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    John Quincy Adams suggests that his father's letters "all remain always in the deposit of friendship to which they were first committed"

    John Quincy Adams Autograph Letter Signed as President. One page with a portion of the blank integral, 7.5"x 9", Washington [D.C.]; March 16, 1827. Letter from President Adams to Elkanah Watson, in response to the latter's question concerning Adams's opinion of the sharing of his father's correspondence with others for possible publication.


    I have duly received your three several Letters; and in the sincerity of acknowledgment that they ought each of them to have been immediately and successively answered, I ask credit only for the assurance that the delay to perform that duty has been attributable to any cause other than personal disrespect to you, or indifference to the favour of your correspondence. Besides my friendly recollections of your person, which if I mistake not travel back to the summer of 1784 at the Hague, I cannot be insensible to the services, for which the cause of internal improvement in this Union is indebted to [underlined in a different ink] you; and in the friend and correspondent of my father, I shall ever take a grateful satisfaction in recognizing my own.

    With respect to the question which you have had the goodness to refer to my consideration, concerning the confidential Letters which in a long series of years you received from my father, I think you have judged rightly in declining to give copies of them. From the frankness of his nature, the warmth of his feelings, and the confiding sincerity of his disposition, his Letters often contained expressions of opinions, which he neither expected, nor would have consented should be made public. Since his decease there may be less reason for withholding them from the Public; but perhaps such Letters should if preserved at all remain always in the deposit of friendship to which they were first committed. Sensible to that delicacy of sentiment with which you have referred this question to me I shall however cheerfully acquiesce in any determination which you may ultimately take concerning it; and remain with respectful regard

    Your friend and fellow citizen John Quincy Adams

    On the back of the John Quincy Adams letter offered here are Watson's notes concerning his hesitancy in sharing Adams's letter with others, particularly relating to anecdotes he mentioned in his memoirs about Adams while he served as U.S. Minister Plenipotentiary at The Hague in 1784: "The following anecdotes in relation to John Adams-traits of Character-peculiarities-partly from recollection and partly collected from Memorandum when I was with him at the Hague in June 1784, which were intended to have been noticed in my Tour in Holland in that year. Should this book be hereafter deemed of sufficient importance for publication, it is my earnest request that such points in his character as may be discerned susceptible of casting a shade over the bright page of his great fame, may be suppressed altogether, or at least so softened as to produce no injury. In justice to the subject, I did not feel myself at liberty to surrender them to Mr. Sparks or Count Wellestein [?] the Russian Ambassador who also app[lied] for them."

    An interesting letter from President John Quincy Adams in which he comments on his father's personality and why it might be prudent for some of his letters to remain out of the public eye. Ex. R. Douglas Stuart.

    Condition: Only about a quarter of the blank integral remains, and the adjoining fold has been reinforced at top and bottom. The letter has been silked on recto and verso to repair separations at folds, which affects a few words. A few emendations in pencil have been made to Watson's notes on verso. Annotation in pencil on blank integral reads: "Elbridge Cemetary."

    More Information:

    Elkanah Watson (1758-1842) was an old friend of the Adams family, particularly John Adams, John Quincy Adams's father and former president. Watson was a Massachusetts-born writer, agriculturalist, banker, businessperson, and canal promoter, who at the time was residing in Albany, New York. Watson became acquainted with the elder Adams when he was traveling through Europe during the American Revolution and they developed a friendship that continued until Adams's death in 1826. After John Adams death, Watson received several inquiries from both Americans and Europeans for Adams letters for possible publication. Watson felt uncomfortable sharing his letters from Adams out of fear that they might be used to tarnish his friend's reputation and wrote to his son John Quincy Adams, then president of the United States, seeking his thoughts on his decision to withhold the letters. As the letter offered here shows, President Adams agreed with Watson's opinion. Watson referred to this letter from John Quincy Adams in his memoirs, Men and Times of the Revolution or Memoirs of Elkanah Watson, which were edited by his son Winslow C. Watson (1803-1884) and published in New York in 1856.


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    October, 2017
    19th Thursday
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