To Joseph Hawley
to [. . .]leys Co [. . .]declining the [. . .]lend your kind h[. . .]I therefore by the Favour of [. . .]n, before [we under]take our Journey upon the Subject of our Commission.
What Measures are practicable, and expedient? The Sentiments of People are as various, as the Colour of their Cloaths. Some are for Petitions, to the King, the Lords the Commons; s[ome] for all some for none, Some for a Petition to the K[ing] Some are for bolder Councils. Some for Negociations, for building new Government, Empire and War—in for bold and Spirited Resolutions—others for Symplicity, and Frugality, Non Consumption and Nonim[portation] American Manufacturies. Companies for the Encouragement [of] Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce &c &c &c.
It Seems to me that the Ideas of Empire, and Negotiation, are [pre]valent. I wish they were less so. It should be a principal Objec[tive of] our Policy to avoid Extremities and Ruptures. The Division would cost too dear a Price, and would be more than hazardous, it would be attended with almost a Certainty of Ruin.
Measures to check and interrupt the Torrent of Luxury, if any such are feasible are most agreable to my sentiments at present.
[. . .]selfish [. . .] the hun [. . .]an that this [. . .]this of the few whose [. . .]ry great and usefull Effect.
A Union of the Colonies, in Sentiment and Affection [He]art and Hand is of indispensable Importance. Every Thought [ever]y Expedient for and cementing it, ought to be cherished.
Virginia and Rhode Island have recommended an annual Congress. Nothing can be better calculated to Strengthen and brighten the Chain, than Such an Institution. And the very Idea of it, will have an Influence in England, and all over Europe. The whole Policy and Force of the Ministry will be bent against it, no doubt. But I dont See how it is possible for them to prevent it, or to hinder its Effects.
It would be a Seminary of American Statesmen, a School of Politicians, perhaps at no great Distance of Time, equal to a british Parliament, in wiser as well as better Ages.
I have thrown these Thoughts upon Paper, without any Care, in the hurry of Circuit, but I beg your opinion, as a very great Favour.2
I am with great Esteem and Regard, your Freind and humble Servant,
RC (NN:Joseph Hawley Papers). This mutilated letter, almost all of whose first paragraph is missing and with it the paragraph on the verso, is one of a series discussing the functioning and purposes of the Continental Congress. It was believed to be lost until 1962, when it was presented to the New York Public Library. For an account of the finding of the document and the importance of the Adams-Hawley correspondence, see L. H. Butterfield, “John Adams’ Correspondence with Hezekiah Niles: Some Notes and a Query,” Md. Hist. Mag. description begins Maryland Historical Magazine. description ends , 57:152–153, note (June 1962).
2. Although certainly considered for appointment to the Continental Congress, Hawley did not go, according to JA because he had not had the smallpox; facetiously, JA attributed his own appointment to the merit of having been inoculated (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll., JA to James Warren, 24 and 26 July 1776). An interesting account of how a secret committee, composed of all the members of a House committee on the state of the province except for the unknowing loyalist Daniel Leonard, met in separate session to agree upon the names for delegates to the proposed congress is given in a forthcoming article by Stephen T. Riley, “Robert Treat Paine and John Adams: A Colonial Rivalry.”
JA felt the absence of Hawley and with this letter began a correspondence that culminated in Hawley’s “Broken Hints” (from Joseph Hawley , below). Since 1766, Hawley had been one of the leading whigs in the province, a peer of Samuel Adams and James Otis, and a mentor to John Adams. His tragic hereditary mental illness, however, forced him to the sidelines in 1776 (E. Francis Brown, Joseph Hawley, Colonial Radical, N.Y., 1931).