Posted by: Democratic Thinker | November 18, 2013

John Adams—James Warren (June 25, 1774)

American Correspondence

John Adams writes to a friend of his thoughts and fears on the upcoming Continental Congress.

There is one ugly reflection. Brutus and Cassius were conquered and slain. Hampden died in the field, Sidney on the scaffold, Harrington in jail, &c. This is cold comfort.

To James Warren.


IPSWICH, June 25, 1774.


I AM very sorry I had not the pleasure of seeing you after your return from Salem, as I wanted a great deal of conversation with you on several subjects.

The principal topic, however, was the enterprise to Philadelphia. I view the assembly, that is to be there, as I do the court of Areopagus, the council of the Amphictyons, a conclave, a sanhedrim, a divan, I know not what. I suppose you sent me there to school. I thank you for thinking me an apt scholar, or capable of learning. For my own part, I am at a loss, totally at a loss, what to do when we get there; but I hope to be there taught.

It is to be a school of political prophets, I suppose, a nursery of American Statesmen. May it thrive and prosper and flourish, and from this fountain may there issue streams, which shall gladden all the cities and towns in North America, forever! I am for making it annual, and for sending an entire new set every year, that all the principal geniuses may go to the university in rotation, that we may have politicians in plenty. Our great complaint is the scarcity of men fit to govern such mighty interests as are clashing in the present contest. A scarcity indeed! For who is sufficient for these things? Our policy must be to improve every opportunity and means for forming our people, and preparing leaders for them in the grand march of politics. We must make our children travel. You and I have too many cares and occupations, and therefore we must recommend it to Mrs. Warren, and her friend Mrs. Adams, to teach our sons the divine science of the politics; and to be frank, I suspect they understand it better than we do.

There is one ugly reflection. Brutus and Cassius were conquered and slain. Hampden died in the field, Sidney on the scaffold, Harrington in jail, &c. This is cold comfort. Politics are an ordeal path among red hot ploughshares. Who, then would be a politician for the pleasure of running about barefoot among them? Yet somebody must. And I think those whose characters, circumstances, educations, &c, call them, ought to follow.

Yet I do not think that one or a few men are under any moral obligation to sacrifice for themselves and families all the pleasures, profits, and prospects of life, while others for whose benefit this is to be done lie idle, enjoying all the sweets of society, accumulating wealth in abundance, and laying foundations for opulent and powerful families for many generations. No. I think the arduous duties of the times ought to be discharged in rotation, and I never will engage more in politics but upon this system.

I must entreat the favor of your sentiments and Mrs. Warren’s what is proper, practicable, expedient, wise, just, good, necessary to be done at Philadelphia. Pray let me have them in a letter before I go.

I am your Friend,          

Diary Entry, June 1774.

25. Saturday. Since the Court adjourned without day this afternoon, I have taken a long walk through the Neck, as they call it, a fine tract of land in a general field. Corn, rye, grass, interspersed in great perfection this fine season. I wander alone and ponder. I muse, I mope, I ruminate. I am often in reveries and brown studies. The objects before me are too grand and multifarious for my comprehension. We have not men fit for the times. We are deficient in genius, in education, in travel, in fortune, in every thing. I feel unutterable anxiety. God grant us wisdom and fortitude! Should the opposition be suppressed, should this country submit, what infamy and ruin! God forbid. Death in any form is less terrible!

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