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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 7


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).

Docno: ADMS-06-07-02-0179

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Henry, Patrick
Date: 1778-12-08

To Patrick Henry

[salute] My dear Friend

Mr. Le Maire, writes me1 that he is about returning. I wrote you on the 9 July a long Letter in Answer to the one he brought,2 which is the only one I have received from you, altho by a Letter from Lisbon,3 from a Master of a Vessell taken by the English and carried in there, I learn that he had Letters for me which he sunk.
I wish, I would give you hopes of Peace. And I would not excite a needless alarm. But by the Hints in both Houses of Parliament in the present session, and by possitive Information, from Persons in England who pretend to know, They the Cabinet, are not only determined to pursue the War, at all Hazzards, but to alter the Mode of it, and make it more bloody and fiery if that is possible. Clinton and Byron with their Army and Fleet are to ravage the sea coast and bombard the seaport Towns—the Army in Canada is to be reinforced, and Parties of Regulars, with as many Tories and Indians, and [as] they can perswade to join them, are to burn and massacre, upon the Frontiers of Mass Bay, N. York, N. Jersey, Pensylvania, Virginia the Carolinas &c.
{ 266 }
This Kind of Sentiments it is pretty certain at present, occupy their Thoughts, please their Imaginations and warm their Hearts.
I know very well, that they have already done as much of this humane Work as they had Power to do, and dared to do. I know also that they must ask Leave of the French as well as Americans, and probably of other Powers, to do more Mischief than they have done. I know too that this Plan will be their certain and their Speedy destruction, because it will unite America more decisively, and it will excite that Earnestness4 Activity and Valour which alone is wanting to compleat their Destruction, and because, by relaxing their Discipline, and becoming less cautious and guarded than they have been, Desertions and Diseases will be more frequent among their Troops and they will more frequently expose themselves to the Snares and Attacks of ours.
The Spirits of the Nation are terribly sunk, the stocks are very low, lower than ever last War, and there is a Stronger Minority in both Houses than ever there was before. But they are now playing a desperate Game, and I think that the true Principle of their Conduct now, is not expecting ever to get America back, they mean to extinguish in the Hearts of the English Nation ever kind Sentiment towards America, that they may be and by wish to give them up and consider them forever in future with all the <Malice,> Envy, Jealousy and Hatred that they feel towards the French.
There is so great a Body of People in the Nation who are terrified at the Foresight of the Consequences of American Liberty—the Loss of the West India Islands of Canada Nova Scotia and the Floridas—a dangerous Rival in Commerce and naval Power, worming them out of their East India Trade, and other Branches—An Assylum, for all, Conspirators, and Minorities in Great Britain, that the Ministry expect such Disgrace and Danger to their Heads from giving it up, that they dare not do it, untill they have wrought the Nation into the rankest Hatred against America,5 and reduced her to the lowest possible degree of Weakness.
Many Persons, and I believe the Body of the Nation, foresee more Grandeur and Prosperity to America, and more Humiliation to themselves, in the Train of the Consequences of American Independence, than the Americans themselves do. It is certainly an Object worth contending for another Campaign, and many other Campaigns afterwards, if there was nothing in View but the future Grandeur, Glory and Prosperity of our Country. But We are contending for all the Ends of Government, for nothing less than the Difference between the best Form of Government, that ever existed, and the Worst that ever was { 267 } formed even in Imagination, for Aristotle himself never thought of such a Government, as that of Ten or fifteen Men in a little Island, composing the Legislature of a vast Continent 3000 Miles off.
You cannot do me more Honour, or give me more Pleasure than by Writing often. Remember me, to all that I knew, particularly to Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Wyth two Characters, which no Circumstances of Time or Place will ever induce me to forget. I have the Honour to be, with great Respect, <your> and Affection, your Friend and sert.
1. For Capt. Jacques Le Maire's letter of 3 Dec. (Adams Papers), see his earlier one of 10 Nov. (above). JA wrote to Le Maire on 8 Dec. (LbC, Adams Papers), entrusting to his care this letter to Patrick Henry.
2. Henry's letter of 5 March is in vol. 5:408–409. For JA's reply of 9 July, see vol. 6:273, calendar entry; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 4:153–154.
3. Not found.
4. “Earnestness” was interlined.
5. This comma was done over a period and the remainder of this sentence appears to have been an addition.
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/