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Letter from John Adams to General Gates: It requires a faith which can remove mountains to believe that liberty and safety can ever hereafter be enjoyed by America in any subjection to the Government of Great Britain



Philadelphia, April 27, 1776.

DEAR SIR: Your favour of the 23d, I received yesterday, and it put me in a good humour, the benefit of which I feel to this moment, and shall continue to experience a long time.

Were you idle enough to read the tales in the London papers and magazines a few years ago, concerning the Cock-Lane Ghost, and the others concerning a man of six feet high who leaped into a quart bottle and corked himself up? Do you remember that a great part of the nation, perhaps a majority, believed these marvellous lies to be true? If you recollect these things, you will not wonder that the tales of Commissioners to treat with Congress should have gained credit with many in America, nor will you wonder that many pretend to believe them who do not.

I think with you, that it requires a faith which can remove mountains to believe that liberty and safety can ever be hereafter enjoyed by America, in any subjection to the government of Great Britain. Dependance and subordination to Great Britain, always indeterminate and nonsensical expressions, if they mean anything, must now mean perpetual animosity, discord, civil war; encroachment and usurpation on one side, and discontent, mutiny, sedition, riot, and resistance, on the other; unless it terminates in downright submission, and that no doubt would be followed with persecution and imprisonment, scorn and Insults, blocks, halters and gibbets.

Your opinion of Indians, and the best policy in our management of them, may be right for anything that I know; but as I know little of them, I always leave the measures relating to them to gentlemen who know a great deal. It is said they are very expensive and troublesome confederates in war, besides the incivility and inhumanity of employing such savages, with their cruel, bloody dispositions, against any enemy whatever. Nevertheless such have been the extravagancies of British barbarity, in prosecuting the war against us, that I think we need not be so delicate as to refuse the assistance of Indians, provided we cannot keep them neutral. I should not hesitate a moment in this case.

That we have been a little tardy in providing for Canada is true, owing to innumerable difficulties. However, we have been roused at last, and I hope have done pretty well. If you think we have not, let me know it, and whatever you may think further necessary, if it is not done, it shall not be my fault.

I am grieved to find the least intimation of langor among my countrymen in fortifying Boston and its harbour, I have not written a letter since we received news of your success in driving the enemy from that town, without stuffing it with exhortations as well as plans for the fortification of that harbour. Warren writes me that they have sent a Committee to fortify the harbour, so that I hope it will be done. I hope General Washington will send one.

Your opinion of the difficulties General Howe will meet with in attempting to get up the St˙ Lawrence early, gives roe great comfort. God send him wind and sea enough.

Am sorry to learn there are so many Tones where you are. They must be watched. But there is one measure which I think should lessen the number of them. If the Provincial Congress and Committee of Safety could be convinced of the propriety, utility, and necessity of following the virtuous and glorious example of South-Carolina, in instituting a complete Government in that Colony, I think there would be a great revolution of sentiment in the city, and through the whole Province, and most of their divisions and distractions removed. The Tones will have a pernicious influence, and will be indefatigable in their intrigues, insinuations, and cabals, in every Colony, while every one of them holds an office under a King. When "thrones, dominations, princedoms, powers," in the language of Milton, are excluded from their ideas of Government, Toryism will be disarmed of its sting.

You ask me what you are to think of Robert Morris? I will tell you what I think of him. I think he has a masterly understanding, an open temper, and an honest heart; and if he does not always vote for what you and I should think proper, it is because he thinks that a large body of people remains, who are not yet of his mind. He has vast designs in the mercantile way; and no doubt pursues


mercantile ends, which are always gain; but he is an excellent member of our body.

Pray continue to write me, for a letter from you cures me of all anxiety and ill-humour for two or three days at least, and besides that, leaves me better informed in many things, and confirmed in my good resolutions for my whole life.

Yours without disguise, &c.


To General Gates.

P˙ S. There is a Major Wrixon here, a fine sensible fellow, a Field Officer in Germany last war, a man of letters, sense, and spirit, the best principles. I wish you were a Major-General and he Adjutant-General. What say you to it?