Thomas Jefferson Papers
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From Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 16 May 1777

To John Adams

Williamsburgh May 16. 1777.

Dear Sir

Matters in our part of the continent are too much in quiet to send you news from hence. Our battalions for the Continental service were some time ago so far filled as rendered the recommendation of a draught from the militia hardly requisite, and the more so as in this country it ever was the most unpopular and impracticable thing that could be attempted. Our people even under the monarchical government had learnt to consider it as the last of all oppressions. I learn from our delegates that the Confederation is again on the carpet. A great and a necessary work, but I fear almost desperate. The point of representation is what most alarms me, as I fear the great and small colonies are bitterly determined not to cede. Will you be so good as to recollect the proposition I formerly made you in private and try if you can work it into some good to save our union? It was that any proposition might be negatived by the representatives of a majority of the people of America, or of a majority of the colonies of America. The former secures the larger the latter the smaller colonies. I have mentioned it to many here. The good whigs I think will so far cede their opinions for the sake of the Union, and others we care little for. The journals of congress not being printed earlier gives more uneasiness than I would ever wish to see produced by any act of that body, from whom alone I know our salvation can proceed. In our assembly even the best affected think it an indignity to freemen to be voted away life and fortune in the dark. Our house have lately written for a M.S. copy of your journals, not meaning to desire a communication of any thing ordered to be kept secret. I wish the regulation of the post office adopted by Congress last September could be put in practice. It was for the riders to travel night and day, and to go their several stages three times a week. The speedy and frequent communication of intelligence is really of great consequence. So many falshoods have been propagated that nothing now is beleived unless coming from Congress or camp. Our people merely for want of intelligence which they may rely on are become lethargick and insensible of the state they are in. Had you ever a leisure moment I should ask a letter from you sometimes directed to the care of Mr. Dick, Fredericksburgh: but having nothing to give in return it would be a tax on your charity as well as your time. The esteem I have for you privately, as well as for your public importance will always render assurances of your health and happiness agreeable. I am Dear Sir Your friend & servt:

Th: Jefferson

RC (Adams Manuscript Trust, Boston). Addressed: “To John Adams esq. of the Massachusets delegation in Philadelphia. Free.” Endorsed: “Mr Jefferson. ans. May 26. 1777.”

This earliest known letter exchanged between TJ and John Adams began a correspondence that continued, with some intervals, for forty-nine years and that remains unrivaled, in the United States at least, for its revelation of the writers’ minds and characters, its literary distinction, and its historical importance. More than one of the questions of high public policy with which the present letter deals, and on which Adams in his prompt answer (of 26 May) comments thoughtfully and characteristically, was to engage the attention of the two men for many years thereafter. Congress had recommended draught from the Militia on 14 Apr. 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , vii, 262–3; compare TJ’s opinion on volunteers in his letter to R. H. Lee, 5 June 1778). The confederation: On 8 Apr. 1777 Congress resolved, “That the report of the committee of the whole house, on the articles of confederation, be taken into consideration on Monday next, and that two days in each week be employed on that subject, until it shall be wholly discussed in Congress” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , vii, 240). The journals of congress for 1776 were not ready for distribution until 3 June 1777 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , viii, 412). On 13 June 1777 the Board of War recommended the daily printing of the Journals but no action was taken by Congress (same, p. 474, note). Congress adopted the report of the committee for regulating the post office on 30 Aug. 1776 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, D.C., 1904–37, 34 vols. description ends , v, 419–20; see also John Adams to TJ, 26 May 1777).

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