Diary of John Adams, volume 3

[Fryday May 10. 1776.] JA [Fryday May 10. 1776.] Adams, John
Fryday May 10. 1776.

Fryday May 10. 1776. Congress resumed the Consideration of the Resolution reported from the Committee of the whole, and the same was agreed to as follows:

Resolved, That it be recommended to the respective Assemblies and Conventions of the United Colonies, where no Government sufficient to the Exigencies of their Affairs, hath been hitherto established, to adopt such Government as shall in the Opinion of the Representatives 383 of the People best conduce to the Happiness and Safety of their Constituents in particular, and America in general.

Resolved that a Committee of three be appointed to prepare a Preamble to the foregoing Resolution. The Members chosen Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Rutledge and Mr. Richard Henry Lee.1

Marshall in his Life of Washington says this Resolution was moved by R. H. Lee and seconded by J. Adams.2 It was brought before the Committee of the whole House, in concert between Mr. R. H. Lee and me, and I suppose General Washington was informed of it by Mr. Harrison the Chairman or some other of his Correspondents: but nothing of this Appears upon the Journal. It is carefully concealed like many other Things relative to the greatest Affairs of the Nation which were before Congress in that Year.

This Resolution I considered as an Epocha, a decisive Event. It was a measure which I had invariably pursued for a whole Year, and contended for, through a Scaene and a Series of Anxiety, labour, Study, Argument, and Obloquy, which was then little known and is now forgotten, by all but Dr. Rush and a very few who like him survive. Millions of Curses were poured out upon me, for these Exertions and for these Tryumphs over them, by the Essex Juntoes, for there were such at that time and have continued to this day in every State in the Union; who whatever their pretences may have been have never forgotten nor cordially forgiven me. By this Term which is now become vulgarly and politically technical, I mean, not the Tories, for from them I received always more candour, but a class of People who thought proper and convenient to themselves to go along with the Public Opinion in Appearance, though in their hearts they detested it. Although they might think the public opinion was right in General, in its difference with G. Britain, yet they secretly regretted the Seperation, and above all Things the Connection with France. Such a Party has always existed and was the final Ruin of the Federal Administration as will hereafter very plainly appear.

A Committee of the whole again. Mr. Harrison reported no Resolution. I mention these Committees to shew how all these great ques-384tions laboured. Day after day consumed in debates without any Conclusion.


On this momentous step toward independence, and JA's part in it, see not only what follows in the Autobiography but an earlier passage at p. 335, above, and JA's Diary (Notes of Debates), 13–15 May 1776, with the editorial notes there.


A mistake, as CFA pointed out in a note on this passage (JA, Works , 3:44). Marshall's account of the adoption of the resolve and its preamble recommending the establishment of new governments is correct, but JA evidently confused it with Marshall's passage on the resolution of independence, introduced on 7 June. See John Marshall, Life of George Washington, Phila., 1804–1807, 2:402–403, 409–410.

[Saturday May 11. 1776.] JA [Saturday May 11. 1776.] Adams, John
Saturday May 11. 1776.

Saturday May 11. 1776. A Petition from John Jacobs in behalf of himself and others was presented to Congress and read. Ordered that it be referred to a Committee of three. The Members chosen Mr. John Adams, Mr. Lee and Mr. Rutledge.1

A Committee of the whole. Mr. Harrison reported no Resolution. This days Journal of this Committee shews, with what Art other matters were referred to these Committees of the whole, in order to retard and embarrass the great questions.


This petition is not clearly identifiable, and no action by this committee is recorded in the Journal.

[Monday May 13. 1776.] JA [Monday May 13. 1776.] Adams, John
Monday May 13. 1776.

Monday May 13. 1776. Sundry Petitions were presented to Congress and read, viz. one from Dr. Benjamin Church, and one from Benjamin, Samuel and Edward Church, with a Certificate from three Physicians respecting the health of Dr. B. Church. Here I am compelled, much against my Inclination to record a Fact, which if it were not necessary to explain some things I should rather have concealed. When this Petition was before Congress, Mr. Samuel Adams said something, which I thought I confess too favourable to Dr. Church. I cannot recollect that I said any Thing against him. As it lies upon my Mind I was silent. Mr. Hancock was President, and Mr. Harrison Chairman of the Committee of the whole and a constant confidential Correspondent of General Washington. Neither of them friendly to me. I cannot suspect Mr. Samuel Adams of writing or insinuating any Thing against me to the Friends of Dr. Church, at that time. But Mr. Samuel Adams told me that Dr. Church and Dr. Warren, had composed Mr. Hancocks oration on the fifth of March, which was so celebrated, more than two thirds of it at least. Mr. Hancock was most certainly not friendly to me at that time, and he might think himself in the Power of Dr. Church. When Mr. Edward Church printed his poetical Libel against me at New York in 1789 or 1790, I was told by an Acquaintance of his that he was full of Prejudices against me on Account of Dr. Church his Brother. I leave others to conjecture how he came by them. I know of no other Way to account for his Virulence, and his Cousin Dr. Jarvis's Virulence against me, having never injured or offended any of them. Misrepresentation at that day was a Pestilence that walked in darkness. In more modern times it has stalked abroad with more impudence at Noon day.1


This entire paragraph was omitted by CFA. When Hancock's oration on the Boston Massacre was delivered, JA thought it a splendid performance and voiced no suspicion that the speaker was not the writer; see his Diary under 5 March 1774. In 1776 Dr. Benjamin Church, who had secretly defected to the enemy and been caught, was in jail in Norwich, Conn.; on 14 May Congress voted that he be allowed to return to Massachusetts, under sureties, pending his trial, and he afterward sailed for the West Indies and was lost at sea ( JCC , 4:350, 352; DAB ). His brother Edward Church's “poetical Libel” against JA was an anonymous satire in heroic couplets entitled The Dangerous Vice -----. A Fragment. Addressed to All Whom It May Concern. By a Gentleman formerly of Boston, Columbia [i.e. New York?], 1789 (Evans 21736). Its theme was that, while Washington could safely be entrusted with executive power, JA, “Tainted with foreign vices, and his own,” hankered for the attributes and perquisites of royalty. On Charles Jarvis, Harvard 1766, Boston physician and political disciple of Jefferson, see Thacher, Amer. Medical Biog. , 1:313–316. His attacks on JA may have been in newspaper articles as yet unidentified.