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John Adams was the second president of the United States. He took office in 1797 after George Washington, a stunning moment for the world because no republic had ever changed presidents or political parties without a war or a coup. The nation was in a disastrous financial condition. Adams wife, Abigail Smith Adams, was well-educated and politically talented. John counted on Abigail’s practical advice and political savvy during their entire lives. Their relationship was unusual as was the number of letters that has survived.

In the 1770s, John wrote to Abigail when his work for the circuit court took him away from home and when John served in the Continental Congress from 1774 to 1777. When he served as President and travelled between Boston, Philadelphia, and Washington DC, John and Abigail wrote to each other almost every day with frank advice and observations about what was going on in the new U.S. and in their private lives. The letters were often short notes but some were many, many pages. The letters here are from the first year of Adam’s Presidency in 1797. –Prof. Anne Hyde

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Primary Sources: Original Documents from the Time

“Thirty-Two Letters between John and Abigail Adams During His Presidency,” 1796-1797. Adams Family Papers. Massachusetts Historical Society.

  1. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 27 November 1796
  2. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 November 1796
  3. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 December 1796
  4. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 4 December 1796
  5. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 4 December 1796
  6. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 December 1796
  7. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 7 December 1796
  8. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 8 December 1796
  9. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 9 December 1796
  10. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 12 December 1796
  11. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 14 December 1796
  12. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 14 December 1796
  13. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 16 December 1796
  14. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 18 December 1796
  15. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 19 December 1796
  16. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 20 December 1796
  17. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 22 December 1796
  18. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 December 1796, “I received by the last post…”
  19. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 23 December 1796, “Mr. Beals will deliver this…”
  20. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 25 December 1796
  21. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 December 1796, “The inclosed extract of a Letter…”
  22. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 27 December 1796, “I received yours of the 14…”
  23. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 30 December 1796
  24. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 31 December 1796
  25. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 1 January 1797
  26. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 1 January 1797
  27. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 3 January 1797
  28. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 January 1797, “I dined Yesterday…”
  29. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 5 January 1797, “Mrs. Swan and her Daughters,…”
  30. Letter from Abigail Adams to John Adams, 7 January 1797
  31. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 9 January 1797
  32. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 11 January 1797

Secondary Sources: What Historians Have Written

Barker-Benfield, G. J. “Stillbirth and Sensibility: The Case of Abigail and John Adams.” Early American Studies 10, no. 1 (2012): 2–29.

Crane, Elaine Forman. “Political Dialogue and the Spring of Abigail’s Discontent.” The William and Mary Quarterly 56, no. 4 (1999): 745–74.

Garbaye, Linda. “Women and Politics in North America: The Experience of Abigail Adams.” Nuevo Mundo – Mundos Nuevos, April 1, 2014.

Holton, Woody. “Abigail Adams, Bond Speculator.” The William and Mary Quarterly 64, no. 4 (2007): 821–38.

Lewis, Jan. “The Republican Wife: Virtue and Seduction in the Early Republic.” The William and Mary Quarterly 44, no. 4 (1987): 689–721.

Scobie, Ingrid Winther. “American First Ladies and the Question of Identity.” Journal of Women’s History 7, no. 4 (1995): 137–50.