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Samuel Adams to Elbridge Gerry



Philadelphia, October 29, 1775.

MY DEAR SIR: I wrote to you a few days ago, by young Mr˙ Brown, and then acknowledged your favour of the 9th instant.

You tell me that a Committee of both Houses of Assembly is appointed, to bring in a Militia bill. I am of your opinion, that this matter requires great attention; and I wish, with you, to see our Militia formed not only into Battalions, but also Brigades. But should we not be cautious of putting them under the direction of the Generals of the Continent, at least until such a Legislative shall be established over all America, as every Colony shall consent to?

The Continental Army is very properly under the direction of the Continental Congress. Possibly, if ever such a Legislative should be formed, it may be proper that the whole military power, in every Colony, should be under its absolute direction. Be that as it may, will it not till then be prudent that the Militia of each Colony should be and remain under the sole direction of its own Legislative, which is and ought to be the sovereign and uncontrollable power within its own limits or territory? I hope our Militia will always be prepared to aid the forces of the Continent in this righteous opposition to tyranny; but this ought to be done upon an application to the Government of the Colony. Your Militia is your natural strength, which ought, under your own direction, to be employed for your own safety and protection. It is a misfortune to a Colony to become the seat of war. It is always dangerous to the liberties of the people to have an army stationed among them, over which they have no control. There is at present a necessity for it; the Continental Army is kept up within our Colony, most evidently, for our immediate security. But it should be remembered that history affords abundant instances of established armies making themselves the masters of those Countries which they were designed to protect. There may be no danger of this at present, but it should be a caution not to trust the whole military strength of a Colony in the hands of commanders independent of its established Legislative.

It is now in the power of our Assembly to establish many wholesome laws and regulations, which could not be done under the former administration of Government. Corrupt men may be kept out of places of publick trust; the utmost circumspection, I hope, will be used in the choice of men for publick officers. It is to be expected that some, who are void of the least regard to the publick, will put on the appearance, and even speak boldly the language of patriots, with the sole purpose of gaining the confidence of the publick, and securing the loaves and fishes for themselves, or their sons, or other connexions. Men who stand candidates for publick posts should be critically traced in their views and pretensions; and though we would despise mean and base suspicion, there is a degree of jealousy which is absolutely necessary, in this degenerate state of mankind, and is indeed at all times to be considered as a political virtue. It is in your power, also, to prevent a plurality of places, incompatible with each other, being vested in the same persons. This our patriots have loudly and very justly


complained of in time past; and it will be an everlasting disgrace to them, if they suffer the practice to continue. Care, I am informed, is taking to prevent the evil, with as little inconvenience as possible; but it is my opinion that the remedy ought to be deep and thorough.

After all, virtue is the surest means of securing the publick liberty. I hope you will improve the golden opportunity of restoring the ancient purity of principles and manners in our Country. Every thing that we do or ought to esteem valuable depends upon it; for freedom or slavery, says an admired writer, will prevail in a Country, according as the disposition and manners of the inhabitants render them fit for the one or the other.

P˙S. November 4. Yesterday, the colours of the Seventh Regiment were presented to the Congress; they were taken at Fort Chambly. The garrison surrendered prisoners of war to Major Brown, of the Massachusetts forces, with one hundred and twenty-four barrels of gunpowder. May Heaven grant us further success.