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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 William Smith Shaw

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC04880 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Quincy, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 June 1821 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Discusses his interest in Native American religion and his difficulties in learning about it because of Indians reluctance to speak on the topic. Describes his attempts to learn about Native American religion from a Mr. Alexander McGillivray, the son of a "Scotchman by an Indian queen." Adams closely questioned the man concerning Indian beliefs including their ideas about an afterlife, but the man was not forthcoming, and Adams finally concluded "that his father was one of those wandering Scottish epicurean philosophers who had taught him to seek for pleasure and not to disquiet himself with fears of an hereafter." Written at "Montezillo."

People: Adams, John, 1735-1826.
Shaw, William Smith, 1778-1826.
McGillivray, Alexander, 1750-1793

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Keywords/Subjects: President American Indian History, Religion, Death

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform