Papers of John Adams, volume 4

From Samuel Holden Parsons

To James Sullivan

207 From Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, 20 May 1776 Sergeant, Jonathan Dickinson JA From Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, 20 May 1776 Sergeant, Jonathan Dickinson Adams, John
From Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant
Dear Sir 20 May 1776

I wrote You soon after I arrived here a Letter1 which I hope You received; but which you have not yet acknowledged.

The many studied Embarrassments thrown in the Way of the Canada-Expedition have at last in a great Measure answered the Purpose for which I fear they were all along intended.

Ever since I have seen the Inside of the Congress I have trembled. Nothing short of a radical Change in the Councils of our Middle Colonies can, I am persuaded, by any Means save us. I preach this Doctrine continually; but I cannot make so many Proselytes as Parson Whitefield. With us the old Demagogues I fear are against us. Next Week is our Election. I wish I may obtain a seat in the Convention; but am not over sanguine in my Hopes: tho I believe I could easily accomplish it by going out of my present County into the one I came from.2 However am in Hopes they will chuse good Men there.

After the Election I expect to pay You a Visit for a short Time; but am determined that I will not continue to attend along with my present Colleagues any longer than I cannot avoid. At present several little Circumstances will form an Excuse for my being absent.

This Campaign I suppose will be a most awful one. I could yet abide the prospect of it if we were possessed of more Unanimity and Vigour. I wish People knew their Men better and the Steps they are taking; but alas! I fear they are betrayed with out knowing it.

I should be highly pleased and think myself greatly honoured by a Line from You on the present posture of Affairs. If they do not mend I will try to get a Commission in the Army that I may get knocked on the Head betimes. This I think would be more eligible than to live to be a Spectator of our Country reduced to Submission.

I intended when I begun only to ask the Favour of a Line from You; but when I am writing to a Person I can speak openly to I can hardly forebear the Reflections I have made. Have only to add that Doctor Witherspoon will be the Bearer of this and You may send an Answer safely by him. I am Your sincere Friend and humble Servant

Jona D Sergeant

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “The honble John Adams Esqr. Congress Philadelphia per Favour of Dr. Witherspoon”; docketed: “Mr Sergeant May 20 ansd. 22d 1776.”


Actually Sergeant wrote twice (6 and 11 April, above), but he probably refers to his later letter, in which he requested a copy of Thoughts on Government, which he had seen only in MS form.

208 2.

He was elected from Middlesex co., which embraced Princeton, where his home was. Sergeant was born in Newark (Minutes of the Provincial Congress and the Council of Safety of the State of New Jersey, Trenton, 1879, p. 445; Leonard Lundin, Cockpit of the Revolution: The War for Independence in New Jersey, Princeton, 1940, map facing p. 6; DAB ).