Legal Papers of John Adams, volume 1

ix Foreword Foreword

Practitioners of the common law have often tried to utilize the civilian's comfortable distinction between the private and the public law. They have not often found satisfaction in the effort. It is not my purpose to search out the reasons why a continental concept does not easily fit the form of Anglo-American reality. All that I can do is suggest that the story of John Adams' career at the Massachusetts bar, as that story is revealed in these remarkable volumes, may help us to understand why common-law lawyers have tended to see so many bright colors of statecraft in the petty disputes of neighbors, and so many dull tones of legalism in the great cases of public moment. In any event, it seemed quite clear to the Trustees of the William Nelson Cromwell Foundation that they should give their support to a venture in scholarship which would encourage understanding of the intimate relations between the small details of private controversy and the larger design of public order. The progression of John Adams from a craftsman of laws to an architect of governments is a significant and exciting chapter in the history of American law and the chronicle of our public affairs.

Bruce Bromley