Papers of John Adams, volume 3

To Elbridge Gerry

From James Warren

To John Trumbull, 5 November 1775 JA Trumbull, John To John Trumbull, 5 November 1775 Adams, John Trumbull, John
To John Trumbull
Novr 5. 1775 My dear Sir

I take an opportunity by this Express, to thank you for Me Fingal, a Poem which has been shewn me within a few days. It is excellent, and perhaps the more so for being misterious. It wants explanatory Notes as much as Hudibrass. I cant conjecture the Characters either of Honorius or Mc Fingal.1

Am Sorry to learn that We are likely to loose some of our best Men. We may have better in their stead for aught I know but We shall certainly loose good ones.

There is scarcely a more active, industrious, enterprising and capable Man, than Mr. Deane, I assure you.2 I shall sincerely lament the 279Loss of his services. Men of such great daring active Spirits are much Wanted.

I shall think myself much obliged to you, if you would write me. I want to hear the great Politicks and even the Small Talk of your Colony.

For my own Part I feel very enthusiastic at Times. Events which turn up everyday are so new, unexpected and surprising to most Men, that I wonder more Heads are not turn'd than We hear of. Human Nature seems to be employed like Sampson, taking Hold of the Pillars of Tyranny and pulling down the whole building at a Time at a— Lunge I believe is the best Word. I hope it will not, like him bury itself in the Ruins, but build up the wisest and most durable Frames for securing its Happiness. But Time must determine. I am, sir, with much Esteem your Friend

RC (NjP: de Coppet Coll.); docketed in an unknown hand: “John Adams Esqr re John Trumbull Novr. 5th 1775.”


McFingal: A Modern Epic Poem . . . or the Town Meeting was written by Trumbull in the fall of 1775 and published that year by William and Thomas Bradford of Philadelphia (Evans, No. 14528). Almost certainly JA read the MS copy that Trumbull sent to Silas Deane with the admonition to reveal the name of its author to no one but JA (Trumbull to Deane, 20 Oct., Deane Papers , 1:86–90). Deane and other leading patriots, including JA, had probably encouraged Trumbull to write the poem to raise whig morale, ridicule tory efforts to gain control, and to exploit the talent that Trumbull had already shown in other works, such as the piece that appeared in the Connecticut Courant on 7 and 14 Aug. 1775 satirizing Gen. Gage's penchant for proclamations. Written in the mock-epic style of Samuel Butler's Hudibras, McFingal centered on the confrontation between Squire McFingal, representative of Massachusetts tories, and Honorius, traditionally identified as JA, at an imaginary town meeting after the Battle of Lexington and Concord. The poem was a success both in 1776 and after Cornwallis' defeat, when Trumbull expanded the work (Evans, No. 17750). The several American and English editions made Trumbull a major literary figure for his day (Moses Coit Tyler, Literary History of the American Revolution, new edn., N.Y., 1941, p. 430–450; Alexander Cowie, John Trumbull, Connecticut Wit, Chapel Hill, 1936, p. 145–206; see also Lennox Grey, “John Adams and John Trumbull in the ‘Boston Cycle,’” NEQ , 4:509–514 [July 1931], in which the identification of Honorius as JA is disputed).


In October, Connecticut had decided to replace Deane and Eliphalet Dyer with Oliver Wolcott and Samuel Huntington as delegates to the congress, while retaining Roger Sherman as the third member of the delegation ( Conn. Colonial Records , 15:136). John Trumbull explained to Deane that the General Assembly believed that it was “dangerous to trust so great a power as you now have, for a long time in the hands of one Set of Men, lest they should grow too self-important and do a great deal of mischief in the end” ( Deane Papers , 1:87). See also Trumbull's explanation to JA, 14 Nov. (below). In his often repeated plea that he be replaced and allowed to return home to replenish his estate, JA had also argued for the benefits of rotation in office, but Deane was “Confoundedly Chagrined at his recall” (Dyer to Joseph Trumbull, 1 Jan. 1776, Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:292–293).