Adams Family Correspondence, volume 1

John Adams to Abigail Adams

Abigail Adams to John Adams


From this it appears that JA first encountered and read Thomas Paine's subsequently famous pamphlet Common Sense: Addressed to the Inhabitants of America on his way to Philadelphia during the first days of Feb. 1776. (It had been published in Philadelphia about three weeks earlier.) It also appears, from this and other letters JA wrote at the time (see especially his letter of 19 March, below), that he thought better of Common Sense and its author when he first read it than he did later on. The best he could say in old age was that Common Sense was "a tollerable Summary of the Arguments” for independence, and that it had led JA himself to correct its crudities and supply its deficiencies by writing his essay published later this spring as Thoughts on Government ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:331–334).