From Hugh Hughes
New York March 31st 1776
Your Favour by ’the reputed Author of Common Sense’1 I have not yet answered, as I was not then, nor for some Time afterward, quite clear how Matters would be carried on. But now, I confess our Affairs begin to wear a very different Aspect, as you will perceive by the inclos’d Return to General Thomson.2 Indeed our Citizens seem determin’d to work out their Salvation not only on Earth, but in Earth; for they labour indefatigably, and that with Cheerfulness and Spirit, becoming Men who are determin’d to be free. Their greatest Foible is Credulity, the Source of which I need not mention to you Sir. I wish the Conductors of them had always been as hearty in the Cause as the People, this City would have ’ere now vied with the most forward in the Cause of Liberty, but alas! the last Congress was scarcely a Remove above our late infamous Assembly, and the Present was not sufficiently purg’d.3 T[homa]s S[mi]th is undoubtedly an Adherent to Tryon, as well as his elder Brother, who is a true Son of Loyola, let his Pretentions be what they may.4 There are others who trim agreeable to his Liking &c. yet make a great Show of Patriotism, and at the same Time are counteracting every Thing worth contending for, I mean Indepency.
There has been a Pamphlet written and publish’d here against our natural Rights and ’Common Sense.’ It has met with its Demerit. Some of our sturdy Sons seiz’d between 1500 and 2000 of them at Sam. Loudon’s, and consign’d them to the Flames.5 This has given great Umbrage to several of our pretended Friends, but they are forc’d to pocket the Affront. It is in Contemplation to take the Sense of the Town on Independency, which if carried would put it out of Mr. Livingston’s Power to embarrass you as much as he has.6 However, in the Mean Time I should be glad to have a Line from you on that Subject, anonymously, to prevent Consequences.
I have mention’d it to some of our most zealous Friends, as an Expedient to clear their Country of the just Reproach it now is under; of having been the most backward in the American Cause, of any Part of the Continent, and it seem’d to have the desir’d Effect, they are only afraid of not carrying their Point. However, as the Troops are daily arriving, I am in Hopes their Fears will dissipate. For, the Appearance of so many brave Men inspires them with more liberal and manly Sentiments, And depresses their Opponents in the same Proportion. If ever I have the Pleasure of seeing you, I am determin’d to tell you how some behave in these Times. It is scarcely believable! General Heath arriv’d Yesterday with about 2500, at least, so many came away from Cambridge with him, tho’ they did not all arrive till today. They look very well considering the Fatigue &c. of marching, and being crouded in Boats from N. London here.
The General is a Person of a fine Presence, and exceedingly candid and open; appears to be much of the Gentleman indeed, and very assiduous. He interrogated me very strictly last Evening, on the State of our Affairs, which he did not seem to approve of altogether, there not being a sufficient Guard kept up, nor no alarm Posts.7 Indeed it has scarcely been possible to regulate any Thing yet, for want of standing Troops; the Militia and Minutemen going and coming in such a Manner as to prevent Order taking Place. Lord Stirling and General Thomson both, have given all the Encouragement and Assistance in their Power to the Service, but before either could become acquainted with every Department, he was superceeded. And that, I expect, will be the Case with General Heath.8 I should have told you that the Rifflemen arriv’d a few Days before Gen. Heath, but that you know ’ere this, I imagine.
I have a Letter dated the first Instant before Quebec, that says it is resolv’d to Storm it at all Events. If so, may Success attend them.
Do let me hear from you, in the Way I hinted, in a Post or two, if possible, as it is an Affair I have greatly at Heart. How is my friend Jay? Does his Faith increase? I believe he would do better, had he better Company from here.
If Disunion should take Place, which I hope it will not, there will be much to be done in an Instant, especially in this Quarter. I am determin’d to take my Chance in any single Colony that declares for Freedom, esteeming more glorious to die with the Brave, than murder my Time among Slaves. Of the same Opinion is that worthy Man, Mr. John Holt, and other select Friends.
With the greatest Regard and Respect, I have the Honour to be, Gentlemen,9 your most Obedient and very Humble Servant,
P.S. I felicitate you both on the Success of our Southern Arms.11 They seem as prosperous, as the Cause is just, almost.
NB. I inclose an Return for the President, with my best Regards.
RC (Adams Papers); docketed in an unidentified hand: “Hughes Mar. 31. 1776.” Enclosures not found.
1. JA’s letter to Hughes has not been found. The meaning here is ambiguous, for the letter may have been so signed at a time when many attributed Common Sense to JA, or the letter may have been carried to New York by Paine, who did travel to that province on 19 Feb. (David Freeman Hawke, Paine, N.Y., 1974, p. 52; JA to Charles Lee, 19 Feb., above). It is not clear when JA learned for certain who the author of the pamphlet was.
2. Brig. Gen. William Thompson (1736–1781) of Pennsylvania, who had led the first body of riflemen to the siege of Boston, had been ordered to New York by the congress on 1 March (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 4:181).
3. The Assembly, led by the DeLancey faction, gained notoriety by refusing to support the Continental Association and to name delegates, in early 1775, to the Second Continental Congress. The province was represented in it only because of the extralegal work of the Committee of Sixty, which after the Battle of Lexington and Concord formed a larger Committee of One Hundred and issued a call for the election of a provincial congress to sit in May 1775. When Gen. Lee arrived in New York in early 1776, however, he found that the provincial congress had ordered that British warships in the harbor be supplied with provisions and that certain loyalists be released whom the Continental Congress wanted confined (Merrill Jensen, The Founding of a Nation, N.Y., 1968, p. 532–533, 593–594, 656).
4. William Smith (1728–1793), lawyer, chief justice, historian, early whig, and later loyalist. His brother Thomas, also a lawyer, was to help William’s wife look after his property when he went into exile in 1783 (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; Historical Memoirs of William Smith, 1778–1783, ed. William H. W. Sabine, repr., N.Y., 1971, p. xviii).
5. The Deceiver Unmasked; or, Loyalty and Interest United: In Answer to a Pamphlet Entitled Common Sense. By a Loyal American was written by Rev. Charles Inglis (1734–1816), Rector of New York’s Trinity Church and, after he had fled America, the first Episcopal Bishop of Nova Scotia (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ; T. R. Adams, American Independence description begins Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea. A Bibliographical Study of the American Political Pamphlets Printed Between 1764 and 1776 . . . , Providence, R.I., 1965. description ends , No. 219a). The printer was Samuel Loudon (1727–1813), a staunch patriot, who had begun publishing the New York Packet in Jan. 1776, but who saw nothing inconsistent with his political beliefs in publishing a loyalist tract when, in New York at least, the question of independence was still open. The Sons destroyed copies of Inglis’ work on 19 March (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ). Later in 1776 two editions of the pamphlet, slightly moderated in tone, were printed and sold in Philadelphia by James Humphreys Jr. (American Independence description begins Thomas R. Adams, American Independence: The Growth of an Idea. A Bibliographical Study of the American Political Pamphlets Printed Between 1764 and 1776 . . . , Providence, R.I., 1965. description ends , No. 219b, c).
6. Probably Philip Livingston (1716–1778), who in the Continental Congress was one of the moderates opposed to pressing for independence (DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; 20 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ). See JA to William Heath, 15 April (below), where JA refers to “P. L.”
7. Heath reported to Washington on conditions in New York on 31 March (MHi:William Heath Papers).
8. The command in New York went from Lee to Lord Stirling, to Thompson, to Heath, and thence to Israel Putnam, who was to be displaced when Washington arrived (Johnston, Campaign around New York and Brooklyn description begins Henry P. Johnston, The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn (Long Island Historical Society, Memoirs, vol. 3), Brooklyn, 1878, repr. N.Y., 1971. description ends , p. 58, 61).
9. Although the salutation is a simple “Sir,” Hughes may in his closing have been thinking of both the Adamses or of the Massachusetts delegation.