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John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776
sheet 23 of 53, January - April 1776

though when he did speak, his Sentiments were clear and pertinent, and neatly expressed. Mr. Richard Henry Lee of Virginia, Mr. Sherman of Connecticutt, and Mr. Gadsden of South Carolina, were always on my Side; and Mr. Chase of Maryland, when he did speak at all, was always powerfull, and generally with Us. Mr. Johnson of Maryland was the most frequent Speaker from that State and while he remained with Us, was inclined to Mr. Dickinson, for some time, but his State Soon appointed him  [illegible General of Militia to march but eer long he and all his State came cordially into our System. In the fall of 1776 his State appointed him General of Militia, and he marched to the Relief of General Washington in the Jerseys. He was afterwards chosen Governor of Maryland and he came no more to Congress.
In the Course of this Winter appeared a Phenomenon in Philadelphia a Star of Disaster Disastrous Meteor, I mean Thomas Paine. He came from England, and got into such company as would converse with him, and ran about picking up what Information he could, concerning our Affairs, and finding the great Question was concerning Independence, he gleaned from those he saw the common place Arguments concerning Independence: such as the Necessity of Independence, at some time or other, the peculiar fitness at this time: the justice of it: the Provocation to it: the necessity of it: our Ability to maintain it &c. &c. Dr. Rush put him upon Writing on the Subject, furnished him with the Arguments which had been urged in Congress an hundred times, and gave him his title of common Sense. In the latter part of Winter, or the early in the Spring he came out, with his Pamphlet. The Arguments in favour of Independence I liked very well: but one third of the Book was filled with Arguments from the old Testiment, to prove the Unlawfulness of Monarchy, and another Third, in planning a form of Government, for the seperate States in One Assembly, and for the United States, in a Congress. His Arguments from the old Testiment, were ridiculous, but whether they proceeded from

honest Ignorance, and or foolish [Superstition] on one hand, or from willfull Sophistry and knavish Hypocricy on the other I know not. The other third part relative to a form of Government I considered as flowing from simple Ignorance, and a mere desire to please the democratic Party in Philadelphia, at whose head were Mr. Matlock, Mr. Cannon and Dr. Young. I regretted however, to see so foolish a plan recommended to the People of the UnitedStates, who were all waiting only for the  [illegible Countenance of Congress, to institute their State Governments. I dreaded the Effect so popular a pamphlet might have, among the People, and determined to do all in my Power, to counter Act the Effect of it. My continued Occupations in Congress, allowed me no time to write any thing of any Length: but I found moments to write a small pamphlet which Mr. Richard Henry Lee, to whom I shewed it, liked it so well that he insisted on my permitting him to publish it: He accordingly got Mr. Dunlap to print it, under the Tittle of Thoughts on Government in a Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend. Common Sense was published without a Name: and I thought it best to suppress my name too: but as common Sense when it first appeared was generally by the public ascribed to me or Mr. Samuel Adams, I soon regretted that my name did not appear. Afterward I had a new Edition of it printed with my name and the name of Mr. Wythe of Virginia to whom the Letter was at first intended to have been addressed. The Gentlemen of New York availed themselves of the Ideas in this Morsell in the formation of the Constitution of that State. And Mr. Lee sent it to the Convention of Virginia when they met to form their Government and it went to North Carolina, New Jersey and other States. Matlock,Cannon, Young and Paine had influence enough however, to get their plan adopted in substance in Georgia and Vermont as well as PhiladelphiaPennsilvania. These three States have since found them, such Systems

of Anarchy, if that Expression is not a contradiction in terms, that they have altered them and made them more conformable to my plan. -- Paine soon after the Appearance of my Pamphlet hurried away to my Lodgings and spent an Evening with me. His Business was to reprehend me for publishing my Pamphlet. Said he was afraid it would do hurt, and that it was repugnant to the plan he had proposed in his Common Sense. I told him it was true it was repugnant and for that reason, I had written it and I had consented to the publication of it: for I was as much afraid of his Work [as] he was of mine. His plan was so democratical, without any restraint or even an Attempt at any Equilibrium or Counterpoise, that it must produce confusion and every Evil Work. I told him further, that his Reasoning from the Old Testament was ridiculous, and I could hardly think him sincere. At this he laughed, and said he had taken his Ideas in that part from Milton: and then expressed a Contempt of the Old Testament and indeed of the Bible at large, which surprized me. He saw that I did not relish this, and soon check'd himself, with these Words "However I have some thoughts of publishing my Thoughts on Religion, but I believe it will be best to postpone it, to the latter part of Life." This Conversation passed in good humour, without any harshness on either Side: but I perceived in him a conceit of himself, and a daring Impudence, which have been developed more and more to this day. . . . The third part of Common Sense which relates wholly to the Question of Independence, was clearly written and contained a tollerable Summary of the Arguments which I had been repeating again and again in Congress for nine months. But I am bold to say there is not a Fact nor a Reason stated in it, which had not been frequently urged in Congress. The Temper and Wishes of the People, supplied every thing at that time: and the Phrases, suitable for an Emigrant from New Gate, or who one who had chiefly associated with such Company, such as "The Royal Brute of England," "The Blood upon his Soul," and a few others

of equal delicacy, had as much Weight with the People as his Arguments. It has been a general Opinion, that this Pamphlet was of great Importance in the Revolution. I doubted it at the time and have doubted it to this day. It probably converted some to the Doctrine of Independence, and gave others an Excuse for declaring in favour of it. But these would all have followed Congress, with Zeal: and on the other hand it excited many Writers against it, particularly plain Truth, who contributed very largely to fortify and inflame the Party against Independence, and finally lost us the Allens, Penns, and many other Persons of Weight in the Community. Notwithstanding these doubts I felt myself obliged to Paine for the Pains he had taken and for his good Intentions to serve Us which I then had no doubt of. I say saw he had a capacity and a ready Pen, and understanding he was poor and destitute, I thought We might put him into some Employment, where he might be usefull and earn a Living. Congress appointed a Committee of foreign affairs not long after and they wanted a Clerk. I nominated Thomas Paine, supposing him a ready Writer and an industrious Man.Dr. Witherspoon the President of New Jersey Colledge and then a Delegate from that State rose and objected to it, with an Earnestness that surprized me. The Dr. said he would give his reasons; he knew the Man and his Communications: When he first came over, he was on the other Side and had written pieces against the American Cause: that he had afterwards been employed by his Friend Robert Aitkin, and finding the Tide of Popularity run pretty strong rapidly, he had turned about: that he was very intemperate and could not write untill he had quickened his Thoughts with large draughts of Rum and Water: that he was in short a bad Character and not fit to be placed in such a Situation. -- General Roberdeau spoke in his favour: no one confirmed Witherspoons Account, though the truth of it has since been sufficiently established. Congress appointed him: but he was soon obnoxious by his Manners, and dismissed.

Cite web page as: John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776, sheet 23 of 53 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. John Adams autobiography, part 1, "John Adams," through 1776. Part 1 is comprised of 53 sheets and 1 insertion; 210 pages total. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Butterfield, L.H., ed. Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Vol. 3. Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1961.
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