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Browsing: Diary of John Adams, Volume 3


This note contained in document ADMS-01-03-02-0016-0029
3. This casual account of the drafting and adoption of the Declaration of Independence, 11 June – 4 July 1776, was elaborated, though not contradicted in any essential way, by JA in a letter to Timothy Pickering written at the latter's request and dated 6 Aug. 1822 (LbC, Adams Papers; Works, 2:512, note). Pickering quoted passages from JA's letter in remarks he made at a Fourth of July celebration in Salem the following year; they were printed in Col. Pickering's Observations Introductory to Reading the Declaration of Independence . .., Salem, 1823, and thus soon came to Jefferson's attention (Pickering and Upham, Pickering, 4:335, 463–469). In a letter to Madison, 30 Aug. 1823, Jefferson gave a very different account of the composition of his great state paper from that which JA had furnished Pickering. He denied both that there had been any subcommittee and that it was JA who had urged him to draft the document. It was rather, said Jefferson, the committee of five as a whole that “unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught,” though before reporting back to the full committee, Jefferson added, he communicated the text separately to both Franklin and JA, “because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit” (Jefferson, Writings, ed. Ford, 10:267). Exhaustive textual study and the discovery of further documents have greatly amplified both JA's and Jefferson's accounts and corrected them in some respects, but the principal points on which they disagreed have not been and may never be resolved.
See, further, the entries in JA's Autobiography dated 7, 11 June, 1 July 1776, below.
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/