Adams Papers
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To John Adams from James Lovell, 7 September 1780

From James Lovell

Sepr. 7th. 1780

Dear Sir

Your many Letters to Congress up to June 2d.1 have been read with Pleasure and I have received two from you—March 16. 29 received July 20th. Mr. Lee is not yet in Philada. perhaps he may have another for me. You will not learn any agreable Things respecting your native Country. However, the defeat of Genl. Gates on the 16. of Augst. was not so bad as we at first had reason to think. Perhaps Baron de Kalb is mortally wounded; the others who were said to be killed are safe. I mean Genls. Guest, Smallwood, Stephens, Rutherford, Butler and Gregory so is Col. Gunby. The Militia all scandalously fled at the first fire though two deep against a single sparse file of the Enemy; all except one Regt. of Nth. Carols. commanded, on the occasion by a continental Col. Dixon. These with the Regulars bravely stood and pushed Bayonets to the last. When overpowered by Numbers they retreated well and being pursued by Horse repulsed and compleatly vanquished them. A Wounded officer is confident that only two of the Party escaped. Col. Sumpter who had been successful in taking a Party of the Enemy a day or two before with 40 Amunition Waggons was overtaken by Horse and lost all again with some Muskets into the Bargain.2 Govr. Nash and Govr. Jefferson write most agreably as to the Spirit with which this Defeat is repairing.3 Ten such are nothing if—if there is enough of Virtue to support a paper Currency, while the new money is as silver and Gold eastward it is far otherwise here. I cannot attribute the Conduct of these People to a settled Enmity to our Cause but to a damnably debauched Temper, too much riveted, which was generated by a depreciating Medium, if solid Coin only was in this Quarter it would require much time to correct the most exorbitant Disposition of the People who chop and change.

No decision is yet made upon those Parts of your Letters which demand one. I have before told you that the Disposition here is the same as you discover upon all the Points but a definite order cannot be passed to govern you under all Contingencies considering how opposite to one another they may prove in a short Space of Time.4

I have not lately heard from Mrs. Adams. Doctr. Holten writes me Aug. 21 that he had not seen Mr. Lee who was gone to visit Mrs. A at Braintre.5 I have sent her Bills of Exch: on Doctr. F at 60 days Sight for 500 Dollars 501 1/4 having been decided as the Balance of the Account.6

I have told you that R I charges in a Lump 1600 Louis per Annum Expences and that his Balance was paid. He said he did not go to Vouchers of Barbers and Taylors and Bakers Bills in his private and therefore not in his public Concerns.7 Which of the Precedents already set the other Gentlemen will follow may be easily guessed.

My own family was in a distressed Condition Wife only Daughter and oldest Son in Bed the whole family a Sacrifice to Extortion and much involved. I have sold myself for 14 years, I imagine, by staying here almost 4, even if the same generous Allowance should be made to me as was to you for Service. Being here and master of Books files and Dates I will not seriously think of quitting till A. L. is as far gone as R. I.8

Give my Love to all your Connexions. I suppose Gerry will write often by way of Gardoqui from Marblehead or Boston. The Army is to have pay made good. The Genl. Officers are to have a 7 years provision proportionate to their pay and to receive Lands also proportionate. Widows and Children to have the Benifit of late Husbands and Fathers.9 In short we had once an Army fighting for Republicans but they say they are now fighting the battles of Asiatic speculators and must be so considered.

New York having ceeded Western Claims it is recommand to all who have them to do likewise and our Sister Maria is coaxed to finish the Ratification of the Confederation. If the Accomplishment of that as it now stands will give you Pleasure I think you may count upon it. She discovered that she wished to be coaxed.10

A Tax of 3 Millions hard is called for to be compleated by the last of Decr.11

We are at a Stand if we have not a Supply12 of money. Before we get what we ask for in Estimates the People have cursed it down to a quarter of its Value. We Estimate all in hard now.

J L

RC (Adams Papers); endorsed: “ansd. 7. decr. 1780”; in CFA’s hand: “Septr. 7th.”

1JA’s two letters dated 2 June (both calendared, above) were the 77th and 78th written to the president of Congress since JA’s arrival at El Ferrol, Spain, in Dec. 1779. They were received by Congress on 5 Sept. (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 17:803).

2Tactically the Battle of Camden was a catastrophic defeat for Horatio Gates and the army he commanded. Strategically, however, it was of little consequence. The Americans could replace the troops lost in the battle with relative ease, but Gen. Cornwallis, the British commander, could not. Camden, therefore, is less significant as an American defeat than it is as the beginning of the slow attrition of Cornwallis’ army that ended only at Yorktown in 1781 (Mackesy, War for America description begins Piers Mackesy, The War for America, 1775–1783, Cambridge, 1965. description ends , p. 343–344).

Of the ten men mentioned by Lovell, only the first three were Continental Army officers. Maj. Gen. Johann Kalb was killed, while Brig. Gens. Mordecai Gist and William Smallwood were commended by Congress on 14 Oct. for their actions during the battle. Of the remaining seven, Brig. Gen. Edward Stevens was from the Virginia militia and Brig. Gen. Thomas Sumter was from the South Carolina militia, while Brig. Gens. Griffith Rutherford (wounded and captured), John Butler, and Isaac Gregory, Col. John Gunby, and Lt. Col. Henry Dixon were of the North Carolina militia (Heitman, Register Continental Army description begins Francis B. Heitman, comp., Historical Register of Officers of the Continental Army during the War of the Revolution, new edn., Washington, 1914. description ends , p. 192, 249, 500–501, 519, 528, 478, 137, 262, 198; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 18:924; N.C., State Records of North Carolina, 30 vols., Raleigh and elsewhere, 1886–1914, 19:995; 15:v–vi, 168).

3The letters from Govs. Abner Nash of North Carolina and Thomas Jefferson of Virginia were dated 23 Aug. and 3 Sept. respectively and were received on 7 Sept. (PCC, No. 72, f. 97–100; Jefferson, Papers description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen (from vol. 21), John Catanzariti (from vol. 24), and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 3:589–590; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 18:809).

4It is uncertain to which of JA’s letters to the president of Congress Lovell is referring, but likely candidates are those of 20 Feb. (No. 7, vol. 8:345–346) and 23 and 24 March (Nos. 23 and 24, above). The first concerned the announcement of his mission and his relations with Vergennes, while the other two requested instructions on the proper response to an offer of a truce and the treatment of loyalists in a peace treaty. No letter from Lovell containing statements resembling those in this and the second paragraph below has been found.

5Arthur Lee visited AA on 20 Aug., and again on 6 Sept. (Isaac Smith to JA, 21 Aug., AA to JA, 3 Sept., Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 3:396–397, 405–407; from Arthur Lee, 10 Sept., below).

6Lovell sent the bills of exchange to AA with his letter of 3 Sept. (Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963–. description ends , 3:409). Lovell states the figure in dollars, but the sum voted by Congress on 5 Aug. was 2,511.12.6 (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 17:701; but see also Lovell’s letter of 4 May, above).

7The figure given by Lovell is equal to 38,400, but the amount voted by Congress on 11 Aug. was 52,113, which is equal to approximately 2,171 louis d’ors (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 17:722). Lovell’s source for the statement attributed to Ralph Izard has not been found.

8Lovell is presumably referring to Arthur Lee and Ralph Izard, but his meaning is unclear.

9On 24 Aug. Congress resolved to confirm its resolution of 15 May 1778, which extended seven years of half pay to all officers who served to the end of the war and extended the provision to include the widows and orphans of officers killed (same, 17:771–773). The resolution as adopted made no mention of providing land as compensation.

10On 13 Feb., New York had ceded its western land claims to Congress. This partially fulfilled Maryland’s condition for acceding to the Articles of Confederation, namely that all states claiming western lands cede those claims to Congress. The next major obstacle to Maryland’s accession was the claims of Virginia. On 6 Sept. the committee to which New York’s cession, Maryland’s conditions, and Virginia’s protest against the assertion of congressional control over the western lands had been submitted, presented its report. The committee congratulated New York on its action, urged Maryland to approve the Articles, and implored the other states to follow New York’s example. Finally, on 2 Jan. 1781, Virginia ceded her claims to lands north of the Ohio River and one month later Maryland acceded to the Articles (Thomas Perkins Abernethy, Western Lands and the American Revolution, N.Y., 1959, p. 242–245; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 17:806–808).

11For this tax, approved on 26 Aug., see JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 17:783.

12The remainder of this letter, including the signature, was written in the left margin.

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