5
5
Adams, John, as second President
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT
5
Adams, John, as second President
Estimate
40,00060,000
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Adams, John, as second President
Autograph letter signed ("John Adams"), 2 pages, 4to (9 3/4 x 8 in.; 248 x 203 mm), Quincy, 6 September 1800, to his son Thomas Boylston regarding a letter to Tench Coxe regarding Pinckney, written in the 1790s and recently published in the Philadelphia Aurora; lower corners chewed, remnant of mount affixed to verso of blank leaf. Brown moire folding-case, brown morocco spine.
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Provenance

Harry J. Sonneborn (sale, Sotheby Parke Bernet, 11 June 1974, lot 275)

Catalogue Note

"Weigh well and judge right and never fear being in a minority," Adams advises his son, then practicing law in Philadelphia. Thomas's lengthy letter of 30 August reports a debacle that occurred at the time of Philadelphia's upcoming city council elections, the popularity of which he characterized as being more arbitrary than despotism. The Federalists aimed to maintain their majority all while pressing for an unpopular water tax. To appease the disgruntled citizenry, they decided to replace current council members who had discharged their duty faithfully with new candidates. To Thomas, this stratagem seemed irrational and unjust. His vote against the majority caused aspersions to be heaped upon his motives. In the end, Thomas was invited to attend a committee conference with the aim of reseating the "old and tired servants." Adams remarks that in all his actions Thomas demonstrated "a Sound Understanding and a manly honest heart. Your Conduct at the meetings was wise, as well as generous. Weigh well and judge right and never fear being in a minority." The seasoned politician knew all too well, from his terms as vice-president and president, the mordancy of being in an unpopular minority.  

Electioneering intrigue. Now that the presidential canvass of 1800 was gathering momentum, Thomas mentions that Tench Coxe,  Assistant Secretary of the Treasury under Hamilton in Washington's administration now turned Republican, recently published in the Aurora a letter sent to him in 1792 by John Adams that bristled with strident remarks about the Pinckney brothers. (Charles Cotesworth Pinckney was being endorsed by Hamilton and his cadre as an alternative Federal candidate.)

John congratulates himself on his bons mots, writing: "I had no Idea that I ever wrote so long a Letter to that confidential Friend and assistant of Secretary Hamilton. But upon reading it 8 or 9 years after I have forgotten it I dislike it less than I do most of my Productions. There is a Sportive, playfull Vein run through the whole Letter—a few Strokes of Satirical humour that if they are understood, ought to have good effect ..."  The effect was that Adams, who during his tenure as Ambassador was accused of becoming allied with the monarchy,  here turned the tables on the Pinckney brothers by singling out  their close association with powerful friends in Britain and their aspirations to the Embassy of St. James's. In that letter to Coxe, Adams slyly comments that "The Duke of Leeds, once enquired of me very kindly after his Class Mates  ... the two Mr. Pinkneys, which induces me to conclude that our new Ambassador has many powerful Old Friends in England. Whether this is a Recommendation of him for the Office or not, I have other reasons to believe that his Family have had their Eyes fixed upon the Embassy to St. James's ... even before I was sent there, and that they contributed to limit the duration of my Commission to 3 years in order to make Way for themselves to succeed me. I wish they may find as much honour and pleasure in it as they expected ... But knowing as I do the long Intrigue and suspecting as I do much British Influence in the Appointment, were I in any Executive Department I should take the Liberty to keep a vigilant eye upon them."  

For publishing Adams's damaging remarks in the leading Democratic-Republican newspaper of the day, Coxe was reviled by the Federalists as a renegade. The letter to Coxe concluded "the continued Accessions of Foreigners, will endanger and destroy our Peace, if We know not how to govern them. they will moreover corrupt our Elections and tear Us to pieces ..." So Adams concurs with his son that he hopes the types of the Aurora will not be unset until the close of the election campaign. "The comments are curious; but they will take with the fools and knaves for whom they are intended."

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York