Congress continues to debate the Declaration of Independence. John Adams reflects on the events between 1761 and 1776 that led to Independence. He wishes that the Declaration had “been made seven Months ago.” Nevertheless, he tells Abigail that “The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epoch, in the History of America.”
Journals of the Continental Congress [Edited]
Resolved, That the account of the commissioners of Indian Affairs in the southern department, dated August 21st, be referred to the Board of Treasury.
The Congress took into consideration the letter from the convention of New Jersey dated July 2nd.
Resolved, That the committee of safety of Pennsylvania be requested to send as many of the troops of their colony as they can spare, to Monmouth county, in New Jersey.
Resolved, That a circular letter be written to the committees of inspection of the several counties in Pennsylvania, where troops are raised, to send them by battalions, , as fast as raised, to the city of Philadelphia
Resolved, That General Washington be directed to appoint an officer to command of the flying camp, and also direct persons to supply the men with rations.
Resolved, That the Marine Committee be empowered to contract with shipwrights, to go to Lake Champlain.
Resolved, That Benjamin Franklin and James Wilson, two of the commissioners for Indian affairs in the middle department, be authorized to discharge the bills drawn by Mr. Morgan on the commissioners of that department.
Congress resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to further consideration, the Declaration; and, after some time, Benjamin Harrison reported, that the committee, not having finished, desired leave to sit again.
Resolved, That Congress will, tomorrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to further consider the Declaration.
Adjourned to 9 o’Clock tomorrow.
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Had a Declaration of Independency been made seven Months ago, it would have been attended with many great and glorious Effects. We might before this Hour, have formed Alliances with foreign States. We should have mastered Quebec and been in Possession of Canada…. You will perhaps wonder, how such a Declaration would have influenced our Affairs, in Canada, but if I could write with Freedom I could easily convince you, that it would, and explain to you the manner how. Many Gentlemen in high Stations and of great Influence have been duped, by the ministerial Bubble of Commissioners….
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 and well meaning though weak 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 Judgments, dissipate their Fears, and allure their Hopes, by discussing it in News Papers and Pamphlets, by debating it, in Assemblies, Conventions, Committees of Safety and Inspection, in Town and County Meetings, as well as in private Conversations, so that the whole People in every Colony of the 13, 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 the most memorable Epoch, 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 and Parade, with Shows, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.
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 ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will triumph in that Days Transaction, even although We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
John Adams to Abigail Adams
Yesterday the greatest Question was decided, which ever was debated in America, and a greater perhaps, never was or will be decided among Men. A Resolution was passed without one dissenting Colony “that these united Colonies, are, and of right ought to be free and independent States, and as such, they have, and of Right ought to have full Power to make War, conclude Peace, establish Commerce, and to do all the other Acts and Things, which other States may rightfully do.” You will see in a few days a Declaration setting forth the Causes, which have impelled Us to this mighty Revolution, and the Reasons which will justify it, in the Sight of God and Man. A Plan of Confederation will be taken up in a few days.
When I look back to the Year 1761, and recollect the Argument concerning Writs of Assistance, in the Superior Court, which I have hitherto considered as the Commencement of the Controversy, between Great Britain and America, and run through the whole Period from that Time to this, and recollect the series of political Events, the Chain of Causes and Effects, I am surprised at the Suddenness, as well as Greatness of this Revolution. Britain has been filled with Folly, and America with Wisdom, at least this is my Judgment. Time must determine. It is the Will of Heaven, that the two Countries should be sundered forever. It may be the Will of Heaven that America shall suffer Calamities still more wasting and Distresses yet more dreadful If this is to be the Case, it will have this good Effect, at least: it will inspire Us with many Virtues, which We have not, and correct many Errors, Follies, and Vices, which threaten to disturb, dishonor, and destroy Us. The Furnace of Affliction produces Refinement, in States as well as Individuals. And the new Governments we are assuming, in every Part, will require a Purification from our Vices, and an Augmentation of our Virtues or they will be no Blessings. The People will have unbounded Power. And the People are extremely addicted to Corruption and Venality, as well as the Great. I am not without Apprehensions from this Quarter. But I must submit all my Hopes and Fears, to an overruling Providence, in which, unfashionable as the Faith may be, I firmly believe.
Edited with commentary by Gordon Lloyd.