Adams, John, 1735-1826. The ‘American Revolution‘, Letter to Hezekiah Niles, first editor of the National Register. Quincy, February 13, 1818. First published in Niles’ Weekly Register, v. 2, n. 14, March 7, 1818.
Quincy, February 13, 1818.
The American Revolution was not a common event. Its effects and consequences have already been awful over a great part of the globe. And when and where are they to cease?
But what do we mean by the American Revolution? Do we mean the American War? The revolution was effected, before the war commenced. The revolution was in the minds and hearts of the people. A change in their religious sentiments, of their duties and obligations. While the king, and all in authority under him, were believed to govern in justice and mercy, according to the laws and constitution derived to them from the God of nature, and transmitted to them by their ancestors—they thought themselves bound to pray for the king, and queen, and all the royal family, and all in authority, under them, as ministers ordained of God for their good. But when they saw those powers renouncing all the principles of authority, and bent upon the destruction of all the securities of their lives, liberties and properties, they thought it their duty to pray for the Continental Congress, and all the thirteen state congresses, &c. There might be, and there were others, who thought less about religion and conscience, but had certain habitual sentiments of allegiance and loyalty derived from their education; but believing allegiance and protection to be reciprocal, when protection was withdrawn, they thought allegiance was dissolved.
Another alteration was common to all. The people of America had been educated in an habitual affection for England, as their mother country; and while they thought her a kind and tender parent, (erroneously enough, however, for she never was such a mother,) no affection could be more sincere. But when they found her a cruel beldam, willing like lady Macbeth, to “dash their brains out,” it is no wonder if their filial affections ceased, and were changed into indignation and horror.
This radical change in the principles, opinions, sentiments and affections of the people, was the real American Revolution.
By what means, this great and important alteration in the religious, moral, political and social character of the people of thirteen colonies, all distinct, unconnected and independent of each other, was begun, pursued and accomplished, it is surely interesting to humanity to investigate, and perpetuate to posterity.
To this end it is greatly to be desired that young gentlemen of letters, in all the states, especially in the thirteen original states, would undertake the laborious, but certainly interesting and amusing task, of searching and collecting all the records, pamphlets, newspapers, and even hand-bills, which in any way contributed to change the temper and views of the people, and compose them into an independent nation.
The colonies had grown up under constitutions of government so different, there was so great a variety of religions, they were composed of so many different nations, their customs, manners and habits had so little resemblance, and their intercourse had been so rare, and their knowledge of each other so imperfect, that to unite them in the same principles in theory, and the same system of action, was certainly a very difficult enterprise. The complete accomplishment of it, in so short a time and by such simple means, was, perhaps, a singular example in the history of mankind.—Thirteen clocks were made to strike together; a perfection of mechanism which no artist had ever before effected.