These volumes document John Adams’s thinking and actions during the final years of his congressional service and take him through his first five months as a Commissioner in France in association with Benjamin Franklin and Arthur Lee.
While Adams was still in Philadelphia, military matters continued to he his major concern. Most demanding was his presidency of the Board of War, which took up his “whole Time, every Morning and Evening.” In general, though, the documents and reports of his conduct reveal a commitment to a national outlook. Congress should be a national legislature, and personal, state, and regional rivalries should give way to concern for the greater good—these were his deeply held convictions.
When chosen a Commissioner to France, Adams was reluctant to go. But duty and the honor of the position, along with the encouragement of an understanding and self-sacrificing wife, persuaded him to accept. With son John Quincy for a companion, he crossed the Atlantic to a new career. His initiation into the complexities of diplomacy brought a growing awareness of European affairs and the problems facing the new nation in the diplomatic arena. Letters deal with such varied topics as the supervision of American commercial agents in French ports, regulation of privateers, settlement of disputes between crews and officers, negotiation of loans, and help for American prisoners in England. Personal letters run the gamut from Adams’s views on the proper conduct of American diplomacy to strangers’ pleas for aid in locating relatives in America. Contrary to the usual impression of Adams as little more than a clerk for the Commission, evidence shows that he was its chief administrator.
Acclimation to living abroad among diplomats did not stifle Adams’s yearning for the simplicities of private life in the midst of his family. Yet as the important and interesting documents of this volume show, the groundwork was being laid for his even more significant role in diplomacy.
These two volumes…bring the corpus of Adams family materials available in a modern letterpress edition to twenty-eight superb volumes. Just as earlier volumes in this series gave an object lesson on how determined men initiated and justified a revolution for political independence, these two illustrate in detail how many of the same men sustained that revolution. The nearly six hundred documents printed and calendared here are more than a record of the activities of John Adams; they are a cross section, with Adams as the epicenter, of the multitude of particular details that had to be attended to in making the struggle for independence successful.
Two by two emerge the volumes from the Adams family manuscripts reposing at the Massachusetts Historical Society. And with the publication of every pair we have reason for gratitude, pleasure, and even awe… Taylor, Lint, and Walker guide us through manuscripts from two of the most exciting years in John Adams’ life and in the history of a struggling new nation. These volumes show what Adams himself contended, that his role at home and abroad during the Revolutionary era was more significant than was generally understood… As these newest volumes of John Adams papers show, no more important editorial and publishing undertaking exists than that of the Adams Papers. Anyone who has struggled through all the microfilm reels of unedited Adams Papers emerges knowing that these amazing manuscripts contain the broadest and most rewarding vantage point we have to view more than a century of American history.
- 936 pages
- 6-1/2 x 9-3/4 inches
- Belknap Press
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