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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0038

Author: Hawley, Joseph
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1774-08

From Joseph Hawley

Broken Hints to be communicated to the Committee of Congress for the Massachusetts2

“We must fight, if we can't otherwise rid ourselves of British taxation, all revenues, and the constitution or form of government enacted for us by the British parliament. It is evil against right-utterly intolerable to every man who has any idea or feeling of right or liberty.
It is easy to demonstrate that the regulation act will soon annihilate every thing of value in the charter, introduce perfect despotism, and render the house of representatives a mere form and ministerial engine.
It is now or never, that we must assert our liberty. Twenty years will make the number of tories on this continent equal to the number of whigs. They who shall be born will not have any idea of a free government.
It will necessarily be a question, whether the new government of this province shall be suffered to take place at all,—or whether it shall be immediately withstood and resisted?
A most important question this—I humbly conceive it not best forcibly or wholly to resist it, immediately.
There is not heat enough yet for battle. Constant, and a sort of negative resistance of government, will increase the heat and blow the fire. There is not military skill enough. That is improving, and must be encouraged and improved, but will daily increase.
Fight we must finally, unless Britain retreats.
But it is of infinite consequence that victory be the end and issue of hostilities. If we get to fighting before necessary dispositions are made for it, we shall be conquered, and all will be lost forever.
A certain clear plan, for a constant, adequate and lasting supply of arms and military stores, must be devised and fully contemplated. This is the main thing. This, I think, ought to be a capital branch of the business of congress—to wit: to devise and settle such a plan; at least, clearly to investigate how such supplies can be extensively had in case of need. While this is effecting—to wit: while the continent is providing themselves with arms and military stores, and establishing a method for a sure and unfailing and constant supply, I conceive we had best to negotiate with Britain. If she will cede our rights and restore our liberties all is well—every good man will re• { 136 } joice: if she will not agree to relinquish and abolish all American revenues, under every pretence and name, and all pretensions to order and regulate our internal policy and constitution—then, if we have got any constant and sufficient supply of military stores, it will be time to take our arms. I can't quit this head—it ought to be immediately and most seriously attended to. It can't be any other than madness to commence hostilities before we have established resources on a sure plan for certain and effectual military supplies. Men, in that case, will not be wanting.
But what considerate man will ever consent to take arms and go to war, where he has no reasonable assurance but that all must be given over and he fall a prey to the enemy, for want of military stores and ammunition, in a few weeks?
Either an effectual non-consumption agreement or resistance of the new government will bring on hostilities very soon.
1. As to a non-consumption agreement—it appears to me that ought to be taken for certain truth, that no plan of importation or consumption of tea, British goods in general, or enumerated articles, which is to rest and depend on the virtue of all the individuals, will succeed; but must certainly prove abortive.
The ministry may justly call such a plan futile—futile it will turn out. A plan of that sort may safely rest and be founded on the virtue of the majority: but then the majority, by the plan, must be directed to control the minority, which implies force. The plan, therefore, must direct and prescribe how that force shall be exercised.
Those, again, who exercise that force, under the direction and by order of the majority, must by that majority be defended and indemnified.
Dispositions must therefore necessarily be made to resist or overcome that force which will be brought against you—which will directly produce war and bloodshed.
From thence it follows, that any other non-consumption or non-importation plan, which is not perfectly futile and ridiculous, implies hostilities and war.
2. As to the resistance of the new government, that also implies war: for in order to resist and prevent the effect of the new government, it is indispensably necessary that the charter government, or some other, must be maintained—constitutionally exercised and supported.
The people will have some government or other—they will be drawn in by a seeming mild and just administration, which will last awhile; { 137 } legislation and executive justice must go on in some form or other, and we may depend on it they will,—therefore the new government will take effect until the old is restored.
The old cannot be restored until the council take on them the administration, call assemblies, constitute courts, make sheriffs etc. The council will not attempt this without good assurance of protection. This protection can't be given without hostilities.
Our salvation depends upon an established persevering union of the colonies.
The tools of administration are using every device and effort to destroy that union, and will certainly continue so to do—
Thereupon, all possible devices and endeavors must be used to establish, improve, brighten and maintain such union.
Every grievance of any one colony must be held and considered by the whole as a grievance to the whole, and must operate on the whole as a grievance to the whole. This will be a difficult matter to effect: but it must be done.
Quere, therefore—whether is it not absolutely necessary that some plan be settled for a continuation of congresses?—But here we must be aware that congresses will soon be declared and enacted by parliament to be high treason.
Is the India company to be compensated or not?
If to be compensated—each colony to pay the particular damage she has done, or is an average to be made on the continent?
The destruction of the tea was not unjust—therefore to what good purpose is the tea to be paid for, unless we are assured that by so doing, our rights will be restored and peace obtained?
What future measures is the continent to preserve with regard to imported dutied tea, whether it comes as East India property or otherwise, under the pretence and lie that the tea is imported from Holland, and the goods imported before a certain given day? Dutied tea will be imported and consumed—goods continue to be imported—your non-importation agreement eluded, rendered contemptible and ridiculous—unless all teas used, and all goods, are taken into some public custody which will be inviolably faithful.”
MS not found. Reprinted from (Niles, Principles and Acts), p. 324–325. JA sent Hawley's piece to Niles on 5 Feb. 1819, in response to a request for documents to be printed in a collection planned by Niles. It was never returned, and no MS is known to exist. Niles, however, authenticated his version in a note saying, “The foregoing is a literal copy of the venerable paper before me, except its frequent abbreviations of the and that, with the addition only of a few commas, &c. to make it read.” This statement conflicts somewhat { 138 } with one made by JA on 23 Jan. 1818 in a letter to William Wirt, who had recently completed his biography of Patrick Henry. There JA recalled that he had received “a hasty letter” from Hawley, “containing 'a few broken hints,'” which concluded, “with these words 'After all, we must fight'” “Broken Hints” begins, not concludes, with “we must fight,” a rather abrupt beginning, to say the least. JA says that he read Hawley's letter to Henry, “who listened to it with great attention, and as soon as I had pronounced the words, 'After all we must fight,' he erected his head, and with an energy and vehemence, that I can never forget, broke out with 'By God, I am of that mans mind.'” JA goes on, “I put the letter into his hand, and when he had read it he returned it to me with an equally solemn asseveration that he agreed entirely, in opinion with the writer” (LbC, Adams Papers). Either JA's memory was defective, or “Broken Hints” was an enclosure with a short note, which JA read aloud, and then permitted Henry to read the longer document. JA may have sent only the enclosure to Niles. This supposition is perhaps strengthened by the absence of the term “broken hints” from the surviving document; since JA quoted the term, he may have been quoting from Hawley's short note. In a letter from Hawley to Robert Treat Paine, 11 June 1775, we find: “My Poor Sentiments on the affair of Getting into a State of Civil Government were expressed in a letter to Mr. John Adams from Northampton. I have Not yet seen reason to alter my Opinion” (MHi:Robert Treat Paine Papers).
1. A diary entry for 18 Aug. 1774, recounting the progress of the Massachusetts delegation through Connecticut, begins: “Mr. Badcock is of the same Mind with Major Hawley, that a Non Importation and Non Consumption Agreement will not be faithfully observed” (JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:101). Hawley had not made this point in his earlier letter of advice to JA (25 July, above). Very likely, therefore, “Broken Hints” was delivered to JA at Springfield or somewhere else along his route.
2. Niles introduced “Broken Hints” with an extract from JA's letter to him:
“I enclose you the 'broken hints to be communicated to the committee of congress for the Massachusetts,' by major Joseph Hawley, of Northampton.
This is the original paper that I read to Patrick Henry in the fall of the year 1774, which produced his rapturous burst of approbation, and solemn asseveration, 'i am of that man's mind.'
“I pray you to send it back to me. I would not exchange this original for the show book of Harvard college, and printed it shall be at my own expense in a handbill.”
Here JA is claiming that he read the entire “Broken Hints” to Henry. Given its length, that seems less probable than that he merely read Hawley's accompanying note. At any rate, “Broken Hints” is an early, perceptive, and remarkably forthright recognition of the direction that the colonies would have to take to preserve their rights.

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0039

Author: Tudor, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1774-09-03

From William Tudor

[salute] Dear Sir

This Week has been fruitfull of extraordinary Transactions. I will endeavour to give You some Account of them. Tuesday the Superior Court opened1 and Mr. Oliver took his Seat as chief Justice. When the grand Jury were called upon to be sworn they all to a Man { 139 } refus'd taking the Oath, for Reasons committed to Paper, which they permitted the Court, after some Altercation, to read. The Petit Jury unanimously followed the Example of the Grand Jury; their Reasons together with the others You will read in the Masstts. Spy.2 The Court told them they should consider of their Refusal, and then adjourn'd to next Day. Wednesday Forenoon the Court met, (Chief Justice absent attending Council) and continued all the continued Actions till next Term. They agreed to let us file Complaints and to enter up Judgement on them; which we had imagined they would not consent to, as some of the Judges the first Day had said that if the County would rise and prevent them doing Business generally, they should decline finishing it partially, and the County must thank themselves for the Inconveniences of their own Madness. Thursday C. Justice present. One small Point was argued by Mr. J. Q. and Fitch, a few Complaints read, and after Mr. Fitch, in Complyance with a previous Vote of the Bar, had reccommended four of Us to be admitted to the Atty.'s Oath, the Court adjourn'd to next Day. Friday. This Morning there were a Number of printed Bills stuck up at the Court house and other Parts of the Town, threatening certain Death to any and all the Bar who should presume to attend the Superior Court then sitting. At ten o Clock the Court met (Oliver absent). All the new enter'd Actions were ordered to be continued, as there was no Jury to try them. The following Question was started. Several People who had appeal'd from the Judgements against them on Default at the Inferior Court, finding there would be no Jury, now got their Appeals entered, to prevent an Affirmation of the former Judgements on Complaints and tendered Pleas to Issue. The Question was, whether, as by their Default they could have no Day in the Inferior Court they could claim an Appeal at all. There is a Province Law that seems to favour the Practice, and it has been countenanced by all concerned in conducting the Business, for a very obvious Reason. But though the Practice had permitted Debtors to appeal on Defaults, it had never gone so far as to admit an Entry of them at a Superior Court. The Point was not argued. The Court allow'd the Complaints to be filed notwithstanding the Entry of the Appeals, but would not affirm the Judgements without Time to consider, and they are continued with the rest of the Business till next Term. You had but one in this Predicament. Mr. Hill has promis'd to send you a Minute of your Causes, which renders it unnecessary for me to say any Thing about them. The Court after admitting Nat. Coffin to the Attys. Oath adjourn'd sine Die. Thus ended the Superior { 140 } Court and is the last common Law Court that will be allowed to sit in this or any other County of the Province. The Proceedings of the Inhabitants of the Counties of Worcester and Middlesex in County meeting assembled3 will be sent You. A similar Spirit prevails everywhere else. You will see Phips's, Mason's, Goldthwait's and Price's Declarations of doing no Business under the unconstitutional Acts, in the public Papers4—which I should have taken Care to have forwarded you, had I not been assur'd that some Gentlemen of the Committee of Congress had made Provision that each of your Bretheren with yourself should receive by every Opportunity.
The present State of this Province will lead to the Discussion of a most important Question, and which may not be unsuitable for the Contemplation of the Congress. On the one hand, the Execution of the Acts of Parliament never will be suffered; on the other, this Refusal, which involves in it an intire Stoppage of every Court of Law and a Dismission of all executive public Officers, may plunge Us in Anarchy and Confusion. The People are eager to have Recourse to the first Charter, or adopt some new Mode of Government. Our last Charter is vacated and the Province reduced to a State of Nature. Can there ever be a more favourable Opportunity than the present for claiming, resuming and maintaining the Rights of Mankind, for a thorough Discussion, Definition and Confirmation of them. Great Britain, by her despotic Edicts, has forced Us to the Alternative of either becoming Slaves, or recurring to the Principles of Nature for Protection.5 Society cannot subsist without Courts of Law and executive Officers. We are Slaves if Acts of Parliament are to regulate our internal Policy, and the Inconveniences we must combat, before a Restoration of our Liberties can be made Us, are too great to brook. What, tell Us, Ye wise Men, what is to be done?
I would now proceed to give You an Account of the Resignation of Oliver, (Lt. Govr) Danforth, Lee &c. &c. with the movements preceeding them, but I find, on Inquiry, there will be a particular Narative of them in Monday's Papers,6 which Capt. Marston will carry with him to Philadelphia.
Half of our sworn Enemies have resign'd their Seats at the Board, and such a Pannic has seiz'd the rest, that we expect before this Day Week his Excellency will be left without a single Member of his Divan. The Traitors find, that neither Greaves [Graves] with his Fleet, nor Gage with his Army and Castle, can insure them Protection from the Fury of their abused Countrymen.7
The noble Enthusiasm which has seiz'd the Breasts of our Country• { 141 } men is as diffusive as it is extraordinary. I will give you one Instance of it, among many others. When our indignant Bretheren march'd to Rutland the other Day, with a Design to make Colo. Murray resign his execrable Post, or force him to fly the County, among several other white headed Sires who compos'd the patriotic Band, there was one eighty Years old, who insisted on accompanying them. They endeavoured to persuade him from it. Told him they did not doubt his Affection to the Cause, and wish'd for his Prayers. But should they meet with Opposition, as his Arm was now nerveless, he would be Expos'd to Hazard without a Possibility of being serviceable. I will go, reply'd the heroic old Man, and shall think myself happy to receive the Ball, which, should I not be there might kill a better Man! Cedite Romani, cedite Graii.8

[salute] I am, my dear Sir, with great Respect and affection, Your most obliged and very hum. Servt.,

[signed] Will Tudor
A Letter from You, Sir, would be a most acceptable Present.
1. 30 Aug. 1774, in Boston.
2. The issue of 2 Sept. 1774. Also printed in the Boston Gazette, 5 Sept., suppl. In giving their reasons for refusing to serve, the petty jurors mentioned that the chief justice, Peter Oliver, had been impeached and was thus unfit to serve, and that the Massachusetts Government Act made the tenure of judges dependent on the Crown, a violation of charter rights. The grand jurors not only made these two points, but added that three of the judges, Oliver, Foster Hutchinson, and William Brown, had accepted posts as mandamus councilors and as such would be compelled to uphold the Administration of Justice Act. Acting as jurors, they concluded, would betray “the just and sacred rights of our native land.”
3. Held on 30 and 31 Aug. in Middlesex and Worcester cos., these were two of several county conventions held in August and September, the most famous of which was that held in Suffolk on 6 Sept., which produced the Suffolk Resolves. The purpose of the Middlesex and Worcester conventions was to decide upon local action in opposition to the changes decreed for the charter and for the administration of justice. The result was agreement not to obey royal officials and to close the courts. The convention decisions were made subject to the actions of the forthcoming provincial congress, to which delegates were to be sent (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours., p. 601–605, 609–614, 631–635).
4. In separate notices in the Boston newspapers, Ezekiel Goldthwait and Ezekiel Price, joint clerks of the Suffolk quarter sessions court, Col. David Phips, High Sheriff of Middlesex co., and Thaddeus Mason, clerk of the Middlesex quarter sessions court, all pledged to conduct no business under the “unconstitutional” acts of Parliament (Boston Gazette, 5 Sept. 1774).
5. In the Continental Congress, JA was to insist that the law of nature be one of the foundations for the rights that Americans claimed. See Editorial Note, 5 Sept. – 26 Oct. 1774, below.
6. In both the Boston Gazette and the Boston Evening–Post for 5 Sept.
7. Compare Tudor's letter to AA[3 Sept. 1774], Adams Family Correspondence, 1:149 and notes.
8. Tudor has left out Scriptores: “Yield ye Roman, ye Greek writers,” that is, give way to someone who surpasses you.
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.