John Adams Letter

In the early spring of 1788, John Adams returned from Europe, where he'd spent a decade conducting diplomatic business. He arrived in Massachusetts at a seminal moment; he was stateside, acclimating to his Braintree home, when the U.S. Constitution was formally ratified.

On June 19, when ratification was all but certain, Adams addressed a letter to the Massachusetts Legislature. In his epistle, transcribed below, he thanks lawmakers, who extended a warm welcome to their long-absent statesman. And in a premonitory passage, Adams extols the liberties that the "Nation now enjoys."

To the Honorable the Legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

The kind and condescending Congratulations of so illustrious a Body as the Legislature of Massachusetts, on my arrival with my Family, in this my native country does me great honor and demands my most grateful Acknowledgement.

If the Dangers and Fatigues which have fallen to my share in the Course of a memorable Revolution, have contributed in any degree, to the acquisition or security, of those inestimable Blessings of Independence, of Commerce and Trinity (?), of civil and religious Liberty which this highly favored (?) Nation now enjoys the reflexion (sic) on them will be a source of some salvation (?) to me, to my latest Period: and the Candour and Indulgence with which they have been received by my Fellow Citizens, will ever be remembered with Gratitude.

David McCullough, whose biography of John Adams won a Pulitzer Prize, is this year's recipient of The Newberry Library Award. John Adams, first published in 2001, is now in its 82nd printing, and remains one of the most praised and widely read American biographies.