Late 18th century America was in a word chaotic and flimsy.
Ridden with debt from the war that had ended just years before and the war they were currently in, the country was making an effort to make a name for itself. When the creation of the first rudimentary government was a priority, rights and laws were the first things that were addressed. Unfortunately, when the rights of the peoples were discussed, the spotlight was focused on who mattered most at that point in time. Wealthy, white, landowning men were the first ones thought of and taken care of, while women were left in the dust once again. A letter from Abigail Adams that was written to John Adams in Seventeen Seventy-Six, at which time John Adams was serving the continental congress in Philadelphia, suggests that in the creation of these new “Code of Laws” Adams should give greater consideration to the minority of women. More specifically, that the men of the Congress should review the extent of power that husbands have over their wives. More common themes in the rest of this letter between the spouses include considerations for these new laws, talks of past deprivations of liberties, potential uprisings, and future changes in titles for the men of the country.
- Thesis Statement
- Structure and Outline
- Voice and Grammar
This document perfectly represents the potential for change in the formation of the new America. This was a delicate time for all minorities in the U.S., and as a public figure, Abigail Adams was very bold in the way she addressed her husband. When reading this document, is it to be noted that there may be biases. Abigail Adams was not only a wife to a political figure but a woman who was left home alone on the revolutionary front. Recognize that she may have not been informed of all events occurring states away at the Congress while she was in Massachusetts. It was said that Mrs.
Adams kept John informed of all things going on in their hometown in her letters 3, but who’s to say that John did the same. Also, keep in mind that she might be holding back. In this time period women were considered their husbands property and were completely prohibited from the same legal rights their husbands were (voting, landowning, business owning). Abigail and John were married for a total of fifty- four years. 1 This letter was written approximately thirteen years into their marriage so when considering the relationship between the author and audience of this document, it is safe to say that their relationship was a very casual one.
When casual is said it is in no way similar to the modern meaning of the word. It is meant by the ability to converse very normally and bringing up grievances was no hard task for Mrs. Adams.
Adams begins her letter with subtle indirect comments of slavery and questions how strong these officials sense of liberty could be when they were so quick to enslave their fellow citizens. She challenges John Adams in paragraph two of her letter to think hard about these new “Code of Laws” and specifically states that he “Do not put such unlimited power into the hands of the husbands.” This line right here is the push the women new America needed. Although not specifically resolved in the new constitution this brute statement was a step in the right direction for women.
Also in paragraph two of her letter, she forewarns her husband of the potential consequences if her advice was not taken seriously. She claims that women ‘will not hold ourselves bound by any such laws in which we have no voice or representation.’ The zero-tolerance policy that Abigail has brought to her husband was considered an insult to his idea of the natural order of things 3. An assumption can be made by his taking offense alone that he is not as passionate or worried about his partners’ individual freedoms. This shows historians that women were at their breaking point. They were ready to rid themselves of their colonial roles of the past as being mere property and were ready to be introduced into society as their own political individuals. John’s not-so-famous response to Mrs.
Adams famous letter gave modern historians insight on the government’s power in the late 18th century 2. John described the effects of the revolution as very detrimental and derailing to the government as a whole. It seemed as though women were not the only ones defying the societal norm. Slaves, Indians, and children were resisting their designated roles as forced laborers, they were slaughtering their guardians and disobeying their teachers and professors. It is apparent that J. Adams was a bit overwhelmed by the abrupt changes happening under his nose. There is a possibility that this was how most of the officials were feeling during this confusing time as well. One of the last things A.
Adams mentions is the potential change in title for future men. She describes how men could rid their title of master and gain the one of friend 3. It is odd that she refers to her husband as a master and it is even more confusing giving him the title of friend. When referring to men, she is directly speaking to the ones who own everything, the white man. Going off of what was said in paragraph two about the potential rebellion, her closing remarks about men’s possible new title of “friend” can be seen as a proof the choice to grant women more liberties in the new constitution. It would have been advantageous of Mrs.
Adams to mention other minorities such as slaves or Indians in a more direct sense. The Adam’s family owned slaves so it wouldn’t have been too difficult to mention their lifestyle and grievances in her letter as well. In conclusion, this letter was a document that opened historians eyes to life and desires of women in that time period. It gave them insight about the new America’s potential to be completely independent of its predecessor. The rise in concerns of social issues and freedoms of minorities shows that personal rights were becoming a more apparent worry.