Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Samuel Cooper

To John Sullivan

To Nathanael Greene, 2 June 1777 JA Greene, Nathanael


To Nathanael Greene, 2 June 1777 Adams, John Greene, Nathanael
To Nathanael Greene
Dear Sir Phyladelphia June 2d. 1777

Yours of 28 Ultimo is before me. It is certain that Religion and Morality, have no less obligation upon Armies, than upon Cities and contribute no less to the Happiness of Soldiers than of Citizens. There is one Principle of Religion, which has contributed vastly to the Excellence of Armies, who had very little else of Religion or Morality, the Principle I mean is the Sacred obligation of Oaths, which among both Romans and Britons, who seem to have placed the whole of Religion and Morality in the punctual observance of them, have done Wonders. It is this alone which prevents Desertions from your Enemies. I think our Chaplains ought to make the Solemn Nature and the Sacred obligation of Oaths the favourite Subject of their Sermons to the Soldiery. Odd as it may seem I cannot help considering a Serious sense of the Solemnity of an Oath as the Corner Stone of Discipline, and that it might be made to contribute more, to the order of the Army, than any or all of the Instruments of Punishment.1

The Information you received, that General Schuyler, was about to be created President, and to hold his Command in the Army, was a Mistake. No Gentleman, would have been willing for that, as I know. I am pretty sure at least that a vast Majority, would have detested the Thought. G. Schuyler is reserved for another Fate. What that will be Time must discover.2


It is, in my humble opinion, utterly improper, that, this Gentleman should hold a Seat in Congress, and a Command in the Army, and I took the first opportunity to express my Opinion of the Inconsistency and Danger of it. I think his Constituents much to blame for the late Choice of him. I shall think him much to blame if he does not immediately resign his seat. If he does not, I will certainly hope Some Gentleman bring in a Motion, to destroy the Precedent, by obliging him to quit his Seat or his Command. What the success of such a Motion will be, I know not—but I will certainly discharge my Duty to myself and my Constituents and Posterity. believe Such a Motion will be made.

I agree entirely in your sentiments concerning the Danger of entrusting So many important Commands, to foreigners. Mr. Deane I fear has exceeded his Powers. Mr. DuCoudray, shall never have my Consent, to be at the Head of the Artillery, and I believe he will have few Advocates, for placing him, there. I hope, none.

Pray what is your opinion of General Conway. He acquired a good Reputation here.

It gives me great Joy, Sir, to find by your Letter, that you begin to feel your Army to be respectable. We are anxious to hear from Peeks Kill what Numbers are collected there.

LbC (Adams Papers); the usual notation “Sent” is lacking. The editors' study of over one hundred Letterbook copies, beginning with the first, that of 26 May 1776, and continuing through May 1777, has shown that about 90 percent are marked “Sent,” or in two instances marked “not sent,” and that only eleven have no indication at all. Even letters to JA's wife and young children are marked “Sent.” Of the eleven unmarked letters, we know that three were in fact posted, either because they were acknowledged or a recipient's copy was known to CFA. For the rest, there was no acknowledgment, even though some of the correspondents were careful about mentioning letters received, or the letters were incomplete or failed to name recipients. Several of these unmarked letters which are not known to have been received, like the one under consideration here, contained derogatory comments about prominent persons or were indiscreet in other ways. The editors believe that in such cases the probability is strong that they were not sent. The frank remarks about Gen. Schuyler in the letter above may have given JA second thoughts about the wisdom of sending it. Since so far as the editors know, Greene did not again draft a letter to JA until 28 Jan. 1782, there is no evidence that the letter of 2 June was received.


See Joseph Ward's suggestion about oaths in his letter to JA of 19 May (above).


In accordance with a Board of War recommendation, the congress on 22 May ordered Gen. Schuyler to take command of the Northern Department ( JCC , 7:364; 8:375).