John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 18 February 1776

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Philadelphia, 18 February, 1776.

I SENT you from New York a pamphlet entitled "Common Sense", written in vindication of doctrines, which there is reason to expect, that the further encroachments of tyranny and depredations of oppression will soon make the common faith ; unless the cunning ministry, by proposing negotiations and terms of re conciliation, should divert the present current from its channel.

Reconciliation if practicable, and peace if attainable, you very well know, would be as agreeable to my inclinations, and as advantageous to my interest, as to any man's. But see no prospect, no probability, no possibility. And I cannot but despise the understanding, which sincerely expects an honorable peace, for its credulity, and detest the hypocritical heart, which pretends to expect it, when in truth it does not. The newspapers here are full of free speculations, the tendency of which you will easily discover. The writers reason from topics which have been long in contemplation and fully understood by the people at large in New England, but have been attended to in the southern colonies only by gentlemen of free spirits and liberal minds, who are very few. I shall endeavour to enclose to you as many of the papers and pamphlets as I can, as long as I stay here. Some will go by this conveyance.

Dr. Franklin, Mr. Chase, and Mr. Charles Carroll of Carrollton in Maryland, are chosen a committee to go into Canada. The characters of the two first you know. The last is not a member of Congress, but a gentleman of independent fortune, perhaps the largest in America, a hundred and fifty or two hundred thousand pounds sterling ; educated in some university in France, though a native of America, of great abilities and learning, complete master of the French language, and a professor of the Roman Catholic religion, yet a warm, a firm, a zealous supporter of the rights of America, in whose cause he has hazarded his all. Mr. John Carroll, of Maryland, a Roman Catholic priest and a Jesuit, is to go with the committee ; the priests in Canada having refused baptism and absolution to our friends there. General Lee is to command in that country, whose address, experience and abilities, added to his fluency in the French language, will give him great advantages.

The events of war are uncertain. We cannot ensure success, but we can deserve it. I am happy in this provision for that important department, because I think it the best that could be made in our circumstances. Your prudence will direct you to communicate the circumstances of the priest, the Jesuit, and the Romish religion, only to such persons as can judge of the measure upon large and generous principles, and will not indiscreetly divulge it. The step was necessary, for the anathemas of the church are very terrible to our friends in Canada.

I wish I understood French as well as you. I would have gone to Canada, if I had. I feel the want of education every day, particularly of that language. I pray, my dear, that you would not suffer your sons or your daughter ever to feel a similar pain. It is in your power to teach them French, and I, every day, see more and more, that it will become a necessary accomplishment of an American gentleman or lady.

Pray write me in your next the name of the author of your thin French grammar, which gives you the pronunciation of the French words in English letters, that is, which shows you how the same sounds would be signified by English vowels and consonants.

Write me as often as you can. Tell me all the news. Desire the children to write to me, and believe me to be theirs and yours.

Author:
John Adams

Source:
Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841