Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 65,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to Lewis Tappan

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03891 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Washington Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 15 July 1845 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Written as congressman. A beautiful and deeply felt letter. Concerning the opposition of abolitionists to his bill to abolish slavery in the District of Columbia. Adams writes that with opposition from both abolitionists and pro-slavery advocates, he resorts to silence and inaction. He further writes that, consulting the "sortes biblicae" (randomly opening a bible to learn one's fortune or course of action), he found the passage where the Prophet [Nathan] advised King David that the Lord had not chosen him to build the Temple (2 Samuel 7: 2-13). He ends the letter here. (Adams died three years later. Compensated emancipation was enacted in April 1862.)

People: Tappan, Lewis, 1788-1873.
Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Keywords/Subjects: President, Congress, Slavery, African American History, Government and Civics, Law, Abolition, Washington, D.C., Superstition, Religion, Politics

Sub Era: Age of Jackson