April 27, 1776
As a member of this congressional convention, my mind is full of the best ways to construct a new government. I am frightened that our mission will fail, but I believe that, in the end, our purpose will succeed. Here are some excerpts from my pamphlet, entitled “Thoughts on Government.”
I have written my thoughts after each paragraph, as I try to determine what the best form of government can be.
“We ought to consider what is the end of government, before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree, that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow, that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.”
But how can we institute this form of government which communicates happiness to the governed?
“The foundation of every government is some principle or passion in the minds of the people. The noblest principles and most generous affections in our nature, then, have the fairest chance to support the noblest and most generous models of government.”
The majority of the congressional convention believes that the Bible should be the center of our new form of government. I believe that this foundation will assure our country’s dedication to the “noblest principles and most generous affections,” if we only continue to obey the Bible and God’s everlasting words. The truths in the Bible are self-evident. To ensure that the Biblical principles are obeyed and to encourage the greatest happiness, it is imperative to bring the people together to make decisions.
However, “In a large society, inhabiting an extensive country, it is impossible that the whole should assemble to make laws. The first necessary step, then, is to depute power from the many to a few of the most wise and good. The principal difficulty lies, and the greatest care should be employed, in constituting this representative assembly. It should be in miniature an exact portrait of the people at large. It should think, feel, reason, and act like them.”
I am convinced that, with this representative assembly, the people can make decisions which will lead them to happiness. (I continued to outline my model for government in the pamphlet, which you can read here if you wish.) Suffice it to say that I believe in liberty and freedom, and I want this new government to work toward the happiness of all people.
May 5, 1776
“This Day the Congress has passed the most important Resolution, that ever was taken in America.” ~ myself
We have resolved to declare our permanent and total independence from England, and to send a declaration to King George detailing our reasons for separating ourselves from his jurisdiction.
I wrote the preamble for the declaration. I have decided to copy the whole preamble into this diary (although my hand will surely be sore! This feather pen is quite uncomfortable after a few hours of writing). It says:
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their Creator, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.
That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.”
Although I believe that this statement is sufficient for explaining our independence, the rest of the delegates want to explain in further detail our reasons for leaving Great Britain’s rule.
July 4, 1776
The Declaration of Independence has been completed. The colonies have announced their freedom from England. Although the war for independence began nearly a year ago, this document is the explanation for this war.
On June 11, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, Robert Livingston, Roger Sherman, and myself were nominated to draft the Declaration. Although the committee wanted me to write the Declaration, I believed that Thomas would be a better man for the job. In the cause of honesty, however, I must admit that I had a rather *ahem* key role in assisting his writing process.
**This painting was completed in 1818. I paste a copy into this journal, because I want to remember this fateful day when we signed the Declaration that ultimately shaped our country.
February 15, 1778
We are going to France again – by we, I mean myself and my young son, John Quincy Adams. The congress has sent me to France for the second time in order to represent American interests. But how I hate this accursed voyage! Winter voyages are always most difficult, and this is no exception. We have faced lighting storms, dreadful waves, and pirates during this voyage. Mostly, I fear for the life of my ten-year-old son.
Meanwhile, I must prepare to be an effective representative. Although I am quite fluent in Latin, French is not my strong suit. The French do not like me very much – I believe they are intimidated by my energy and confidence (although some label it “arrogance”). This has been a problem throughout my life. I am such an opinionated fellow – even my wife admits that my brash confidence gets me into trouble. But the way I see it, if you can’t handle my intelligence and bold opinions, then you don’t have enough confidence to build a new government from scratch.
The French cannot understand my dedication to this new country of America. They believe me to be a British subject who just happens to live in a British colony. Therefore, they are quite astounded when I inform them of my passion and pride in my American citizenship. How can they understand the pride I have in this new nation, the anger that burns in my heart when I think of the King taking American money to pay for petty taxes and trivial fees? I shall be American until the day I die. In fact, from my first day of the congressional convention, I have advocated complete independence from England. Although this is considered treason in Great Britain, I cannot hide my true feelings.
December 15, 1780
I have completed the Constitution of Massachusetts. While it is too long to reproduce here (I fear my hand would quickly tire of re-writing such a long document!), I want to provide a sampling of its contents.
I believe that this new constitution is meant to provide structure and order to government. Great Britain’s only real constitution is the Magna Carta, a document that limits the aristocracy and imposes certain restrictions on the king. However, Britain’s constitution is more organic, amended through time as uncertain circumstances arose. My dream is that this constitution shall be a rock, upon which Massachusetts can build a solid, lasting government.
“The end of the institution, maintenance, and administration of government is to secure the existence of the body-politic, to protect it, and to furnish the individuals who compose it with the power of enjoying, in safety and tranquillity [sic], their natural rights and the blessings of life; and whenever these great objects are not obtained the people have a right to alter the government, and to take measures necessary for their safety, prosperity, and happiness.”
Article I of this new constitution says that “All men are born free and equal, and have certain natural, essential, and unalienable rights; among which may be reckoned the right of enjoying and defending their lives and liberties; that of acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; in fine, that of seeking and obtaining their safety and happiness.”
I believe that these two paragraphs best sum up the purpose of this constitution. Click here to read the whole document. As I said before, government is made to protect the happiness of its citizens. This constitution will assist the Massachusetts government in this pursuit.
September 3, 1783
What a glorious day! The Treaty of Paris was signed today, and the American revolution is finally over. I was honored to be a representative of the Americans and to sign the treaty, along with John Jay and and Benjamin Franklin. This treaty says that the colonies are “free sovereign and Independent States; that [the King] treats with them as such, and for himself his Heirs & Successors, relinquishes all claims to the Government, Propriety, and Territorial Rights of the same and every Part thereof.”
Here is a photo of the 1783 Treaty of Paris. If you look closely, you can see my name (second from the left).
September 17, 1787
I am happy to report that the new Constitution was adopted as the law of the United States of America. Although I was not an official member of the Constitution drafting committee, I am pleased to say that many passages of the Constitution strongly resemble my Massachusetts constitution. In this way, I suppose you could say that my first constitution strongly impacted this great country, since my constitution provided the framework for the national constitution.
During the war, our fledgling union was governed by the Articles of Confederation. They were created on November 15, 1777, and endowed a number of rights on the Congress. However, the Articles were not enough to govern such a large country. The Congress couldn’t tax the states and the national government was far too weak to accomplish my original goal of protecting the nation’s happiness. So the Constitution was developed, and today it was adopted. This will greatly strengthen our government and provide a strong foundation upon which we can build in the years to come.
Thoughts on Government: http://www.masshist.org/database/images/Thoughts_on_Government_Page_Title_P_work_ref.jpg
Signing the Declaration of Independence: http://www.thisnation.com/media/photos/signingdec.html