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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 9

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0305

Author: Adams, Samuel
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-10

From Samuel Adams

[salute] My dear Sir

I wrote to you several Times when I was at Boston, and receivd your Favor by the Marquis de la Fayette. Another, to which you referrd me, has not yet come to hand.1 This Letter will be deliverd to you by Mr. Searl,2 a Member of Congress for the State of Pennsylvania. He will be better able to inform you of the State of things here, than I can, who3 after twelve Months Absence from this City, returned but a few days ago. The People of Massachusetts have at length agreed to the Form of a civil Constitution, in Nothing varying from a Copy which I sent to you by a Son of our Friend General Warren.4 This great Business was carried through with much good Humour among the People, and even in Berkshire, where some Persons led us to expect it would meet with many Obstructions. Never was a good Constitution more wanted than at this Juncture. Among other more lasting Advantages, I hope that in Consequence of it, the Part which that State must take in the War, will be conducted with greater Attention and better Effect. Who is to be the first Man, will be determind in September, when, if our Newspapers rightly inform us, the new Government is to take Place. The Burden will fall on the Shoulders of one of two Gentlemen whom you know.5 May Heaven lead the People to the wisest Choice. The first chosen Governor may probably have it in his Power to do more good or more Hurt than any of his Successors.
The french Fleet is not yet arrived. Perhaps their long Passage may turn out for the best. An earlier Arrival might have found us not altogether prepared to cooperate with them to the best Advantage. I now think we shall be ready to joyn them. One would think the Exertion which America might make with such Aid, would rid us of British Barbarians. I hope this will be a vigorous and an effective Campaign. I left Massachusetts exceedingly active in filling up their Battalions by Drafts, besides raising 4000 Militia for the Service.
Mr. Laurens arrived here from the Southward a few Days past. He will speedily embark for Holland to prosecute a Business which you are not unacquainted with.

[salute] Adieu my dear Sir, yr affectionate Friend,

[signed] S A
{ 508 }
1. Lafayette carried JA's letter of 28 February. In it JA indicated that he had entrusted a letter of 23 Feb. to Arthur Lee (vol. 8:374, 353). As of 10 July, however, Lee had not yet sailed for America.
2. James Searle, former member of Congress from Pennsylvania, carried this and several other letters from individuals and the Committee for Foreign Affairs. Among these were letters of introduction from James Lovell and Joseph Reed of 10 July and Samuel Huntington of the 12th (all Adams Papers). The Committee for Foreign Affairs wrote three letters, two dated 11 July and a third dated the 12th. The Committee's first letter of 11 July reported the arrival, on 10 July, of JA's second letter of 3 April and his first, second, and thirdthree letters of 4 April to the president of Congress (all calendared, above; JCC, 17:595). Only a triplicate is in the Adams Papers, with postscripts dated 1 Aug. and 28 Oct.; it was probably sent with the Committee's letter of 28 Oct. (below). The first postscript reported the arrival of seven letters carried by Ralph Izard dated 20, 24 (2), 26, 27, 28, and 29 March (the first letter of 24 March is printed, the others calendared, above; JCC, 17:685). The second postscript noted that JA's letters through 10 June had arrived in September. The Committee's second letter of 11 July (Adams Papers) was a covering letter for JA's commission of 20 June to negotiate a Dutch loan (above). The letter of 12 July (Adams Papers) described the bills of exchange issued by Congress that JA might be called upon to honor. For the letters from James Lovell and the Committee for Foreign Affairs that are not printed, see Smith, ed., Letters of Delegates, 15:421, 423–424, 435–436; 16:282; for that of Joseph Reed, see Penna. Archives, 1st ser., 8:399. Searle presumably also carried William Churchill Houston's letter of 11 July (below).
3. JA sent this letter as an enclosure in his letter to Jean Luzac of 20 Sept. (Adams Papers). Luzac translated and printed the text from this point, with the greeting and dateline, in the Gazette de Leyde of 29 September.
4. This copy was sent with Winslow Warren, but was lost when his ship was captured on its passage to Europe. See Mercy Otis Warren's letter of 8 May, note 1 (above).
5. John Hancock and James Bowdoin. Both Samuel Adams and JA supported Bowdoin.

Docno: ADMS-06-09-02-0306

Author: Houston, William Churchill
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-07-11

From William Churchill Houston

[salute] Sir

The principal military Event which has taken Place for some considerable Time past, is the Fall of Charlestown, the Capital of South Carolina. No very material Circumstances can, as yet, be added to those officially published, and which the several American Prints have given you, and the British still earlier. The Intelligence from the Southward being overland is very tedious in it's Passage; and besides this, after the Capitulation the Enemy interposed every Means by dilatory and frivolous Pretences, by what Candour will, in my Opinion, decide to be a Breach of the Spirit of their Engagements, to delay the Dispatches General Lincoln had stipulated should be sent to Congress. This is in their usual Stile; and we have daily Accounts of Cases in which they pay no Sort of regard to their Promises sacredly pledged in Favour of the Citizens. Rapines, Violences and Abuses of every Kind are committed without Reserve, and with very little Discrimination. Their Conduct is of a Piece with what they have held in every similar Instance, uninfluenced by any Principles of Honour, { 509 } Truth, Humanity or even Policy. In the Hour of Debility and Want of Preparation to oppose them, they have overun a considerable Part of the State of South Carolina; but as General Gates is collecting a Force to oppose them, and as their Cruelties and Oppressions will probably soon work up the Spirits of the People to Fury and Desperation, they will be expelled from the Country.
It seems to be the Ordination of Providence, and, though the Sufferings are severe, it seems to be the Interest of the Union, that each State, in its' Turn should be vexed with their Depredations and Barbarities. It operates an amazing Change in the Temper and Sentiments of the People, and fixes them in a rooted and resolute Determination to risque the Extremes of Destruction in Preference before Submission. It is clear and undisputed Experience, that in those States where they have made Progress, and from which they have been driven with Arms, or obliged to relinquish with Shame and Disappointment, the Flame of Liberty and Patriotism burns with more Strength and Brightness, and the Exertions of the People are most deciding and irresistible.
Every Person who has attended to the Course of our Revolution knows the Meaning of what in Words is a Paradox, that “our Misfortunes are our Safety.” The Capture of Charlestown is much to be regretted when we reflect that our Soldiers will be starved and scourged into the Enemy's Service; that the Citizens must suffer Pillagings, Conflagrations and Brutality, but it is obvious to every one that it will promote, under the Favour of Heaven, the general Cause. It has awaked a Spirit superiour to any Thing I have seen since the year 1775 and 6, a Spirit that is fast pervading the whole Comunity, a Spirit which enlivens and encreases every Day.
Cornwallis commands to the Southward with between four and five Thousand Men; Clinton has brought back to New-York a Number somewhat larger; and at the Date of this they are encamped from Philipse's on the North-river across the Country above King's-bridge. When the News of the Fall of Charlestown arrived, and the Troops were returning from thence, they came out with much Confidence and Triumph into New-Jersey, setting Fire to the Country as they passed.2 The disaffected strengthened their Expectations of Despondence and Submission among the Militia, and Desertions from the regular Troops. In every Respect they were more disappointed, than perhaps they have ever been since the Commencement of the War. Scarce a Man deserted, or Citizen adhered to them, both regulars and Militia, particularly the latter, fought them with the most des• { 510 } perate internecine Fury. The Vengeance due to their former Baseness and Barbarities cannot be forgotten. Manet alta Mente repostum.3
Considering the Disaster we have met with on a general Scale, we are not in the least dejected by it. We are more apprehensive of the Effect it will have on your Side of the Water, where such Things strike much more forcibly than here. Hope you will take the necessary Steps to prevent any unnecessary unfavourable Impressions.
Nothing but a better Supply of Money is wanting to give decisive Vigour to the War; and if we cannot get it we are not going to give up a good Cause for Want of it, however essential it may be thought.

[salute] I am, Sir with great Respect your obedt. hble. servant

[signed] Wm. Churchill Houston
RC (Adams Papers;) endorsed: “Mr Houston. recd. 16 and answered 17 Sept. 1780.”
1. On 20 Sept. JA wrote to Jean Luzac (LbC, Adams Papers), enclosing this letter and offering it for publication in the Gazette de Leyde. Luzac returned the letter without using it.
2. Houston is referring to the British forays into New Jersey on 7 and 23 June. On both occasions three to five thousand troops, mostly Germans commanded by Lt. Gen. Wilhelm von Knyphausen, sought to proceed down the road from Elizabethtown through Connecticut Farms to Springfield. In the first attack the village of Connecticut Farms was burned, but determined resistance by the New Jersey militia and reports of the imminent arrival of reinforcements from Washington's army compelled Knyphausen to retreat without reaching Springfield. In the second attack Knyphausen's troops captured and burned Springfield, but the militia and regular troops under Gen. Nathanael Greene again forced Knyphausen to retreat without achieving anything of substance (Leonard Lundin, Cockpit of the Revolution, Princeton, 1940, p. 426–434; Howard H. Peckham, ed., Toll of Independence, Chicago, 1974, p. 71, 72).
3. It remains deeply embedded in the mind.
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, 2018.