Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From Joseph Ward, 23 October 1775 Ward, Joseph JA


From Joseph Ward, 23 October 1775 Ward, Joseph Adams, John
From Joseph Ward
Camp at Roxbury 23 Octr. 1775 Sir

I have been long waiting for an opportunity to communicate some intelligence worthy of your notice, but nothing very important has taken place since you left the Camp; and every action with the Enemy has been published in the Newspapers, which has superseded the necessity of communicating those events by Letter. The general face of our public affairs both civil and military appear much as they have 237done for months past. By all the intelligence we receive from the Tyrant Country, it appears that the Heathen still rage and the people imagine a vain thing 1—That they can enslave America; but none of these things move us, the Spirit of War and Liberty thrives by persecution, and I trust they will be invincible in this Country. I humbly conceive we have a glorious prospect before us notwithstanding the gathering Storm. We are yet in blossom, but ripen fast, and when we have done playing with petitions and making kites for George, I expect we shall exert our united vigour in a direct line to “Liberty Peace and Safety,” and soon reach the summit of human happiness and glory.

That the united efforts of the free the brave and the hardy millions of independent Americans whose minds are enlightened and animated with the divine Spirit of Freedom, should ever be enslaved by British Tyrants is incredible among men! Nothing but the curse of Heaven (which we devoutly deprecate) can spread the cloud of despotism over the extensive region of America. Fear or folly only can produce our ruin; I am happy in believing that these do not dwell in the Great Council of America—but that Wisdom and Fortitude with a steady hand and persevering firmness will guide our political helm until we arrive at the haven of perfect Freedom.

I expect soon to hear that the Continental Congress have published the Confederacy of the Colonies—compleated the Republic of America —and formed a commercial Alliance with France and Spain. Such tidings will be musick in my ears, as I apprehend nothing short of such a plan will secure our Liberties; and if America should be enslaved it is probable freedom will expire thro the World. It is a great and a glorious Prize which the Americans contend for, the happiness of all future ages, and the freedom of the World as the Liberties of all Nations may in some degree be connected with ours.

I should not have taken the freedom to write to you, Sir, had not you condescended to request it,2 and as I had no News to write, this is only to shew that I had not forgot my promise. I am, Sir, with the greatest Respect, yours &c.,

Joseph Ward3

P.S. I have had the pleasure of seeing the illustrious Doctor Franklyn, and the other American Worthies, who came from the honourable Continental Congress; we have endeavoured to pay them that respect which is due to such distinguished characters. As they are soon to set out for Philadelphia, I write in haste that my letter may go by this conveyance. Your candour, Sir, will make allowance for the inaccuracies in whatever I may write.


My best Regards to my honoured Friends the Members for this Colony. They, and the whole Congress, have the warmest good wishes, the highest esteem and confidence, and the fervent Prayers of all the wise and good in the circle of my acquaintance, and I trust through all America. The love and veneration of so great so patriotic so brave a people, Kings and Emperors may sigh for in vain. “I am not the most covetous of gold, and care not who my garments wear; but if to covet Honour, be a crime, I am the most offending soul alive!”Henry. V.4

RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Jo. Wards. Oct. 23. 1775.”


Paraphrased from Psalms 2:1.


JA's letter to Ward has not been found.


Joseph Ward (1737–1812), Artemas Ward's second cousin once removed, was a schoolmaster, patriot, frequent contributor to newspapers, and correspondent with various Revolutionary leaders. Before the war began, Ward may not have been so strong a patriot as he seems here, for in 1772 and 1773, as the controversy over the Hutchinson letters was growing, he was corresponding with Lord Dartmouth with the hope of obtaining a position in the colonial administration. At the time of this letter, he was aide-de-camp and secretary to Gen. Ward (Charles Martyn, Artemas Ward, N.Y., 1921, p. 90–92; William Carver Bates, “Col. Joseph Ward, 1737–1812: Teacher, Soldier, Patriot,” Bostonian Society, Pubns. , 1st ser., 4 [1907]:57–76).


Henry V, Act IV, scene iii.

To James Warren, 24 October 1775 JA Warren, James


To James Warren, 24 October 1775 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Octr. 24. 1775 Dear Sir

When it is Said that it is the Prerogative of omniscience to Search Hearts, I Suppose it is meant that no human sagacity, can penetrate at all Times into Mens Bosoms and discover with precise Certainty the secrets there: and in this Sense it is certainly true.

But there is a sense in which Men may be said to be possessed of a Faculty of Searching Hearts too. There is a Discernment competent to Mortals by which they can penetrate into the Minds of Men and discover their Secret Passions, Prejudices, Habits, Hopes, Fears, Wishes and Designs, and by this Means judge what Part they will act in given Circumstances for the future, and see what Principles and Motives have actuated them to the Conduct they have held, in certain Conjunctures of Circumstances which are passed.

A Dexterity and Facility of thus unravelling Mens Thought and a Faculty of governing them by Means of the Knowledge We have of them, constitutes the principal Part of the Art of a Politician.

In a Provincial Assembly, where We know a Mans Pedigree and Biography, his Education, Profession and Connections, as well as his Fortune, it is easy to see what it is that governs a Man and determines 239him to this Party in Preference to that, to this system of Politicks rather than another &c.

But here it is quite otherwise. We frequently see Phonomena which puzzle Us.

It requires Time to enquire and learn the Characters and Connections, the Interests and Views of a Multitude of Strangers.

It would be an exquisite Amusement, and high Gratification of Curiosity, this Same Mystery of Politicks, if the Magnitude of the Interests and Consequences did not interest us sometimes too much.1

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To Mrs. Adams Braintree To the Care of Coll Warren”; docketed by James Warren: “Mr. J: A Lettr Octr. 24. 1775.”

The address is a mistake. Probably this letter is the one received by AA, read, and then returned to James Warren in her letter to Mercy Otis Warren of ca. 5 Nov. In that, AA commented that she “could not comprehend how I came to have such a reply to a subject I had said very little upon” ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:322–324). Very likely JA addressed several letters on 24 Oct. and inadvertently repeated an address.


This letter seems less a communication than a thoughtful coda to JA's letter to Warren of 24 i.e. 23 Oct. (above), in which he remarks that it took some time before he got to know the several sides of Peyton Randolph.