Adams Papers

From John Adams to William Tudor, 29 September 1774

To William Tudor

Philadelphia Septr. 29. 1774

Dear Sir

I wish it was in my Power, to write you any Thing for the Relief of your Anxiety, under the Pressure of those Calamities which now distress our beloved Town of Boston and Province of Massachusetts. The Sentiments expressed in your last to me, are Such as would do Honour to the best of Citizens, in the Minds of the Virtuous and worthy of any Age or Country in the worst of Times.

Dulce et decorum est pro Patria mori.

Wouldst thou receive thy Countrys loud Applause,

Lov’d as her Father, as her God ador’d,

Be thou the bold Asserter of her Cause,

her Voice in Council, in the Fight her Sword.1

You can have no adequate Idea of the Pleasures or of the Difficulties of the Errand I am now upon. The Congress is Such an Assembly as never before came together on a Sudden, in any Part of the World. Here are Fortunes, Abilities, Learning, Eloquence, Acuteness equal to any I ever met with [in] my Life. Here is a Diversity of Religions Educations, Manners, Interests, Such as it would Seem almost impossible to unite in any one Plan of Conduct.

Every Question is discussed with a Moderation, and an Acuteness and a minuteness equal to that of Queen Elizabeths privy Council.

This occasions infinite Delays. We are under Obligations of Secrecy in every Thing except the Single Vote which you have Seen approving the Resolutions of the County of Suffolk. What Effect this Vote may have with you is uncertain. What you will do, God knows. You Say you look up to the Congress. It is well you Should: but I hope you will not expect too much from Us.

The Delegates here are not Sufficiently acquainted with our Province and with the Circumstances you are in, to form a Judgment of what Course it is proper for you to take. They Start at the Thought of taking up the old Charter,: They Shudder at the Prospect of Blood. Yet they are unanimously and unalterably against your Submission, to any of the Acts for a Single Moment.

You See by this What they are for—vizt, that you Stand Stock Still, and live without Government, or Law. At least for the present and as long as you can. I have represented to them, wherever I see them, the Utter Impossibility, of four hundred Thousand People existing long without a Legislature or Courts of Justice.2 They all Seem to acknowledge it: Yet nothing can be as yet accomplished.

We hear, perpetually, the most figurative Panegyricks upon our Wisdom Fortitude and Temperance: The most fervent Exhortations to perseverance. But nothing more is done.

I may venture to tell you, that I believe We Shall agree to N. Imp. N. Consumption, and Non Exportation, but not to commence so soon as I could wish.

Indeed all this would be insufficient, for our Purpose—a more adequate Support, and Relief to the Massachusetts Should be adopted. But I tremble for fear, We should fail of obtaining it.

There is however a most laudable Zeal, and an excellent Spirit, which every Day increases, especially in this City. The Quakers had a General Meeting here last Sunday, and are deeply affected with the Complexion of the Times.3 They have recommended it to all their People to renounce Tea, and indeed the People of this City of all Denominations have laid it generally aside Since our Arrival here. They are about setting up Companys of Cadets, voluntarily.—&c. &c. &c.

It is the universal opinion here that the General, Gage, is in the Horrors, and that he means only to act upon the Defensive. How well this opinion is founded you, can judge better than I.

I must beseech you to shew this Letter to no Man, in whom you have not the most perfect Confidence. It may do a great deal of Mischief.

We have had numberless Prejudices to remove here. We have been obliged to act, with great Delicacy and Caution. We have been obliged to keep ourselves out of Sight, and to feel Pulses, and Sound the Depths—to insinuate our Sentiments, Designs and Desires by means of other Persons, Sometimes of one Province and Sometimes of another. A future opportunity I hope, in Conversations will make you acquainted with all. adieu,

John Adams

RC (MHi:Tudor Papers); addressed: “To Mr William Tudor Attorney at Law Boston favour’d by Mr Coolidge.”

1It is sweet and becoming to die for one’s country. Horace, Odes, III, ii, 13. The author of the English poetry has not been identified.

2The county conventions that met in August and September were aware of the danger, for, almost without exception, they passed resolves calling on the people to refrain from disorders in this time of troubles. The closing of the courts made it necessary to declare all pending cases in abeyance, to propose arbitration schemes to settle disputes, and to urge debtors and creditors to make mutually agreeable arrangements for protecting the interests of both parties (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. 603, 605, 613, 620–621, 625, 627, 633, 659; Brown, Revolutionary Politics description begins Richard D. Brown, Revolutionary Politics in Massachusetts: The Boston Committee of Correspondence and the Towns, 1772–1774, Cambridge, 1970. description ends , p. 214–220).

3The Philadelphia Yearly Meeting sent out a letter of advice to American Quakers elsewhere (An Epistle from Our Yearly-Meeting, Held at Philadelphia, for Pennsylvania and New-Jersey, by Adjournments, from the 24th Day of the 9th Month to the 1st of the 10th Month, Inclusive, 1774; To our Friends and Brethren in These and the Neighbouring Provinces, Phila., 1774, 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 , No. 13285; James Bowden, The History of the Society of Friends in America, 2 vols., London, 1850, 1854, 2:298).

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