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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0044

Author: Adams, John
DateRange: 1775-11 - 1775-12

[In Congress, November and December 1775.]

On Tuesday November 28. 1775. The Congress resumed the Consideration of the Rules and Orders for the Navy of the United Colonies, { 350 } and the same being debated by Paragraphs were agreed to as follows: These Regulations are to be found in the 262. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. 11th. Pages of the Journals of Congress for 1775. They are too long to transcribe. They were drawn up in the Marine Committee1 and by my hand, but examined, discussed and corrected by the Committee. In this place I will take the Opportunity to observe, that the pleasantest part of my Labours for the four Years I spent in Congress from 1774 to 1778 [i.e. 1777] was in this naval Committee. Mr. Lee, Mr. Gadsden, were sensible Men, and very chearful: But Governor Hopkins of Rhode Island, above seventy Years of Age kept us all alive. Upon Business his Experience and Judgment were very Usefull. But when the Business of the Evening was over, he kept Us in Conversation till Eleven and sometimes twelve O Clock. His Custom was to drink nothing all day nor till Eight O Clock, in the Evening, and then his Beveredge was Jamaica Spirit and Water. It gave him Wit, Humour, Anecdotes, Science and Learning. He had read Greek, Roman and British History: and was familiar with English Poetry particularly Pope, Tompson [Thomson] and Milton. And the flow of his Soul made all his reading our own, and seemed to bring to recollection in all of Us all We had ever read. I could neither eat nor drink in those days. The other Gentlemen were very temperate. Hopkins never drank to excess, but all he drank was immediately not only converted into Wit, Sense, Knowledge and good humour, but inspired Us all with similar qualities.
This Committee soon purchased and filled five Vessells. The first We named Alfred in honor of the founder of the greatest Navy that ever existed. The second Columbus after the Discover[er] of this quarter of the Globe. The third Cabot, for the Discoverer of this northern Part of the Continent. The fourth Andrew Doria in memory of the Great Genoese Admiral and the fifth Providence, for the Town where she was purchased, the Residence of Governor Hopkins and his Brother Eseck whom We appointed first Captain. We appointed all the officers of all the Ships. At the Solicitation of Mr. Deane We appointed his Brother in Law Captain Saltonstall.2
Sometime in December, worn down with long and uninterrupted Labour I asked and obtained Leave to visit my State and my Family. Mr. Langdon did the same, Mr. Deane was left out of the Delegation { 351 } by his State and some others of the naval Committee were dispersed, when Congress appointed a Committee of twelve one from each State, for naval Affairs,3 so that I had no longer any particular Charge relative to them: but as long as I continued a Member of Congress I never failed to support all reasonable measures reported by the new Committee.
It is necessary that I should be a little more particular, in relating the Rise and Progress of the new Governments of the States.
1. More correctly, the Naval Committee, which was absorbed and replaced by the standing Marine Committee early in 1776.
2. See the Journal, 30 Oct. (JCC, 3:311–312); JA's Diary entry (Notes of Debates) of the same date and note; and his List of Persons Suitable for Naval Commands, printed in the Diary under date of Nov. 1775.
3. Appointed 14 Dec. (JA having left Philadelphia on the 9th), this became the permanent Marine Committee (JCC, 3:428; Charles O. Paullin, The Navy of the American Revolution, Cleveland, 1906, p. 86–87).

Docno: ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0045

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1775-06-02

[Fryday June 2. 1775.]

On Fryday June 2. 1775. Journals of Congress, page 112. The President laid before Congress a Letter from the Provincial Convention of Massachusetts Bay dated May 16. which was read, setting forth the difficulties they labour under, for want of a regular form of Government, and as they and the other Colonies are now compelled to raise an Army to defend themselves from the Butcheries and devastations of their implacable Enemies, which renders it still more necessary to have a regular established Government, requesting the Congress to favour them with explicit Advice respecting the taking up and exercising the Powers of civil Government, and declaring their readiness to submit to such a general Plan as the Congress may direct for the Colonies, or make it their great Study to establish such a form of Government there, as shall not only promote their Advantage but the Union and Interest of all America.
This Subject had engaged much of my Attention before I left Massachusetts, and had been frequently the Subject of Conversation between me and many of my Friends Dr. Winthrop, Dr. Cooper, Colonel Otis, the two Warrens, Major Hawley and others besides my Colleagues in Congress and lay with great Weight upon my Mind as the most difficult and dangerous Business that We had to do, (for from the Beginning I always expected We should have more difficulty and danger, in our Attempts to govern ourselves and in our Negotiations and connections with foreign Powers, than from all the Fleets and Armies of Great Britain). It lay therefore with great Weight upon my mind: and when this Letter was read, I embraced the Opportunity to open myself in Congress, and most earnestly to intreat the serious Attention of all the Members and of all the Continent to the measures which the times demanded. For my Part I thought there was great Wisdom in the Adage when the Sword is drawn throw away the Scabbard. Whether We threw it away voluntarily or not, it was useless now and { 352 } would be useless forever. The Pride of Britain, flushed with late Tryumphs and Conquests, their infinite Contempt of all the Power of America, with an insolent, arbitrary Scotch Faction with a Bute and Mansfield at their head for a Ministry, We might depend upon it, would force Us to call forth every Energy and resource of the Country, to seek the friendship of Englands Enemies, and We had no rational hope but from the Ratio Ultima Regum et Rerum publicarum. These Efforts could not be made without Government, and as I supposed no Man would think of consolidating this vast Continent under one national Government, We should probably after the Example of the Greeks, the Dutch and the Swiss, form a Confederacy of States, each of which must have a seperate Government. That the Case of Massachusetts was the most urgent, but that it could not be long before every other Colony must follow her Example. That with a View to this Subject I had looked into the Ancient and modern Confederacies for Examples: but they all appeared to me to have been huddled up in a hurry by a few Chiefs. But We had a People of more Intelligence, Curiosity and Enterprize, who must be all consulted, and We must reallize the Theories of the Wisest Writers and invite the People, to erect the whole Building with their own hands upon the broadest foundation. That this could be done only by Conventions of Representatives chosen by the People in the several Colonies, in the most exact proportions. That it was my Opinion, that Congress ought now to recommend to the People of every Colony to call such Conventions immediately and set up Governments of their own, under their own Authority: for the People were the Source of all Authority and Original of all Power. These were new, strange and terrible Doctrines, to the greatest Part of the Members, but not a very small Number heard them with apparent Pleasure, and none more than Mr. John Rutledge of South Carolina and Mr. John Sullivan of New Hampshire.
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/