Adams, Samuel (1722-1803) to Elbridge Gerry
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC06667
Author/Creator: Adams, Samuel (1722-1803)
Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 27 November 1780
Pagination: 3 p. : docket ; 24.4 x 19.2 cm.
Summary of Content: A personal letter by Adams as a Continental Congressman to his friend and protege, Gerry, a former member of Congress who decided to take a seat in the Massachsetts House of Representatives. Writes concerning his plans to retire from Congress and his fears that human nature is ”too debased to relish the republican principles” on which the new American government is being founded. He worries about ”political idolatry” and the corruption of Americans. Docketed by Elbridge Gerry.
People: Adams, Samuel, 1722-1803.
Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783
Full Transcript: [struck: To Mr Gerry] Philada Novr 27. 1780, , Let me intreat you, my dear Sir, not to think me unmindful of the several Favors I have receivd from you, since I arrivd in this City. I hate Protestations among Friends, and the making Apologies is so formal a Business, that I know not in what Manner to begin it. Yet it seems necessary that I should say something in Excuse for my not having written to you. Shall I tell you of my trembling Hand, and how unfit an Instrument it is to guide a Pen? I do assure you that writing is on that Account become painful to me. I am perswaded you never doubted of the Reality of my Friendship for you, and I solemnly affirm it is not abated a single Iota. Let this suffice on the Score of Apology, and permit me to hope that I shall receive your Letters frequently while I remain here; which however will be only till next Spring. I shall then take my final Leave of Congress, and seek that Retirement from publick Cares which my Country seems to point out for me, and to which my own Inclination leads me., I perceive it has been in your option, to take a Seat in either House of the General Assembly, or to return to Congress. I cannot say in which of these Departments you will have it in your Power to render the most substantial Service to the Publick. We feel the Want of you here; and yet I think you have wisely chosen a Seat for the present in the House of Representatives. Many virtuous  Men there, may want the Information which you may be able to give them. Possibly you may have much of the old Ground to go over again. More, in my Opinion, is to be done, than conquering our British Enemies, in order to establish the Liberties of our our Country on a solid Basis. Human Nature, I am affraid, is too much debas’d, to relish the republican Principles, in which the new Government of the Common Wealth of Massachusetts appears to be founded. Mankind is prone enough to political Idolatry; and may it not be added, that the former Government, I mean the last Charter, being calculated to make servile Men free [struck: Subjects] Citizens, the Minds of many of our Countrymen have been inurd to a cringing Obsequiousness, too deeply wrought into Habit to be easily eradicated? Such a Temper is widely different from that just Reverence which every virtuous Citizen will show to the upright Magistrate. - If my Fears on this Head are ill grounded, I hope I shall be excusd. They proceed from a cordial Affection for that Country to the Service of which I have devoted the greatest Part of my Life. - May Heaven inspire the present Rulers , with Wisdom & sound Understanding! In all Probability they will stamp the Character of the People. It is natural for a sensible Observer to form an Estimate of of the People from an Opinion of the Men whom they set up for their Legislators and Magistrates. And besides, if we look into the History of Governors, we shall find that their Principles & Manners have always had a mighty Influence on the People. Should Vanity and Foppery ever be the ruling Taste among the Great, the Body of the People [inserted: would] [struck: will] be in Danger of catching the Distemper, and the ridiculous Maxims of the one would become  fashionable among the other. - I pray God, we may never be addicted to Levity & the Folly of Parade; Pomp and Show serve very well to promote the Purposes of European & Asiatick Grandeur, in Countries where the Mystery of Iniquity is carried to the highest Pitch, and Millions are lame enough to believe that they are born only to be subservient to the capricious Will of a single Great Man or a few! - It requires Council & sound Judgment, to render our Country secure in a flourishing Condition. If Men of Wisdom and Knowledge, of Moderation & Temperance, of Patience, Fortitude and Perseverance, of Sobriety & true Republican Simplicity of Manners, of Zeal for the Honor of the Supreme Being & the Welfare of the Common Wealth - If Men possessed of these and other excellent Qualities are chosen to fill the Seats of Government, we may expect that our Affairs will rest on [inserted: a] solid & permanent Foundation -, I thank you my dear Sir, for mentioning my Family so affectionately in one of your Letters - Oblige them with your Visits as often as you can - [struck: Remember me to Colo Orne who I have Reason to believe is among my Friend] Adieu and be assured that I am most sincerely, yours, S Adams, , Honble Mr Gerry, , [docket], Philadelphia , Letter Hona Saml , Adams Esq 27th , Of Nov 1780, ansd Jany 8 , 1781, requested to know, what is done for, establising a post, office in the place
Keywords/Subjects: Revolutionary War;, Continental Congress;, Congress;, Morality and Ethics;, Government and Civics;, Politics;, Corruption and Scandal;
Sub Era: The War for IndependenceOrder Image