Papers of John Adams, volume 2

Descriptive List of Illustrations

To James Warren

To James Warren, 17 December 1773 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 17 December 1773 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dr Sir Boston Decr 17 1773

The Dye is cast: The People have passed the River and cutt away the Bridge: last Night Three Cargoes of Tea, were emptied into the Harbour. This is the grandest, Event, which has ever yet happened Since, the Controversy, with Britain, opened!1

The Sublimity of it, charms me!

For my own Part, I cannot express my own Sentiments of it, better than in the Words of Coll Doane to me, last Evening—Balch Should repeat them2—The worst that can happen, I think, Says he in Consequence of it, will be that the Province must pay for it. Now, I think the Province, may pay for it, if it is burn'd as easily as if it is drank—and I think it is a matter of indifference whether it is drank or drowned. The Province must pay for it, in Either Case. But there is this Difference. I believe, it will take them 10 Years to get the Province to pay for it. If so, we shall Save 10 Years Interest of the Money. Whereas if it is drank it must be paid for immediately. Thus He—However, He agreed with me that the Province, would never pay for it. And also in this that the final Ruin, of our Constitution of Government, and of all American Liberties, would be the certain Consequence of Suffering it to be landed.

Governor Hutchinson and his Family and Friends will never have done, with their good services to Great Britain and the Colonies! But for him, this Tea might have been Saved to the East India Company.3 Whereas this Loss if the rest of the Colonies Should follow our Example, will in the opinion of many Persons bankrupt the Company. However, I dare Say, that the Governors, and Consignees, and Custom House Officers, in the other Colonies will have more Wisdom than ours have had, and take effectual Care that thier Tea shall be sent back to England untouched. If not it will as surely be destroyed there as it has been here.


Threats, Phantoms, Bugbears, by the million, will be invented and propagated among the People upon this occasion. Individuals will be threatened with Suits and Prosecutions. Armies and Navies will be talked of—military Execution—Charters annull'd—Treason—Tryals in England and all that—But—these Terrors, are all but Imaginations. Yet if they should become Realities they had better be Suffered, than the great Principle, of Parliamentary Taxation given up.

The Town of Boston, was never more Still and calm of a Saturday night than it was last Night. All Things were conducted with great order, Decency and perfect Submission to Government. No Doubt, we all thought the Administration in better Hands, than it had been.

Please to make Mrs Adams's most respectfull Compliments to Mrs Warren and mine.

I am your Friend, John Adams

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docket partially obliterated: “? Lettr. May and Decr 1773 Boston.”


For JA's other comments this day on the Boston Tea Party, see Diary and Autobiography , 2:85–87.


Col. Elisha Doane (c. 1725–1783), a wealthy merchant and shipowner of Wellfleet and Boston, was JA's longtime law client (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:61; Enoch Pratt, History . . . of Eastham, Wellfleet and Orleans, Yarmouth, Mass., 1844, p. 114–115; Doane's death notice in Boston Gazette, 27 Jan. 1783; JA, Legal Papers ). Nathaniel Balch (1735–1807?), a Boston Son of Liberty like Doane and a hatter in the town, was known for “his extraordinary talent at humorous pleasantry” and “treasured up an inexhaustible fund of Anecdotes and witty Sayings of all Kinds” (Robert Treat Paine, undated obituary notice of Balch, MHi: Paine Papers; Boston Record Commissioners, 24th Report , p. 220; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:341).


It was the whig position that Hutchinson might have avoided the crisis by ordering that the Dartmouth, the vessel bearing the tea, not proceed beyond the Castle into Boston Harbor, where her cargo became liable for duties. For an analysis of responsibility for the ship's movement, see Benjamin W. Labaree, The Boston Tea Party, N.Y., 1964, p. 126–132. JA's view of Hutchinson's culpability is stated in Diary and Autobiography , 2:86.