To James Warren
Octr. 12. 1775
I would write often if I had any thing to communicate: But Obligations of Honour forbid some Communications and other Considerations prevent others.
The common Chatt of a Coffee house, is too frivolous for me to recollect or you to read. I have inclosed a Paper upon which I will make no Remark: But leave you to your own Conjectures.1 Only I must absolutely insist that it be mentioned to nobody. It may gratify your Curiosity and give Some Relief to your Cares.
I most earnestly pray that all my Friends, would exert themselves to furnish me with Intelligence of a particular Nature. I mean with a List of all the Depredations committed upon our Trade. A List of all the Vessells which have been taken by the Cutters, Cruizers &c. The Names of the Vessells, Masters owners, Burthen of the ship the Nature of the Cargo’s and the Value of both. Nothing will contribute So much to facilitate Reprizals, as an exact Account of our Losses and Damages. I wish our General Court would take it up—and examine it thoroughly.2
We have no Accounts nor Vouchers yet. Nor one Line from the Committee appointed to correspond with Us.
I am very happy—how it is I know not—but I am very happy.
RC (MHi:Warren-Adams Coll.); addressed: “To the Hon. James Warren Esqr Speaker of the House and Pay Master General Watertown favd. by Mr Tracy”; docketed: “Mr. J: A Lettr Octr 12. 1775”; with enclosure in JA’s hand.
1. The origin of the enclosure remains obscure. JA probably copied the proposal from some source. The intimate knowledge of Antigua’s geography indicates that it was written by some person well informed about the West Indies. Certainly the calling for two ships to go out aggressively and seek munitions accorded with JA’s sentiments, for he was a vigorous supporter of the scheme to arm vessels to intercept two British ships known to be carrying munitions to Canada (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:342–345).
It is uncertain whether the proposal was presented to the congress or to one of its committees (perhaps the secret committee on the procurement of gunpowder that had been created on 18 Sept.) and if so, when (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 2:253). The plan is not mentioned in the Journal of the congress, JA’s Diary, or any of the other sources examined. If it was presented, it was probably around 6 Oct., when the procurement of gunpowder was debated (JA, Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:196–197).
2. JA is here anticipating the action of the congress on 18 Oct., when it resolved that an account of hostilities committed since March be compiled.
To implement the resolution, a committee composed of Silas Deane, JA, and George Wythe was established (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 3:298–299). On, 19 Oct. the committee sent form letters to Massachusetts and elsewhere, seeking information. For the form letter see JA’s Service in the Congress, 13 Sept. – 9 Dec., No. III (above). For JA’s interpretation of the period of time to be covered, see JA to James Warren, 19 Oct., first letter, note 3 (below). The province responded on 7 Nov. by naming a committee to compile the requested information, although no record has been found that Massachusetts sent in a formal report (Mass., House Jour. description begins Journals of the House of Representatives of Massachusetts [1715- ], Boston, reprinted by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 1919- . (For the years for which reprints are not yet available, the original printings are cited, by year and session.) description ends , 1175–1776, 2d sess., p. 242).