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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 2

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0074

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-01-30

From Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Sir

The very polite introduction to yours of Jan 3d I Consider not only as A Complement far beyond any Merit I can presume to Claim, but as Resulting in some Measure from that partial Byas which Ever { 389 } Leads us to View through the most Favourable Medium whatever Regards those we Consider in the Light of Friendship.
But when assure'd that I think myself both Honour'd and oblige'd whenever Mr. Adams takes up the pen to Favour me with A Line, I hope he will again Attempt to Grasp it hard Enough to Gratify me Further in the same way.
More Especially as I am about to submit a Casuistical query to his Decision: in whose judgment I place Great Confidence Both from the Ability and Rectitude of Mind which Guide its Determinations.
Personal Reflections and sarcastic Reproaches have Generally been Decry'd by the Wise And the Worthy both in thier Conversation and Writing, and though A Man may be Greatly Criminal in his Conduct towards the society in which he Lives, how far sir, do you think it justifiable for any individual to hold him up the Object of public Derision.
And is it Consistant with the Benevolent system of Christianity to Vilify the Delinquent when we only Wish to Ward of[f] the Fatal Consequences of his Crimes.
But though from the perticuler Circumstances of our unhappy times A Little personal Acrimony Might be justifiable in your sex, Must not the Female Character suffer. (And will she not be suspected as Deficient in the most Amiable part therof that Candour and Charity which Ensures her both Affection and Esteem.) if she indulges her pen to paint in the Darkest shades Even Those whom Vice and Venality have Rendered Contemptable.
Your undisguized sentiments on these points will Greatly oblige a person who is sometimes Doubtful whether the solicitations of A Beloved Friend, May not lead her to indulge A satirical propencity that ought to be Reined in With the utmost Care and Attention, but such are the Multiplied injuries the Community Receives, from A set of unfeeling, unprincipled Hirelings—such the Discord sow'n by their Wicked Machinations and such the Animosity of parties, that may we not all with some Reason apply to ourselves, What A Noble Auther has put into the Mouth of the Celebrated pope, When Meeting the Admired Boileau1 in the Elysian shades, 'that Neither of them Could Boast that Either thier Censure or thier praise was always Free from partiallity. And that thier pens were often drawn against Those with whom it was more shameful to Contend, than Honourable to Vanquish.
I know not What May be your opinion of a Late Composition.2 But as it was so Readily ushered into Light and by A Gentleman of { 390 } your Discernment offered to the publick Eye. You Cannot Wonder if I presume you thought it Might in some small degree be Beneficial to society. If so the Auther must be highly Gratified. And will be ever better pleased with picking some useful Flower from the foot of parnassces, than if she were Able to Ascend the utmost Heights: and Gather the Laurel or the Garland from its summit, when the Glowing Beauties have No tendency Either to Correct the Manners of others or to improve the Virtue of her own Heart.
Your Critism or Countenance, your Approbation or Censure May in some perticulers serve to Regulate my future Conduct.
In your Last to Mr. Warren you seem to be quite Weary of A state of suspence.3 It is painful. It is Vexatious. How many years have the hopes of the Contesting parties been Alternately Riseing or sinking with the Weight of A Feather and yet Little prospect of A period to thier Embarrasment.
How much Longer sir do you think the political scale Can Hang in Equilibrium. Will not justice and Freedom soon preponderate till the partizans of Corruption and Venality (Even Backed with the Weight of Ministerial power) shall be Made to kick the Beam.
You will not think it strange that the timidity and tenderness of A Woman should Lead her to be anxious for the Consequences of every important step and very solicitous for the termination of those Disputes which interrupt Almost Every social Enjoyment and threaten to spread Ruin and Desolation over the Fairest possessions.
But if you sir will Candidly Excuse this interuption, I will no Longer Call of your Attention from more Momentous affairs. Yet Let me add my Fervant Wishes that you and the other Gentlemen of the Ensuing Congress4 may be Endowed With Wisdom and Resolution Equal to the Difficulties of the Day and if you Attempt to Repair the shattered Constitution or to Erect a New one May it be Constructed with such symetry of Features, such Vigour of Nerves, and such strength of sinew that it May Never be in the power of Ambition or Tyrany to shake the Durable Fabrick. For the mean time I hope all Necessary Attention will be payed to the personal safety of the Worthy Guardians of our Freedom and Happiness. Which Leads my Trembling Heart to Wish my Friend, were at A further Remove than Cambridge5 from the Head quarters of Vindictive Enemies.

[salute] I am sir With Great Esteem your Real Friend and Humble servant,

[signed] M Warren
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Unfil'd letters.”
{ 391 }
1. Nicholas Boileau Despréaux (1636–1711), French literary critic, poet, and satirist (Hoefer, Nouv. biog. générale).
2. Mercy Warren's The Group.
3. 3 Jan. 1775, above.
4. A reference to the Second Provincial Congress, in which Mrs. Warren, like her husband, assumed that JA would have a seat.
5. The place of meeting of the Second Provincial Congress.

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0075

Author: Adams, John
Author: Lincoln, Benjamin
Author: Massachusetts Provincial Congress
Date: 1775-02-06

Credentials of the Massachusetts Delegates to the Continental Congress

Resolved, that the Hon. John Hancock Hon. Thomas Cushing Esquires Mr. Samuel Adams, John Adams, and Robert Treat Pain Esquires appointed by the last provincial Congress “to represent this Colony on the 10th of May next or sooner if necessary, at the American Congress, to be held at Philadelphia” be and they hereby are, authorized and impowered “with the Delegates from the other American Colonies” to Adjourn from time to time and place to place as shall be judged necessary; and to continue in being as Delegates for this Colony, untill the Thirty first day of December next ensuing and no longer.1

[salute] A true Copy of Record

[signed] Benjamin Lincoln Secretary
P. S. enclosed is a Letter received last night from Mr. Higginson of Sept. 15. which I recommend to the Consideration of the heads of Departments2
[signed] John Adams
PCC, (M-332, Misc. Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 8.)
1. These men were chosen on 5 Dec. 1774 (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours., p. 57). On 10 Feb. 1775, the Congress resolved to pay each delegate £56 for past service and £100 for his next stint in the Continental Congress (same, p. 95–96).
2. In the hand of JA, written on the verso. The reference is probably to Stephen Higginson, but the letter has not been found, nor has the year of JA's note been determined.

Docno: ADMS-06-02-02-0076

Author: Adams, John
Date: 1775-02-10

To a Friend in London

“The account you give of an overbearing influence in the house, and the want of feeling and spirit out of it, is of a very serious and melancholy kind: Americans are very sensible, that such accounts are true, and expect to fall a sacrifice to the knavery in the cabinet and the folly out of it, unless preserved by their own virtue, their frugality, or valour, or both.
{ 392 }
“Shorter parliaments, a more equitable representation, the abolition of taxes and the payment of the debt, the reduction of placemen and pensioners, the annihilation of bribery and corruption, the reformation of luxury, dissipation and effeminacy, the disbanding the army, are all necessary to restore your country to a free government, and to a safe, honourable, and happy life. But is this practicable, is there a resource in human nature for hope of such a miraculous change? Is there one example of it in history, or experience? A nation is easily corrupted, but not so easily reformed. The present reign may be that of Augustus, but upon my honour I expect twelve Caesars will succeed it. What is to become of America if they should? Ought she not to think in time, and prepare for the worst.
“I have a great curiosity to know how the proceedings of the Congress at Philadelphia are relished in London, at St. James's, and St. Stephen's.1 I think it may be seen from them, that America is not insensible of her danger, nor inattentive to the means of her safety.
“I am also very anxious to know what the friends of Liberty think of the hasty dissolution of parliament; for my own part, I have ever thought this the most insidious and artful step of the present reign, it seems to betray more contempt of the people, at the same time that it betrays a dread of some remaining sense and integrity among them, than any thing else which has been done. You will allow, Sir, that the broil with America is a very great national concern. At a time when America was assembled to concert measures relative to this great concern, a new parliament is called of a sudden, before the people could hear from America, as if the minister disdained or dreaded that the nation should have opportunity to judge of the state of America, and choose or instruct their representatives accordingly; as if the minister scorned or feared that the people, the electors, should have opportunity to hear and converse together upon facts, before they chose their members.
“The design of the ministry seems to have been likewise to give the friends of liberty the go-by, in England as well as in America; determined to pursue their system, they would not suffer the friends of the constitution to converse or correspond together before the day of election, lest the constituents should bind the candidates to act an honest part. It is not easy to convey to you, Sir, an adequate idea of the state of this province. It is now at last true, that we have no government, legislative, executive, or judicial. The people determined never to submit to the act for destroying their charter, so dearly purchased, preserved and defended by the toil, treasure, and blood { 393 } of their ancestors, are every where devoting themselves to arms. Our Duke of Alva is shut up with his troops, and his forlorn Mandamus Counsellors in Boston.—What the ministry will do is uncertain,—all the British fleet and army cannot change men's opinions; they cannot make a juror serve, nor a representative. An attempt to cram a form of government down the throats of a people, to impose a constitution upon a united and determined people by force, is not within the omnipotence of an English parliament.
“If they attempt a campaign like that of Kirk,2 if they send the sword and fire to ravage in this country, they will find in New-England an hundred thousand descendants of the puritans in the Charles's and James's days, who have not yet lost entirely the spirit of Englishmen under the English commonwealth.
“Our enemies give out that persons who have distinguished themselves here, in opposition to the power of parliament, will be arrested and sent to some county in England, to be tried for treason; if this should be attempted, it will produce resistance and reprisals, and a flame through all America, such as eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the head of the minister or his minions to conceive.
“I beg the continuance of your favours, and am, with the warmest wishes for the safety of both countries.”
Reprinted (from The Remembrancer, or Impartial Repository of Public Events, London, 1775, p. 11–12). For JA's authorship see To a Friend in London, 21 Jan., note 3, above.
1. The place of meeting of the court and the House of Commons respectively.
2. Col. Percy Kirke (1646?–1691), commander of the “Lambs” regiment, who allegedly hanged dozens of rebels without trial at the time of the Duke of Monmouth's revolt in 1685 (DNB).
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.