Papers of John Adams, volume 16

To Jonathan Jackson

From Elbridge Gerry

Tristram Dalton to John Adams, 16 June 1784 Dalton, Tristram Adams, John
From Tristram Dalton
Dear Sir Boston June 16th. 1784

I cannot omit paying my most sincere Respects by your good Mrs Adams—on whom and your amiable Daughter attend my best prayers— it would have given me great Satisfaction to have offered them my Compliments, personally, before their sailing for Europe, Which I am deprived of by leaving Town this Evening— May the Winds be propitious and every blessing be theirs—

I have had the pleasure of writing You by several Opportunities since any of your favors have come to hand, which, whenever they do, afford me the highest Delight— Not having my letter Book here, I cannot refer to the Dates of my last Letters, wherein I was very particular—1

Our Politics are not yet settled—and perhaps never may be— The Republican or rather let me say the American Interest seems to gain Ground— Congress have not yet made a Peace Establishment— The Army is totally disbanded—for want only of Money I presume,—except 80 Men to guard the Stores at West Point and Fort Pitt— 700 Men are required to be raised from the Militia of Pennsylvania N Jersey, N York and Connecticutt to guard our Out Posts—2 The Delegates of the N England States successfully opposed the establishing an Army— The Congress, or some principal Characters 235 therein, refused to grant some requests presented by the Massachusetts Delegates unless they would agree to the Establishment— They did not and I hope never will—

Congress adjourned the 3d Instant to the first of Novr, to meet at Trenton I beleive, leaving a Committee to sit at Annapolis in the recess—

They have put the public Accounts, contracted during the war, into a better Train of Settlement—

Enclosed is a Gazettee containing a List of the present General Court—Whose Opinions is scarcely yet broached—3 I fear they are not so liberally disposed to the return of the Refugees and Restitutions required, as the Act. passed the last G Court indicates—which Act &ca I did myself the honour to enclose to You in my last— The People are not enough sensible of the importance of fixing a National Character—

I find myself happy that a Commission is at Last filled up by Congress to Yourself and two other Gentlemen for the purpose of settling commercial Treaties— As Events or Prospects in this Business may appear proper or worthy to communicate You’ll render me great Service in forwarding them— such Use shall be made of them as You are pleased to direct

Time, pressing me, does not permit my enlarging—indeed my principal Wish in writing Yourself is to convince You how much I am— / Your particular Friend / And most hble Servant

Tristram Dalton

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “His Excellency John Adams Esqr”; endorsed: “Mr Dalton / June 16. 1784.”


Dalton’s last letter was of 6 April, above, in which he discussed the just completed session of the Mass. General Court and, in particular, its deliberations regarding the Anglo-American peace treaty’s provisions regarding the loyalists, but see also his letter of 5 Dec. 1783, vol. 15:388–392.


Congress’ consideration of the creation of a standing army began on 6 April 1784 with the presentation of a committee report on “the measures proper to be adopted in order to take possession of the Frontier Posts” and was not completed until 3 June, the day on which it adjourned. In the numerous roll calls that took place during the debates, the delegates from New England consistently opposed a standing army. Indeed, on 26 May Elbridge Gerry moved, and Francis Dana seconded, a resolution declaring that Congress, “if permitted to raise land forces as aforesaid in time of peace, will be furnished with such coercive means as must be very alarming to the several states” because “standing armies in time of peace are inconsistent with the principles of republican governments, dangerous to the liberties of a free people, and generally converted into destructive engines for establishing despotism.” Instead, reliance should be placed on each state’s “well regulated and disciplined Militia,” as provided for in the Articles of Confederation, and, in any case, consideration of the issue should be delayed until the members knew the sense of their constituents. Gerry’s motion failed for adoption but it did have an effect, for on 2 June Congress 236 resolved to discharge “the troops now in the service of the United States,” except for two contingents to guard the stores at West Point and Fort Pitt. Then, on the following day it resolved to create a 700-man force to be drawn from the militias of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. The troops were to secure and protect “the northwestern frontiers of the United States, and their Indian friends and allies, and for garrisoning the posts soon to be evacuated by the troops of his britannic Majesty” ( JCC , 26:201–209; 27:433–435, 524, 530–531).


The “Gazettee” has not been found, but see, for example, the Boston Gazette, 7 June.