From John Winthrop
Cambridge Septr 17. 1776
I have received your favor of —— but it is so old a date, that I am ashamed to put it down.1 I should have answerd it seasonably, and congratulated you on the glorious Declaration of Independence which has long been the object of my wishes, as well as yours. But by all the accounts I have had, I have been expecting you here from week to week. This Declaration you have at last obtained, tho I doubt not, with infinite struggles. I do not at all wonder you are weary, tho I am heartily Sorry for it. For the sake of your personal ease, for the happiness of your amiable Family and your Friends, and for the particular advantage of this State, I should be glad of your return; but when I consider the vast importance of the department you are now acting in, and the very critical situation of this great Continent, I cannot help wishing, that your patience might hold out a little longer.
By the Papers, I find that Dr. Franklin, Judge Adams and Mr. Rutledge are appointed a Committee to confer with the two Hs. Would it not be better, to have this conference (if it must be called so) carried on in writing, than by a personal interview? Litera Scripta manet.2 I am in no pain for the independence of America, while in the hands of men whose sagacity and firmness are beyond all question, but I apprehend, the <
conference> treaty, in whatever way it be managed, must be fruitless. I cannot suppose those Commissioners have power to treat with America as an independent State; and, till that affair is settled, which I trust the Congress will never give up, it should seem to little purpose, to treat of other matters. This grand affair must be decided by war, not by treaty. Our inveterate enemies will never give it up, till they find themselves compelled to it. I hope we shall be able to prosecute this war effectually and successfully. Our principal defect at present is in the article of cannon; which are here very scarce, and in such demand for privateers, that they have risen to an enormous price. Our privateers have met with great success; but our Bay is infested with 3 or 4 frigates, which have retaken some valuable Prizes, and interrupt our coasting trade. If the Continental ships built in New England could be furnished with cannon, and ordered upon this service, I should hope they would clear the coast of these cruisers, and perhaps take some of them. The General Court last week made application to Congress for such orders; and if they obtain them will supply cannon for one of those ships at Newbury, tho at the expence of stripping our Forts.3
Yesterday a Resolve passed for erecting a public Foundery,4 which I hope before another year will supply us with all the cannon we shall want. The Court has ordered near a fifth of our Militia for New York.5 I hope they will soon arrive there, and that General Washington will be able to prevent the enemy from gaining footing on the Main.
The Superior Court are now on their western circuit. General Warren, you doubtless know, has declined a seat on that bench. The place is not yet filled up; but I suppose Mr Sergeant of Haverhill will be the man.
When you return, no man will embrace you with greater pleasure than, Dear Sir, Your affectionate Friend and humble Servt
RC (Adams Papers); docketed: “Dr. Winthrop Sept 17. 1776.”
1. JA’s last letter to Winthrop known to the editors that Winthrop could have received was dated 23 June (vol. 4:331). JA’s letter of 4 Sept., printed in MHS, Colls. description begins Massachusetts Historical Society, Collections and Proceedings. description ends , 5th ser., 4:311, and calendared in JA, Papers, is omitted here.
2. The written letter remains. The rest of the quotation is verbum imbelle perit—the weak word perishes.
3. The General Court having resolved on 13 Sept. to arm one of the Continental warships, the Council on the next day selected the Boston. The General Court’s letter to the congress suggesting that such ship free the Massachusetts coast of British warships is in the Council records (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 , 1776–1777, 2d sess., p. 104, 108; Records of the States, Microfilm, Mass. 1.1a, Reel No. 12, Unit 2, p. 575–576, 584–585).
4. The House had proposed a furnace on 14 Sept., the Council concurring on the 16th (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 , p. 106; Records of the States, p. 597).
5. On 12 Sept. the General Court resolved to raise militia to aid Washington in New York, but subsequently the upper chamber successfully proposed that the militia from two of the counties, Plymouth and Barnstable, go to Rhode Island to replace a Continental battalion there. Originally, James Warren was chosen to lead the militia to New York, but upon his request to be excused, Benjamin Lincoln was named in his place (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 , p. 106; Records of the States, p. 545–549, 553–554, 586; Warren to JA, 19 Sept., below).