John Adams to Mary Palmer
Philadelphia July 5. 17761
Your Favour of June 15. 1776 was handed to me, by the last Post. . . .2 I hold myself much obliged to you for your Attention to me, at this Distance, from those Scenes, in which, altho I feel myself deeply interested, yet I can neither be an Actor nor Spectator.
You have given me (not withstanding all your modest Apologies) with a great deal of real Elegance and Perspicuity, a minute and circumstantial Narration of the whole Expedition to the lower Harbour, against the Men of War.—It is lawfull you know to flatter the Ladies a little, at least if Custom can make a Thing lawfull: but, without availing myself in the least degree of this Licence, I can safely say, that from your Letter and another from Miss Paine to her Brother, I was enabled to form a more Adequate Idea of that whole Transaction, than from all the other Accounts of it, both in News papers and private Letters which have come to my Hands.
In Times as turbulent as these, commend me to the Ladies for Historiographers. The Gentlemen are too much engaged in Action. The Ladies are cooler Spectators. . . . There is a Lady at the Foot of Pens Hill, who obliges me, from Time to Time with clearer and fuller Intelligence, than I can get from a whole Committee of Gentlemen.
I was a little mortified, at the unlucky Calm, which retarded the Militia from Braintree, Weymouth and Hingham. I wished that they might have had more than half the Glory of the Enterprize. However, it satisfies me to reflect, that it was not their Fault but the fault of the Wind that they had not.
I will inclose to you a Declaration, in which all America is remarkably united. . . .3 It compleats a Revolution, which will make as good a Figure in the History of Mankind, as any that has preceeded it—provided always, that the Ladies take Care to record the Circumstances of it, for by the Experience I have had of the other Sex, they are either too lazy, or too active, to commemorate them.
A Continuance of your Correspondence, Miss Polly, would much oblige me. My Compliments to Papa, and Mamma and the whole Family. . . . I hope they will see more serene Skies. I begin now to flatter my self, however, that you are situated in the safest Place upon the Continent.
Howes Army and Fleet are at Staten Island. But there is a very numerous Army, at New York and New Jersey, to oppose them. Like Noahs Dove, without its Innocence, they can find no Rest.
I am, with much Respect, Esteem and Gratitude, Your Friend and humble Servant,
RC (PHi: Dreer Coll.). LbC (Adams Papers). Enclosed “Declaration” not found; see note 3.
1. There has been some confusion about the true date of this letter because an engraved facsimile of it was published a century ago with a dateline apparently reading “Philadelphia July 3:1776” (William Brotherhead, The Book of the Signers . . ., Phila., 1861, p. 103–104; separates of the facsimile are also found in libraries). However, unlike the alteration in JA’s first and second letters to AA of 3 July, q.v. above, this change of date was probably an honest (though rather inexcusable) mistake, resulting from the engraver’s misreading (or merely clumsy rendering) of the date as written by JA.
At the foot of the engraved facsimile appears the legend “In the possession of Mr. Teft Phila.” This was Israel K. Tefft, one of the earliest and most zealous collectors of historical autographs in the United States. On 27 Nov. 1841, in answer to an appeal (not found) from Tefft, CFA sent him a letter in the hand of AA and a few miscellaneous autographs (CFA’s letter is in NN: Ford Coll.). Tefft answered from Savannah, Georgia, 10 Dec. 1841, acknowledging the gifts, describing and quoting from JA’s letter to Polly Palmer in his own possession, listing fourteen signers of the Declaration of Independence who were not adequately represented in his collection, and asking CFA if he would supply “a letter, or note” by any or all of them from JA’s papers (Adams Papers). There is no record of a reply.
2. Here and below, suspension points are in MS.
3. This must have been a copy of the broadside printed by John Dunlap—the first published text—of the Declaration of Independence, which was issued this day in accordance with Congress’ vote of 4 July, and a copy of which is wafered to the “Rough Journal” of Congress as an official text. “You are still impatient for a Declaration of Independency,” JA wrote Joseph Ward on this same day. “I hope your Appetite will now be satisfyed. Such a Declaration passed Congress Yesterday, and this Morning will be printed” (LbC, Adams Papers). (The Declaration was not printed in a newspaper until 6 July; see JA’s 1st letter to AA of 7 July, below.) See Michael J. Walsh, “Contemporary Broadside Editions of the Declaration of Independence,” Harvard Libr. Bull., 3:31–43 (Winter 1949), which includes a facsimile of the Dunlap broadside and a census of the fourteen copies known to survive; also Julian P. Boyd, The Declaration of Independence: The Evolution of the Text, Washington, 1943, p. 8, 35, and pl. 10.