A website from the Massachusetts Historical Society; founded 1791.
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This website presents page images of John Quincy Adams' diaries, comprised of almost 15,000 pages containing manuscript entries within fifty-one volumes, an important primary source for the early national period of American history. Although there is no searchable transcription of the diary pages, the diary entries can be searched by date. Lists of the diaries are available to facilitate browsing, and a timeline of events in John Quincy Adams' life is available to help locate dates of interest.

About John Quincy Adams

John Quincy Adams, the man who eventually became the sixth president of the United States, began his diary at the age of twelve, an activity he continued throughout his life. Adams wrote his first diary entry in November 1779 at the start of a second voyage to Europe with his father, John Adams, who had been appointed commissioner to France during the American Revolution. While still a teenager, John Quincy Adams served the Revolutionary cause in Europe as secretary to Francis Dana, the American envoy in Russia and later to his father in the Netherlands. Later, Adams served as minister to the Netherlands, Prussia, and Russia; and as a peace commissioner the negotiated the Treaty of Ghent. (He also was nominated and confirmed, but never served as a Supreme Court justice). As secretary of state, he was the author of the Monroe Doctrine, and in one of the most controversial elections in American history, became the sixth president of the United States. As "Old Man Eloquent" in the U. S. House of Representatives and before the Supreme Court in the Amistad case he fought to abolish slavery--a struggle he embraced until his death in 1848. Throughout this long and remarkable career, Adams kept a detailed diary of his own activities and all that he observed.

About John Quincy Adams' diaries

The John Quincy Adams diary dates from 1779 to 1848, a period of more than sixty-eight years, including an unbroken daily record for more than twenty-five years. The fifty-one manuscript volumes (comprised of 14,921 manuscript pages with diary entries; 16,930 pages in all--including published almanac pages and blank pages) are a guide not only to Adams' own dramatic career, but a treasure trove of information on early nineteenth-century America. As a boy, Adams dined with Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in Paris. Later, he knew every American president from Washington through Polk. In Europe he met Czar Alexander I and King George III, but lived long enough to comment on Ralph Waldo Emerson, dine with Alexis de Tocqueville, and shake the hand of Charles Dickens. Adams taught at Harvard University briefly, attempted to rationalize the American system of weights and measures, and was a key figure in the founding of the Smithsonian Institution. All this and more he described day after day in detailed, often caustic and sometimes amusing diary entries that combine powerful observation and deep self-reflection.

Using John Quincy Adams' diaries online

More about John Quincy Adams' diaries and manuscripts