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Browsing: Adams Family Correspondence, Volume 1


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Docno: ADMS-04-01-02-0266

Author: Adams, John
Recipient: Adams, Abigail
Date: 1776-05-17

John Adams to Abigail Adams

I have this Morning heard Mr. Duffil upon the Signs of the Times. He run a Parrallell between the Case of Israel and that of America, and between the Conduct of Pharaoh and that of George.
Jealousy that the Israelites would throw off the Government of Egypt made him issue his Edict that the Midwives should cast the Children into the River, and the other Edict that the Men should make a large Revenue of Brick without Straw. He concluded that the Course of Events, indicated strongly the Design of Providence that We should be seperated from G. Britain, &c.
Is it not a Saying of Moses, who am I, that I should go in and out before this great People? When I consider the great Events which are passed, and those greater which are rapidly advancing, and that I may have been instrumental of touching some Springs, and turning some small Wheels, which have had and will have such Effects, I feel an Awe upon my Mind, which is not easily described.
G[reat] B[ritain] has at last driven America, to the last Step, a compleat Seperation from her, a total absolute Independence, not only of her Parliament but of her Crown, for such is the Amount of the Resolve of the 15th.2
Confederation among ourselves, or Alliances with foreign Nations are not necessary, to a perfect Seperation from Britain. That is effected by extinguishing all Authority, under the Crown, Parliament and Nation as the Resolution for instituting Governments, has done, to all Intents and Purposes. Confederation will be necessary for our internal Concord, and Alliances may be so for our external Defence.
{ 411 }
I have Reasons to believe that no Colony, which shall assume a Government under the People, will give it up. There is something very unnatural and odious in a Government 1000 Leagues off. An whole Government of our own Choice, managed by Persons whom We love, revere, and can confide in, has charms in it for which Men will fight. Two young Gentlemen from South Carolina, now in this City, who were in Charlestown when their new Constitution was promulgated, and when their new Governor and Council and Assembly walked out in Procession, attended by the Guards, Company of Cadetts, Light Horse &c., told me, that they were beheld by the People with Transports and Tears of Joy. The People gazed at them, with a Kind of Rapture. They both told me, that the Reflection that these were Gentlemen whom they all loved, esteemed and revered, Gentlemen of their own Choice, whom they could trust, and whom they could displace if any of them should behave amiss, affected them so that they could not help crying.
They say their People will never give up this Government.
One of these Gentlemen is a Relation of yours, a Mr. Smith, son of Mr. Thomas Smith.3 I shall give him this Letter or another to you.
A Privateer fitted out here by Coll. Reberdeau [Roberdeau] and Major Bayard, since our Resolves for Privateering, I am this Moment informed, has taken a valuable Prize. This is Encouragement, at the Beginning.
In one or two of your Letters you remind me to think of you as I ought. Be assured there is not an Hour in the Day, in which I do not think of you as I ought, that is with every Sentiment of Tenderness, Esteem, and Admiration.
1. Corrected by overwriting from “16.” Congress did not sit on the 17th, “This being,” as Joseph Hewes put it, “a day of humiliation, fasting and prayer (or in vulgar language Congress Sunday)” (letter to James Iredell, 17 May, Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:455).
2. Or, rather, of the preamble, adopted on 15 May, to a resolve voted after long debate on 10 May. The resolve of the 10th recommended to the assemblies and conventions that they “adopt such government as shall, in the opinion of the representatives of the people, best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents in particular, and America in general” (JCC, 4:342). JA, Edward Rutledge, and Richard Henry Lee were named a committee to draft a preamble suitable to prefix to this momentous resolve when published. The preamble, written by JA, reported on the 13th, adopted on the 15th, used markedly stronger language than the paper it accompanied, calling for the total suppression “of every kind of authority” emanating from Great Britain. Conservatives in Congress found it too strong for their acceptance, James Duane pronouncing it “a Machine to fabricate independence”; and their failure to defeat it opened the way directly to what JA here calls “a compleat Seperation.” The resolve and preamble were published in { 412 } the Pennsylvania Gazette, 22 May. See JCC, 4:351, 357–358; JA, Diary and Autobiography, 2:238–241; 3:335, 382–386; Burnett, ed., Letters of Members, 1:443 ff.
3. Benjamin Smith (1757–1826), a distant cousin of AA; he had studied at the Middle Temple and in 1810 became governor of North Carolina (AA and JA to I. Smith Jr., 4 Jan. 1770, above; E. Alfred Jones, Amer. Members of the Inns of Court, London, 1924, p. 200–201).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2014.
http://www.masshist.org/apde2/