First Fourth of July – letter from John Adams on July 4, 1776

This letter was written by John Adams to a friend the day after the Declaration of Independence and was later reproduced in a newspaper.

“Yesterday the greatest question was decided which was ever decided among men. A resolution was passed unanimously ‘That these United States are, and of right ought to be, free and independent States.’

“The day is passed. The 4th of July, 1776, will be a memorable epoch in the history of America. I am apt to believe it will be celebrated by succeeding generations, as the GREAT ANNIVERSARY FESTIVAL! It ought to be commemorated as the the day of deliverance, by solemn acts of devotion to the Almighty God. It ought to be solemnized with pomps, shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminationsfrom one end of the continent to the other, from this time forever! You will think me transported with enthusiasm; but I am not. I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure it will cost to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these State; yet, thro’ all the gloom, I can see a ray of light and glory. I can see that the end is worth more than all the means; and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may ruewhich I hope we shall not. Yours, &c.,


1 Comment

  1. Donna,

    John Adams sent the letter to his wife Abigail on July 3, 1776. He thought the 2nd of July would be celebrated. Following is the exact text from his letter with his original spellings:

    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. (The Book of Abigail and John: Selected Letters of the Adams Family, 1762-1784, Harvard University Press, 1975, 142).

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