Two cards of admission—one issued to ex-President John Adams in 1821 and the other to Secretary of State John Quincy Adams in 1824—for the annual “collation
” at Faneuil Hall in observance of the Fourth of July. Both cards bear the same quotation from John Adams, perhaps the best-known words he ever wrote or uttered, but in a misdated and garbled form that became scriptural. The quotation consists of passages run together from two separate letters he wrote to Mrs. Adams from Philadelphia on 3 July 1776
, the day after Congress actually voted independence. But well before 1800 the “Great Anniversary Festival” had been fixed in the public mind as the Fourth, the day on which the Declaration (rather than the vote
) of Independence had been adopted. Adams' stirring letters, which had made their way into print in the 1790's, were therefore redated in subsequent printings to suit a popular preference. The texts of the letters as originally written are printed at p. 27–33
below, where there is also a fuller account of the early garbling and of unavailing efforts to correct it.