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THIS day, I think, has been the most remarkable of all. Sullivan came here from Lord Howe, five days ago,with a message, that his lordship desired a half an hour's conversation with some of the members of Congress in their private capacities. We have spent three or four days in debating, whether we should take any notice of it. I have, to the utmost of my abilities, during the whole time, opposed our taking any notice of it. But, at last, it was determined by a majority, " that the Congress being the representatives of the free and independent States of America, it was improper to appoint any of their members to confer in their private characters with his lordship. But they would appoint a committee of their body, to wait on him, to know whether he had power to treat with Congress upon terms of peace, and to hear any propositions that his lordship may think proper to make."
When the committee came to be balloted for, Dr. Franklin and your humble servant were unanimously chosen. Colonel R. H. Lee and Mr. Rutledge had an equal number ; but, upon a second vote, Mr. Rut- ledge was chosen. I requested to be excused, but was desired to consider of it until to-morrow. My friends here advise me to go. All the stanch and intrepid are very earnest with me to go, and the timid and wavering, if any such there are, agree in the re quest So I believe I shall undertake the journey. I doubt whether his lordship will see us, hut the same committee will be directed to inquire into the state of the army at New York, so that there will be business enough, if his lordship makes none. It would fill this letter-book to give you all the arguments, for and against this measure, if I had liberty to attempt it. His lordship seems to have been playing off a number of Machiavelian manoeuvres, in order to throw upon us the odium of continuing this war. Those who have been advocates for the appointment of this committee are for opposing manoeuvre to manoeuvre, and are confident that the consequence will be, that the odium will fall upon him. However this may be, my lesson is plain, to ask a few questions and take his answers.
I can think of but one reason for their putting me upon this embassy, and that is this. An idea has crept into many minds here, that his lordship is such another as Mr. Hutchinson, and they may possibly think that a man who has been accustomed to penetrate into the mazy windings of Hutchinson's heart, and the serpentine wiles of his head, may be tolerably qualified to converse with his lordship.
Sunday, 8 September.
Yesterday's post brought me yours of August 29. The report you mention " that I was poisoned upon my return home, at New York," I suppose will be thought to be a prophecy delivered by the oracle, in mystic language, and meant, that I should be politically or morally poisoned by Lord Howe. But the prophecy shall be false.
- John Adams
- Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife. Edited by His Grandson, Charles Francis Adams, Volume I, 1841