Papers of John Adams, volume 4

To James Warren

From Hugh Hughes

95 From James Warren, 30 March – 3 April 1776 Warren, James JA From James Warren, 30 March – 3 April 1776 Warren, James Adams, John
From James Warren
My Dear Sir Watertown March 30. 1776

When I wrote you last1 I was at Plymouth sick, and Confined. I did not return to this place till three days ago. In my way Mrs. Warren and I lodged at Braintree, and had the pleasure of finding Mrs. Adams, and Family well. Here I find the world turned Topsy Turvy to such A degree that I can scarcely realize the present Appearances of things. The Enemies Army fled, and our own marching into Other Colonies. The last division of the British Fleet sailed on Wednesday last. I had a view of them without the Lighthouse from Pens Hill. About 60 or 70 sail they made a pretty appearance. What their destination is we are not Able to Ascertain. The general Opinion is that they are gone to Hallifax and some Circumstances seem to Confirm it, I presume before this you have had a full Account of their precipate Embarkation, their fright and their depredations &c. &c. Two or three Ships only with one of their Store Ships Ashore on Georges Island remain in the Harbour. 400 of our Men under the Command of Coll Tupper were to have gone last Evening on Petticks Island with some Artillery, to render their Station Uneasy, and perhaps destroy the Store Ship.2 I suppose the Storm may have prevented. What is to be the Next Movement of the British Fleet and Army I cant devise. There is no reasoning on their Conduct, and I must leave Abler heads than mine to Conjecture. The General proposes to leave only 4 or 5 Regiments here. This Number we think very small Considering that we have been first and principally marked for vengeance and destruction, and the possibility and even probability that the Attack may be renewed, as well as the necessity of fortifieing the Harbour of Boston but we must Submit.3 We have A Committee gone to view the Harbour of Boston and to report the best method of securing it. Whether that will be best done by Fortifications or by Obstructing the Channels or by both I cant say, but surely it ought to be done Effectually and speedily.

Who is to Command here I dont learn. General Ward perhaps if his Resignation (which I hear he has sent) dont prevent by being Accepted before a Subsequent Letter he is said to have wrote reaches you.4

Upon my Arrival here I Applyed to the General to know what he Expected from me as Paymaster on this occasion. His Answer was that he Expected I should go with the Army, but was Content if it was more Agreable to me that I should send some Body I could rely 96on. I could not see the Necessity of this as there must be and undoubtedly is A Paymaster at York, but he thought it regular the Paymaster General should be with the Commander in Chief. As my Interest and Connections here are such as would render it very disagreable, and scarcely honourable for me to leave this Colony, for the Emoluments of that Office, I desired him to Accept my Resignation, but as I was Appointed by Congress he declined it. I am therefore Obliged to Employ Mr. William Winthrop to Accompany the Army to York. I can Confide in him as well as any Young Gentleman, but I dont Incline to trust such A risque in any hands. I shall therefore Inclose to Congress, or rather to the president A Resignation, which you will please to see, seal and deliver.5 If I am not to be Continued here, how the Troops that are left are to be paid and supported without A Paymaster I dont know. If a Committee could be Appointed this way to Examine my Accounts I should be glad. If not I suppose I must send to Philadelphia.

The Council have Appointed Coll Foster, and Sullivan Judges of the Superiour Court, but some of the Council make difficulties about the last and I cant tell how it will Issue.6 We have nothing material before the Court.

I Congratulate you on the Success of our Arms in No. Carolina.7 We hear Nothing from Quebec. As the seat of War is changing you will of Course have shorter Letters in future. All kinds of Intelligence I am now to Expect from you. When shall we hear that we are Independent, Where are the Commissioners, What is become of our Fleet &c. &c. Remember you have not wrote me A long time. My Compliments to All Friends. Adeu says Your Sincere Friend &c.

Ap: 3. 1776

Yesterday Fessenden Arrived. I thank you for a Letter by him.8 It gives me fresh Spirits. Thank Mr. Gerry for his last.9 I will write him as soon as I can. I am now much hurried as the Army is in such Motion. I trust and believe there will be Abundant reason for many Generations yet to Come to Bless my particular Friends. We are forming under the Auspices and Great Influence of —— A Fee Bill that will drive every Man of Interest and Ability out of Office. I dread the Consequences of the Leveling Spirit Encouraged, and drove to such Lengths as it is.10

As to more General Matters people are as they should be. The Harvest is Mature, I cant describe the Sighing after Independence. It is Universal. Nothing remains of that Prudence Moderation, or 97Timidity with which we have so long been plagued, and Embarrassd. every Species All are United in this question.

The Letter I mentioned above to your President, I have sent open to you not only that you might see it, but that you might do with it as you please. If you would Advise me yet to hold this place you will keep it in your own hands. I shall be perfectly satisfied with whatever you do with it, knowing that Friendship will direct your Conduct in this matter. I can hardly determine what to do myself, not haveing such Circumstances to Judge from as you have. I have forwarded your Letters &c to Mrs. Adams this day. No News since I wrote the Above only that the Fleet have Steered Eastward and one of the Tory Sloops is ashore on Cape Cod with a large quantity of English Goods, and Black Jolly Allen and some other Tories.11 We have had a false Alarm from Newport. I Recollect Nothing else. This Indeed is not A day of Recollection with me not haveing time even to overlook this Scroll.

Your Ships I believe fear will when done wait for Men. It will take time to Inlist them.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “To The Honbl. John Adams Esqr. Member of Congress Philadelphia”; stamped: “FREE” above the address and “P*15” below; docketed: “Warren March 30. 1776 answ. Ap.”


Warren to JA, 7 March (above).


Col. Benjamin Tupper, who had been active in harassing the British fleet as it prepared to depart ( Naval Docs. Amer. Rev. , 4:434, 500, 611; Adams Family Correspondence , 1:379). The store ship was probably the Sukey, reported in the Boston Gazette of 1 April to be aground on Georges Island.


Washington made this proposal in a letter to the General Court on 21 March, but it did not believe the number of troops to be adequate and resolved on 25 March that the General be requested to leave behind six regiments. Washington did not change his mind; Col. Gridley was left with five regiments to secure the town and harbor of Boston (Washington, Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick, 4:417, 522; Mass., House Jour. , 1775–1776, 4th sess., p. 41–42). The General Court remained dissatisfied, and on 9 April the committee which had been appointed to prepare a plan for the fortification of the harbor reported that eight companies should be raised to form one regiment of approximately 720 men in order to provide adequate protection ( House Jour. , p. 39–40, 99–101).


See Joseph Ward to JA, 23 March, note 1 (above).


Warren's resignation was received by the congress on 18 April and was accepted the following day ( JCC , 4:291, 296). For Warren's letter, see PCC, No. 78, XXIII.


Both Jedediah Foster and James Sullivan (1744–1808) were appointed and served on the court (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates , 11:397–398; DAB ).


On 26 Feb. in the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge a force of 1,100 whigs defeated 1,400 Highlanders called out by Gov. Martin. The loyalists suffered 50 casualties, had 850 taken prisoner, and lost a sizable amount of gold and equipment. A major effect of the battle was to move North Carolina away from reconciliation toward independence (Hugh T. Lefler and William S. Powell, Colonial North Carolina, N.Y., 1973, p. 277–280).


That of 21 March (above).


Conceivably that of 26 March, 98which asked Warren to try to persuade the General Court to declare itself for independence and send instructions to that effect to the Massachusetts delegates to the congress. The letter is printed in Austin, Gerry , 1:171–175.


A new table of fees for justices, clerks of court, sheriffs, and other such officers, but omitting mention of superior court justices, was passed on 2 May (Mass., Province Laws , 5:486–495). This revision of fee schedules downward had long been desired by those critical of court costs and responded to strong anti-lawyer sentiment in the province. The issue sharply divided reformers in the House from conservatives in the Council (Robert J. Taylor, Western Massachusetts in the Revolution, Providence, 1954, p. 31, 86; Stephen E. Patterson, Political Parties in Revolutionary Massachusetts, Madison, Wis., 1973, p. 136–139). The leveling spirit that Warren complained about also caused JA some anxiety, as is apparent from his reply to Warren of 16 April (below). Whose “Great Influence” was at work in this reform is conjectural. Since in his reply JA mentions Joseph Hawley as one with whom he disagrees on this reform, it may have been he.


Jolley Allen (1718?–1782) was a loyalist shopkeeper in Boston who left the town with the British. An incompetent master of the vessel chartered by Allen to take him to Halifax ran the ship aground off Cape Cod. Thus began a series of misfortunes chronicled in “An Account of Part of the Sufferings and Losses of Jolley Allen, a Native of London,” MHS, Procs. , 1st ser., 16 (1878):67–99.