DescriptionJohn Adams Family Archive containing a fair copy (in an unknown hand) of John Adams famous letter to Timothy Pickering describing the significant events that led the Continental Congress' to the Declaration of Independence. Also included are signatures of John Quincy Adams and letters from various family members. These items come from the collection of Elizabeth Coombs Adams, the granddaughter of John Adams (the daughter of John Adams' youngest son, Thomas). Ms. Adams, who lived her entire life in Quincy, Massachusetts, was a collector of historical documents (see lot 34164 for another document from her collection). She had a special interest in preserving the Adams' family history in documents, which she did until her death in 1903 at the age of ninety-five. Ms. Adams never married, and at the time of her death her papers were given to her cousin Caroline Harrod Bartlett. Ms. Adams' papers have been passed down through multiple generations of the Bartlett family and are being offered here at auction for the first time.
(1) [John Adams]. Fair Copy of a Letter Written in an Unknown Hand to Timothy Pickering from the Adams Family Papers retelling the amazing story of how the Declaration of Independence came to be written. Six pages, 7.75" x 10.25", Montizillo, August 6, 1822. This significant letter reads in part: "We [the Massachusetts delegates] were met at Frankfort by Dr. Rush, Mr. Mifflin, Mr. Bayard and several other of the most active sons of Liberty in Philadelphia desired a conference with us. We invited them to take Tea with us in a private apartment They asked leave to give us some information and advice, which we thankfully granted. . . . We were all suspected of having independence in view. Now,' said they, 'you must not utter the word Independence, nor give the least hint or insinuation of the idea, nether in Congress nor in private conversation; if you do, you are undone. . . . You must not come forward with any bold measures, you must not pretend to take the lead. . . . Although this advice dwelt deeply on my mind, I have not in my nature prudence and caution enough always to observe it. . . . It soon became rumoured about the City that John Adams was for independence. . . . I was avoided as a man infected with the Leprosy. I walked the Streets of Philadelphia in solitude. . . . You enquire why so young a man as Jefferson was placed at the head of the Committee for preparing a Declaration of Independence. I answer it was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the head of every thing. . . . Jefferson came into Congress in June 1775 and brought with him a reputation for literature, science and a happy talent at composition. Writings of his were handed about remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, explicit, and decisive upon Committees (not even Samuel Adams was more so) that he soon seized upon my heart, and upon this occasion I gave him my Vote and did all in my power to procure the votes of others. . . . The Committee met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to make the draught, I suppose because we were the two highest on the list. The sub-committee met; Jefferson proposed to me to make the draught I said, 'I will not' 'You shall do it'! 'Oh no!' 'Why will you not? You ought to do it.' 'Why? Reasons enough!' What can be your reasons?' 'Reason 1st You are a Virginian, and Virginia ought to appear at the head of this business. Reason 2nd I am obnoxious, suspected and unpopular; you are very much otherwise. Reason 3rd You can write ten times better than I can.' 'Well said Jefferson, 'if you are decided, I will do as well as I can.' Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have a meeting. . . . I was delighted with its high tone, and the flights of oratory with which it abounded, especially concerning Negro Slavery. . . . There were other expressions which I would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which called the King a Tyrant. . . . We reported to the Committee of Five. It was read and I do not remember that Franklin or Sherman criticized any thing. We were all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was reported as I believe, in Jefferson's hand-writing, as he first drew it. Congress cut off about a quarter part of it, as I expected they would, but they obliterated some of the best of it and left all that was exceptionable, if any thing in it was. . . . As you justly observe, there is not an idea in it, but what had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before. The substance of it is contained in the Declaration of rights. . . . Indeed the essences of it is contained in a Pamphlet voted and printed by the Town of Boston before the first Congress met, composed by James Otis, as I suppose, in one of his lucid intervals, and pruned and polished by Samuel Adams." The letter has usual folds.
(2) John Quincy Adams Signature, "Yours faithfully / J. Q. Adams," on a 3" x 1.5" slip of paper excised from a letter. Beneath the signature is written "1819," which denotes the date of the signature, and "Miramonte May 7 1872. Presented me by my niece E. C. Adams of Quincy Ms. [Signed] J[oseph] Harrod 1785 - 1872." Miramonte was Edwin Bartlett's estate on the Hudson River. Upon Bartlett's death, the estate was willed to his wife, Caroline Harrod Bartlett, and upon her death to his nephew, William Francis Bartlett, son of his brother, Charles L. Bartlett. (Caroline's aunt was married to John Adams' youngest son, Thomas Boylston Adams.)
(3) John Quincy Adams Free Frank on the address leaf of an Isaac Hull Adams autograph letter twice signed by Hull. Three pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Washington, March 24, 1843, addressed to his cousin, "Mrs. Caroline E. Bartlett / Care of Edwin Bartlett." Above the address is Congressman John Q. Adams' free frank. In this letter, twenty-nine-year-old Isaac Hull reports about "the Balls & Parties of Washington" and that "Uncle [John Q.] Adams is now afflicted with a very bad cold. Aunt [sixty-eight-year-old Louisa C. Adams] was quite sick part of the winter but is now very much better." Tear at wax seal.
(4) John Quincy Adams Free Frank on address leaf of an Isaac Hull Adams autograph letter signed. Two and one-half pages, 8" x 10", Washington, March 25, 1844, to Caroline E. Bartlett reporting that "There is little talked of here, except Texas, and there was a rumour that the treaty was to be sent to the Senate today."
(5) John Quincy Adams Free Frank "J. Q. Adams" excised from a letter on a 3.5" x 4" slip of paper. Below the signature is stamped in red "FREE."
(6) Thomas Boylston Adams Autograph Letter Signed "Thomas B. Adams." Three pages, 7.75" x 9.75", Quincy, Massachusetts, October 3, 1828, addressed to his daughter, "Miss Abby S. Adams / City of Washington," with marginalia in pencil by Elizabeth Coombs Adams. The letter regards a visit by Thomas' brother, President John Quincy Adams: "While the President stayed it was not in my power to write. We had so many excursions by land and Sea that my nerves were in a twitter all the time." Adams reports details of the excursions, which included a meal "at Warrick's where your Aunt Adams [First Lady Louisa C. Adams] spent a few days, last year." Tear at wax seal, resulting in a small amount of lost text.
(7) George B. McClellan Autograph Letter Signed. One page, Orange [New Jersey], September 17, 1864, to Edwin Bartlett on "McC" embossed stationery. Three weeks after becoming the Democratic nominee for president, McClellan thanks Bartlett for a letter.
Also included are Giuseppe Garibaldi autograph letters (two) signed and several other Adams' family letters and items, including a Thomas Boylston Adams letter signed "Father" to his son, Cadet Thomas B. Adams Jr. (parts of the letter have been excised) and a black looped-ribbon with a gold ornamental clasp. From the collection of Elizabeth Coombs Adams.
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