Our Second President Gives an Important Speech

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John Adams had favored freedom for a long time. The war between the colonies and England had been going on for over a year.

On June 7, 1776, when Richard Henry Lee, a delegate from Virginia for the Continental Congress, talked of independence, not all the men present agreed with him. They decided to wait for three weeks for the main discussion and vote.

The big debate was planned for July 1, 1776. John Adams didn’t know if he would have an opportunity to speak to Congress, but he practiced his speech just in case.

John Dickinson, a delegate from Pennsylvania, opposed independence. After he talked, there was a long pause. Some wondered if the colonies should fight for freedom.

John Adams stood. He spoke of the loss of freedom. He reminded the other delegates that they had tried to resolve their differences in the past. It hadn’t worked. He felt that independence couldn’t be avoided.

After the debate on July 1, only nine colonies had decided to vote for freedom. Four colonies – South Carolina, Delaware, New York, and Pennsylvania – still hesitated.

Everyone wanted a unanimous vote. South Carolina agreed to vote yes if Delaware and Pennsylvania would do the same.

Thomas McKean, one of the delegates from Delaware, planned to vote for independence while another would vote against it. McKean sent for a third delegate who was absent that day, Caesar Rodney, who would place Delaware on the “yes” side.

Pennsylvania had seven delegates and only three planned to vote yes. After much discussion, two of those who didn’t want for independence decided to stay away the next day so there could be a unanimous vote.

New York decided to abstain so those delegates didn’t vote for or against.

The decision would be made on July 2. It had been raining all night in Philadelphia and continued the next day. Caesar Rodney rode all night and part of the day in the rainfall so that he could arrive in time for his choice to be made known.

The delegates voted by colony. At the end of the day, twelve out of thirteen colonies voted for independence. New York didn’t vote.

John Adams thought that July 2 would be celebrated as the day of independence. He felt it should be remembered as an act of devotion to God with parades, shows, games, sports, and bonfires.

For the next two days, Congress looked at the Declaration of Independence. As President of the Continental Congress, John Hancock was the only delegate to sign the Declaration on July 4 once all the changes had been made.

Since the document was signed on July 4th, it became the day we celebrate our country’s birth.

John Adams served as Vice President under President George Washington. He became the second President of the United States. His son, John Quincy Adams, followed his father’s footsteps to become our sixth President.

John Adams did many important things in his life. He was one of the two future Presidents who signed the Declaration of Independence. On July 1, 1776, he gave an important speech to a powerful group of men. His words helped others to decide to fight for freedom and our country was forever changed.


– Sandra M. Hart

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