DescriptionJohn Adams Autograph Letter Signed as the second president to the citizens of three townships in New Jersey. One page, 8" x 12.75", May 25, 1798, n.p. [Philadelphia]. In this document, Adams, only a year into his only presidential term, replies to "the Citizens of the Townships of Amwell, Readingtown and Kingwood in New Jersey" concerning the defining issue of his presidency: the diplomatic crisis with France.
The three New Jersey townships had written the president earlier professing their "attachment . . . for the French Nation" at a time when Adams and the majority of the country were preparing for war against France. Adams begins his reply by acknowledging, in the third person, the townships' expressed goodwill to him in their earlier communication: "The Respect you profess for your first Magistrate is obliging to him, and your attachment, Love and Veneration for your[?] & country will be amiable in the Eyes of all Men." He then explains that the "attachment" the three townships currently had - and America once had - for France had been "despised and thrown away" by the French, a reference to the XYZ Affair: "The attachment you profess for the French Nation was common to you and to America in general: but never was the attachment of one Nation to another so wantonly[,] so capriciously[,] so insolently despised and thrown away." (The New Jersey townships' fondness for France was understandable since the French had helped the Americans defeat the British.) Adams next, predicting that the young American nation was destined to become great, compares the birth of the United States with the birth of several great world empires, including Christianity: "All great Things have begun in contempt. The Roman Empire[,] The French Republic, and to rise infinitely higher than both for an Example the Christian Religion itself might be cited. Our American World exhibits another Instance. But mark the Issue, This continent will be changed into Respect and Admiration: and I hope to live to see the time and to rejoice with you in it."
Earlier in 1798, the U.S. and France became involved in a series of diplomatic disputes known collectively as the XYZ Affair, a complicated series of events which involved the French Foreign Minister Talleyrand asking for U.S. bribes. By the time this letter was written in late May of 1798, the situation had deteriorated to the point that both nations were preparing for war. U.S. citizens reacted with a patriotic frenzy. Individuals, organizations, legislatures, and small towns all over the country sent patriotic notes and letters to President Adams, who was suddenly very popular. The president worked hard to answer as many messages as possible. Meanwhile, rumors circulated throughout Philadelphia, including one about a French plot to torch the city. The hard work and worry weighed on Adams, whose health began to suffer. War, however, was never declared; instead, the two countries became involved in an undeclared naval war known as the Quasi-War, which peacefully ended in late 1800 when President Adams surprised many by backing away from the precipice and diplomatically ending the undeclared Quasi-War - likely his most important presidential accomplishment. This document offers important insight, straight from Adams' pen, about his thinking during those early, critical moments of the crisis. The paper bears some foxing, as well as a small amount of mounting residue on the verso; still, it is in surprisingly fine condition. Folds, which have been mostly flattened, show only the very slightest beginnings of separation. The text, written completely by President Adams and still very bold, is easily read, as is the very fine example of his signature. Overall near fine condition.
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