John Adams letter to Abigail Adams, 29 August 1777

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Philadelphia, Friday, 29 August, 1777.

MY DEAREST FRIEND,

THE newspapers enclosed will give you all the intelligence of any consequence. General Washington, with a very numerous army, is between Wilmington and the Head of Elk. Howe will make but a pitiful figure. The militia of four States are turning out with much alacrity and cheerful spirits. The continental army under Washington, Sullivan and Nash, besides, is in my opinion more numerous by several thousands than Howe's whole force. I am afraid that he will be frightened, and run on board his ships, and go away plundering to some other place. I almost wish he had Philadelphia, for then he could not get away. I really think it would be the best policy to retreat before him, and let him into this snare, where his army must be ruined. However, this policy will not be adopted. In a letter from good authority, Mr. Paca, we are informed that many dead horses have been driven on the eastern shore of Maryland. Horses thrown over board from the fleet no doubt.

Prices current. Four pounds a week for board, besides finding your own washing, shaving, candles, liquors, pipes, tobacco, wood, &c. Thirty shillings a week for a servant. It ought to be thirty shillings for a gentleman and four pounds for the servant, because he generally eats twice as much, and makes twice as much trouble. Shoes, five dollars a pair. Salt, twenty-seven dollars a bushel. Butter, ten shillings a pound. Punch, twenty shillings a bowl. All the old women and young children are gone down to the Jersey shore to make salt. Salt water is boiling all round the coast, and I hope it will increase. For it is nothing but heedlessness and shiftlessness that prevents us from making salt enough for a supply. But necessity will bring us to it. As to sugar, molasses, rum, &c., we must leave them off. Whiskey is used here instead of rum, and I Don't see but it is just as good. Of this, the wheat and rye countries can easily distil enough for the use of the country. If I could get a cider I would be content.

The business of the country has been in so critical and dangerous a situation for the last twelve months, that it was necessary the Massachusetts should have a full representation, but the expenses of living are grown so enormous that I believe it will be necessary to reduce the number of Delegates to three, after the campaign is over.

Author:
John Adams

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