The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With a Life of the Author - Vol. 1

By John Adams; Charles Francis Adams | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V.
CONFERENCE WITH LORD HOWE--ORIGIN OF PARTIES--FOREIGN AND DOMESTIC POLICY--SERVICES IN CONGRESS, FROM JULY, 1776, UNTIL NOVEMBER, 1777.

THE declaration of the causes which justified the separation from Great Britain was but a form; yet it was of that sort of forms which sometimes produce greater effects even than the substance. It was then, and has ever since been confounded in many minds with the act itself for which it assigned the justification. Its influence at the moment was strictly subordinate to that of the event it defended, and it has only been in later times that the living force of its abstract principles has been perceived to expand beyond the nation over the ever widening circle of mankind. The reading of it was hailed with the utmost satisfaction in the Southern States and in New England, in which the public expectation had already anticipated the result. The army seems to have accepted it as a matter of course; whilst, in the Middle States, the event absorbed by far the greatest share of attention, because it brought to a crisis the long standing differences of sentiment among the population. It was the signal for an open secession of a few men of property who had till now gone with the movement, but who made it the excuse either for joining the British forces, or for shrinking into seclusion. The members of the Society of Friends, always averse to war, and at no time cordial to any measure suspected to come from Massachusetts, henceforward assumed a state of cautious neutrality. With these exceptions, the communities in question entered upon their new condition cheerfully enough. Some leading men still thought it all premature, but they preferred to follow the lead of their countrymen to the purchase of British leniency by deserting them. Among these were John Dickinson and Robert Morris, John Jay, Wil

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