Congress adjourned in late July 1775 and the Massachusetts delegation returned home. After a four month absence John was anxious to see his family but as soon as he arrived home he was informed that his brother Elihu had died of dysentery. Adams spent his time in Massachusetts with his family and attending sessions in the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in Watertown.
Adams returned to Congress in September 1775. A day after his departure Abigail, Thomas and three servants fell ill of dysentery. The healthy ones, Nabby, John Quincy and Charles were sent away.
Once in Pennsylvania Adams got involved in the Maritime Committee, dealing with issues such as commercial trade, naval fleet and the construction of armed warships. His undertaking would become one of his most important activities in Congress.
Rejection of the Olive Branch Petition and the American Prohibition Act
In November news arrived that George III had rejected the Olive Branch Petition and declared the colonies in a state of rebellion. Britain issued the American Prohibition Act which intended to stop American trade and announced that 25,000 additional troops would be sent to suppress colonial traitors. This event fast forwarded the committee to create the American Navy. As a member of the Navy Committee, Adams drafted the policies for regulating it , they were immediately passed by congress and adopted by the newly created Navy fleet.
The rejection of the Olive Branch Petition and the American Prohibition Act were seen as a declaration of war by Congress and by the spring of 1776 the majority of Congress approved the idea of separation from Britain except for New York, New Jersey, Delaware and Pennsylvania.
The idea of independence was disseminated to the general public by a pamphlet written by Thomas Paine, Common Sense. Paine denounced the British government and insisted that independence was crucial for their own liberty and that the American Revolution was indeed imperative for the survival of freedom. Paine asserted that Britain wanted conquest and not reconciliation. His idea of revolution and independence spread fast, his pamphlet sold 150,000 copies.
Richard Lee’s Resolutions
On a summer morning on June 7, 1776, Richard Lee, congressman from Virginia, suggested three resolutions: that the colonies were free and independent states with no allegiance to Great Britain, that the colonies create a plan for confederation and that the states form foreign alliances.
Congress appointed Adams, Thomas Jefferson and Benjamin Franklin, among others, to prepare the Declaration of Independence. On June 28th the draft was submitted. On July 2nd congress voted for independence and on July 4th, after much debate about the wording of the document, the Declaration of Independence was approved by all thirteen colonies.
Signers of the Declaration of Independence
There were fifty six signers of the Declaration of Independence. The first, largest, and most famous signature is that of John Hancock, President of the Continental Congress.
John Hancock’s signature was the first and the largest in the Declaration of Independence
Roger Sherman, Samuel Huntington, William Williams and Oliver Wolcott.
Caesar Rodney, George Read and Thomas McKean.
Button Gwinnett, Lyman Hall and George Walton.
Samuel Chase, William Paca, Thomas Stone and Charles Carroll.
John Hancock, Samuel Adams, John Adams, Robert Treat Paine and Elbridge Gerry.
Josiah Bartlett, William Whipple and Matthew Thornto.
Richard Stockton, John Witherspoon, Francis Hopkinson, John Hart and Abraham Clark.
William Floyd, Philip Livingston, Francis Lewis and Lewis Morri.
William Hooper, Joseph Hewes and John Penn.
Robert Morris, Benjamin Rush, Benjamin Franklin, John Morton, George Clymer, James Smith, George Taylor, George Ross and James Wilson
Stephen Hopkins and William Ellery.
Edward Rutledge, Thomas Heyward Jr., Thomas Lynch Jr. and Arthur Middleton.
George Wythe, Richard Henry Lee, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Harrison, Thomas Nelson Jr., Francis Lightfoot Lee and Carter Braxton.