Adams Family Correspondence, volume 2

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 October 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 October 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Philadelphia Octr: 4th: 1776

I am seated, in a large Library Room, with Eight Gentlemen round about me, all engaged in Conversation. Amidst these Interruptions, how shall I make it out to write a Letter?

The first day of October, the day appointed by the Charter of Pensilvania for the annual Election of Representatives, has passed away, and two Counties only have chosen Members, Bucks and Chester.

The Assembly is therefore dead, and the Convention is dissolved. A new Convention is to be chosen, the Beginning of November.

The Proceedings of the late Convention are not well liked, by the best of the Whiggs.—Their Constitution is reprobated and the Oath with which they have endeavoured to prop it, by obliging every Man to swear that he will not add to, or diminish from or any Way alter that Constitution, before he can vote, is execrated.

We live in the Age of political Experiments. Among many that will 138fail some, I hope will succeed.—But Pensilvania will be divided and weakend, and rendered much less vigorous in the Cause, by the wretched Ideas of Government, which prevail, in the Minds of many People in it.1

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “Mrs. Adams Braintree Massachusetts Bay”; franked: “free John Adams”; postmarked: “PHILA. OCT. 4.”


This proved a true prophecy. The Pennsylvania constitution of 1776, the work of a convention dominated by political radicals, was adopted on 28 Sept. after only a token submission of its articles to the citizens and with a substantial minority of “moderates” in the convention opposed to it. Worse, the Convention adopted a provision for an oath exacting from every elector a promise that he would, in effect, neither oppose nor criticize anything whatever in the form of government now established. One result was that it took six months to organize a new government in Pennsylvania, and another was that for fourteen years, until a new constitution was adopted in 1790, the state was torn and distracted by political factionalism probably bitterer than that in any other state. See J. Paul Selsam, The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, Phila., 1936, chs. 4–6; Robert L. Brunhouse, The Counter-Revolution in Pennsylvania, 1776–1790, Harrisburg, 1942, passim.

Among the most vocal critics of the constitution of 1776, both at home and abroad, in public and in private, for many years, was JA, who considered it an epitome of all that was bad in constitution-making and an unadulterated specimen of democratic tyranny. It is not too much to say that his close observation of what happened in Pennsylvania politics in 1776–1777 was one of the principal influences on his mature political thought.

John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 October 1776 JA AA John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 October 1776 Adams, John Adams, Abigail
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Oct. 5. 1776

Mr. Eliot brought me yours of Septr. 21, this day. My Health is rather better than worse. The cool Weather, in conjunction with my Ride to Staten Island, has braced me up, a little, but I shall soon relax again and must have another ride.

I sympathize with you, in the Recollection of the melancholly scaenes of the last Year; and I rejoice with you, in the vigorous Health of your excellent Father. I hope his Vigour and Vivacity will be long preserved, for the Benefit of all about him. I long to spend one of our social Evenings with him and the Dr., you Girls sitting by and listening to our profound discourse, as you used to do.

I feel a real Sorrow and Affliction at the Loss of my worthy Neighbour Field. His deserving Family have sustained a great Loss. Remember me to them, and tell them that I am an hearty Mourner with them.

I feel as much for my worthy Brother and sister, as I do for my self, and for their family as for mine. Both are going to Wreck, but we shall leave them free tho we leave them poor—And the meanest, 139poorest American scorns the richest slave, at least I would have it so.

I cannot think his scheme of purchasing a Farm will do.—As to Harvard Colledge I know nothing of it.

That Business is misplaced is true. I know more of it, than I have yet thought it prudent to tell the World. I was restrained by dangers of various Kinds, but I will not be always restrained. I will renounce the office of Chief Justice 1 and then I shall be upon equal Ground with other People, and then I will speak and write as freely as my natural Disposition inclines me to do.

I have suffered Indignities to my self, and I have observed without clamouring about Abuses to the Public, when I thought that indulging either public or private Resentment would endanger our Cause—but I will bear it no longer than the public Cause requires this Patience of me.

RC (Adams Papers).


These two words heavily inked out, probably just before the letter was folded and sealed, since there is an inkstain on the facing page.