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what we shidl do from what we actually do."

The reader will remember the expedition
into Canada, referred to in this letter, —
that expedition which cost brave young
Montgomery his life, and showed to the
world the exalted powers of poor Arnold, —
that terrible march through unbroken forest,
through swamp and swollen rivers, through
mud, and snow, and ice, — thirty-two days
of isolated sufiering in the wilds of what is
now Maine. The writer's comment upon
the depredations of the British navy in the
coast towns, exhibits him in his character-
istic defiance and dignity.

The close of 1775 was near; and, so far,
there was Httle to encourage. Mr. Adams
was at his work in Congress ; Colonel Ward
was active in the service, as aide-de-camp
and secretary of General Artemus Ward.

Philadelphia, Nov. 14, 1775.

Sir : I had yesterday the pleasore of your letter

of the 4th inst. by Captain Price, for whidi, as well

as a former kind letter, I heartily thank you. The

Report you mention, that Congress have resolved

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upon a free trade, is so far from being true, that you
must have seen by the public papers before now that
they have resolved to stop all trade until next

What will be done then, time will discover. This
winter I hope will be emproved in preparing some
kind of defence for our trade. 1 hope the Colonies
will do this separately. But these subjects are too
important and intricate to be discussed in a narrow
compass, and too delicate to be conmiitted to a
private letter.

The report that Congress has resolved to have no
more connection, &c., untill they shall be indemni-
fied for the damage done by the tyranny 6f their
enemies will not be true perhaps so soon as some
expect it.

Verbal resolutions accomplish nothing. It is to
no purpose to declare what we will or will not do, in
future times. Let reasoning men infer what we
shall do from what we actually do.

The late conduct in burning towns, so disgraceful
to the English name and character, would justify
anything but similar barbarity. Let us preserve
our temper, our wisdom, our humanity and civility,
tho* our enemies are every day renouncing theirs.
But let us omit nothing necessary for the security
of our Cause.

You are anxious for Arnold. So are we, and for
Montgomery too, untill this day when an express
has brought us the refreshing news of the capitula-
tion of St. Johns. For Arnold I am anxious still.
\ God grant him success. My compliments to Gen.
Ward and his family.

I am, with respect.

Your very humble servantt

John Adams.

Early in 1776 Mr. Adams returned to
Congress. This was a year of most exhaust-
ing labor. June 12th he was made Chairman
of the Board of War and Ordnance. The
severity and importance of his duties, begin-
ning at this date, and extending through the
succeeding sixteen months, cannot be over-
estimated. His testimony is : " The duties
of this Board kept me in continual employ-
ment, not to say drudger}', from 12th of
June, 1776, till nth of November, 1777,
when I left Congress forever." What a
mighty task lay before this little body of

Some leading minds had been advocating
national independence, directly and indi-
rectly, for years; but only a few months
previous had it begun to take hold upon the
masses. At length, Lexington, Concord,
Ticonderoga, and Breed's Hill gave suc-
cessive utterances in a voice not to be

The necessity was upon them. No man
was better prepared for it, and no man met
the emergency more squarely than John

Adams. But with even his confidence,
there must be a mingling of doubt ; with all
his firmness, a trembling at the approach of
the awful crisis. He wrote his noble wife,
April 12, 1776 : " This is not independency,
you know. What is? Why, government
in every colony^ a confederation among them
ally and treaties with foreign nations to
acknowledge us a sovereign State, and all
that." Four days later he wrote his friend
Ward. Two of his letters, containing derog-
atory remarks upon his colleagues (a pas-
rime in which unhappily this great man
indulged), had been intercepted by the
British, and published, much to his personal
injury. The following letter was not of the
sort to benefit him, should it fall into hostile
hands. The original bears no signature.
After spirited advice concerning the thing to
be done in the immediate vicinity of his cor-
respondent, he puts the question.

Written at such a time and place, and by
such a man, what a vast deal does thb brief
language suggest !

Philadelphia, April 16, 1776.

Dear Sir : Upon the receipt of your favour of the
Thh-d of April, I shewed your recommendatioii of
Capt. Fellows to several gentlemen; but it had
been previously determined that Captain Manley
and Captain Cazneau should have the command of
the two ships building in the Massachusetts.

If you should be thrown out of the service by the
resignation of General Ward, and there shbuld be
any place in particular that you have an inclination
for, if you will give me a hint of it, I wiU do you all
the service in my power, consistent with the public
good ; and I doubt not my colleagues will do the
same. But I presume that General Ward will now
continue in the service, unless his health should be
worse. I hope the duty will be less severe than it
has been.

As for as I am capable of judging, I am perfectly
of General Ward's opinion, that the five regiments
are too small a force to be left in Boston. It is a
great work to fortify Boston Harbour, and will require
many men. But, however, I am not sufficiently
informed to judge of the propriety of this measure.
If there is the least reason to expect that Howe's
army will return to Boston, it was wrong to remove
so many men so soon ; but it is hard to believe that
that army will very suddenly return to that place.
The Militia of that Province are tremendous to the
enemy ; and well they may be, for I believe they
don't know of such another.

I am much obliged to you for the intelligence you
have given me, and wish a continuance of your cor-
respondence — should be glad to know of every
movement in and about Boston. Every motive of
self preservation, of honour, profit, and glory, call
upon our people to fortify the Harbour, so as to be
impregnable. It will make it a rendezvous for Men

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of War and Privateers, and a mart for trade. My
most respectful compliments to Gen. Ward, and
best wishes for the restoration of his health.

You seem to wish for Independence. Do the
resolves for privateering and opening the Ports
satisfy you ? If not, let me know what will ? Will
nothing do but a positive Declaration that we never
will be reconciled, upon any terms ?

It requires time to bring the Colonies all of one
mind ; but time will do it.

It is not proposed to rehearse the varied
commissions to France, England, and Hol-
land, which occupied Mr. Adams from the
time of his first appointment to the Court
of Versailles, November, 1777, till he was
chosen first Vice-President of the United
States under the new Constitution. Ar^
allusion to his statesman's sagacity, diplo-
matic skill, and faithful performance of pub-
lic trusts, is sufficient. His letters hereafter
may throw some new light upon the respon-
sibilities sustained by him under these

It was not till toward his accession to the
Presidency, that plain and open dissension
manifested itself between Mr. Adams and
certain of his coUaborators. With the out-
burst of the French Revolution he and Jef-
ferson parted hands, not to clasp again for
many a year. It was at this time that sus-
picions concerning the fidelity of Hamilton
setded into conviction, and that the breach
widened between them, which finally severed
and destroyed the Federal party.

That the Presidential chair was not the
one of all places fittest for his genius, may,
without detriment to his powers or purpose,
be admitted. That he was human while
ruler of his people, as he was before and
afterward, is not to be controverted. But the
fire of party strife has died away, and the
cries of ** aristocracy," " monarchy," " alien
and sedition laws," "midnight judges,"
"peace with France for selfisJi purposes,"
all have been drowned in the din of years.

His provoking independence of his cabi-
net ; his appointment of Gerry ; his failure
to appoint Hamilton ; his absence from the
inaugurarion of his successor, — all this is of
little or no importance. The simple record
of the Administration shall tell, and we can-
not stoop, for information, to the heated
pamphlet of the partisan. That an Admin-
istration disappointed opposed parties is not
sufficient to condemn its wisdom or integ-
rity. Whether the Federal party would have
lived longer under another head is a ques-
tion impossible to determine.

If the continuance of peace, the increase

of prosperity, the growth of credit with other
nations, the appointment of officials worthy
of their position, the establishment of a
secure defense against invasion by foreign
powers — ^particularly in the formation of a
respectable navy for a Government that had
before but a few straggling ships of war
upon the high seas — if such is the record to
damage the fame of the head and front of
an Administration, the memory of John
Adams must suffer accordingly. Does this
Administration, with Washington's upon
the one side and Jefierson's upon the other,
suflfer from so iUustrious connections? If
we look at the Administration and not at
the fimctionary, believing that the President
of a people is something more than the
President of a party, we shall, perhaps, agree
with Sullivan, that in the then delicate situ-
ation of foreign and domestic relations, " a
more energetic, pure, and patriotic exercise
of constitutional power could neither be
expected nor desired." John Adams might
have been a better listener, not only as
chief magistrate, but as delegate and dip-
lomat; less self-confident and suspicious;
less curt and commanding; more concilia-
tory toward both fiiends and enemies; but
would he then have accomplished the mas-
ter work which is the glory of his name ?
By working over and making smooth the
individual, would not the fiber of the public
servant have been weakened ? The curve
b graceful, but the straight line is direct.

It may be interesting to the reader not
familiar with newspaper literature of that
day, to read a specimen of the politer sort,
which appeared the same month the above
letter was written, and deals with the same
subject-matter. The following stanzas se-
lected fix)m this parody, are supposed to be
fix)m the pen of Benjamin Russell, Fditor
of "The Columbian Centinel," in which
sheet they wete published. Mr. Russell
was very successful in goading the sides of
his opponent with the editorial quill, as
may be discovered in this effort concerning
the coming of the " Salt Mountain Philoso-


Parent of ill ! in every state,

In every club adored —
By small, by wicked, and bv great.

Of mischief sovereign lord^ —

Thou great curst cause! but yet obeyed,.
Who all my thoughts confined,
' To follow mischiefs wayward track.
To virtue's precepts blind, —

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What conscience dictates to be done.

Or warns me not to do,
That teach me more than Heaven to shun,

This more than Hell pursue —

• ••«•*

If I am wrong, O teach my heart.

Still in the wrong to stay;
If I am light, thy grace impart

To lead my steps astray.

In June, 1793, "The National Gazette"
began a series of jingles termed " Probation-
ary Odes, by Jonathan Pindar, Esq., a cousin
of Peter's, and candidate for the post of Poet
Laureate." This paper was edited by, and
the stanzas next quoted are the work o(^
Philip Freneau, the celebrated Revolution-
ary rhymster. He spared no Federalist, fix>m
Washington down. His musical genius thus
' disposes of the well-known " Discourses on
Davila," and of their author with them.


Daddy rice. Daddy rice.

One may see in a trice
The drift of your fine publication ;

As sure as a gun.

The thing was just done
To secure you— a pretty high station.

Defenses you call

To knock down our wall.
And batter the States to the ground, sir;

So thick were your shot,

And so hellish fire-hot,
They're scarce a whole bone to be found, sir.

When you tell us of Kings,

And such pretty thin«.
Good mercy I how brilliant your page is !

So bright in each line,

i vow you'll shine
Like — a glow-worm to all future ages.

When you handle your balance,

So vast are your talents.
Like Atlas your wonderful strength is:

You know every State

To a barley-corn weight,
For your steel-yard the Continent length is.

On Davila's page.

Your discourses so sage,
Democratical numskulls bepuzzle.

With arguments tough

As white leather or ouff,
The Republican Bull-Dogs to muzzle.

'Tis labor in vain.

Your senses to strain.
Our brains any longer to muddle;

Like Colossus you stride

O'er our noddles so wide,—
We look up like Frogs In A Puddle.

The remaining letters here offered were,
with one exception, written after a lapse of
eight years, in 1809.

Colonel Ward (now in declining years)
was striving to maintain his family in Bos-

ton; the veteran John Adams was, as it
were, an exile in the solitude of his Quincy
home, suffering not only from neglect of
the people whom he had so long served,
but smarting under multiplied misrepresen-
tations of his character and past labors.
These are his sad words concerning the
ingratitude of his own party, addressed to a
relative in 1808 :

"The Federalists, I think, might suffer
my old lamp to go out without administer^
ing their nauseous oil, merely to excite a
momentary flash before it expires."

With powers undiminished, the great
statesman had been thrust aside, and was
made, by those to whom he had given his
superior strength from his youth up, an
object of petty reviling and contumely. He
lived to see the scale of justice turning
again in his favor, but the time was not yet
He still communed with a small band of
chosen friends. Hence the value of his
letters written at this period. Whatever may
be afHrmed of the author's bias, egotism, or
spasmodic use of hard words, universal
opinion puts his integrity of purpose be-
yond the touch of criticism. And it is to
Mr. Adams's correspondence afler his retire-
ment to private life, that the student must
look to setde many of the imfortunate dif-
ferences which have existed, concerning his
claims upon posterity. Many of these letters
remain unpublished; and, unril they find
the li§ht, judgment upon the nicer matters
of which he possessed the most, if not the
sole, information, must be suspended.

Owing to the exasperating circumstances
imder which these letters were written, it is
not surprising that frequent asperities dart
up to the surHice. We have but to remem-
ber the situation, and occasional biting words
militate little against the reason or judgment
of the writer.

He was not only cast down, but the rab-
ble was trampling upon him. He was not
only prohibited from further labor, but igno-
rant or malignant meddlers were blotting
out services already rendered. Mild lan-
guage would have made a too tame return.

The following letter is a pointed illustra-
tion of the author's relation to contempo-
rary historians. It is to be borne in mind,
that the treaty herein mentioned was the
provisional treaty, the definitive treaty of
peace with Great Britain not being signed
till the year following.

Quincy, April 15, 1809.
Dear Sir: I have received your letter of the
tenth, and read some of the printed papers inclosed,

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and intend to read the rest. You long since let me
in some degree into the nature of your claim, and I
always thought it founded in justice, but have never
been able to assist you to any effort in procuring
relief. Now I am out of the question, except as an
individual. You are persuaded that **^ posterity and
future historians will duly estimate the merit of the
founders of our nation, and the statesmen who
framed our excellent Constitutions. " I am persuaded
of the contrary, and that historical justice will never
be done to any of them, any more than it is by the
present generation. If the lying documents which
are to go down to posterity for the foundation of
history were to be collected in volumes, the whole
world could not contain the books that should be
written. Let me give you an instance. In the
<* Boston Gazette'* of March 27, 1809, is a piece of
the signature of Spartacus, which contains more lies
than lines. From among them all I will select one.
" Whereas Mr. Adams, in a letter written by him-
self, declares that * Mr. Jay had the whole merit of
the Treaty of Peace, having agreed upon all the
material Articles before his arrival ! ! ' " A more egre-
gious lie was never printed or written. As it is
marked with inverted commas for a quotation, it is
an atrocious forgery. The truth is, that no material
Article had been agreed upon before my arrival.
No article whatever had been agreed upon, none
had been discussed. None could be discussed. Of
the five ministers, there were absent Adams, Law-
rence, and Jefferson. Franklin and Jay only were
on the spot These two, if they had been united
and disposed, could not, without presumption, ever
have opened any conference with the British Minis-
ter before my arrival. But Franklin and Jay could
agree upon nothing. Franklin would not negotiate
without communicating all to the Count de Ver-
gennes. Jay would communicate nothing to the
Count de Vergennes. In this state of suspence
the whole business rested, and no conferences were
opened till my arrivaL I then declared to my col-
leagues, both Franklin and Jay, that I would not
communicate our proceedings to the Court of Ver-
sailles ; and then Franklin, finding two against him,
and that we should go on without him, agreed to
open the conferences without communicating with
Vergennes. The conferences lasted near six weeks,
and none of the Articles were agreed upon till the
last night, late in the evening of the twenty-ninth
of November, 1782, before the signature of the
Treaty on the 30th.

The Articles, especially those relative to the
Fisheries and the Refugees, were obstinately con-
tested by the British Ministers to the last moment.
It ought not to be forgotten that I was sent to
Europe in 1779 alone, in the Commission for Peace ;
and it was not till sixteen or eighteen months after-
wards, that Franklin, Lawrence, Jay, and Jefferson
were appointed with me. While I was alone in the
Commission for Peace, I settled the principle upon
which Mr. Jay and I finally insisted — that is, not to
treat or confer with any Ambassadors untill we had
exchanged full powers, and had the right and
received copies of Commissions to treat with us as

Ambassadors from the United States of America.
By insisting on this point while I was alone, I
defeated the most insidious and dangerous plott that
was ever laid to ensnare us and deprive us of our
independence. I mean the projected 'Congress at
Vienna, and the Mediation of the two Imperial
Courts, the Emperor of Germany and the Empress
of Russia. This great event is wholly unknown to
the public in America, but it will be one day
explained. It would require too many sheets of
paper to detail it now.

Can there be an3rthing meaner, than by the gross-
est lies to deprive me of my share of the honor in
the Negotiation of the Peace? I desire no more
than my share. I should despise every tittle that
should be offered me more than my share.
I am. Sir,

Yr. Friend & Sevt,

John Adams.

Col. Joseph Ward,


A montfi before, the venerable victim of
injustice wrote to Mr. Cunningham :

" You speak of the fortunate issue of my negotim-
tion with France, to my^w^//.^ I cannot express
my astonishment. • • • • My Fame ! ! ! It
has been the systematical polic]\ of both parties,
from that period especially, and indeed for twelve
years before^ to conceal from the p^opU all the ser-
vices of my life. And they have succeeded to a
degree that I should scarcely have believed it possi-
ble for a union of both parties to effect.''

To correct like misrepresentations, and to
supply wanting material for the rounding of
the history of afi^irs in which he was an
active participant, occupied those hours of
Mr. Adams*s quiet life, taken from his daily
employment in literary and scientific read-
ing. That he found the task a discouraging
one, and not to be appreciated till after
years, is too plainly evident. The allusion
to the "Boston Patriot" in the next letter
concerns: first, those articles contributed
to that joiunal, upon the writer's share
in the negotiations with Great Britain and
other prominent powers of Europe, which
resulted in the acknowledgment by those
powers of the Independence of the United
States ; secondly, his defense against charges
preferred by General Hamilton. Material
for this latter purpose had lain in readiness
seven or eight years.

This is his own description of his plan of
labor, written to another the day previous
to the writing of the following letter to Col.

"If you see the Patriot^ you will see I am scrib-
bling twice a week. I am hammering out a brass
farthing into an acre of leaf brass. But I was

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determined that posterity should know the facts
relative to my peace with France in 1800. I expect
* angry surges* enough. Let them come. They
cannot sink me lower than the bottom, and I have
been safely landed there these eight years. • • •
A most profound silence is observed relative to my
scribbles. I say not a word about them to any one,
and nobody says a word to me. * • • I will
not die for nothing. My pen shall go as long as my
/infers can hold it. "

We give the next letter in full :

QuiNCY, June 6, 1809.

Sir : I reed, in season your interesting favor of
the loth of May, but have not had opportunity to
acknowledge it till now. There appears to- me to
be a very extraordinary and unaccountable inatten-
tion in our countrymen, to the history of their own
country. While every kind of trifle from Europe is
printed and scattered profusely in America, our own
original historians are very much neglected. A copy
of Dr. Mather's Magnolia is not to be purchased at
any rate, and is scarcely to be found. Yet this con-
tains the greatest quantity of materials relative to
the first characters. Mr. Prince's Chronology is
rarely to be found — the second volume, not at alL
I never saw but one copy of it in my life. Belknap's
and Minot's labours are neglected. Dr. Mayhew's
writings are forgotten. Samuel Adams and John
Hancock are almost buried in oblivion. Gordon's,
Ramsey's, Marshall's histories appeir to me to be
romances. And the funding system and the bank-
ing systems seem to threaten a total destruction of
all distinctions between virtue and vice. There is a
total occlusion of all the Federal papers against
truth. Your success has been like that of twenty
others, who have made similar attempts. You
mention the recent publications bearing my signa-
ture as generally read. - Those that have been
reprinted in the Chronicle have been read by the
Republicans ; but I see no Evidence that any of tl^e
** Boston Patriots " have been read at all. I am
informed firom the Southward that they have been
reprinted in several of their papers ; but here, I
know nothing whether they are read by anybody.
Have you read them ? And what is your judgment
of them ? Is it worth while to persevere ?
With greiit esteem,
I am, sir, your old
friend and sevt.

J. Adams.

Col. Joseph Ward,


In the following letter the author continues
his remarks upon his contributions to the
" Patriot."

A noteworthy point in the writer's decla-
ration is : " The negotiations of the Peace of
1783 are known in detail by nobody but
myself. ^^ The question then turns upon the
author's integrity, and is much easier of

QuiNcv, August 31st, 1809.

Sir : If I had not been blind to my own interest,
I should have sooner acknowledged your favor of
23d of June, as that might have been a means of

Online LibraryFrancis HallThe Century, Volume 11 → online text (page 99 of 163)