Papers of John Adams, volume 3

From Alexander McDougall

From Unknown

17 To James Warren, 7 June 1775 JA Warren, James


To James Warren, 7 June 1775 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Phyladelphia June 7. 1775 Dear Sir

We have been puzzled to discover, what we ought to do, with the Canadians and Indians. Several Persons, have been before the Congress who have lately been in the Province of Canada, particularly Mr. Brown and Mr. Price, who have informed us that the French are not unfriendly to us. And by all that we can learn of the Indians, they intend to be neutral.1

But whether We Should march into Canada with an Army Sufficient to break the Power of Governor Carlton,2 to overawe the Indians, and to protect the French has been a great Question. It Seems to be the general Conclusion that it is best to go, if We can be assured that the Canadians will be pleased with it, and join.

The Nations of Indians inhabiting the Frontiers of the Colonies, are numerous and warlike. They seem disposed to Neutrality. None have as yet taken up the Hatchet against us; and We have not obtained any certain Evidence that Either Carlton or Johnson,3 have directly attempted to persuade them to take up the Hatchet. Some Suspicious Circumstances there are.

The Indians are known to conduct their Wars, So entirely without Faith and Humanity, that it would bring eternal Infamy on the Ministry throughout all Europe, if they should excite these Savages to War. The French disgraced themselves last War, by employing them. To let loose these blood Hounds to scalp Men, and to butcher Women and Children is horrid. Still it is Such Kind of Humanity and Policy as we have experienced, from the Ministry.4

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); docketed: “Mr. J A Lettr June 1775.”


John Brown (1744–1780), of Pittsfield, Mass., brought the news of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga, arriving in Philadelphia on or about 18 May (E. W. B. Canning, “Col. John Brown,” Book of Berkshire: Papers by Its Historical and Scientific Society, Pittsfield, Mass., 1891, p. 312–319). James Price was a Montreal merchant sent by the other English merchants of that city to tell the Continental Congress about the conditions existing in Quebec. The substance of his report, derived from correspondence rather than from the report itself, which has not been found, was that although the French peasants would probably not act against the colonies, the French upper classes were hostile and were making efforts to raise the Indians against New England, but that their efforts had thus far met with limited success (the Committee of Connecticut to the General Assembly of New York, 23 May 1775, in Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 707). This analysis accords with a letter from Montreal inhabitants to the Massachusetts Committee of Safety, 28 April 1775 (same, p. 751–752).


Sir Guy Carleton (1724–1808), governor of Quebec ( DNB ).


Guy Johnson (1740?–1788), superintendent of Indians in the northern department (same).


Five days after JA made this statement, Gen. Gage, in a letter to Lord 18Dartmouth, said that he had information that “the Rebels after Surprizing Ticonderoga, made Incursions and committed Hostilities upon the Frontiers of the Province of Quebec; which will Justify General Carleton to raise both Canadians and Indians to attack them in his turn, and we need not be tender of calling upon the Savages, as the Rebels have shewn us the Example by bringing as many Indians down against us here as they could collect” (Gage, Corr. , 1:403–404).

The Second Provincial Congress contacted the Stockbridge Indians to enlist them as minutemen and made overtures to the Mohawks and the Eastern Indians, seeking their military support against the British. These efforts the congress was determined to keep secret (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. , p. 114–116, 118–120, 225–226).