Papers of John Adams, volume 4

IX. Committee Report on Fortifying Harbors

XI. Committee Assignments

X. Draft Preamble of Committee Report on Inducing Foreign Officers to Desert, 27 August 1776 JA Continental Congress X. Draft Preamble of Committee Report on Inducing Foreign Officers to Desert, 27 August 1776 Adams, John Continental Congress
X. Draft Preamble of Committee Report on Inducing Foreign Officers to Desert
ante 27 Aug. 1776 1

Whereas it is probable, that among the Officers of the foreign Troops, now in the Service of the King of Great Britain, there may be many, of liberal Minds, possessed of just Sentiments of the Rights of human Nature and the inestimable Value of Freedom; who may be prompted, by the Feelings of Humanity, and a just Indignation at the disgracefull service to which they are devoted by an infamous Contract between two arbitrary sovereigns and at the Insult offered to them by compelling them to War against an innocent People, who never offended them, nor the Nation to which they belong, but are only contending for their just Rights; to abandon renounce So dishonourable a service. Therefore Resolved that all such Officers who shall forsake abandon the Service

Dft in JA's hand (DLC:Jefferson Papers).


On 26 Aug. Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and JA were appointed a committee to consider a letter of 22 Aug. from Col. James Wilson of the Flying Camp at Amboy, N.J. ( JCC , 5:705). The letter noted previous efforts to encourage desertion and called for a new appeal that, unlike the others, would make a distinction between officers and men in the inducements proffered (PCC, No. 78, XXIII, f. 301). The committee met and produced a report that has not been found, since it was probably used as a printer's copy, and that was adopted on 27 Aug. The resolution of the congress took the form of an address to the officers of the foreign troops, calling on them to desert and offering land in varying amounts according to rank ( JCC , 5:707–708). The appeal was immediately translated into German, printed, and distributed, probably under the direction of Franklin, but only a single copy of that document has been found. For Christopher Ludwick's efforts among Hessians, see Jonathan Bayard Smith to JA, 28 Aug., note 2 (below).

Although American attempts to encourage desertion have been well chronicled by L. H. Butterfield in “Psychological Warfare in 1776: The Jefferson-Franklin Plan to Cause Hessian Desertion” (Amer. Philos. Soc., Procs. , 94 [1950]:233–241), some acknowledgment of JA's contribution to the appeal made to foreign officers is in order. The preamble printed here was not rejected but was substituted, with minor changes in word order, for the preamble in Jefferson's draft of the appeal. The latter called attention to the earlier appeal of 14 Aug., which had been directed to foreign soldiers 17generally, and offered the “blessings of peace, liberty, property and mild government, on their relinquishing the disgraceful office on which they had been sent hither” (Jefferson, Papers , 1:509–510; JCC , 5:653–655). JA's language, beginning with the words “there may be many, of liberal Minds” continuing to “to renounce So dishonourable a service,” was adopted instead ( JCC , 5:707–708). JA rekindled some of the fire that marked the earlier appeal to German soldiers.