Adams Papers

From John Adams to Moses Gill, 10 June 1775

To Moses Gill

Phyladelphia June 10. 1775

Dr Sir1

It would be a Relief to my Mind, if I could write freely to you concerning the Sentiments Principles, Facts and Arguments which are laid before us, in Congress: But Injunctions, and Engagements of Honour render this impossible. What I learn out of Doors among Citizens, Gentlemen, and Persons of all Denominations is not so sacred. I find that the general Sense abroad is to prepare for a vigorous defensive War, but at the Same Time to keep open the Door of Reconciliation—to hold the sword in one Hand and the Olive Branch in the other—to proceed with Warlike Measures, and conciliatory Measures Pari Passu.

I am myself as fond of Reconciliation, if We could reasonably entertain Hopes of it upon a constitutional Basis, as any Man. But, I think, if We consider the Education of the Sovereign, and that the Lords the Commons, the Electors, the Army, the Navy, the officers of Excise, Customs &c., &c., have been now for many years gradually trained and disciplined by Corruption to the System of the Court, We shall be convinced that the Cancer is too deeply rooted, and too far spread to be cured by any thing short of cutting it out entire.

We have ever found by Experience that Petitions, Negociation every Thing which holds out to the People Hopes of a Reconciliation without Bloodshed is greedily grasped at and relyed on—and they cannot be perswaded to think that it is so necessary to prepare for War as it really is. Hence our present Scarcity of Powder &c.

However, this Continent is a vast, unweildy Machine. We cannot force Events. We must Suffer People to take their own Way in many Cases, when We think it leads wrong—hoping however and believing, that our Liberty and Felicity will be preserved in the End, tho not in the Speedyest and Surest Manner.

In my opinion Powder and Artillery are the most efficacious, Sure, and infallibly conciliatory Measures We can adopt.

Pray write me, by every opportunity—and beseech my Friends to write. Every Letter I receive does great good. The Gentleman to whom most Letters from our Province is addressed, has not Leisure to make the best use of them.2

There are three Powder Mills in this Province—two in New York but no Nitre—cant the Mass. begin to prepare both?3 Pray write me, minutely the State of the People of Boston, and our Army &c. Pray let me know if Mrs. Gill and Mr. Boylstone are out of Prison.4 I have never heard and have sufferd much Anxiety on their Account. My best Respects to them if they are to be seen by you.

RC (M-Ar: 193, p. 349–350); addressed: “To Mr Moses Gill Chairman of the Committee of Supplies Cambridge”; docketed: “<Anonymous> John Adams Letters, June 10th 1775 Philadelphia.”

1Moses Gill (1734–1800), elected councilor when Massachusetts resumed its charter upon the advice of the Continental Congress, served continuously as councilor both under the charter and the constitution of 1780. In 1795 he became lieutenant governor, serving until June 1799, when he became acting governor until his death on 20 May 1800 (Francis Everett Blake, History of the Town of Princeton, 2 vols., Princeton, Mass., 1915, 1:270–273).

2Presumably John Hancock, regarded as the leader of the delegation; his name appears first whenever the names of the congressional delegates are listed in the Journals of the Provincial Congress.

3On 10 June the Continental Congress passed resolutions calling upon the colonies to collect all available powder, saltpeter, and sulfur for the use of American forces and encouraging the manufacture of gunpowder and saltpeter (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:85–86).

4Rebecca Boylston Gill, first cousin of JA’s mother, left Boston sometime before 24 June 1775, but her brother, Thomas Boylston, remained in the town throughout the siege and in 1779 went to England; whether he became a loyalist is uncertain. Patriots offered to secure his release from Boston through an exchange (Adams Family Correspondence description begins Adams Family Correspondence, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1963– . description ends , 1:228;4:342–344; Sabine, Loyalists description begins Lorenzo Sabine, Biographical Sketches of Loyalists of the American Revolution, with an Historical Essay, Boston, 1864; 2 vols. description ends , 1:248; James Warren to JA, 31 July, note 11, below).

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