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Adams, John (1735-1826) to Catharine Macaulay

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC01788 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Braintree, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 28 December 1774 Pagination: 4 p. ; 20 x 16 cm.

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Summary of Content: Adams describes the effects of the Boston Port Bill upon the government and people of the colony. He warns that the arrest of Parliament's opponents "will produce Resistance, and Reprisals, and a Flame through America, Such as Eye hath not yet Seen, nor Ear heard nor hath it entered into the Heart of the Minister or his Minions to conceive." He prophesies resistance and reprisals.

Background Information: In the following letter, in which he describes the grievances he feels threaten to reduce the colonists to political slavery, John Adams (1735-1826) revives memories of the Puritan struggle against ...the religious tyranny of the Stuart monarchs during the English Civil War, a subject dear to the heart of Catharine Macaulay, who was writing an eight-volume history of England from the time of James I.See More

Full Transcript: Braintree December 28, 1774
The obstruction of our Harbour, by the Port Bill, occassions such a round-about Conveyance of every Thing from London, that it was but a few days ago, that ...I had the Pleasure of your Favor of 11 of September. I rejoice that your Health is so far recovered, as to enable you to afford me this Pleasure.
Your letter to Mrs. Warren I delivered to the Coll her husband immediately, and I hope to have the Honour of inclosing an answer to it very soon.
The account you give of an overbearing influence in the House and of the want of feeling and Spirit, out of it, [struck: are] [inserted: is of a] very serious and melancholy kind. Americans are very sensible that such accounts are true, and expect to fall a sacrifice to the knavery in the Cabinet and the Folly out of it, unless preserved by their own Virtue - their Frugality, or Valor or both.
I have a long Time attended, with Pleasure, Gratitude and Veneration, to the upright conduct of Mr. Sawbridge in Parliament. His Principles alone can preserve the Nation and if they cannot be brought into Fashion, the Nation must be lost. I scarcely recollect another Instance in either House of Parliament, who has espoused the American Cause upon Proper Principles, and from first to last, [2] as he has done. Shorter Parliament, a more equitable Representation, the abolition of Taxes and the Payment of the Debt, the Reduction of Placemen and Pensioners, the annihilation of Bribery and Corruption, the Reformation of Luxury, Dissipation & Effeminary, the Disbanding of the Army, are all necessary to restore your Country to a free Government, and to a Safe, honourable and happy life.
But is this practicable? Is there a Resource in human Nature for Hope of such a miraculous Change? Is there one example of it in History, or Experience? A Nation is easily corrupted but not so easily reformed. The present reign may be that of Augustus, but upon my Honour, I expect twelve Ceasars will succeed it.
What is to become of America if they should? Ought she not to think in Time, and prepare for the worst?
I have a great curiosity to know, how the Proceedings of the Congress at Phyladelphia are relished in London, at St. James and St. Stephens. I think it may be seen, from there, that America, is not insensible of her Danger, nor inattentive to the Means of her Safety.
I am also very anxious to know, what the Friends of Liberty think of the hasty Dissolution of Parliament. For my own Part, I have ever thought this the most insidious, and artfull, [struck: the] step of the present Reign. It seems to betray more Contempt of the People, at the Same Time that it betrays a dread of some remaining Trust and Integrity among [3] them than any Thing else which has been done.
You will allow Madam, that the Broil with American is a very great national concern. At a time, when America, was assembled, to concert Measures, relative to this great Concern, a new Parliament is called of a sudden, before the People could hear from America, as if the Minister disdained or dreaded that the Nations should have opportunity, to judge of the State of America, and choose or instruct their Representatives accordingly. As if the Minister scorned or fear'd that the People, the Electors, should have opportunity to hear and converse together upon Facts, before they choes their Members.
The Design of these Gamblers, the Ministry, seems to have been likewise to give the Friends of Liberty the go by, in [struck: London] England as well as America. Determined to pursue their System, they would not Suffer the Friends of the Constitution to converse or correspond together, before the Day of Election, least the Constituents should bind the candidates, to act an honest Part.
It is not easy to convey to you, Madam, an Adequate Idea of the State of this Province. It is now at last true, that we have no Government, legislative, executive, or judicial. The People determined never to Submit to the Act for destroying their Charter, so dearly purchased, preserved and defended by the Toil Treasure and Blood of their Ancestors, are, every where devoting themselves to Arms. Our Duke of Alva, [4] is Shut up, with his Troops, and his forlorn Remnant of Mandamus Councillors, in Boston What the Ministry will do is uncertain. All the British Fleet and Army cannot change Minds Opinions. They cannot make a Juror Serve, nor a Representative. An attempt to cram a form of Government down the Throats of a People, to impose a Constitution, upon a united and determin'd People by Force, is not within the Omnipotence of an English Parliament. If they attempt a Campaign like that of Kirk, if they Send the Sword and Fire, to ravage in this Country, they will find in New England, one hundred Thousand descendants of the Puritans in the Charles and James's days, who have not yet lost entirely the Spirit of English men under the English Commonwealth. Our enemies give out, that Persons, who have distinguished themselves here, in opposition to the Power of Parliament, will be Arrested and Sent to some County in England to be tryed for Treason. If this should be attempted, it will produce Resistance, and Reprisals, and a Flame through all America, Such as Eye hath not yet Seen, nor Ear heard nor hath it entered into the Heart of the Minister or his Minions to conceive. I beg the Continuance of your favours and am, with the warmest wishes, for the safety of both countries and for your uninterrupted Health and Happiness, your most obliged and obedient Servant.

John Adams








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People: Adams, John, 1735-1826
Macaulay, Catharine, 1731-1791

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Subjects: PresidentWomen's HistoryGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyLiterature and Language ArtsRevolutionary WarBoston Port BillPrisonerMilitary HistoryFreedom and IndependenceCivil RightsIntolerable Acts

Sub Era: Road to Revolution

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