On July 4, 1776, John Adams, delegate to the Continental Congress from Massachusetts, voted to adopt the Declaration of Independence, proclaiming the British King unfit to be ruler of a free people. The King had proclaimed the rebellious colonists to be traitors. Could Adams possibly have imagined that, after eight years of warfare, he would stand before that same King, as a respected diplomat on the world stage, presenting his credentials as the first United States Minister Plenipotentiary to Britain?

On June 1, 1785, King George formally received John Adams, representative of the fledgling nation that had dealt the British Empire a bitter defeat. The meeting, as Adams recounted in this official account, was marked by the pomp and ceremony required by the occasion of a royal audience. But beneath the pageantry, Adams described a strong undercurrent of emotion as the King and his former subject—who once reviled each other as bitter enemies—met face to face, as statesmen.