Papers of John Adams, volume 10

From Thomas Digges

To C. W. F. Dumas

Replies to Hendrik Calkoen: 4–27 October 1780 Replies to Hendrik Calkoen: 4–27 October 1780
Replies to Hendrik Calkoen
4–27 October 1780
Editorial Note Editorial Note
Editorial Note

On 28 August 1780, John Adams dined with “A Lawyer, Mr. Calcoon” (JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:446–447). This was a significant event in the chronicle of John Adams' diplomatic mission to the Netherlands, for “Mr. Calcoon” was Hendrik Calkoen, whom Adams described many years later as “the giant of the law in Amsterdam.” Calkoen, a member of the anti-stadholder or patriot party, was sympathetic to the American cause, but more importantly he was consumed with curiosity about the progress of the American Revolution and the ultimate success of the Americans in their struggle for independence. In the course of the dinner Calkoen posed several questions to Adams, but their lack of a common language forced the use of a translator, leading to the suggestion that Calkoen's questions and Adams' replies be reduced to writing (JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 194). The result was Calkoen's letter of 31 August, containing twenty-nine ques-197tions (above), to which Adams, after obtaining an English translation, replied with twenty-six letters written between 4 and 27 October (below).

Hendrik Calkoen's letter shows clearly the degree to which he viewed the American Revolution through the filters of his Dutch or, more broadly, his European experience. It illustrates Simon Schama's observation, in his Patriots and Liberators (N.Y., 1977, p. 61), that many Dutchmen identified “America with the historical memory of the first Dutch revolt,” with the result that British efforts to subdue the Americans were seen “not merely as anti-American but anti-Dutch.” In the first seven pages of his letter Calkoen summarizes the Dutch struggle against Spain and the questions that follow are largely intended to determine the extent to which the obstacles faced by the Dutch patriots in their struggle would also hinder the Americans. The central assumption in Calkoen's letter is that, like the Dutch patriots before them, the American effort would be plagued by shifting loyalties among the principal members of the leadership and the people as a whole, conflicting class interests, and difficulties in financing the war without impoverishing the people and thereby alienating them from the cause. Implicit in Calkoen's letter was his need for assurance that the Americans would display the same fortitude as his Dutch forebears and would ultimately prevail.

Calkoen's letter provided John Adams with an opening to address directly an influential Dutch audience, but when he wrote his replies in October, the stakes were higher than they had been when the letter arrived at the end of August. In mid-September he had received his commission to act in the Netherlands until superseded by Henry Laurens, and by mid-October he had learned of Laurens' capture and imprisonment by the British (from Francis Dana, 16 Sept., note 2, above; to Samuel Adams, 13 Oct., LbC, Adams Papers; to Thomas Digges, 14 Oct., below). As a result, by 4 October, the date of the first letter to Calkoen (below), Adams had already begun preliminary efforts to obtain a loan; by 16 October, the date of Letters Nos. 8 , 9 and 10 (below), he knew that the full responsibility for the loan and Dutch recognition fell squarely on his shoulders; and in Letter No. 11, dated 17 October (below), he referred specifically to the need for new foreign loans. The replies to Calkoen thus took on a new urgency, for now they would support his own, rather than another's efforts.

The way in which John Adams responded became almost as important as the response itself as he endeavored to inform without offending his Dutch readers. Adams sought to encourage a sense of republican fraternalism with the Dutch, despite the differences between the two nations and their revolutions. He stressed, therefore, that both the Netherlands and the United States were the products of a shared love of freedom and hatred for despotism. Adams made differences between the two societies both acceptable and understandable by attributing them to the effects of the New World, where the lack of societal restraints on the progress of freedom meant that many of the obstacles faced by the Dutch during their revolution did not exist, thus assuring Americans of victory in a far shorter time.


In composing his replies, John Adams drew heavily upon his previous writings. The views he expressed to Calkoen are similar to and should be compared with those in Adams' reworking of Thomas Pownall's Memorial (A Translation of Thomas Pownall's Memorial, 19 April – ca. 14 July , above), soon to be published by Jean Luzac as Pensées sur la révolution de l'Amérique-Unie, and his “Letters from a Distinguished American,” ( ante 14–22 July , above). Indeed, Letter No. 17 (below) is largely an extract from Pownall's work, which Adams had incorporated into his revision. Adams also used material supplied by British authorities, notably John Burgoyne and William Howe in pamphlets published in 1780 defending their activities in America (Letters Nos. 2, 6, 9, and 15, below). Since the content and tone of Adams' letters to Calkoen are quite similar to his previous efforts published in these volumes and constitute a generally accurate account of the events and progress of the Revolution, annotation has been kept to a minimum.

The major difference between the letters to Calkoen and the writings noted above is the relatively small amount of space devoted to the economic potential of the United States. Adams muted his strongly held view, shared with many others including Thomas Pownall, that the American Revolution was as much economic as political and that Americans sought to free themselves from the constraints of the British navigation acts in order to trade with all the nations of the world. This was a tactical move on Adams' part, reflecting Jean Luzac's warning, in his letter of 14 September (and note 2, above), that many were concerned about the competition that an independent America would pose to Dutch merchants, a concern that led Luzac to compose an introduction to Pensées, intended to allay those fears.

John Adams hoped his replies to Calkoen would have a beneficial influence upon their intended audience. There is no evidence, however, that when he wrote them Adams had any intention or expectation that his twenty-six letters would be published unless it was by Calkoen himself. In fact, Calkoen did not publish the letters, but rather used them to compose “a comparison between the American and Batavian revolutions,” which he then read “with applause to a society of forty gentlemen of letters who meet in a club at Amsterdam” and “by this means, this society, whose influence must be very extensive, were made hearty converts to the opinion of the impracticability of a British conquest and the certainty of American success, points very dubious in the minds of this nation in general, when I first came here.” According to Adams, Calkoen had concluded that “it was a kind of miracle that the former the Dutch Revolt succeeded, and it would be a greater miracle still, if the latter the American Revolution should not” (to the secretary for Foreign Affairs, 4 Sept. 1782, Wharton, ed., Dipl. Corr. Amer. Rev. , 5:690; JA, Corr. in the Boston Patriot , p. 194; see also JA to Edmund Jenings, 27 Sept. 1782, Adams Papers). It is difficult to see how Adams could have hoped for any more satisfactory outcome.

Two years passed before Adams began to contemplate publishing his letters to Calkoen and to consider retrieving the originals for that purpose. 199 27 Sept. 1782 (Adams Papers), Adams wrote to Edmund Jenings that “there are, somewhere in existence 30 Letters written to Mr. Calkoen . . . which I should be glad to have preserved . . . but there is no haste in this matter.” On 9 June 1783 (Adams Papers), Adams again wrote to Jenings and indicated his continued interest in retrieving his letters to Calkoen.

John Adams ultimately unsuccessful efforts to obtain the original letters from Calkoen may have delayed publication, for it was not until October 1786 that the letters, based on Adams' retained drafts, were printed privately in London, first under the title Letters, and then later, probably also in 1786, as Twenty-six Letters, Upon Interesting Subjects, Respecting the Revolution of America. Written in Holland in the Year 1780. By His Excellency John Adams, while He was Sole Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States of America, for Negotiating a Peace, and a Treaty of Commerce, with Great Britain. The text of the first edition, as indicated by printer's marks on the manuscripts, was taken from twenty-four drafts in John Adams' hand (Letters Nos. 1–6 and 9–26, below), and two fair copies by John Thaxter (Letters Nos. 7 and 8, below), and is preceded by a brief preface or “Advertisement” in which Adams gives an account of the letters' origin and their use by Calkoen.

In the United States the first printing of any portion of Adams' reply to Calkoen was in New York City on 22 April 1789. There, two days after Adams reached the city to assume the office of vice president and one day before Washington's arrival for his inauguration, John Fenno printed the sixth letter (below), dealing with the inability of any one man to subvert the American Revolution, in his Gazette of the United States. In June 1789, using the same title and same text as the second London edition, Fenno printed the first of two editions that he would issue that year (Evans, Nos. 21624, 21625). The advertisement for the first New York edition appeared in the Gazette of 13 June and contained all twenty-nine questions posed by Calkoen, probably extracted from Adams' letters, rather than from Calkoen's letter itself. Fenno was not done, however, for he published the letters in order again, except for that printed the previous April, in the Gazette between 14 October and 26 December 1789.

John Adams' replies to Calkoen next appeared in print in 1809. With a letter dated 8 August of that year, Adams sent his letters, probably one of the previous printings, to the Boston Patriot. The August letter, addressed to the printers of the paper and appearing in the issue of 19 August, dealt with Adams' diplomatic activities in the Netherlands and particularly with Henry Laurens and his captivity. The last paragraph, however, contained an account of his exchange with Calkoen and his estimate of its impact on Dutch support for the American cause. The newspaper then printed the letters to Calkoen in its next ten issues, from 23 August to 23 September. Later the letter of 8 August and Adams' replies to Calkoen were collected and included under the title of the Correspondence of the Late President Adams, originally Published in the Boston Patriot (Boston, 1809[-1810], p. 185-250).

200 1. To Hendrik Calkoen, 4 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


1. To Hendrik Calkoen, 4 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
1. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 1.
1st. Letter Sir Amsterdam Octr. 4. 1780

You desire an exact and authentic Information of the present Situation of American Affairs, with a previous concise Account of their Course before, during and after the Commencement of Hostilities.

To give a Stranger an adequate Idea of the Rise and Progress of the Dispute between Great Britain and America, would require much time and many Volumes. It comprizes the History of England, and the united states of America for twenty Years; that of France and Spain for five or Six; and that of all the maritime Powers of Europe for two or three.1 Suffice it to say, that immediately upon the Conquest of Canada from the French in the Year 1759, Great Britain Seemed to be Seized with a Jealousy against the Colonies and then concerted the Plan of changing their forms of Government, of restraining their Trade within narrower Bounds, and raising a Revenue within them by Authority of Parliament for the avowed or pretended Purpose of protecting, Securing, and defending them. Accordingly in the Year 1760 orders were sent from the Board of Trade, in England to the Custom house officers in America, to apply to the Supream Courts of Justice for Writs of Assistance, to enable them to carry into a more vigorous Execution certain Acts of Parliament called the Acts of Trade,2 among which the famous Act of navigation was one, the fruit of the ancient English Jealousy of Holland by breaking open Houses, ships or Cellars, Chests, stores and Magazines, to search for uncustomed Goods. In most of the Colonies these Writs were refused. In the Massachusetts Bay the Question, whether Such Writs were legal and constitutional, was Solemnly and repeated, Argued before the supream Court by the most learned Council in the Province.

The Judges of this Court held their Commissions during the Pleasure of the Governor and Council, and the Chief Justice dying at this Time, the famous Mr. Hutchinson was appointed, probably with a View of deciding this cause in favour of the Crown, which was accordingly done. But the Arguments advanced upon that occasion by the Bar and the Bench, opened to the People Such a View of the 201designs of the British Government against their Liberties and of the Danger they were in, as made a deep Impression upon the public which never wore out.

From this Moment, every Measure of the British Court and Parliament, and of the Kings Governors and other servants, confirmed the People in an opinion of a Settled design, to over turn, those Constitutions under which their Ancesters had emigrated from the old World, and with infinite Toil, Danger and Expence planted a new one. It would be endless to enumerate all the Acts of Parliament and Measures of Government, but in 1764 Mr. George Grenville moved a Number of Resolutions in Parliament which passed, for laying a vast Number of heavy duties upon stamped Paper, and in 1765 the Act of Parliament was made called the stamp Act. Upon this, there was an Universal rising of the People in every Colony compelling the stamp officers by Force to resign, and preventing the stamped Papers from being used, and indeed compelling the Courts of Justice to proceed in Business without them. My Lord Rockingham perceiving the Impossibility of executing this statute, moved by the Help of Mr. Pitt for the Repeal of it, and obtained it, which restored Peace, order and Harmony, to America, which would have continued to this Hour, if the evil Genius of Great Britain had not prompted her to revive the Resistance of the People by fresh Attempts upon their Liberties, and new Acts of Parliament imposing Taxes upon them.

In 17667, they passed another Act of Parliament, laying Duties upon Glass, Paper and Painters Colours, and Tea—this revived the Discontents in America But Parliament Government sent over a Board of Commissioners, to over see the Execution of this Act of Parliament, and all others imposing Duties with a Multitude of new officers for the same Purpose, and in 1768 for the first Time sent four thousand regular Troops to Boston to protect the Revenue Officers in the Collection of the Duties.

Loth to commence Hostilities the People had Recourse to Non Importation agreements, and a variety of other Measures, which in 1770 induced Parliament to repeal all the Duties upon Glass, Paper and Painters Couleurs, but left the Duty upon Tea unrepealed. This produced an Association not to drink Tea. In 1770 the Animosity between the Inhabitants of Boston and the Kings Troops, grew so high, that a kind of Quar Action took P a Party of the Troops fired upon a Crowd of People in the streets, killing 5 or 6 and wounding some others. This raised such a spirit among the Inhabitants that in a Body they demanded the instant Removal of the 202Troops, which was done the Governor ordering them down to Castle Island some miles from the Town.

In 1773 the British Government determined to carry into Execution the Duty upon Tea, impowrd the East India Company to export it to America. They sent some Cargoes to Boston, some to New York, some to Philadelphia and some to Charlestown. The Inhabitants of New York and Philadelphia, sent the ships back3 to London and they Sailed up the Thames to proclaim to all the Nation that N.Y. and Pen. would not be enslaved. The Inhabitants of Charlestown unloaded it and stored in Cellars where it could not be used and where it finally perished.4 The Inhabitants of Boston, after trying every Measure to send the ships back like N.Y. and Philadelphia, but not being permitted to pass the Castle, the Tea was all thrown into the sea.

This produced several Vindictive Acts of Parliament—one for starving the Town of Boston by shutting up the Port, another for abolishing the Constitution of the Province, by destroying their Charter, another for sending Persons to England to be tryed for Treason &c.

These Acts produced the Congress of 1774, who stated the Rights and Grievances of the Colonies and petitioned for Redress.5 Their Petitions and Remonstrances were all neglected and treated with Contempt.6

General Gage had been sent over with an Army to in force the Boston Port Bill, and the Act for destroying the Charter. This Army on the 19 of April 1775 commenced Hostilities at Lexington, which have been continued to this day.

You see sir by this most imperfect and Hasty sketch that this War is already twenty years old. And I can truly say, that the People, through the whole Course of this long Period, have been growing constantly every Year more and more unanimous and determined to resist the Encroachments designs of Great Britain , upon their liberties..

I should be ashamed to lay before a Gentleman of Mr. Kalkoens Abilities so rude a Sketch if I had not an equal Confidence in his Candor and discretion which will induce me7 as I may have leisure to continue to sketch a few Observations upon your Questions. I have the Honour to be

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 1.”


This sentence was written in the left margin and marked for insertion at this point.


The following passage, from this point to “Holland,” was interlined.


The remainder of this sentence was interlined.


In fact, the tea that was stored underneath the Exchange at Charleston was ulti-203mately sold to finance the war effort (Robert M. Weir, Colonial South Carolina, Millwood, N.Y., 1983, p. 313).


For JA's role in the formulation of the “Bill of Rights; A List of Grievances,” adopted by Congress on 14 Oct. 1774, see vol. 2:144–146, 159–163.


This sentence was interlined.


The first portion of this sentence was interlined.

2. To Hendrik Calkoen, 5 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


2. To Hendrik Calkoen, 5 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
2. To Hendrik Calkoen
2nd. Letter. Sir Amsterdam Octr. 5 1780

Your first Proposition is to prove by Striking Facts, “that an implacable Hatred and Aversion reigns throughout America.”

In Answer to this, I beg leave to Say that the Americans are animated by higher Principles and better and Stronger Motives than Hatred and Aversion. They universally aspire after a free Trade with all the commercial World, instead of that mean Monopoly, in which they were shackled by great Britain, to the disgrace and Mortification of America, and to the Injury of all the rest of Europe, to whom it seems as if God and Nature intended, that So great a Magazine of Productions the raw Materials of Manufactures, So great a source of Commerce, and so rich a Nursery of Seamen as America is should be open. They despize, Sir, they disdain the Idea of being again Monopolized by any one Nation whatsoever: and this contempt is at least as powerfull a Motive of Action as any Hatred whatsoever.

Moreover Sir they consider themselves contending for the purest Principles of Liberty civil and religious: for those Forms of Government under the Faith of which their Country was planted: and for those great Improvements of them which have been made by their new Constitutions. They consider themselves not only as contending for these great Blessings but against the greatest Evils that any Country ever suffered, for they know if they were to be deceived by England, to break their Union among themselves and their Faith with their Allies, they would ever after be in the Power of England who would bring them into the most abject submission to the Government of a Parliament, the most corrupted in the World in which they would have no Voice nor Influence, at 3000 miles distance from them.

But if Hatred must come into consideration, I know not how to prove their Hatred better than by shewing the Provocations they have had to Hatred.

If tearing up from the foundation, those Forms of Government 204under which they were born and educated and thrived and prospered, to the infinite Emolument of England—if imposing Taxes upon them, or endeavouring to do it for Twenty years without their consent, if commencing Hostilities upon them—burning their Towns—butchering their People—deliberately starving Prisoners, ravishing their Women—exciting Hosts of Indians to butcher and scalp them and purchasing Germans to destroy them, and hiring Negro servants to murder their Masters—if all these and many other things as bad are not Provocation enough to Hatred, I would request Mr. Calkoen to tell me what is or can be. All these Horrors, the English have practised in every Part of America from Boston to Savanna.

2. Your second Proposition is to shew that this is general, at least so general that the Tories are in so small a Number, and of such little Force, that they are counted as Nothing.

If Mr. Calkoen would believe me, I could testify as a Witness. I could describe all the sources; all the Grounds, Springs, Principles and Motives to Toryism through the Continent. This would lead me into great length: and the Result of all would be my Sincere opinion that the Tories through out the whole Continent do not amount to the twentyeth Part of the People. I will not however obtrude my Testimony, nor my opinion. I will appeal to Witnesses who cannot be Suspected. General Burgoine and General How. Burgoine has published a Narrative of his Proceedings in which he Speaks of the Tories.1 I left the Pamphlet at Paris, but it may easily be had from London.

General How has also published a Narrative relative to his Conduct in America.2 Page 49 General How says “The only attempt by Bodies of Men to form themselves in Arms, and to assist in Suppressing the Rebellion, happened in North Carolina, in the Spring of 1776, when it was absolutely impossible for me to give Assistance to the Insurrection.3 The Plan was concerted between a Settlement of highland Emigrants, and a Body of Americans in that Province, distinguished by the name of Royalists. (He should have Said Regulators).4 They engaged to obey the orders of Governor Martin, who proposed they Should operate in favour of the Troops from Europe, under Earl Cornwallis. The Loyalists promised 5000, the Highlanders 700, Men. The former insisted upon their assembling immediately; the latter urged the Expediency of waiting the Arrival of the British Troops, but yeilded to the Importunity of the Royalists, and repaired in Arms to the Rendezvous, Stronger than the stipulated Compliment. The Loyalists, instead of 5000, did not assemble a Twentyeth Part of that 205Number, and two Companies of these deserted, upon the near Approach of the Rebells. The Highlanders Stood their ground, and fought bravely, but being overpowered, were defeated with considerable Loss, and forced to disperse.

“My Letter of 20 Dec. 17765 was written before the Affair of Trenton, and I could have no reason to Suspect the Fidelity of those who came in, to Us from Monmouth; but I was Soon undeceived. Many, very many, of these Loyalists, were a Short time afterwards taken in Arms against Us, and others killed with my Protections in their Pocketts. In the Pocketts of the Killed, and Prisoners, were also found Certificates of those very Men having Subscribed a declaration of Allegiance, in Consequence of the Proclamation of the Kings Commissioners for a general Indemnity. These are notorious Facts.

“Various offers of raising Men were made to me, nor did I decline any of those offers that brought with them the least Prospect of Success; but I must add, that very few of them were fullfilled in the Extent proposed.6

“Mr. Oliver Delancey,7 who was reputed to be the most likely man in New York, to induce the Loyalists of that Province to join the Kings Troops was appointed a Brigadier General, and authorized to raise three Battalions, to consist of 1500 privates, placing at the Head of each the most respectable Characters, recommended as Such by himself, and by Governor Tryon. Every possible Effort was used by those Gentlemen, not only in the districts possessed by the Kings Troops but by employing persons to go through the country, and invite the well affected to come in. Several of the officers (as I have Since been informed) anxious to complete their Corps, Sought for Recruits, even among the Prisoners, who were then very numerous, and ventured to hold out to them the Temptations of pay, Liberty, and Pardon. Notwithstanding all these Efforts and Encouragements,8Brigadier-General Delancey, at the opening of the Campain in 1777, instead of 1500, had raised only 597.

“Mr. Courtland Skinner,9 who was acknowledged to possess considerable Influence in the Jersies, where he had Served the office of Attorney General with great Integrity and Reputation, was also appointed a Brigadier General, and authorized to raise five Battalions, to consist of 2500 privates, under the command of Gentlemen of the Country, nominated by himself. The Same Efforts were made as for the raising of Delanceys Corps; but at the opening of the Campaign of 1777, Brigadier General Skinners numbers amounted only to 517, towards his expected Battalions of 2500.


“In November 1777 Brigadier General Delanceys Corps encreased to 693 and Brigadier General Skinners to 859—In May 1778 their progress was so slow, that the first had only advanced to 707, the latter to 1101.

“Several other Corps were offered to be raised, and were accepted, in the Winter of 1776, making in the whole thirteen, to consist of 6,500 men, including the Brigades of Delancey and Skinner. But in May, 1778, the whole Number in all these thirteen Corps amounted only to 3,609, little more than half the proposed complement, and of these, only a small Proportion were Americans.

“Upon our taking Possession of Philadelphia, the Same, and indeed, greater Encouragements were held out to the People of Pensylvania. Mr. William Allen, a Gentleman who was Supposed to have great Family Influence in that Province—Mr. Chalmers, much respected in the three lower Counties on Delaware, and in Maryland—and Mr. Clifton, the Chief of the Roman Catholic Perswasion, of whom there were Said to be many in Philadelphia, as well as in the Rebel Army, serving against their Inclinations: These Gentlemen were appointed Commandants of Corps, to receive, and form for Service, all the well affected that could be obtained. And what was the Success of these Efforts? In May 1778, when I left America, Colonel Allen had raised only 152 rank and File—Colonel Chalmers 336—and Coll. Clifton 180, which, together with three Troops of light Dragoons, consisting of 132 Troopers, and 174 real volunteers from Jersey, under Coll. Vandyke amounting in the whole to 974 men, constituted all the Force that could be collected in Pensylvania, after the most indefatigable Exertions, during Eight months.10

“To make the Conclusion as easy as possible, I shall state a very Strong Fact, to shew how far the Inhabitants were anxious to promote the Kings service, even without carrying Arms.11

“As soon as we were in Possession of Philadelphia, my Intention was to fortify it in Such a manner, as that it might be tenable by a small Number of Men, whilst the main Army should keep the Field, and Act against General Washington. To effectuate this Purpose, I sent orders from Germantown to the Chief Engineer, to construct Redoubts and to form the necessary Lines of Communication. That the Work might be expedited and the Labour of the Soldiers Spared, I, at the Same time directed him to employ the Inhabitants, and pay them 8d a day besides a Ration of Salt Provisions each, without which I was persuaded convinced they could not have been persuaded to have worked at all.


“Mr. Galloway, whom I had previously talked with upon the Subject had assured me there would be no difficulty in finding 500 men for this Business; and I presume he exerted himself to fulfil the Expectations he had given me. But with all the Assiduity of that Gentleman, and all the means made use of by the Chief Engineer, the whole Number that could be prevailed on to handle the Pick axe, and Spade, for the Construction of the Redoubts and Abbatis, amounted, each day, upon an average to no more than between Seventy and Eighty Men.”

I have quoted to you General Hows Words, and one would think this was Sufficient to shew how much, or how little Zeal there is for the British Cause in North America. When We consider, that in the Period, here mentioned the English Army had been in Possession of the Cities of Boston, Newport, New York and Philadelphia, and that they had marched through the Jersies, Part of Maryland and Pensilvania, and with all their Arts, Bribes, Threats and Flatteries, which General How calls their Efforts and Exertions they were able to obtain so few Recruits and very few of these Americans, I think that any impartial Man must be convinced that the Aversion and Antipathy to the British Cause is very general, So general that the Tories are to be accounted but a very little Thing.

The Addresses, which they have obtained to the King and his Generals when their Army was in Boston, Newport, New York, Philadelphia, Savanna and Charlestown shew the same Thing. It is well known that every Art of Flattery, and of Terror was always used to obtain subscribers to these Addresses. Yet the miserable Numbers they have obtained and the still more despicable Character of most of these small Numbers shew that the British Cause is held in universal Horror very low Esteem. Even in Charlestown, the Capital of a Province which contains two hundred thousand Whites, they were able to obtain only 210 subscribers, and among these there is not one Name that I ever remember to have heard before.12

I am Sorry I have not Burgoines Narrative, which shews in the same Point of Light, the Resources the English are likely to find in the Tories, to be nothing more than a sure Means of getting rid of a great Number of their Guineas.

I have the Honour to be, Sir, your humble sert

John Adams

To learn the present state of America, it is sufficient to read the public Papers. The present State of Great Britain and its Dependencies may be learned the Same Way. The omnipotence of the British 208Parliament and the omnipotence of the British Navy, are like to go the Same Way.

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 2d.”


John Burgoyne, A State of the Expedition from Canada, London, 1780, 1st edn., p. 102. Thomas Digges sent this pamphlet to JA on or about 10 June (from Digges, 8 June, above), but see also note 2.


This is The Narrative of Lieut. Gen. Sir William Howe, in a Committee of the House of Commons, on the 29th of April 1779, Relative to His Conduct during His Late Command of the King's Troops in North America: To which are added, Some Observations upon a Pamphlet, Entitled, Letters to a Nobleman, London, 1780. The passages quoted by JA below are not taken, however, from the narrative (p. 1–34), but rather from Howe's observations (p. 35–110) on Joseph Galloway's Letters To A Nobleman, On The Conduct of the War In The Middle Colonies, London, 1779. JA was familiar with Galloway's pamphlet, having received it in a packet sent by Thomas Digges on or about 16 May that also contained Galloway's Cool Thoughts (from Digges, 8 June), and it may have given JA some satisfaction to be able to use Howe's arguments against the author of Cool Thoughts. Except for some differences in punctuation and spelling and the fact that they are not consecutive, JA's quotations are virtually verbatim renderings of Howe's comments, but see notes 3, 5, 8, and 11. In the “Advertisement” to the first 1786 edition of his letters to Calkoen, JA indicated that he undertook to publish Howe's Narrative and Burgoyne's State of the Expedition (see note 1) in the Netherlands, for which see Antoine Marie Cerisier's letter of 15 Nov. and JA's reply of the 18th (both below).


The paragraph here quoted is taken from Howe's Narrative, p. 49–50, in which Howe responds to the argument in Galloway's pamphlet (p. 38) that American loyalists offered military assistance to the British army.


The passage in parentheses is by JA. For the Regulators, and the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge, described later in the paragraph, see Letter No. 7, and note 2 (below).


In the Narrative, p. 51, this paragraph began “This letter.” The date was taken from the passage that preceded it and where, in referring to Galloway's Letters (p. 39), Howe stated that “As another proof of my opinion of the great loyalty of the Americans, he Galloway adds in a note the following quotation from my letter to the Secretary of State, dated 20th Dec. 1776. 'The chain of cantonments is rather too extensive, but I was induced to occupy Burlington, to cover the county of Monmouth, in which there are many loyal inhabitants.'”


This and the following five paragraphs are taken from the Narrative, p. 51–53.


A member of the governor's council, Oliver De Lancey was the most prominent military figure in pre-revolutionary New York, and with his appointment as brigadier general became the highest ranking loyalist officer in America. In 1783, his property confiscated, he went to England where he died in 1785 ( DAB ).


At this point JA omitted the following passage: “notwithstanding the loyalty of the people, and the many thousands flying over to the British troops for protection (as attested by the author Galloway” (Narrative, p. 51).


For Cortlandt Skinner, the last royal attorney general of New Jersey, see Sabine, Loyalists , 2:305–306.


Of the four men listed in this paragraph, William Allen was the son of the former chief justice of Pennsylvania, William Allen, but little information has been found regarding James Chalmers of Maryland or Delaware, John Van Dyke of New Jersey, and Arthur Clifton, other than their inability to fill up their regiments (same, 1:157–158, 301; 2:496; Gregory Palmer, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, Westport, Conn., 1984, p. 886).


In the Narrative, p. 54–55, this and the following two paragraphs were preceded by two paragraphs in which Howe commented on a statement by Galloway on p. 40 of the Letters. There Galloway had declared that Howe could have raised a militia in Philadelphia and defended the city against any threat. In support of his own position that such was not possible, Howe set out the population of Philadelphia and then began this paragraph by stating that “whether a militia formed from 209the above, could contribute to the defence of the city is submitted: and to make the Conclusion . . .”


For this address, see JA's letter of 18 July to Edmund Jenings, and notes 1, 3, and 4 (above).

3. To Hendrik Calkoen, 6 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


3. To Hendrik Calkoen, 6 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
3. To Hendrik Calkoen
3d. Letter Sir Amsterdam October the 6. 1780

Your Third Proposition is to shew that America, notwithstanding the War, daily increases in Strength and Force.”

It is an undoubted Fact that America, daily increases in Strength and Force: but it may not be so easy to prove this to the Satisfaction of an European, who has never been across the Atlantick. However some Things may be brought into Consideration, which may convince, if properly attended to.

1. It may be argued from the Experience of former Wars, during all which the Population of that country was so far from being diminished or even kept at a Stand, that it was always found at the End of a War that the Numbers of People, had increased during the Course of it, nearly in the Same Ratio as in Time of Peace. Even in the last French War which lasted from 1755 to 1763, during which Time, the then American Colonies, made as great Exertions, had in the Field as great a Number of Men, and put themselves to as great an Expence, in Proportion to the Numbers of People, as the united States have done during this War; it was found that the Population had encreased nearly as fast as in times of Peace.

2. If you make Enquiry into the Circumstances of the different Parts of America at this day, you find the People in all the States pushing their Settlements out into the Wilderness, upon the Frontiers, cutting down the Woods and subduing new Lands, with as much Eagerness and Rapidity, as they used to do in former Times of War or Peace. This Spreading of the People into the Wilderness, is a decisive Proof of the increasing Population.

3. The only certain Way of determining the Ratio of the Increase of Population is by authentic Numerations of the People, and regular official Returns.1 This has I believe never been done generally in former Wars, and has been generally omitted in this. Yet some States have made these Returns. The Massachusetts Bay for Example, had a Valuation about the year 1773 or 1774, and again the last year 1779 they had another. In this Period of five years, that State was found to have encreased, both in Number of People and in Value of Prop-210erty, more than it ever had grown before in the Same Period of Time. Now the Massachusetts Bay, has had a greater Number of Men employed in the War, both by Land and sea in Proportion to the Numbers of her Inhabitants than any other state of the thirteen. She has had more Men killed, taken Prisoners, and died of sickness, than any other state: Yet her growth, has been as rapid as ever—from whence it may be fairly argued that all the other States have grown in the same or a greater Proportion.

4. It has been found by Calculations, that America, has doubled her Numbers even by natural Generation alone, upon an Average, about once in Eighteen Years. This War has now lasted, near six Years. In the Course of it, We commonly compute in America that We have lost by sickness and the sword and Captivity, about five and thirty Thousand Men. But the Numbers of People have not increased less than Seven hundred and Fifty thousand, souls, which give at least an hundred Thousand fighting Men. We have not less probably than seventy thousands of Fighting Men in America, more than We had, on the day that Hostilities were first commenced on the 19 of April 1775. There are near Twenty thousand Fighting Men Added to the Numbers in America every Year. Is this the Case with our Ennemy, Great Britain? Which then can maintain the War the longest?

I have the Honour to be &c.

5. If America increases in Numbers, she certainly increases in Strength. But her Strength increases in other respects. The Discipline of her Armies increase. The skill of her Officers, increase by Sea and Land—her skill in military Manufactures, such as those of Salt Peter, Powder, Fire Arms, Cannon, Musquets, increases. Her skill in Manufactures of Flax and Wool for the first necessity, increases—her Manufactures of salt also increases, and all these are Augmentations of Strength and Force to maintain her Independence. Further her Commerce increases every Year—the Number of Vessells She has had this Year in the Trade to the West Indies—the Number of Vessells arrived in Spain, France, Holland, and Sweeden, shew that Her Trade is greatly increased this Year.

But above all her Activity skill Bravery and success in Privateering, increases every Year. The Prizes she has made from the English this Year, will defray more than one half of the whole Expence of this Years War. I only submit to your consideration a few Hints which will enable you to Satisfy yourself by Reflection, how fast the Strength and Force of America increases.

I have the Honour to be


Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter. 3.”


See Letter No. 17 (below).

4. To Hendrik Calkoen, 7 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


4. To Hendrik Calkoen, 7 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
4. To Hendrik Calkoen
4. Letter Sir Amsterdam October 7. 1780

Your fourth Question is, whether America, in and of itself, by means of purchasing or exchanging the Productions of the several Provinces, would be able to continue the War, for 6, 8 or 10 years, even if they were entirely deprived of the Trade with Europe, or their Allies exhausted by the War and forced to make a Seperate Peace were to leave them.

This is an extreme case. And where is the necessity of putting Such a Supposition! Is there the least appearance of France or Spain being exhausted by the War? Are not their Resources, much greater than those of England, Seperated as she is from America? Why should a Suspicion be entertained that France or Spain will make a seperate Peace? Are not these Powers Sufficiently interested in seperating America from England? All the World knows that their maritime Power, and the Possession of their Colonies depend upon Seperating them? Such Chimaeras as these are artfully propagated by the English1 to terrify Stockjobbers, but thinking Men, and well informed Men know that France and Spain have the most pressing Motives to persevere in the War. Besides Infractions so infamous, of Solemn Treaties made and avowed to all Mankind are not committed by any nation. In short no Man who knows any Thing of the real Wealth and Power of England on one hand; and of the Power and Resources of France, Spain and America on the other, can believe it possible, in the ordinary Course of human Events and without the Interposition of Miracles, that France and Spain should be So exhausted by the War, as to be forced to make a Seperate Peace.

The other Supposition here made is equally extreme. It is in the nature of Things impossible that America should ever be deprived entirely of the Trade of Europe. In opposition to one extream I have a Right to advance another. And I Say that if all the maritime Powers of Europe, were to unite their Navies, to block up the American Ports, and prevent the Trade of Europe they could not wholly prevent it. All 212the Men of War in Europe would not be sufficient to block up a seacoast of 2000 Miles in Extent, varied as that of America is by such an innumerable Multitude of Ports, Bays, Harbours, Rivers, Creeks, Inlets and Islands, with a Coast so tempestuous that there are many Occasions in the Course of the Year, when Merchant Vessells can push out and in altho Men of War cannot cruise. It should be remembered, that this War was maintained by America for Three Years, before France took Any Part in it. During all that Time the English had fifty Men of War upon that Coast which is a greater Number than they ever will have again: yet all their Vigilance was not Sufficient to prevent American Trade with Europe. At the worst Time We ever saw, one Vessell in three went and came Safe. At present there is not one in four taken. It should also be remembered that the French Navy have never untill this Year, been many days together upon the American Coast. So that We have in a sense maintained the Trade of the Continent five Years against all that the English navy could do, and it has been growing every Year.

Why then should We put cases that We know can never happen. However I can inform you, that the Case was often put, before this War broke out. And I have heard the common Farmers in America reasoning upon these Cases seven years ago. I have heard them Say, if Great Britain could build a Wall of Brass, a thousand feet high2 all along the seacoast at low Water Mark, We can live and be happy. America is most undoubtedly capable of being the most independent Country upon Earth. It produces every Thing for the Necessity, Comfort and Conveniency of Life, and many of the Luxuries too. So that if there were an eternal Seperation between Europe and America—The Inhabitants of America would not only live but multiply, and for what I know be wiser, better, and happier, than they will be, as it is.

That it would be unpleasant, and burthensome to America to continue the War for 8 or 10 Years, is certain: but will it not be unpleasant and burdensome to Great Britain too? There are between 3 and four millions of People in America. The Kingdom of Sweeden, that of Denmark, and even the Republick of the united Provinces have not each of them many more than that Number. Yet these States can maintain large standing armies even in time of Peace, and maintain the Expences of Courts And Governments much more costly than the Government of America. What then should hinder America from maintaining an Army sufficient to defend her Altars, and her 213Firesides? The Americans are as active as industrious and as capable as other Men. America could undoubtedly maintain a regular Army of Twenty thousand Men forever. And a regular Army of Twenty thousand Men, would be Sufficient to keep all the Land Forces that Great Britain can send there, confined to the Seaport Towns under cover of the Guns of their Men of War. Whenever the British Army shall attempt to penetrate far into the Country the regular American Army will be joined by such Reinforcements from the Militia, as will ruin the British Force—By desertions, by Fatigue, by sickness and by the sword in occasional skirmishes, their numbers will be wasted and the miserable Remainders of them Burgoined.

I have the Honour to be &c.

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 4.”


The preceding eight words were interlined.


The preceding four words were interlined.

5. To Hendrik Calkoen, 9 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


5. To Hendrik Calkoen, 9 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
5. To Hendrik Calkoen
5th. Letter Sir Amsterdam October 8 9. 1780

The fifth Enquiry is, whether a voluntary Revolt of any one or more of the States, in the American Confederation is to be apprehended: and, if one or more were to revolt, whether the others would not be able to defend themselves?

This is a very judicious and material Question. I conceive that the answer to it is easy, and decisive. There is not the least danger of a voluntary Revolt, of any one State in the Union. It is difficult to prove a negative however: and still more difficult to prove a future Negative. Let us however consider the Subject a little.

Which State is the most likely to revolt, or Submit? Is it the most ancient Colony as Virginia or the Massachusetts? Is it the most numerous and powerful as Virginia, Massachusetts, or Pensilvania? I believe no body will Say that any one of these great States will take the Lead in a Revolt or a voluntary Submission.

Will it be the Smallest, and weakest States, that will be most likely to give up voluntarily? In order to Satisfy ourselves of this, let Us consider what has happened, and by the Knowledge of what is passed We may judge of what is to come. The Three Smallest States are 214Rhode Island, Georgia, and Delaware. The English, have plainly had it in view to bring one of these States to a submission and have accordingly directed very great Forces aginst them.

Let Us begin with Rhode Island. In the latter End of the Year 1776, General How sent a large Army of near seven thousand Men, by sea under a strong Convoy of Men of War, detached by Lord How, to take Possession of Newport, the Capital of Rhode Island. Newport stands upon an Island, and was neither fortified, nor garisoned sufficiently to defend itself against so powerfull a Fleet and Army and therefore the English made themselves Masters of the Place. But what Advantage did they derive from it? Did the Colony of Rhode Island, Small as it is, Submit? So far from it, that they were rendered the more eager to resist, and an Army was assembled at Providence, which confined the English to the Prison of Rhode Island, untill the fall of the year 1779 when they were obliged to evacuate it, and our Army entered it in Tryumph.

The next little state which the English attempted was Delaware. This state consists of three Counties only situated upon the River Delaware below Philadelphia, and is the most exposed to the English Men of War, of any of the states, because, they are open to Invasion not only upon the Ocean but all along the River Delaware. It contains not more than thirty Thousand Souls. When the English got Possession of Philadelphia, and had the command of the whole Navigation of the Delaware, These People were more in the Power of the English than any Part of America ever was, and the English Generals, Admirals, Commissioners and all the Tories used all their Arts to seduce this little state. But they could not succeed. They never could get the Appearance of a Government erected under the Kings Authority. The People continued their Delegation in Congress, and continued to elect their Governors, senate and assemblies, under their new Constitution, and to furnish their quota to the continental Army, and their Proportion to the Militia, untill the English were obliged to evacuate Philadelphia. There are besides, in this little state, from various Causes more Tories in Proportion than in any other. And as this state stood, immoveable, I think We have no reason to fear a voluntary submission of any other.

The next Small state that was attempted was Georgia. This state is situated at the southern Extremity of all, and at such a distance from all the rest and such difficulties of Communication, being above an hundred Miles from Charlestown in South Carolina, that it was 215impossible for the neighbouring states to afford them any Assistance. The English invaded this little state and took the Capital Savanna, and have held it, to this day: but this Acquisition has not been followed by any submission of the Province. On the contrary they continue their delegation in Congress, and their new officers of Government. This Province moreover, was more immediately the Child of England than any other. The settlement of it cost England more than all the rest: from whence one might expect they would have more Friends here than any where.

New Jersey is one of the middling Sized States. New Jersey had a large British Army in Philadelphia, which is on one Side of them, and another in New York which is on the other Side, and the British Army has marched quite through it; and the English have used every Policy of Flattery, of Terror, and severity, but all in vain and worse than in vain. All has conspired to make the People of New Jersey some of the most determined against the English and some of the most brave and skillfull to resist them.

New York, before the Commencement of Hostilities, was supposed to be the most lukewarm, of the middling states in the Opposition to the designs of the English. The English Armys have invaded it, from Canada and from the Ocean, and have long been in Possession of three Islands, New York Island, long Island and staten Island, yet the rest of that Province has stood immoveable through all the Varieties of the Fortune of War for four Years, and increases in Zeal and Unanimity, every year.

I think therefore there is not even a Possibility that any one of the thirteen States should ever, voluntarily revolt or submit.

The Efforts and Exertions of General How, in New York, long Island, staten Island, New Jersey, Pensilvania, Delaware, and Mariland, to obtain Recruits, the vast Expence that he put his Master to, in appointing new Corps of officers, even General officers, the Pains they took, to inlist Men, among all the straglers in those Countries and among many Thousands of Prisoners which they then had in their Hands. All these measures, obtaining but 3600 Men1 and very few of these Americans, according to General Hows own Account, shews I think to a Demonstration, that no voluntary Revolt or submission is ever to be apprehended.

But even supposing that Rhode Island, should submit, what could this small Colony of 50,000 souls do, in the midst of Massachusetts, Connecticutt, and New Hampshire.


Supposing Delaware, 30,000 souls should submit, what Influence could it have upon the Great states of New Jersey, Pensilvania, Mary land And Virginia among which it lies.

If Georgia, at the Extremity of all should submit, what Influence could this little society of 20,000 souls have upon the two Carolinas and Virginia.

The Colonies are at such vast distances from one another, and the Country is so fortified every where by Rivers, Mountains, and Forests, that the Conquest or submission of one Part, has no Influence upon the rest.

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 5.”


See Letter No. 2 (above). There the number is 3,609.

6. To Hendrik Calkoen, 10 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


6. To Hendrik Calkoen, 10 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
6. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 6 Sir Amsterdam October 10. 1780

The sixth Task, is to shew that no Person, in America, is of so much Influence, Power, or Credit, that his Death, or Corruption by English Money could be of any nameable Consequence.

This question is very natural, for a Stranger to ask, but it would not occur to a native American who had passed all his Life, in his own Country: and upon hearing it proposed, he could only Smile.

It Should be considered, that there are in America, no Kings, Princes, or Nobles: no Popes, Cardinals, Patriarchs,1 Archbishops, Bishops, or other ecclesiastical Dignitaries. They are these and Such like lofty Subordinations, which place great Bodies of Men in a State of Dependance upon one, which enable one or a few Individuals in Europe to carry away after them, large Numbers, wherever they may think fit to go. There are no hereditary Offices, or Titles, in Families nor even any great Estates that descend in a right Line, to the Eldest sons. All Estates of Intestates are distributed among all the Children. So that there are no Individuals, nor Families, who have either from office, Title or Fortune any Extensive Power, or Influence. We are all equal in America, in a political View, and as much alike as Lycurgus's Hay cocks.2 All publick offices and Employments are bestowed, by the free Choice of the People, and at present through the whole Continent are in the Hands of those Gentlemen who have distinguished themselves the most, by their Councils, Exertions, and sufferings, in the Contest with Great Britain. If there ever was a War, 217that could be called the Peoples War it is this of America, against Great Britain, it having been determined on by the People and pursued by the People in every step of its Progress.

But who is it in America, that has credit to carry over to the Side of Great Britain any Numbers of Men? General How tells Us, that he employed, Mr. Delancey, Mr. Cortland Skinner,3 Mr. Chalmers, and Mr. Galloway, the most influential Men they could find, and he tells you their ridiculous success.

Are they Members of Congress, who by being corrupted, would carry Votes in Congress in favour of the English? I can tell you of a Truth, there has not been one Motion made in Congress, Since the Declaration of Independancy, on the 4. of July 1776, for a Reconciliation with Great Britain, and there is not one Man in America, of sufficient Authority, or Credit to make a Motion in Congress for a Peace with Great Britain upon any Terms short of Independance, without ruining his Character forever. If a Delegate from any one of the thirteen States were to make a Motion, for Peace upon any Conditions short of Independency, that delegate would be recalled with Indignation by his Constituents as soon as they shall know it. The English have artfully represented in Europe, that the Congress have been governed by particular Gentlemen: but you may depend upon it, it is false. At one Time the English would have made it believed that Mr. Randolph, the first President of Congress, was its Soul. Mr. Randolph died, and Congress proceeded, as well as ever. At another Time Mr. Hancock was all and all. Mr. Hancock left the Congress, And has Scarcely been there for three Years: yet Congress has proceeded with as much Wisdom, Honour and Fortitude as ever. At another Time, the English represented that Mr. Dickinson, was the Ruler of America. Mr. Dickinson opposed, openly and upon Principle, the Declaration of Independancy, but instead of carrying his Point, his Constituents differed with him so materially that they recalled him from Congress, and was absent for some years: yet Congress proceeded with no less Constancy, and Mr. Dickinson lately finding all America unalterably fixed in the system of Independancy has fallen in like a good Citizen and now supports it in congress with as much Zeal as others. At another Time, the English have been known to believe that Dr, Franklin, was the essential Member of Congress: but Dr. Franklin was sent to France in 1776, and has been there ever Since, yet Congress have been as active and as capable as before. At another Time Mr. Samuel Adams, was represented as the Man who did every Thing: Yet Mr. Samuel Adams has been, absent 218for the greatest Part of three Years, attending his Duty as Secretary of State in the Massachusetts Bay: yet it does not appear that Mr. Adams's Absence has weakened the Deliberations of Congress, in the least. Nay, they have sometimes been silly enough to represent your humble servant, Mr. John Adams, as an essential Member of Congress. It is now however, three Years Since Congress did him the Honour to send him to Europe as a Minister Plenipotentiary to the Court of Versailles, and he has never been in Congress since. Yet Congress have done better since he came away than they ever did before.

In short sir all these Pretences are the most ridiculous imaginable. The American Cause stands upon the essential, unalterable Character, of the whole Body of the People upon their Prejudices, Passions, Habits and Principles, which they derived from their Ancestors their Education, drew in with their Mothers Milk, and have been confirmed by the whole Course of their Lives, and the Characters whom they have made conspicuous by placing them in their publick Employments

are but Bubbles on the Sea of matter born They rise: they break, and to that Sea return.4

The Same Reasoning is applicable to all the Governors, Lt. Governors, secretaries of state, Judges, senators and Representatives of particular states. They are all eligible and elected every Year, by the Body of the People, and would loose their Characters and Influence, the Instant they should depart in their public Conduct from the political system that the People are determined to support.

But are there any officers of the Army, who could carry over, large Numbers of People? The Influence of these officers is confined to the Army. They have very little among the Citizens. But if We consider the Constitution of that Army, We shall see, that it is impossible that any officer could carry with him any Numbers even of soldiers. These officers are not appointed by a King, or a Prince, nor by General Washington. They can hardly be Said to be appointed by Congress. They have all Commissions from Congress it is true; but they are named and recommended and even generally appointed by the Executive Branch of Government in the particular state to which they belong,5 except the general officers who are appointed by Congress. The Continental Army, consists of the Quotas of officers and Troops, furnished by thirteen different states. If an officer of the Massachusetts Bay forces for Example should go over to the Ennemy, he might 219possibly carry with him half a dozen soldiers belonging to that state—yet I even doubt whether any officer whatever who should defect from that state could persuade so many as half a dozen soldiers to go with him.

Is it necessary to put the supposition, that General Washington should be corrupted? Is it possible that So fair a Fame as Washingtons should be exchanged for Gold6 or for Crowns? A Character so false so cruel, so blood thirsty, so detestible as that of Monk might betray a Trust. But a Character so just, so humane, so fair, so open and honourable and amiable as Washingtons, never can be stained with so foul a Reproach.7

Yet I am fully of opinion that if even Mr. Washington, should go over to the English which I know to be impossible, he would find none or very few officers or soldiers to go with him. He would become the Contempt and Execration of his own Army, as well as of all the rest of Mankind.

No sir! The American Cause is in no Danger from the Defection of any Individual. Nothing short of an entire Alteration in the sentiments of the whole Body of the People, can make any material Change in Conduct of the Councils, or in the Conduct of the Army of the United States. And I am very sure that Great Britain has not Power or Art sufficient to change essentially the Temper the Feelings, and the opinions of between three and four Millions of People, at three thousand Miles distance, supported as they are by Powerfull Allies.

If such a Change could ever have been made, it would have been seven Years ago when offices, Employments and Power in America were in the Hands of the King. But every Ray of Royal Authority has been extinguished now between four and five years, and all civil and military Authority is in Hands determined to resist Great Britain to the last.

I have the Honour to be

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 6.”


The preceding three words were interlined.


This sentence was interlined. In his life of Lycurgus, Plutarch notes the Spartan reformer's efforts to end inequality through an equitable division of land and recounts his comparison of the equality established by his plan and the identical appearance of the hay stacks in the fields (Plutarch, Lives, vol. 1).


Left blank in the manuscript. The name omitted was that of Arthur Clifton of Maryland, mentioned in one of the quotations taken from Howe's Narrative and included in Letter No. 2 (above), which had probably already been sent to Calkoen.


Pope, An Essay on Man, Epistle III, lines 19–20.


The remainder of this sentence was interlined.


The remainder of this sentence was in-220terlined.


It was probably this and the following paragraph that led John Fenno to publish this letter in the Gazette of the United States on 22 April 1789, the day before Washington arrived in New York City for his inauguration.

7. To Hendrik Calkoen, 10 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


7. To Hendrik Calkoen, 10 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
7. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 7 Sir Amsterdam October 10th 1780

Your seventh Inquiry is, whether the common People in America, are not inclined, nor would be able to find sufficient means, to frustrate by Force, the good Intentions of the skilful Politicians?

In answer to this, it is sufficient to say, that the Commonalty have no need to have recourse to Force, to oppose the Intentions of the skillful: because the Law and the Constitution authorize the common People to choose Governors and Magistrates every year: so that they have it constantly in their power, to leave out any Politician however skillful, whose Principles, Opinions or Systems they don't approve.

The difference however in that Country is not so great as it is in some others between the Common People and the Gentlemen, for Noblemen they have none. There is no Country where the Common People, I mean the Tradesmen, the Husbandmen, and the labouring People have such Advantages of Education, as in that: and it may be truly said that their Education, their Understanding and their Knowledge is as nearly equal as their Birth, Fortune, Dignities and Titles.

It is therefore certain, that whenever the Common People shall determine upon Peace, or Submission, it will be done. But of this there is no danger. The Common People, are the most unanimously determined against Great Britain of any: it is the War of the Common People; it was undertaken by them, and has been and will be supported by them.

The People of that Country often rose in large Bodies, against the Measures of Government, while it was in the Hands of the King. But there has been no Example of this sort, under the new Constitutions, excepting one which is mentioned in General How's Narrative in the back part of North Carolina.1 This was owing to Causes so particular, that it rather serves to shew the Strength of the American Cause in that State, than the Contrary.

About the year 1772, under the Government of Tryon, who has since made himself so obnoxious to all America, there were some warm disputes in North Carolina concerning some of the internal Regulations of that Province, and a small number of People in the 221back parts rose in Arms under the name of regulators against the Government.2 Governor Tryon marched at the head of some Troops, drawn from the Militia, gave battle to the Regulators, defeated them, hanged some of their Ringleaders and publishing Proclamations against many others. Those People were all treated as having been in Rebellion, and they were left to solicit Pardons of the Crown. This established in the Minds of those Regulators such an hatred towards the rest of their Fellow-Citizens, that in 1775, when the War broke out, they would not join with them. The King has since promised them pardon for their former Treasons, upon Conditions that they commit fresh ones against their Country. In 1777, in conjunction with a Number of Scotch Highlanders, they rose, and Governor Caswell marched against them, gave them Battle and defeated them. This Year they have risen again and been again defeated. But these People are so few in Number: there is so much apparent Malice and Revenge, instead of any principle in their disaffection, that any one who knows any thing of the human Heart, will see, that instead of finally weakening the American Cause in North Carolina, it will only serve to give a keenness and an Obstinacy to those who support it.

Nothing indeed can shew the Unanimity of the People, throughout America, in a stronger light than this—that the British Army has been able to procure so few Recruits, to excite so few Insurrections and Disturbances. Nay, although the freedom of the Press and the freedom of Speech is carried to as great lengths in that Country as in any under the Sun, there has never been a Hint in a Newspaper, or even in a Hand Bill, nor a single Speech or Vote in any Assembly, that I have heard of, for submission or even for Reconciliation.

I have the Honor to be, Sir, your humble Servant.

FC in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter. 7.”


See Letter No. 2 (above).


Contrary to JA's account, the Regulator movement was less a nursery for loyalists than an early example of East-West conflict. Established in 1768, the Regulator movement stemmed from the desire of settlers in the Piedmont counties to control or “regulate” their local government. North Carolina's population had grown fastest in the Piedmont, but a large majority of representatives in the legislature continued to come from the older Tidewater counties. Moreover, most county officials were appointed by the governor, whom the back country settlers saw as dominated by the Tidewater interests. The movement ended in 1771 when a large group of armed Regulators was defeated at Hillsboro by a militia force under Gov. William Tryon. The same result might have been achieved without the battle, for the legislature already had enacted reforms aimed at alleviating the Regulator's grievances.

JA's account of what occurred after the battle at Hillsboro is also misleading, but probably reflects current perceptions of events in North Carolina. In fact, the Regulators did not universally support the loyalist cause and available data indicates that most were either neutral or supported the patriots. The Regulators' defeat probably led both pa-222triot and loyalist leaders to assume that the Regulators would oppose the American cause. Thus in 1776 when Gov. Josiah Martin called out the loyalists to put down the rebellion, he doubtless expected the Regulators to rally to his cause, but there is no indication that this occurred. At the Battle of Moore's Creek Bridge on 27 Feb. 1776, the loyalist force was composed largely of newly arrived Highland Scots and there is no evidence of a general uprising by the Regulators in 1780, following the British capture of Charleston, S.C., and the movement of British forces northward (John R. Alden, The South in the Revolution, 1763–1789, Baton Rouge, 1957, p. 153–163, 197–198; A. Roger Ekirch, “Whig Authority and Public Order in Backcountry North Carolina, 1776–1783,” in Ronald Hoffman, Thad W. Tate, Peter J. Albert, eds., An Uncivil War, Charlottesville, 1985, p. 99–124).

8. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


8. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
8. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 8 Sir Amsterdam October 16th. 1780

The eighth Enquiry is, what England properly ought to do, to force America to Submission, and preserve her in it? How much Time, Money, and how many Vessels would be wanted for that purpose?

I assure You, Sir, I am as much at a loss to inform You, in this particular, as Lord George Germaine would be. I can fix upon no Number of Men, nor any Sum of Money, nor any Number of Ships, that I think would be sufficient. But most certainly no Number of Ships or Men which Great Britain now has, or ever can have, nor any Sum of Money, that She will ever be able to command, will be sufficient.

If it were in the power of Great Britain to send an hundred thousand Men to America, and they had Men of War and Transports enough to convey them there in safety, amidst the dangers that await now from French, Spanish and American Men of War, they might possibly get possession of two or three Provinces, and place so many Garrisons in various parts as to prevent the People from exercising the functions of Government, under their new Constitutions, and they might set up a sham Appearance of a Civil Government under the King. But I dont believe that an hundred thousand Men, could gain and preserve them the Civil Government of any three States in the Confederation. The States are at such distances from one another; there are such difficulties in passing from one to another by land; and such a multitude of Posts are necessary to be garrisoned and provided, in order to command any one Colony, that an Army of an hundred thousand Men, would soon find itself consumed, in getting and keeping possession of one or two States. But it would require the Armies of Semiramis1 to command and preserve them all.


Such is the Nature of that Country and such the Character of the People, that if the English were to send ever so many Ships, and ever so many Troops, they never would subdue all the Americans. Numbers in every State would fly to the Mountains and beyond the Mountains, and there maintain a constant War against the English. In short the English, if they could conquer America, which they never can, nor any one State in it, it would cost them a standing Army of an hundred thousand Men to preserve their Conquest; for it is in vain for them ever to think of any other Governments taking place again under the King of England, but a military Government.

As to the Number of Ships it must be in proportion to the number of Troops: they must have transports enough to carry their Troops, and Men of War enough to convoy them, through their numerous French, Spanish and American Enemies upon the Seas.

As to the Sums of Money, You will easily see, that adding two hundred Millions more to the two hundred Millions they already owe, would not procure and maintain so many Ships and Troops.

It is very certain the English can never send any great Numbers more of Troops to America. The Men are not to be had: the Money is not to be had: the Seamen and even the Transports are not to be had.

I have the Honor to be

I give this to Mr. Calkoen as my private Opinion concerning the question he asks. As Mr. Calkoen observes, this is a Question that had better not be publickly answered. But time will shew the Answer here given is right. It would at present be thought Extravagance or Enthusiasm. Mr. Adams only requests Mr. Calkoen to look over this letter a few years hence, and then say what his Opinion of it is. Victories gained by the English, in taking Sea-port Towns, or in open field fighting will make no difference in my answer to this Question. Victories gained by the English will conquer themselves sooner than the Americans. Fighting will not fail in the End to turn to the Advantage of America, although the English may gain an Advantage in this or that particular Engagement.

Dupl in John Thaxter's hand (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 8.


According to Greek legend, Semiramis was the daughter of the Syrian goddess Derceto and is remembered for her military feats and the construction of Babylon. Historically, Semiramis is likely based on Sammuramat, who served as regent after the death of her husband, the Assyrian king Shamshi-Adad V, in the late 9th century b.c. ( Oxford Classical Dictionary )

224 9. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


9. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
9. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 9 Sir Amsterdam October 16. 1780

The ninth question is, how Strong the English Land Force, is in America? How Strong it was at the Beginning? and whether it increases, or diminishes?

According to the Estimates laid before Parliament the Army under General How, General Carleton, and General Burgoine, amounted to fifty five Thousand Men, besides, Volunteers, Refugees, Tories, in short all the Recruits raised in Canada, and all other Parts of America under whatever denomination. If We Suppose that all these in Canada and elsewhere amounted to 5000 Men, the whole According to this Computation amounted to sixty thousand Land Forces.

This Estimate however, must have been made from the Number of Regiments, and must have Supposed them all to be full.

General How himself however, in his Narrative Page 45 tells Us that his whole Force, at the Time when he landed on long Island in 1776, amounted to Twenty thousand, one hundred and Twenty one Rank and File, of which 1,677 were Sick.1

By a Regular Return of General Burgoines Army, after its Captivity in 1777 it amounted in Canadians, Provincials, British and German Troops to upwards of Ten Thousand Men. We may suppose that four Thousand Men, were left in Canada for the Garrison of Quebec, Montreal and the great number of other Posts in that Province. To these Numbers if We Add the Officers, We may fairly allow the whole Land Force at that Time to be forty Thousand Combattants.

This is all the Answer, that I am able to give from Memory, to the Question how Strong the british Army was.

In order to give an Answer, to the other, how Strong it is, let Us consider

1. There has been no large Reinforcement, ever Sent to America, since that Time. They have Sent Some Troops every year: but these never amounted to more than Recruits, and probably rather fell short of filling up the Vacancies which were made in the Course of the Year, by Desertion and Death, by Sickness and by the sword. So that upon the whole I think it may be Safely Said, that the Army never has been greater than it was in 1776.


But We must deduct from this Ten Thousand Men taken with Burgoine one Thousand Hessians Taken at Trenton and Prince Town,2 and indeed many more taken by two or three hundred at a Time upon other Occasions.

In the next Place We must deduct, I Suppose about Ten Thousand more sent since the French War,3 to Jamaica, St. Luce, Barbadoes and the other West India Islands.

So that upon the whole, I think We make an ample Allowance if We State the whole Number now in New York, Carolina, and Georgia, including all Refugees &c. at Twenty thousand Men, officers included.

This is in Part an Answer to the Question, whether their Force increases or diminishes. But it should be further considered, that there is a constant and rapid Consumption of their Men. Many die of sickness, Numbers desert, there have been frequent skirmishes, in which they have ever had more Men killed and wounded, than the Americans: and now, So many of their Troops are in Carolina and Georgia, where the Climate is so unhealthy that, there is great Reason to expect that the greatest Part of that Army will die of Disease. And whoever considers the Efforts the English have made, in Germany, Ireland, Scotland, and England, as well as America, for seven Years successively to raise Men the Vast Bounties they have offered: and the few they have obtained, Whoever considers the Numbers they must loose this Year by the severity of Duty and by Sickness in New York, Carolina, Georgia and the West India Islands, and the Numbers that have been taken going to Quebec, North America, the East and West Indies, will be convinced, that all the Efforts they can make will not enable them for the future to keep their Numbers good.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 9.”


Howe's figures are accurate and were intended to refute Galloway's charge that he had 40,874 troops under his command (Narrative, p. 45). The numbers given by Howe in his Narrative and by JA later in this letter should be compared with those from April 1775 through March 1782 in Mackesy's War for America , p. 524–525. The returns given there indicate that, counting troops in Canada and those under Burgoyne's command, the strength of the British army in North America peaked in 1778 at slightly over fifty thousand. At the time of this letter, the figure had dropped to 44,554 troops, with 33,466 committed to operations in the thirteen former colonies. Those figures remained relatively constant through the end of the war.


The battles of Trenton and Princeton, N.J., occurred on 26 Dec. 1776 and 3 Jan. 1777, respectively. The Hessians were captured at Trenton, the engagement at Princeton turned back Howe's counter offensive.


That is, since the outbreak of war between France and Britain in June 1778.

226 10. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


10. To Hendrik Calkoen, 16 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
10. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 10 Sir Amsterdam Octr. 16. 1780

The Tenth Head of Inquiry is, how great is the Force of America? the Number of Men? their Discipline, &c. from the Commencement of the Troubles? Is there a good Supply of warlike Stores? are these to be found, partly or entirely in America? or must they be imported?

The Force of America, consists of a regular Army, and of a Militia. The regular Army, has been various at different Times. The first regular Army, which was formed in April 1775 was inlisted for Six months only. The next was inlisted for one year. The next for three Years. The last Period expired last February. At each of these Periods, between the Expiration of a Term of Enlistment, and the Formation of a new Army, the English have given themselves Airs of Tryumph, and have done Some brillant Exploits. In the Winter of 1775, 6 indeed, they were in Boston, and altho our Army, after the Expiration of the first Period of Inlistment for Six months, was reduced to a Small Number, yet the English were not in a condition to attempt any Thing. In the Winter of 1776, 7, after the Expiration of the Second Term of Inlistment, and before the new Army was brought together the English marched through the Jersies. After the Expiration of the last Term of Inlistment, which was for three Years and ended last January or February, the English went to their old Exultations again, and undertook the Expedition to Charlestown. In the Course of the last Spring and Summer, however, it seems the Army has been renewed and they are now inlisted, in general during the War.

To State the Numbers of the regular Army, according to the Establishment, that is according to the Number of Regiments at their full Compliment, I suppose the continental Army has sometimes amounted, to Fourscore thousand Men. But the American Regiments have not often been full, any more than the English. There are in the War Office, at Philadelphia, regular Monthly returns, of the Army from 1775 to this day, but I am not able from Memory to give any accurate Account of them. It is sufficient to say, that the American regular Army has been generally Superiour to that of the English, and it would not be good Policy to keep a larger Army, unless We had a 227Prospect of putting an End to the British Power, in America by it. But, this, without a naval Superiority, is very difficult, if not impracticable. The English take Possession of a Seaport Town, fortify it in the Strongest manner, and cover it with the Guns of their Men of War, So that our Army cannot come at it. If France and Spain should cooperate with Us So far as to send Ships enough to maintain the Superiority at Sea, it would not require many Years, perhaps not many Months, to exterminate the English from the United States. But this Policy, those Courts have not adopted, which is a little Surprizing because it is obvious, that by captivating the British Fleet and Army in America, the most decisive Blow would be given to their Power, which can possibly be given in any quarter of the Globe.1

What Number of regular Troops General Washington, has at this Time under his immediate Command, I am not able precisely to say. I presume, however that he has not less than Twenty Thousand Men, besides the french Troops under the Comte De Rochambeau. Nor am I able to say, how many General Gates has at the southward.

But besides the regular Army, We are to consider the Militia. Several of the Colonies were formed into a Militia, from the Beginning of their Settlement. After the Commencement of this War, all the others followed their Example, and made Laws, by which all the Inhabitants of America are now enrolled in a Militia, which may be computed at five hundred Thousand Men. But these are Scattered over a Territory of one hundred and fifty miles in Breadth, and at least fifteen hundred Miles in Length, lying all along upon the Sea Coast. This gives the English the Advantage, by means of their Superiority at Sea, to remove Suddenly and easily from one Part of the Continent to another, as from Boston to New York, from New York to Rhode Island, from New York to Cheasapeak or Delaware Bay, or to Savanna or Charles town, and the Americans the Disadvantage, of not being able to march either the regular Troops or the Militia, to such vast distances without immense Expence of Money and of Time. This puts it in the Power of the English to take so many of our Sea port Towns, but not to make any long and successfull Marches into the interiour Country, or make any permanent Establishments there.

As to Discipline, in the Beginning of the War, there was very little either among the Militia or the regular Troops. The American officers have however been industrious, they have had the Advantage of reading all the Books which have any Reputation concerning military Science, they have had the Example of their Ennemies the British 228Officers, before their Eyes a long Time, indeed from the Year 1768—and they have had the Honour of being joined by British, German, French, Prussian and Polish officers of Infantry and Cavalry, of Artillery and Engineering, So that the Art of War is now as well understood in the American Army, and military Discipline is now carried to as great Perfection, as in any Country whatever.

As to a Supply of Warlike Stores, At the Commencement of Hostilities, the Americans had neither Cannon, Arms, or Ammunition, but in Such contemptible Quantities as distressed them, beyond description. And they have all along been Streightened at Times, by a Scarcity of these Articles, and are so to this Day.

They have however at present an ample Field Artillery, they have Arms, and Powder, and they can never be again, absolutely destitute, because the Manufactures of all Sorts of Arms of Cannon of all sorts, of salt Peter and Powder, have been introduced and established. These Manufactures, altho very good, are very dear, and it is difficult to make enough for so constant and so great a Consumption. Quantities of these Articles are imported every Year. And it is certain they can be imported and paid for by American Produce, cheaper than they can be made.

But the Americans, to make their system perfect, want five hundred thousand stands of Arms, that is one at least for every Militia Man, with Powder, Ball and Accoutrements in Proportion. This however is rather to be wished for than expected. The French Fleet carried Arms to America, and if the Communication between America and France and Spain, should become more frequent by Frigates and Men of War, and especially if this Republick, should be compelled into a War with England, America will probably never again suffer much for Want of Arms or Ammunition.

The English began the War against the Northern Colonies. Here they found the Effects of ancient Militia Laws. They found a numerous and hardy Militia, who fought and defeated them upon many Occasions. They then thought it necessary to abandon these and fell upon the Middle Colonies, whose Militia had not been so long formd. However after, several Years Experience, they found they were not able to do any Thing to the Purpose against them. They have lastly conceived the Design of attacking the Southern Colonies. Here the white People, and consequently the Negroes Militia are not so numerous, and have not yet been used to War. Here therefore they have had some apparent successes, but they will find in the End their own destruction in these very successes. The Climate will devour 229their Men, their first successes will embolden them to rash Enterprizes, the People there will become enured to War, and will finally, totally destroy them. For as to the Silly Gasconade, of bringing the southern Colonies to submission, there is not even a Possibility of it. The People of those states are as firm in Principle and as determined in their Tempers against the Designs of the English as the Middle, or the northern states.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 10.”


It is noteworthy that here JA returns to his criticism of France and Spain for not increasing their naval presence in American waters so as to establish an absolute superiority. For his most recent exposition of his views on the subject and the consequences thereof, see JA's letter of 13 July to Vergennes, and note 1 (above); but see also Letter No. 11, and note 7 (below).

11. To Hendrik Calkoen, 17 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


11. To Hendrik Calkoen, 17 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
11. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 11 Sir Amsterdam October 17. 1780

Your eleventh Question, will give an Opportunity of making Some Observations upon a Subject, that is quite misunderstood, in every Part of Europe. I shall answer it with great Pleasure according to the best of my Information,1 and with the utmost Candour.

The Question is.

How great is the present Debt of America? What has she, occasion for yearly, to act defensively? Are those Wants Supplied, by the Inhabitants themselves, or by other Nations? If in the latter case, what does America loose of her Strength by it? Are they not in one manner or other, recompensed, again by some equivalent Advantage? If So, in what manner? What would be required, to act offensively? And by that means shorten the War?

All Europe has a mistaken Apprehension of the present Debt of America. This Debt is of two Sorts, that which is due from the thirteen United States, in Congress assembled: and that which is owing from each of the thirteen States in its Seperate Capacity. I am not able to Say, with Precision, what the Debt of each Seperate State is. But all these added together, fall far short, of the Debt of the United States.


The Debt of the United States consists of three Branches. 1. The Sums which have been lent them, by France and Spain, and by Mr. Beaumarchais and Company. These have been for purchasing some Supplies of Cannon, Arms, Ammunition, and Cloathing, for the Troops, for assisting Prisoners escaped from England, and for some other Purposes. But the whole Sum amounts to no great Thing.

2. The Loan Office Certificates, which are promissory Notes given to Individuals in America who have lent Paper Money to the Congress, and Are their Securities for the Payment of the Principal and Interest.2 These the Congress have equitably3 determined Shall be paid, according to the Value of the Paper Bills in Proportion to Silver, at the Time of their dates.

3. The Paper Bills, which are now in Circulation, or which were in Circulation on the Eighteenth day of March last. These Bills, amounted to the nominal sum of Two hundred Millions of Dollars, but the real Value of them to the Possessors, is estimated at forty for one, amounting to five Millions of Spanish Dollars, or one Million and a quarter Sterling. This is the full Value of them, perhaps more. But this estimation of them has given Satisfaction in America to the Possessors of them, who certainly obtained them in general at a cheaper Rate.

These three Branches of Debt, which are the whole, According to a Calculation made last May, and sent me by a Member of Congress,4 who has been four Years a Member of their Treasury Board and is perfect Master of the subject, amount, in the whole to five Millions sterling, and no more. The national Debt of America, then is five Millions sterling.

In order to judge of the Burthen of this Debt, We may compare it with the Numbers of People. They are three Millions. The national Debt of Great Britain is two hundred Millions. The Number of People in England and Scotland is not more than Six millions. Why should not America, with three Millions of People be able to bear a Debt of one hundred Millions, as Well as Great Britain with six millions of People, a debt of two hundred Millions.

We may compare it, with the Exports of America. In 1774 The Exports of America, were Six millions sterling. In the same Year the Exports of Great Britain were twelve Millions. Why would not the Exports of America, of Six millions, bear a national Debt of one hundred Millions, as well as the twelve millions of British Exports bear a Debt of Two hundred Millions?

We may compare it, in this manner, with the national Debt of 231France, Spain, the United Provinces, Russia, Sweeden, Denmark, Portugal, and you will find, that it is but small in comparison.

We may compare it, in another Point of View. Great Britain, has already Spent in this War, Sixty Millions sterling—America five Millions. Great Britain has annually added, to her national Debt, more than the whole Amount of her annual Exports. America has not added to hers, in the whole Course of five Years war, a sum equal to one Years Exports.

The Debt of Great Britain is, in a large Proportion of it, due to Foreigners, for which they must annually pay the Interest by sending Cash abroad. A very trifle of the American Debt is yet due to Foreigners.

Lord North borrowed last Year, Twelve Millions, and every future Year of the War, must borrow the Same or a larger Sum. America could carry on this Way, an hundred Years, by borrowing only one Million sterling a year.

The annual Expence of America has not hitherto exceeded one Million a Year— that of Great Britain, has exceeded Twenty Millions, some years. America may therefore carry on this War, an hundred Years, and at the End of it will be no more in Debt in Proportion to her present5 Numbers of People and her Exports in 17746 than Great Britain is now.

There is another Consideration of some Weight. The Landed Interest in America is vastly greater in Proportion to the mercantile Interest, than it is in Great Britain. The Exports of America are the Productions of the soil, annually, which increase every year. The Exports of Great Britain were Manufactures, which will decrease every Year, while this War with America lasts.

The only Objection to this Reasoning is this, that America, is not used to great Taxes, and the People there are not yet disciplined to such enormous Taxation as in England. This is true. And this makes all their Perplexity at present. But they are capable of bearing as great Taxes in Proportion as the English, and if the English force them to it, by continuing the War, they will reconcile themselves to it: and they are in fact, now taxing themselves more and more every Year, and to an Amount that a Man who knew America only twenty year ago would think incredible.

Her Wants have hitherto been supplied by the Inhabitants themselves, and they have been very little indebted to foreign Nations. But on Account of the Depreciation of her Paper, and in order to introduce a more stable Currency, she has now Occasion to borrow a sum 232of Money abroad, which would enable her to support her Credit at home, to exert herself more vigorously against the English both by sea and Land, and greatly assist her in extending her Commerce with foreign Nations especially the Dutch. America would not loose of her Strength by borrowing Money, but on the Contrary would gain vastly. It would enable her to exert herself more by Privateering, which is a Mine of Gold to her. She would make Remittances in Bill of Exchange to foreign Merchants for their Commodities, and it would enable Many Persons to follow their true Interest in Cultivating the Land instead of attending to Manufactures, which being indispensable, they are now obliged more or less to follow, tho less profitable. The true Profit of America, is the continual Augmentation of the Price and Value of Land. Improvement in Land, is her principal Employment, her best Policy, and the principal source of her growing Wealth.

The last Question is easily answered. It is. What would be required to act offensively, and by that means, shorten the War?

To this I answer, nothing is wanted, but a Loan of Money, and a Fleet of ships.

A Fleet of ships, only Sufficient to maintain a superiority over the English, would enable the Infant Hercules to Strangle all the Serpents that environ his Cradle. It is impossible to express in too Strong terms, the Importance of a few ships of the Line to the Americans. Two or three French or Dutch or Spanish ships of the Line, Stationed at Rhode Island, Boston, Delaware River, or Chesapeak Bay, would have prevented, the dreadful Sacrifice at Penobscot. Three or four ships of the Line would have prevented the whole Expedition to Charlestown. Three or four ships of the Line more, added to the Squadron of the Chevalier de Ternay, would have enabled the Americans to have taken New York.7

A Loan of Money is now wanted, to give Stability to the Currency of America—to give Vigour to the Inlistments for the Army—to add Alacrity to the fitting out Privateers—and to give an Ample Extension to their Trade.

The Americans, will labour through, without a Fleet and without a Loan. But it is ungenerous and cruel, to put them to such Difficulties, and to keep Mankind embroiled in all the Horrors of War, for Want of such Trifles, which so many of the Powers of Europe wish they had and could so easily furnish. But if Mankind must be embroiled and the Blood of Thousands must be shed, for want of a little 233Magnanimity in some, the Americans must not be blamed, it is not their Fault.

I have the Honour to be &c,

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 11.”


This sentence originally ended at this point, the comma and the remainder of the sentence were added later.


The preceding three words were interlined.


This word was interlined.


JA is referring to Elbridge Gerry's letter of 5 May, which discussed Congress' revaluation of the currency on 18 March and other economic matters, but see also Benjamin Rush's letter of 28 April, and note 4 (both above).


This word was interlined.


The preceding two words were interlined.


Compare JA's views here regarding the consequences of inadequate French and Spanish naval support with those in his letter of 13 July to Vergennes (above).

12. To Hendrik Calkoen, 17 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


12. To Hendrik Calkoen, 17 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
12. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 12th. Sir Amsterdam October 17. 1780

We are now come to your Twelfth Head of Inquiry, which is. What Countenance have the Finances? How much does the Expence exceed the Yearly Income? Does the annual Revenue, deriving from the Taxes, increase or diminish? in the whole, or in any Particulars? and what are the Reasons to be given for it?

Here I am apprehensive, I shall find a Difficulty to make my self under Stood, as the American Finances, and Mode of Taxation, differ so materially from any, that I know of in Europe.

In the Month of May, 1775, when the Congress came together, for the first Time, after the Battles of Lexington and Concord, they found it necessary, to raise an Army, or rather to adopt an Army already raised, at Cambridge, in order to oppose the British Troops and shut them up, in the Prison of Boston. But they found, that the Colonies, were but just got out of Debt, had just paid off the Debts contracted in the last French War. In the Several Treasuries of the Colonies, they found only a few Thousand Pounds. They had before them a Prospect of a Stagnation, or Interruption of their Trade, pretty universally, by the British Men of War. They had a thousand Perplexities before them, in the Prospect of passing through thirteen Revolutions of Government, from the Royal Authority to that under the People. They had Armies and Navies to form, they had new Constitutions of 234Government to attend to. They had, twenty Tribes of Indians to negotiate with. They had vast Numbers of Negroes to take care of. They had all sorts of Arms, Ammunition, Artillery, to procure, as well as Blanketts and Cloathing, and subsistance for the Army, they had Negotiations to think of in Europe and Treaties to form of Alliance and Commerce, and they had even Salt to procure for the Subsistance of the Inhabitants and even of their Cattle as well as their Armies.

In this situation, with so many Wants and demands, and no Money, or Revenues to recur to, they had recourse to an Expedient, which had been often practiced in America, but no where else. They determined to emit, Paper Money.

The American Paper Money, is nothing but Bills of Credit, by which the Publick, the Community, promises to pay the Possessor, a certain Sum in a limited Time. In a Country where there is no Coin, or not enough in circulation, these Bills may be emitted to a certain Amount, and they will pass at Par, but as Soon as the Quantity exceeds, the Value of the ordinary Business of the People, it, will depreciate, and continue to fall in its Value in Proportion to the Augmentation of the Quantity.

The Congress on the 18 of March last, Stated this Depreciation at forty for one. This may be nearly the Average, but it often passes much lower. By this Resolution All the Bills in Circulation, on that day, and none have been emitted Since, amount to about one Million and a Quarter sterling. To this if you add the Money borrowed upon Loan Certificates, and the debt contracted abroad in France and Spain, the whole does not amount to but little more than five Millions.

Yearly Income, We have none, properly Speaking. We have no Imposts or Duties laid upon any Articles of Importation Exportation, or Consumption. The Revenue consists entirely in Grants annually made by the Legislatures, of Sums of Money for the current service of the Year and appropriated to certain Uses. These Grants are proportioned upon all the Polls and Estates, real and personal in the community, and they are levied and paid into the publick Treasury with great Punctuality, from whence they are issued in Payments of the demands upon the Public.

You see then that it is in the Power of the Legislatures, to raise what sums are wanted, at least as much as the People can bear, and they are usually proportioned to the publick Wants and the Peoples Abilities. They are now constantly laying on and paying very heavy 235Taxes, altho for the three or four first Years of the War, the Obstructions of Trade &c. made it difficult to raise any Taxes at all. The yearly Taxes, annually laid on have increased every Year, for these three Years past, and will continue to be increased in Proportion To the abilities of the People. This ability no doubt increases in Proportion as Population increases, as new Lands are cultivated, and as Property is in any Way added to the common stock. It will also increase as our Commerce increases, and as the Success in Privateering Increases.

But by the Method of Taxing you see that it is in the Power of the Legislature to increase the Taxes every Year, as the publick Exigences may require, and they have no other Restraint or Limit than the Peoples Ability.

I have the Honour to be, with great Esteem &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 12.”

13. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


13. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
13. To Hendrik Calkoen
13 Letter Sir Amsterdam October 26 1780

Your thirteenth Letter Inquiry is, “Of what Resources might America hereafter Still make Use of?”

There are many Resources, yet untried, which would certainly be explored, if America Should be driven to the Necessity of them.

1. Luxury prevails in that young Country, not withstanding all the confident assertions of the English concerning their Distress, to a degree, that retrenching this alone would enable them to carry on the War. There are Expences in Wheelcarriages, Horses, Equipage, Furniture, Dress, and the Table, which might be Spared and would amount to enough to carry on the War.

2. The Americans might, and rather than the English should prevail against them they would be brought to impose Duties upon Articles of Luxury, and Convenience and even of Necessity, as has been done by all the Nations of Europe. I am not able at present, and upon Memory to entertain you with accurate Calculations, but in general it may be said with Certainty that if as heavy Duties were laid, upon Articles of Consumption, Exportation and Importation as are laid in England, or even in Holland, it would produce a Revenue Sufficient to carry on this War, without borrowing at all. I hope 236however they will never come to this. I am clear they need not. Such Systematical and established Revenues are dangerous to Liberty, which is Safe, while the Revenue depends upon annual Grants of the People, because this secures publick Oeconomy.

3. If there should be hereafter any Accession to the Population of America, by Migrations from Europe, this will be a fresh Resource, because in that Country of Agriculture, the Ability to raise a Revenue will bear a constant Proportion to the Numbers of People.

4. There are immense Tracts of uncultivated Lands. These Lands are all claimed by particular States. But if these States Should cede these Claims to the Congress, which they would do in case of Necessity, the Congress might Sell these Lands, and they would become, a great Resource. No Man can Say, how great or how lasting.

5. There is a great deal of Plate in America, and if she were driven to Extremities, the Ladies I assure you have Patriotism enough, to give up their Plate to the Publick, rather than loose their Liberties or run any great hazard of it.

6. There is another Resource Still. The War may be carried on, by means of a fluctuating Medium of Paper Money. The War has been carried on in this manner hitherto, and I firmly believe, if the People could not find a better Way—they would agree, to call in all the Paper, and let it lie as a demand upon the Public, to be hereafter equitably paid, according to its fluctuating Value in silver—and emit new Bills, to depreciate and carry on the War in the Same Way. This however would occasion many Perplexities, and much Unhappiness. It would do Injustice to many Individuals, and will and ought to be avoided, if possible.

7. A Loan in Europe, however, would be the best Resource, as it would necessarily extend our Trade, and relieve the People from too great a present Burden. Very heavy Taxes, are hurtfull, because they lessen the Increase of Population by making the means of subsistence, more difficult.

8. There are Resources of Agriculture, Manufactures and Labour, that would produce much, if explored and attempted.

I have the Honour to be with very great Esteem &c. John Adams

9. The Resources of Trade and Privateering, ought to be mentioned again. The real Cause of our doing So little hitherto is this. The Congress in 1774, agreed upon a Non Exportation to begin in September 1775.1 This induced the Merchants in every Part of America, 237to Send their ships and Sailors to England, from whence the most of them never returned.

The Consequence of which was that the Americans have been distressed for want of ships and Seamen ever since. But the Number of both has increased every Year, in Spite of all that English have taken and destroyed. The vast Number of ships and seamen taken this Year, will repair those Losses, and no man can say to what an Extent Trade and Privateering will be carried, the next and the succeeding Years.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 13.”


Congress adopted the resolutions regarding nonexportation on 7 and 8 Oct. 1774 ( JCC , 1:57–58), but see also a proposed resolution by JA on the subject 30 Sept. 1774 (vol. 2:156–157).

14. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


14. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
14. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 14 Sir Amsterdam Octr. 26. 1780

The fourteenth Question is “What is the Quantity of Paper Money in Circulation? What Credit, the Inhabitants have for it, in their daily Business? What designs the Inhabitants have by maintaining its Credit? What by preventing its Increase? and in what manner do they realize it?”

The Quantity of Paper Bills, in Circulation on the 18 of March last, was Two hundred millions of Paper Dollars.

The Congress then Stated the Value of it, upon an average, at forty for one, amounting in the whole to five millions of silver Dollars, or one Million and a quarter sterling. This they did by resolving to receive one silver Dollar, in Lieu of forty Paper ones, in the Payment of Taxes. This was probably allowing more than the full Value for the Paper, because by all Accounts the Bills passed from hand to hand in private Transactions at Sixty or seventy for one.

The Designs of the Inhabitants, in preserving its Credit, as much as they can are very good and laudable. The Designs are that they may have a fixed and certain Medium both for external and internal Commerce. That every Man May have an equal Profit from his Industry, and for his Commodities. That private and publick Debts may be justly paid, and that every Man may pay an equal and proportional share of the Public Expences.

And this is their Design in preventing its Increase: because it is 238impossible, if the Quantity is increased to prevent the Depreciation of the whole in Circulation.

They realize it, in various Ways. Some have lent it to the Public, and received Loan Office Certificates for it, upon Interest, which are to be paid in Proportion to their Value in Silver at the Time of their Dates.

Some Purchase with it the Produce of the Country, which they export to the West Indies and to Europe, and by this means supply, the French and Spanish Fleets and Armies, both upon the Continent of America and in the West India Islands. Others Purchase Merchandizes imported with it. Others purchase Bills of Exchange upon France, Spain, &c. Others purchase silver and Gold with it—and others Purchase Houses and Lands. Others have paid their Debts with it, to such a degree, that the People of America, were never so little in debt, in their private Capacities as at present.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 14.”

15. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


15. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
15. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 15th. Sir Amsterdam October 26. 1780

Your fifteenth Quaere is “Does not the English Army, lay out its Pay, in America? at how much can the Yearly benefit be calculated? Are not the Prisoners, provided for in America? Who has the Care of their Maintenance? How was Burgoines Army supplied?”

When the English Army, was in Boston, they bought all that they could, and left considerable Sums there in silver and Gold. So they did at Rhode Island. Since they have been in New York, they have purchased every Thing they could of Provisions and Fuel, on Long Island, staten Island, New York Island, and in those Parts of the states of New York and New Jersey where they have been able to carry on any clandestine Trafick.

When they were in Philadelphia, they did the Same, and General How tells you, that he suspects that General Washington from Political Motives connived at the Peoples supplying Philadelphia, in order essentially to serve his Country, by insinuating into it, large 239sums of silver and Gold.1 They are doing the Same now, more or less in South Carolina and Georgia, and they cant go into any Part of America, without doing the Same.

The British Prisoners, in the Hands of the Americans, receive their Cloathing chiefly from the English, and Flaggs of Truce are permitted to come out from their Lines, for this Purpose. They receive their Pay also from their Master, and Spend the most of it where they are. They also purchase Provisions in the Country and pay for it in hard Money.

I am not able to ascertain exactly the Yearly Benefit, but it must be considerable, and the Addition now of a French Fleet and Army, to supply will make a great Addition of Cash and Bills of Exchange, which will facilitate Commerce and Privateering.

And the more Troops and ships Great Britain and France send to America the greater will this Resource, necessarily be to the Americans.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).


Howe, Narrative, p. 43.

16. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


16. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
16. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 16 Sir Amsterdam October 26 1780

The Sixteenth, Inquiry is, “Who looses most by desertion? Do the English and German Deserters, Serve voluntarily and well in the American Army? How, can those who do not enter into the Army subsist?”

These Questions, I answer with great Pleasure. There has been, from the Beginning of the War to this day, Scarcely an Example of a native Americans deserting from the Army to the English. There have been in the American Army Some Scattering Scotch, Irish, and german soldiers, Some of these have deserted but never in great Numbers. And among the Prisoners they have taken it is astonishing how few they have ever been able to perswade, by all their Flatteries, Threatnings, Promisses and even Cruelties to enlist into their Service.

The Number of Deserters from them, has been all along Consid-240 image erably more. Congress have generally prohibited their officers from inlisting Deserters. For some particular services Permission has been given, and they have served well.

Those who do not inlist, into the Army, have no Difficulty to subsist. Those of them who have any Trades, as Weavers, Tailors, Smiths, shoemakers, Tanners, Curriers, Carpenters, Bricklayers, in short any trade whatsoever, enter immediately into better Business than they ever had in Europe, where they gain a better subsistance and more Money, because Tradesmen of all denomination are now much wanted. Those who have no Trade, if they are capable of any Kind of Labour, are immediately employed, in Agriculture &c., labour being much wanted and very dear.

I am not able to tell the precise Numbers that have deserted, but if an hundred thousand were to desert they would find no difficulty in Point of subsistence or Employment, if they can and will work.

Sir yours

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 16.”

17. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


17. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
17. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 17 Sir Amsterdam October 26. 1780

The Seventeenth, Inquiry is “whether We have any Information that we can rely on, concerning the Population? has it increased or diminished, Since the War?”

In some former Letters, I have made Some Observations upon the Subject of the Increase of Mankind in America.1

In the Year 1774, There was much private Conversation, among the Members of Congress, concerning the Numbers of Souls in every Colony. The Delegates of each, were consulted, and the Estimates made by them were taken down as follows.2

In New Hampshire 150,000
 Massachusetts 400,000
 Rhode Island 59,678
 Connecticut 192,000
 New York 250,000
 New Jersey 130,000
 Pensilvania and Delaware 350,000
 Maryland 320,000
 Virginia 640,000
 North Carolina 300,000
 South Carolina 225,000
Total 3,026,678

This however, was but an Estimate, and Some Persons, have thought there was too much Speculation in it. It will be observed, that Georgia, was not represented in the first Congress, and therefore is not included in the Estimate.

In a Pamphlet published in England about a Year ago, intitled “A Memorial to the Souvereigns of Europe, on the present State of Affairs, between the old and new World,” written by Mr. Pownal, a Member of Parliament and formerly Governor of Massachusetts and Lt. Governor of New Jersey We are told that3 “The Massachusetts, had in the year 1722, 94,000 Inhabitants, in 1742, 164,000—in 1751, when there was a great depopulation both by War and the Small Pox 164,484—in 1761—216,000—in 1765, 255,500—in 1771—292,000—in 1773 —300,000.

In Connecticut, in 1756, 129,994—in 1774—257,356. These Numbers are not increased by Strangers, but decreased by Wars and Emigrations to the West ward, and to other States: yet they have nearly doubled in Eighteen Years.

In New York in 1756—96,776—in 1771—168,007 in 1774—182,251.

In Virginia in 1756—173,316—in 1764—200,000—in 1774—300,000.

In South Carolina in 1750—64,000, in 1770—115,000.

In Rhode Island in 1738—15,000, in 1748—28,439.

As there never was a Militia, in Pensilvania, before this War with authentic Lists of the Population, it has been variously estimated on Speculation. There was a continual Importation for many years, of Irish and german Emigrants, yet many of these Settled in other Provinces: but the Progress of Population, in the ordinary Course, advanced, in a Ratio, between that of Virginia and that of Massachusetts. The City of Philadelphia, advanced more rapidly. It had in 1749—2076 houses. In 1753, 2300—in 1760, 2969—in 1769—4474—From 1749 to 1753 from 16 to 18,000 Inhabitants, from 1760 to 1769 from 31,318 to 35,000.

There were in 1754 various Calculations, and Estimates made of the Numbers, on the Continent. The Sanguine, made the Numbers, 242one Million and an half. Those who admitted less Speculation into the Calculation, but adhered closer to Facts and Lists as they were made out, Stated them at one Million two hundred and Fifty thousand. Governor Pownal thinks that 2,141,307 would turn out nearest to the real Amount in 1774. But what an amazing Progress, which in Eighteen Years, has added a Million to a Million two hundred and fifty Thousand altho a War, was maintained in that Country, for Seven Years of the Term. In this View one Sees a Community unfolding itself, beyond any Example in Europe.

Thus you have the Estimates made by the Gentlemen in Congress in 1774, and that of Governor Pownal, for the Same Epocha. That made in Congress is most likely to be right. If in their Estimate Some states were rated too high, it has been since made certain that others were too low.

But admiting Mr. Pownals Estimate to be just, the Numbers, have grown, since 1774 So much notwithstanding the War, and the Interruption of Migrations from Europe, that they must be well nigh three Millions—if the Calculation, made by the Members of Congress was right, the Numbers now, must be nearer four millions than three millions and an half.

I have observed to you in a former Letter that, the Massachusetts Bay, has been lately numbered and found to have increased in Numbers, as much as in former Periods, very nearly.4

I now add that Delaware, which in 1774 was estimated at 30,000 but upon numbering the People Since, they appeared to be 40,000.

Rhode Island also in 1774. Pensilvania is undoubtedly set too low in both Estimates.

I have the honour to be, very respectfully &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 17.”


See Letter No. 3 (above).


Although the exact source for these figures is unknown, they had been published widely in America and Europe. See, for example, the Pennsylvania Gazette of 16 Nov. 1774, the London Chronicle of 3–5 Jan. 1775, and John Almon's Remembrancer for 1775, p. 163. A copy of these figures in John Thaxter's hand, together with statistics on the population of European countries and trade with the American colonies, probably compiled for use in the replies to Calkoen, appears at the end of JA/Lb/12 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 100). That JA used Thaxter's copy for this letter is indicated by Thaxter's figure of 640,000 as the population of Virginia, whereas the published sources give it as 650,000. Thaxter's figure results in a total of 3,016,678, rather than 3,026,678, the figure appearing in both this letter and previously published versions.


The figures provided from this point through the sixth paragraph below are from Thomas Pownall's A Memorial, Most Humbly Addressed to the Sovereigns of Europe, on the Present State of Affairs, Between the Old and New World, London, 1780, p. 58–63. The text, however, is an almost verbatim rendering of that in JA's revision of the Memorial (A Translation of Thomas Pownall's Memorial, 19 April – ca. 14 July , 243 above).


For the figures for Massachusetts, see Letter No. 3 (above); for the 1774 figure for Delaware given in the following paragraph, see Letter No. 5 (above). The source for the revised figure for Delaware has not been identified.

18. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


18. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
18. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 18 Sir Amsterdam October 26. 1780

Question 18. Does Sufficient Tranquility, Contentment and Prosperity reign, in those Places where the War does not rage? Can one Sufficiently Subsist there, without feeling the oppression of the Taxes? Does Plenty abound there? Is there more than is necessary for Consumption? Are the People well affected and encouraged to pursue the War, and endure its Calamities, or is there Poverty and Dejection?

There has been more of this Tranquility and Contentment, and fewer Riots, Insurrections and Seditions, throughout the whole War, and in the Periods of its greatest distress than there was for Seven Years before the War broke out, in those Parts that I am best acquainted with. As to subsistance, there never was or will be any difficulty. There never was any real Want of any Thing but warlike stores and Cloathing for the Army, and Salt and Rum both for the Army and the People: but they have Such Plentifull Importations of these Articles now, that there is no Want—excepting of Blanketts, Cloathing and Warlike stores for the Army.

The Taxes are rising very high, but there never will be more laid on than the People can bear, because the Representatives Who lay them tax themselves and their Neighbours in exact Proportion. The Taxes indeed fall heaviest upon the rich and the higher Classes of People.

The Earth produces Grain, and Meat in Abundance for the Consumption of the People, for the support of the Army, and for Exportation.

The People are more universally well affected and encouraged to pursue the War than are the People of England France or Spain, as far as I can judge.

As to Poverty, there is hardly a beggar in the Country. As to Dejection, I never Saw, even at the Time of our greatest Danger and 244Perplexity, So much of it, as appears in England or France, upon every Intelligence of a disastrous Event.

The greatest Source of Grief and Affliction, is the fluctuation of the Paper Money, but this although it occasions Unhappinesses, has no violent or fatal Effects.

I have the Honour to be

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).

19. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


19. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
19. To Hendrik Calkoen
19 Letter Sir Amsterdam October 26. 1780

Question 19. Is not Peace very much longed for in America? might not this desire of Peace induce the People to hearken to Proposals appearing very fair, but which really are not So, which the People might be too quick in listening to, and the Government forced to accept?

The People, in all Ages and Countries wish for Peace, human Nature does not love War. Yet this does not hinder Nations from going to War, when it is necessary, and often indeed for frivolous Purposes of Avarice, Ambition, Vanity, Resentment and Revenge. I have never been informed of more desire of Peace in America than is common to all Nations, at War. They in general know that they cannot obtain it, without submitting to Conditions, infinitely more dreadful than all the horrors of this War.

If they are ever deceived it is by holding out to them false hopes of Independance and Great Britains Acknowledging it.

The People of America are too enlightened to be deceived, in any great Plan of Policy. They understand the Principles and Nature of Government too well to be imposed on, by any Proposals short of their own Object.

Great Britain has tryed So many Experiments to deceive them, without Effect that, I think it is Scarcely worth her while to try again. The History of these Ministerial and Parliamentary1 Tricks would fill a Volume. I have not records nor Papers to recur to: but if Mr. Calkoen desires it I could give him a Sketch from Memory, of these Artifices, and their success, which I think would convince him there is no danger from that Quarter.


I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).


The preceding two words were interlined.

20. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


20. To Hendrik Calkoen, 26 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
20. To Hendrik Calkoen
20 Letter Sir Amsterdam October 26. 1780

Question 20. Has there not been different opinions in Congress, with Regard to this, (i.e. to Proposals appearing fair, which were not so) from whence Animosities have arisen?

There has never been any Difference of Sentiment in Congress, Since the Declaration of Independancy, concerning any Proposals of Reconciliation. There has been no Proposals of Reconciliation made, Since the 4. of July 1776—excepting twice.

The first was made by Lord Howe, who together with his Brother the General, were appointed by the King, Commissioners for Some Purpose or other. The Public has never been informed, what Powers they had. Lord Howe sent a Message by General Sullivan, to Congress, desiring a Conference with Some of its Members. There were different Sentiments Concerning the Propriety of Sending any Members, untill We knew his Lordships Powers. A Majority decided to send. Dr. Franklin, Mr. John Adams and Mr. Rutledge were Sent. Upon their Report, that they could not find that his Lor there was a perfect Unanimity of sentiment in Congress.1

The Second was the Mission of Lord Carlisle, Governor Johnson and Mr. Eden in 1778. Upon this Occasion again there was a perfect Unanimity in Congress.

Before the Declaration of Independency, Lord North moved Several conciliatory Propositions in Parliament, in which a good deal of Art was employed to Seduce, deceive and divide. But there was always an Unanimity in Congress upon all those Plans.

There were different opinions concerning the Petition to the King in the Year 1775 and before that concerning the Non Exportation Agreement—there have been different opinions concerning Articles of the Confederation—concerning the best Plans for the conduct of the War—concerning the best officers to conduct them—concerning territorial Controversies between particular states &c. But these Dif-246ferences of opinion, which are essential to all Assemblies, have never caused greater Animosities, than those which arise in all Assemblies where there is Freedom of Debate.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).


For JA's meeting with Adm. Lord Richard Howe on 11 Sept. 1776, see vol. 5:20–21; JA, Diary and Autobiography , 2:250; 3:417–431; and Adams Family Correspondence , 2:124–125. The committee's report was presented to Congress on 17 Sept. ( JCC , 5:767–768). The canceled passage may indicate that JA considered quoting from the report's final paragraph containing the committee's conclusions.

21. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


21. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
21. To Hendrik Calkoen
21. Letter Sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

Question 21st. Are there no Malcontents in America? against the Government, who are otherwise much inclined for the american Cause, who may force the Nation, or Congress, against their Resolutions and Interests to conclude a Peace?

There is no Party formed in any of the thirteen States against the new Constitution, nor any opposition against the Government, that I have ever heard of, excepting in Pensylvania, and in North Carolina. These by no means deserve to be compared together.

In Pensilvania, there is a respectable Body of People, who are zealous against Great Britain, but yet wish for Some Alteration in their new Form of Government. Yet this does not appear to weaken their Exertions: it seems rather, to excite an Emulation in the two Parties, and to increase their Efforts.

I have before explained the History of the Rise and Progress, of the Party in North Carolina, consisting of Regulators and Scotch Highlanders, and General How has informed you of their Fate.1 This Party has ever appeared to make N. Carolina more stanch and decided, instead of weakening it.

The Party in Pensilvania will never have an Inclination, to force the Congress, against their Interests to make Peace, nor would they have the Power if they had the Will.

The Party in North Carolina, whose Inclination cannot be doubted is too inconsiderable to any Thing.


I have the honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).


See Letter No. 7, note 2 (above).

22. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


22. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
22. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 22. 23. 24 Sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

Questions 22. and 23. General Monk repaired the Kings Government in England. Might not one American General or another, be able, by discontent or Corruption, to do the Same? Would the Army follow his orders on Such an Occasion? Could one or more Politicians, thro Intrigues undertake the Same, with any hopes of Success, Should even the Army assist him in Such a Case?

I have before observed that no Politicians, or General Officers in America, have any Such Influence.1 Neither the People, nor the soldiers would follow them. It was not attachment to Men but to a Cause, which first produced and has supported the Revolution. It was not attachment to officers but to Liberty which made the Soldiers inlist. Politicians in America can only intrigue with the People. Those are So numerous and so Scattered, that no statesman has any great Influence, but in his own Small Circle. In Courts Sometimes, gaining two or three Individuals may produce a Revolution: No Revolution in America can be accomplished without gaining the Majority of the People, and this, not all the Wealth of Great Britain is able to do, at the Expence of their Liberties.

Question 24. The Revolution must have made a great Change in affairs, So that many People, tho at present free of the Enemies Incursions, have lost their daily subsistance. Are the occupations, which come instead of their old ones, been Sufficient to supply their Wants?

All the Difficulties which were ever apprehended, of this Sort, are long Since past. In 1774, Some were apprehensive, that the Fishermen, Sailors, and shipwrights would be idle. But Some went into the 248Army, Some into the Navy, and Some went to Agriculture. And if there had been twice as many, they would all have found Employment. The Building of Frigates and Privateers has employed all the Carpenters—Manufactures besides have been set up of Cannon, Arms, Powder, Salt Peter, Salt—Flax and Wool have been raised in greater Quantities and coarse Manufactures of Cloth and Linen been increased. In short the greatest Difficulty is that there are not hands enough. Agriculture alone in that Country would find Employment enough for Millions, and Privateering for thousands more than there are.

I have the Honour to be

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers.)


See Letter No. 6 (above).

23. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


23. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
23. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 253. 26 Sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

Question 25. Do they who have lost their Possessions and Fortunes by the War, endure it patiently as Compatriots, So that nothing can be feared from them?

Loosing Fortunes in America, has not such dreadful Consequences to Individuals or Families, as it has in Europe. The Reason is obvious because the means of Subsistance are easier to be obtained, So that nobody suffer for Want. As far as I am acquainted with the Sufferers, they have born their Losses both of Property and Relations with great Fortitude and so far from producing in their Minds a desire of submission they have only served to irritate them, to convince them more fully of the precarious and deplorable Situation they should be in under the Government of the English and to make them more eager to resist it.

Question 26. How has it gone, with the Cultivation of the Land, before the Troubles at their Commencement and at present? What Change has taken Place?


Agriculture ever was and will be the dominant Interest in America. Nevertheless before this War, perhaps, she run more into Commerce than was for her Interest. She depended too much perhaps upon Importations for her Cloathing, Utensiles &c. and indulged in too many Luxuries. When the Prospect opened in 1775 of an Interruption of her Commerce she applied her self more to Agriculture, and Many Places that depended upon the Lumber Trade the Fishery &c., for the Importation of even their Bread have turned their Labour and Attention to raising Corn Wool Flax and Cattle, and have lived better and advanced in Wealth and Independance faster than ever they did. For Example, the Towns in the Neighbourhood of the Sea in the Massachusetts Bay, used to depend upon the Fishery and Commerce, to import them their Wheat and Flour from Philadelphia, Maryland and Virginia and Rice from South Carolina and Georgia. The Communication being interrupted by Sea, Since the War, they have planted their own Corn.

The Eastern Parts of the Massachusetts Bay, before the War depended, on the Commerce of Lumber for the West India Market, and of Masts, Yards and Bowsprits for the Royal Navy of Great Britain, to procure them Cloaths, Meat and Strong Liquors. Since the War, they have cultivated their Lands raised their own Corn, Wool, Flax, and planted the Apple Tree instead drinking rum. In consequence of which they are more temperate, wealthy and independant than ever.

North Carolina depended upon the Commerce of Pitch, Tar and Turpentine and Tobacco, for the Importation of many Things. Since the War, they have turned their Labour, to raise more of the Things which they wanted.

Maryland, Virginia and N. Carolina, depended upon the Trade of Tobacco to import coarse Cloaths for their Negroes. Since the War they have raised less Tobacco and1 more Wheat, Wool and Cotton, and made the coarse Cloaths themselves.

So that upon the whole the Lessening of Commerce, and the Increase of Agriculture, has rendered America more independant than she ever was.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers); notation: “Letter 23.”


The preceding three words were interlined.

250 24. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


24. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
24. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 24 sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

Question 27. How was the Situation of Manufactures, manual Art and Trade in general, at the Beginning of this War? What Change have they Suffered?

Manufactures in general, never flourished in America. They were never attended only by Women and Children who could not work in the Field, and by Men at certain Seasons of the Year, and at certain Intervals of Time when they could not be employed in the Cultivation of the Lands, because that Labour upon Land in that Country is more profitable, than in Manufactures. These they could import and purchase with the Produce of their Soil cheaper than they could make them. The Cause of this, is the Plenty of wild Land. A days Work worth two shillings1 upon wild Land, not only produced two shillings in the Crop, but made the Land worth too shillings more: whereas a days work of the Same Price applied to Manufactures, produced only the two shillings.

Since the War however, Freight and Insurance have been so high, that Manufactures have been more attended to. Manufactures of Salt Peter, Salt, Powder, Cannon, Arms, have been introduced. Cloathing in Wool and Flax has been made, and many other necessary Things, but these for the Reason before given will last no longer than the War, or than the Hazard of their Trade.

America is the Country of Raw Materials, and of Commerce enough to carry them to a good Market—But Europe is the Country for Manufactures and Commerce. Thus Europe and America will be Blessings to each other, if some malevolent Policy does not frustrate the Purposes of Nature.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Adams Papers).


The preceding three words were interlined.

251 25. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


25. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
25. To Hendrik Calkoen
Letter 25 Sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

Question 28. Has America gained or lost, by the mutual Capture of ships? How much is the Benefit or Prejudice of it by Calculation?

America has gained. She took early, from the English ordonnance and Ammunition ships, and supplied herself in that Way, with those Articles when she had them not, and could not otherwise obtain them. She has taken in this Way a great Number of British and German Soldiers. She has taken a vast number of Seamen, who have generally inlisted on board our Privateers. She has taken great quantities of Provisions, Cloathing, Arms, and warlike stores. She has taken every Year, more and more Since 1775, and will probably continue to take more and more every Year while the War lasts. I have certain Intelligence, that there have been this year carried into Boston and Philadelphia only, Ninety Nine Vessells in the Months of July and August. On board of these Vessells there were not less than Eight hundred Seamen, many of the ships were very rich. The Vessells the English have taken from the Americans were of Small Value—this year they have been few in Number.

I am not able to give you an exact Calculation. The Quebec ships were worth from thirty to forty thousand Pounds sterling each and there were two and twenty of them in Number.

Privateering is a great Nursery of Seamen, and if the Americans had not imprudently Sacrificed Such a Number of their Frigates and Privateers in the Attack and defence of Places, these alone, would by this Time, well nigh have ruined the British Commerce, Navy and Army.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (Public Library of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia). A letter of 5 Jan. 1960 from C. A. McCallum, Chief Librarian of the Victoria Public Library, indicates that in 1876 this was one of a number of manuscripts sold by James McDonald, State Librarian of Virginia, to Sir Redmond Barry, Chief Justice of the State of Victoria and President of the board of trustees of the Public Library of Victoria. How the manuscript came to be at the Virginia State Library is unknown.

252 26. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 JA Calkoen, Hendrik


26. To Hendrik Calkoen, 27 October 1780 Adams, John Calkoen, Hendrik
26. To Hendrik Calkoen
26. Letter Sir Amsterdam October 27. 1780

I believe you will be pleased when I tell you that We are now come to the 29th. and last Question, which is

What are the real Damages Sustained, or still to be suffered by the Loss of Charlestown? and what Influence it has had upon the Minds of the People?

An Interruption of the Commerce of Indigo and Rice. The Loss of many Negroes which the English will steal1 from the Plantations, and send to the West India Islands for Sale. A great deal of Plunder of every sort. Much Unhappiness among the People. And several Lives of very worthy Men will be lost. But the Climate will be a grave Death to European Troops, and at an immense Expence of Men and Money they will ravage for a while and then disappear.

The Effect of the surrender of Charleston and the Defeat of Gates, has only been to awaken the People from their dreams of Peace.

The Artifices of the English, holding out Ideas of Peace, seems to have deceived both the Americans and their Allies, while they were only contriving means to succour Gibraltar, and invade Carolina. The People are now convinced of their Mistake, and generally roused. But these Disasters will have no more Effect, towards Subduing America, than if they had taken a Place in the East Indies.

I have the Honour to be &c.

John Adams

Dft (PU.)


The preceding five words were interlined.