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YESTERDAY I had the long expected and much wished pleasure of a letter from you, of various dates from the 2d to the 10th March. This is the first line I have received since I left you. I wrote you from Watertown, I believe, relating my feast at the Quarter Master General's with the Caghnawaga Indians, and from Framingham, an account of the ordnance there, and from New York I sent you a pamphlet. Hope you received these. Since I arrived here, I have written to you as often as I could.
I am much pleased with your caution in your letter, in avoiding names both of persons and places, or any other circumstances, which might designate to strangers the writer, or the person written to, or the persons mentioned. Characters and description will do as well.
The lie which, you say, occasioned such disputes at the tavern, was curious enough. Who could make and spread it ? I am much obliged to an uncle for his friendship. My worthy fellow citizens may be easy about me. I never can forsake what I take to be their interests. My own have never been considered by me in competition with theirs. My ease, my domestic happiness, my rural pleasures, my little property, my personal liberty, my reputation, my life have little weight and ever had in my own estimation, in comparison of the great object . of my country. I can say of it with sincerity, as Horace says of virtue. To America only and her friends a friend."
You ask what is thought of " Common Sense." Sensible men think there are some whims, some sophisms, some artful addresses to superstitious notions, some keen attempts upon the passions, in this pamphlet But all agree there is a great deal of good sense delivered in clear, simple, concise and nervous style. His sentiments of the abilities of America,and of the difficulty of a reconciliation with Great Britain, are generally approved. But his notions and plans of continental government are not much applauded. In deed this writer I lias a better hand in pulling down than building. It has been very generally propagated through the continent that I wrote this pamphlet But although I could not have written anything in so manly and striking a style, I flatter myself I should have made a more respectable figure as an architect if I had undertaken such a work, j This writer seems to have very inadequate ideas of what is proper and necessary to be done, in order to form constitutions for single colonies, as well as a great model of union Your distresses, which you have painted in such lively colors, I feel in every line as I read. I dare not write all that I think upon this occasion. I wish our people had taken possession of Nook's hill at the same time when they got the other heights, and before the militia was dismissed.
Poor cousin I pity him. How much soever he may lament certain letters, I 1 Don't lament. I never repent of what was no sin. Misfortunes may he borne without whining. But if I can believe Mr. Dana, those letters were much admired in England. I can't help laughing when I write it, because they were really such hasty crude scraps. If I could have foreseen their fate, they should have been fit to be seen, and worth all the noise they have made. Mr. Dana says they were considered in England as containing a comprehensive idea of what was necessary to be done, and as showing resolution enough to do it. Wretched stuff as they really were, according to him they have contributed somewhat towards making certain persons to be thought the greatest statesmen in the world. So much for vanity.
My love, duty, respects and compliments wherever they belong. Virginia will be well defended. So will New York. So will South Carolina. America will, ere long, raise her voice aloud and assume a bolder air.
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841