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The Writings of Samuel Adams - Volume 4

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[MS., Samuel Adams Papers, Lenox Library.]

BOSTON Jany 1 1778


I had the Pleasure of receiving your Letter dated at York the 23d ofNovr last, which mentions your having before written to me by a youngGentn Capt Romane who was to pass through this Place in his Return toFrance. That Letter has not yet come to Hand. I shall regard all yourRecommendations with the utmost Respect.

Our military Affairs in the middle Department are in such a Situation as to afford us too much Reason to be chagrind. We have indeed sufferd no shameful Defeats, but a promising Campaign has however ended ingloriously. To what are we to attribute it? I believe to a miserable Set of General Officers. I mean to make some Exceptions. For the Sake of our Country, my dear Friend, let me ask, Is our Army perpetually to be an unanimated one; because there is not Fortitude enough to remove those bad Men. I remember the Factions in Carthage which prevented her making herself the Mistress of the World. We may avoid Factions and yet rid our Army of idle cowardly or drunken officers. HOW was Victory snatchd out of our Hands at German Town! Was not this owing to the same Cause? And Why was only one General officer dischargd? Was it because there were just Grounds to suspect only one? Is there not Reason to fear that our Commander in Chief may one day suffer in his own Character by Means of these worthless Creatures? May he not suffer under the Reputation of an unfortunate Commander, than which I think he cannot suffer a greater Evil. It is difficult to seperate from the Minds of the People the Idea of unfortunate from that of the Want of some necessary soldierly Quality. At best the unfortunate General has Pity only as the Reward of his Services; and how soon does Pity degenerate into Contempt. Cicero if I mistake not some where tells us, that when a General is fortunate it matters not whether it is ascribd to his being a Favorite of the Immortal Gods, or to certain good Qualities in him which others are incapable of observing. His Soldiers will encounter every Danger under his Conduct. His Enemies will be confounded at his Approach. His Country will revere him. The Reverse is equally just. As therefore we regard the Reputation of the Comdr in Chief of our Armies, which is of the greatest Importance to our Affairs, let us promote this Winter a strict Scrutiny into the Causes of this unfortunate Campaign. Our Affairs are far from wearing a desperate Aspect. Our Successes at the Northward must give us Reputation abroad; and Reputation is a Kind of real Strength. That our Men are brave, Brandy Wine & German-town can witness. Let us then give them officers worthy of them, and Heaven will prosper our righteous Cause. There is indeed one thing which to me appears threatning. It is absolutely necessary that the Commissarial Departmt should be restored to a better State, or the Army will soon suffer. This my dear Sir requires your speedy Return to Congress. Did the Army suffer or was it in Danger of suffering before the Alterations in that Department the last Summer, why then should we not put it upon its old Footing & prevail upon the former Commissary, who is the fittest Man I know, to act again in that office.1 I have been favord with a Letter from Dr Lee since his Return to Paris from Berlin.2 The Powers of Europe I perceive, are too timid, or too intent upon enslaving others, to espouse the Cause of Liberty in America....