Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 21 July 1819

From John Adams

Quincy July 21st 1819—

Dear Sir.

I am greatly obliged to you for your Letter of the 9th

It has entirely convinced me that the Mecklenburg1 Resolutions are a fiction, when I first read them in the Essex Register, I was struct with astonishment—It appeared to me utterly incredible that they should be genuine; but there were so many circumstances calculated to impose [on] the public; that I thought it my duty to take measures for the detection of the imposture—for this purpose I instantly inclosed the Essex Register to you; knowing that if you had either seen, or heard of these resolutions you would have informed me of it.—as they are unknown to you, they must have been unknown to all mankind—

I have sent a Copy of your letter to Salem, not to be printed—but to be used as decisive authority for the Editor to correct his error, in the Essex Register.—

But who can be the Demon to invent such a machine after five and forty years, and what could be his motive—was it to bring a charge of Plagiarism against the Congress in 76,2 or against you; the undoubted acknowledged draughtsman3 of the Declaration of Independence—or could it be the mere vanity of producing a jeu d’esprit, to set the world agape4 and afford a topic of Conversation in this piping time of Peace

Had such Resolutions appeared in June 75.5 they would have flown through the Universe like wild fire; they would have Elevated the heads of the inhabitants of Boston—and of all New-England above the Stars—and they would have rung a peal in Congress—to the utter Confusion of Tory’ism and timidity, for a full year before they were discomforted—

I wish you a pleasant tour to your second home—   and remain your friend and

Humble Servant6

John Adams

RC (DLC); in Louisa C. Smith’s hand, signed by Adams; edge chipped, with missing word supplied from FC; endorsed by TJ as received 4 Aug. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Thomas Appleton, 3 Sept. 1819, on verso; addressed by Smith: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Quincy, 21 July. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

Adams sent a copy of TJ’s letter of 9 July 1819 to William Bentley, a longtime contributor to the Salem Essex Register (Adams to Bentley, 20 July 1819 [MWA]). The newspaper’s editor was Warwick Palfray. this piping time of peace is from William Shakespeare, Richard III, act 1, scene 1.

1RC: “Mecklengburg.” FC: “meclingburg.”

2RC and FC: “706.”

3RC: “draughtsmen.” FC: “draughtsman.”

4RC and FC: “a garp.”

5RC and FC: “705.”

6FC here adds “forever.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and Mecklenburg Co., N.C., “Declaration of Independence” search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • American Revolution; and Mecklenburg Co., N.C., “Declaration of Independence” search
  • Bentley, William (of Massachusetts); and Salem, Mass.,Essex Register search
  • Continental Congress, U.S.; and Mecklenburg Co., N.C., “Declaration of Independence” search
  • Declaration of Independence; and Mecklenburg Co., N.C., “Declaration of Independence” search
  • Declaration of Independence; TJ as author of search
  • Essex Register (Salem, Mass., newspaper) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Declaration of Independence search
  • Mecklenburg County, N.C.; alleged “Declaration of Independence” of search
  • newspapers; Salem, Mass.,Essex Register search
  • Palfray, Warwick search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ plans visits to search
  • Shakespeare, William; Richard IIIreferenced search
  • Smith, Louisa Catharine (John Adams’s niece); as J. Adams’s amanuensis search