John Adams to Cotton Tufts
Philadelphia June 23d. 1776
My dear Friend
It is with Shame, and Confusion of Face, that I acknowledge that your agreable Favour of April the twenty sixth, came duely to my Hand and has laid by me unanswered to this Time. There has been as much Folly and Inattention to my own Pleasure, and Interest, in this Negligence as there is of Ingratitude to you, for in the sincerity of my Heart I declare, that none of the Letters of my numerous Correspondents, contain more important Information or more sensible Observations, than yours.
In a Letter I received last night from Boston, I have the Pleasure to learn that your Ideas of fortifying the Harbour have been adopted, and by the next Post or two I hope to be informed that every hostile ship is made to scamper.
The Danger, you apprehend, that our Armies will be thinned by the Freedom of Trade is real, but perhaps the Restraints laid upon it, by our Enemies may correct the Error, if it is one. The Voice of the People was so loud for it, that it was adopted altho some Persons thought it dangerous, and none expected any great Advantage from it before the next Winter.
You mention Independence and Confederation. These Things are now become Objects of direct Consideration. Days, and Times, without Number, have been spent upon these Subjects, and at last a Committee is appointed to prepare a Draught of Confederation, and a Declaration that these Colonies [are]1 free States, independent of all Kings, Kingdoms, Nations, People, or States in the World. . . .2
There has been the greatest Scarcity of News for the last Fortnight, which has ever happened since the War commenced. . . . I make it a constant Practice to transmit to my Family, all the News Papers, where I presume you get a Sight of them. You will find by them, the Course of political Causes and Effects in this Colony. The Assembly [were] necessitated to rescind their Instructions, and [became] so obnoxious, and unpopular, among the Inhabitants their own Constituents for having ever passed them, as to be obliged to die away, without doing any Thing else, even without Adjourning, and give Place to a Conference of Committees and a Convention.3 Every Part of the Colony is represented in this Conference which is now sitting, and is extremely unanimous, spirited, zealous, and determined. You will soon see Pensilvania, one of the most patriotic Colonies. New Jersey is in a similar Train. The Delaware Government the same.
Maryland is a little beside itself I think, but presently it will blaze out like a Fire ship or a Volcano. New York still acts in Character, like a People without Courage or sense, or Spirit, or in short any one Virtue or Ability. There is neither Spunk nor Gumption, in that Province as a Body. Individuals are very clever. But it is the weakest Province in point of Intellect, Valour, public Spirit, or any thing else that is great and good upon the Continent. It is incapable of doing Us much good, or much Hurt, but from its local situation. The low Cunning of Individuals, and their Prostitution plagues Us, the Virtues of a few Individuals is of some Service to Us. But as a Province it will be a dead Weight upon any side, ours or that of our Enemies.
LbC (Adams Papers).
1. MS: “a.”
2. Here and below, suspension points are in MS. On 7 June Richard Henry Lee had moved “certain resolutions respecting independency,” which he had composed but which were understood to be submitted on behalf of the Virginia delegation in accordance with their instructions of 15 May by the Virginia Convention, directing the delegates “to propose [that Congress] declare the United Colonies free and independent states” (Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 1:290–291, 298–299; JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 5:425–426). Although, as usual, the Journal does not record the name of either the mover or seconder of this motion, it has been generally accepted that JA seconded it; see his Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:392–393. Congress deferred considering the resolutions (one of which called for the preparation of a plan of confederation) until next day, a Saturday, when they were debated in a committee of the whole house; the debate was continued on Monday the 10th, but further debate on the first and crucial resolution was then deferred until 1 July; “and in the mean while, that no time be lost, in case the Congress agree thereto, that a committee be appointed to prepare a declaration to the effect of the said first resolution” (JCC description begins Worthington C. Ford and others, eds., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774–1789, Washington, 1904–1937; 34 vols. description ends , 5:427, 428–429). On the 11th it was “Resolved, That the committee, to prepare the declaration, consist of five members: The members chosen, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. J. Adams, Mr. Franklin, Mr. Sherman, and Mr. R. R. Livingston” (same, p. 431). For JA’s principal accounts of the drafting of the Declaration of Independence in the weeks that followed (until the committee reported its draft to Congress on 28 June), see his Diary and Autobiography description begins Diary and Autobiography of John Adams, ed. L. H. Butterfield and others, Cambridge, 1961; 4 vols. description ends , 3:335–337, and references there. His arguments in the debate in the committee of the whole, 8–10 June, are summarized in Jefferson’s Notes of Proceedings (Jefferson, Papers, ed. Boyd description begins The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Julian P. Boyd and others, Princeton, 1950–. description ends , 1:311–313).
3. Two words (in brackets) have been editorially supplied in this sentence to clarify it. For the recent demise of the Pennsylvania Assembly, which had resisted moves toward separation from Great Britain, and its supersedure by a Provincial Conference, which first met on 18 June and was controlled by radicals, see J. Paul Selsam, The Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776, Phila., 1936, p. 129 ff.