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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 4


Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0100

Author: Greene, Nathanael
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1776-06-02

From Nathanael Greene

[salute] Sir

I have just receivd your favor of the 26th of May in answer to mine of the 24th.1 You must not expect me to be a very exact correspondent, my circumstances will not always admit of it. When I have opportunity I will write you with freedom if any information I can give you should be of service I shall be amply paid. I know your time is too precious to be spent in Answering Letters; but a line from you at all times will be very acceptable, with such intelligence as you are at Liberty to give.
By your Letter I have the happiness to find you agree with me in sentiment for the establishing a support for those that gets disabled in the Army or militia; but I am sorry to find at the same time, that you are very doubtful of it takeing affect: I could wish the Congress to think seriously of the matter, both with respect to the Justice and utillity of the measure. Is it not inhuman to suffer those that have fought nobly in the cause to be reduced to the necessity of geting a support by common Charity. Does this not millitate2 with the free and independant principles which we are indeavoring to support? Is it not equitable that the State who receives the benefit should be at the expence? The Community collectively considerd pays nothing more for the establishing a support, than if they do not, for those that get disabled must be supported by the Continent in general or the Provinces in particular. If the Continent establishes no support; by the fee of War some Colonies might be grieviously burthened. I cannot see upon what principle any Colony can encourage the Inhabitants to engage in the Army when the state that employs them refuses a support to the unfortunate. I think it would be right, and just for every Government to furnish their equal proportion of the Troops or contribute to the support of those that are sent by other Colonies.
Can there be any thing more humiliateing than this consideration to those that are in the Army, or to those that have a mind to come in it than this? If I meet with a misfortune I shall be reduced to the necessity of beging my Bread. Is not this degradeing and distressing a part of the human species that deserves a better fate. On the { 228 } other hand if there was a support establish't what confidence would it give to those engag'd, what encouragement to those that are not. Good Policy points out the measure, Humanity calls for it, and Justice claims it at your Hands.
I apprehend the dispute to be but in its infancy; nothing should be neglected to encourage People to engage, who render those easy contented and happy that are engag'd. Good covering is an Object of the first consideration. I know of nothing that is more discourageing than the want of it, it renders the Troops very uncomfortable and generally unhealthy. A few Troops well accomodated, healthy and spirited will do more service to the state that employs them than a much larger number that are sickly dispirited and discontented. This is the unhappy state of the Army at this time ariseing from the badness of the Tents. His Excellency has order'd every thing to be done to remedy the Evil that is in his power; but before the remedy can take place, the health of the Troops will receive a severe wound.
From the nature of the dispute and the manner of furnishing the state with Troops too much care cannot be taken of those that engage, other wise some particular Goverments more publick spirited than others may be depopulated.
Good Officers is the very Soul of an Army, the Activity and Zeal of the Troops entirely depends upon the degree of Animation given them by their Officers. I think it was Sir William Pitts maxim, to pay well and hang well to have a good Army. The Field Officers in general and the Colonels of Regiments in particular think themselves grieviously burthened upon the present establishment; few if any of that Rank that are worth retaining in service will continue, if any dependance is to be made upon the discontent that appears. They say and I believe with too much truth, that their pay and provision will not defray their expences. Another great grievance they complain on is they are oblige to act as factors for the Regiment. Subject to many loses, without any extraordinary allowance for their trouble, drawing from the Continental Store by wholesale and delivering out to the Troops by Retail. This business has been attended with much perplexity and accompanyed with very great losses where the Colonels have not been good Accomptants. This is no part of the duty of a Colonel of a Regiment; and the mode in which the business has been conducted, too much of their time has been engrossed in that employment for the good of the service. There should be an Agent for Each Regiment to provide the Troops with cloathing on the easiest terms allowed to draw money for that purpose Ocasionally, to be stopt { 229 } out of the pay Abstract. Those Agents could provide seasonably,3 fetch their goods from a distance and prevent those local impositions that arises upon every remove of the Army.
The dispute begins to be reduced to a National principle, and the longer it continues the more that Idea will prevail. People engagd in the service in the early part of the dispute without any consideration of pay reward, few if any thought of its continuance; but its duration will reduce all that have not independant Fortunes to attend to their family concerns—and if the present pay of those in the service is insufficent for the support of them and their families they must consequently quit it. The Novelty of the Army may engage others but you cannot immagin the injury the Army sustains by the loss of every good Officer. A young Officer without any experience in the Military Art or knowledge of mankind, unless he has a very uncommon Genius must be totally unfit to command a Regiment.
I observe in the Resolves of Congress they have reservd to themselves the right of rewarding by promotion according to merit; the reserve may be right but the exercise will be dangerous, often injurious and sometimes very unjust. Two Persons of very unequal merit the inferior may get promoted over the superior if a Single instance of bravery is a sufficient Reason for such promotion. There is no doubt but that its right and just to reward singular merit, but the publick applause accompanying every brave Action is a noble reward.
Where one Officer is promoted over the head of another if he has Spirit enough to be fit for service it lays him under the necessity of quiting it. It is a publick intimation that he is unfit for promotion and consequently undeserving his present Appointment. For my own part, I would never give any Legislative body an opportunity to humiliate me but once. I should think the Generals Recommendation is necessary to warrant a promotion out of the Regular channel. For Rank is of such importance in the Army and so delicate are4 the sentiments respecting it that very strong reasons ought to be given for going out of the proper channel, or else it will not be satisfactory to the army in general or to the party in particular.
The Emision of such large sums of money increases the price of things in proportion to the sums emited—the money has but a nominal value. The evil does not arise from a depreciation altogether but from there being larger sums Emited than is necessary for a circulating medium. If the Evil increases it will starve the Army, for the pay of the Troops at the pr[i]ces things are sold at will scarcely keep the Troops decently cloathed. Notwithstanding what I write I will engage { 230 } to keep the Troops under my command as easy and contented as any in the Army.
I observe you dont think the game you are playing is so desperate as I immagin. You doubtless are much better acquainted with the resources that are to be had in case of any misfortune than I am; but I flatter my self I know the History—Strength and state of the Army almost as well as any in it both with respect to the goodness of the Troops or the Abillities of the Officers. Dont be too confident the fate of War is very uncertain, little incidents has given rise to great events. Suppose this Army should be defeated, two or three of the leading Generals5 killed, our stores and magazines all lost, I would not be answerable for the consequences that such a stroke might produce in American politicks. You think the present army assisted by the militia is sufficient to oppose the force of Great Britain, formidable as it appears on paper. I can assure you its necessary to make great allowances in the calculation of our strength from the Establishment or else you'l be greatly deceived. I am confidant the force of America if properly exerted will prove superior to all her Enemies, but I would risque nothing to chance—it is easy to disband when it is impossible to raise Troops.
I approve your plan of encourageing our own Troops rather than seducing theirs, let us fight and beat them fairly; and free our Country from oppression with out departing from the principles of honnor Truth or Justice. The conditions you propose are very honnorable, but I fear whether they are altogether equal to the Emergency of the times, for mankind being much more influenced by present profit than remote advantagies, People will consider what benefit they are immediately to receive and take their Resolutions accordingly.
If the Force of Great Britain should prove near equal to what it has been represented, a large Augmentation will be necessary; if the present Offers should not be sufficient to induce People to engage in the Army—You will be oblige to Augment the bounty; and perhaps at a time, when that Order of People will have it in their power to make their own conditions or distress the state.
As I have wrote a great deal and the Doctor waiting I shall add no more only my hearty wishes for your health and happiness. Believe me to be with great esteem your most Obedient humble servant,
[signed] N Greene
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Gen. Green. June 2. 1776 an. June 22.” Some mutilation with one quarter-page missing.
{ 231 }
1. JA's letter not found. Greene's letter of the “24th” was dated by him the 26th (above; see note there).
2. Be inconsistent with, Obs. (OED).
3. Comma supplied.
4. The rest of this and the following sentence are supplied from The Papers of General Nathanael Greene, ed. Richard K. Showman and others, Chapel Hill, 1976 (1:225–226), the editors of which obtained the missing words from the G. W. Greene Transcripts at the Huntington Library.
5. From this point up to “its necessary to make” the missing words have been supplied from the source given in note 4 (above).

Docno: ADMS-06-04-02-0101

Author: Warren, James
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1776-06-02

From James Warren

[salute] My Dear Sir

I Received yours of the 20th. of May with the pamphlets Inclosed.1 I am much Obliged to you for them. I am quite satisfied that you have wrote to me as Often as your Situation would Admit of, that your Cares are great, and press on you from many quarters. I never suspected your Friendship. I pity you as much as you can wish a Friend to do, and Admire your Spirit and resolute perseverance in the publick Cause. I have read and see the difference of Sentiment in the two Pamphlets. The Thoughts on Government are far from being disdained in New England. They are Admired here. Very few Exceptions are made by any Body. The only one of any Consequence that I have heard is that the Author seems rather Inclined to A Negative in the third Branch, which is hardly popular enough for our Climate poor and sterile as it is. I believe the Author never Expected it would Comport with the Monarchick and Aristocratic Spirit of the South. Whether it is best there should be a perfect simularity in the form, and Spirit of the several Governments in the Colonies, provided they are all Independant of Britain, is a question I am not determined in. For some reasons it may be best for us there should be A difference. I therefore Consider the Address to the Convention of Virginia with the more Indifference as it may (if successful) neither Injure the publick or us.
I Regreted my not being Able to write by Mr. Winthrop who left this place two days ago. You will have by him a List of our new House, and I suppose a List of the Council Chosen as he promised me not to go without it. Coll. Orne and Danielson refused. We Chose Eldad Taylor and Coll. Thayer in their room.2 You will find in the House more Abilities, tho perhaps not more Zeal for the present System of politicks than in the last, and you will see in the List of Councellors some that I did not vote for. We have had yet Nothing before us to determine what we are to Expect from the Conduct of this New House. The Election took us two Intire days, and Controverted Elec• { 232 } tions filled up the rest of the last week. We Yesterday sent Home the Salem Members for the Irregularity of the proceedings of the Town in their Choice.3 Coll. Palmer is again in the House. I dare say you are Informed how.4
I presume as we are now at Liberty to Establish a Form of Government we shall soon take up that matter. I shall do every thing in my power to promote Unanimity in the Choice of A Governor or President, let the General voice be as it may. I thank you for your partiality. I could pitch on a much more suitable person than either of the Three you mention by going as far as Philadelphia tho' what we should do without him there I cant tell. Tis our Misfortune that the same men cant be in two places at the same time. I shall write you as soon as any thing on this Subject takes place. The peice you mention published in our papers is in total Oblivion, so desire you not to take your leave of us.
I shall do every thing in my power to have the Salaries and Commissions of the Judges Established. I have long been Convinced of the necessity of it, and I am sure we can do nothing more Advantageous to our Internal police. The Nerves of one of the Gentlemen you mention are weak oweing perhaps to his state of Health. His Heart I believe is good, tho' not so decisively zealous as I would wish, perhaps oweing to his Splendid fortune. His Head is undoubtedly good.
We have no News. Frequent rumours of Battles and victories in Canada since our late Misfortune there but nothing to be depended on. I am Mortified by the little Zeal and readiness shewn by our Countrymen to Enter into the service. Neither Marshals, Whitneys,5 or Crafts regiments are yet half full. What hopes can we Entertain that the five old Battalions left here will be filld up, or the two new ones raised. Can you Advise us to give them A Bounty by way of Encouragement, or should you disapprove of it. It certainly would be very Advantageous to us to have them, and our delegates deserve our Thanks for their Exertions on this Occasion, but how to get them is the question. I suppose it would not do to have the two Regiments we are now raising Converted into Continental Regiments. I cant account for the difficulties we have in raising men. Great Numbers are Indeed gone from us, and the southern Governments have Agents here Inlisting Seamen for their perticular services with full wages and large Bounties.6 I fear therefore you will find it difficult to man your ships. You should Attend to it without delay.
We have A promiseing Season, fine Showers the Crops look flourishing tho the weather has been cooler than usual. Mr. Winthrop has { 233 } with him my Accounts.7 I Expect there will be some small deficiency oweing to the Multiplicity of Business in that office, and the hurry and Croud we have been obliged to do it in. I have directed him to Charge for a Clerk, as it was Impossible to Execute it without one, and to Charge the Expenses of going to Philadelphia to settle Account as I am out of pay. I hope all these will be Allowed me. The Army here are in distress for want of money. I have run the venture at the Solicitations of Genl. Ward to pay several Sums since I had notice that my resignation was Accepted. I hope the publick Advantage, and the Generals Solicitations will Justifie my Conduct. I have desired Mr. Winthrop to call on you for any Assistance he may have Occasion for. I know you will give it to him, and I thot I need make no Apology for the Freedom. I have no Letters from Mrs. Adams to Inclose. She was well last Tuesday. Some of the little Boys had the Mumps. My regards to Mr. Adams and Gerry. I pray daily for your and their Health and Happiness and am your Friend, &c.
I never yet Congratulated you on the almost miraculous Interposition of Providence in sending us the prize Ship Carried into Boston. I do it now. The Gallant defence made by our small Vessels against the men of War Boats is perhaps as Noble A one as any this War. I cant give you An Exact Account of the loss on their side but I believe in Killd and wounded little short of A hundred. I am not certain that I have Acknowledged the receipt of some other of your favours. The Contents of them are Important and are Attended to. Want of Health for some time past and the Multiplicity of Business must be my Apology. You must not think of A Resignation. We shall be ruined if you do.
RC (Adams Papers); possible docketing: “Spr” [Speaker?].
1. See JA to Warren, 20 May, note 7. The pamphlets that Warren refers to later, however, were sent in JA's letter of 12 May. Warren is answering both letters, as well as JA's of 15 May (all above).
2. Azor Orne, Timothy Danielson, Ebenezer Thayer (Mass., House Jour., 1776–1777, 1st sess., p. 8).
3. The House held the election in Salem invalid because voters had signified their choice by using “kernels of corn and pease” (same, p. 10).
4. According to AA, in a close election in Braintree, Joseph Palmer promised to remain in the House (that is, he would refuse election to the Council) if he were chosen over his opponent, JA's brother, Peter Boylston Adams (Adams Family Correspondence, 1:416; 2:8).
5. Col. Josiah Whitney (Heitman, Register Continental Army, p. 590).
6. On 19 Jan. the congress had authorized South Carolina's agent to proceed to Cambridge to recruit seamen “in such parts of the country as will be the least prejudicial to the continental service,” and it recommended total bounties of no more than $14 per man (JCC, 4:67–68). In February the General Court, upon receipt of a letter from South Carolina's Council of Safety, voted to permit the recruitment of three hundred men in Massachusetts. By April, Massa• { 234 } chusetts had decided to give a month's wages in advance to encourage enlistment of seamen in the provincial navy, but it was paying only £2 per month, equivalent to less than $7. Other southern states like Virginia suffered a lack of experienced seamen, but the editors have found no record that their agents recruited men in Massachusetts (Mass., House Jour., 1775–1776, 3d sess., p. 303; C. O. Paullin, The Navy of the American Revolution, Cleveland, 1906, p. 421–422, 326–327, 403).
7. William Winthrop acted as Warren's agent when the army left Massachusetts for New York (Warren to JA, 30 March, 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, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/