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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0161

Author: Trumbull, John
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-11-14

From John Trumbull

[salute] Sir

I had the satisfaction last evening of receiving your very friendly Letter, which was the more agreable for being unexpected.1 As I am setting out tomorrow on a short Tour to the eastward, I have taken the only leisure moment to answer it.
You may easily guess how much I am flattered by your approbation of the little essay, you mention in yours. As to its being mysterious, as you term it, you know Sir an affected mysteriousness is often a good artifice for exciting the Curiosity of the Public, who are always pleased to have an opportunity of applying fictitious Characters and discovering latent allusions. To you Sir I can explain my design in a few words. To expose a number of the principal Villains of the day, to ridicule the high blustering menaces and great expectations of the Tory Party, and to burlesque the atchievements of our ministerial Heroes, civil, ecclesiastical and military, was my whole plan. This could be done with more spirit in dialogue than plain narration, and by a mixture of Irony and Sarcasm under various Characters and { 299 } different Styles, than in an unvaried harangue in the Author's own Person. Nor is it a small beauty in any production of this kind, to paint the manners of the age. For these purposes, the Description of a Townmeeting and its Harangues, appeared the best Vehicle of the Satire. Had there been any one grand Villain, whose Character and History would have answered exactly, I should have made use of him and his real name, as freely as I have the names of others. But I could think of no One, and therefore substituted a fictitious Character, of a Scotch Tory Expectant,2 which I hope is not drawn so illy, but that the world might find hundreds perhaps to whom it might be properly applied. The other Speaker3 has properly speaking no Character drawn, and no actions ascribed to him. He is anyone whose Sentiments are agreeable to his Speeches. The Picture of the Townmeeting is drawn from the life, and with as proper lights, shades and Colouring as I could give it; and is I fancy no bad likeness.
As to explanatory Notes, the Piece I am sensible would want many more than I have given it, in all those places, where personal Characters and particular Allusions are introduced: beyond that the Reader should for me, be welcome to his own guesses. And so much for a Piece, which tho' the Offspring of my own Brain, I do not feel sufficient fondness for, to be sollicitous about making its apology; and which, I assure you Sir, came very near following many of its former Brethren into the flames, as a Sacrifice to that Poetical Moloch (if such a one there be) who delights in burnt offerings of the Infants of our modern Muses; or at best was in danger of suffering perpetual imprisonment, under the Sentence of Horace's Law, Nonum prematur in Annum;4 which I should have looked on as an Authority directly in Point, had I not recollected that the Piece was of so temporary a nature, that if it was of no value now, it would sink as fast as your Massachusetts old tenor Bills, and in that time become no longer passable.
And now for Connecticut Politics, which you desire an Account of. We are Sir a People of a very independent Spirit, and think ourselves as good as any Body, or on the whole a little better—wiser at least, and more intelligent Politicians. Do you wish to know Sir, what ousted Col. Dyer and Mr. Deane? The Spirit of shewing our own Power, and reminding our Delegates of their mortality, influenced us to change some of the men. Indeed so far, I cannot blame it. But the reason of dropping out those two Men was principally this, that the Congress, last spring being led away by a vain opinion of their own importance and forgetting their inferiority to the venerable Assembly of this Colony, did wickedly, wittingly and willingly of their own forethought and malice { 300 } prepense, wholly pass by, disregard and overthrow the Arrangement of General Officers for the said Colony;5 and the said two Delegates were aiding, abetting, advising and Comforting them therein; against the Appointment and Commissions of this Colony, by their Statute-law in that Case made and provided, against our Honor and Dignity &c. Add to this that Deane is a Young Man, and one who never courted Popularity by cringing to the People, or affecting an extraordinary sanctity of manners; a man, whose freedom of Speech and pointedness of Sarcasm has made him as many enemies, as have been raised against him by envy—and both together form a large Party. In this Colony three or four well invented lies, properly circulated and coming from the right Persons will ruin any the most Respectable Character. However, the Delegates from other Provinces have said so much in Deane's favor since he was dropped, that his Enemies have shut their mouths and adjourned their lies to a more convenient Season. I fancy in a year or two you may be sure of having him again with you: I guess sooner. And the new Delegates we have chosen are all hearty in the Cause and (one only excepted)6 Men of very distinguished Abilities.
I will give you a story or two that may show you a little the Character of our people in this Colony.
A little while since at a Public House in this Town, one of our highest Sons of Liberty was holding forth on the occasion of our Changing our Delegates. “The Congress, said he, have too much power given them to be long intrusted to one Set of Men; and they begin to grow too selfsufficient upon it; it is high Time they were changed. The people must keep the Power in their own hands; The Resolves of the Congress are sacred so far as they do what is right and agreable to the People; but where they fail, the people must take up the matter themselves. The Congress are good men, very good Men; but then they are but Men, and so are fallible; fallible Men, said he, and we must have a special eye to them.” To this you see Sir, nothing could be objected, and so I contented myself with telling him, that tho' it was true that the Congress were Fallible, I looked on it as the peculiar felicity of this Town, that we had so many Men in it who were infallible; and what added to our happiness was that these Gentlemen of Infallibility were so ready to put themselves forward, take the Charge and Oversight of Public Affairs and rectify the mistakes of our wellmeaning, but weak and shortsighted Delegates.
Sometime last Summer A Merchant in this Town had obtained licence from the Assembly of this Colony for exporting some Cattle { 301 } notwithstanding an Embargo just laid upon them, because he alledged they were bought previous to it. It seems he undertook under that Color to purchase and export more. The people were called together in a summary way to stop the exportation. As I was going to the meeting I overtook a very Spirited Man, but of rather ordinary abilities and asked him the occasion of the meeting. He said it was to stop this Gentleman from sending off Cattle under a licence from the Assembly; and added, “the Sons of liberty here do not intend to allow any such doings.” Aye, said I (for I knew the man) Do our Assembly presume to give licences in matters of that importance to the Town, without consulting the Sons of Liberty here, who as they are on the Spot, must be so much better able to judge of the matter? Yes, said he, they have and we do not like it at all. Indeed, said I, I think it a most extraordinary Step, that they should take so much upon them; why, by this rule, they might undo you all, if you do not put some check upon them. “Aye that we shall do, said he, and if they make such laws, the People mean to get together and repeal them; nay they shall not, one of them go Representatives next year if they do not mind better what they are about.”
Can this Spirit which hardly brooks subjection to Men of its own Chusing, ever be brought to yield to the Tyranny of Parliament?

[salute] I have scarcely room left to assure you, with how much respect and gratitude I am Your Obliged Humble Servt. Compts. to Messrs. S. Adams, Cushing and Deane.

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr Trumbull. Novr. 14. 1775.”
1. That of 5 Nov. (above).
2. Squire McFingal.
3. Honorious, often identified as JA.
4. Let [your compositions] be kept in your desk for nine years.
5. The ranking of Israel Putnam above David Wooster and Joseph Spencer. See JA to James Warren, 23 July, note 3 (above).
6. Roger Sherman, of whom Trumbull wrote contemptuously in his letter of 20 Oct. to Silas Deane (Deane Papers, 1:87–88).

Docno: ADMS-06-03-02-0162

Author: Warren, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1775-11-14

From James Warren

[salute] My Dear Sir

I last Evening received yours by Capt. Gist, and this Morning by Fessenden.1 It gives me great pleasure to see things in such a fine way and you in such Choice Spirits. I Congratulate you on the takeing of St. John's. This news Fessenden brings with him from Hartford. This gives us great Spirits. He says likewise that Arnold was within twelve Miles of Quebec. You must know that our Anxiety for him and his { 302 } party has been great. Last Night I was at Head quarters where Accounts were received that one Coll. Enos2 of Connecticut with three Companies he Commanded as a rear Guard had come off and left him, while Advanced thirty Miles Ahead, and perhaps at Chaudere Pond. This officer certainly deserves hanging.
It will Always give me great pleasure to be Able to give you any Information. Great Numbers of the Whalemen are gone on Voayges which we permitted after haveing taken Bonds for the landing their Oil and Bone in some Port here other than Boston, and Nantucket.3 Some of them are in the Army, and Sea Coast Service, many of them, and the greater part of our Fishermen and Seamen at Home, and in no Service Earnestly wishing to be Employed in the Privateering Business. What Numbers might be Inlisted in that Service I cant readily Compute, but I have no difficulty in supposeing, that at least three Battalions might be raised in this Colony. The Taste for it runs high here.
As to Ships and other Vessels, I believe there are great Numbers very suitable to Arm Already on hand. Almost every Port of any Consequence could furnish more or less either great or small. Perhaps Ships might be difficult to find that could mount 20 Guns or Upwards, but Vessels to Carry from 6 to 16 Guns I think we abound in, and I think they would soon furnish us with Others. These Vessels are of all Burthens, drafts of water, and dimensions and are many of them Excellent Sailors, and may be either purchased or hired, on very reasonable Terms. I think the General gives only 5/4 per Ton per Month. I am not Acquainted at Haverhill, Newberry &c. but from what I have heard, Vessels might be Built there, safe and with great dispatch, and perhaps at Kennebeck and North River &c. &c. We have no want of the best Shipwrights. As to the Time for Compleating them, much will depend on the winter, but they may be ready as soon as wanted in the Spring if Immediately Engaged in. As for your Next Question, the Names &c. of those fit to Command I am not quite so ready to answer. You know we have not practised Privateering so much here as they have in some of the other Colonies and it is A Business I never was Concerned in, but I have no doubt that many fine Fellows can be found who have been Masters of Vessels and at some time in their Lives served on Board Men of War and Privateers. I have one Capt. Samson4 in my Employ who has serv'd in both, and perticularly with Capt. Mcpherson the last War. Him I would venture a Vessel with. There is Souter5 who you know. Time wont permit me to recollect many others, but from the Nature and Circum• { 303 } stances of this Colony there must be many. I will Endeavour to recollect some for my Next. I am glad to see the Policy of Congress turned this way, and to see you Engaged. You must know I think you qualified for anything you will Undertake.
I Congratulate So. Carolina, and New Hampshire, on the Indulgence shewn them by the Congress. I hope they will Improve it to the best Advantage. I wish for the Time when we shall all (<want>) have the same Liberty. Our Situation must be more Irksome than ever to be surrounded on all Sides with Governments founded on proper Principles and Constituted to promote the free and equal Liberty and Happiness of Mankind, while we are plagued with a Constitution where the Prerogative of the Crown, and the Liberty of the Subject are Eternally militateing, and in the very Formation of which the last is but a secondary Consideration to the first. Indeed my Friend I am sick of our Constitution, more so than ever, have seen enough lately to make me so. I hate the name of Our Charter, which fascinates and Shackles us. I hate the monarchical part of our Government6 and certainly you would more than ever if you knew our present Monarchs, but many of them you have no Idea of. They are totally changed since you left us, divers of them I mean. They have got a whirl in their Brains, Imagine themselves Kings, and have Assumed every Air and Pomp of Royalty but the Crown and Sceptre. You might search Princetown, Brookline, Wrentham, Braintree and several Other Towns without finding a Man you could possibly know, or suppose to have been chose a Councillor here by the Freemen of this Colony no longer ago than last July, and for no longer a time than next May. I shall not trouble you with any further and more perticular Account than I have already given of a dispute the last Session between the two Houses, much to our disadvantage and disgrace haveing seen a Copy of a Letter from Gerry to you by Revere where the matter seemed to be fully taken up.7 The Court was adjourned last Saturday to the 29th Instant after haveing Extended your Commission for one Month to the last of January. We were not ready to come to a Choice, and was afraid to postpone to the first of next setting, so near the Expiration of the Time. I shall be Utterly at a loss for three new men. Do advise me.
I expected to have had the roar of Cannon this Morning, and some News from the Army to have given you. Our Army were prepared to Intrench on Cobble Hill and on Lechmores Point last Night.8 I suppose the Weather has prevented. I hear Nothing of it this stormy { 304 } Morning. What Number of the new Recruits are Arrived we can't learn. It is generally thought not many of them, though there has been Appearances of Fleets in the Bay. I wish this Storm may put some of the Transports upon the Rocks and Quicksands.
You will learn by Revere the General State of things here, the Movements and Success of our Land, and Naval Force, perticularly an Account of the several prizes made. A Number of Letters, and the Kings Proclamation taken in one of them,9 will give you a General view of their whole System with regard to America. I think your Congress can be no longer in any doubts, and hesitancy, about takeing Capital, and Effectual strokes. We shall certainly Expect it. It is said that the delicacy of modern Civilization will not Admit of foreign powers while you Continue to Acknowledge A dependency on Britain or Britains King, haveing any Connection with you. Let us so far Accomodate ourselves to their small policy as to remove this obstacle. I want to see Trade (if we must have it) open, and a Fleet here to protect it in opposition to Britain. Is the Ancient policy of France so lost or dwindeled that they will loose the Golden Opportunity.
We must have a Test, that shall distinguish Whiggs from Tories &c. &c. I have a Thousand Things to say to you. I want to see you. I want you there, and I want you here. What shall I do without you and my Friend Adams at Congress, and yet you are both wanted here. I believe you must stay there. I mean belong to that Body once more. I thank him for his kind Letter, will write to him as soon as I can, propose to go Home Tomorrow. Mrs. W<arre>n grows homesick. She wants to see her Boys haveing been Absent 5 weeks. She sits at the Table with me, will have a paragraph of her own. Says you “should no longer piddle at the Threshold. It is Time to Leap into the Theatre to unlock the Barrs, and open every Gate that Impedes the rise and Growth of the American <Empire> Republic,10 and then let the Giddy Potentate send forth his puerile Proclamations to France, to Spain, and all the Commercial World who may be United in Building up an Empire which he cant prevent.”

At Leisure then may G——ge his Reign Review

and Bid to Empire, and to Crowns Adeu

For Lordly Mandates and despotic Kings

are Obsolete like other quondam things

Whether of Ancient or more modern date

Alike both K——gs and Kinglings I must Hate


{ 305 }
I have but this Evening received several of your Letters of the latter End of Octr.11 I cant tell you how much I am Obliged to you. I admire the Character you give Dr. Morgan. I think it will do honour to the Station he is to fill. You need not fear a proper regard will be paid to him. I love to see Characters drawn by your pencil. The more dozens you give me the more Agreable. I have a great Respect for Governor Ward, and his Family. I will agreable to your desire mention his Son at Head Quarters Tomorrow.
The method of makeing salt petre you mention, if to be depended upon is simple and easy in the moderate Seasons. I could wish to hear more of it, and also of the Rocks. I am not of the Committee for Sulphur &c. I will look them up and urge them to forward their discoveries to you. I believe Obrian is Commissioned, and Carghill in a Sort Commissioned. There will be no difficulty in haveing them in the Service of the Continent. The General may easily execute his Order. I am very sensible of the Mercenary Avaritious Spirit of Merchants. They must be watched. We oblige all to give Bonds, but how to Guard against throwing themselves in the way to be taken has puzzled us, but such is the spirit here for preserving inviolate the Association, that a Man must have Indisputable Evidence, that his being taken was unavoidable, or never show his Head again, upon this I at present rely. However very few Vessels except Whalemen are gone, and very few have any Intentions to go, unless to the Southern Colonies, and their Characters must be so well Established as to Obtain Certificates from our Committees who are not yet Corrupted. I apprehend more danger from Other places. I think the Association cant be too Close drawn. We had better have no Trade than suffer Inconveniencies from the Interested Tricks of Tories, or even Merchants who pretend to be well principled, and yet are governed by Interest alone. I Believe you have a Curious set of Politicians in your Coffee Houses. The System you Mention is an Instance of it, a Magnificent one Indeed, too much so for you and I, who I dare say will ever be Content to be Excused from the two most Superb Branches, the first more especially. I hope the Tricks of these people will never Answer their purposes. The Union is everything. With it we shall do everything without it Nothing. My good wife sends her Compliments and says I must Conclude and so says my Paper, Adeu
No News this Morning. I think all things on our side look well, and pleasing. I can't however but feel a little uneasy, till our Army has got settled on the new plan. The General has many difficulties { 306 } with Officers and Soldiers. His Judgment and Firmness I hope will Carry him through them. He is certainly the best Man for the place he is in Important as it is, that ever lived. One Source of Uneasiness is that they are not paid four weeks to a Month.12 There are some grounds for it. I believe they Inlisted here in Expectation of it, as it has been at all times the Invariable Custom of our Armies and Garrisons. I could wish the Congress had settled it so. Where are the Articles of Confederation. I want to see some settled Constitution of Congress. My regards to all Friends, and among the rest to Governor Ward, and your Friend Collins. To the last I wrote some time ago. I have never heard from him since. My Compliments to Coll. Reed.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “November 14 1775 Warren.”
1. See JA to Warren, 18 Oct., and to Elbridge Gerry, 5 Nov., note 2 (both above).
2. Lt. Col. Roger Enos (1729–1808) commanded the fourth division of Arnold's expedition against Quebec. He returned because his troops were out of provisions and in danger of starvation. He was acquitted in a court martial on 1 Dec., the decision of the court being that he “was by absolute necessity obliged to return with his division.” Despite the court's decision, the military remained hostile, and in Jan. 1776 he resigned from the army (Appletons' Cyclo. Amer. Biog., 2:359; Enos to Washington, 9 Nov., enclosed in Washington to the President of Congress, 19 Nov., PCC, No. 152, I; French, First Year, p. 437–438; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 4:131–132, 139; for the proceedings of Enos' court martial, see Force, Archives, 4th ser., 3: 1708–1711).
3. This island off the coast of Massachusetts was vulnerable to British raids.
4. Simeon Samson in 1776 captained the brigantine Independence, one of the first ships built for the Massachusetts State Navy (Allen, Mass. Privateers, p. 185).
5. Daniel Souther in 1776 captained the brigantine Massachusetts of the State Navy (same, p. 218).
6. Warren's opposition to the Council's attempt to assert the prerogative had something in common with that of the Berkshire Constitutionalists (Robert J. Taylor, Western Massachusetts in the Revolution, Providence, 1954, p. 78–79).
7. Elbridge Gerry to JA, 11 Nov. (above).
8. The fortifications on Cobble Hill were put up on 22 Nov., those on Lechmere's Point, on the 29th (Boston Gazette, 27 Nov. 1775; Frothingham, Siege of Boston, p. 268–269; Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 4:116, 131).
9. See Joseph Palmer to JA, 31 Oct., note 5 (above).
10. The substitution of “Republic” for “Empire” suggests how far the thinking of the Warrens had gone. The term “Empire” just before the poem may be used in the sense of an economic one that would join America and other countries.
11. The second letter of 21 Oct., the threefirst, second, and third letters of 25 Oct., and those of 28 Oct. and [?]Oct. (all above).
12. Traditionally New England had paid its troops by lunar rather than calendar months. On 2 Oct. the congress resolved that “where months are used, the Congress means calendar months by which the men in the pay of the Continent are to be regulated.” This change caused Washington much trouble in his effort to enlist New England men, who were naturally unhappy at the prospect of losing one month's pay per year (JCC, 3:272; French, First Year, p. 518).
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.