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Letter from Samuel Adams to Richard Henry Lee



Philadelphia, July 15, 1776.

MY DEAR SIR: I must acknowledge that, when you left Congress, I gave you reason to expect a letter from me before this time. You will not, I am very certain, attribute my omission to the want of a most cordial esteem for you. The truth is, I hardly know how to write without saying something about our Canadian affairs; and this is a subject so thoroughly mortifying to me that I could wish totally to forget all that has passed in that country. Let me, however, just mention to you that Schuyler and Gates are to command the troops — the former while they are without, the latter while they are within, the bounds of Canada. Admitting these Generals to have the accomplishments of a Marlborough or an Eugene, I cannot conceive that such a disposition of them will be attended with any good effects, unless harmony subsists between them. Alas, I fear this is not the case. Already disputes have arisen, which they have referred to Congress; and, although they affect to treat each other with a politeness becoming their rank, in my mind, altercations between commanders, who have pretensions so nearly equal, (I mean in point of command,) forebode a repetition of misfortune. I sincerely wish my apprehensions may prove groundless.

General Howe, as you have heard, is arrived at New York. He has brought with him from eight to ten thousand troops. Lord Howe arrived last week, and the whole fleet is hourly expected. The enemy landed on Staten Island. Nothing has been done saving that last Friday, about three in the afternoon, a forty and a twenty-gun ship, with several tenders, taking the advantage of a fair and fresh gale and flowing tide, passed by our forts as far as King' s Bridge. General Mifflin, who commanded there, in a letter of the 5th instant, informed us that he had twenty-one cannon planted, and hoped, in a week, to be formidable. Reinforcements have arrived from New England, and our Army are in high spirits. I am exceedingly pleased with the calm and determined spirit which our Commander-in-Chief has discovered in all his letters to Congress. May Heaven guide and prosper him. The Militia of the Jerseys, Pennsylvania, and Maryland, are all in motion. General Mercer commands the Flying Camp in the Jerseys. We have just now appointed a Committee to bring in a plan for the reinforcement, to complete the number of twenty thousand men, to be posted in that Colony.

Our Declaration of Independence has given vigour to the spirits of the people. Had this decisive measure been taken nine months ago, it is my opinion that Canada would by this time have been in our hands. But what does it avail to find fault with what is past? Let us do better for the future. We were more fortunate than we expected, in having twelve of the thirteen Colonies in favour of the all important question. The Delegates from New York were not empowered to give their voice on either side. Their Convention has since acceded to the Declaration, and published it even before they received it from Congress. So mighty a change in so short a time! New Jersey has finished her form of Government, a copy of which I enclose. They have sent five new Delegates, among whom are Dr˙ Witherspoon and Judge Stockton. All of them appear zealously attached to the American cause. A Convention is now meeting in this city to form a Constitution for this Colony. They are empowered by their constituents to appoint a new Committee of Safety to act for the present, and to choose new Delegates for Congress. I am told there will be a change of men, and, if so, I hope for the better.

A plan of Confederation has been brought into Congress, which I hope will be speedily digested, and be made ready to be laid before the several States for their approbation. A Committee has now under consideration a plan of foreign alliance. It is high time for us to have Ambassadors at foreign Courts. I fear we have already suffered too much by delay. You know on whom our thoughts were turned when you were with us.

I am greatly obliged to you for favouring me with the form of Government agreed upon by your countrymen. I have not yet had time to peruse it, but I dare say it will be a feast to our little circle. The device on your great seal pleases me much.

Pray hasten your journey hither. Your country most


pressingly solicits, or, will you allow me to say, demands your assistance here. I have written in great haste.

Adieu, my dear sir, and be assured that I am, very affectionately, your friend, S˙ ADAMS.