From Jonathan Loring Austin
Boston July 7th. 1779
When Individuals emerge from Difficulties, and by a happy turn of Fortune, suddenly find their Circumstances, not only bettered, but their future prospects very promising, the Gloom of Sorrow, which before clouded their Brows, is removed, and Joy and Gladness resume the place. Its thus with our Country at this happy Period. The Letter herewith, which is a Copy of my last,1 was a Representation of our lax Situation on my Arrival here, the Virtue which calld forth the Efforts of Americans when threatned with Chains, that Virtue which had lain so long dormant, revives afresh. The spirited and timely Address from Congress to the People of this Continent2 (which I had the Honor of enclosing you per Capt. Thompson) calld up a Blush, and roused them from their Lethargy; Self Interest was before this the Idol; Monopoly and Oppression advanced with rapid Strides; the Necessaries of Life (tho’ no ways scarce) were at exorbitant prices; and the Money was esteemed of little more value than the Paper upon which it was stamped. This Address awakened the nominal rich, whose Fortunes appeared only ideal, the Farmer adopted the Sentiment, and those in a lower Sphere of Life were forward to remedy the Evil.—At Philada. the combined Effort of all Ranks began. Massachusetts, or rather this Town approved their plan,3 and in a few days a Stop was put to the extravagant Rise of all Sorts of Merchandize, and the Money visibly grew <
better> in greater Credit, instead of thirty paper Dollars given frequently for a hard one they were last week offerd for ten and refused. Every kind of Merchandize on my Arrival4 was esteemed better than our Money, at almost any price, Goods have now fell 25 per Cent or more, and the proprietors would be glad to have paper Money for them.
In the midst of these Efforts, providence as it were approving our Resolutions, and to add Firmness and Stability to the proceedings, blessed us with the agreeable News that the British Troops had received a Check at South Carolina.5 I have now the Honor as well as Satisfaction of congratulating you and all Friends upon this signal Success, which in its Consequences may have a happier Tendency than the great News I had the Honor of carrying to France.6 I enclose you all the papers which mention this glorious Event, from the first Rumor here, to the authenticated Account; and hope this Affair in Conjunction with the Resolutions of the Merchants Traders &c.7 will discover to Great Britain the Folly of her Conduct, and demonstrate to her and to the whole World, that while America continues virtuous she is invincible.
I have the Honor to be with all Respect and Attachment Sir Your most Obedient & very humble Servant
Jon Loring Austin
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “J. L. Austin. July 7. 1779.” Enclosures not found.
2. Austin probably enclosed the Address with his letter of 7 June. The Address of 26 May is in JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 14:649–657; Independent Chronicle, 17 June; and Evans description begins Charles Evans and others, comps., American Bibliography: A Chronological Dictionary of All Books, Pamphlets and Periodical Publications Printed in the United States of America [1639–1800], Chicago and Worcester, 1903–1959; 14 vols. description ends , No. 16636. This congressional exhortation to the people admitted that too much paper money had been issued, but put a part of the blame for constantly rising prices on monopolizers, and urged the people to act through their state governments to control hoarding. The larger theme was that the people must cooperate in bringing about change; the congress could not act alone.
3. The people of Philadelphia, gathered on 25 May at the State House yard, were addressed by Gen. Roberdeau on the subject of monopolizers and rising prices. Resolutions were passed and committees appointed in a plan to publicize the extent of rising prices and to shame merchants into reducing excessive demands. The meeting also moved to look into corruption in the spending of public money and sought a like program throughout the United States (Independent Chronicle, 10 June). The town of Boston responded to the congressional appeal by passing resolutions in a meeting whose minutes have not been preserved, but which was held on 17 June (Boston Record Commissioners, 26th Report description begins City of Boston, Record Commissioners, Reports, Boston, 1876–1909; 39 vols. description ends , p. 70). Reportedly, several Massachusetts counties reacted favorably to the Philadelphia example (Independent Chronicle, 1 July).
4. Austin arrived on 29 May.
5. The Independent Chronicle of 24 June carried four highly exaggerated reports of a battle at Charleston in mid-May: two from Baltimore, one from Smith’s Clove, N.Y., and one from a ship arrived in Beverly. All claimed severe losses for the British, ranging from 700 to 1,500 casualties. All agreed that the British were caught between the forces of Gens. Lincoln and Moultrie and likely to suffer total defeat. The victory was further confirmed by a South Carolinian arriving in Philadelphia. A dispatch from Lincoln himself was said to claim 1,400 casualties and 700 prisoners captured (Independent Chronicle, 1 July). Actually, British Gen. Prevost had avoided a major engagement by withdrawing from the Charleston area when he discovered that he was between two armies. A significant engagement between Lincoln and Prevost did not occur until June, when the American losses were greater than the British (Ward, War of the Revolution description begins Christopher Ward, The War of the Revolution, New York, 1952; 2 vols. description ends , 2:685–687; Howard Peckham, ed., The Toll of Independence, Chicago, 1974, p. 60–61). See also James Lovell to JA, 13 June, note 14 (above).
6. That is, news of the American victory at Saratoga (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:300).
7. On 16 June, Boston merchants resolved that no increase should be made in prices of commodities above then existing levels and that by 15 July prices would not exceed those of 1 May. Boston’s merchants expected future monthly reductions, provided merchants in other Massachusetts towns agreed. They also voted to stop acquiring gold and silver and to expose those who demanded hard money (Independent Chronicle, 17 June).