thumbnail of Prospect of a union; A new Chief Justice
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
Prospect of a union. I am eastern educational radio network prospect a union of the American Revolutionary period and a series of readings from the letters of the second president of the United States and his wife Abigail. I am I am. Part 9 a new chief justice.
In the fall of 1775 John Adams was a delegate at the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia. Despite his long absences from his law practice in Massachusetts he had heard from his wife Abigail that he might well be appointed to the Superior Court of Massachusetts. She had conveyed this information rather elliptically to avoid embarrassment if the letter should be intercepted. Two letters that John had written had been intercepted and published by the British causing a great furor. In addition the delegates to the Congress were enjoying to secrecy. So John Adams letters in this period are short. Those he received from Massachusetts however were full of details of scandal pestilence and of the conduct of the war. The scandal that outraged all patriotic Massachusetts men was the traitorous conduct of Dr. Benjamin church a member of the committee of safety and the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Dr. Church was the director of the continental hospital
that ministered to the American troops camped outside of Boston. A compromising letter he had written to his loyalist brother in law in Boston had been discovered. He pleaded not guilty and it was not proved until 1932 that he had indeed been furnishing information to the British High Command. He was not considered irrelevant to the Adams's that his personal morality was also questionable. His Go-Between was said to be his Mistress Abigail use the incident as another good reason why our Southern brethren should not sneer at our New England Puritanism. The scandal however was overshadowed for Adams personally by the deaths from pestilence of his family that Abigail also affecting Lee detailed and dysentery was not the only mortal danger that threatened his wife and four children. The British although held in Boston by the American troops now under the command of General Washington could still raid the seacoast usually for one or two colleagues. The food
situation in Boston was very bad for the troops and even worse for those inhabitants who had not been able to get out. There were also skirmishes over the fortifications that had been an issue in the Battle of Bunker Hill. Abigail describes one of these engagements August 2nd. I went out yesterday to attend the funeral of a poor fellow who fell the night before in battle as they were returning from the lighthouse. I catch some cold. A Sabbath evening there was a warm fire from Prospect Hill and bunkers hail the gun first by the rifleman taking off their guards. Two men upon our side were killed five of their guards were killed and two taken. I believe my account will be very confused but are related as well as I am able. A Sabbath evening a number of men in wheel boats went off from Scranton in Dorchester to the lighthouse where the General Gage had again fixed up a lamp and sent twelve carpenters to repair it. Our people went on amidst a hot fire from thirty
Marines who were placed there as a guard to the Tory carpenters burnt the dwelling house took the Tories and twenty eight Marines killed a tenant and one man brought up all the oil and stores which were sent without the loss of a bag. Two they were upon their return where they were so closely pursued that they were obliged to run one whale boat ashore and leave her to them. The rest arrived safe except the unhappy you whose funeral I yesterday attended who received a bow to the temples as he was rowing the boat. He belonged to Rhode Island. His name was Griffin. He was for our wounded Marines was brought by Captain Turner to Germantown and buried from there with the honors of war. Mr. rye bread upon the occasion made the best aeration you ever praise You know I ever heard from him. The poor wounded fellows who are wounded in their arms desired they might attend. They did and he very pathetically addressed them with which they appeared affected.
I spoke with them. I told them I was very unhappy that they should be obliged to fight their best friends. They said they were sorry they hoped in garden and would be speedily put to the unhappy contest. When they came they came in the way of their duty to relieve Admiral want to go with no thoughts of fighting. But their situation was such as oblige them to obey orders. But they wished with all their souls they that sent them here had been in the heat of the battle expressed gratitude at the kindness they received said in that they had been deceived for they were told that they were taken alive they should be sacrificed by us. Dr. Tubb stress their wounds. I had to decide to have wrote you something about a talked up appointment of a friend of mine to do just old apartment but hope soon to see that friend of ours is accepted as may be necessary. Philadelphia October 7 1775.
My dear the situation of things is so alarming that it is our duty to prepare our minds and hearts for every event even the worst. From my earliest entrance into life I have been engaged in the public accounts of America. And from first to last I have had upon my mind a strong impression that things would be wrought up to their present crisis. I saw from the beginning that the controversy was of such a nature that it never would be settled. And every day convinces me more and more. This has been the source of all the disquietude of my life it has lain down and rose up with me these twelve years. The thought that we might be driven to the sadness or City of breaking our connection with Great Britain exclusive of the carnage and destruction which it was easy to see must attend the separation always gave me a great deal of grief. And even now I would cheerfully retire from public life forever renounce all chance for profits or honors from the public. Now I would
cheerfully contribute my little property to obtain peace and liberty. But all these must go. And my life too before I can surrender the right of my country to a free constitution. I dare not consent to it. I should be the most miserable of mortals ever after whatever honors or emoluments might surround me Braintree October 9th 1775. I've not been composed enough to write you since last sevice. When in the bitterness of my so I wrote a few confused lines. Since which time it is please the Great disposer of all events to add breach to breach. Rare are solitary rows. They love the train and tread each other's heel. The day week that I was called to attend a dying parents bed. I was again called to mourn the loss of one of my own family. I just returned from attending Patti to the grave. No
doubt long before this will reach you you'll receive the melancholy train of letters in some of which I mention her as dangerously sick. She has lain five weeks ranting a few days so bad as that we've had little hopes of her recovery. The latter part of the time she was the most shocking object my eyes ever beheld. And so loathsome that it was with the most utmost difficulty we could bear the house. A mortification took place a week before she died. Nothing but duty and humanity could. And rendered her a most pitiable object. We have great sickness yet in town. She made the Firth corpse that was this day committed to the ground. Where the many others now so bad as to despair of their lives but blessed be the father of our mercies our family are now well. Though I have my apprehensions lest the malignancy of the air in the House may have infected some of them. We have fevers of the readiest kinds the throat
distemper as well as the dysentery prevailing in this and the neighboring towns. Harm long O Lord shall the Holy Land say I am sick. Osho Wherefore it is that thou dost contend with us. In a very particular manner I have occasion to make this inquiry who have had breach upon breach. Known as one wounded been permitted to be healed out it is made to bleed afresh in six weeks. I count five of my near connections laid in the grave. You're Simpson died at Milton about 10 days ago with a dysentery. I'm most thankful to receive your kind favor of the 26 yesterday. It gives me much pleasure to hear of your health. I pray heaven for the continuance of it. I hope for the future to be able to give you more intelligence with regard to what passes out of my own little circle. But such has been my distress that I knew nothing of the political world. You've doubtless heard of the villain really of one
who has professed himself a patriot. But let not that man be trusted who can violate private face and cancel solemn covenants. Who can leap prober moral law and laugh at Christianity. How was he to be bowed to neither honor in our conscience holds. We have here a rumor that wrote a land to share the fate of Charlestown. Is this the day we read of when Satan was to be loosed. I did not hear of any inhabitants getting out of town. It is said Gage is superseded and how in his place and that how release the prisoners from jail. It is also said though not much credited that the going is gone to Philadelphia. I hope to hear from you soon. I do you. Does almost 12 o'clock at night. I had so little sleep that I must bid you good night with hearty wishes for your return. I am most sincerely your porter. Braintree October 21st 1775.
I have now with a pleasure to tell you that we are all railroad travelers had an ill turn since I wrote but soon got better. The sickness has abated here in the neighboring towns in Boston I'm told it is very sickly among the inhabitants of the soldiery. Well at present it looks as though there is no likelihoods of peace. The ministry are determined to proceed at all events. The people are already slaves and have neither virtue or spirit to help themselves or us. The time is hastening when George like Richard May Cry our Kingdom our kingdom for a horse and want even that wealth to make the purchase. I hope by degrees we shall be a new ward to hardships and become a virtuous valiant people forgetting our former luxury and each one apply with industry and frugality to manufacturing and husbandry to we rival other nations biog virtues.
What are your thoughts with regard to Dr. Church that you much knowledge of him. I think you have no intimate acquaintance with him affirm to God was a ne'er true friend a man some sinister intent taints or he dies. It's a matter of great speculation what will be his punishment. The people are much enraged against him. He said at liberty even after he's received a severe punishment I do not think you'll be safe. He will be despised and detested by everyone and many suspicions will remain in the minds of people with regard to our rulers. They are supposing this person is not sincere and that they have jealousy. I think of nothing further to add. But that I am with the tenderest regard your Porsche. October 29 1775. I cannot exclude from my mind your melancholy situation the griefs of your father and sisters your uncles and aunts as well as the remote connections often
crowd in upon me. When my whole attention ought to be directed to other subjects. But alas what of these mournful reflections. The best thing we can do the greatest respect we can show to the memory of our departed friend is to copy into our own lives those virtues which in her lifetime rendered her the object of our esteem. Love and admiration. I must confess I ever felt I veneration for her which seems increased by the news of her translation. Above all things my dear let us in Kochi to these great virtues and to bright excellence seize upon our children. Your mother had a clear and penetrating understanding and a profound judgment as well as an honest and a friendly and a charitable heart. There is one thing however which you will forgive me if I hint to you. Let me ask you rather if you are not of my opinion. Were not her talents
and virtues too much confined to private social and domestic life. My opinion of the duties of religion and morality comprehends are very extensive connection with society at large and the great interest of the public. Does not natural morality and much more Christian benevolence make it our indispensable duty to lay ourselves out to serve our fellow creatures to the utmost of our power and promoting and supporting those great political systems and general regulations upon which the happiness of multitudes depends. On the benevolence charity capacity and industry which exerted in private life would make a family a parish or a town happy employed upon a larger scale in support of the great principles of virtue and freedom of political regulations might secure whole nations and generations from misery want and contempt public virtues and political qualities therefore should be incessantly
cherished in our children. November 5th 1775. I've been prevented writing you for more than a week passed by I would blow upon the forefinger of my right hand is now so tender that I could manage a pan but poorly. I hope you have received several letters from me this fortnight past. I wrote by Mr. Lynch and by Dr friend and the latter of whom I had the pleasure of dining with and of admiring him whose character from my infancy I had been taught to venerate. I found him social but not talkative. And when he spoke something useful dropped from his tongue. He was grave yet pleasant and affable. You know I make some pretensions to physiognomy and I thought I could read in his countenance the virtues of his heart among which patriotism shined in its luster and with that his splendid every virtue of a Christian for the true patriot must be a
religious man. I've been led to think from a late defection that he wanted to tax his duty to his Maker. May well be expected to be deficient and insincere in his duty towards the public. Even supposed him to possess a large share of what is called Honor and public spirit yet do not these men by their bad example by a loose immoral conduct corrupt the minds of youth and vitiate the morals of the age and thus injure the public more than they can compensate by intrepidity generosity and order. But where am I running. I mean to thank you for all your obliging Weber's lately received. And though some of them are very low comic it where they can do contain only two lines to tell me that you were well. They would be acceptable to me. I think however you are more apprehensive than you need to be the gentleman to whose care they have always been directed has been very kind in its conveyances and very careful.
I hope however that it will not now be long before we shall have nearer interviews. You must tell me that you will return next month. A late appointment will make it inconvenient provided you accept for you to go again to Congress. It seems human nature is the same in all ages and countries and Bishan and avarice reign everywhere and where they predominate. There will be bickering as after places of honor and profit. There is an old adage kissing goes by favor. That is daily verified. November 18th 1775 your kind letter of the 5th inst came to hand yesterday by Captain McPherson. I admire your skill in physiognomy and your talent drawing characters. I agree with you and your sentiments that there is reason to be diffident of a man who grossly violates the principles of morals in any one particular habitually. This sentiment was
conveyed to us in one of the paradoxes of the ancient Stoics that all sins were equal and the same ideas suggested from higher authority. He that violates the law in any one instance is guilty of all. I have no confidence in any man who is not exact in his morals. And you know that I look upon religion as the most perfect system and the most awful sanction of morality. Your goodness of heart as well as your sound judgment will applaud me for using the utmost caution in my letters. But if you could see me and observe how I am employed you would wonder that I find time to write to anybody. I am very busy and so is everybody else here. I hope to be with you at Christmas and then to be excused from coming here again at least until others have taken their turns. The late appointment you mention gives me many very serious thoughts. It is an office of high trust and of vast importance at any time but of greater at this than at any other. The
confusions and distractions of the times will encumber that office with embarrassments expose it to dangers and slanders which it never knew before. Besides I am apprehensive of other difficulties. Mr William Cushing has been on that bench and was my senior at the bar. Will he accept under another Mr. Paine too has taken an odd turn in his head of late and is so peevish passionate and violent that he will make the place disagreeable if he does not think better of it. Mr. Cushing Mr. Sargent and Mr. Reed a very able man Mr. Paine might be so if he was understood in his mind. But the unhappy affair and his family his church and Tom appears to me to have affected his mind too much. It is a melancholy thought to me because I have ever had a friendship for him. I am really sorry that he has exposed his character and reputation so much of late as he has done by certain he has given himself and it has many times in the beginning of the summer when I was in an ill state of health. It made me
unhappy. But since the adjournment I have avoided alter cation with him. And this I shall continue to do for that ambition and avarice reign everywhere as you observe is most true. But I hope my preferment will follow merit after our affairs get into a more settled course. When you said that kissing goes by favor you did not explain the particulars I wish you had. But all censure and clamor at this time must be avoided and discountenanced as much as possible. I should be glad to be informed whether the appointment of me that you speak of appears to be to the satisfaction of the people or not. I wish I knew what mighty things were fabricating if a form of government is to be established here. What one will be assumed will be left to our assemblies to choose one. And Will Not many men have many minds. And shall we not run into dissensions among ourselves.
I am more and more convinced that man is a dangerous creature and that power whether vested in many or a few is ever grasping. And I the grave cries give give the great fish swallow up the small. And he was most strenuous for the rights of the people when vested with power is as eager after the prerogatives of government. You tell me of degrees of perfection to which human nature is capable of arriving. And I believe it. But at the same time lament that our admiration should arise from the scarcity of the instances. The building up a great empire which is only hinted at by my correspondent may now I suppose be realized even by the unbelievers. It will not. Ten thousand difficulties arise in the formation of it. The reins of government have been so long slackened that I fear that people will not quietly
submit to those restraints which are necessary for the peace and security of the community. If we separate from Britain what code of laws will be established how shall we be governed so as to retain our liberties. Can any government be free which is not administered by the general state of laws. Who shall frame these laws. Who will give them force and energy. Tis true in your resolution as a body have hitherto had the force of laws. But will they continue to have. When I consider these things and the prejudices of people in favor of ancient customs or regulations I feel anxious for the fate of our monarchy our democracy whatever is to take place. I soon get lost in the labyrinth of perplexities. But whatever occurs may justice and righteousness be the stability of our times and order arise out of confusion great difficulties may be surmounted by patience and perseverance.
I believe I've tired you with politics. I must bid you good night. Tis late for one who had much of an invalid. I was disappointed last week on receiving a packet by the post and upon sealing it found only four newspapers. I think you're more cautious than you need to be. All letters I believe have come safe to hand. I have sixteen from you and wish I had as many more of you. Yours Porter. John Adams was prevented from telling his wife what the mighty things were that were being fabricated. Not only by the injunction to secrecy but by lack of time. He was incredibly busy. His son later calculated that he was a member of 90 committees and chaired 25 during his service in the Congress. The fact that some of these committees met in the public houses of Philadelphia was not a great mitigation of his labors. The
committees debated all the important questions. Should the Americans establish a navy. Should the Congress lift the ban imposed on exportation to the mother country in order to raise money to buy ammunition. Yet if the ban were withdrawn would the withdrawal weaken American unity and resolve. What reply should the Congress make to the team of commissioners delegated by the king to report on the situation in America and welcomed as Adam said scornfully by the Tories and the timid. ADAMS The radical was in no doubt about the proper response to this so-called effort at conciliation. There were still moderates in the Congress who thought that a path to conciliation could be found and that complete separation from Great Britain would not be necessary. Abigail Adams contempt for this position was perhaps even greater than her husband's. As she said of her fellow Americans we are a little of the spaniel kind though
so often sperms still to fall on argues a meanness of spirit that as an individual I disclaim and would rather endure any hardships than to submit to it. Adams felt sure that despite the depressing lack of action in the winter of 75 there would be no submission. Although he might well have wished that he could enjoy his appointment as chief justice of the Massachusetts appear your court of Judicature or a long awaited honor in peace. Prospect of a union is produced and written by Elizabeth Spiro for WFC are the four
college radio station of Amherst Smith and Mount Holyoke colleges and the University of Massachusetts from whose faculties the cast of prospect of a union was drawn. STEPHEN CONROY was hurt as John Adams and Beverly Mae as Abigail Marjorie Kaufman was the narrator. The letters of John and Abigail Adams were taken from the Adams Family correspondence published by the Harvard University Press. The song Free American Day was written by Dr. Joseph Warren. And was recorded by Sawyer as Minute Man from the collection of early American songs of John and Lucy Allison. This program was distributed by national educational radio. This is the national educational radio network.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Prospect of a union
A new Chief Justice
Producing Organization
WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-5h7bwn26).
Episode Description
This program presents dramatic readings from the correspondence between John and Abigail Adams.
Series Description
A first-hand account of the founding of the United States, described through the correspondence of John and Abigail Adams.
Media type
Narrator: Kaufman, Marjorie
Producing Organization: WFCR (Radio station : Amherst, Mass.)
Writer: Spiro, Elizabeth
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-6-9 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:28:17
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Prospect of a union; A new Chief Justice,” 1968-01-30, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed February 29, 2024,
MLA: “Prospect of a union; A new Chief Justice.” 1968-01-30. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. February 29, 2024. <>.
APA: Prospect of a union; A new Chief Justice. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from