Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To George Washington

To James Warren

To Joseph Palmer, 2 April 1776 JA Palmer, Joseph To Joseph Palmer, 2 April 1776 Adams, John Palmer, Joseph
To Joseph Palmer
Dear Sir Philadelphia April 2d. 1776

This will go by my worthy Brother Dana who, is returned, as he went a very good Whigg and much more abundantly.

I hope he will be appointed a Judge or Attorney General immediately, as he is extreamly well qualified for Either.1

Since my return to this Place, I have lived in tolerable good Humour with our old Friend, notwithstanding the rash Anger he expressed in certain Letters.2

I have had two Conversations between him and me concerning his seat upon a certain Bench. He has not said positively, but perhaps, if the Place should be left open till his Return, which probably will not be very long for a Visit at least, he may be induced to accept. For my own Part I wish he might. I have ever lived in Friendship with him, untill in the Month of August last he was pleased to quarrell with me, chiefly on Account of some Important Points of Rank, I suppose. But these Seem to be blown over.

The Evacuation of Boston is a great Event, and if wisely improved will be a decisive one. But We must fortify the Harbour. I must intreat you to let me know, with what Quantities of Powder you are likely to be Supplied and what Cannon you have, or can get, or what you want.

Perhaps We might obtain Some assistance from the Continent in fortifying that Harbour, if We knew what assistance you would want. Let us know and We will try.

The Tories, I think will never loose sight of that Town if they can possibly prevail on the Ministry to set on foot another Expedition against it, they will. They will pursue it with a Bitterness and Severity, inexpressible.

Fortify, Fortify, and never let them get in again.


We continue Still between Hawk and Buzzard. Some People, yet expect Commissioners, to treat with Congress—and to offer a Chart blanc. All declare if they do not come impowered to treat with Us, and grant Us our Bill of Rights, in every Iota, they will hesitate no longer.

I wish I could enter into an unreserved Detail. But I dare not. I think We shall do pretty well. The Conventions are now about meeting every where, and We expect Assistance from them. In great Haste Adieu.

Pray let Us know how much Powder you have furnished to the Continental Army, from the Magazines of the Province, or of Town stocks. Because if We know how much, We would endeavour to have it reimbursed to you.3

We must get those Town Stocks replaced and the Colonial Magazine refurnished.

John Adams

RC (PPAmP: Feinstone Coll., on deposit); docketed in an unidentified hand: “Honble: J. Adams April 2d. 1776.”


On 30 May, Francis Dana was elected to the Massachusetts Council (Mass., House Jour. , 1776–1777, 1st sess., p. 7).


On the bad feeling between Robert Treat Paine and JA, see the following letters of James Warren to JA: 20 Oct. 1775, note 5; 5 Nov. 1775; 3 Dec. 1775, notes 8 and 12 (all above). See also Paine to Joseph Palmer, 1 Jan. 1776 (above).

JA's belief that his relations with Paine were improving was expressed also to AA in a letter of 3 Dec. 1775 ( Adams Family Correspondence , 1:332). But Paul H. Smith has suggested that the last three paragraphs of this letter may be a fragment of a missing letter, JA to AA of 6 April 1776 (see AA to JA, 16 March, descriptive note, same, 1:360). Smith's conjecture seems borne out by both physical and historical evidence, and we are grateful to him for making it (communication from Smith, American Revolution Bicentennial Office, Library of Congress, to the editors, 1976).

The three paragraphs in question are on a separate sheet of paper with different physical qualities from that used for the rest of the letter dated 3 Dec. Moreover, the mention in these paragraphs of the licensing of privateers and the opening of the ports, actions approved by the congress on 23 March and 6 April respectively ( JCC , 4:229–232, 257–259), as well as the reference to the commissioners from England and improved relations with Paine, subjects for JA's comment in other letters he wrote in the spring of 1776, better fits a date of 6 April than 3 Dec.; but see the notes to the latter.


JA's urgings may have had an effect; see the General Court to the Massachusetts Delegates, 9 May (below).