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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 3


This foot note contained in document ADMS-06-03-02-0037
6. Perhaps this is the earliest avowal of JA 's desire for something approaching independence, which he had indignantly rejected in his Novanglus letters (JA, Papers , 2:263, 336). In those, he had argued for separate states under a common king. Aside from this position, his “radicalism” had meant insisting upon united and firm action in dealing with Great Britain. Rather than petitions and addresses, he had preferred increased defenses and negotiations only from a position of strength. Now, in advocating the establishment of “Governments of our own, like that of Connecticutt,” a nearly self-governing colony, he would seem to be rejecting the Massachusetts charter and thus with it the prerogatives of the king. Connecticut, of course, was under the king and on occasion had been forced to bow to the royal will, but with its elected governor it would have seemed to someone from Massachusetts virtually free of the royal presence. It is impossible to say whether JA meant the change he was advocating to be permanent. In a letter to Warren of 24 July (below), he writes of “Peace and Reconcilliation” and negotiation.
In revealing to Warren the actions of the congress and his own opinion of them, JA was violating for the first time the rule of secrecy imposed by the congress on 11 May ( JCC , 2:22). Certainly the violation stemmed from JA 's frustration, but it may have had a more immediate cause—his confrontation with John Dickinson, described in JA 's Autobiography ( Diary and Autobiography , 3:317–318). This event occurred during the debate on the second petition to the king, which ended on 5 July ( JCC , 2:127). This first disregard for secrecy rules began a series of letters equally revealing of the divisions within the congress, which culminated on 24 July with the famous reference to John Dickinson as a “piddling Genius” ( JA to James Warren, 11, 23, 24 July, below; to AA , 7, 23, 24 July, Adams Family Correspondence , 1:241–243, 252–254, 255–258).