John Adams to Abigail Adams
June 4. 1777
I wish I could know, whether your season is cold or warm, wet or dry, fruitfull or barren. Whether you had late Frosts. Whether those Frosts have hurt the Fruit, the Flax, the Corn or Vines, &c. We have a fine season here and a bright Prospect of Abundance.
You will see by the inclosed Papers, in a Letter from my Friend Parsons, a very handsome Narration of one of the prettiest Exploits of this War—a fine Retaliation for the Danbury Mischief. Meigs who was before esteemed a good Officer has acquired by this Expedition a splendid Reputation.1
You will see by the same Papers too, that the Writers here in Opposition to the Constitution of Pensilvania, are making a factious Use of my Name and Lucubrations. Much against my Will, I assure you, for altho I am no Admirer of the Form of this Government, yet I think it is agreable to the Body of the People, and if they please themselves they will please me. And I would not choose to be impressed into the service of one Party, or the other—and I am determined I will not inlist.
Besides it is not very genteel in these Writers, to put my Name to a Letter, from which I cautiously withheld it myself.
However, let them take their own Way. I shant trouble myself about it.2
I am growing better, by Exercise and Air.
I must write a Letter, in Behalf of Mr. Thaxter, to the Bar and Bench in Boston, in order to get him sworn, at July Court.
Will my Brother, when the Time comes, officiate for his Brother at a Christening?
If it is a young Gentleman call him William after your Father—if a young Lady, call her Elizabeth after your Mother, and sister.
RC (Adams Papers). Enclosures not found, but see the notes below.
1. Both the Pennsylvania Gazette and the Pennsylvania Journal of 4 June printed Gen. Samuel Holden Parsons’ letter to Washington, New Haven, 25 May, recounting Lt. Col. Return Jonathan Meigs’ destruction of an amphibious British foraging party at Sag Harbor, Long Island. Washington forwarded Parsons’ letter to Congress in a letter of 31 May, received on 2 June (Writings, ed. Fitzpatrick description begins The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745–1799, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, Washington, 1931–1944; 39 vols. description ends , 8:151; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 8:409).
2. In the Pennsylvania Journal of 28 May (of which a copy must have been enclosed in the present letter), “Ludlow,” in the second of a series of communications bitterly critical of the new constitution of Pennsylvania, publicly disclosed for the first time the authorship of JA’s Thoughts on Government (1776). “Ludlow” wrote:
“In order to shew the extreme danger of trusting all the legislative power of a State to a single representation, I shall beg leave to transcribe a few sentences from a letter, written by Mr. John Adams, to one of his friends in North Carolina, who requested him to favour him with a plan of a government for that State above a twelve month ago. This illustrious Citizen, who is second to no man in America, in an inflexible attachment to the liberties of America, and to republican forms of government, writes as follows.”
Here were added four of the objections JA had urged in his Thoughts against unicameralism.
“Ludlow” was actually Dr. Benjamin Rush, who was only one of numerous contributors to the lively newspaper debate then going on over the merits and defects of the new state constitution. See Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776–1790, Harrisburg, 1942, p. 28 ff., 240. Rush’s letters were promptly gathered in an anonymous pamphlet entitled Observations upon the Present Government of Pennsylvania. In Four Letters to the People of Pennsylvania, Phila., 1777; 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 15589. The purpose of the pamphlet was to sound a call for a new constitutional convention, and its titlepage bore two quotations from “Adams on Government.”
In an answer to “Ludlow” in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 4 June, “Whitlocke” (whose real name is not known) declared JA’s objections irrelevant:
“In this view of the subject, the opinions of your Adams’s, your Montesquieu’s, your Harrington’s, Milton’s, Addison’s, Price’s and Bolingbroke’s are not only trifling but impertinent. . . .
“The worthy American patriot’s four reasons against a single assembly are not in point, and therefore you can deduce no solid inference from them. As they form a kind of data, on which you found your observations, pointing out their inapplicability to the case before us destroys the whole force of your reasoning. . . . Every one of this gentleman’s reasons derive their force from this supposition, that the whole legislative, executive, judicial and military powers of this State are vested in one body of men. . . . How you could introduce them in the present dispute, I cannot conceive, unless to satisfy the public that you did not understand them.”
This argument led to the reprinting of JA’s essay of 1776 in the Pennsylvania Gazette of 11 June, preceded by this note to the printers:
“As two writers in the News-papers have lately quoted Mr. Adams’s excellent pamphlet upon a republican form of government, the one to prove that all legislative power should not be lodged in one Assembly, the other to prove that the author meant only that the whole power legislative, executive and judicial, should not be lodged in one Assembly; your publishing the whole of the pamphlet in your paper, will enable the public to judge for themselves. Your’s, &c. A.B.”
Interestingly enough, the reprint in the Gazette suppressed the last paragraph of JA’s tract as printed in 1776, in which JA had requested George Wythe, the original recipient, to keep the author’s name “out of sight.”