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MY DEAREST FRIEND,
Yorktown, 26 October, 1777.
MR. COLMAN goes off for Boston to-morrow. seized a moment to congratulate you on the great and glorious success of our arms at the northward and in Delaware river. The forts at Province Island and Redbank have been defended with a magnanimity which will give our country a reputation in Europe. Colonel Greene repulsed the enemy from Redbank and took Count Donop and his aid prisoners. Colonel Smith repulsed a bold attack upon fort Mifflin, and our galleys disabled two men of war, a sixty-four and a twenty-gun ship, in such a manner, that the enemy blew them up. This comes confirmed this evening, in letters from General Washington, enclosing original letters from officers in the forts.
Congress will appoint a thanksgiving; and one cause of it ought to be, that the glory of turning the tide of arms is not immediately due to the Commander-in-chief nor to southern troops. If it had been, idolatry and adulation would have been unbounded; so excessive as to endanger our liberties, for what I know. Now, we can allow a certain citizen to be wise, virtuous and good without thinking him a deity or a saviour.1
This is the only letter, in the large collection of Mr. Adams's private correspondence with his wife, which makes any
Yorktown, 28 October, 1777.
MY DEAREST FRIEND,
We have been three days soaking and poaching in the heaviest rain that has been known for several years,
allusion to the position of General Washington in Congress at this time. It is very well known that the Conway cabal, in its origin exclusively a military intrigue with very base motives, obtained its greatest source of influence in Congress from the coincidence in time between the defeats of Washington at Brandywine and Germantown, and the victory of Gates over Burgoyne in the north. Mr. Adams does not appear ever to have favored that cabal, but he always looked with some apprehension upon the powers with which Washington had been invested. In a manuscript sketch of his character, drawn by Dr. Benjamin Rush, it is stated that a motion was made in Congress, on the 19th of February, 1777, to surrender to the General the power of appointing his officers, but no such motion appears on the Journal. It is more probable that the proposition was made in the course of the debate that took place on that day upon going into the election of five Major Generals, but was never put into form, and therefore was not recorded. Upon that proposition Dr. Rush reports Mr. Adams to have said these words: "There are certain principles which follow us through life, and none more certainly than the love of the first place. We see it in the forms in which children sit at schools. It prevails equally to the latest period of life. I am sorry to find it prevail so little in this house. I have been distressed to see some of our members disposed to idolize an image which their own hands have molten. I speak of the superstitious veneration which is paid to General Washington.
and what adds to the gloom is, the uncertainty in which we remain to this moment, concerning the fate of Gates and Burgoyne. We are out of patience. It is impossible to bear this
suspense with any temper. I am in comfortable lodgings, which is a felicity that has fallen to the lot of a very few of our members. Yet the house where I am is so thronged, that I cannot enjoy such accommodations as I wish. I cannot have a room as I used, and therefore cannot find opportunities to write as I once did.
The people of this country are chiefly Germans, who have schools in their own language, as well as prayers, psalms, and sermons, so that multitudes are born, grow up and die here, without ever learning the English. In politics they are a breed of mongrels
I honor him for his good qualities, but in this house, I feel myself his superior. In private life, I shall always acknowledge him to be mine." These sentiments were the offspring of a jealousy which had been nourished by the study of history and the observation of those examples in which it abounds, of the abuse of great powers by military chieftains. They partook of no hostility to the man. This will appear more fully by reference to the letter in this collection of the 21st of February of this year, written almost in the hour of the debate, where General Washington is particularly excepted from a censure passed upon several other officers. The same feeling which prompted the speech reappears in the present letter. Had General Washington proved to be merely on the level of ordinary military heroes, and like them, had he attempted the liberties of his country, his course would have earned for Mr. Adams a high reputation. As it turned out, it came very near implicating him, in the popular judgment, with the unworthy personal intrigues for precedence of English adventurers in the American army, whose admission into it he had disapproved.
or neutrals, and benumbed with a general torpor. If the people in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Jersey had the feelings and the spirit of some people that I know, Howe would be soon ensnared in a trap more fatal than that in which, as it is said, Burgoyne was taken. Howe is completely in our power, and if he is not totally ruined, it will be entirely owing to the awkwardness and indolence of this country. Fighting, however, begins to become fashionable. Colonel Greene has exhibited a glorious example in the defence of Red Bank. But this must be done by a New England man at the head of two New England regiments, Rhode Islanders. Colonel Smith, however, is a Marylander from Baltimore. He has shown another example of magnanimity which gives me the most agreeable hopes. Commodore Hazelwood, too, has behaved in a manner that exceeds all praise. This spirit will be caught by other officers, for bravery is epidemical and contagious as the plague. This army suffers much for want of blankets and shoes.
I celebrated the 25th of this month' in my own mind and heart much more than I shall the 30th,2 because I think the first a more fortunate day than the last. My duty to your father and my mother, to uncles and aunts. Love to brothers and sisters; but above all, present all the affection that words can express to our dear babes.
Portsmouth,' (N. H.) 15 December, 1777.
I ARRIVED here last evening, in good health. This morning General Whipple made me a visit at the tavern, Tilton's, and insisted upon my taking a bed at his house, in so very affectionate and urgent a manner, that I believe I shall go to his house.
The cause comes on to-morrow before my old friend Dr. Joshua Brackett as judge of admiralty. How it will go, I know not. The captors are a numerous company, and are said to be very tenacious, and have many connexions; so that we have prejudice and influence to fear. Justice, policy and law are, I am
sure, on our side.
I have had many opportunities, in the course of this journey, to observe how deeply rooted our righteous cause is in the minds of the people; write you many anecdotes in proof of it. But I will reserve them for private conversation. On second thoughts, why should I? One evening, as I sat in one room, I overheard a company of the common sort of people in another, conversing upon serious subjects. One of them, whom I afterwards found upon inquiry
1 Mr. Adams went to Portsmouth at this time upon a professional engagement, believed to have been the last which he ever undertook.