Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 21 September 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 21 September 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Septr. 21. 1776

Yours of Septr. 9.1 I have received. Septr. 5. I sent you another Cannister by Mr. Hare. I have only Time to tell you I am not worse in Health than I have been. Where are your new Delegates? None arrived here yet. Our People are as lazy and slothfull, as Congress.2

LbC (Adams Papers).


7 Sept., above; see note 1 on that letter.


The General Court during its session of Sept.–Oct. 1776 took no action on JA's repeated pleas to enlarge the Massachusetts delegation and to send replacements promptly. On 19 Sept. Speaker James Warren wrote JA from 131Watertown: “We have not yet made an addition to our Delegates, no Body seems to be against it, many are Indifferent about it, and those who wish to have it done, are at a loss where to find the men; so it is procrastinated and left to the next setting” (Adams Papers). JA drafted a reply, 5 Oct., in so angry and bitter a vein that, cooling off almost immediately after he had written it, he appended this note below the text in his letterbook: “not sent, nor fit to be sent.” During its next session the General Court at length, 15 Nov.–10 Dec., reelected JA and his four colleagues and added two more delegates, James Lovell and Francis Dana; and on 4 Feb. 1777 it went a little further by resolving that “any two or more of the said Delegates, Representing this State in Congress, being the major part present, be, and hereby are, vested with all the powers with which any three . . . were vested” previously (Mass., House Jour. , 1776–1777, p. 157; JCC , 7:25–26, 169–170).

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 September 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 September 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
22 Sept. 1776

We have at last agreed upon a Plan, for forming a regular Army. We have offered 20 dollars, and 100 Acres of Land to every Man, who will inlist, during the War.1 And a new sett of Articles of War are agreed on.2 I will send you, if I can a Copy of these Resolutions and Regulations.

I am at a Loss what to write. News We have not. Congress seems to be forgotten by the Armies. We are most unfaithfully served in the Post Office, as well as many other Offices, civil and military.

Unfaithfullness in public Stations, is deeply criminal. But there is no Encouragement to be faithfull. Neither Profit, nor Honour, nor Applause is acquired by faithfullness. But I know by what. There is too much Corruption, even in this infant Age of our Republic. Virtue is not in Fashion. Vice is not infamous.

October 1. 1776

Since I wrote the foregoing Lines, I have not been able to find Time to write you a Line. Altho I cannot write you, so often as I wish, you are never out of my Thoughts. I am repining at my hard Lot, in being torn from you, much oftener than I ought.

I have often mentioned to you, the Multiplicity of my Engagements, and have been once exposed to the Ridicule and Censure of the World for mentioning the great Importance of the Business which lay upon me, and if this Letter should ever see the Light, it would be again imputed to Vanity, that I mention to you, how busy I am. But I must repeat it by Way of Apology for not writing you oftener. From four O Clock in the Morning untill ten at Night, I have not a single Moment, which I can call my own. I will not say that I expect to run 132distracted, to grow melancholly, to drop in an Apoplexy, or fall into a Consumption. But I do say, it is little less than a Miracle, that one or other of these Misfortunes has not befallen me before now.

Your Favours of September 15, 20, and 23d. are now before me. Every Line from you gives me inexpressible Pleasure. But it is a great Grief to me, that I can write no oftener to you.

There is one Thing which excites my utmost Indignation and Contempt, I mean the Brutality, with which People talk to you, of my Death. I beg you would openly affront every Man, Woman or Child, for the future who mentions any such Thing to you, except your Relations, and Friends whose Affections you cannot doubt. I expect it of all my Friends, that they resent, as Affronts to me, every Repetition of such Reports.

I shall inclose to you, Governor Livingstons Speech, the most elegant and masterly, ever made in America.3

Depend upon it, the Enemy cannot cutt off the Communication. I can come home when I will. They have N. York—and this is their Ne Plus Ultra.4

RC and LbC (Adams Papers). Enclosure missing; see note 3 below.


This “Plan,” which had occupied JA's thoughts for some time, had been introduced, apparently on 9 Sept., as a report of the Board of War, and was debated on the four following days, principally in committee of the whole. With some amendments it was in large part adopted and spread on the Journal on the 16th. Additional resolutions were proposed and debated next day and again on the 19th. On the 20th Congress ordered that “the resolutions for raising the new army be forthwith published, and copies thereof sent to the commanding officers in the several departments, and to the assemblies and conventions of the respective states.” See JCC , 5:747, 749, 751, 754, 756–757, 762–763, 768, 787, 807. They were printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette on 25 Sept., and also separately as a broadside ( JCC , 6:1125, No. 126; Evans, 15167; an example in MHi is reproduced as an illustration in this volume). No MS version has been found in the Adams Papers or in the Reports of the Board of War and Ordnance (PCC, No. 47), but JA later claimed this important plan for a military establishment as his own and a sufficient answer to Alexander Hamilton's charge in 1800 that JA had been “an Ennemy to a regular Army” ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:434–435).


On 5 June JA, Jefferson, and three others had been named a committee “on Spies” to make recommendations concerning persons furnishing intelligence or provisions to the enemy. To this committee, on 14 June, was assigned the further task of revising the Articles of War. They submitted a report on 7 Aug. which was debated on the 19th and again on 19 and 20 Sept., when the old Articles were repealed and the new ones spread on the Journal. See JCC , 5:417, 442, 636, 670, 787, 788–807; for contemporary printings of the revised Articles see the “Bibliographical Notes” in same, vol. 6:1125–1126, Nos. 127–130; Evans 15187–15190. JA's recollections of this affair, while perhaps not entirely accurate, furnish details not elsewhere to be found; see his Diary and Autobiography , 3:392, 409–410, 433–434. The MS of the Articles in PCC, No. 27, is a copy in Timothy Pickering's hand and offers no clue to their authorship. JA himself believed 133that the new Articles “laid the foundation of a discipline, which in time brought our Troops to a Capacity of contending with British Veterans, and a rivalry with the best Troops of France.” His account of his role in their production and adoption was another part of his answer to Hamilton's charges in 1800.


William Livingston (1723–1790) had at the end of August been elected governor of New Jersey under the new state constitution. His first address to the legislature, dated 11 Sept. and greatly admired by JA, was printed in the Pennsylvania Gazette, 1 Oct., and is reprinted in New Jersey Archives, 2d ser., 1 (1901):200–203.


This is the last entry in Lb/JA/2, which JA had begun in June and devoted mainly to letters addressed to AA. The greater part of the book is blank.