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Lesson One

Reading 8

Pennsylvania delegates, to Adams’ surprise, agreed to the measure. John Dickinson argued that there was no need for Pennsylvania to adopt a new government since its present government had proved itself “sufficient to the exigencies of their affairs.” Adams suggested a new strategy. Since all important measures were to have a pre- amble, Adams proposed that any colonial government that recognized the supremacy of the crown of Britain was incapable of securing the safety of their constituents. Dickinson, confident that he had out-maneuvered Adams, left the Congress for a brief vacation. When the preamble was discussed, a colleague, James Wilson, argued in vain against the wording of the preamble.


[It is] absolutely irreconcileable to reason and good Conscience, for the people of the colonies now to take the oaths and affirmations necessary for the support of any government under the crown of Great Britain, and it is necessary that the exercise of every kind of author- ity under the said crown should be totally suppressed.

Source: Ford, Journals of Congress, IV, 357 (see Hawke, In the Midst of Revolution, p. 120).

James Wilson:

In this Province, if that preamble passes, there will be an immediate dissolution of every kind of authority; the people will be instantly in a state of nature. Why then precipitate this measure? Before we are prepared to build a new house, why should we pull down the old one, and expose ourselves to all the inclemencies of the season?

Source: Adams, Works, II, 491 (see Hawke, In the Midst of Revolution, p. 121).


  • 1.

    How did John Adams use the naval encounter to his advantage?

  • 2.

    What would be the effect of the Adams resolution of May 10?

  • 3.

    Why did the wording of the preamble to the resolution cause alarm?

  • 4.

    What was the point Wilson was trying to make by saying that “people would be in a state

of nature?”

5. How would A Lover of Liberty and a Mechanic’s Friend (Reading 7) respond to Wilson?


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