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    John Adams Autograph Letter Signed "John Adams." Three integral pages, 14.5" x 8.75", Quincy [Massachusetts], April 20, 1809. Here, Adams stoutly defends his presidency and the insinuation that he betrayed his Federalist principles. He discusses the treachery of Hamilton and his followers and announces support if a war against Britain or France becomes necessary.

    By 1809, following Jefferson's retirement after eight years as president, Adams set about to repair his tarnished political image. In 1800, while Adams was president, Alexander Hamilton published a pamphlet that personally attacked Adams' character and his handling of the government. It was high time for Adams to retaliate (despite the fact that Hamilton had been dead for nearly five years, killed in a duel with Aaron Burr). In a series of letters to the Boston Patriot, Adams gave his version of the events such that led to, and included, the Quasi-War with France. Especially hurtful to Adams was the release of a history of the American Revolution published in 1806 and written by former friend Mercy Warren. In her monograph, Warren made the accusation that Adams had gone against the original principles of the Revolution.

    Now that his son, John Quincy, had broken from the Federalist Party (which was growing weaker with each passing year), Adams felt he could now publicly address his anger at his betrayal by his former party and offer a defense in his own words.

    Adams writes to Joseph Lyman, a prominent Massachusetts clergyman, in full: "I have received your respectful letter of the 21st of March. It is not now necessary for me to say any thing concerning many of the Topics. To explain myself fully and inter [sic] into the Histories of past occurrences alluded to would require a Volume.

    "I have forsaken the Persons and Interest of none of my Friends. The Leaders to whom the Federal Party has now blindly abandoned itself were never my Friends.

    "I have departed from no Principle. My invariable Principle for five and thirty years has been, to promote preserve and secure the Integrity of the Union and the Independence of the Nation, against the Policy of England as well as France. When France attempted to degrade us I exerted all my Industry to arouse inspire and animate my Fellow Citizens to Resistance, and with so much Success that the then French government were compelled to retract. If for this Service I had no thanks from the Republicans, I had nothing but Insolence and Scurrility from the Federalists. Look back and read the Federal Newspapers in Boston, New York and Philadelphia, of that Period. You will then see how I was treated. If your Namesake of Springfield, who was then a Representative in Congress, one of the most amiable of Men, were now alive he could inform you as he did me, with the kindest Expressions of attachment to me, and Indignation against the Treachery of my pretended federal Friends. He assured me that the Federalists in New York, with Hamilton at their head had in Secret Caucus agreed to Sacrifice Adams. I had other Information from other Quarters, that at the meeting of the Cincinnati at New York when they chose Hamilton their President General it was agreed and the Reverend Doctors of Divinity and there were several of these present concurred in the pious project and the pious Language to Sacrifice Adams and bring in Pinckney. The Intrigues they practised [sic] to accomplish this were very extensive and very Jesuitical. But to develop them would lead me too far. I will only add that the Boston, and the Pennsylvania, if not the South Carolina Federal Leaders were in the Same Plott [sic]. They were assisted too by the Publications in England particularly the Anti-jacobin then under the direction of Mr. Canning. I know that French Influence drove me into banishment: but it would not have had the Power if it had not been essentially assisted by the Pharisaical Jesuitical machiavelian Intrigue and Influence of the leading Federalists.

    "I assure you, Sir, 'A War with England will not meet my 'hearty Reprobation,' if England makes it necessary. England and France have both given us just Cause of War. But neither has yet made it necessary. The first of the two that Shall render war necessary Shall have my Vote for it.

    "I am Surprised that you Should think there is no pretext or excuse for a war with England, that you should talk of their bearing so much with the Waywardness of our government and that she has done nothing to injure us, but from a Principle of necessary Self defence and a Retaliation of Injuries from their adversaries, which we had not the Dignity to resent and repel. You say, Mr. Adams would not have done thus. I assure you Mr. Adams would have resisted and repelled to the utmost of his power the British Proclamation of Blockade of Eleven hundred Miles of Sea coast from the Elbe to Brest which was the first of the Diabolical Warfare of Blockade, Decrees, and orders of Council. The Berlin decree is expressly grounded on a Principle of Retaliation. The wickedness of this first Blockade cannot be Set in a true Light without detailing the History of Antwerp, the Scheld, Ostend, Nieuport, &c., the objects of all the Flanders Wars for Centuries.

    "In plain English, Great Britain is the first Sinner, and the original Guilt of our present Calamities lies at her door: though France in point of actual Transgression is not much behind her.

    "The Federal Papers for the last year or two assisted by English Hirelings have been employed in varnishing over the Conduct of Great Britain, and in calumniating every impartial and disinterested Man till they appear to have obtained a temporary Majority in New England. I greatly respect the public opinion of New England when it is truly informed. In the present Instance with infinite grief I fear it is not. The Press has not been free.

    "I am not able to see, how the Federalists are to get along with their new Friends the Old English. If they Succeed I shall wish them Joy: but I cannot expect to live to enjoy that felicity."

    The text is very clear and bright and Adams' signature is bold. Smoothed folds, else fine.

    The prediction of war by Adams held true when, in 1812, President James Monroe could no longer avoid conflict and the United States declared war on England. The war would last nearly three years, but America would preserve her sovereignty.


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    April, 2013
    11th Thursday
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