Adams Papers

To John Adams from William Gordon, 25 October 1775

From William Gordon

Jamaica Plain Octr 25. 75

My dear Sir

I begin upon a half sheet, as a quarter may possibly not hold what I have to write, but should I comprehend the whole within that compass, shall dock your allowance, the times demanding the utmost frugality as well as courage. Pray how many more burnings of towns are we to be abused with by the British Barbarians, ere the long suffering of the Congress is concluded, and every manly exertion of power and wisdom is to be exercised in opposing our enemies? By a Captain arrived from one of the French ports we are told, that the French are ready to trade with us, and to defend such trade. The Buccaneers of America made a great noise in times past; let the Congress give out letters of m[arque] to take all British bottoms, and we shall soon acquire a greater reputation and a better. West India and East India ships will make good men of war. The British sailors, who might be taken, would be likely to join us upon receiving proper encouragement; the single men might be married among us; the married might go back to their [own] country after a while. The West India property belongs in general to English merchants, the planters being [to a] man over head and ears in debt to them. If the merchants will support the ministry, we have a right [to] their property when we can catch it, that we may support ourselves.

[Chu]rch that villain Church! He I suppose was the fellow that betrayed the proceedings of the [Cong]ress, for which poor Cushing was suspected and suffered in the opinion of many. I hope you will hang [him]. His crime was committed before he was a military officer; let him be tried therefore as a private person, that he may not escape his deserts, upon the common law or custom of arms, and suffer death as a spy upon proof of the facts alleged against him. I am cold, have no more time to spare, and by reason hereof can write no more than best respects to self and brother delegates, instead of brethren delegates which does not read so well, from your sincere friend,

William Gordon1

I had forgot a material thing I wanted to mention. The necessity of an hospital on Roxbury side must be self evident to you, and has existed almost from the first; this will make it necessary to appoint two more surgons than what the congress have allowed. Pray you to procure the establishment and continuance of Drs. Howard and Aspenall,2 Who have given great satisfaction, and live the first on the Plain, the other at Brookline. They cannot act as mates, as that would sink them in the opinion of the neighborhood and hurt their practice, especially after having acted as surgeons. Shall inclose Dr. Howards letter.

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “For The Honle John Adams Esqr Philadelphia”; docketed: “Mr. Gordon Octr. 24. 1775.” The left edge of the sheet is mutilated. The enclosure is without place or date and is addressed: “To the Revd Mr. Gordon Present.” It is microfilmed under the date Oct.? 1775 (Adams Papers, Microfilms, Reel No. 345).

1Rev. William Gordon had visited JA about a month earlier in Philadelphia, when JA recorded in his diary an unflattering estimate of the man — “an eternal Talker, and somewhat vain, and not accurate nor judicious.... Fond of being thought a Man of Influence” (Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 2:174).

The Appendix to JA, Papers description begins Papers of John Adams, ed. Robert J. Taylor and others, Cambridge, 1977– . description ends , vol. 2 contains an essay entitled “Thoughts upon the Dispute between Great Britain and Her Colonies,” the authorship of which is there erroneously attributed to Gordon. The editors are grateful to Prof. Robert M. Calhoon for calling their attention to the mistake. The author was the historian William Smith Jr. of New York, who wrote the piece between 1765 and 1767. See Calhoon, “William Smith Jr.’s Alternative to the American Revolution,” WMQ description begins William and Mary Quarterly. description ends , 3d ser., 22:105–118 (Jan. 1965). How Gordon was able to make a copy of an unpublished MS remains a mystery. Gordon was, however, well known to Smith’s mother-in-law, who left Gordon a legacy about 1776 (“Letters of the Reverend William Gordon, Historian of the American Revolution,” MHS, Procs. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 63 [1929–1930]:498).

2Dr. Lemuel Hayward (1749–1821) and Dr. William Aspinwall (1743–1823) were Harvard graduates. Hayward studied medicine with Joseph Warren in Boston before opening practice in Jamaica Plain; Aspinwall studied in Philadelphia and began practice in Brookline as that town’s first permanent physician. The two joined the army around Boston and were appointed surgeons at Roxbury Hospital (Sibley-Shipton, Harvard Graduates description begins John Langdon Sibley and Clifford K. Shipton, Biographical Sketches of Graduates of Harvard University, in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cambridge and Boston, 1873– description ends , 17:32–34; 16:8–12).

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