6
6
Adams, John, second President
Estimate
45,00065,000
LOT SOLD. 27,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT
6
Adams, John, second President
Estimate
45,00065,000
LOT SOLD. 27,500 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York

Adams, John, second President

Autograph letter signed twice ("J. Adams" and "J.A."), 4 pages, 4to (9 x 7 in.; 229 x 178 mm), Quincy, 25 July 1808, to Dr. Benjamin Rush,  on partisan politics & the strength of government; light browning, 2 short fold separations touching about three words and the "d" in Adams's signature. Wooden folding-case, brown morocco spine.


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Provenance

Mrs. Philip D. Sang (sale, Sotheby's New York, 27 March 1985, lot 144)

Catalogue Note

The squabbles and wrangles of political partisanship in America:  "I look at the Presidential Election as I do at the Squabbles of little Girls, about their Dolls and at the more Serious Wrangles of little Boys which sometimes come to blows, about their Rattles & Whistles. It will be a mighty Bustle about a mighty Bauble ..." 

In response to Rush's observation that the American people were divided in opinion about the strength or weakness of the government, Adams writes: "The Truth is it is too Strong, already, without being just. In the hands of Aristocrats it has been too strong without being sufficiently wise or just: in the hands of Democrats it has been too strong without being either wise or just. Wisdom and Justice can never be promoted till the Presidents office instead of being a Doll and a Whistle, shall be made more independent and more respectable; capable of mediating between two infuriated Parties. Till this is done, the Government will be ride and tye a game at Leap frog, one Party once in Eight or twelve years leaping over the head and shoulders of the other, kicking and spurring when it rides. If the President must be the head of a Party, and not President of the Nation, We have no hope of long escaping a civil Contest ..."    

He agrees with Rush's observations that the new embargo "operates in favour of a Revolution. That is the Embargo will enable the Aristocrats to leap over the heads and shoulders of the Democrats, as Taxes &c enabled the Democrats eight years ago to leap over theirs. But if the Aristocrats get the Peace, how will they use it?  Will they submit to the Proclamations ... and go to war with France Spain Portugal Holland Italy Germany Prussia Denmark & Russia. Such a war I think would be worse than the Embargo."

A propos of the deaths of Washington and Hamilton, he launches another attack at both parties: "The Aristocratical Tricks The Coups de Theatre played off in the Funerals of Washington Hamilton ... all in concert with the Lives and Histories written and to be written all calculated like Drums and Trumpets and Fifes in an army to drown the Unpopularity of Speculations Banks Paper Money and mushroom fortunes. You see through these Masks and Veils and Cloaks, but the People are dazzled and blinded by and So will Posterity be—the Aristocrats know how to dupe the Democrats better than the latter to deceive the former, though both will lie with the most invincible front."

Adams has just completed reading William Spence's pamphlet Britain Independent of Commerce,  which concurs with James Harrington's political axiom that political power follows from landed power, remarking: "Mankind are led by the Teeth and that Dominion follows the Ballance of Property in Land. The foundation is true; but the structure erroneous. Agriculture must be encouraged by Manufactures, and both by Commerce ... The tree by their reciprocal Action and Reaction on each other, produce national Prosperity."

"This our beloved Country, my dear Friend is indeed in a very dangerous situation." Because of political tensions both in Europe and America, Adams underscores the lack of leadership in America and fears for the fate of the country: "It is between two great fires in Europe and between two ignited parties at home, smooking sparkling and flaming ready to burst into a Conflagration. In this state of Embarrassment, Confusion and Uncertainty, no genius appears ... To you and me these things are of little consequence. But we have Children and Grand Children and shall soon have Great Grand Children. And indeed the Nation ought all to be dear to us, and tenderly cherished as our offspring."

Adams returns to the Embargo in closing. "The Embargo is a cowardly measure. We are taught to be Cowards both by Federalists and Republicans" whose pamphleteering frightened the people with tales of threats from both the British and the French. "Though every one of these Bugbears is an empty Phantom, yet the People seem to believe Every article of this bombastical Creed and tremble and shudder in Consequence. Who shall correct these blind eyes?"

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

|
New York