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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0177

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Cushing, Thomas
Date: 1778-12-08

To Thomas Cushing

[salute] Sir

I had the Favour of a Letter from you some time ago which I answered immediately,1 but so many of my Letters are among the Fishes of the sea, that I fear that may be one.
You know very well that is a long time that I have had a very bad { 263 } Opinion of the Designs and Dispositions of the B. Court towards America. I assure you I have not conceived a more favourable Idea, since my Arrival in Europe.
The Malignity of their Intentions is one of the deepest Die, and their Inveteracy is such that nothing but Want of Power will prevent their Annihilating Us. It has been said by Merchants who have made fortunes out of our Labour, at their own Tables even with Americans in Company, that if every Man Woman and Child in America were upon one Plank in the Ocean and it was in their Power to sink or save it, they would sink,2 and I learn that Expressions of such deep rooted Rancour are so common, and have been so for Years, that it is much to be apprehended it is a general sentiment.
Our Bayonets, under God must be our Defence. We are contending for all the Ends of Government. The best Government and the Worst are set before Us—Prosperity and Adversity for Posterity are set before Us—We have nothing to do but make the Choice, and surely no Man of Reflection and feeling will hesitate. I wish for the Continuance of your favours & have the Honour to be your vy humble sert
[signed] John Adams
RC (NhD); docketed: “Honle. Jno. Adams Esqr Letter Decr. 8. 1778.”
1. For Cushing's letter of 9 June, see JA's reply of 25 July, vol. 6:315–316.
2. The preceding passage was underlined, presumably by Cushing, with a different color ink than that used for the text.

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0178

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Genet, Edmé Jacques
Date: 1778-12-08

To Edmé Jacques Genet

[salute] Dear Sir

I had last Night, very late your Card, respecting Mathews.1 I cannot recollect that any Thing was ever done in Congress, respecting him or his Conspiracy. I remember too have heard of the Transaction at the Time, but it was not an affair of sufficient Moment to excite any <extensive> Allarm, or make any extensive Impression; and I believe it was thought so little of, as never to have been sent to Congress.2 If it had, I think I should have known and remembered it, for no Man attended Congress more incessantly than I did from Septr. 1774 to Novr. 1777. I remember to have been told by the Judge Advocate who attended the Tryal of Sedgwick an officer of the Army who I think was tryed by a Court Martial, for some Conduct <connected with> in the same affair that there was no Plan, or Concert whatsoever.3 That there was Evidence against a few Individuals of Treasonable Wishes and Speeches, { 264 } but no <concerted Plot> digested Plot. The Papers relative to this affair have taken up much more Room than they deserve.
In your last Number Gen. Washington is quoted as Writing to Congress after Burgoines Captivity that <now>, then was the favourable Moment for Treaty.4 You may depend upon it that this is false. I read every Letter he wrote upon that occasion and I know there was no such Idea in any of them. I know fa[r]ther, that so rapid and irresistable Ways [i.e. was] the popular Torrent the contrary Way, that such a sentiment would have lost even General Washington the Confidence <of his Army, and> of his Country and even of his Army. But there is no End to the Lyes, that our Ennemies make and propagate, from every quarter of the World5 in Excuse of their own Injustice and Inhumanity and I am weary of complaining of them. The Gazettes of the united Provinces and of Germany, are filled with Fictions, by the Emmissaries of Great Britain, and almost every Newspaper in their Dominions is equally crouded with them, and no Improbability is too gross.6 And indeed it is not to be wondered at, for if they had not previously set all the Laws of God and Man at Defyance they would never have begun this War, but having begun it, they have not hesitated at any atrocious Enormity, nor will they hesitate. For my own Part I think that all Christendom and indeed all Humanity, ought to unite in order to arrest the Massacres and Conflagrations that are meditated under the Colour of such Forgeries, as all the Neighbourhood should unite to kill or chain a mad Dog. Dont print this Letter because all that know me will know from the Egotism of it, and other Characteristicks that it comes from your Friend
[signed] John Adams7
1. Genet's note (Adams Papers), undated but probably written on the 7th, was a request for information on the alleged conspiracy in June 1776 involving David Matthews, mayor of New York City. Genet planned to deal with the incident in the next issue of Affaires de l'Angleterre et de l'Amérique, “Journal,” under the date of Sept. 1776 and wished to know what action the congress had taken and how the affair had ended. The arrangement of the “Journal” volumes of Affaires makes it difficult to determine when a particular issue appeared and thus, with certainty, whether Genet was deterred by this letter or carried out his plan. If the latter was the case then it was most likely done in Affaires, “Journal,” vol. 12, p. 207–208. There, under Sept. and Oct. 1776, Matthews is referred to under the heading “Découverte d'un Traitre auprès du Général Washington.” An earlier reference under June, July, and August, is in Affaires, “Journal,” vol. 11, p. 187–193. For additional information on the conspiracy, see Samuel Cooper to JA, 1 July 1776, note 1; and William Tudor to JA, 7 July 1776, and note 2, vol. 4:356, 367–369.
2. The investigation was carried out by a committee of the New York Provincial Congress headed by John Jay (Force, Archives, 4th ser., 6:1152–1183).
3. In the summer of 1776 William Tudor, judge advocate and a frequent correspondent of JA, would have been in• { 265 } volved in any court-martial stemming from the Matthews conspiracy. In late July and early Aug. 1776 Tudor was in Philadelphia and met with JA (Adams Family Correspondence, 2:63, 89). But if the two men discussed the Matthews affair and a court-martial connected with it then JA's memory had dimmed with the passage of time. There is no evidence that any army officer was tried, but on 26 June a member of Washington's personal guard, Thomas Hickey, was court-martialed for treason in connection with the conspiracy and on the 28th was executed (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 5:161–162, 170, 179, 182 and note, 193–195).
4. The quotation from Washington appeared in Affaires, “Lettres,” vol. 12, cahier 60, p. ccci. Although he printed it, Genet doubted its accuracy and included a note at the bottom of the page in which he stated that the item had not been found in any American paper of the time and it was well known that the English ministry had engaged in previous fabrications.
5. The remainder of this sentence was interlined.
6. The following two sentences were written below the closing for insertion at this point.
7. In addition to the Adams-Genet correspondence for December, printed and mentioned here and below, two other letters, both to Genet, are noteworthy. The first was of [ca. 3 Dec.] (RC, J. G. Turner, Los Angeles, 1958) and contained a long passage taken from Cotton Tufts' letter of 5 Aug. (Adams Family Correspondence, 3:68–70), concerning the French fleet and a valuable prize taken by it. Although JA clearly intended it for publication in Affaires, Genet did not use it, apparently because he already had a letter giving the same information (see “Lettres,” vol. 13, cahier 63, p. lv). The second, of 11 Dec. (RC, PWacD: Feinstone Coll., on deposit PPAmP), transmitted two letters for Genet's consideration and possible inclusion in Affaires. The first enclosure was Thomas Cushing's letter of 21 Oct. (above), which Genet printed (Affaires, “Lettres,” vol. 13, cahier 63, p. lv–lviii). For the second enclosure from a “Mr. A.,” possibly Benjamin Austin, see Thomas Cushing's letter of 21 Oct., note 1 (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/