Founding Couple

Let us separate; [the British] are unworthy to be our brethren. Let us renounce them; and, instead of supplications as formerly, for their prosperity and happiness, let us beseech the Almighty to blast their counsels, and bring to nought all their devices.

So Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, the future president John Adams, on this day in 1775, urging on the War of Independence. In First Family: Abigail and John Adams, biographer Joseph J. Ellis describes the couple’s celebrated correspondence as unique on both the personal and political level, being “a written record of all the twitches, traumas, throbbings, and tribulations” of the times. The trauma of renouncing Britain is Abigail’s theme in her next letter to John, which first laments the couple’s separation — “I hope the public will reap what I sacrifice” — and then poses the questions Adams and the other Founding Fathers would soon be deliberating:

I wish I knew what mighty things were fabricating. If a form of government is to be established here, what one will be assumed? Will it be left to our Assemblies to choose one? And will not many men have many minds? And shall we not run into dissensions among ourselves? … If we separate from Britain, what code of laws will be established? How shall we be governed so as to retain our liberties? Can any government be free which is not administered by general stated laws? Who shall frame these laws? Who will give them force and energy?

Daybook is contributed by Steve King, who teaches in the English Department of Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland. His literary daybook began as a radio series syndicated nationally in Canada. He can be found online at todayinliterature.com.