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Aside from the Legal Papers of John Adams, published in 1965, these two volumes are the first in Series III: General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen. Volumes 1 and 2 of the Papers of John Adams include letters to and from friends and colleagues, reports of committees on which he served, his polemical writings, published and unpublished, and state papers to which he made a contribution.
As the American colonies grew more restive, John Adams, though burdened by ever-expanding responsibilities in the Second Continental Congress, found time for an amazing amount of correspondence. Military affairs, a source of never-ending concern, provide some of the most fascinating subjects, including several accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, assessments of various high-ranking officers, and complaints about the behavior of the riflemen sent from three states southward to aid the Massachusetts troops.
These volumes provide an unparalleled account of the conduct of American diplomacy in the early years of the republic, while the war with Britain continued and after the treaty of alliance with France was signed. Legal and constitutional scholars will find Volume 8 of particular interest. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, drafted by John Adams in 1779, served as a crucial source for the Constitution of the United States; today it is the oldest written constitution in the world still in effect. The earliest surviving version of Adams’ text, the Report of a Constitution for the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, is here published with full annotation for the first time.
These volumes chronicle Adams’s efforts to convince the British that their nation’s economic survival demanded an immediate peace; his debate with the French foreign minister, the Comte de Vergennes, over the proper Franco–American relationship; and his struggle to obtain a loan in the Netherlands, where policies were dictated by Mammon.
In mid-March 1781, John Adams received his commission and instructions as minister to the Netherlands and embarked on the boldest initiative of his diplomatic career. Disappointed by the lack of interest shown by Dutch investors in his efforts to raise a loan for the United States, Adams changed his tactics, and in a memorial made a forthright appeal to the States General of the Netherlands for immediate recognition of the United States. Published in Dutch, English, and French, it offered all of Europe a radical vision of the ordinary citizen’s role in determining political events. In this volume, for the first time, the circumstances and reasoning behind Adams’s bold moves in the spring of 1781 are presented in full.
This volume chronicles Adams’s efforts, against great odds, to achieve formal recognition of the United States. Documents include his vigorous response to criticism of his seemingly unorthodox methods by those who would have preferred that he pursue a different course, including Congress’s new secretary for foreign affairs, Robert R. Livingston.
John Adams was a shrewd observer of the political and diplomatic world in which he functioned and his comments on events and personalities remain the most candid and revealing of any American in Europe. In 1782, Adams focused his energies on raising a loan from Dutch bankers and negotiating a Dutch–American commercial treaty. This volume chronicles Adams’s efforts to achieve these objectives, but it also provides an unparalleled view of eighteenth-century American diplomacy on the eve of a peace settlement ending the eight-year war of the American Revolution.
John Adams reached Paris on October 26, 1782, for the final act of the American Revolution: the peace treaty. This volume chronicles his role in the negotiations and the decision to conclude a peace separate from France.
On September 3, 1783, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, and John Jay signed the definitive Anglo–American peace treaty. Adams and his colleagues strived to establish a viable relationship between the new nation and its largest trading partner but were stymied by rising British anti-Americanism. Adams’s diplomatic efforts were also complicated by domestic turmoil: when bills far exceeding the funds available for their redemption were sent to Europe, he was forced to undertake a dangerous winter journey to the Netherlands to raise a new loan and save the United States from financial disaster.
John Adams, with Franklin and Jefferson, formed a joint commission to conclude commercial treaties with the nations of Europe and North Africa. As minister to the Netherlands he raised a new Dutch loan to save America from financial ruin. For the first time since 1778, Adams was no longer engaged in “militia diplomacy.”
Minister to Britain John Adams was unable to enforce the peace treaty of 1783 and renew Anglo–American commerce. But he saved U.S. credit, petitioned to release impressed sailors, saw the Prussian–American treaty ratified, and laid the groundwork for negotiations with the Barbary States.