February

February

TAMPA ROBINS

The robin laughed in the orange-tree:
“Ho, windy North, a fig for thee:
While breasts are red and wings are bold
And green trees wave us globes of gold,
Time's scythe shall reap but bliss for me—
Sunlight, song, and the orange-tree....

“I'll south with the sun, and keep my clime;
My wing is king of the summer-time;
My breast to the sun his torch shall hold;
And I'll call down through the green and gold
Time, take thy scythe, reap bliss for me,
Bestir thee under the orange-tree.”
Sidney Lanier

84. John Adams

Philadelphia, February, 1776.

Lee is at York, and we have requested a battalion of Philadelphia associators, together with a regiment of Jersey minute-men, to march to his assistance. Lord Stirling was there before with his regiment, so that there will be about a thousand men with Lee from Connecticut, about six hundred with Lord Stirling from the Jerseys, one battalion of about seven hundred and twenty minute-men from Jersey, and one of the same number from Philadelphia. We shall soon have four battalions more, raised in Pennsylvania, to march to the same place, and one more in the Jerseys. Mr. Dickinson, being the first Colonel and commander of the first battalion too, claimed it as his right to march upon this occasion. Mr. Reed, formerly General Washington's secretary, goes his lieutenant-colonel. Mr. Dickinson's alacrity and spirit upon this occasion, which certainly becomes his character and sets a fine example, is much talked of and applauded. This afternoon, the four battalions of the militia were together, and Mr. Dickinson mounted the rostrum to harangue them, which he did with great vehemence and pathos, as it is reported.

I suppose, if I could have made interest enough to have been chosen more than a lieutenant, I should march too, upon some such emergency; and possibly a contingency may happen when it will be proper for me to do it still, in rank and file. I will not fail to march, if it should. In the beginning of a war, in colonies like this and Virginia, where the martial spirit is but just awakened and the people are unaccustomed to arms, it may be proper and necessary for such popular orators as Henry and Dickinson to assume a military character. But I really think them both better statesmen than soldiers,[125] though I cannot say they are not very good in the latter character. Henry's principles and systems are much more conformable to mine than the other's, however.

I feel, upon some of these occasions, a flow of spirits and an effort of imagination, very like an ambition to be engaged in the more active, gay, and dangerous scenes; (dangerous, I say, but recall that word, for there is no course more dangerous than that which I am in.) I have felt such passions all my lifetime, particularly in the year 1757, when I longed more ardently to be a soldier than I ever did to be a lawyer. But I am too old, and too much worn with fatigues of study in my youth, and there is too little need, in my province, of such assistance, for me to assume a uniform.

"Non tali auxilio, nec defensoribus istis Tempus eget."

I believe I must write you soon Lord Stirling's character, because I was vastly pleased with him. For the future I shall draw no characters but such as I like. Pimps destroy all freedom of correspondence.

Footnotes:

[125]Washington passed the same judgment on Henry, in a letter to Joseph Reed, of nearly the same date.