Far from being an idea conjured up by the ruling class, independence required the support of the People. As a delegate from Massachusetts to the Second Continental Congress, John Adams was in the perfect position to observe and record the events of his day. He shared his thoughts through his letters with his “dearest friend” and wife, Abigail Adams. The collection of letters between John and Abigail were precious to them and are equally important to the study of the Revolutionary Era. These letters offer us an insight into the world and experiences of the founding generation. The following is an excerpt from a letter dated July 3, 1776 in which Adams discusses the monumental decision made by the Thirteen Colonies to separate from Great Britain and how the success of the resolution for independence depended on the People’s acceptance of the idea:
“…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.”
*My emphasis added.
**Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 July 1776, "Had a Declaration..." [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/