When Americans think about our independence historically, they most often think of Thomas Jefferson, since he was the principal author of the Declaration of Independence. Yet Jefferson never really participated in the verbal battles at the Continental Congress. He was the quiet guy in the corner. The man who most forcefully forwarded the argument for independence was John Adams.
Adams also was part of the committee that was tasked with coming up with a declaration should it become necessary. Since he was a lightning rod in the debates, he thought it best if someone else become the main drafter of the document. It was his suggestion that Jefferson take the lead. He had been impressed by Jefferson’s other writings and considered him the best person for the task. So not only do we have Jefferson to thank for the graceful words put on that parchment, but we also owe a debt to Adams for promoting Jefferson as the writer and for being so willing to take the heat in the whole congress.
After the vote for independence passed on July 2, Adams wrote to his wife Abigail words that have meaning still today, 236 years later:
The second day of July, 1776, will be the most memorable epoch 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 shows, games, sports, guns, bells, bonfires, and illuminations, from one end of this continent to the other, from this time forward forever.
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 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 worth more than all the means.
Well, we follow his advice on July 4 nowadays, but he clearly grasped the significance of the event in which he had participated. He deserves credit for his role.