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John Adams to Elbridge Gerry



Philadelphia, November 5, 1775.

DEAR SIR: I am under such restrictions, injunctions, and engagements of secrecy, respecting every thing which passes in Congress, that I cannot communicate my own thoughts freely to my friends, so far as is necessary to ask their advice and opinions concerning questions which many of them understand much better than I do. This, however, is an inconvenience which must be submitted to, for the sake of superior advantage.

But I must take the liberty to say, that I think we shall soon attend to maritime affairs and naval preparations. No great things are to be expected at first, but out of a little a great deal may grow.

It is very odd that I, who have spent my days in researches and employments so very different, and who have never thought much of old ocean, or the dominion of it, should be necessitated to make such inquiries; but it is my fate and my duty, and therefore I must attempt it.

I am to inquire what number of seamen may be found in our Province, who would probably enlist in the service, either as marines, or on board of armed vessels, in the pay of the Continent, or in the pay of the Province, or on board of privateers fitted out by private adventurers.

I must also entreat you to let me know the names, places of abode, and characters, of such persons, belonging to any of the sea-port Towns in our Province, as are qualified for officers and commanders of armed vessels.

I want to be further instructed, what ships, brigantines, schooners, &c˙, are to be found in any port of the Province, to be sold or hired out, which will be suitable for armed vessels. What their tonnage, the depth of water they draw, their breadth, their decks, &c˙, and to whom they belong, and what is their age.

Further, what places in our Province are most secure and best accommodated for building new vessels of force, in case a measure of that kind should be thought of. The Committee have returned, much pleased with what they have seen and heard, which shows that their embassy will be productive of happy effects. They say the only disagreeable circumstance was, that their engagements, haste, and constant attention to business, were such as prevented them from forming such acquaintances with the gentlemen of our Province as they wished. But as Congress was waiting for their return, before they could determine upon affairs of the last moment, they had not time to spare.

They are pretty well convinced, I believe, of several important points, which they and others doubted before.

New-Hampshire has leave to assume a Government, and so has South-Carolina; but this must not be freely talked of as yet, at least from me.

New-England will now be able to exert her strength, which a little time will show to be greater than either Great Britain or America imagines. I give you joy of the agreeable prospect in Canada. We have the colours of the Seventh Regiment, as the first fruits of victory.


To Mr˙ Elbridge Gerry.