On the evening of July 1, 1776, John Adams began a letter to his wife Abigail with the words, “My Dearest Friend.” He was a delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia, and she was at home with their four children in Braintree (now Qunicy), Massachusetts.
There was no women’s liberation movement, but John and Abigail Adams were clearly equal partners. The next day the thirteen colonies “in Congress assembled” would approve a government independent of the crown. A Declaration of Independence had already been written.
Adams seconded the resolution which severed all ties between Britain and the United Colonies. He also served on committees which drafted the Declaration and prepared the new nation for war.
It had been a long struggle, and Adams felt his work was over. He would no longer be needed because “Nothing will remain but war.” Adams (1735-1826) did not have a military background, and felt a new group of leaders would now be in the forefront. He was a man of ideas, not a man of war. The new nation would need experts on military tactics and training, supplies and financing a war effort.
He suggested to his cousin Sam Adams, John Hancock and to the rest of the Bay State delegation that they all resign. Younger people with more appropriate skills could take their place. It was time to retire Adams thought because in his words, he was an old man. He told Abigail, “I will go home! I will petition my constituents to let me go. I will live with my family, make money and be at peace.”
When he sent that letter, Adams was 40 years old. No one was going to let him retire, and he would reach the age of 90. He drafted the Massachusetts Constitution which was the model for the U.S. Constitution and was the prime mover and supporter of an American Navy. Without him, there would have only been an army in the early years. He was destined to serve 8 years as Vice President under George Washington, before being elected as America’s second President. At 80, Adams wrote about the real revolution:
What do we mean by the revolution? The war with Britain? That was no part of the revolution; it was only the effect and consequence of it. The revolution was in the minds and the hearts of the people, and this was effected from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years, before a drop of blood was shed at Lexington.
Decades of remarkable achievements were ahead of Adams. Nevertheless, when the decision was made in Philadelphia, his most important work was completed. In his words, “the child independence was born” with the creation of the United States of America. Adams and the founders had won the hearts of minds of the people, and as John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address cautioned, “We dare not forget that we are the heirs of that first revolution.”