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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 10

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0187

Author: Lee, William
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-11-15

From William Lee

[salute] Dear Sir

A severe attack of a dangerous dysentery, a sick Family ever since Mr. Searle left us, and above all, having nothing material to communicate, have prevented me from writing to you for some time past and indeed my principal object now, is to enquire after the health of yourself and your Sons, as it will give me sensible pleasure to hear that you have escaped the contagion of the late very unhealthy season.
It seems that the rigor with which Mr. Laurens was at first confin'd, has been a good deal relaxed and he is now permitted to walk abroad within the Tower Walls for the benefit of the Air; from what cause this has proceeded one can't precisely say, but it appears, there is a party in the Ks. Cabinet who are heartily sick of the War and wish for Peace with America on any Terms, but as the King is absolute, his Will, must be obey'd; therefore every effort is to be made to send 10,000 men immediately to Ama., which number I apprehend, they will find infinite difficulty in procuring; unless they send every regular Soldier from G. Britain and Ireland. 'Tis some years since I knew three Systems were hatch'd at Passy, all originating in Selfishness, Pride and personal malice and resentment. 1st., that America had no kind of occasion for Ministers or Agents any where else but in France and Spain. 2dly, That it would not be of any advantage for all the Powers of Europe to acknowlege the Independence of Ama., since France having done it was amply sufficient. 3dly, That it was very immeterial what became of the Southern States, or whether they were annex'd to G. Britain or not, as the 4 New England States were fully capable by their own efforts, to maintain and support their Independency against all the power of G. Britain. Designing Men are never at a loss for arguments, however unsubstantial and unfounded, to propagate their doctrines and unfortunately for America the two { 347 } first systems have been adopted. It has given me much concern to find Ideas similar to the last re-echoed from the environs of Congress; but I conceive it merits the most serious consideration of the Northern States, as I am convinced that ruin and destruction to the whole, must inevitably follow any division or seperation among the 13 States.
Monsieur Guichens return with his fleet and convoy will no doubt prove a cordial to the French Merchants and proves also that the last Campaign has ended like the two preceeding ones—An immense expence, a great deal of noise and bustle and nothing done. The capture of the Quebec Fleet was however very fortunate, as it may in some measure releive our Army that must have otherwise suffer'd immensely for want of supplies; for I understand that those which were ready and ought to have left Europe last Winter or early in the Spring, are at this time in the Ports of France.
The conversation in the H. of Commons the 7th instant and the resolves of the Westminster Committee of the 2d are worthy of attention.1 One can't help feeling astonishment and indignation at the conduct of some of the branches of the power where you are—can the corrupted part mean to subjugate the whole to their Rival and Bitterest Enemy? A union with the Northern powers would take away even the shadow of danger as they can, by only with holding their Naval Stores, in one or two Years annihilate the fleets of G. Britain. But at all events I do not see what the Dutch have to apprehend from a War with G. Britain more than they now suffer—Their Ships are taken in all parts of the World where met with and condemn'd; their Territory invaded; their independency as a sovereign Power in fact denyed, and insult heaped upon insult; without a means of redress, while their present conduct is pursued.
I beg you to present my best Compliments to your Sons & to be assured that I am with the highest Esteem & Respect Yr. most Obliged & Obedt. Hble Servt.
[signed] W: Lee
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “William Lee Esqr. Nov. 15th. 1780 Ansd. 19th. Novr.”
1. The most notable exchange in the House of Commons on 7 Nov. was probably that between Charles James Fox and Lord George Germain (see Thomas Digges' letter of 14 Nov., and note 4, above). In his letter of 29 Nov., however, Lee indicated that he was referring to a statement by Col. Samuel Hartley, actually Winchcombe Henry Hartley, that came immediately after the Fox-Germain exchange, to the effect “that we ought to treat on any terms with America, could it be effected without concluding at the same time a peace with France” (Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 8 Nov.).
For the resolves adopted by the Westminster Committee of Association on 2 Nov., see the London Courant of the 3d. In its resolutions, the committee denied assertions that { 348 } the association movement had been responsible for the Gordon Riots and would foment future unrest; called for an immediate end to the American war; praised Sir George Saville for his efforts on behalf of parliamentary reform; and sought the reintroduction of Edmund Burke's “economical reform bill.”

Docno: ADMS-06-10-02-0188

Author: Warren, Mercy Otis
Recipient: Adams, John
Date: 1780-11-15

From Mercy Otis Warren

[salute] Sir

I put a Letter of Introduction into the Hand of a son who has since unfortunately been made a prisoner by the Portland Man of War, and though held as an Hostage till the fulfilment of Certain Conditions Mentioned in a Cartel sent to Boston, he has been treated with great Humanity and politeness by Admiral Edwards, and by late letters I find he purposes to pursue his Voyage to Europe, and if he meets with no New Disappointment in England, it will not be long before he will reach Paris, where agreable to your friendly and polite invitation he will immediatly wait on you.1
I beleive I may Venture to say he is a youth who will by no part of his Conduct disgrace the Recommendations of his Friends, or disappoint the Expectations of the parent. Yet whoever Enters at an Early period, amidst a World of strangers, to traverse a stage where art, not Nature Reigns, ought to be well acquainted with himself as well as with the History of Man, to parry the Intrigues laid for Innocence. And Even thus Gaurded, without the aid of Experience he may be liable to many inconveniences in a Country, where politeness assumes the air of friendship, where Refinement is wrought up into the Extream of Elegance, and luxery Heightned by a systematical desire to please.
I am sir too well acquainted with your dispotition to think it Necessary to ask your philosophic Hints, which united with his own Good sense I trust will lead him through with approbation.
Shall I again Repeat that I think myself Happy in the full Confidence of Friendship with a Gentleman at once so Competent to advise, Direct, and aid, and so Ready to point the youthful arder of Early Years to that line of Conduct which leads to Happiness.
His Views are Cheifly of a Commercial Nature, but improved by Industry and Observation, it may be a Happy Opportunity of Qualifying for more Extensive usefulness. I once thought I should have trembled for the safety of a son, in the Morning of Expectation, in the Zenith of Warm hope, steping into the larger theaters of Intrigue, Bussiness, and luxuriant taste.
But I have now no Idea that the Morals of youth can suffer much { 349 } by leaving Boston for any part of Europe, and the Change of Manners in this Country has brought me to bid Defiance to any disagreable Consequences from a Change of place. A thousand things on this occasion might flow from the Lip of Maternel tenderness, did not Civility to you, and an attention to your public Avocation, forbid.
I shall therefore only add on this subject if my son Reaches Your Residence, whither it be in France or Holland, I am sure of a New proof of your Friendship to the Father, in the Explicit opinions you will occasionally give, both of Men, and Manners, and the kind assistance you will Confer (if Necessary) to the prosperity of a Beloved son. As I understand he Destroyed most of his Letters on the Capture of the Pallas, the above is Nearly a Copy of a few lines Designed for you Dated May 15th 80.2 In that was Hinted the situation of your Country, the Various Opinions of priests, polititians, statsmen, soldiers and Courtiers, with Regard to the Establishment of Civil Goverment in the Common Wealth of Massachusets. The Arrangment of officers under the New Constitution you will have from other hands, and a Detail of the administration, as well as opperation, of a system so Compleat in all its parts, that the Wishes of all parties are Concentered in one Great Object, and Whigs and Tories, Infidels and Religionists all agree that some portion of Idolitry is Necessary for the support of the political Machine. Of Course the Daily Incense is offered in the Capital, and the Guilded puppet3 placed in the public Theater a few years ago (for Certain purposses) is Become the Idol to whom the supple Homage of Adulation is paid, by a people once Disinterested, Firm, Discerning, and Tenatious of their Rights. That tinture of Enthusiasm which is perhaps Characteristic of the North American is now heated with the Emulation of Exhibiting the Highest Instances of Worship. Yet the Image whose Feet are of Clay, May in a short time become as the Chaff of the summer Threshing Floor, unless like another Pisastratus,4 for the sake of prolonging his power, He should Govern according to the Minutest Forms of the Constitution.
Forgive this little sally. Was you sir in this City you would not Wonder. Addresses, Assemblys, Entertainments and Balls have ushered in the Happy Era of Republicanism. If this Infant Common Wealth can thus stand in its pupilage—when Time has Matured its strength, and the Horrors of War are Dispeled, will it not become the Wonder of the World. But I forbear.
I Intended no political observations when I began, least amidst the Complicated scenes arround us, I might be led to say something to { 350 } the Disadvantage of my Country, if it should Chance to be perused by any Eye but Yours.
I Wish to be Remembered with Friendship by Mr. Dana, Mr. Thaxter, Mr. Johnny, and my little Favorite.
Mr. Warrens Letters by this Conveyance will Give you much Inteligence, Mrs. Adams's much pleasure, and if a Momentary Amusement Can be added by her, it will always be a Gratification to Sir your assured Friend & Humble Servant
[signed] Marcia Warren
RC (Adams Papers); endorsed by John Thaxter: “Mrs. Warren 15th. Novr. 1780.”
1. Winslow Warren was in London (from Thomas Digges, 17 Nov., note 1, below).
2. This letter is printed from a transcript under the date of 8 May (above), and see note 1 there. The material copied, with numerous changes, constituted the first five paragraphs of that letter.
3. John Hancock.
4. Pisistratus, twice tyrant of Athens (561–556, 546–527 b.c.), was noted for the length of his rule and his retention of the forms of the Solonic constitution (Oxford Classical Dictionary). Compare Mercy Warren's allusion to Pisistratus with her husband's in his letter of 22 Nov. (below).
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.