Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To James Warren

To James Warren

To John Trumbull, 13 February 1776 JA Trumbull, John To John Trumbull, 13 February 1776 Adams, John Trumbull, John
To John Trumbull
Dr Sir Philadelphia 13 1 Feb. 1776

I take this opportunity by Mr. Romain to write you one Line more for the sake of reminding you of my Existence, and requesting that you would favour me with authentic Evidence under your Hand of yours, than any Thing I have to Say.

Politicks are a Labyrinth, without a Clue—to write you on that subject would be endless. N. York I think is now in critical state, but I hope We shall Save it. Mr. Dickinson is to march at the Head of a Battallion of Philadelphian associators to the Assistance of, Gen. Lee 22and Lord Sterling.2 He has this afternoon been harranguing the Battallions in the State House Yard with the Ardor and Pathos of a Greecian Commander, as it is reported.3

By Intelligence hourly arriving from abroad We are more and more confirmed, that a Kind of Confederation will be formed among the Crowned Skulls, and numbskulls of Europe, against Human Nature.

Prussia, defended itself last War, against France, Spain, Germany and Russia, not with standing its Vicinity to those Empires and Kingdoms. America, will have a Combination not less Formidable to resist perhaps, but We are Three Thousand Miles off. If these Colonies are not as Powerfull as Prussia what is the Reason?

It will be said Prussia is an absolute Monarchy, America, a Chaos at present and it can be at best, but a Republic.

To this I answer, So much the better. For, that a Monarchy absolute or limited is better for War than a Republic I absolutely deny. On the Contrary look through the whole World and universal History and you will find that Republics have been invariably the most warlike Governments, and you will find no Instance of a Republic conquered by a Monarchy, by Arms, nor any other Way but by Corruption and Division. If therefore the Colonies can be Secured against Corruption and Division I think with the Blessing of Heaven, they may hope to defend themselves. In all Events they will try the Experiment. Pray write me your Connecticut Politicks. You, mix the Caution and Jealousy of Athens with the Valour of Sparta. But dont let your People forget or neglect to cultivate Harmony and preserve the Union.

Your Friend

RC (PPRF); addressed: “To Mr John Trumbull New Haven Favoured by Mr Romains”; docketed: “John Adams Esqr to John Trumbull Feby. 20th 1776.”


Although JA left space for the day of the month, he did not insert it. Despite the docketing, the 13th would appear the proper choice, for on that day four battalions were “drawn out” (Joseph Hewes to Samuel Johnston, 11–13 Feb., in Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:344–345; see also Burnett's note 2 for No. 501, 1:348).


William Alexander (1726–1783) of New Jersey claimed the title of 6th Earl of Stirling, although his claim had been disallowed by the House of Lords in 1762. Alexander became a brigadier general in March 1776 and was promoted to major general about one year later ( DAB ).


The occasion for reinforcing Lee and Stirling at New York was the arrival of Sir Henry Clinton in the harbor on 4 Feb., the same day that Lee arrived to begin organization of the city's defense. It was widely believed that Clinton would land troops, but in actuality he was passing through on his way to the Carolinas for a British expedition against Charleston. When it became apparent that Clinton posed no real threat to New York, orders to the Pennsylvania militia were canceled on 15 Feb. (Alden, General Charles Lee , p. 98–99; Pennsylvania Gazette, 21 Feb.).