Skip to content

John Adams to Abigail Adams, second letter, July 3, 1776

July 4, 2012


Philadelphia July 3d. 1776

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 to treat …. And in real, sincere Expectation of this effort Event, which they so fondly wished, they have been slow and languid, in promoting Measures for the Reduction of that Province. Others there are in the Colonies who really wished that our Enterprise in Canada would be defeated, that the Colonies might be brought into Danger and Distress between two Fires, and be thus induced to submit. Others really wished to defeat the Expedition to Canada, lest the Conquest of it, should elevate the Minds of the People too much to hearken to those Terms of Reconciliation which they believed would be offered Us. These jarring Views, Wishes and Designs, occasioned an opposition to many salutary Measures, which were proposed for the Support of that Expedition, and caused Obstructions, Embarrassments and studied Delays, which have finally, lost Us the Province.


All these Causes however in Conjunction would not have disappointed Us, if it had not been for a Misfortune, which could not be foreseen, and perhaps could not have been prevented, I mean the Prevalence of the small Pox among our Troops …. This fatal Pestilence compleated our Destruction. — It is a Frown of Providence upon Us, which We ought to lay to heart.

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 tho 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 Pamphletts, 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 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 and Parade, with Shews, 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 tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.

(See here for more transcriptions of the John and Abigail correspondence)

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Russ permalink
    July 4, 2012 6:03 pm

    Thanks for posting this. And how about the fact that both Thomas Jefferson and John Adams died within hours of each other on the 50th anniversary of the 4th of July in 1826? Even though he had no way of knowing that Jefferson died a few hours before, Adams said, “Jefferson lives.” Or was it, “Thomas Jefferson survives”?

    Happy 4th of July everyone.

  2. July 4, 2012 7:37 pm

    That’s right Russ, I should have mentioned that! There are some wacky connections with July 4 — did you know that Rube Goldberg was born on July 4th? In 2010, Google had a special logo for the day to celebrate Goldberg:

  3. Russ permalink
    July 4, 2012 10:10 pm

    Nope, I had no idea.

    I just did a quick Google check, and it seems our 5th president, James Monroe, the last of the Founders who became president, died on July 4th, 1831, five years after Adams and Jefferson.

  4. July 7, 2012 10:55 am

    Thanks for posting this. Two of my favorite books are John Adams by McCullough and Founding Mothers by Cokie Roberts, both of whom used the extensive correspondence between John and Abigail. It is nice though to see the letter and read it entirely and in context. Thanks.

  5. July 8, 2012 3:36 pm

    Russ, thanks for that additional note — I did know that.

    Susan, I find the entire correspondence of the letters between John and Abigail very moving. It is available online, in a volume published by Harvard entitled My Dearest Friend, and in a convenient Penguin paperback, The Letters of John and Abigail Adams.

  6. Russ permalink
    July 10, 2012 1:58 pm

    The letters are terrific.

    Have you read the letters that went back and forth between Adams and Jefferson? My daughter bought me a copy for my birthday. Great, great reading.

    Here’s a link:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: