The Adams Papers project was founded in 1954 to edit and publish the writings of the family of John Adams. This extraordinary family included presidents, statesmen, scholars, and literary figures. The family members’ extensive writings—letters, diaries, legal and diplomatic papers, and more—form an unmatched record of the first century and a half of American history, in which four generations played a central role. The manuscript collection at the Massachusetts Historical Society forms the nucleus of the project, to which have been added more than 27,000 items from libraries, institutions, and individuals.
Explore “Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive” at the Massachusetts Historical Society »
- Series I Diaries
- Series II Adams Family Correspondence
- Series III General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen
- Series IV Adams Family Portraits
Below are the in-print works in this collection. Sort by title, author, format, publication date, or price »
The Adams Family Correspondence, L. H. Butterfield writes, “is an unbroken record of the changing modes of domestic life, religious views and habits, travel, dress, servants, food, schooling, reading, health and medical care, diversions, and every other conceivable aspect of manners and taste among the members of a substantial New England family.”
The letters in these volumes, written from both sides of the Atlantic, chronicle the nearly five years in which John Adams—in successive missions to Europe, accompanied first by one son, then by two—initiated what would be a continuing role for Adamses in three generations: representing their country and advancing its interests in the capitals of Europe. If the letters of John and Abigail are central, those written by others are hardly less interesting: the concerns of young John Quincy at school in Leiden and his observations of St. Petersburg at age fourteen; the adventure-filled return voyage of Charles, aged eleven, to America; and the interests of the younger Abigail, maturing in Braintree.
With the summer of 1784, most of the family reunited to spend nearly a year together in Europe. These volumes document John Adams’s diplomatic triumphs, his wife and daughter’s participation in the cosmopolitan scenes of Paris and London, and his son John Quincy’s travels in Europe and America.
In their myriad letters to one another the Adamses interspersed observations about their own family life—births and deaths, illnesses and marriages, new homes and new jobs, education and finances—with commentary on the most important social and political events of their day, from the scandals in the British royal family to the deteriorating political situation in Massachusetts that eventually culminated in Shays’ Rebellion.
By early 1787, as this latest volume of the award-winning series Adams Family Correspondence opens, John and Abigail Adams, anticipating a quiet retirement from government in Massachusetts, were quickly pulled back into the public sphere by John’s election as the first vice president under the new Constitution. With their characteristic candor, the Adamses thoughtfully observe the world around them, from the manners of English court life to the politics of the new federal government in New York during this crucial historical period.
1790–1793 marked the beginning of the American republic, a contentious period as the nation struggled to create a functioning government amid bitter factionalism. As usual, the Adams family was in the midst of it all. This volume offers insight into the family and the frank commentary on life that readers have come to expect from the Adamses.
The Adams family comments on national and international events, from America’s growing tensions with Britain and France to virulent domestic political factionalism and the Whiskey Rebellion. The most significant event for the Adamses was John Quincy’s appointment as U.S. minister resident at The Hague, the beginning of a long diplomatic career.
The existence of this diary was totally unsuspected until its somewhat accidental discovery among papers at the Vermont Historical Society during a search for Adams family letters of a later period. In part, the diary antedates by more than two years all other diaries of John Adams, and significantly supplements the Diary and Autobiography of John Adams. Among other matters, the newly found diary contains material on John Adams’s life as an undergraduate at Harvard, his choice of a career, his law studies and his first case as a practicing lawyer, his ambitions, and his observations on girls.
The letters in this volume of Adams Family Correspondence span the period from July 1795 to the eve of John Adams’s inauguration, with the growing partisan divide leading up to the election playing a central role. The fiery debate over funding the Jay Treaty sets the political stage, and the caustic exchanges between Federalists and Democratic-Republicans only grow as rumors surface of George Washington’s impending retirement. John’s equanimity in reporting to Abigail and his children on the speculation about the presidential successor gives way to expectation and surprise at the voracity of electioneering among political allies and opponents alike. Abigail offers keen, even acerbic, commentary on these national events. From Europe, John Quincy and Thomas Boylston shed light on the rise of the French Directory, the shifts in the continental war, and the struggles within the Batavian government, and John Quincy’s engagement to Louisa Catherine Johnson in London opens the next great collection of correspondence documenting the Adams family saga.
The Autobiography, intended for John Adams’s family but never finished, consists of three large sections. The first records his boyhood, his legal and political career, and the movement that culminated in American independence. The second and third parts deal with his diplomatic experiences, and serve among other things as a retrospective commentary on the Diary; they are studded with sketches of Adams’s associates which are as scintillating as they are prejudiced. Parts and in some cases all of these sketches were omitted from Charles Francis Adams’s nineteenth-century edition.
Adams’s Diary is a font of information on Revolutionary resistance in New England, debates in the early Continental Congresses, and diplomacy and financing of the American Revolution. Presented in full, we have a basis for comprehending him: an extraordinary human being; master of robust, idiomatic language; diarist in the great tradition.
John Adams’s Diary has proved a quarry of information on the rise of Revolutionary resistance in New England, the debates in the early Continental Congresses, and the diplomacy and financing of the American Revolution. The Autobiography, intended for Adams’s family but never finished, consists of three large sections. The first records his boyhood, his legal and political career, and the movement that culminated in American independence.
The Autobiography, intended for John Adams’s family but never finished, consists of three sections. The second and third parts deal with his diplomatic experiences, and serve among other things as a retrospective commentary on his Diary: they are studded with sketches of Adams’s associates which are as scintillating as they are prejudiced. Parts and in some cases all of these sketches were omitted from Charles Francis Adams’s nineteenth-century edition.
Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Diary of John Quincy Adams begin the publication of the greatest diary in American History. Recording a span of sixty-eight years, it has been known heretofore only in partial form. When Charles Francis Adams edited his grandfather’s diary, he chose to omit “the details of common life,” reduce “the moral and religious speculations,” and retain criticisms of others only if they applied to public figures “acting in the same sphere with the writer.” Now the diary is being published complete for the first time.
Volume 1 and Volume 2 of the Diary of John Quincy Adams begin the publication of the greatest diary in American History. Here is a remarkable record of the passage from adolescence to manhood of a precocious and sensitive boy torn by self-doubt and driving himself to fulfill his promise and his parents’ expectations.
The present volume reveals Charles Francis Adams as a sensitive and self-critical young man during his college years, in the social whirl of Washington while his father was Secretary of State and President, during his training as a lawyer in Daniel Webster’s Boston law office, and throughout his prolonged courtship of Abigail B. Brooks, a New England heiress. A central theme of these volumes is the struggle which raged within young Adams’ mind and heart between the warm, poetic heritage of his Southern-born mother and the cold, political, New England legacy of his Adams forebears.
The present volume reveals Charles Francis Adams as a sensitive and self-critical young man: in the social whirl of Washington while his father was Secretary of State and President, during his training as a lawyer in Daniel Webster’s Boston law office, and throughout his prolonged courtship of Abigail B. Brooks, a New England heiress. The defeat of his father in the 1828 election, the tragic death of his older brother, and his marriage to Abigail in 1829, with which the volume ends, were way stations in his course toward making himself a “New England man.”
Covering the period from Adams’s marriage in September 1829 to the end of 1832, these volumes record the early years of his maturity during which he was seeking to find his vocation.
Twenty-five at the start of these volumes, Adams had yet to embark on the public career that would mark him a statesman, but by their conclusion he had been drawn into the maelstrom of politics. It was an unwilling plunge, dictated by what both he and his father, John Quincy Adams, regarded as betrayal of the elder Adams by Daniel Webster and his Whigs. Once in, however, he showed himself politically adept.
The period from Adams’s twenty-eighth to thirty-second year was characterized by his turn from the political activities that had occupied him for the preceding several years. The course of the Van Buren administration he had helped to elect dissatisfied him, the Massachusetts Whig leadership had earned his distrust, positions on political issues that would either echo or oppose those being vigorously espoused by his father, John Quincy Adams, he felt inhibited from avowing publicly. So confronted, Charles found occupation in preparing and expressing himself on economic matters of moment—banking and currency—and moral questions generated by the slavery issue.
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.
Military affairs provide some of the most fascinating subjects, including accounts of the Battle of Bunker Hill, assessments of high-ranking officers, and complaints about the behavior of riflemen sent from three states to aid the Massachusetts troops.
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.
An unparalleled account of early American diplomacy. Legal and constitutional scholars will find Vol. 8 particularly interesting. The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780, drafted by Adams, served as a crucial source for the U.S. Constitution; the earliest surviving version of that text 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.
Born in London in 1775 to a Maryland merchant and his English wife, Louisa recalls her childhood and education in England and France and her courtship with John Quincy. Her diaries reveal a reluctant but increasingly canny political wife. Her husband emerges in a fullness seldom seen—ambitious and exacting, yet passionate, generous, and gallant.
Volume 12 opens with John Adams’s inauguration as president and closes just after details of the XYZ affair become public in America. Through private correspondence, and with the candor and perception expected from the Adamses, family members reveal their concerns for the well-being of the nation and the sustaining force of domestic life.
Volume 18 of the Papers of John Adams chronicles John Adams’ tenure as minister to Great Britain and his joint commission, with Jefferson, to negotiate treaties with Europe and North Africa. Adams found it impossible to do “any Thing Satisfactory” with Britain, and the volume ends with his decision to resign his posts.
The candid letters of John, Abigail, and the Adams children offer a rich perspective on life in America during its infancy. The almost 300 letters in volume 13 of Adams Family Correspondence were written during seventeen tumultuous months of John Adams’s presidency, when he depended on surrogates for much of his family correspondence.
In John Adams’s last 28 months as a diplomat in Europe, he petitioned to halt British impressment of American sailors, salvaged U.S. credit by contracting two Dutch loans, and finished A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. He retired to his home but later resumed office as the first vice president of the U.S.
John and Abigail Adams’s reflections on an emerging nation as they move into the new President’s House in Washington are a highlight of the nearly 280 letters in volume 14. The volume opens with the Adamses’ public and private expressions on the death of George Washington and concludes with John’s defeat in the presidential election of 1800.
John Adams’s shaping of the vice presidency dominates this volume of the Papers of John Adams, which chronicles a formative era in American government from June 1789 to February 1791. He held to federalist principles and staked out limits for his executive powers. His letters reveal firsthand the labor of nation-building in an age of constitutions.
John and Abigail Adams remained engaged in political life after they left Washington for retirement in Quincy, Mass. A highlight of Volume 15 is a series of letters between Abigail and Thomas Jefferson that debated fundamental questions of the nation’s tumultuous early years. Equally compelling family stories emerge in the volume’s 251 letters.
Vice President John Adams faces a turbulent world of rebellion in this volume of the Papers of John Adams, which chronicles the period from March 1791 to January 1797. From the French Revolution to the negotiation of the Jay Treaty, Adams was involved in key decisions that defined U.S. foreign policy for decades to come.