Adams Papers

1775. Sept. 28. Thursday.
[from the Diary of John Adams]

1775. Sept. 28. Thursday.

The Congress, and the Assembly of this Province were invited to make an Excursion upon Delaware River in the new Row Gallies built by the Committee of Safety of this Colony. About Ten in the Morning We all embarked. The Names of the Gallies are the Washington, the Effingham, the Franklin, the Dickenson, the Otter, the Bull Dog, and one more, whose Name I have forgot. We passed down the River by Glocester where the Vesseau de Frize are. These a[re] Frames of Timber to be fill’d with Stones and sunk, in three Rowes, in the Channell.1

I went in the Bull Dog Captn. Alexander Commander. Mr. Hillegas, Mr. Owen Biddle, and Mr. Rittenhouse, and Capt. Faulkner [Falconer] were with me. Hillegas is one of our Continental Treasurers, is a great Musician—talks perpetually of the Forte and Piano, of Handell &c. and Songs and Tunes. He plays upon the Fiddle.

Rittenhouse is a Mechannic, a Mathematician, a Philsosopher and an Astronomer.

Biddle is said to be a great Mathematician. Both are Members of the American Philosophical Society. I mentioned Mr. Cranch to them for a Member.

Our Intention was to have gone down to the Fort2 but the Winds and Tide being unfavourable We returned by the City and went up the River to Point no Point, a pretty Place.3 On our Return Dr. Rush, Dr. Zubly and Counciller Ross, Brother of George Ross, joined us.4

Ross is a Lawyer, of great Eloquence, and heretofore of extensive Practice. A great Tory, they say, but now begins to be converted. He said the Americans were making the noblest and firmest Resistance to Tyranny that ever was made by any People. The Acts were founded in Wrong, Injustice and Oppression. The great Town of Boston had been remarkably punished without being heard.

Rittenhouse is a tall, slender Man, plain, soft, modest, no remarkable Depth, or thoughtfullness in his Face—yet cool, attentive, and clear.

1JA had furnished a brief description of the “Row Gallies” or “gondolas” in a letter to Col. Josiah Quincy, 29 July (MHi; printed in JA, Works description begins The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1850–1856; 10 vols. description ends , 9:362). Immediately after the evacuation of Boston by the British, JA wrote to Cotton Tufts advising that vaisseaux de frise be used to defend Boston Harbor: “They are large Frames of great Timber, loaded with stone and sunk—great Timbers barbed with Iron, pointed and feathered, are placed in such a Posture as to intangle a Vessell, and shatter her, and sink her” (29 March 1776, NhHi). See drawings in PMHB description begins Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. description ends , 65 (1941):354; also David B. Tyler, The Bay and River Delaware, Cambridge, Md., 1955, P. 32–33.

2Later named Fort Mifflin and located on Mud (sometimes called Fort) Island, just below the mouth of the Schuylkill.

3Near the mouth of Frankford Creek in the region called Richmond. JA described it in detail in a letter to AA, 25 May 1777 (Adams Papers; printed in JA, Letters, ed. CFA description begins Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, ed. Charles Francis Adams, Boston, 1841; 2 vols. description ends , 1:230–231).

4Rush gave his recollections of this jaunt on the Delaware in a letter to JA, 13 April 1790 (Adams Papers; printed in Benjamin Rush, Letters description begins Letters of Benjamin Rush, ed. L. H. Butterfield, Princeton, 1951; 2 vols. description ends , 1:545).

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