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 (1735-1826) to William Smith Shaw

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC07533 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Quincy, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 26 June 1825 Pagination: 1

Summary of Content: Former President Adams discusses Native American and African religion with Shaw, his nephew and former private secretary. States "Dr. Jarvis has assigned some good causes of the too general inattention to the religion of the indians. But those causes do not apply to the negroes. We have thousands if not millions of them domesticated with us. We might examine them. But who asks them a question? Or studies their languages ... Why are not Bibles translated into negro and sent to the gold coast?" Refers to a slave named Glasgow owned by Boston pastor Samuel Cooper. States that when Cooper educated Glasgow in Christianity, Glasgow related an African story that mirrored Christianity's explanation of the origin of evil. Of Glasgow's explanation, states "It is as rational an attempt to account for the origin of Evil as that of the great Frederick, [Soames] Jennings, or Dr. Edwards" (referring to Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and Jonathan Edwards, an early American theologian). Adds the phrase "[s]ecret things belong not to Us," which is a paraphrase of Deuteronomy 29:29 in the Bible. Stresses the similarities between Christianity and some facets of the African religion discussed by Glasgow. Written at Montezillo, Adams' estate. Contains a tear, possibly from seal.

People: Adams, John, 1735-1826.
Shaw, William Smith, 1778-1826.
Cooper, Samuel, 1725-1783.
Edwards, Jonathan, 1703-1758.
Frederick II, King of Prussia, 1712-1786.
Glasgow, fl. ca. 1868.
Jarvis, Dr., fl. 1825.

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Keywords/Subjects: President, American Indian History, Africa, Religion, African American History, Slavery, Literature and Language Arts, Christianity, Vice President

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform