Papers of John Adams, volume 5

From Benjamin Rush

Proposed Amendment to the Articles of Confederation

From Samuel Cooper, 22 October 1777 Cooper, Samuel JA


From Samuel Cooper, 22 October 1777 Cooper, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Cooper
My dear Sir Boston Octr 22. 1777

I write to you in Hast and Confidence—and beg you to conceal me when I speak with Freedom of Men and Things. After many Reports that Burgoyne and his Army were Prisoners of War, we 320have this Day receiv'd the Articles agreed on between him and our General.1 Perhaps I may be mistaken, but my Joy is damp'd by the Concessions Gates has made, considering how totally Burgoyne was in our Power. He and his Army are restor'd to Gt. Britain: They have a free Passage granted there upon Condition of not serving in America during the present War. They may then by this unaccountable Treaty, take the Place of Regiments in Britain, who may come to America, as early for Action as the surrender'd Troops could have been, had they winter'd in Canada. I have seen only this first Article.2 I wish the others may be better. This alone chagrines me. You will have the Whole, and can judge better than I.3 In my present Opinion, Infatuation or something worse, dictated the Concession made to an Army, not a third of ours in Number;4 and in ev'ry Circumstance of Desperation. I will write more soon. With the greatest Esteem and Affection Your's &c.

RC (Adams Papers).


Gates sent a letter and a copy of the articles by express to the Council in Massachusetts, where it arrived the evening of 22 Oct. He needed to warn them that Burgoyne's defeated army would soon be on its way to Boston. The articles were printed in the Independent Chronicle the next day. Dated 16 Oct. and called Articles of Convention rather than “capitulation” on Burgoyne's insistence, they numbered twelve. The first made it clear that Burgoyne's troops were not prisoners, for they were to march out “with the honors of war” before laying down their arms under the command of their own officers. The second article granted free passage to Boston and thence to Britain for the entire army, transports for the sea crossing to be furnished by Gen. Howe (Ward, War of the Revolution , 2:536–537).


Actually Cooper had seen at least two.


Gates sent a copy of the convention to President Hancock in a letter dated 16 Oct., but the letter and the articles were not read to the congress until 31 Oct. (PCC, No. 154, I, f. 282–285; JCC , 9:851). The delay was owing to the slow progress made by their courier, Lt. Col. James Wilkinson ( Adams Family Correspondence , 2:357, note 2). The first notice that the congress received of Burgoyne's defeat was in letters from Washington and Gen. Israel Putnam, each enclosing a copy of one from Gov. Clinton to Putnam of the 15th. Clinton in turn had copied a letter from the Committee of the City of Albany to the Council of Safety, also dated the 15th, which called Burgoyne's troops “prisoners of war” but mentioned “honors of war” and the grounding of arms outside their camp ( JCC , 9:824–825; Penna. Archives , 1st ser., 5:676; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 2:526–527, note 3). These letters and their enclosures arrived in York on the 19th but were not read until the 21st (JA to AA, 24 Oct., Adams Family Correspondence , 2:357). The generous terms of the full convention did not sit well with the members when they learned them.


Before the battle of Freeman's Farm, Burgoyne's army numbered about 6,000; the Americans had perhaps 1,000 more. Before the second great engagement between the two armies, Bemis Heights, Gates' army had increased to 11,000 through the arrival of Gen. Lincoln's men and the flocking in of militia; Burgoyne's troops had shrunk to less than 5,000 (Ward, War of the Revolution , 2:505, 506, 524).