MHS Conference on Underrepresented Voices of the American Revolution

By Kristina Benham, Ph.D. Candidate at Baylor University

With the 250th celebration of American Independence coming up in just a couple of years, scholars and teachers are thinking about how to contribute to reflection on the U.S. national origin story. In this spirit, the Massachusetts Historical Society hosted a joint conference in July 2022 on underrepresented voices in the American Revolution.

The Revolution is no small topic in historical scholarship past and present, nor in the collections of archives, especially in New England. This conference, however, revisited what historians started at the 200th Independence celebration: examining the American origin story as a multitude of stories. The specific focus on continuing to uncover underrepresented voices from the era also lent a timely conviction on current American society. As a junior scholar in the field, seeing a range from graduate students to long-established historians discussing these topics was truly a delight and inspiration. The K-12 Teachers Workshop in connection with the conference was equally rewarding, as all levels of education contribute to our understanding of this celebration.

The first day of the conference took place in the MHS building. The opening panel demonstrated how archives are involved in obscuring underrepresented voices from the past. Then, the keynote panel—featuring Colin Calloway, Kathleen DuVal, and Chernoh Sesay—set the tone for the conference, reflecting on the state of the field of the American Revolution and its implications for teaching, public history, and American society.

The second full day of panels, held on the campus of Suffolk University, presented an array of topics: loyalists in a new light, animals, gendered dynamics, borderlands, southern Black involvement in the Revolution, religion in the era for Jews and African Americans, Native American perspectives, and untold stories in the much-studied New England. Of course, I could only attend some of these opportunities.

The panel on loyalists was of particular interest to me, and I was not disappointed. This is a topic within the American Revolution that my students at Baylor University find surprising and intriguing. Panelists Alexi Garrett, Patrick O’Brien, and MaryKate Smolenski made compelling arguments for continued need for this research. Whether it was the fate of enslaved people and white, loyalist women making property claims (Garrett), the obscured life story of a slave returned to free Massachusetts through a loyalist family (O’Brien), or the hints of a loyalist woman’s life left behind in material culture and merchants’ papers (Smolenski), these presentations showed how complex the terms Loyalism and slavery could be.

The panel on British Imperial borderlands also led to discussion on defining or redefining the edges of the Revolution. Panelists Kristin Lee, Darcy Stevens, and Jaqueline Reynoso challenged assumptions about what is important to history of the Revolution. Lee’s presentation on Captain James Willing’s raid on western British forts with the cooperation of Spanish authorities and his seizure of enslaved people challenged assumptions about the story of the American Revolution as being Anglo-American and always involving full agency. Stevens’s presentation on the fluidity of allegiances in the far northeast raised questions about the binary assumptions of Loyalist vs. Patriot. And Reynoso’s presentation on resistance to local martial law in Quebec demonstrated that parallels to the center of the Revolution, so to speak, are important to the story as well.

I was glad and honored to also attend the workshop for K-12 teachers held in conjunction with the scholarly conference. A couple of scholars remained for this portion, including a presentation by Churnoh Sesay on Prince Hall in Boston. The MHS planned this conjunction of events in order to bring together scholars and teachers on how to engage students of various ages with primary sources from the MHS holdings. Since I have had the great opportunity to teach for the last few years at the college level while finishing my PhD, I found it refreshing to hear about the challenges and creative approaches of teachers at work in regional school systems. Small group discussion over lesson planning brought a much-needed practicality to the examination of underrepresented voices at the conference.

This event was a great personal and professional experience for me. I could not list all the names of the contacts I met who each showed professional generosity and shared enthusiasm for the era of the Revolution. I made my own foray into a topic related to my overall project: Protestantism and the English-speaking Black Atlantic. And the advice and feedback I received was invaluable and representative of the general, kind encouragement at the conference to pursue these topics further. I am grateful the MHS hosted this conference and workshop together, and I look forward to the continued discussion and teaching to come as we approach the celebrations in 2025 and 2026.

“My life has been spent in the public service”: John Quincy Adams’s Final Years, 1843–1848

By Neal Millikan, Series Editor for Digital Editions, The Adams Papers

Transcriptions of more than 1,700 pages of John Quincy Adams’s diary have just been added to the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary, a born-digital edition of the Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The new material spans the period January 1843 through February 1848 and chronicles the final years of Adams’s life, including his continued service in the United States House of Representatives.

Slavery was the political issue that continued to vex John Quincy Adams. He reflected on the subject in his diary in August 1843: “Before my lamp is burnt out, I am desirous that my opinions concerning the great movement throughout the civilized world for the abolition of Slavery should be explicitly avowed and declared— God grant that they may contribute to the final consummation of that event.” One of his major contributions to this cause was his work to defeat the House’s Gag Rule, which prevented petitions regarding slavery from being discussed in that legislative body. On 3 December 1844 Adams introduced a resolution to repeal the Gag Rule, thereby restoring the freedom of petition and debate in the House. After an eight-year battle, he triumphed; the House finally adopted the resolution that same day.

For years, Adams had also opposed the annexation of Texas, rightly believing that its admission to the union would tip the balance of power between slave and free states. He watched morosely in February 1845 as a joint resolution on annexation passed in Congress. Texas subsequently joined the Union as a slave state. The following year, when fighting broke out along the contested U.S.-Mexico border, Adams voted against the declaration of war in the House, describing the conflict as “this most unrighteous War” and asserting that the “lying preamble” to the bill that claimed Mexico initiated the conflict was “base, fraudulent and false.”

painting, portrait, man
Portrait of John Quincy Adams, painted by Nahum Bell Onthank (1823-1888)

More satisfying, Adams’s life-long pursuit of knowledge received just reward during this period. His “aspirations of Science, limited only by the scanty spark of ethereal fire” in his soul were realized in 1843 when he traveled to Ohio to support of one of his long-standing passions—astronomy. He spent months preparing the speech he was invited to give at the laying of the cornerstone for the Cincinnati astronomical observatory. “My task is to turn this transient gust of enthusiasm for” astronomy “into a permanent and persevering national pursuit which may extend the bounds of human knowledge.”

Since 1836 John Quincy Adams had championed the preservation and protection of the bequest James Smithson left to the United States, having either chaired or been a member of the select congressional committee on the Smithsonian fund. He ultimately hoped those funds would be utilized for a national research institution. In August 1846 he elatedly noted the signing of the Smithsonian Bequest Act “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge among men” by President James K. Polk.

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Carte de visite of daguerreotype of John Quincy Adams by Brady’s National Photographic Portrait Galleries

Adams easily won re-election as the representative of the 8th Massachusetts congressional district in November 1846. On the 20th he suffered a cerebral hemorrhage while walking in Boston. For the rest of the year, he convalesced at his son Charles Francis Adams’s home. He returned to Washington, D.C., on 12 February 1847 and was greeted by a standing ovation when he resumed his seat in Congress the following day. A year later, on 21 February 1848, John Quincy Adams collapsed on the floor of the House. He was moved to the office of the speaker, where he died two days later. Adams aptly described the trajectory of his life when he wrote in July 1845 that it had “been spent in the public service.”

By the time of his death, Adams’s diary encompassed 68 years of entries and contained over 15,000 manuscript pages in 51 diary volumes. Adams himself best explained the importance of his diary in the following entry: “There has perhaps not been another individual of the human race of whose daily existence from early childhood to four score years has been noted down with his own hand so minutely as mine.”

For more on John Quincy Adams’s life, read the headnote for the 1843–1848 period, or, navigate the entries to begin reading his diary. The addition of material for the 1843–1848 period joins existing transcriptions of Adams’s diary for his legal, political, and diplomatic careers (1789–1817), his time as secretary of state (1817–1825), his presidency (1825–1829), and his previous service in the House of Representatives (1830–1842). It brings the total number of transcriptions freely available on the MHS website to 11,600 pages. The Adams Papers editorial project continues to work toward making more of the diary accessible online.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding for the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary was provided by the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, with additional contributions by Harvard University Press and a number of private donors. The Mellon Foundation in partnership with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission also supports the project through funding for the Society’s Primary Source Cooperative.

Looking for Digital Volunteers to Help with Transcriptions!

By Nancy Heywood, Senior Archivist for Digital Initiatives

Can you read cursive? Do you want to time travel to Massachusetts in 1855?

Are you interested in learning more about the Boston area and learning about the lives of past residents?

Maybe you’re curious about the day-to-day activities of an urban missionary in a busy 19th-century city environment?

If you answered yes to any of these questions you might be just the person we’re looking for. We need volunteers to help the MHS test a pilot transcription project running now through 30 June 2022 featuring the journals of Luman Boyden, a Methodist missionary who worked in East Boston in the 1850s.

The collection is significant because it includes names of and details about impoverished, marginalized, and immigrant populations. Boyden’s perspective is the lens into people’s lives and some of his comments are judgmental and harsh. He is zealous, very sure of his own perspective, but does seem to want to help (in the way he thinks is appropriate).  You will have the chance to decide for yourself how empathetic he is as he ministers to people in the East Boston neighborhood.

Many organizations offer this type of transcription crowdsourcing activity. We hope you find it interesting to look closely at some of our manuscript collections and contribute to a long-term goal of improving discoverability–eventually the transcribed manuscript pages will be searchable and more accessible.

MHS’s transcription tool is integrated into the web presentations of selected digitized collections. It’s easy to get started. Visit www.masshist.org/mymhs, create an account, and try your hand at transcribing a document from our collection. The project page for the “Luman Boyden Missionary Journals” includes a dropdown menu that helps you find a page to work on. [See screenshot below.]

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The project page for the “Luman Boyden Missionary Journals”

The workspace for volunteer transcribers includes a text box and a zoomable image of the manuscript page.  [See screenshot below.]

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The workspace for volunteer transcribers.

The FAQ page has lots of tips and suggestions.  Questions? You also have the option to send an e-mail to: crowdsourcing@masshist.org.

We would appreciate your help and your feedback!

Quick links:

Digital Volunteers page:  www.masshist.org/mymhs

Projects page: www.masshist.org/mymhs/index.php/projecthub/projects

FAQ page:  www.masshist.org/mymhs/index.php/learn-more

Read a blog post by Susan Martin, Senior Processing Archivist, about the Luman Boyden journals.

2022-2023 MHS Research Fellows Announced

The MHS is pleased to announce the class of 2022-2023 research fellows. Director of Research Kanisorn Wongsrichanalai remarked, “We are excited to welcome this new class of MHS research fellows to our reading room. These projects represent the latest scholarship on a host of topics from poetry and literature to African American and disability history. These researchers and their projects showcase not just the strengths and versatility of the MHS collections but also the creative ways in which scholars can make use of different types of sources. They will all contribute to a better understanding of both American history and society.” Explore the list of recipients and their projects.

MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellows

  • Nathan Braccio, Post-Doc, Utah State University, “Mapping New England: The Algonquian-English Cartographic Struggle, 1500-1700.” (4 months)
  • Juliane Braun, Assistant Professor, Auburn University, “Translating the Pacific: Nature Writing, Print Culture and Transoceanic Empire.” (4 months)
  • Kathryn Lasdow, Assistant Professor, Suffolk University, “Wharfed Out: Improvement and Inequity on the Early American Urban Waterfront.” (4 months)
  • Christy Pottroff, Assistant Professor, Boston College, “Citizen Technologies: The U.S. Post Office and the Transformation of American Literature.” (4 months)

 

New England Regional Fellowship Consortium (NERFC)
Fellows Visiting the MHS

  • Alexander David Clayton, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor, “The Living Animal: Biopower and Empire in the Atlantic Menagerie, 1760-1890.”
  • Katherine Fein, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University, “The Garb of Nature: Picturing Nudity, Race, and Ecology in the Nineteenth-Century United States.”
  •  Emily Gates, Ph.D. Candidate, Georgia State University, “Melancholia in Colonial New England and Its Impact on the Early American Novel.”
  • Barry Huff, Associate Professor, Principia College, “Slavery, Suffrage, and Science: Mary Baker Eddy and Biblical Interpretation in Nineteenth-Century New England.”
  • Arthur George Kamya, Ph.D. Candidate, Boston University, “Stranger Unfreedom: Slavery, Slave Trading, and Servitude in Seventeenth-Century Massachusetts.”
  • Eva Landsberg, Graduate Student, Yale University, “The Politics of Sugar in the 18th-Century British Atlantic.”
  • Frances O’Shaughnessy, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Washington, “Black Revolution on the Sea Islands: Property, Empire, and the Emancipation of Humanity.”
  • Anne Powell, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William and Mary, “The Antinomian Crisis and the Pequot War, 1636-1638.”
  • Jennifer Reiss, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania, “Undone Bodies: Women and Disability in Early America.”
  • Lea Stephenson, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Delaware, “’Wonderful Things’: Egyptomania, Empire, and the Senses, 1870-1922.”
  • Jeffrey Toney, Professor, Kean University, “From Blackface to Black Genius: Celebrating Cultural Inheritance with Students of Color.”

 

Fellows Not Visiting the MHS

  • Sopanit Angsusingha, Ph.D. Candidate, Georgetown University, “The Gospel of Civility: Missionary Encounters, Education, and Gender in Iraq (1890s-1950s).”
  • Isobel Ashby, Graduate Student, University of Wisconsin-Madison, “Battling for Babies? The Changing Face of Pro-Life Activism in the 1990s Northeast and Midwest United States.”
  • David Brown, Associate Professor, Ohio University, “A Chain Unbroken: Cultural Transmission in New England College Student Life, 1880-1925.”
  • Thalia Ertman, Graduate Student, University of California-Los Angeles, “Socialist Feminism and Bodily Autonomy in the United States.”
  • Roxanne Goldberg, Ph.D. Candidate, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, “Selling and Salvaging ‘the Orient’: U.S. Circuits of Islamic Art, 1870–1940.”
  • Karyna Hlyvynska, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Georgia, “Putting the Machine in Motion: How the U.S. Treasury Department Built a Fiscal-Military State.”
  • Yiyun Huang, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Tennessee-Knoxville, “Medicinal Tea: Global Cultural Transfer and A Vast Early America.”
  • Dana Hughes, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California-Santa Barbara, “Tracking the Colonial Revival in Public Memory: Caroline Hazard and her Activism on Two Coasts in the Late Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries.”
  • Alexandra Macdonald, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William and Mary, “The Social Life of Time in the Anglo-Atlantic World, 1660-1830.”
  • Lawrence “Trent” MacNamara, Assistant Professor, Texas A&M University, “Open Sky: Higher Places and Higher Meaning in the United States.”
  • Aaron Moulton, Assistant Professor, Stephen F. Austin State University, “A Dominican Dictator in Washington: Rafael Trujillo and the Politics of U.S. Foreign Relations.”
  • Joseph Nevins, Professor Emeritus, Vassar College, “Banana Capital: How the United Fruit Company and Greater Boston Made One Another.”
  • Sarah Pearlman Shapiro, Ph.D. Candidate, Brown University, “Women’s Communities of Care in Revolutionary New England.”
  • Christine Peralta, Assistant Professor, Amherst College, “Insurgent Care: Reimagining the Health Work of Filipina Women, 1870- 1948.”
  • Trysh Travis, Associate Professor, University of Florida, “Feminists on Drugs: A History.”
  • Kayleigh Whitman, Ph.D. Candidate, Vanderbilt University, “Faith in the World Community: Sue Bailey Thurman and Black Women’s World Reconstruction, 1920-1950.”
  • Hekang Yang, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University, “The Making of Fiscal Empire: Frontier Questions and State Borrowing in China, circa 1876-1916.”

 

Suanne and Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

  • Paul Polgar, Assistant Professor, University of Mississippi, “An Abolition Peace: Black Rights, the Union Cause, and the Rise of Radical Reconstruction.”

 

Short-Term Fellowships

  • Aabid Allibhai, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University, “Belinda Sutton’s World: Slavery, Legal Activism, and Abolition in Revolutionary New England.” (Samuel Victor Constant Fellowship from the Society of Colonial Wars)
  • Joshua Bartlett, Assistant Professor, Bilkent University, “Arboreal Poetics: The Language, Materiality, and Politics of Trees in American Poetry.” (Mary B. Wright Environmental History Fellowship)
  • Richard Bell, Professor, University of Maryland, “The First Freedom Riders: Streetcars and Street Fights in Jim Crow New York.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Daniel Bottino, Ph.D. Candidate, Rutgers University, “‘By Turff and Twigg’: Oral and Literate Culture in Seventeenth-Century Maine.” (Samuel Victor Constant Fellowship from the Society of Colonial Wars)
  • Armando Chavez-Rivera, Associate Professor, University of Houston, “Alexander Hill Everett, Richard Robert Madden, and U.S. Influences over Cuba in 1835-45.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Theodore Delwiche, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University, “The Contested Classics: Education in North America, 1635-1800.” (Samuel Victor Constant Fellowship from the Society of Colonial Wars)
  • Daniel Doherty, Ph.D. Candidate, Durham University, “‘Bleeding Massachusetts’: Anti-Abolitionist and anti-Black Violence in the Antebellum North, 1840-1849.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Andre Fleche, Professor, Castleton University, “The American Civil War and the Shaping of the Western Hemisphere, 1848-1877.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Stephanie Gorton, Independent Scholar, “The Icon and the Idealist: The Two Radical Women Who Brought Choice to America.” (Alyson R. Miller Fellowship)
  • Mercedes Haigler, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Virginia, “Settled Out of Doors: Social Life, Everyday Spaces, and the Development of Partisanship in Philadelphia and Washington City (1790-1832).” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Barry Huff, Associate Professor, Principia College, “Slavery, Suffrage, and Science: Mary Baker Eddy and Nineteenth-Century New England Sermons.” (C. Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowship)
  • Betsy Klimasmith, Professor, University of Massachusetts, Boston, “Staging Ephemerality: The Theatrics of Sedgwick’s Hope Leslie.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Can Mert Kökerer, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Chicago, “The Participatory Foundations of Democracy in Colonial New England: Institutional Innovation, Political Legitimation, and Popular Domination.” (Samuel Victor Constant Fellowship from the Society of Colonial Wars)
  • Jeremy Land, Post-Doc, University of Helsinki, “Trans-Imperial Trade and the American Revolution.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Eva Landsburg, Graduate Student, Yale University, “The Politics of Sugar in the 18th-Century British Atlantic.” (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History)
  • Michael Larmann, Graduate Student, University of Montana, “Monuments and Moderation: Daniel Webster and the Commemoration of Compromise in the Age of Disunion, 1853-1865.” (Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship)
  • Jessica Leeper, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Oxford, “The Adams and Johnson Women at Court in Early American European Diplomacy, c.1780-1820.” (Marc Friedlaender Fellowship)
  • Brigitte Lewis, Graduate Student, University of Chicago, “The Legend of Neptune: The Life of Nipton – A History of Slavery, Freedom, Land, and Community in Three Centuries of New England.” (African American Studies Fellowship)
  • Leo Lovemore, Post-Doc, Historic New England, “‘Treasurers of God’s Bounty’: Money, Medicine, and Power in Boston, 1785-1865.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Karah Mitchell, Ph.D. Candidate, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, “‘The Call of Kind’: Humanizing the Animal in American Literature, 1830-1918.” (Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship)
  • Jennifer Reiss, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania, “Undone Bodies: Women and Disability in Early America.” (Ruth R. Miller Fellowship)
  • Alison Russell, Graduate Student, University of Massachusetts Amherst, “‘On That Shield’: American Identity and the Constitution in the Early Republic.” (Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellowship)
  • Meredith Stukey, Ph.D. Candidate, Purdue University, “The Romanovs on a World Stage: Autocracy, Democracy, and Crisis, 1896-1918.” (Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship)
  • Rachel Trocchio, Assistant Professor, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, “Thinking the Instant: A New Reading of the Great Awakening.” (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History and W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship)
  • Christopher Walton, Ph.D. Candidate, Southern Methodist University, “At Home in War: Religion in the Connecticut River Valley during the American Revolution.” (Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Fellowship)
  • Weiao Xing, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Cambridge, “Puritan Narratives of Encounters in Early Eighteenth-Century New England.” (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship)
  • Tian Xu, Post-Doc, Historic New England, “Representing Minorities in the Civil War Era: Lawyers in Black and Chinese Legal Mobilization.” (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship)
  • Serena Zabin, Professor, Carleton College, “Boston’s Black Refugees.” (Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship)
  • Jeanette Zaragoza, Assistant Professor, University of Puerto Rico, “Interpreting a Transatlantic Saga: How Interpreters and Translators Wove The Amistad.” (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship)

“My conscience presses me on”: John Quincy Adams and the Amistad Case, 1839–1842

By Neal Millikan, Series Editor for Digital Editions, The Adams Papers

Transcriptions of more than 1,400 pages of John Quincy Adams’s diary have just been added to the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary, a born-digital edition of the Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The new material spans the period January 1839 through December 1842 and chronicle Adams’s involvement with the Amistad court case as he also continued serving in the United States House of Representatives.

In July 1839, fifty-three Africans revolted aboard the Spanish slave ship Amistad as they were being transported by their enslavers from Havana to another Cuban port. During the revolt, the Africans killed the ship’s captain and another crew member, demanding to be returned to Mendiland (now Sierra Leone). However, the remaining Amistad crew were able to divert the vessel from its course. On 24 August a U.S. revenue cutter seized the Amistad off Long Island and brought it into the port of New London, Connecticut. The Africans were imprisoned at New Haven, Connecticut, while their case moved through the U.S. District and Circuit Courts.

woodcut print, man, chair, table
John Quincy Adams, woodcut of a painting by Alonzo Chappel

While he offered opinions and advice on the Amistad case as early as September 1839, John Quincy Adams did not take a formal role until a year later. Abolitionists visited the former president at his home in Quincy on 27 October 1840 and convinced him to join the Amistad defense team when the case went before the U.S. Supreme Court. In his diary, Adams noted his reluctance to provide further legal counsel. “I endeavoured to excuse myself upon the plea of my age and inefficiency—of the oppressive burden of my duties as a member of the House of Representatives, and my inexperience after a lapse of more than thirty years . . . before judicial tribunals.” However, the abolitionists “urged me so much and represented the case of those unfortunate men as so critical, it being a case of life and death, that I yielded.”

The trial opened in February 1841. John Quincy Adams began his oral arguments for the defense on the 24th, speaking for “four hours and a half, with sufficient method and order to witness little flagging of attention, by the judges or the auditory.” Pleased with his performance, he modestly assessed: “I did not I could not answer public expectation—but I have not yet utterly failed.” Adams returned to the court on 1 March to conclude his argument on behalf of the Amistad Africans and spoke for another four hours. The court’s opinion, delivered on 9 March, ruled that the Africans were free and could return home.

printed page
Title page of John Quincy Adams’ Amistad argument before the Supreme Court, 1841

As he revised for publication his oral arguments in the Amistad case, John Quincy Adams mused in his diary on the current state of the emancipation cause in the United States. “The world, the flesh, and all the devils in hell are arrayed against any man, who now, in this North-American Union, shall dare to join the standard of Almighty God, to put down” the issue of slavery. He lamented that his own physical infirmities prevented him from doing more to further the cause. “What can I, upon the verge of my seventy-fourth birth-day, with a shaking hand, a darkening eye, a drowsy brain, and with all my faculties, dropping from me, one by one, as the teeth are dropping from my head . . . what can I do for the cause of God and Man? for the progress of human emancipation? . . . Yet my conscience presses me on.” The following year, Adams recorded that his continued opposition to slavery produced considerably different reactions in the North and South. While northerners routinely wrote to him asking for an autograph, the letters he received from southerners often contained “insult, profane obscenity and filth.”

For more on John Quincy Adams’s life, navigate to the entries to begin reading his diary. The addition of material for the 1839–1842 period joins existing transcriptions of Adams’s diary for his legal, political, and diplomatic careers (1789–1817), his time as secretary of state (1817–1825), his presidency (1825–1829), and his early years in the House of Representatives (1830–1838) and brings the total number of transcriptions freely available on the MHS website to more than 9,800 pages.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding for the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary was provided by the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, with additional contributions by Harvard University Press and a number of private donors. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission also support the project through funding for the Society’s Primary Source Cooperative.

Call For Judges: NHD Massachusetts Regional Competitions Have Gone Virtual!

Deadline: Wednesday, 22 February 2022

A picture containing text, person, indoor
National History Day in Massachusetts

It’s time again for National History Day in Massachusetts! Our students and teachers are hard at work on their “Debate and Diplomacy in History” themed exhibits, performances, documentaries, websites, and essays.

Want to support our students and learn a wide array of interesting histories? Volunteer from home as a judge for one of our Virtual Regional competitions! We need your help to provide quality judging and a great contest experience for the students. Not only will you support our NHD MA students, but you will have the opportunity to learn about a wide array of histories. No prior experience required, just a love of history!

Our 2022 Regional Competitions will be held virtually this year. Judging for our South Shore competition will take place on Saturday, 5 March, and our Greater Boston competition will take place on Sunday, 6 March. Judges will receive project materials a week in advance, and on their contest day will meet with other judges to review and provide feedback. After judging is completed, judges will then join students, teachers, and parents for a Reflection Roundtable as students discuss their research process and discoveries.

To learn more about judging and to register for one of our competitions, visit our Judges page! For more information about NHD in Massachusetts and to see examples of past projects, visit our website or e-mail us at nhd@masshist.org.

National History Day: Debate & Diplomacy in History

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

The National History Day annual theme logo, which shows white lettering over blue lines in an abstract design with a purple background. Text reads National History Day 2022, Debate & Diplomacy in History: Success, Failures, Consequences.
National History Day 2022

We’re now halfway through the fall semester and Massachusetts students are hard at work on their National History Day® projects! National History Day (NHD) is a year-long historical research and inquiry project for students in grades 6-12, and the MHS is proud to be the affiliate coordinator of NHD in Massachusetts. Every year NHD frames students’ research within a historical theme with a broad application to world, national, or local history. This year’s theme, Debate and Diplomacy in History: Successes, Failures, Consequences, seems particularly relevant as students explore important historic moments during which multiple perspectives either clashed or came together for the common good.

At the MHS, we’re excited about the possibilities of this year’s historical theme. MHS’ Hannah Wilson in Library Reader Services created an incredible resource list highlighting different themes of Debate and Diplomacy within MHS collections, including debates over the ratification of the Massachusetts constitution, protest and resistance to the Fugitive Slave Act, conflict over women’s suffrage, and the papers of senator and diplomat Henry Cabot Lodge Jr. Students are invited to explore questions such as “What are the strengths and limits of diplomacy?” and “Whose voices are included in debate, and who might be left out?” Our partners at the Boston Athenaeum, the Gibson House, and the Wyner Family Jewish Heritage Center and many other organizations have also created theme pages to help NHD students explore Debate and Diplomacy in their collections. You can find these pages and many others on our National History Day Massachusetts website.

Portrait of Abigail Adams as a young woman. She is wearing a blue dress with a lace trim and wears white pearls around her neck, and has a serene expression with a small smile on her face.
Abigail Adams by Benjamin Blythe

This year’s theme also offers the chance to highlight the continued resonance of another important figure from the MHS collections, one who just celebrated her 277th birthday! Born on 22 November 1744, Abigail Adams was the second First Lady in American history. Adams played a key role as advisor, diplomat, and public figure alongside her husband John Adams throughout his political career and presidency. In 2019, MHS John Winthrop Student Fellow Ella Amouyal created an online exhibit exploring Adams’ diplomatic work in France and England from 1784-88 and its impact on Adams’ views on patriotism, economics, and education. We anticipate that the Adams Family Papers at the MHS will serve as another rich resource for our NHD students as they explore the role of Debate and Diplomacy in the early years of US History.

National History Day in Massachusetts Receives State Funding

By Kate Melchior, Assistant Director of Education

Gov. Charlie Baker approved the FY22 Massachusetts state budget recently. We are thrilled to share the news that $25K is included in the budget to support National History Day in Massachusetts (NHD)!

This is really wonderful news, especially as we employ new ways to strengthen the NHD program this fall. External funding for NHD makes it possible to:

  • Reduce or eliminate registration fees for students
  • Offer high-quality professional development and curricular support for teachers
  • Make inroads in our ultimate goal of making NHD accessible to all grades 6-12 students across the Commonwealth

 

This spring we held the first Virtual Advocacy Day for NHD in Massachusetts and it really made an impact. So many of you called, e-mailed, and Tweeted about the importance of NHD to you and to the students and teachers in your district. And your legislators listened. Please consider writing to your legislators to thank them, especially if you received a response to your advocacy back in April.

We are so grateful to the MHS community for your continued support of this important program. We are excited to celebrate NHD 2022 and this year’s theme of “Diplomacy and Debate in History” with all of you!

Announcing the 2021-2022 MHS Research Fellows

by Katy Morris, Research Coordinator & Book Review Editor

We are pleased to announce the fellowship winners for the 2021-2022 academic cycle. Every year, the MHS administers roughly a quarter million dollars in research support to help scholars from all career stages access our remarkable collections. These fellowships range from short-term funding (4 to 8 weeks) to long-term residency (4 to 12 months).

The incoming cohort of fellows explores an exciting variety of topics. They range from studies of political history to examinations of the arts, poetry, and the gothic tradition. Others delve into histories of religion, time, and emotion. Still others are delving into histories of citizenship, abolition, women’s networks, and trade.

Congratulations to our incoming fellows – we can’t wait to learn more about your work!

Fellowships sponsored by the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2021-2022

MHS-NEH Long-Term Fellowships

  • Jamie Bolker, Post-Doc, Newberry Library, “Lost and Found: Wayfinding in Early America”
  • Patrick Bottiger, Associate Professor, Kenyon College, “Corn, Beans, and Squash: The Three Sisters Agricultural Revolution and the Remaking of North America, 300 CE to 1850”
  • Dan Du, Assistant Professor, University of North Carolina at Charlotte, “The World in a Teacup: Chinese-American Tea Trade in the Nineteenth Century”

Suzanne & Caleb Loring Fellowship on the Civil War, Its Origins, and Consequences

  • Anne Cross, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Delaware, “‘Features of Cruelty Which Could Not Well Be Described by the Pen’: The Media of Atrocity in Harper’s Weekly, 1862-1866”

MHS Short-term Fellowships

  • Kathryn Angelica, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Connecticut (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “‘The Glorious Cause of Liberty’: Women’s Anti-Slavery and Abolitionist Activism in New England”
  • Megan Armknecht, Ph.D. Candidate, Princeton University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowships), “Diplomatic Households and the Foundations of U.S. Diplomacy, 1789-1870”
  • Cameron Boutin, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Kentucky (Mary B. Wright Environmental History Fellowship), “War and the Elements: Civil War Soldiers’ Experiences with the Weather”
  • James Broomall, Associate Professor, Shepherd University (Military Historical Society of Massachusetts Fellowship), “Battle Pieces: The Imagery and Artifacts of the Civil War”
  • Jimmy Bryan, Professor, Lamar University (Malcolm and Mildred Freiberg Fellowship), “The Empire of Grim: Gothic Subversions of US Expansion”
  • Heesoo Cho, Ph.D. Candidate, Washington University at St. Louis (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Making of the Pacific Ocean in the Early Republic, 1780-1820”
  • Jennifer Factor, Ph.D. Candidate, Brandeis University (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Poetry Performance in Colonial New England”
  • Donovan Fifield, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Virginia (W.B.H. Dowse Fellowship), “Credit and Imperial Crises in the American Northeast, 1698-1775”
  • Sarah Beth Gable, Ph.D. Candidate, Brandeis University (Massachusetts Society of the Cincinnati Fellowship), “Policing the Revolution: Massachusetts Communities and the Committees of Correspondence, Inspection and Safety, 1773-1783”
  • Christopher Gillett, Assistant Professor, University of Scranton (C. Conrad & Elizabeth H. Wright Fellowship), “Catholicism and Revolution in the British World, 1630-1673”
  • Ethan Goodnight, Ph.D. Candidate, Harvard University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Tongues of Fire: Religious Enthusiasm, Racial Formation, and Anti-Blackness in the Atlantic World”
  • Daniel Gullotta, Ph.D. Candidate, Stanford University (Marc Friedlaender Fellowship), “‘The Lord Preserve Us from Socinian Presidencies’: Andrew Jackson, John Quincy Adams, and the Transformation of American Religious Electoral Politics”
  • Joanne Jahnke Wegner, Assistant Professor, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire (Benjamin F. Stevens Fellowship), “Stolen Lives: Captivity and Gender in the Northeast, 1630-1763”
  • Samuel Jennings, Ph.D. Candidate, Oklahoma State University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “‘The Most Perfect Foundation of Her Faith’: The Virgin Mary in Mid-Eighteenth Century North America”
  • Randal Grant Kleiser, Ph.D. Candidate, Columbia University (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “Exchanging Empires: Free Ports, Reform, and Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1750-1784”
  • Joshua Kleuver, Ph.D. Candidate, Binghamton University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Hiding in Plain Sight: Socialist Legislators at the State Level, 1899-1944”
  • Alexandra Macdonald, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William & Mary (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship), “The Social Life of Time in the Anglo-Atlantic World, 1660-1830”
  • Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, Professor, Wellesley College (Andrew Oliver Research Fellowship), “At Home Abroad: Anne Whitney and American Women Artists in Nineteenth-Century Italy”
  • Jesse Olsavsky, Assistant Professor, Duke Kunshan University (African American Studies Fellowship), “Fire and Sword Will Affect More Good: Runaways, Vigilance Committees, and the Rise of Revolutionary Abolitionism, 1835-1861”
  • Sarah Pearlman Shapiro, Ph.D. Candidate, Brown University (Ruth R. & Alyson R. Miller Fellowships), “Women’s Communities of Care in Revolutionary New England”
  • Anne Powell, Ph.D. Candidate, College of William & Mary (Kenneth and Carol Hills Fellowship in Colonial History), “The Antinomian Controversy: Theological Disorder Amidst Colonial Crisis in New England”
  • Helena Roth, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Center, CUNY (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “American Timelines: Imperial Communications, Colonial Time-Consciousness, and the Coming of the American Revolution”
  • Francis Russo, Ph.D. Candidate, University of Pennsylvania (Short-term Fellowship), “Utopian Dreams at the End of Early America: 1663-1860”
  • Chelsea Spencer, Ph.D. Candidate, MIT (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “The Contract, the Contractor, and the Capitalization of American Building, ca. 1865-1930”
  • Duangkamol Tantirungkij, Ph.D. Candidate, Graduate Center, CUNY (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “An Act of Congress: Freedom Suits and the Emancipatory Consequences of the Northwest Ordinance (1790-1850)”
  • Heather Walser, Ph.D. Candidate, Penn State (Louis Leonard Tucker Alumni Fellowship), “Amnesty’s Origins: Federal Power, Peace, and the Public Good in the Long Civil War Era”
  • Russell Weber, Ph.D. Candidate, University of California, Berkeley (Short-term Fellowship), “American Feeling: Political Passions and Emotional Identity in the Early Republic, 1754-1797”
  • Emily Yankowitz, Ph.D. Candidate, Yale University (Andrew W. Mellon Fellow), “Documenting Citizenship: How Early Americans Understood the Concept of Citizenship, 1776-1840”

“My sense of duty leads me to support the administration”: John Quincy Adams as Senator and Professor, 1801–1809

By Neal Millikan, Series Editor for Digital Editions, The Adams Papers

Transcriptions of more than 500 pages of John Quincy Adams’s diary have just been added to the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary, a born-digital edition of the Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society. The new material spans the period September 1801 through July 1809 and chronicles Adams’s experiences as a senator in Washington, D.C., and a professor at Harvard.

John Quincy Adams was selected to be a member of the U.S. Senate in February 1803, elected to the position by a Massachusetts legislature controlled by the Federalist Party. Taking his seat in October, Adams charted an independent political course, voting on issues as he believed they related to the national good and not simply to Federalist interests. This was most obvious when he voted for the embargo in December 1807, which sought to punish France and Great Britain for their punitive trade restrictions by prohibiting U.S. vessels from trading with European nations.

By supporting the embargo, Adams in effect voted against the Federalist Party, whose New England contingent relied heavily on merchant shipping for their economic livelihood. He was also supporting the policy of President Thomas Jefferson, his father John Adams’s political adversary. Jefferson, who had defeated the senior Adams in the presidential election of 1800, was the leader of the opposition party, the Democratic-Republicans. After the embargo vote, John Quincy recorded his reasoning in his diary: “On most of the great national questions now under discussion, my sense of duty leads me to support the administration, and I find myself of course in opposition to the federalists in general.” He went on, however, to clarify that he had “no Communication with the President other than that in the regular order of business in Senate.” Indeed, Adams recognized that owing to his personal stances on the main issues of the day, “my political prospects are declining.”

As his political career floundered during this period, his personal finances also received a setback due to the 1803 failure of London bankers Bird, Savage, and Bird. While this failure negatively impacted John Quincy’s savings, he was more worried about his parents, John and Abigail Adams, for whom he had heavily invested with Bird, Savage, and Bird, the funds planned for their retirement. To help protect his mother and father from financial ruin, John Quincy sold his personal property and practiced extreme personal economy. He moved his family out of their Boston home and back in to the small house in Quincy, Massachusetts, where he had been born. He recounted these actions in his diary, noting that while “I have practiced all the economy I thought practicable” he found to have “needed still more.”

Drawing of John Adams and John Quincy Adams birthplaces by Eliza Susan Quincy
Birthplaces of John Adams and John Quincy Adams, watercolor drawing by Eliza Susan Quincy, 1822

There were, however, some bright spots for John Quincy Adams during these years. He and his wife, Louisa Catherine Adams, and eldest son, George Washington Adams, welcomed two additional children into their family: John Adams was born on 4 July 1803 and Charles Francis Adams on 18 August 1807. He also enjoyed his tenure as the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory, a position to which he was elected by the Corporation of Harvard University on 24 June 1805. He spent significant time researching and writing thirty-six lectures, delivering the first one on his thirty-ninth birthday, 11 July 1806. After that lecture, he proudly recorded in his diary that it “was well received, and could I hope that the issue of the whole course would but bear a proportion to the effect of this introduction, I should be fully satisfied.” The lectures were published in 1810.

For more on his life in this period, read the headnote, or, navigate to the entries to begin reading his diary. With this release, transcriptions of forty years of John Quincy Adams’s diary, from 1789 to 1829, are now freely available on the MHS website. In addition, the side-by-side viewer tool allows users to access images of the over 5,700 diary manuscript pages that accompany these transcriptions.

The Adams Papers editorial project at the Massachusetts Historical Society gratefully acknowledges the generous support of our sponsors. Major funding for the John Quincy Adams Digital Diary was provided by the Amelia Peabody Charitable Fund, with additional contributions by Harvard University Press and a number of private donors. The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation in partnership with the National Historical Publications and Records Commission also support the project through funding for the Society’s Primary Source Cooperative.