Cover

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Half Title, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright, Dedication, Quotations

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Contents

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pp. vii-viii

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Preface

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pp. ix-x

Some twenty years ago, while editing the Adams Papers at the Massachusetts Historical Society, I became increasingly aware that, in both his political beliefs and his way of reasoning about government, John Adams stood apart from virtually all his prominent colleagues in the Revolutionary movement and the founding of the American republic that followed. ...

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Acknowledgments

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pp. xi-xii

I wish first to express my gratitude to the National Endowment for the Humanities for its support of my research at an early stage of this project, through fellowship FB-39549-03, taken in 2004. To three of my colleagues from Jack P. Greene’s Early American History seminar at Johns Hopkins University, Jack Crowley, Peter Onus, ...

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Introduction: The Evolution of a Distinctive Republican Vision

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pp. 1-22

Some four decades ago Gordon Wood, in The Creation of the American Republic, his classic exploration of the development of America’s distinctive constitutional tradition during the American Revolution, memorably appraised “The Relevance and Irrelevance of John Adams.” ...

Part One. Adams Moves to the Center

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I. A Provincial Reverence for the British Constitution, 1735–1767

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pp. 25-64

Nearly every prominent leader of the American Revolution began life as a provincial. These subjects of Britain’s rapidly expanding empire were native sons of the several provinces of British North America, and each felt the strongest ties of family and community, and often of ethnicity and religion, to his province. ...

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II. The Discovery of the Republic, 1768–1772

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pp. 65-96

In the half-dozen years before American Independence, John Adams and thousands of his countrymen in British North America first encountered Europe’s venerable republican tradition as a body of political knowledge of compelling relevance for their own day. Technically, this was more of a rediscovery than a discovery; ...

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III. Realm versus Dominion, 1773–1774

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pp. 97-128

The five years from 1772 through 1776 were among the most productive of John Adams’s long career and among the most important for his contribution to the freedom and happiness of his new nation, the United States of America. Early in this period he finally resolved the doubts about resisting British authority that had vexed him since the late 1760s. ...

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IV. From Imperial Dominion to Autonomous Republic, 1774–1775

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pp. 129-157

In the winter of 1775, John Adams returned to the theme that he had begun so tentatively to explore in 1772, the nature of republican government. His renewed attention to republicanism, however, was no more a deliberate, self-conscious decision than his putting it aside had been nearly three years earlier. ...

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V. Building a Republican Orthodoxy, 1775–1776

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pp. 158-190

In May 1775, John Adams shifted virtually all his energies to the national stage, where he quickly became a leading member of the Second Continental Congress. For most of that year, the pressing need for Congress to direct the colonies’ armed defense demanded Adams’s full attention, ...

Part Two. Adams on His Own

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VI. Defending Executive Authority, 1775–1780

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pp. 193-231

When John Adams took the floor of Congress in the fall of 1775 to speak on New Hampshire’s petition for guidance from Congress in reforming its government, he confronted, for the first time, the issue of executive authority in the now suddenly autonomous American colonies. ...

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VII. An Education in American Aristocracy, 1775–1783

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pp. 232-269

In Thoughts on Government, as in the congressional debates that preceded it, John Adams argued for a bicameral legislature because he feared that Americans, disgusted with royal governors, would ensure that any new executives they created would be too weak to exercise real authority. ...

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VIII. Redefining the Republican Tradition, 1784–1787

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pp. 270-311

As he moved into his handsome residence in the Paris suburb of Auteuil in August 1784, John Adams could well have believed that his career as a writer had come to an end. Over the past two decades he had used his pen to navigate a grueling series of intellectual and political trials: conceptualizing and defending colonial autonomy, discovering and explaining the essence of republican government, securing independence, ...

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IX. John Adams’s Republic in Republican America, 1787–1800

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pp. 312-354

When John Adams disembarked with Abigail from the Lucretia to a hero’s welcome in Boston on 17 June 1788, after a decade of diplomatic service in France, Holland, and Britain, his most recent pronouncements on republican government had preceded him. All three volumes of the A Defence of the Constitutions had reached America; ...

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X. A Retrospective Retirement, 1801–1826

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pp. 355-398

On 4 March 1801, at 4 a.m., eight hours before the inauguration of his successor, President John Adams boarded a stage bound for Baltimore, on his way home to Quincy and the longest retirement of any American president before the twentieth century. His mood on that day, following his defeat in the fall of 1800, may be readily surmised. ...

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Conclusion: Memory and Desire in America’s Republican Revolution

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pp. 399-432

April was never the cruelest month for John Adams, but April 1776, which saw the appearance of his Thoughts on Government, was a month of singular regeneration in the republican tradition. What Adams and his countrymen accomplished that spring in Congress, in their provincial legislatures, and in hundreds of county seats, cities, and towns was a remarkable revival of a political tradition ...

Notes

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pp. 433-520

An Essay on Sources

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pp. 521-524

A Chronology of John Adams’s Political Study and Writings

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pp. 525-528

Index

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pp. 529-556