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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 2


This foot note contained in document ADMS-01-02-02-0004-0007-0015
2. On this day Congress adopted a Declaration of Rights, one of the ultimate products of the committee “to State the rights of the Colonies in general,” appointed 7 Sept. (see entry of 8 Sept., above), and of the discussions in Congress, beginning 24 Sept., of “the means most proper to be pursued for a restoration of our rights” ( JCC , 1:42). An undated committee (or subcommittee) draft of this declaration, with a caption reading “Heads of Grievances and Rights,” is in the Adams Papers under the assigned date of 14 Oct. 1774 [ante 9 September? 1774] ; it was correctly identified by CFA and printed in JA, Works , 2:535–542; but the usual attribution of it to John Sullivan (same, p. 377 and note; JCC , 1:63) cannot be corroborated. The paper is not in Sullivan's hand, though neither has the hand so far been identified as { 153 } that of any other member of the committee on rights. The report as submitted, or at any rate as approved by Congress, varies widely from the so called Sullivan draft, containing among other alterations a new and important paragraph written by JA , denying Parliament any authority over the Colonies except, “from the necessity of the case, ... the regulation of our external commerce” (JA, Works , 2:538–539). This paragraph, numbered “4,” was the subject of long and vigorous debate; see same, 2:374–375; JA to Edward Biddle?, 12 Dec. 1774 ( Dft , Adams Papers, printed in Works , 9:350); JCC , 1:63–73; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members , 1:72–75. Writing from memory in his Autobiography, JA said that “When Congress had gone through the Articles, I was appointed to put them into form and report a fair Draught for their final Acceptance.” This may very well have been so, but there is no contemporary evidence to verify JA 's statement unless his mention of staying home on Sunday to put “the Proceedings of the Congress into Order” (entry of 16 Oct., below) alludes to this assignment.