The Frankford Advice

Letter from the Northeast

In late August 1774, as John Adams and his fellow delegates from Massachusetts were approaching Philadelphia to attend the First Continental Congress, they were met in Frankford by a group from Pennsylvania that included Benjamin Rush, Thomas Mifflin, and others. The two groups adjourned, probably to a local tavern, to discuss strategy for the upcoming Congress. As Adams wrote many years later, the “conversation, and the principles, facts, and motives, suggested in it, have given a color, complexion, and character, to the whole policy of the United States, from that day to this.”

What Adams called “the Frankfort Advice” would prove to be a pivotal conversation in American history.

British map published in 1754

Frankford was at that time a village of a few hundred inhabitants. Located on the King’s Highway (now Frankford Avenue), one of the main roads that led from Philadelphia to New York and Boston, it was a natural stopping place for those traveling to Philadelphia from the north. At the meeting in Frankford on the eve of the First Continental Congress, the Pennsylvanians told their Massachusetts counterparts that the other American colonies were deeply suspicious of them, that Massachusetts was viewed as too radical and too bent on independence from Britain, a concept that at that time many of the other delegations weren’t quite ready to accept. The Pennsylvanians advised the Massachusetts delegates to take a lesser role in the upcoming Congress, to not speak of independence just yet, and to let Virginia take the lead, since Virginia was then the largest and wealthiest colony in America and its delegates widely respected.

As Adams later wrote of the advice,

This was plain dealing … and there appeared so much wisdom and good sense in it, that it made a deep impression on my mind … without it, Mr. Washington would never have commanded our armies; nor Mr. Jefferson have been the author of the Declaration of Independence; nor Mr. Richard Henry Lee the mover of it; nor Mr. [Samuel] Chase the mover of foreign connections … You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson [then 33 years old] was placed at the head of the committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence? I answer: It was the Frankfort advice.

Womrath Park | Photo: Jack McCarthy

Unfortunately, we don’t know where in Frankford this critical meeting took place, as there is no mention of the exact location in the historical record. Most likely, it was in one of the two main taverns in the village at that time: the Jolly Post Inn, which was located at the northwest corner of what is now the intersection of Frankford Avenue and Orthodox Street, or McVeagh’s Tavern, also known as the Old Inn, located near the current Womrath Park at Kensington and Frankford Avenues. While the Jolly Post was the more prominent establishment, also serving as a post office and stage coach stop, historical researcher Joe Menkevich, who has studied Frankford history extensively, believes that it may have been McVeagh’s Tavern, run by the widow Rebecca McVeagh, whose family included well-known patriots. Some of her in-laws became generals in the Continental Army and her son Benjamin became a colonel. Until further evidence comes to light, however, we can only speculate on the exact location of this important meeting that shaped the course of American history.

About the author

Jack McCarthy is a certified archivist and longtime Philadelphia area archival/historical consultant. He is currently directing a project for the Historical Society of Pennsylvania focusing on the archival collections of the region’s many small historical institutions. He recently concluded work as consulting archivist and researcher for Going Black: The Legacy of Philly Soul Radio, an audio documentary on the history of Philadelphia Black radio, and served as consulting archivist for the Philadelphia Orchestra's 2012-2013 Leopold Stokowski centennial celebration. Jack has a master’s degree in music history from West Chester University and is particularly interested in the history of Philadelphia music. He is also involved in Northeast Philadelphia history. He is co-founder of the Northeast Philadelphia History Network, founding director of the Northeast Philadelphia Hall of Fame, and president of Friends of Northeast Philadelphia History.

Send a message!



1 Comment


  1. See also my “The “Frankfort Advice”: How a Small Philadelphia Suburb Helped John Adams Orchestrate the American Revolution” at http://www.scribd.com/doc/40191065/The-Frankfort-Advice-How-a-Small-Philadelphia-Suburb-Helped-John-Adams-Orchestrate-the-American-Revolution .

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

Recent Posts
From <em>Click</em> To Clink: A History Of Mug Shots In The Quaker City

From Click To Clink: A History Of Mug Shots In The Quaker City

September 20, 2018  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. gives us the backstory of Philadelphia's Rogues' Gallery, which has been tracking criminals in photographic form since the 1860s > more

Unlisted Philadelphia: Automobile Row

Unlisted Philadelphia: Automobile Row

September 18, 2018  |  Unlisted Philadelphia

Ben Leech spotlights unique and significant buildings not listed on the Philadelphia Register of Historic Places with his architectural illustration series, Unlisted Philadelphia. In this installment, he puts the pedal to the metal on Automobile Row > more

Abandoned Navy Hangar Prepares For Final Battle

Abandoned Navy Hangar Prepares For Final Battle

September 14, 2018  |  Last Light

A demolition study for the Mustin Field Seaplane Hangar at the Navy Yard puts a structural engineering landmark on notice. Michael Bixler takes us inside > more

Twitter Bot Reveals Revenue Loss From Tax Abatement

Twitter Bot Reveals Revenue Loss From Tax Abatement

September 13, 2018  |  News

Starr Herr-Cardillo catches up with the software engineer behind Philly Tax Abatements, a new Twitter account that aggregates the cost of City money lost to the 10-year tax abatement > more

Harvey Finkle: Photographer Seeks Justice For The Other

Harvey Finkle: Photographer Seeks Justice For The Other

September 10, 2018  |  Walk the Walk

New photography exhibition explores South Philly's Jewish communities and the city's transitioning immigrant populations. Joe Brin has the story > more

New Book Gives Insight Into Uncovering Philly History

New Book Gives Insight Into Uncovering Philly History

September 6, 2018  |  Vantage

Mickey Herr sits down with author and Philly historian extraordinaire Kenneth Finkel to discuss his new book, "Insight Philadelphia" > more