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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 (1735-1826) to Richard Henry Lee

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03864 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 15 November 1775 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Adams outlines the government that he envisions for America, that it should have executive, legislative and judicial branches, similar to the colonial government of Massachusetts. He also argues for a bicameral legislature and insists that judges not have overlapping offices in the other branches. Adams draws to an end with comments about human nature and tyranny. He concludes "if such a Trifle will be of any service to you or any gratification of Curiousity, here you have it...." On the evening of 14 November 1775, Lee, a delegate to the Continental Congress from Virginia, visited Adams at his Philadelphia residence. In the wake of Lexington and Concord, the two men discussed which form of government might be easily adopted by the colonies. Lee requested that Adams write down his plan and then circulated both manuscript and printed copies of the letter to convince colonists that independence would not be as difficult as they feared.

People: Adams, John, 1735-1826.
Lee, Richard Henry, 1732-1794.

Historical Era: American Revolution, 1763-1783

Keywords/Subjects: President Revolutionary War, Government and Civics, Judiciary, Freedom and Independence, Congress

Sub Era: The War for Independence