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in all directions. The sick were placed in beds on carts, and hurried to a place of safety. The report was, that three hundred soldiers had landed, and were marching up into the town of Braintree. Men seized their guns, and came flocking from their farms, until two thousand were collected.
It soon turned out that the hostile expedition had landed on Grape Island to seize a large quantity of hay which was stored there. The impetuous colonists soon mustered two vessels, jumped on board, and put off for the island. The British, seeing them coming, decamped. Our men landed, and set fire to the hay, about eighty tons. Mrs. Adams, in giving an account of this, writes,
Our house has been, upon this alarm, in the same scene of confusion that it was upon the former; soldiers coming in for lodging, for breakfast, for supper, for drink. Sometimes refugees from Boston, tired and fatigued, seek an asylum for a day, a night, a week. You can hardly imagine how we live.
The battle of Bunker's Hill was fought on the 17th of June, 1775. The next afternoon, which was Sunday, Mrs. Adams wrote to her husband,
"The day, perhaps the decisive day, is come, on which the fate of America depends. My bursting heart must find vent at my pen. I have just heard that our dear friend Dr. Warren is no more, but fell gloriously fighting for his country; saying, 'Better to die honorably in the field than ignominiously hang upon the gallows.'
"Charlestown is laid in ashes. The battle began upon our intrenchments upon Bunker's Hill, Saturday morning, about three o'clock, and has not ceased yet; and it is now three o'clock, sabbath afternoon. The constant roar of the cannon is so distressing, that we cannot either eat, drink, or sleep."
These scenes had aroused the country around Boston to the very highest pitch of excitement. The farmers had come rushing in from all the adjoining towns with rifles, shot-guns, pitch-forks, and any other weapons of offence or defence which they could grasp. Thus a motley mass of heroic men, without efficient arms, supplies, powder, or discipline, amounting to some fourteen thousand, were surrounding Boston, which was held by about eight thousand British regulars, supported by a powerful fleet.
The first thing now to be done by Congress was to choose a commander-in-chief for this army. The New-England delegation were almost unanimous in favor of Gen. Ward, then at the head of the army in Massachusetts. Mr. Adams alone dissented, and urged the appointment of George Washington, a delegate from Virginia, but little known out of his own State. Through the powerful influence of John Adams, Washington was nominated and elected. He was chosen without an opposing voice. A powerful fleet, said to contain twenty-eight thousand seamen and fiftyfive thousand land troops, was now crossing the ocean for our enslavement. It would seem impossible, to human vision, that such a force could then be resisted. Our destruction seemed sure. Goliah was striding down upon David, and all onlookers expected to see the stripling tossed upon the giant's spear high into the air.
Washington hastened to Massachusetts to take command of the army. Five days after his appointment, Thomas Jefferson made his appearance upon the floor of Congress. A strong friendship immediately sprang up between Adams and Jefferson, which, with a short interruption, continued for the remainder of their lives. After a brief adjournment, Congress met again
in September. The battle was still raging about Boston; and the British, with free ingress and egress by their fleet, were plundering and burning, and committing every kind of atrocity in all directions. John Adams presented and carried the decisive resolution, that, in view of the aggressions and demands of England, "it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of authority under said crown should be totally suppressed." Having thus prepared the way, a few weeks after, on the 7th of June, 1776, Richard Henry Lee of Virginia offered the memorable resolution, which John Adams seconded,
"That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent."
A committee was then appointed to draught a Declaration of Independence. It consisted of Jefferson, Adams, Franklin, Sherman, and Livingston. Jefferson and Adams were appointed, by the rest, a sub-committee to draw up the Declaration. At Mr. Adams's earnest request, Mr. Jefferson prepared that immortal document, which embodies the fundamental principles of all human rights. At this time, Mr. Adams wrote to a friend,
"I am engaged in constant business,-from seven to ten in the morning in committee, from ten to five in Congress, and from six to ten again in committee. Our assembly is scarcely numerous enough for the business. Everybody is engaged all day in Congress, and all the morning and evening in committees."
Jefferson wrote of his illustrious colleague, "The great pillar of support to the Declaration of Independence, and its ablest advocate and champion on the floor of the house, was John Adams. He was our Colossus. Not graceful, not always fluent, he yet came out with a power, both of thought and expression, which moved us from our seats."
Mr. Jefferson, though so able with his pen, had little skill in debate, and was no public speaker. That which he wrote in the silence of his closet, John Adams defended in the stormy hall of Congress. When Adams and Jefferson met to draw up the Declaration of Independence, each urged the other to make the draught. Mr. Adams closed the friendly contention by saying,
"I will not do it: you must. There are three good reasons why you should. First, you are a Virginian; and Virginia should take the lead in this business. Second, I am obnoxious, suspected, unpopular: you are the reverse. Third, you can write ten times
better than I can."-"Well," Jefferson replied, "if you insist upon it, I will do as well as I can."
On the 4th of July, 1776, the Declaration of Independence was adopted by Congress, and signed by each of its members. This was one of the boldest acts in the records of time. Every man who affixed his signature to that paper thus cast the glove of mortal defiance at the foot of the most majestic power on this globe. The scene was one upon which the genius of both pen and pencil has been lavished. In its grandeur it stands forth as one of the most sublime of earthly acts. Of the fifty-five who signed that declaration, there was not probably one who would deny that its most earnest advocate, and its most eloquent defender, was John Adams.
The day after the achievement of this momentous event, Mr. Adams wrote to his wife as follows:
"Yesterday, the greatest question was decided that was ever debated in America; and greater, perhaps, never was or will be decided among men. A resolution was passed, without one dissenting colony, 'That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.' The day is passed. The 4th of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations as the great anniversary festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever. You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil and blood and treasure that it will cost to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States; yet, through all the gloom, I can see that the end is worth more than all the means, and that posterity will triumph, though you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not."
A few weeks before this, early in March, Washington had taken possession of Dorchester Heights, and had driven the British out of Boston. Mrs. Adams, in a letter to her husband, under date of March 4, writes,
"I have just returned from Penn's Hill, where I have been sitting to hear the amazing roar of cannon, and from whence I could see every shell that was thrown. The sound, I think, is one of the
grandest in nature, and is of the true species of the sublime." The next morning, she adds to her letter, "I went to bed about twelve, and rose again a little after one. I could no more sleep than if I had been in the engagement: the rattling of the windows, the jar of the house, the continual roar of twenty-four pounders, and the bursting of shells, give us such ideas, and realize a scene to us of which we could form scarcely any conception. I hear we got possession of Dorchester Hill last night; four thousand men upon it to-day: lost but one man. The ships are all drawn round the town. To-night we shall realize a more terrible scene still. I sometimes think I cannot stand it. I wish myself with you out of hearing, as I cannot assist them."
In August, a British army, landing from their fleet, under Lord Howe, overran Long Island, defeating the American army, which only escaped destruction by retreating in a dark and foggy night to the main land. Howe imagined that the discouragement of this defeat would induce the Americans to listen to terms of submission. He therefore requested an interview with some of the leading members of Congress. John Adams was not in favor of the conference. He was well assured that England would present no terms to which America could accede. A committee, however, was appointed to treat with the British general, consisting of Adams, Franklin, and Rutledge.
On Monday, Sept. 9, 1776, the delegates set out to meet Gen. Howe on Staten Island. Franklin and Rutledge took chairs, vehicle for but one person. Mr. Adams rode on horseback. The first night, they lodged at an inn in New Brunswick, which was so crowded, that Franklin and Adams had to take one bed in a chamber but little larger than the bed, with no chimney, and but one window. The window was open; and Mr. Adams, who was quite an invalid, wished to shut it. "Oh!" said Franklin, "don't shut the window: we shall be suffocated." Mr. Adams replied, that he was afraid of the evening air. Dr. Franklin answered, "The air within this chamber will soon be, and indeed is now, worse than that without doors. Come, open the window, and come to bed, and I will convince you." Mr. Adams opened the window, and leaped into bed. He writes,
"The doctor then began an harangue upon air and cold, and respiration and perspiration, with which I was so much amused, that I soon fell asleep, and left him and his philosophy together: