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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0147

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Gerry, Elbridge
Date: 1775-11-05

To Elbridge Gerry

[salute] Dear Sir

I am under Such Restrictions, Injunctions and Engagements of Secrecy respecting every Thing which passes in Congress, that I cannot communicate my own Thoughts freely to my Friends, So far as is necessary to ask their Advice, and opinions concerning Questions { 277 } which many of them understand much better than I do. This however is an inconvenience, which must be Submitted to for the sake of Superiour Advantages.
But I must take the Liberty to say that I think We shall Soon think of maritime Affairs, and naval Preparations: No great Things are to be expected at first, but out of a little a great deal may grow.1
It is very odd that, I, who have Spent my Days in Researches and Employments so very different, and who have never thought much of old Ocean, or the Dominion of it, should be necessitated to make such Enquiries: But it is my Fate, and my duty,2 and therefore I must attempt it.
I am to enquire what Number of seamen, may be found in our Province, who would probably inlist in the service, either as Marines, or on board of Armed Vessells, in the Pay of the Continent, or in the Pay of the Province, or on board of Privateers, fitted out by Private Adventurers.
I must also intreat you to let me know the Names, Places of Abode, and Characters, of such Persons belonging to any of the seaport Towns in our Province, who are qualified for Officers and Commanders of Armed Vessells.
I want to be further instructed, what ships, Brigantines, schooners &c. are to be found in any Part of the Province, which are to be sold or hired out, which will be suitable for armed Vessells—What Their Tonnage the Depth of Water they draw, their Breadth, their Decks &c., and to whom they belong, and What is their Age.
Further, what Places in our Province, are most secure and best accommodated for Building new Vessells, of Force in Case a Measure of that Kind Should be thought of.
The Committee have returned, much pleased with what they have seen and heard, which shews that their Embassy will be productive of happy Effects. They say the only disagreable Circumstance, was that their Engagements Haste and constant Attention to Business was such as prevented them from forming such Acquaintances with the Gentlemen of our Province as they wished. But as Congress was waiting for their Return before they could determine upon Affairs of the last Moment, they had not Time to spare.3
They are pretty well convinced I believe of several important Points, which they and others doubted before.
New Hampshire has leave to assume a Government and so has South Carolina,4 but this must not be freely talked of as yet, at least from me.
{ 278 }
New England will now be able to exert her strength which a little Time will show to be greater than either Great Britain or America imagines. I give you Joy of the agreable Prospect in Canada. We have the Colors of the Seventh Regiment as the first fruits of Victory.5
RC (NHpR:Naval MS Coll.); docketed in an unknown hand: “Phila Letter Hon John Adams Esq 4th Novr 1775.” An extract of this letter carries a docket entry: “Mr. Speaker Mr. Gerry Colo. Orne” (M-Ar:207, p. 266). Apparently Gerry extracted part of the letter for the consideration of the House, which had completed action on its own bill on armed vessels on 18 Oct. (Mass., House Jour., 1775–1776, 2d sess., p. 173).
1. On 30 Oct. JA was appointed to a reconstituted committee to fit out armed vessels. For details, see JA's Service in the Congress, 13 Sept. – 9 Dec. (above).
2. In a very similar letter sent to James Warren on this date (not printed here), JA makes a little more of his duty: he tells Warren “a secret in Confidence [that] it has become my Duty” to serve on a committee to fit out armed vessels. (Warren-Adams Letters, 1:174–175).
3. The congress approved the committee's report on 4 and 7 Nov. (JCC, 3: 321–325, 330–334).
4. JA adds here in his letter to Warren of 5 Nov. (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.): “and so will every other Colony which shall ask for it which they all will do soon, if the Squabble continues.” And toward the end of his letter, he adds this: “Who expected to live to see the Principles of Liberty Spread and prevail so rapidly, human Nature exerting her whole Rights, unshackled by Priests or Kings or Nobles, pulling down Tyrannies like Sampson, and building up, what Governments the People think best framed for human Felicity. God grant the Spirit, success.” For the action of the congress on New Hampshire and South Carolina, see JCC, 3:319 and 326–327.
5. On 19 Oct., 83 men of the Seventh Regiment or Royal Fusileers were captured when Fort Chambly was taken. Their capture meant that St. John's on the route to Montreal could expect no relief from the siege mounted by Gen. Montgomery. Letters from Gens. Schuyler and Montgomery announcing the victory arrived in Philadelphia on 3 Nov. and were read in the congress the next day. With them came flags of the Seventh Regiment, which were hung “in Mrs. Hancocks Chamber with great Splendor and Elegance” (same, 3:320, 353; French, First Year, p. 428–429; Adams Family Correspondence, 1:319–320).

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0148

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Trumbull, John
Date: 1775-11-05

To John Trumbull

[salute] My dear Sir

I take an opportunity by this Express, to thank you for Me Fingal, a Poem which has been shewn me within a few days. It is excellent, and perhaps the more so for being misterious. It wants explanatory Notes as much as Hudibrass. I cant conjecture the Characters either of Honorius or Mc Fingal.1
Am Sorry to learn that We are likely to loose some of our best Men. We may have better in their stead for aught I know but We shall certainly loose good ones.
There is scarcely a more active, industrious, enterprising and capable Man, than Mr. Deane, I assure you.2 I shall sincerely lament the { 279 } Loss of his services. Men of such great daring active Spirits are much Wanted.
I shall think myself much obliged to you, if you would write me. I want to hear the great Politicks and even the Small Talk of your Colony.
For my own Part I feel very enthusiastic at Times. Events which turn up everyday are so new, unexpected and surprising to most Men, that I wonder more Heads are not turn'd than We hear of. Human Nature seems to be employed like Sampson, taking Hold of the Pillars of Tyranny and pulling down the whole building at a <Time> at a— Lunge I believe is the best Word. I hope it will not, like him bury itself in the Ruins, but build up the wisest and most durable Frames for securing its Happiness. But Time must determine. I am, sir, with much Esteem your Friend
RC (NjP: de Coppet Coll.); docketed in an unknown hand: “John Adams Esqr [re?] John Trumbull Novr. 5th 1775.”
1. McFingal: A Modern Epic Poem . . . or the Town Meeting was written by Trumbull in the fall of 1775 and published that year by William and Thomas Bradford of Philadelphia (Evans, No. 14528). Almost certainly JA read the MS copy that Trumbull sent to Silas Deane with the admonition to reveal the name of its author to no one but JA (Trumbull to Deane, 20 Oct., Deane Papers, 1:86–90). Deane and other leading patriots, including JA, had probably encouraged Trumbull to write the poem to raise whig morale, ridicule tory efforts to gain control, and to exploit the talent that Trumbull had already shown in other works, such as the piece that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on 7 and 14 Aug. 1775 satirizing Gen. Gage's penchant for proclamations. Written in the mock-epic style of Samuel Butler's Hudibras, McFingal centered on the confrontation between Squire McFingal, representative of Massachusetts tories, and Honorius, traditionally identified as JA, at an imaginary town meeting after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The poem was a success both in 1776 and after Cornwallis' defeat, when Trumbull expanded the work (Evans, No. 17750). The several American and English editions made Trumbull a major literary figure for his day (Moses Coit Tyler, Literary History of the American Revolution, new edn., N.Y., 1941, p. 430–450; Alexander Cowie, John Trumbull, Connecticut Wit, Chapel Hill, 1936, p. 145–206; see also Lennox Grey, “John Adams and John Trumbull in the ‘Boston Cycle,’” NEQ, 4:509–514 [July 1931], in which the identification of Honorius as JA is disputed).
2. In October, Connecticut had decided to replace Deane and Eliphalet Dyer with Oliver Wolcott and Samuel Huntington as delegates to the congress, while retaining Roger Sherman as the third member of the delegation (Conn. Colonial Records, 15:136). John Trumbull explained to Deane that the General Assembly believed that it was “dangerous to trust so great a power as you now have, for a long time in the hands of one Set of Men, lest they should grow too self-important and do a great deal of mischief in the end” (Deane Papers, 1:87). See also Trumbull's explanation to JA, 14 Nov. (below). In his often repeated plea that he be replaced and allowed to return home to replenish his estate, JA had also argued for the benefits of rotation in office, but Deane was “Confoundedly Chagrined at his recall” (Dyer to Joseph Trumbull, 1 Jan. 1776, Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:292–293).
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.