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Letter from Elbridge Gerry to Samuel Adams



Watertown, December 13, 1775.

DEAR SIR: With pleasure I received your letter of October 29th, relative to the militia and other subjects equally important. When writing on the subject of the militia, I proposed they should be under the command of a Continental General, in case of their being raised to reinforce his army, and upon the supposition that this must require an act of the Court of the Colony whose militia should be thus raised. A Continental General, as such, I am clearly of opinion, ought not to have any command of the militia. It is by no means necessary for general defence. It would lead a principal servant of the Government to forget his station, and conceive himself its master; but since, in military operations, it is absolutely necessary to have but one head, each Assembly would find it necessary that the commanding officer of the army which their militia should occasionally reinforce, should take the command of such part as they might order to his assistance, and this during the pleasure, only, of such Assembly; upon which plan he would, as to this, be in effect a Colonial officer. We already see a growing thirst for power


in some of the inferior departments of the army, which ought to be regulated so far as to keep the military entirely subservient to the civil in every part of the United Colonies.

Your sentiments on the choice of men for publick offices are extremely just. The jealousy you speak of is plentifully produced in our House of Representatives. This is so natural to their habits, and toryism so noxious, that an enemy to America might as well attempt to scale the regions of bliss as to insinuate himself into the favour of the Assembly; but I should be glad to see a sufficient guard against the choice of men on account of pecuniary recommendation. It is happy to find a man independent in his fortune, of good sense and true patriotism, filling a publick office; but when the last is wanting, the possession of the first is an evil. Notwithstanding which, there have been instances in this Government, of persons chosen into publick office who might have lived till the millenium in silent obscurity had they depended on their mental qualifications to bring them into publick view.

With respect to incompatible offices, a bill is on foot to prevent this evil, and particular care will be taken to exclude gentlemen of the army from the Legislative, that military influence may never reach the Senate.

History can hardly produce such a series of events as have taken place in favour of American opposition. The hand of Heaven appears to have directed every occurrence. Had such an event as lately occurred in Essex happened to Cromwell, he would have published it as a miracle in his favour, and excited his soldiers to enthusiasm and bravery.

The manufacture of saltpetre is increasing. We shall be greatly served if a plan of the Philadelphia powdermills can be sent us, which (Mr˙ Revere tells me) the owner was so selfish as to refuse, without a reward of one hundred half-johannes.

Your very true friend, ELBRIDGE GERRY.