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Letter from John Adams to James Warren, 7 October 1775

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Philadelphia Octr. 7th. 1775

Dr Sir

The Debates, and Deliberations in Congress are inpene
trable Secrets: but the Conversations in the City, and the
Chatt of the Coffee house, are free, and open. indeed I wish
We were at Liberty to write freely and Speak openly upon every
Subject, for their is frequently as much Knowledge derived
from Conversation and Correpondence, as from Solemn
public Debates --

A more intricate and complicated Subject never came into
any Mans thoughts, than the Trade of America. -- The Questions
[that] arise, when one thinks of it, are very numerous.

If The Thirteen united Colonies, Should immediately Surcease
all Trade with every Part of the World, what would be the Con
sequence? In what manner, and to what degree, and how
soon, would it affect, the other Parts of the World? how would
it affect G.B. Ireland, the English West India Islands, the
French, the Dutch the Danish, the Spanish West India
Islands? -- how would it affect the Spanish Empire on the
Continent? how would it affect the Brazills and the Por
tuguese Settlements in America? -- If it is certain that
it would distress Multitudes in these Countries, does it therefore
follow that it would induce any foreign Court to offer Us
Assistance, and to ask us for our Trade or any Part of it?
if it is questionable Whether foreign states would venture upon
Such Steps, which, would perhaps be Violations of Treatises of
Peace, and certainly would light up a War in Europe

it is certain that Smugglers, by whom I mean private Adventurers
belonging to foreign nations, would come here, through all the Hazards
they must run. -- Could they be suffered to clear out for America in their
own Custom houses? would they not run the risque of Seizure from their
own Custom house officers, or of Capture from their own Men of War?
Would they not be liable to be visited by British Men of War, in any Part of
the ocean, and if found to have no Clearances be seized? When they arrived
on any Part of the Coast of N. America, would they not be seized by Brittish
Cutters, Cruizers, Tenders, Frigates without Number: But if their good
Fortune should escape all these Risques, have We harbours or Rivers, Sufficient
ly fortified, to insure them Security while here? In their Return to
their own Country would they not have the Same Gauntlett to run--

In Short, if We Stop our own ships, have We even a Probability that the ships of
foreign Nations, will run the Venture to come here, either with or without
the Countenance and Encouragement of their severall Courts or States
public or private open or secret? -- It is not easy for any Man
precisely and certainly to answer this Question. - We must then say all
this is uncertain. --

Suppose then We assume an intrepid countenace, and send Ambassadors at
once to foreign courts. -- What Nation shall We court? Shall We go to the
Court of France, or the Court of Spain, to the States General of the United Prov
inces? to the Court of Lisbon, to the Court of Prussia or Russia, or Turkey
or Denmark, or Where, to any, one, more or all of these? - if We should
is there a Probability, that Our Ambassadors would be received or so much as heard
or seen by any Man or Woman in Power at any of those Courts -
He might possibly, if well skilled in intrigue, his Pocketts well filled with Money
and his Person Robust and elegant enough, get introduced to some of the
Misses, and Courtezans in Keeping of the Statesmen in France, but
would not that be all. --

An offer of the Sovereignty of this Country to France or Spain
would be listened to no doubt by Either of those Courts, but We
should suffer any Thing before We should offer this - What then can
we offer? an Alliance, a Treaty of Commerce? - What Security
could they have have that We should keep it - Would they not reason thus,
these People intend to make Use of Us to establish an Independency
but the Moment they have done it : Britain will make Peace
with them, and leave Us in the Lurch And We have more to
dread from an Alliance between Britain and the United
Colonies as an independent state, than We have now they
are under one corrupted Administration. Would not Spain
reason in the same manner, and say further our Dominions
in South America will be a Prey to these Enterprizing
and warlike Americans, the Moment they are an independent
State - would not our proposals and Agents be treated with Con
tempt! - and if our Proposals were made and rejected, would
not this sink the Spirits of our own People, Elevate our Enemies
and disgrace Us in Europe.

If then, it will not be Safe to Stop our own Ships entirely, and trust to
foreign Vessells coming here with or without Convoy of Men
of War, belonging to foreign States, what is to be done? - Can our
own People bear a total Cessation of Commerce? Will not Such
Numbers be thrown out of Employment, and deprived of their
Bread, as to make a large discontented Party? Will not the Bur
then of supporting these Numbers, be too heavy upon the other
Part of the Community? Shall We be able to maintain the
War, wholly without Trade? can We support the Credit of our
Currency, without it?

If We must have Trade how shall We obtain it? -

There is one Plan, which alone, as it has ever appeared to me, will ensure the End
in some Degree, at first. But this is attended with So many Dangers to all Vessells,
certain Loss to many, and So much Uncertainty upon the whole, that it is enough
to make any Man, thoughtfull. - Indeed it is looked upon So wild, extravagant
and romantic, that a Man must have a great deal of Courage, and much
Indifference to common censure, who should dare to propose it.

"God helps those who help themselves," and it has ever appeared to me since this
unhappy Dispute began, that We had no Friend upon Earth to depend on but
the Resources of our own Country, and the good sense and great Virtues
of our People. - We shall finally be obliged to depend upon ourselves. -

Our Country furnishes a vast abundance of materials for Commerce.
Foreign Nations, have great Demands for them. - If We should publish an
Invitation to any one Nation or more, or to all Nations, to send their
ships here, and let our Merchants inform theirs that We have Harbours
where the Vessells can lie in Safety, I conjecture that many private foreign
Adventurers would find Ways to send cargoes here thro all the Risques
without Convoys. - at the Same Time our own Merchants, would venture
out with their Vessells and Cargoes, especialy in Winter, and would run
thro many Dangers, and in both these Ways together, I should hope We might
be supplied with Necessaries.

All this however Supposes that We fortify and defend our own Harbours and
Rivers - We may begin to do this. -- We may build Row Gallies,
flatt bottomed Boats, floating Batteries, Whale Boats, Vesseaux de Frize,
nay ships of war, how many, and how large I cant say. ---To talk
of coping suddenly with G. B. at sea would be Quixotish indeed. - But the only
Question with me is can We defend our Harbours and Rivers? if We can
We can trade.