Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Isaac Stephens

From Charles Storer

To John Adams from Samuel Adams, 21 July 1786 Adams, Samuel Adams, John
From Samuel Adams
My dear Sir Boston July 21 1786

There are two great Objects which I think should engage the Attention of Patriots here, & which appear to me to involve every thing else—to preserve entire our political Liberties, & to support our National Faith. To effect either of these Capital Ends, we must 398 counterwork the Designs of Great Britan, who to say the least does not appear to be our most cordial Friend, by her Emissaries amongst us, to ruin both. The internal Enemies of this Country ridiculed our early Ideas of Opposition, embarrassed our Measures through the whole Conflict and prolonged the War. They had nearly broke up our Army in 1782,1 and they are now practicing the same Arts, by influencing many weak Men to with-hold the necessary Aid of Taxes, to destroy the publick Faith. I should therefore think it very impolitick to increase their Number by admitting the Tory Refugees without Discrimination. Jonathan Philanthrop whom you well knew,2 with many others took a very active Part, & they were very successful in promoting the Designs of the British Government before the War; There are some among them who would be the fittest Instruments to be employed by that Court in tearing up, or rather undermining the Foundations of our newly erected Fabrick.— If you ask, What has thrown me into this Fit of Zeal against the Refugees? I answer, they already have or soon will in my opinion form a dangerous Faction. But I will be more explicit in my next.3

This Letter I commit to the Care of Mr Benjn. Austin junr whose Father and Connexions you are not unacquainted with.4 Adieu & believe me / your affectionate Friend

S. A.

RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “Ex̃cy J Adams.”


Samuel Adams probably means 1783 rather than 1782. On 10 and 12 March 1783, in the Newburgh Addresses, Continental Army officers expressed concern over Congress’ inadequate funding of the army and the commutation of their pensions. In July 1783 the Pennsylvania line mutinied against Congress for its disbanding of the army without paying the troops. The initial crisis over the addresses was quelled only by George Washington’s 15 March appeal to the patriotism of the officers who had served under him. The mutiny was ended by regiments that responded to Congress’ appeal for assistance, but it resulted in Congress’ leaving Philadelphia and settling in New York City (vols. 14:410; 15:115–121).


Between 1 Dec. 1766 and early Feb. 1767, Jonathan Sewall, using the pseudonym “Philanthrop,” published a series of letters in the Boston Evening Post defending Massachusetts governor Francis Bernard against a multitude of newspaper attacks stemming from Bernard’s support for the Stamp Act. JA, using the name “Humphrey Ploughjogger” and several other pseudonyms, responded with a series of letters in the Boston Gazette between 5 Jan. and 16 Feb. 1767 (vol. 1:174–211). Sewall, a loyalist who had been one of JA’s closest friends, left Boston for England in 1775. For JA’s 1774 meeting with Sewall at Casco Bay and the two men’s reunion in Sept. 1787, see AFC , 1:135–137.


There are no extant letters between Adams and JA until 2 Sept. 1790 (Adams Papers), and no further expansion by Adams on the loyalist issue.


Benjamin Austin Jr., a Boston merchant who visited the Adamses in late Aug. 1786, had just completed a series of newspaper articles under the pseudonym of Honestus that bitterly attacked the legal profession, for which see Richard Cranch’s 3 Oct. letter, and note 3, below. James Bowdoin also introduced Austin in a 18 July 1786 letter to JA (Adams Papers). Austin was the son of Boston merchant Benjamin Austin Sr. and brother of Jonathan Loring Austin, who had carried news 399 of Gen. John Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga to Europe in 1777, and who had served as JA’s secretary at Passy in 1778 ( AFC , 3:262; 7:328).