Papers of John Adams, volume 3

IX. Committee Assignments

To James Warren

To James Warren, 17 September 1775 JA Warren, James To James Warren, 17 September 1775 Adams, John Warren, James
To James Warren
Philadelphia Septr. 17. 1775 Dr sir

I have nothing in particular to write. Our most gracious K—— has given a fresh Proof of his Clemency, in his Answer to the City.1 But no more of Politicks, at present—if this Scratch of a Pen should fall into the Hands of the wiseacre Gage, as long as I confine myself, to Matrimony, and Horsemanship, there will be no Danger.

Be it known to you then that two of the most unlikely Things, within the whole Compass of Possibility, have really, and actually happened. The first is the suden Marriage of our President, whose agreable Lady honours us with her Presence and contributes much to our good Humour, as well as to the Happiness of the President.2 So much for that.

The next Thing is more wonderfull still.

You know the Aversion, which your Secretary,3 has ever entertained to riding, on Horseback. He never would be perswaded to mount a Horse. The last time we were here, I often laboured to perswade him, for the Sake of his Health, but in vain.

Soon after We sat out, on the last Journey, I reflected that some Degree of Skill and Dexterity in Horsemanship, was necessary to the Character of a Statesman. It would take more Time and Paper than I have to Spare, to shew the Utility of Horsemanship to a Politician; so I shall take this for granted. But I pointed out the particulars to him, and likewise shewed him that Sociability would be greatly promoted, by his mounting one of my Horses.

On Saturday the second day of September 1775, in the Town of Grafton He was prevailed on to put my servant with his, into Harrisons 159Chaise and to mount upon my Horse, a very genteel, and easy little Creature.

We were all disappointed and Surprized, instead of the Taylor riding to Brentford4 We beheld, an easy, genteel Figure, upon the Horse, and a good deal of Spirit and facility, in the Management of the Horse, insomuch that We soon found our Servants were making Some disagreable Comparisons, and Since our Arrival here I am told that Fessenden (impudent Scoundrel!) reports that the Secretary rides fifty per Cent better than your Correspondent.

In this manner, We rode to Woodstock, where we put up for the Sabbath. It was Soon observed that the Secretary, could not Sit So erect in his Chair as he had Sat upon his Horse, but Seemed to be neither sensible of the Disease or the Remedy. I Soon perceived and apprised him of both. On Sunday Evening, at Mr. Dexters,5 where we drank Coffee and Spent an agreable Evening I perswaded him to purchase, two yards of flannell which we carried to our Landlady, who, with the assistance of a Taylor Woman in the House, made up a Pair of Drawers, which the next Morning were put on, and not only defended the Secretary from any further Injury, but entirely healed the little Breach which had been begun.

Still an Imperfection, remained. Our Secretary had not yet learned to mount and dismount—two Servants were necessary to attend upon these occasions, one to hold the Bridle and Stirrup, the other to boost the Secretary. This was rather a ridiculous Circumstance Still. At last, I undertook to instruct him the necessary Art of mounting. I had my Education to this Art, under Bates, the celebrated Equerry, and therefore might be Supposed to be a Master of it. I taught him, to grasp the Bridle, with his Right Hand over the Pummell of his Saddle, to place his left Foot firm in the Stirrup; to twist his left Hand into the Horses Main, about half Way between his Ears and his Shoulders, and then a vigorous Exertion of his Strength would carry him very gracefully into the Seat, without the least Danger of falling over on the ot her Side. The Experiment was tryed and Succeeded to Admiration.

Thus equipped and instructed, our Horseman rode all the Way from Woodstock to Philadelphia, sometimes upon one of my Horses, Sometimes on the other. And Acquired fresh Strength, Courage, Activity and Spirit every day. His Health is much improved by it, and I value myself, very much upon the Merit of having probably added Several years, to a Life So important to his Country, by the little Pains I took to perswade him to mount and teach him to ride.6


Sully and Cecil were both Horsemen, and you know I would not have our American, inferiour to them in the Smallest Accomplishment.

Pray Mrs. Warren to write to me. I would to her, if I had half so much Time.7

RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To the Hon. James Warren Esqr Speaker of the House of Representatives of the Massachusetts Bay and Paymaster General to the American Army Watertown favd by Mr. Andw. Cabot”; docketed: “Mr. J. A Lettr Sepr. 1775.”


On 16 July the King rejected the demands contained in an “Address, Petition, and Remonstrance” adopted by the City of London on 24 June that called upon him to dismiss his present ministers and end the despotic war against the American colonies. George III replied: “I am always ready to listen to the dutiful Petitions of my Subjects, and ever happy to comply with their reasonable Requests, but while the Constitutional Authority of this Kingdom is openly Resisted by a part of my American Subjects, I owe it to the rest of my People of whose Zeal and Fidelity I have had such constant Proofs, to continue and enforce those Measures by which alone their Rights and Interests can be asserted and maintained” (Boston Gazette, 18, 25 Sept.). Such a reply supported JA's view that there was little to be gained by attempts at conciliation and clearly foreshadowed the fate of the Olive Branch Petition.


John Hancock, president of the congress, married Dorothy Quincy at Fairfield, Conn., on 28 Aug. (same, 11 Sept.).


Samuel Adams.


“Taylor Riding to Brentford” was the title of a well-known puppet show (Alice Morse Earle, Customs and Fashions in Old New England, N.Y., 1893, p. 246).


Samuel Dexter of Woodstock Hill, former Massachusetts legislator, moved to Connecticut in 1775 (Clarence Winthrop Bowen, The History of Wood-stock, Connecticut, Norwood, Mass., 1926, 179–181).


Samuel Adams wrote to Elbridge Gerry: “I arrived in this city on the 12th instant, having rode full three hundred miles on horseback, an exercise which I have not used for many years past. I think it has contributed to the establishment of my health, for which I am obliged to my friend Mr. John Adams, who kindly offered me one of his horses the day after we sat off from Watertown” (26 Sept., Samuel Adams, Writings , 3:226).


This letter and JA's to Mercy Otis Warren of 26 Aug. (above) suggest that JA's absence from Philadelphia had really refreshed his spirit and allowed some of his old playfulness to reappear, however briefly.