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 Solomon Lincoln Esq.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC07868 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Washington, D.C. Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 4 April 1836 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Pontificating on the history and intentions of the Pilgrims and the Founding Fathers, and on the important principles to be learned from America's collective history. Also giving his views on freedom of religion and freedom of speech and the limits that should be put upon them;. also frankly discussing his ambiguous feelings about the issue of slavery. In part: "I would not undertake to say that the one hundred and one Germans of the compact on board the Mayflower, had all, or any of them, a conception of the consequences to the human race, of their emigration from Leyden; any more than Schwartz the inventor of gunpowder had of the effect upon the history of the world, of his combination of sulphur, nitre and charcoal. But the elements in the composition of the Pilgrim colonist, were as expansive and as explosive as the sulphur and nitre of Schwartz..." Adams goes on to discuss limitations to free speech and religion during Colonial times and the lack of a larger vision for the future of the country shared by many of the Pilgrims. ("The opinions that to which our ancestors ascribed, were not all sound; nor was their attachment to them proportioned to their importance...") On slavery, Adams notes: "I did not for example start the question whether by the Law of God and nature Man can hold property, hereditary property....Had I spoken my mind on those...points, the sturdiest of abolitionists would have disavowed the Sentiments of their champion..."

People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848.

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Keywords/Subjects: President, African American History, Slavery, Religion, Bill of Rights, Immigration and Migration, Inventor, Military History, Ammunition, Invention, Science and Technology, Abolition

Sub Era: Age of Jackson Lincoln