MARCH 31, 1776
ABIGAIL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS
"I long to hear that you have declared an independency. And, by the way, in the new code of laws which I suppose it will be necessary for you to make, I desire you would remember the ladies and be more generous and favorable to them than your ancestors.
"Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.
"Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could. If particular care and attention is not paid to the ladies, we are determined to foment a rebellion, and will not hold ourselves bound by any laws in which we have no voice or representation.
"That your s** are naturally tyrannical is a truth so thoroughly established as to admit of no dispute; but such of you as wish to be happy willingly give up -- the harsh tide of master for the more tender and endearing one of friend.
"Why, then, not put it out of the power of the vicious and the lawless to use us with cruelty and indignity with impunity?
"Men of sense in all ages abhor those customs which treat us only as the (servants) of your s**; regard us then as being placed by Providence under your protection, and in imitation of the Supreme Being make use of that power only for our happiness."
APRIL 14, 1776
JOHN ADAMS TO ABIGAIL ADAMS
"As to your extraordinary code of laws, I cannot but laugh.
"We have been told that our struggle has loosened the bonds of government everywhere; that children and apprentices were disobedient; that schools and colleges were grown turbulent; that Indians slighted their guardians, and negroes grew insolent to their masters.
"But your letter was the first intimation that another tribe, more numerous and powerful than all the rest, were grown discontented.
"This is rather too coarse a compliment, but you are so saucy, I won't blot it out.
"Depend upon it, we know better than to repeal our masculine systems. Although they are in full force, you know they are little more than theory. We dare not exert our power in its full latitude. We are obliged to go fair and softly, and, in practice, you know we are the subjects.
"We have only the name of masters, and rather than give up this, which would completely subject us to the despotism of the petticoat, I hope General Washington and all our brave heroes would fight."
MAY 7, 1776
ABIGAIL ADAMS TO JOHN ADAMS
"I cannot say that I think you are very generous to the ladies; for, whilst you are proclaiming peace and good-will to men, emancipating all nations, you insist upon retaining an absolute power over wives.
"But you must remember that arbitrary power is like most other things which are very hard, very liable to be broken; and, notwithstanding all your wise laws and maxims, we have it in our power, not only to free ourselves, but to subdue our masters, and without violence, throw both your natural and legal authority at our feet."
THE OLIVE BRANCH PETITION
IN CONGRESS IN PHILADELPHIA
October 26, 1774
To the King's most excellent Majesty:
MOST GRACIOUS SOVEREIGN, We, your majesty's faithful subjects, of the colonies of New Hampshire, Ma**achusetts Bay, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connnecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, the counties of Newcastle, Kent, and Suss** on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, on behalf of ourselves and the inhabitants of these colonies, who have deputed us to represent them in general Congress, by this our humble petition beg leave to lay our grievances before the throne.
A standing army has been kept in these colonies ever since the conclusion of the late war, without the consent of our Assemblies; and this army, with a considerable naval armament, has been employed to enforce the collection of taxes. The authority of the commander-in-chief, and under him the brigadier-general, has, in time of peace, been rendered supreme in all the civil governments of America.
The commander-in-chief of all your majesty's forces in North America has, in time of peace, been appointed governor of a colony.
The charges of usual officers have been greatly increased and new, expensive, and oppressive offices have been multiplied.
The judges of admiralty and vice-admiralty courts are empowered to receive their salaries and fees from the effects condemned by themselves.
The officers of the customs are empowered to break open and enter houses without the authority of any civil magistrate, founded on legal information.
The judges of courts of common law have been made entirely dependent on one part of the Legislature for their salaries as well as for the duration of their commissions.
Counselors, holding their commissions during pleasure, exercise legislative authority.
Humble petitions, from the representatives of the people, have been fruitless.
The agents of the people have been discountenanced, and governors have been instructed to prevent the payment of the salaries.
Assemblies have been repeatedly and injuriously dissolved.
Commerce has been burdened with many useless and oppressive restrictions.
To a sovereign who glories in the name of Britain, the bare recital of these acts must, we presume, justify the loyal subjects who fly to the foot of his throne and implore his clemency for protection against them.
From this destructive system of colony administration, adopted since the conclusion of the last war, have flowed those distresses, dangers, fears, and jealousies that overwhelm your majesty's dutiful colonists with affliction; and we defy our most subtile and inveterate enemies to trace the unhappy differences between Great Britain and these colonies from an earlier period, or from other causes, than we have a**igned.
Had they proceeded on our part from a restless levity of temper, unjust impulses of ambition, or artful suggestions of seditious persons, we should merit the opprobrious terms frequently bestowed upon us by those we revere. But, so far from promoting innovations, we have only opposed them, and can be charged with no offense unless it be one to receive injuries, and be sensible of them.
Had our Creator been pleased to give us existence in a land of slavery, the sense of our condition might have been mitigated by ignorance and habit. But, thanks be to his adorable goodness, we were born the heirs of freedom, and ever enjoyed our right under the auspices of your royal ancestors, whose family was seated on the throne to rescue and secure a pious and gallant nation from the popery and despotism of a superstitious and inexorable tyrant. Your majesty, we are confident, justly rejoices that your our title to the crown is thus founded on the title of your people to liberty; and, therefore, we doubt not but your royal wisdom must approve the sensibility that teaches your subjects anxiously to guard the blessing they received from divine Providence, and thereby to prove the performance of that compact which elevated the illustrious house of Brunswick to the imperial dignity it now possesses.
We ask but for peace, liberty, and safety. We wish not a diminution of the prerogative, nor do we solicit the grant of any new right in our favor. Your royal authority over us, and our connection with Great Britain, we shall always carefully and zealously endeavor to support and maintain.
Filled with sentiments of duty to your majesty, and of affection to our parent state, deeply impressed by our education, and strongly confirmed by our reason, and anxious to evince the sincerity of these dispositions, we present this petition only to obtain redress of grievances and relief from fears and jealousies occasioned by the system of statutes and regulations, adopted since the close of the late war, for raising a revenue in America; extending the powers of courts of admiralty and vice admiralty; trying persons in Great Britain for offenses alleged to be committed in America, affecting the province or Ma**achusetts Bay; and altering the government and extending the limits of Quebec; by the abolition of which system the harmony between Great Britain and these colonies, so necessary to the happiness of both, and so ardently desired by the latter, and the intercourses will be immediately restored. In the magnanimity and justice of your majesty and Parliament, we confide for a redress of our other grievances, trusting that, when the causes of our apprehensions are removed, our future conduct will prove us not unworthy of the regard we have been accustomed, in our happier days, to enjoy; for, appealing to that Being who searches thoroughly the hearts of his creatures, we solemnly profess that our councils have been influenced by no other motives than a dread of impending destruction.
Permit us, then, most gracious sovereign, in the name of all your faithful people in America, with the utmost humility, to implore you, for the honor of Almighty God, whose pure religion our enemies are undermining; for your glory, which can be advanced only by rendering your subjects happy, and keeping them united; for the interests of your family, depending on an adherence to the principles that enthroned it; for the safety and welfare of your kingdoms and dominions, threatened with almost unavoidable dangers and distresses, that your majesty, as the loving father of your whole people, connected by the same bonds of law, loyalty, faith, and blood though dwelling in various countries, will not suffer the transcendent relation formed by these ties to be further violated, in uncertain expectation of effects that, if attained, never can compensate for the calamities through which they must be gained.
We, therefore, most earnestly beseech your majesty that your royal authority and interposition may be used for our relief, and that a gracious answer may be given to this petition.
That your majesty may enjoy every felicity through a long and glorious reign, over loyal and happy subjects, and that your desce ndants may inherit your prosperity and dominions till time shall be no more, is, and always will be, our sincere and fervent prayer.
By order of the Congress,