, my Friend, I cannot think that Country safe, which has not within itself every Material necessary for War, and the Art of making Use of those Materials. I never shall be easy, then, untill We shall have made Discoveries of Salt Petre, Sulphur, Flynts, Lead, Cannon, Mortars, Ball, Shells, Musquetts, and Powder, in sufficient Plenty, so that We may always be sure of having enough of each.
Another Thing my Heart is set upon is Salt. Pray inform me, what has been done with you towards the Manufacture.
The Intelligence you give me of your Success, in ferretting away, the Men of War, is some Consolation for the melancholly Accounts We have from Canada. It proves that Coll. Quincy was right when he wrote me, that with Powder and heavy Cannon, he would undertake to make Prisoners at Discretion of the Army in the Town and the fleet in the Harbour as he did last Summer.3

[salute] I am &c.

1. JA clearly meant just the opposite: “I mean not to express,” &c.
2. Here and below, suspension points are in MS.
3. See “An Old Friend” (i.e. Josiah Quincy) to JA, 11 July 1775 (Adams Papers).
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.