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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 8

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0136

Author: Gerry, Elbridge
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-10-12

From Elbridge Gerry

[salute] My dear sir

I have received from Mr. Lowell your Accounts and Vouchers, and shall deliver them to the Board of Treasury; how far they will be able to comply with the proposition of returning the latter, which is contrary to their usual Practice, I am unable to say, but will use my best Endeavours to accomplish it.
{ 198 }
Having lately explained to You some Matters, relative to our internal political Manoeuvres, It is needless to trouble You farther on that Subject. I must however acknowledge, that your good Opinion is flattering to the person who is so happy as to enjoy it, and at the same Time that it exceeds his Merit, it cannot fail of increasing his Desires of deserving it.
I mentioned in my last,1 that Doctor Bancroft and Sir James Jay will probably be nominated, if Mr. Dana declines his Appointment, to the office of Secretary; since which the Powers thereof are enlarged with the Commission of Charge D'Affairs, in Case of the Absence or Death of the principal,2 and the office is so desirable as to be sought, by others of Influence and abilities. It is uncertain therefore, who will succeed in the new Appointment, and it is for the Interest of the publick, to prevail with Mr. Dana, if he has any Doubts, to annul them on this Occasion, and accept the office.
I am happy to find that the State of Massachusetts has your Assistance in forming a Constitution, and am informed, that You are clearly in Favour of giving to the Governor a negative Power, in legislative Matters.3 This is a great Question, and I am fully persuaded that You have traced it, to its original principles, compared it with the Circumstances of the Times, weighed with Accuracy the Advantages and Disadvantages resulting from each Determination thereof, and finally decided in favour of the proposition, but granting, that upon a general Scale, the Measure is wise, yet is there not too much Reason to apprehend from it, great Injuries, and that the Community will be endangered, thereby? And may not this be prevented by giving to the Governor a negative, only so far as the proceedings of the Legislature may affect the <[security?]> powers of the Executive? Indeed I have but little Time to attend to such Matters, and well knowing your Sentiments to have been on all Occasions against arbitrary and dangerous powers, I am not much concerned about the Event. One Maxim however, in Matters of Government I think to be just, that the Officers are generally best, whose powers are least subject to Abuse. I remain sir with the warmest Sentiments of Friendship and Esteem your very huml sert.
[signed] E Gerry
The Salary of a Minister is fixed at £2500 sterl. and of his Secretary at £1000.
Your Appointment I think ought not to be divulged at present, but find that [it] is generally known, and as generally approved.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Mr. Gerry Octr. 12”; and by CFA: “1779.”
{ 199 }
1. Gerry's letter of 4 Oct. has not been found, but is acknowledged by JA in his reply of 25 Oct. (below).
2. For the duties of the secretaries as stated in a draft commission approved by the congress on 9 Oct., see JCC, 15:1159–1160.
3. Gerry's source for this information is not known, but it was likely a member of Massachusetts' constitutional convention, and perhaps of the committee of thirty members appointed to draft the document. JA did indeed favor an absolute veto power for the governor; see Report of a Committee, ante 28 Oct.[ca. 28–31 October] (below).

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0137

Author: Lowell, John
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-10-12

From John Lowell

[salute] Dear Sir

I have but a few Minutes in which I can write, and I cannot devote one of them to any other, than the main Purpose of this Letter. You must accept the Appointment which Congress has lately made you, a more important and more critical one never fell in your Way. Every restraining Motive must be forgotten or banished. Your Choice was unanimous, save one Vote, yet, there are not a few, who wish you, being appointed, may refuse, that the Election from another Quarter may take Place, and no other New England Man will be chosen, the Interest of America requires, blind as some People are to it, that a New England Man should negotiate a Peace. Our Friends in NE. ought and <shall> will, if the Provision is not adequate, make it so: they ought not to expect you will go on sacrifising your whole little Fortune to their Good, but if they are so ungratefull, I think you will yet do it. I have ventured on the Friendship I feel for you and I flatter, myself you have for me, to add this Weight to a Scale which I hope will preponderate without. I am told that even an Hesitation or Delay may be dangerous. You have every Wish that I can form for your Success and Happiness, I am your Friend & Servt.
[signed] J Lowell

Docno: ADMS-06-08-02-0138

Author: Rush, Benjamin
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1779-10-12

From Benjamin Rush

[salute] My Dear friend

Accept of my thanks for your early and puntual Attention to my letter.1 I have ever thought myself honoured in your friendship, and shall be happy at all times in cultivating a correspondence with you.
In your first letter2 you enquire after the state of our goverment. The best answer I can give to your Question, is that I am Afraid to commit my Opinion of men and measures in our state to writing. I often think of, and sometimes mention to friends that I can trust, a { 200 } Speech of yours the first time you saw a printed copy of the constitution of Pensylvania. “Good God! (said you) the people of Pensylvania in two years will be glad to petition the crown of Britain for reconcilliation in order to be delivered from the tyranny of their constitution.”3 The perfection of goverment consists in providing restraints against the tyranny of rulers on the one hand, and the licentiousness of the people on the other. By our constitution we are exposed to all the miseries of both without a single remedy for either. You will hear from some Other Quarters of an insurrection <among> in our city. The objects of the Mob were unknown or confusedly understood. They were enraged chiefly by liquor. Their leaders abandoned them—and sheltered themselves under their Offices. A battle ensued at the house of Col: Wilson whose only crime was having plead in some cases for the tories. Our Streets for the first time were Stained with fraternal blood. Seven were killed, and 19 wounded.4 Among the former was a Captain Robt: Campbell who had lost an arm in fighting against the enemies of our country on Staten Island under Genl. Sullivan. He fell in defending Wilson's house. He was a <brave, and> most acomplished Officer and gentleman. Since this melancholy Affair we have had a calm in our city. But Every face wears the marks of fear and dejection. We look over our Shoulders, and then whisper when we complain to each Other in the Streets of the times. I feel the slave stealing upon me every day. O! liberty—liberty I have worshipped thee as a Substance, but——A patient calls for me in a hurry, and Obliges me to conclude myself your most Affectionate friend & Hble servt.
[signed] Benjn. Rush
PS: I have been so very busy for these two past5 that I have not paid a single visit to any body but to Sick people. I shall not fail of waiting upon the Chevr. De la Luserne and his Secretary, and presenting your compliments and pamphflet to him. I am devoted to the French Alliance. You may see my tho'ts upon this Subject in a piece signed Leonidas published about 2 months ago in Dunlap's paper.6 I perfectly agree with you in your plan of prosecuting the War. Congratulations upon your new, and most honourable embassy!
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Dr. Rush Octr. 12. 1779.”
1. JA to Rush, 19 Sept., in answer to Rush's letter of 19 Aug. (both above).
2. That of 10 Sept. (above).
3. This document was signed on 28 Sept. 1776, and immediately printed, so JA's comment must date from that time. JA's objections to the Pennsylvania constitution are not known in detail, but included its unicameralism and lack of a single and powerful executive.
4. The battle at “Fort Wilson,” occurred on 4 Oct., at James Wilson's home in Philadelphia. Local militiamen who supported Pennsylvania's radical constitution and price controls fought with Wilson's friends and political allies, who { 201 } opposed the constitution and all price controls. A host of conflicting accounts of the event's causes and casualties was generated, and major disagreements about the battle remain. A full modern account is John K. Alexander, “The Fort Wilson Incident of 1779: A Case Study of the Revolutionary Crowd,” WMQ, 3d ser., 31:589–612 (Oct. 1974).
5. The unit of time was inadvertently omitted.
6. “To the Freemen of North America, On the French Alliance,” in the Pennsylvania Packet, 24 Aug. (see Benjamin Rush, Letters, 1:241, note 7).
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.