John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 2 June 1777

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[Philadelphia], Monday 2 June, 1777.

ARTILLERY Election! I wish I was at it or near it Yours of the 18th reached me this morning. The cause that letters are so long in travelling is, that there is but one post in a week, who goes from hence to Peekskill, although there are two that go from thence to Boston. Riding every day has made me better than I was, although I am not yet quite well. I am determined to continue this practice, which is very necessary for me.

I rejoice to find that the town have had the wisdom to send but one Representative. The House last year was too numerous and unwieldy. The expense was too great. I suppose you will have a constitution formed this year. Who will be the Moses, the Lycurgus, the Solon? or have you a score or two of such ? Whoever they may be, and whatever form may be adopted, I am persuaded there is among the mass of our people a fund of wisdom, integrity and humanity, which will preserve their happiness in a tolerable measure.

If the enemy comes to Boston again, fly with your little ones, all of them to Philadelphia. But they will scarcely get to Boston this campaign. I admire your sentiments concerning revenge. Revenge in ancient days, (you will see it through the whole Roman History) was esteemed a generous and an heroic passion. Nothing was too good for a friend, or too bad for an enemy. Hatred and malice without limits against an enemy were indulged, were justified, and no cruelty was thought unwarrantable. Our Saviour taught the immorality of revenge, and the moral duty of forgiving injuries, and even the duty of loving enemies. Nothing can shew the amiable, the moral, the divine excellency of these Christian doctrines in a stronger point of light than the characters and conduct of Marius and Sylla, Crcsar, Pompey, Antony and Augustus, among innumerable others. Retaliation we must practise in some instances, in order to make our barbarous foes respect, in some degree, the rights of humanity. But this will never be done with out the most palpable necessity. The apprehension of retaliation alone will restrain them from cruelties which would disgrace savages. To omit it then would be crucify to ourselves, our officers and men.

We are amused here with reports of troops removing from Rhode Island, New York, Staten Island, &c ; waggons, boats, bridges, &c., prepared ; two old Indiamen cut down into floating batteries, mounting thirty-two guns, sent round into Delaware river, &c., &c ; but I heed it no more than the whistling of the zephyrs. In short, I had rather they should come to Philadelphia than not. It would purify this city of its dross. Either the furnace of affliction would refine it of its impurities, or it would be purged yet so as by fire. This town has been a dead weight upon us. It would be a dead weight upon the enemy. The mules here would plague them more than all their money.

Author:
John Adams

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