Papers of John Adams, volume 2

1 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.

To James Warren, 22 December 1773 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 22 December 1773 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Dr Sir Boston Der. 22. 1773

Yesterday, the Governor called a Council at Cambridge. Eight Members met at Brattles. This no doubt was concerted last Saturday, at Neponsit Hill, where Brattle and Russell dined, by Way of Caucass I Suppose.

Sewall dined with their Honours Yesterday. But Behold what a falling off, was there. The Governor, who last Fryday, was fully 3persuaded, and told the Council, that some late Proceedings were high Treason, and promised them the Attendance of the Attorny General to prove it to them out of Law Books; now, Such is his Alacrity in Sinking, was rather of Opinion they were Burglary. I Suppose he meant what we call New England Burglary—that is breaking open a shop or ship &c which is punished with Branding, &c.

But The Council, thought it would look rather awkward, to issue a Proclamation against the whole Comunity, and therefore contented them Selves with ordering Mr Attorney to prosecute such as he should knew or be informed of.

They have advised a Prorogation of Gen. Ct. for a fortnight.1

It is whispered that the Sachem has it in Contemplation to go home Soon,2 and perhaps the Prorogation is to give him time to get away. Few think he will meet the House again.

The Spirit of Liberty is very high in the Country and universal. Worcester is aroused. Last Week, a Monument to Liberty was erected there in the Heart of the Town within a few Yards of Coll Chandlers Door.3 A Gentn. of as good Sense and Character as any in that County told me this day, that nothing, which has been ever done is more universally approved, applauded and admired than these last Efforts. He Says, that whole Towns in the County were on Tiptoe to come down.

Make my Compliments to Mrs Warren and tell her that I want a poetical Genius.—to describe a late Frolic among the Sea Nymphs and Goddesses. There being a scarcity of Nectar and Ambrosia, among the Celestials of the sea, Neptune has determined to substitute Hyson and Congo, and for some of the inferiour Divinities Bohea. Amphitrite, one of his Wives, vizt the Land, and Salacia, another of his Wives the Sea went to pulling Caps upon the occasion, but Salacia prevailed.

The syrens should be introduced somehow. I cant tell how and Proteus, a son of Neptune, who could some times flow like Water, and sometimes burn like Fire bark like a Dog howl like Wolf, whine like an Ape, Cry like a Crokadile, or roar like a Lyon. But for want of this Same Poetical Genius I can do nothing. I wish to See a late glorious Event, celebrated, by a certain poetical Pen, which has no equal that I know of in this Country.4

We are anxious for the Safety of the Cargo at Province Town.5 Are there no Vineyard, Mashpee, Metapoiset Indians, do you think who will take the Care of it, and protect it from Violence. I mean 4 5 from the Hands of Tyrants and oppressors who want to do Violence with it, to the Laws and Constitution, to the present Age and to Posterity.

I hope you have had an happy aniversary Festival.6 May a double Portion of the Genius and Spirit of our forefathers rest upon us and our Posterity.

I am yr friend, John Adams

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To the Honble. James Warren Esqr. Plymouth”; endorsed.


In the weeks before the Boston Tea Party, Gov. Thomas Hutchinson had found the Council to be of little aid. When Boston's committee of correspondence called a meeting for 29 Nov., Hutchinson “went early to town and met the Council who declined advising to any measure respecting this unlawful assembly” (Hutchinson to Earl of Dartmouth, 2 Dec. 1773, Docs. of Amer. Rev. , 6:249). As threats against the tea consignees increased, he ignored the Council because, he explained to Dartmouth, “to cause them to be convened and to obtain no other advice than they gave before would tend to strengthen and confirm the people in their extravagances” (letter of 15 Dec., same, p. 252).

Only after the Tea Party did the Governor again try to rally the Council. On the morning of 17 Dec., he “sent expresses . . . before sunrise to summon a Council to meet me at Boston,” but the “indisposition of three of them” made a quorum impossible (Hutchinson to Dartmouth, 17 Dec., same, p. 256). Hutchinson then called for a meeting the next day at his country home in Milton. That Saturday, 18 Dec., only three councilors, William Brattle, James Russell, and James Humphreys, joined him at his retreat at Neponset Hill, and the Governor was forced to call still another meeting for Tuesday, 21 Dec., at Brattle's home in Cambridge. Eight members attended and, after “long debate,” advised Atty. Gen. Jonathan Sewall “to make diligent inquiry into the offence aforesaid, in order to discover the offenders, and that he lay his discoveries before the Grand Jury” of Suffolk co. for prosecution (M-Ar: Executive Council Records, 16:748–749).


A reference to Hutchinson's expected resignation, about which JA had heard from Catharine Macaulay (Aug. 1773, above).


For a sketch of Col. John Chandler (1721–1800), of Worcester, and his family, see JA, Diary and Autobiography , 1:2.


For Mrs. Warren's response to this suggestion, see her letters to AA, 19 Jan. and 27 Feb. 1774, Adams Family Correspondence , 1:93, 100–103.


JA is expressing concern here for the custody of the tea chests in the brig William, which ran aground at Provincetown on 10 Dec. He hoped that neighborhood “Indians” would keep the cargo from the hands of the consignees, but the patriots were outwitted by Jonathan Clarke, who saved the tea and brought it safely by water to Castle William (Benjamin W. Labaree, The Boston Tea Party, N.Y., 1964, p. 150).


Celebration of the landing of the Pilgrims at Plymouth on 11 Dec. 1620, o.s., inaccurately converted to 22 Dec., N.S., when celebration of the anniversary began at Plymouth in 1769. Only ten days should have been added (William Bradford, History of Plymouth Plantation, 1620–1647, Boston, 1912, 1:176–177, note 2).