Revolutionary War Historical Article

John Adams on the 4th of July

By Donald N. Moran

Editor's Note: This article was published by Permission of the Sons of Liberty Chapter of the CSSAR

On July 3rd, 1776, John Adams, a member of the Continental Congress and of the Committee to write the Declaration of Independence, wrote his beloved wife Abigail regarding the approval cycle and the impact of that historic day and what he envisioned the future would hold. Aside from the date, the second versus the fourth, he was absolutely right.

"Philadelphia, July 3, 1776, Evening

To Abigail:

Had a declaration of independence been made seven months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious effects. We might, before this hour, have formed alliance with foreign states. We should have mastered Quebec, and been in possession of Canada. . . . . . . . . But, on the other hand, the delay of this declaration to this time has many great advantages attending it. The hopes of reconciliation which were fondly entertained by multitudes of honest an well meaning, though shortsighted and mistaken people, have been gradually, and at last totally, extinguished. Time has been given for the whole people maturely to consider the great question of independence, and to ripen their judgment, dissipate their fears, and allure their hopes, by discussing it in newspapers and pamphlets – by debating it in assemblies, conventions, committees of safety and inspection – in town and country meetings, as well as in private conversations; so that the whole people, in every colony, have now adopted it as their own act. This will cement the union, and avoid those heats, and perhaps convulsions, which might have been occasioned by such a declaration six months ago.

But the day is past. The second day of July, 1776, will be memorable epocha in the history of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the great Anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the day of deliverance by solemn acts of devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with pomp, shews, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires and illuminations, from one end of the continent to the other, from this time forward forever.

You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.


John Adams"

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