To Thomas Jefferson
Philadelphia May 26. 1777
My dear Sir
I had this Morning, the Pleasure of your Favour of the Sixteenth instant, by the Post; and rejoice to learn that your Battallions, were So far fill’d, as to render a Draught from the Militia, unnecessary. It is a dangerous Measure, and only to be adopted in great Extremities, even by popular Governments. Perhaps, in Such Governments Draughts will never be made, but in Cases, when the People themselves see the Necessity of them. Such Draughts are widely different from those made by Monarchs, to carry on Wars, in which the People can see, no Interest of their own nor any other Object in View, than the Gratification of the Avarice, Ambition, Caprice, Envy, Revenge, or Vanity of a Single Tyrant. Draughts in the Massachusetts, as they have been there managed, have not been very unpopular, for the Persons draughted are commonly the wealthiest, who become obliged to give large Premiums, to their poorer Neighbours, to take their Places.1
The great Work of Confederation, draggs heavily on. But I dont despair of it. The great and Small States2 must be brought as near together as possible: and I am not without Hopes, that this may be done, to the tolerable Satisfaction of both. Your Suggestion, sir, that any Proposition may be negatived, by the Representatives of a Majority of the People, or of a Majority of States, Shall be attended to, and I will endeavour to get it introduced, if We cannot Succeed in our Wishes for a Representation and a Rule of voting, perfectly equitable, which has no equal, in my Mind.
Nothing gives me, more constant Anxiety, than the Delays, in publishing the Journals. Yet I hope, Gentlemen will have a little Patience with Us.3 We have had a Committee constantly attending to this very Thing, for a long Time.4 But We have too many Irons in the Fire, you know for Twenty Hands, which is nearly the whole Number We have had upon an Average Since, last fall. The Committee are now busy, every day in correcting Proof Sheets, So that I hope We Shall Soon do better.
A Committee on the Post Office, too, have found, a thousand Difficulties. The Post is now very regular, from the North and South, altho it comes but once a Week. It is not easy to get faithfull Riders, to go oftener. The Expence is very high, and the Profits, (so dear is every Thing, and so little Correspondence is carried on, except in franked Letters), will not Support the office. Mr. Hazard is now gone Southward, in the Character of surveyor of the Post office, and I hope will have as good success, as he lately had eastward, where he has put the office into good order.
We have no News from Camp, but that the General and Army are in good Spirits, and begin to feel themselves powerfull. We are anxiously waiting for News from abroad, and for my own Part I am apprehensive of Some insidious Maneuvre from Great Britain, to deceive Us into Disunion and then to destroy.
We want your Industry and Abilities here extreamly. Financiers, We want more than Soldiers. The worst Enemy, We have now is Poverty, real Poverty in the Shape of exuberant Wealth. Pray come and help Us, to raise the Value of our Money, and lower the Prices of Things. Without this, We cannot carry on the War. With it, We can make it a Diversion.
No poor Mortals were ever more perplexed than We have been, with three Misfortunes at once, any one of which would have been, alone, sufficient to have distressed Us. A Redundancy of the Medium of Exchange. A Diminution of the Quantity, at Markett of the Luxuries, the Conveniences and even the Necessaries of Life, and an Increase of the Demand for all these, occasioned by two large Armies in the Country.
I Shall, ever esteem it a Happiness to hear of your Welfare, my dear sir, and a much greater still to see you, once more in Congress. Your Country is not yet, quite Secure enough, to excuse your Retreat to the Delights of domestic Life. Yet, for the soul of me, when I attend to my own Feelings, I cannot blame you. I am, sir your Friend and most obedient Servant
RC (DLC); LbC (Adams Papers), with minor differences in wording except as noted below.
1. The recent drafts in Massachusetts, which had called for taking every twenty-fifth man from the training bands and alarm list and for taking men from those towns which had not contributed one-seventh of their eligible males, hardly seem to have been designed to take only the wealthiest, even though the alarm list included many of the educated and the minor officeholders who had traditionally been exempted from the training bands (vol. 4:419; James Warren to JA, 5 May, above; Mass., Province Laws description begins The Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, Boston, 1869–1922; 21 vols. description ends , 5:445, 451).
2. The Letterbook has “colonies,” an inadvertence that JA did not repeat a few lines later nor in the copy sent to Jefferson.
3. The Letterbook has crossed out “for God’s Sake” and “Mercy on Us” for “I hope, Gentlemen will” and “Patience with Us.”
4. A committee of three had been appointed 21 March 1776 to superintend the printing of the Journals and ordered to seek another printer if the work could not be done expeditiously. On 26 Sept. 1776 the congress switched the printing job from William and Thomas Bradford and Cist & Co. to Robert Aitkin (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 4:224; 5:829). Jefferson was absent from the congress at these times (Burnett, ed., Letters of Members description begins Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, Washington, 1921–1936; 8 vols. description ends , 1:lxv; 2:lxx).