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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0092

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

To John Winthrop

[salute] Dr sir

I do myself the Honour of writing you, a very few Lines, just for the Sake of introducing to you, the Gentlemen who compose a Committee of this Congress, who are to consult with your Honorable Board,1 about a Plan for continuing the Army.
I conjecture that the Reduction of the Pay of the private Soldiers, and the Introduction of Some Gentlemen from other Colonies, into the Service as officers will be principal objects.
The Pay of the Privates is generally, if not universally thought to be too high, especially in Winter:2 but whether a Reduction of it would not give Such a Disgust as to endanger the Service, I dont know. If The War Should continue, and their Pay is not reduced this Fall this Congress, will certainly reduce it next Spring, and in a Way that will perhaps be dangerous, at least attended with many Inconveniences. This Way will be by each Colony furnishing its Quota of Men as well as Money.
The other Thing that is wished by many, is not so reasonable. It is altogether Absurd to Suppose, that the Council of Massachusetts, should appoint Gentlemen from the southern Colonies, when Connecticutt, Rhode Island and N. Hampshire do not. But it is idle to expect it of either.
The Council, if they are Men of Honour cannot appoint Gentlemen whom they dont know, to command Regiments or Companies in their service. Nor can they pay a Regard to any Recommendation of Strangers, to the Exclusion of Persons whom they know. Besides it is certain that the Massachusetts has Numbers of Gentlemen, who have no Command in the Army at all, and who would now be glad to get in, who are better qualified, with Knowledge both of Theory and Practice than any who can be had upon the Continent. They have been more in War, and longer in the study of it. Besides can it be Supposed that the private Men will be easy to be commanded by Strangers to the Exclusion of Gentlemen, whom they know being their Neigh• { 183 } bours. It is moreover a Reflection, and would be a Disgrace upon that Province to send abroad for Commanders of their own Men. It would Suppose that it had not Men fit for officers than which nothing can be further from the Truth.3
But I must desist: We have heard nothing from the Committee appointed to write to Us, as yet, nor from that about Lead and salt.4
I pray you sir that We may have, the Accounts and Vouchers sent Us, that our poor suffering Province, may obtain a Reimbursement. I am, with great Respect &c.
RC (MHi:JA-John Winthrop Corr.); addressed: “The Hon. John Winthrop Esqr. L.L.D. Cambridge favoured by Mr. Lynch”; docketed: “Mr. Adams 2 Oct. 1775.”
1. Winthrop was a member of the Council at this time.
2. On pay scales, see JA to Elbridge Gerry, 18 June, note 4 (above).
3. JA is putting himself in opposition to Washington's position that the army be truly continental and that competent officers be assigned regardless of their home colonies. Washington particularly wanted to find places for qualified officers from outside New England (French, First Year, p. 506).
4. The committee named to correspond with the delegates in the congress was composed of William Sever, Jedediah Foster, and Joseph Palmer from the Council, joined by Richard Devens, George Partridge, Isaac Lothrop, and Elbridge Gerry from the House. The committee on lead and salt included Benjamin Greenleaf, Eldad Taylor, and Joseph Palmer of the Council, and Col. Nathaniel Freeman, Capt. Jonathan Greenleaf, Dr. William Whiting, and William Story of the House (Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass. A.1a, Reel No. 12, Unit 1, p. 153–154, 121–122).

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0093

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Heath, William
Date: 1775-10-05

To William Heath

[salute] Sir

I never had the Pleasure of a Correspondence or any particular Acquaintance with you, which can justify the Freedom I have taken of giving you this Trouble: But as the good of our Country, which I know is your first Consideration, is my Motive, I presume you will think it a Sufficient Apology.
In the present State of America, which is so novel and unexpected, and indeed unthought of by Numbers of Persons in every Colony, it is natural to expect Misapprehensions, Jealousies and Misrepresentations in Abundance: and it must be our Care to attend to them, and if possible explain what is misunderstood and State truly what is misrepresented.
It is represented in this City by Some Persons, and it makes an unfriendly Impression upon Some Minds, that in the Massachusetts Regiments, there are great Numbers of Boys, Old Men, and Negroes, Such as are unsuitable for the service, and therefore that the Con• { 184 } tinent is paying for a much greater Number of Men, than are fit for Action or any Service. I have endeavoured to the Utmost of my Power to rectify these Mistakes as I take them to be, and I hope with some success, but still the Impression is not quite removed.
I would beg the favour of you therefore sir, to inform me Whether there is any Truth at all in this Report, or not.
It is natural to suppose there are some young Men and some old ones and some Negroes in the service, but I should be glad to know if there are more of these in Proportion in the Massachusetts Regiments, than in those of Connecticutt, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, or even among the Rifle Men.
You may depend, sir upon my Using the most prudent Caution, in the Use of your Letter, and especially of your Name but I could certainly make a good Use, of a Letter from you upon the Subject. Great Fault is likewise found in Several Parts of the Continent of the Massachusetts Officers, whom I believe, taken on an Average, and in Proportion to Numbers to be equal at least if not Superiour to any other Colony.
I must confess I had another View in giving you this Trouble which was to introduce to your Attention, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch and Coll Harrison, a Committee from this Congress to consult with the General and with the New England Colonies, concerning a Plan for future Armies. Mr. Lynch is from S. Carolina, Coll Harrison from Virginia, both Gentlemen of great Fortune, and respectable Characters, Men of Abilities and very Staunch Americans. Dr. Franklyn needs no words of mine. I am, sir, with great Respect, your very huml servant,
[signed] John Adams
RC (MHi:William Heath Papers); addressed: “To William Heath Esqr Brigadier General in the American Army Cambridge Per favour of Mr. Lynch”; docketed: “from Jno Adams Esqr Octr. 5th. 1775.”
1. On this same date, JA wrote a similar letter to Gen. John Thomas, introducing the committee members and asking about boys, old men, and Negroes among Massachusetts regiments. In addition, he asked particularly about the qualifications of Henry Knox and Josiah Waters as engineers (RC offered for sale, The Collector, March 1948, p. 57).
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.