DescriptionJohn Adams Autograph Note Signed as President. Two pages including integral address leaf, 8" x 9.75", Quincy, August 23, 1799. This mysterious note is addressed to "Joseph Barrell, Esqr, Charleston near Boston," and reads in full: "Sir, Please to seal the inclosed [sic] after you have read it and send it to your Nephew. With much esteem, J. Adams."
Joseph Barrell was a prominent businessman in Boston who also served in the Massachusetts' state legislature for a time. General Washington took residence in his home when he was in town. A pioneer in the northwest coast trade, Barrell helped to open up American commerce; he was one of a few men who fitted out the first Boston trading vessels to round Cape Horn. In 1792, one of those ships discovered the mouth of the Columbia River, and Barrell and his partners purchased much land in that area from the local Indians, marking the beginning of the colonization of the Northern Pacific states. Barrell was also instrumental in developing trade with China and Japan, purchasing otter furs from Pacific Northwest Indians and selling them in Asia. The first of these eastward voyages established the highly profitable Boston-Northwest Coast-Canton trade, which made fortunes for many Boston merchants. The nephew mentioned in this note is unidentified, but was probably also involved in maritime endeavors, as the family was comprised primarily of ship owners and merchants.
At this time, President Adams was deeply mired in what came to be known as the XYZ Affair, a diplomatic episode that soured relations between France and the United States and led to an undeclared naval war called the Quasi War. Between 1798 and 1800, the French seized nearly 300 American ships bound for British ports in the Atlantic, Mediterranean, and Caribbean seas, and although we cannot say for certain, it is quite possible that Adams communicated with the Barrell family directly on these international issues which might affect Boston sea trade. During negotiations with France, the United States also began to build up its navy to defend against both the French and the British, another possible connection between Adams and the Barrell family. Adams' letter is lightly age toned and has a small area of fold separation which does not affect the text; the enclosure is not present. Professional edge and fold repairs.
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