A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.

Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0117-0008

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Calkoen, Hendrik
Date: 1780-10-10

7. To Hendrik Calkoen

Letter 7

[salute] Sir

Your seventh Inquiry is, whether the common People in America, are not inclined, nor would be able to find sufficient means, to frustrate by Force, the good Intentions of the skilful Politicians?
In answer to this, it is sufficient to say, that the Commonalty have no need to have recourse to Force, to oppose the Intentions of the skillful: because the Law and the Constitution authorize the common People to choose Governors and Magistrates every year: so that they have it constantly in their power, to leave out any Politician however skillful, whose Principles, Opinions or Systems they don't approve.
The difference however in that Country is not so great as it is in some others between the Common People and the Gentlemen, for Noblemen they have none. There is no Country where the Common People, I mean the Tradesmen, the Husbandmen, and the labouring People have such Advantages of Education, as in that: and it may be truly said that their Education, their Understanding and their Knowledge is as nearly equal as their Birth, Fortune, Dignities and Titles.
It is therefore certain, that whenever the Common People shall determine upon Peace, or Submission, it will be done. But of this there is no danger. The Common People, are the most unanimously determined against Great Britain of any: it is the War of the Common People; it was undertaken by them, and has been and will be supported by them.
The People of that Country often rose in large Bodies, against the Measures of Government, while it was in the Hands of the King. But there has been no Example of this sort, under the new Constitutions, excepting one which is mentioned in General How's Narrative in the back part of North Carolina.1 This was owing to Causes so particular, that it rather serves to shew the Strength of the American Cause in that State, than the Contrary.
About the year 1772, under the Government of Tryon, who has since made himself so obnoxious to all America, there were some warm disputes in North Carolina concerning some of the internal Regulations of that Province, and a small number of People in the { 221 } back parts rose in Arms under the name of regulators against the Government.2 Governor Tryon marched at the head of some Troops, drawn from the Militia, gave battle to the Regulators, defeated them, hanged some of their Ringleaders and publishing Proclamations against many others. Those People were all treated as having been in Rebellion, and they were left to solicit Pardons of the Crown. This established in the Minds of those Regulators such an hatred towards the rest of their Fellow-Citizens, that in 1775, when the War broke out, they would not join with them. The King has since promised them pardon for their former Treasons, upon Conditions that they commit fresh ones against their Country. In 1777, in conjunction with a Number of Scotch Highlanders, they rose, and Governor Caswell marched against them, gave them Battle and defeated them. This Year they have risen again and been again defeated. But these People are so few in Number: there is so much apparent Malice and Revenge, instead of any principle in their disaffection, that any one who knows any thing of the human Heart, will see, that instead of finally weakening the American Cause in North Carolina, it will only serve to give a keenness and an Obstinacy to those who support it.
Nothing indeed can shew the Unanimity of the People, throughout America, in a stronger light than this—that the British Army has been able to procure so few Recruits, to excite so few Insurrections and Disturbances. Nay, although the freedom of the Press and the freedom of Speech is carried to as great lengths in that Country as in any under the Sun, there has never been a Hint in a Newspaper, or even in a Hand Bill, nor a single Speech or Vote in any Assembly, that I have heard of, for submission or even for Reconciliation.
I have the Honor to be, Sir, your humble Servant.
FC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter. 7.”
1. See Letter No. 2 (above).
2. Contrary to JA's account, the Regulator movement was less a nursery for loyalists than an early example of East-West conflict. Established in 1768, the Regulator movement stemmed from the desire of settlers in the Piedmont counties to control or “regulate” their local government. North Carolina's population had grown fastest in the Piedmont, but a large majority of representatives in the legislature continued to come from the older Tidewater counties. Moreover, most county officials were appointed by the governor, whom the back country settlers saw as dominated by the Tidewater interests. The movement ended in 1771 when a large group of armed Regulators was defeated at Hillsboro by a militia force under Gov. William Tryon. The same result might have been achieved without the battle, for the legislature already had enacted reforms aimed at alleviating the Regulator's grievances.
JA's account of what occurred after the battle at Hillsboro is also misleading, but probably reflects current perceptions of events in North Carolina. In fact, the Regulators did not universally support the loyalist cause and available data indicates that most were either neutral or supported the patriots. The Regulators' defeat probably led both pa• { 222 } triot and loyalist leaders to assume that the Regulators would oppose the American cause. Thus in 1776 when Gov. Josiah Martin called out the loyalists to put down the rebellion, he doubtless expected the Regulators to rally to his cause, but there is no indication that this occurred. At the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on 27 Feb. 1776, the loyalist force was composed largely of newly arrived Highland Scots and there is no evidence of a general uprising by the Regulators in 1780, following the British capture of Charleston, S.C., and the movement of British forces northward (John R. Alden, The South in the Revolution, 1763–1789, Baton Rouge, 1957, p. 153–163, 197–198; A. Roger Ekirch, “Whig Authority and Public Order in Backcountry North Carolina, 1776–1783,” in Ronald Hoffman, Thad W. Tate, Peter J. Albert, eds., An Uncivil War, Charlottesville, 1985, p. 99–124).

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0117-0009

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Calkoen, Hendrik
Date: 1780-10-16

8. To Hendrik Calkoen

Letter 8

[salute] Sir

The eighth Enquiry is, what England properly ought to do, to force America to Submission, and preserve her in it? How much Time, Money, and how many Vessels would be wanted for that purpose?
I assure You, Sir, I am as much at a loss to inform You, in this particular, as Lord George Germaine would be. I can fix upon no Number of Men, nor any Sum of Money, nor any Number of Ships, that I think would be sufficient. But most certainly no Number of Ships or Men which Great Britain now has, or ever can have, nor any Sum of Money, that She will ever be able to command, will be sufficient.
If it were in the power of Great Britain to send an hundred thousand Men to America, and they had Men of War and Transports enough to convey them there in safety, amidst the dangers that await now from French, Spanish and American Men of War, they might possibly get possession of two or three Provinces, and place so many Garrisons in various parts as to prevent the People from exercising the functions of Government, under their new Constitutions, and they might set up a sham Appearance of a Civil Government under the King. But I dont believe that an hundred thousand Men, could gain and preserve them the Civil Government of any three States in the Confederation. The States are at such distances from one another; there are such difficulties in passing from one to another by land; and such a multitude of Posts are necessary to be garrisoned and provided, in order to command any one Colony, that an Army of an hundred thousand Men, would soon find itself consumed, in getting and keeping possession of one or two States. But it would require the Armies of Semiramis1 to command and preserve them all.
{ 223 }
Such is the Nature of that Country and such the Character of the People, that if the English were to send ever so many Ships, and ever so many Troops, they never would subdue all the Americans. Numbers in every State would fly to the Mountains and beyond the Mountains, and there maintain a constant War against the English. In short the English, if they could conquer America, which they never can, nor any one State in it, it would cost them a standing Army of an hundred thousand Men to preserve their Conquest; for it is in vain for them ever to think of any other Governments taking place again under the King of England, but a military Government.
As to the Number of Ships it must be in proportion to the number of Troops: they must have transports enough to carry their Troops, and Men of War enough to convoy them, through their numerous French, Spanish and American Enemies upon the Seas.
As to the Sums of Money, You will easily see, that adding two hundred Millions more to the two hundred Millions they already owe, would not procure and maintain so many Ships and Troops.
It is very certain the English can never send any great Numbers more of Troops to America. The Men are not to be had: the Money is not to be had: the Seamen and even the Transports are not to be had.

[salute] I have the Honor to be

I give this to Mr. Calkoen as my private Opinion concerning the question he asks. As Mr. Calkoen observes, this is a Question that had better not be publickly answered. But time will shew the Answer here given is right. It would at present be thought Extravagance or Enthusiasm. Mr. Adams only requests Mr. Calkoen to look over this letter a few years hence, and then say what his Opinion of it is. Victories gained by the English, in taking Sea-port Towns, or in open field fighting will make no difference in my answer to this Question. Victories gained by the English will conquer themselves sooner than the Americans. Fighting will not fail in the End to turn to the Advantage of America, although the English may gain an Advantage in this or that particular Engagement.
Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 8.
1. According to Greek legend, Semiramis was the daughter of the Syrian goddess Derceto and is remembered for her military feats and the construction of Babylon. Historically, Semiramis is likely based on Sammuramat, who served as regent after the death of her husband, the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V, in the late 9th century b.c. (Oxford Classical Dictionary)
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.