Who shall write the History of the American Revolution? Who can write it? Who will ever be able to write it?
The most essential Documents, the debates & deliberations in Congress from 1774 to 1783 were all in secret, and are now lost forever. Mr Dickinson printed a speech which he said he made in Congress against the declaration of Independence; but it appeared to me very different from that which you and I heard. Dr Witherspoon has published speeches, which he wrote before hand and delivered Memoriter, as he did his Sermons. But these I believe are the only speeches ever committed to writing. The orators, while I was in Congress from 1774 to 1778 appeared to me very universally extemporaneous, & I have never heard of any committed to writing, before or after delivery.
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 30 July 1815
On the subject of the history of the American revolution, you ask Who shall write it? who can write it? and who ever will be able to write it? nobody; except merely it’s external facts. all it’s councils, designs and discussions, having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them. these, which are the life and soul of history must for ever be unknown.
Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 10 August 1815
As to the history of the Revolution, my Ideas may be peculiar, perhaps Singular. What do We mean by the Revolution? The War? That was no part of the Revolution. It was only an Effect and Consequence of it. The Revolution was in the Minds of the People, and this was effected, from 1760 to 1775, in the course of fifteen years before a drop of blood was drawn at Lexington. The Records of thirteen Legislatures, the Pamplets, Newspapers in all the Colonies ought be consulted, during that Period, to ascertain the Steps by which the public opinion was enlightened and informed concerning the Authority of Parliament over the Colonies.
John Adam to Thomas Jefferson, 24 August 1815
* “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 30 July 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6497.
* “To John Adams from Thomas Jefferson, 10 August 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6502.
* “From John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 24 August 1815,” Founders Online, National Archives, accessed April 11, 2019, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Adams/99-02-02-6507.