Adams Papers
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From John Adams to Elbridge Gerry, 11 June 1775

To Elbridge Gerry

Phyladelphia [ante 11] June 17751

Dr Sir

Mr. Gadsden of South Carolina whose Fame you must have heard, was in his younger Years, an officer, on board the Navy, and is well acquainted with the Fleet.2 He has Several Times taken Pains to convince me that this Fleet is not so formidable to America, as we fear. He Says, We can easily take their sloops, Schooners, and Cutters, on board of whom are all their best Seamen, and with these We can easily take their large ships, on board of whom are all their impress’d and discontented Men. He thinks, the Men would not fight on board the large ships with their fellow subjects, but would certainly kill their own officers. He says it is a different Thing, to fight the French or Spaniards from what it is to fight british Americans—in one case, if taken Prisoners they must lie in Prison for Years, in the other obtain their Liberty and Happiness.

He thinks it of great Importance that Some Experiments should be made on the Cutters. He is confident that We may get a Fleet of our own, at a cheap Rate, and this Would give great Spirits to this Continent, as well as little Spirits to the Ministry.

RC (NHpR: Naval MSS Coll.); addressed: “To Elbridge Gerry Esqr Marblehead”; docketed: “Philadelphia Letter J A June 1775.”

1JA undoubtedly wrote this letter between 1 June, when he had letters delivered to him by Benjamin Church, who had carried to Philadelphia a letter from the Provincial Congress, and 10 June, when Church left Philadelphia to return to Watertown (Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends , 1:208, 213). Church arrived back in Watertown by 17 or 18 June. James Warren, who was chairman of a committee on armed vessels whose report “was ordered to subside” on 20 June, wrote JA on 11 July that he had seen JA’s letter to Gerry and added that “haveing proposed in Congress Just such a project . . . borrowed the Letter to support it” but without success (Mass. Provincial Congress, Jours. description begins William Lincoln, ed., The Journals of Each Provincial Congress of Massachusetts in 1774 and 1775, and of the Committee of Safety, Boston, 1838. description ends , p. 353, 361; Warren to JA, 11 July, below).

2Gadsden’s naval experience consisted of two years as a purser on board a British naval vessel (F. A. Porcher, “Memoir of Gen. Christopher Gadsden,” S.C. Hist. Soc., Colls. description begins South Carolina Historical Society, Collections. description ends , 4 [1887]: 1).

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