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Papers — John Quincy Adams (1767 - 1848)


John Quincy Adams

A comprehensive published collection of John Quincy Adams papers does not yet exist. John Quincy Adams's papers are part of the Adams Papers project at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The project, through Harvard University Press, plans to publish the papers of the Adams family from 1753-1889. To date, however, the project has published 45 volumes, most focused on the papers of John Adams. The editors at the Adams Papers project have divided the project into 4 series:

  • Series I: Diaries
  • Series II: Adams Family Correspondence
  • Series III: General Correspondence and Other Papers of the Adams Statesmen
  • Series IV: Adams Family Portraits

Material related to John Quincy Adams can be found in the Diaries, Family Correspondence, and Portraits series.

  • The Diary of John Quincy Adams. The first 2 volumes of John Quincy Adams's diary were published in 1981 covering the years 1779-1788. These volumes are also available free online as part of the Massachusetts Historical Society's Adams Papers Digital Edition.
  • Adams Family Correspondence. 10 of a projected 24 volumes from the Adams Family Correspondence series have been published. The published volumes cover the years 1761-1795. These volumes include family correspondence from the entire Adams family. The first seven of these volumes are also available free online as part of the Massachusetts Historical Society's Adams Papers Digital Edition.
  • Portraits of John Quincy Adams and His Wife. 1 vol. An illustrated volume including all known life portraits, busts, and silhouettes of John Quincy and Louisa Adams.

The best available resource for the unpublished material at the Massachusetts Historical Society remains the microfilm collection of the Adams Papers. Comprising 608 reels of film, this collection includes all of the published and unpublished Adams family material housed at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The microfilm collection is available at a number of libraries throughout the world, including Alderman Library at the University of Virginia through which the Scripps Library has access.

The Massachustts Historical Society has also been active in digitizing portions of its Adams Manuscript Papers collection and making them freely available online. Currently, digital images of all 51 volumes of John Quincy Adams’ diaries, which he steadily kept from 1779 almost until his death in 1848, are available online at The Diaries of John Quincy Adams: A Digital Collection.

Between 1874 and 1877, Charles Francis Adams (John Quincy's son) published a 12-volume edition of John Quincy's diary, The Memoirs of John Quincy Adams, Comprising Portions of his Diary from 1795-1848. In his editorial process, Charles Francis chose to omit much of John Quincy's writing. However, until the Adams Papers project finishes their complete edition of the diary, Charles Francis's edition will remain the best available published version.

In 1913, Worthington C. Ford published a 7-volume set of John Quincy Adams correspondence and memoranda, Writings of John Quincy Adams. This edition only covers the years up to 1823.

For the official papers of Adams during his Presidency, see James Richardson's Compilation of the Messages and Papers of the Presidents. This retrospective compilation was published in several different editions. The final edition was published in 1918 in 20 volumes. This edition covers the Presidencies of Washington through Taft and includes a significant portion of Wilson's Presidency. The contents of the Compilation are typically limited to official proclamations, addresses, and messages.