Papers of John Adams, volume 5

To Joseph Palmer

From Nathanael Greene

To James Warren, 6 May 1777 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 6 May 1777 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dear sir Philadelphia May 6. 1777

About Ten Days ago, I had the Boldness to make a Motion that a Navy Board Should be established at Boston1—certain Gentlemen looked, Struck and Surprized—however it passed. I have moved, I believe fifteen Times, that a Nomination should take Place. Certain Gentlemen looked cold.

Two or three Days ago, the Nomination came on. Langdon, Vernon, Deshon, Dalton, Orne, Henley,2 Smith, Cushing, and Warren were nominated.3

This Day the Choice came on. At last Vernon, Warren and Deshon were chosen. The Board are to appoint their own Clerk who is to have 500 Dollars a Year.

I hope you will engage in this Business and conduct it with Spirit. You cannot be Speaker, and do this Duty too, I believe.

I think the Town of Boston, will be offended.4 But I could not help it. I would this you will not mention. The Salary for the Commissioners is 1500 Dollars a Year. You will have the Building and fitting of all ships the appointment of Officers, the Establishment of Arsenals and Magazines &c.—which will take up your whole Time. But it will be honourable to be so capitally concerned in laying a Foundation of a great Navy. The Profit to you will be nothing. But the Honour and the Virtue, the greater.

I almost envy you this Employment. I am weary of my own, and almost with my Life. But I ought not to be weary in endeavouring to do well.

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr. J. A Lettr May 6 1777.”


Made on 19 April, the motion is in JCC , 7:281.


Comma supplied.


Readily identifiable are John Langdon (N.H.), William Vernon (R.I.), John Deshon (Conn.), Tristram Dalton (Mass.), Azor Orne (Mass.), and Thomas Cushing (Mass.). Dalton, Orne, and Cushing were members of the General Court. According to Samuel Adams, members of the congress from Rhode Island and Connecticut were determined to have representation on this board serving New England. William Whipple, however, did not think the job was attractive enough to push for his fellow New Hampshireman ( JCC , 7:331; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:340, 359). The identification of Henley and 181Smith remains conjectural. Burnett indexes Henley as David, but he had been appointed some weeks before as colonel of an additional Continental regiment. Since he was only 28, his father, Samuel, a well known Charlestown distiller and town treasurer, would seem a more likely choice (Heitman, Register Continental Army , p. 25; Thomas Bellows Wyman, The Genealogies and Estates of Charlestown . . . 1629–1818, 2 vols., Boston, 1879, p. 493–494). Smith may have been Isaac Smith Sr., AA's uncle.


Because only one of the successful nominees, James Warren, was from Massachusetts and not a Boston man at that.