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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 4

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0037

Author: Winthrop, John
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1776-04-05

From John Winthrop

[salute] Dear Sir

I cannot omit so good an opportunity as now offers, of paying my respects to you. Nothing remarkable has occurred among us since the disgraceful flight of the British troops on the 17th ultimo. Tis generally believed they are bound to Halifax. General Washington set off yesterday. His conduct has met with universal approbation, and has gained him the highest applause.1 Saltpetre is made and making in great quantities, in this colony. One of our powder mills has been at work about a fortnight, and another is almost ready, and a third is this day ordered to be erected.2 We are now engaged in fortifying the { 110 } harbor of Boston, and taking care of the Tories that remain and their effects. But the principal topic of conversation is, the Commissioners who are expected from England with proposals for an accomodation. Tis supposed they will play off all the insidious arts that have been so successfully practised in England (I had like to have said, at home)3 but we trust those arts will be ineffectual here. We have intire confidence in the wisdom and firmness of the Congress. The fate of America is in their hands, and it cannot be in better hands. We have no doubt, but they will seize this opportunity of establishing the Liberties of America on a foundation that cannot be shaken. Is it possible to come to a reconciliation with people that have treated us with so much barbarity? Tis the wish of many, I believe most, of our people, that they would throw off that dependence which has been the source of all the evils we have suffered, and which, as long as it continues, must be productive of the same, [and] if possible of greater evils. If we must still be subject to a K's governors, vested with all the powers of nominating, negativing, &c. &c., and directed by Instructions, what can we expect but a repetition of the same scene? But it is needless for me to suggest any thing to a Gentleman who has so comprehensive a view of affairs and consequences.
My Son will have the honor to wait on you with this Letter. He has been employed by Col. Warren in his office, ever since he has been Pay Master General; but that buisness is now at an end, and the young man is out of employ. He would be glad to serve his country in any way that he is qualified for.4 If it should be thought necessary to keep an office here, for the payment of the 5 Regiments, which General Washington has left for the defence of Boston, and he could get employment in it, I believe Col. Warren would give him a good character. Or, if the Honble. Justices of the Superior Court should appoint my brother5 for their sole Clerk, I believe he would take my son as an assistent in the office. Or, if they should think it best to have two Clerks, as has been usually the case, I believe it would be very agreable to him to have my son appointed for [the other]. If you should approve of this, I should esteem [it a] great favor if you will use your influence accordingly. I suppose you have heard, that Col. Foster and Mr. Sullivan have been appointed on that Bench, and that they have accepted. No answer has yet been received from Mr. Read.
Be so good as to present my most respectful Compliments to the Gentlemen I have the honor to be acquainted with, particularly to Dr. Franklin, Col. Hancock and Mr. Secretary Adams, to whom I would write by my son, if I could possibly get time.
{ 111 }

[salute] I am with great esteem and respect, Dear sir, Your affectionate Friend and humble servt.

[signed] John Winthrop
Tis much desired, that a general Political Test, that shall pervade all America, may be established as soon as may be.
RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Honble. John Adams Esqr Philadelphia By Mr William Winthrop”; docketed: “Dr Winthrop Ap 5. 1776 and 12. May”; some mutilation; missing words supplied in brackets.
1. For his efforts Washington received the thanks of the province and the town of Boston at a public dinner on 28 March and a doctoral degree from Harvard on 3 April (Mass., House Jour., 1775–1776, 4th sess., p. 50–51, 65–66; Boston Gazette, 1, 8, 15 April; Freeman, Washington, 4:75–76).
2. Because “the Bounty already offered . . . proved insufficient,” a mill was ordered built at the expense of the province in the town of Sutton under the direction of Edward Putnam and Abijah Burbank (House Jour., p. 84–85).
3. England was no longer home to those as alienated as Winthrop.
4. William Winthrop (1753–1826) did not become a clerk of the superior court but was employed as an assistant treasurer of Harvard College by John Hancock, the Treasurer, to bring to Philadelphia the financial records of the college so that Hancock could put them in order, an effort that took a long time and aroused much controversy (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates, 17:460–463; 13:437–439).
5. Samuel Winthrop (1716–1779), who for a long time had been the clerk of the superior court under the Crown and was appointed to the same position by the reorganized court (Mayo, Winthrop Family, p. 193–196). For more on Winthrop's appointment as clerk and JA's approval of it, see JA to John Winthrop, 6 May; William Cushing to JA, 20 May; and JA to William Cushing, 9 June (all below).

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0038

Author: Sergeant, Jonathan Dickinson
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1776-04-06

From Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant

[salute] Dear Sir

I arrived here last Evening in a very indifferent State of Health and shall return or not return according as I have Reason to believe I may be more useful here or there.1
So then! I am told You have a Report that Cato's Commissioners are coming at last, 46,000 strong.2 Mr. ——, I suppose, will tell us that he never expected the Commissioners to come without a strong Force to back them. O for the just Vengeance of Heaven on the Heads of those who have laboured so assiduously to fetter our Hands these six Months past! If we fall I must ascribe it to our fatal Mismanagement. We have backened3 the Zeal of our People, discouraged our warmest Friends, strengthened the Hands of our Enemies open and concealed, consumed our Time, wasted our Strength; but I hope we shall yet awake and at least not fall unrevenged.
How does this Report work with you? I hope it will rouze, not intimidate. We can if we are in Earnest cope with all this power and { 112 } { 113 } with the Assistance of Heaven may defeat them. If this is done I should hope, like the Defeat of the Spanish Armada, it will forever break the Force of our Enemies. I think You should neither exaggerate nor attempt to conceal such news if it be true or even probable; but let it work. If the People do not kindle at it, if they do not resolve now to exert themselves, they would do yet worse if it should come unexpectedly upon them. They should be solemnly appealed to, they should be called upon to make the last Effort of their Strength and I trust we may yet be delivered. I wish they had never been lulled into a Sort of Security from that State of Expectation of strong Attempts against us which they were in before the Talk of Commissioners.
You see I am rather in the Dumps; but You must ascribe part of it to my Disorder and part to a Reflection which has some Time haunted me, that there is a Tide in these Matters which I fear we have suffered to ebb.
I should be much obliged to You for one of your anonymous Epistles upon this Subject informing me whether You will have it in your power to secure me an Asylum in the Land of my Forefathers4 after the Rest of the Colonies shall have submitted; for I have strong Faith still in New England. Let me know too how it works in Philadelphia how in Congress &c. We have Resources if we have the Virtue to use them. The Crownlands, the Quit-rents, the Tories; but alas! Quos Deus vult perdere.5 Could not we bid as high for Hessians and Hanoverians in the Article of Lands and Estates as our Enemies? My Head achs and my Heart achs. I tremble for the Timidity of our Counsels. Adieu! You know my Hand and imitating your Caution will at least do no Harm.6
RC (Adams Papers;) addressed: “The Honble. John Adams Esqr. In Congress Philada. Free JDS”; docketed: “<Intelligencer>. Sergeant Apl 6. 1776.”
1. Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant (1746–1793), a leading New Jersey patriot, lawyer, and politician resident in Princeton, was at this time a member of the congress, but he resigned in June to work on a new state constitution. He returned to the congress in late 1776 and ultimately served as attorney general of Pennsylvania, his adopted state after his home in Princeton was burned (DAB; Edwin F. Halfield, “Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant,” PMHB, 2 [1878]:438–442).
2. On Cato, see JA to James Warren, 21 March, note 2 (above).
3. That is, retarded (OED).
4. Sergeant's ancestors came from Connecticut.
5. The full quotation is Quos Deus vult perdere prius dementat. That is, those whom God wishes to destroy He first deprives of their senses.
6. Apparently JA was unsure of the hand, for he crossed out in his docketing “Intelligencer,” who was probably Hugh Hughes, the author of two letters sent to JA and Samuel Adams from New York on 16 and 18 Oct. 1775 (see note 1 in that of the 16th; both above).
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, 2017.