Adams Papers

From John Adams to Thomas Cushing, 24 February 1779

To Thomas Cushing

Passy Feb. 24. 1779

Dear sir

This Evening I had the Honour of your Letter by Mr. Bradford.1 When that young Gentleman shall arrive, he shall be treated with all the Civility in my Power, and the best Advice that I am able to give him, shall be at his service.

I fancy, sir, they exaggerate the Number of Troops both at N.Y. and R.I. [I] am persuaded there are not four Thousand Men at either.

We have just received News from the W. Indies that Hotham has taken St. Lucie and D’Estaing gone to the Grenades.2

The Publication you mention gave as much Anxiety here as with you. What Reason there could be for printing an Accusation which might have been delivered to the President or secretary, and must have been read, is past the Comprehension of any Body here. And how it is possible that a Constitution3 can exist, when an Individual can hold its highest Authority in so much Contempt, is inconceivable to every Body. You will find every Insinuation against the Fidelity of a certain Gentleman here, groundless. It is his Fidelity and Zeal that have made him, some of his Ennemies, perhaps the most of them. And his Character must be vindicated from all false Imputations, or no Man will be safe, in the public service.

Affairs here are in a better situation than they were, because the new Arrangement, has removed the Possibility of those Dissentions, which were and would have continued to be the Consequences of that Publication. But other Regulations must be made, or Things will not remain long in good order.

Great Britain is in a State of Fermentation and Confusion, that disconcerts their Councils and weakens their Efforts, and this will probably increase. Yet the News from the W. In. as well as Mr. Deanes Address will assist them, and you may rely upon it, they will never leave N.Y. nor R.I. till they are compelled. I thank you, sir, for your Letters, all of which I have answered, and wish a Continuance of your Favours, being with great Respect, your Friend and humble servant


LbC (Adams Papers); notation: “sent.”

1That of [ante 14 Jan. 1779] (above).

2On 10 Dec. a convoy commanded by Como. William Hotham and carrying 5,000 troops under Gen. James Grant arrived at Barbados, thereby strengthening the forces under the command of Adm. Samuel Barrington and permitting him to attack St. Lucia, which he did successfully on 13 Dec. On the following day Estaing appeared with 7,000 troops and a much superior naval force. Superior tactics, however, enabled Barrington to withstand Estaing’s effort to destroy his fleet and retake the island. Estaing then retired to Martinique, leaving St. Lucia in British hands, where it remained for the duration of the war, providing an important outpost only thirty miles from Martinique. Not until July did a force under Estaing capture Grenada (Mackesy, War for America description begins Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775–1783, Cambridge, 1965. description ends , p. 229–232; Mahan, Navies in the War of Amer. Independence description begins Alfred Thayer Mahan, The Major Operations of the Navies in the War of American Independence, Boston, 1913. description ends , p. 100–105).

3By “Constitution” JA means the government established by a constitution, in this case the Articles of Confederation, and by “its highest Authority,” the Continental Congress. JA refers to Deane’s address in the same sense as “a Dissolution of the Constitution” in his Diary entry for 12 Feb. (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:353). For an examination of the concerns regarding the address expressed in this letter, see JA to Vergennes, 11 Feb., note 1 (above).

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