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Item 3 - John Adams Catalog 467 (Jan 2016)

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Choice LS, one page both sides, 8 x 10, October 27, 1820. Letter to Hon. Jonathan Mason. In full: “When the Enterprise against Cape Breton was planed [sic] and adopted by the Legislature of Massachusetts—I was ten years of age—My Father took the newspapers and gave them to me to read; so that I became somewhat attentive to public affairs—But my attention was more forcibly attracted by the din of arms, the Militia were frequently called together and the Ensigns with their Colours, and the Sergeants with their Halberts, and the Drummers with their Spirit stiring [sic] Instruments, marched around their Regiments, beating up for Volunteers; and I with all the other Boys Marched round with them—But Volunteers would not turn out—The Officers therefore were obliged to have recourse to imprisonment—but this was an operation somewhat too hazardous; it was doubtful whether the Company had patience enough to bear it—there were apprehensions of mutinys, riots, and rescues—The Company were disunified and a more silent Course was pursued—The next day the Sergeant with their Drummers, with files of Men, were sent about town to impress Men in their own houses—And as my Father enjoyed the Envy of all the Officers to the Col. downwards and their resentment for his refusing to serve with them upon their Terms—They singled him out for their pray [sic]—Accordingly the Sergeants with their Files of Men, and their drumes [sic] were sent—And I saw them impress the two Young Men in my Father’s family, Joseph Webb, and Ephraim Thayer, who went upon the expedition; and fortunately returned in safety to my Father’s House—A Col. Hunt a Neighbour and Friend of my Father, Commanded a Regiment in that expedition who returned as well as all the other Officers, and Men, who had served in it returned full of Complaints against the imperious insolent and contemptuous Conduct of the handful of English who had any concern in that affair—All these things impressed upon my mind at that early age, a deep concern, and perhaps a deeper prejudice against the English, their Officers, Governors, and Government—and made me more attentive to public affairs ever after, and more interested in them.” In fine, clean condition, with intersecting folds.

Bearing witness to the forced mobilization of the young men around his coastal Massachusetts township, Adams rekindles the sentiments he felt as a young child in the tense days leading up to the Siege of Louisbourg. In the early spring of 1745, the British impressed hundreds of American troops in an attempt to repel the French rule that dominated the precious fishing regions of Newfoundland; American soldiers assailed the fortress, while Royal Navy ships blockaded the Cape Breton harbor. Exacerbated by Britain’s dishonesty and direct lack of involvement during the siege, the friction felt by American troops was soon relayed to their families upon their return, with young Adams hearing no shortage of accounts from family friends. Casting light on his earliest memories of the British injustices that shaped his political ideals in the Revolution thirty years later, this is a remarkable letter from the 84-year-old Adams. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.

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