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"I have a great Deal of Leisure, which I chiefly employ in Scribbling, that my Mind may not stand still or run back like my Fortune." John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, 29 June 1774, (third letter written on that date)
From Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
John Adams (1735-1826) and Abigail Smith Adams (1744-1818) exchanged over 1,100 letters, beginning during their courtship in 1762 and continuing throughout John's political career (until 1801). These warm and informative letters include John's descriptions of the Continental Congress and his impressions of Europe while he served in various diplomatic roles, as well as Abigail's updates about their family, farm, and news of the Revolution's impact on the Boston area.
The earliest letters exchanged between John Adams and Abigail Smith occurred during their courtship, including a series of sixteen letters exchanged between 12 April and 9 May 1762 while John was in Boston being inoculated against smallpox. John and Abigail married on 25 October 1764. During the early 1770s, John wrote to Abigail when his legal work for the circuit court took him away from home. John and Abigail Adams exchanged numerous letters while John served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. John Adams's first diplomatic assignment in Europe in early 1778 prompted a series of transatlantic exchanges of letters between him and his wife until he returned to the United State in the middle of 1779. Although it was challenging to send mail across the ocean (especially during wartime) after John returned to Europe they resumed their correspondence between Braintree, Massachusetts, and Europe during late 1779 until the summer of 1784, when Abigail arrived in London. While they were both in Europe they exchanged a few letters at various times when they were apart between December 1786 and January 1789. During John Adams's vice presidency and presidency they wrote many letters to each other. John wrote one of these letters, dated 2 November 1800, from the newly-completed "President's House" (later called the White House); in this notable letter he states, "May none but honest and wise Men rule under this roof."
Of the 1,160 letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams featured on this website, all but one are part of the Adams Family Papers of the Massachusetts Historical Society. (One letter from John to Abigail, 23 June 1780, is from the Warren-Adams Collection of the Massachusetts Historical Society.) The majority of these letters are the recipient's copies (the original letters received by the addressee), thirteen are letterbook copies (handwritten copies of outgoing letters from a volume retained by the sender), a few are draft letters, and one is a 19th century transcription of a letter (24 July 1775) that was intercepted during the American Revolution and subsequently published in newspapers. (The location of the original letter is unknown.)
The Adams Family Papers manuscript collection includes 65 additional letterbook copies of correspondence exchanged between John and Abigail Adams, but because the recipient's copies of these letter are featured on this website, the letterbook copies of these letters are not included here.
Other manuscript collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society include eight manuscript copies of letters exchanged between John and Abigail Adams, but because the recipient's copies (or in one case, a different manuscript copy within the Adams Family Papers collection) of these letters are featured on this website, the manuscript copies from other collections are not presented here.
The Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive presents full color digital images of the manuscripts.
The purpose of the Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive is to present images of manuscripts alongside the corresponding transcriptions; this website is not intended to be an online documentary edition. For more details, please see Information about the transcriptions on this website.
For information about using this website, including a description of the display features of the online manuscripts, please refer to the About this website section.