ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President. Circular letter signed (''John Adams''), as member of Continental Congress, to Ezra Stiles, Philadelphia, 18 October 1775. CO-SIGNED BY SILAS DEANE AND DECLARATION SIGNER GEORGE WYTHE. 1 page, folio, remnants of tipping along right edge of verso.
ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President. Circular letter signed ("John Adams"), as member of Continental Congress, to Ezra Stiles, Philadelphia, 18 October 1775. CO-SIGNED BY SILAS DEANE AND DECLARATION SIGNER GEORGE WYTHE. 1 page, folio, remnants of tipping along right edge of verso.
CONGRESS ASKS FOR INFORMATION ABOUT "THE HOSTILITIES COMMITTED BY THE MINISTERIAL ARMY & NAVY"
A revealing document from the long run-up to Independence. "The Congress has resolved that a just Account of the hostilities committed by the Ministerial Army & Navy, the Number & Value of the Buildings destroyed, the vessels seized & Captivated, & the Stock plundered in any part of America, since the month of March last, with proper Evidence of all the Facts, as you will see by an Authenticated Copy enclosed [not present]. The propriety of this Measure is obvious, it may be necessary for our justification, in the judgment of the People of Great Britain and foreign Nations. The information of the Colonies & the use of history, not to mention other purposes. Our distance here from the principal Scenes of Violence and depredations makes it necessary for us to apply to Several Assemblies as well as private Gentlemen in several Colonies for Assistance & from your Character it is presumed you will cheerfully yield us all the aid in your power. It will be requisite that every Fact be supported by Affidavits, authenticated by the best Authority of the place where they shall be taken. Our Apology for giving you this Trouble in the manifest utility of the design to the common Cause of the Colonies in these Times of public distress & danger."
Lexington and Concord were already six months in the past. Bunker Hill and the burning of Charlestown were only slightly more recent. Yet the American colonies seemed no closer to breaking away from Great Britain. Revealingly, this Congressional call for damage reports refers to the depredation and plundering caused by "the Ministerial Army & Navy" and not the King's. This was a bow to the moderates who thought only a change of ministry in Whitehall and Parliament could make things better. The exercise of compiling this information could serve the interests of both the moderates and the firebrands like Adams: it could convince the King of the wickedness of his Minister's policies, or it could galvanize the Colonists to take up arms. In the end, the King himself lit the match: in December 1775 he declared the Colonists in rebellion and beyond his protection. And in January 1776 the royal governor in Virginia, Lord Dunsmore, offered freedom to every slave that fought for King George against their former masters. These acts cured the moderates of any faith in George III as a benevolent protector.