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Adams, Samuel (1722-1803) to Elbridge Gerry

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01213 Author/Creator: Adams, Samuel (1722-1803) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 25 March 1774 Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 29.5 x 18.5 cm.

Summary of Content: Written by Adams, who later signed the Declaration of Independence, as a member and clerk of the colonial assembly in Massachusetts to Gerry, also a future signer of the Declaration, as a member of the assembly. References a letter from Gerry that explained the violence in Marblehead, known as the Smallpox War or the Marblehead Riots, and asked for military intervention. Gerry was one of the leading citizens of the town who wanted to build a hospital to inoculate the populace against smallpox. Once it was built, the populace, fearful that inoculations spread the disease further, destroyed it, temporarily damaging Gerry's faith in "the people." Adams says he was very busy when he received the letter or he would have directly written a positive letter about Marblehead. Said it turns out as he predicted, "the Storm, though it raged with so much Violence, would soon spend itself, & Calm would ensue. The Tumults of the People is very properly compared to the raging of the Sea, When the Passions of a Multitude become headstrong, they generally will have their Course: A direct opposition only tends to increase them." Says the petition was read to the House and that it seemed like their enemies were going to use it against "the Friends of Liberty," who supposedly had so much faith in the people. But Adams goes on to defend the mob, saying they "rationally" destroyed selective property to protect the property of all. Is fearful that the incident in Marblehead will create a rift in the Revolutionary movement since Adams heard the town of Marblehead was no longer taking part in the Committee of Correspondence. Believes Marblehead will get through this rough time and recommit itself to the cause of liberty. Adams says his committee is writing to the Marblehead committee and he hopes they will respond because of its importance. Docketed in Gerry's hand.

Background Information: Printed in Gerry's Life v.1 p.36-39.

Full Transcript: My dear Sir Boston March 25 1774
While the General Court was sitting, I received a Letter from you relating to the unhappy Circumstances the Town of Marblehead was then in; but ...a great Variety of Business, some of which was very important, prevented my giving you a convincing Proof at that time, of the Regard with which I am ever disposed to treat your Town. Besides, If it had been in my Power to have aided you with Advice, I flattered my self, from the Information I afterwards had, that the Storm, though it raged with so much Violence, would soon spend itself, & a Calm would ensue. The Tumults of the People is very properly compared to the raging of the Sea. When the Passions of a Multitude become headstrong, they generally will have their Course: A direct opposition only tends to increase them; and as to reasoning, one may as well expect that the foaming Billows will hearken to a Lecture of Morality & be quiet. The skilfull Pilot will carefully keep the Helm, and so steer the ship while the Storm continues, as to prevent, if possible, her receiving injury.
When your Petition was read in the House, I was fearful that our Enemies would make an ill Improvement of it. I thought I would discover in the Countenances of some, a kind of Tryumph in finding that the Friends of Liberty themselves, were oblig'd to have recourse even to military Aid, to protect them from the Fury of the ungoverned Mob. They seemed to me to be disposd to confound the Distinction, between a lawless Attack upon Property [2] in a Case where if there had been Right there was Remedy, and the People rising in the necessary Defense of their Liberties, and deliberately and I may add rationally destroying Property, after trying every Method to preserve it, and when the Men in Power had renderd the Destruction of that Property the only Means of securing the Property of All.
It is probable that such Improvement may have been made of the Disorders in Mblhead, to prejudice or discredit our manly Opposition to the Efforts of Tyranny; but I hope the Friends of Liberty will prevent any Injury thereby to the common Cause: And yet, I cannot but [struck: ex] express some Fears, that Parties & Animosities have arisen among the Brethren; because I have just now heard from a Gentleman of your Town, that your Committee of Correspondence have resolved no more to act! I am loth to believe, nay, I cannot yet believe, that the Gentlemen of Marblehead, who have born so early and so noble a Testimony to the Cause of American Freedom, will desert that Cause, only from a Difference of Sentiments among themselves concerning a Matter which has no Relation to it. If my Fears are groundless, pray be so kind as to relieve them, by writing to me as soon as you have an opportunity. I shall take it as the greatest Act of Friendship you can do me. Indeed the Matter will soon be put to the Tryal; for our Committee, without the least Jealousy, have [3] written a letter to yours, by Mr Goddard, who is the Bearer of this. The Contents we think of great Importance, & therefore I hope they will have the serious consideration of the Gentlemen of your Committee
I am with Special Faith
Yours affectionately
Saml Adams

[struck: My Regards to Coll [illegible] & all Friends]

Elbridge Gerry Esq

Boston Letter
Mr Adams 25
Mar 1774

See More

People: Adams, Samuel, 1722-1803
Gerry, Elbridge, 1744-1814

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: SmallpoxRevolutionary WarMobs and RiotsRebellionDiseaseHealth and MedicalMilitary HistoryHospitalGovernment and CivicsLoyalistPolitics

Sub Era: Road to Revolution

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