While John Adams was at the Continental Congress, a meeting full of white males who wanted to declare independence from England by writing a letter, he was still corresponding with his wife, Abigail. Their letters were filled with talk of social issues more than anything else. Abigail even shared ideas she had for the constitution in their letters. It seems to me that John Adams respected Abigail Adams and always tried to consider her opinion. She seemed to be one of his key advisors. This is a picture of her:
In Abigail Adam’s March 31, 1776 letter to her husband, she asked him to “remember the ladies” when he was away with other powerful men trying to change the future of the colonies. She said “Do not put such an unlimited power into the hands of husbands. Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.”
These sentences are more brilliant than they seem at first because Abigail Adams is saying that if all men could become as powerful as the very tyrant they are fighting against, the King of England, they would.
In his response to this letter, he said that they do not have time to deal with that issue. He said that the American revolution was making all different groups of people rebel against their oppressors, and this was the first he had heard of the women not being content as well. He called women a “tribe” and compared them to African Americans, children, and Native Americans.
John Adams believed that women shouldn’t have the right to vote, which he explains in a letter to James Sullivan, a Massachusetts state court judge who thought that all people of age should have a voice in government. Such arrogance was common for the time, and definitely not just in women’s rights.
The founding fathers weren’t perfect. John Adams wasn’t perfect. Sometimes I forget that distant historical figures had flaws. They were human beings who made mistakes, ate, slept, cried, and wrote letters to their husband or wife.
It makes sense that John Adams thought that the colonies couldn’t deal with many issues simultaneously, and wanted to focus on independence, but the Continental Congress would have been an ideal setting to discuss other social issues too, I think.
It is easy to believe that when the Continental Congress wrote and agreed upon the words “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal…,” they only believed white males were created equal. Now, we can interpret the Declaration of Independence in a manner which is more relevant to our present, where we believe that all people are created equal.