John Adams Letters document,


[Philadelphia], February, 1776.

LEE is at York, and we have requested a battalion of Philadelphia associators, together with a regiment of Jersey minute men, to march to his assistance. Lord Sterling was there before with his regiment, so that there will be about a thousand men with Lee from Connecticut, about six hundred with Lord Sterling from the Jerseys, one battalion of about seven hundred and twenty minute men from Jersey, and one of the same number from Philadelphia. We shall soon have four battalions more, raised in Pennsylvania, to march to the same place, and one more in the Jerseys. Mr. Dickinson being the first Colonel and Commander of the first battalion too, churned it as his right to march upon this occasion. Mr. Heed, formerly General Washington's Secretary, goes his lieutenant colonel. Mr. Dickinson's alacrity and spirit upon this occasion, which certainly becomes his character, and sets a fine example, is much talked of and applauded. This afternoon, the four battalions of the militia were together, and Mr. Dickinson mounted the rostrum to harangue them, which he did with great vehemence and pathos, as it is reported.

I suppose, if I could have made interest enough to have been chosen more^ than a lieutenant, I should march too, upon some such emergency ; and possibly a contingency may happen, when it will be proper for me to do it still, in rank and file. I will not fail to march, if it should. In the beginning of a war,, in colonies like this and Virginia, where the martial spirit is but just awakened, and the people are unaccustomed to arms, it may be proper and necessary for such popular orators as Henry and Dickinson to assume a military character* But I really think them both better statesmen than soldiers, though I cannot say they are not very good in the latter character. Henry's principles and systems are much more conformable to mine than the other's, however.

I feel, upon some of these occasions, a flow of spirits and an effort of imagination, very like an ambition to be engaged in the more active, gay, and dangerous scenes ; (dangerous, I say, but recall that word, for there is no course more dangerous than that which I am in. I have felt such passions all my lifetime, particularly in the year 1757, when I longed more ardently to be a soldier, than I ever did to be a lawyer. But I am too old, and too much worn with fatigues of study in my youth, and there is too little need, in my Province, of such assistance, for me to assume a uniform

" Non tali auxilio, nee defensoribus ictis Tempo eget"

I believe I must write you soon Lord Sterling's character, because I was vastly pleased with him. For the future I shall draw no characters but such as I like. Pimps destroy all freedom of correspondence.

John Adams