Primary tabs

Samuel Adams to Elbridge Gerry



Philadelphia, January 2, 1776.

MY DEAR SIR: Your very acceptable letter of the 13th of December is now before me. Our opinions of the necessity of keeping the military power under the direction and control of the legislative, I always thought were alike. It was far from my intention, in my letter to you on the subject, to attempt the correcting any imagined error in your judgment, but rather, shortly to express my own apprehensions at this time, when it is become necessary to tolerate that power, which is always formidable, and has so often proved fatal to the liberties of mankind.

It gives me great satisfaction to be informed, that the members of the House of Representatives are possessed of so warm a spirit of patriotism, as that "an enemy to America may as well attempt to scale the regions of bliss, as to insinuate himself into their favour." Whatever kind of men may be denominated enemies to their country, certainly he is a very injudicious friend to it, who gives his suffrage for any man to fill a publick office, merely because he is rich; and yet, you tell me, there are recent instances of this in our Government. I confess,it mortifies me greatly. The giving such a preference to riches, is both dishonourable and dangerous to a Government. It is, indeed, equally dangerous, to promote a man to a place of publick trust, only because he wants bread; but I think it is not so dishonourable, for men maybe influenced to the latter from the feelings of humanity; but the other argues a base, degenerate, servile temper of mind. I hope our country will never see the time, when either riches, or the want of them, will be the leading considerations in the choice of publick officers. Whenever riches shall be deemed a necessary qualification, ambition, as well as avarice, will prompt men most ardently to thirst for them; and, it will be commonly said, as in ancient times of degeneracy,

Querenda pecunia primum est,
Virtus post nummos.
"Get money, money still,
And then let Virtue follow, if she will."

I am greatly honoured, if my late letter has been acceptable to the House. I hope the Militia Bill, to which that letter referred, is completed to the satisfaction of both Houses of the Assembly.

The account you give me of the success our people met with in the manufacture of saltpetre, is highly pleasing to


me. I procured, of a gentleman in the Colony of New-York, the plan of a powder-mill, which I lately sent to Mr˙ Revere. I hope it may be of some use.

I have time, at present, only to request you to write to me by the post, and to assure you that I am your affectionate friend, Samuel Adams.

To Elbridge Gerry, Esq.