Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Nothing Would Promote Our Cause More

The 4 July 1778 issue of The Pennsylvania Packet or the General Advertiser (Philadelphia, PA) reported the 18 June withdrawal of British forces from the city.

“On Thursday the 18th ult. the British army, under the command of Sir Henry Clinton, completed their evacuation of this city, after having possession of it about nine months.  The indiscriminate destruction of whig and tory property to be seen in the neighbourhood of the city strongly mark the character of those British savages.  They have increased the resentment of their old enemies and turned the hearts of their friends….” 

    British General Sir William Howe led British troops into 
Philadelphia on 26 September 1777, but resigned as commander of British forces on 14 April 1778.  
    The misconduct of British troops often drove people to oppose them.  In April 1777, John Adams predicted that a British occupation of Philadelphia would turn many against the British army.  Adams wrote, “Nothing would promote our Cause more, than Howes March to this Town.”
    Noting that Pennsylvania’s German-Americans resented damage to their property, Adams wrote, “A few Houses and Plantations plundered, as many would be, if Howe should come here, would set them all on Fire.   Nothing would unite and determine Pensilvania so effectually.”  Adams overlooked the commitment many German-Americans already had for the Cause, but he understood that the misconduct of an army helps its enemies.
    Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 28 April 1777 [electronic edition].  Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive.  Massachusetts Historical Society.   

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