Description

    John Quincy Adams Superb Political Autograph Letter Signed: Three weeks before he's elected to Congress, two years after losing to Andrew Jackson, the former President delivers a scathing attack on the Jackson administration, calling its policies a "national degradation" and a "disgrace," alluding to "the vices of this Administration."

    Signed: "J. Q. Adams", one page, 7.75" x 9.75". Quincy, October 14, 1830. To Peter B. Porter, Black Rock, N.Y. In full: "Dear Sir I am happy to perceive by your letter of the 11th ulto., which I sometime since received, that the question relating to your accounts and compensation, while a Commissioner under the 6th and 7th articles of the Treaty of Ghent, has been finally adjudicated to your satisfaction. The anxiety to find or make delinquents among the Officers of the last Administration has been one of the unfortunate propensities of the Successors: that the attempt to include you in the number has proved a failure is very gratifying. The principle of judge Conklins [sic, Conkling's] decision, I am persuaded is correct. There is nothing in the political system of the present Administration calculated to engage the affections of the People - nothing that posterity can look to with satisfaction - All its successes are identified with national degradation - The Triumph is already passing away - the disgrace remains - to be redeemed hereafter by wiser and more virtuous men. You are at Liberty to make such use of the observations in my Letter of last April, as you may deem advisable, without implicating my name. I see no cause for altering the opinion, that all the vices of this Administration are saddled irrevocably upon the Union till New York and Pennsylvania shall discover that they have been playing the Farce of Who's the Dupe for the benefit of others. I remain with great Respect and Attachment your friend and servt."

    John Quincy Adams, eldest son of second President John Adams, was perhaps the most qualified of all U.S. Presidents. He had served as private secretary to U.S. Minister Francis Dana in Russia and to his father, the U.S. Minister to Great Britain, before he was 20. At 26, he was appointed by President Washington as U.S. Minister to the Netherlands, at 28 to Portugal, and at 29 to Prussia. Adams served in the U.S. Senate from 1803-1808 and then as U.S. Minister to Russia (1809-1814). Adams then served as U.S. Minister to England (1815-1817) and Monroe's Secretary of State (1817-1825) before becoming President.

    The Treaty of Ghent ending the War of 1812 between the United States and Great Britain was signed in Ghent, Belgium, on December 24, 1814. John Quincy Adams was one of the commissioners who helped negotiate the terms of peace and signed the treaty for the United States. The Treaty of Paris had ended the Revolutionary War in 1783. Provisions of the 1783 treaty set part of the northern boundary of the United States and the "Dominions of His Britannic Majesty" (Canada) from Lake Ontario through Lake Erie and Lake Huron to Lake Superior. The 6th Article of the Treaty of Ghent concerned to whom the islands lying within rivers, lakes, and "water communications" belong, the United States or Great Britain. The 7th Article concerned the islands "between Lake Huron and Lake Superior to the most North Western point of the Lake of the Woods." Two commissioners would be appointed to make the final decision. Peter B. Porter and Anthony Barclay were appointed Commissioners. The "Declaration and Decision of the Commissioners of Great Britain and the United States, under the VIth Article of the Treaty of Ghent of 1814, respecting Boundaries" was signed by Porter and Barclay in Utica, New York, on June 18, 1822, but they disagreed on the boundary from Lake Huron to the Lake of the Woods (7th Article). That boundary was settled by the Webster-Ashburton Treaty of 1842.

    Peter B. Porter (1773-1844) represented New York in Congress from 1809-1813 and 1815-1816. During the War of 1812, he was Major General of New York Volunteers (1812-1815) and was presented a gold medal under joint resolution of Congress dated November 3, 1814, "for gallantry and good conduct in the several conflicts of Chippewa, Niagara, and Erie." After serving as commissioner under the Treaty of Ghent, Porter served as Secretary of War under President John Quincy Adams from June 21, 1828, to March 3, 1829, remaining in office until March 9, 1829, when President Andrew Jackson's appointee, John H. Eaton entered upon his duties. With two reproductions of photographs of Porter.

    In the election of 1828, Andrew Jackson defeated the incumbent President, John Quincy Adams, 178-84 electoral votes. By 1828, presidential electors were chosen by popular vote in every state but Delaware and South Carolina where the stare legislatures chose the electors. Jackson was the nominee of the Democratic-Republicans who soon became known as Democrats. Adams' supporters joined remaining Federalists to form the National Republican Party which evolved into the Whigs. Adams won New England (except for one Maine elector), New Jersey, Delaware, 16 of New York's 36 electoral votes, and 6 of Maryland's 11 votes. Jackson won 20 of New York's electoral votes, one Maine and 5 Maryland votes, and the 14 other states, mostly in the south and the west.

    In one of President Jackson's first actions, he fired nearly ten percent of Federal government employees, most of them holdovers from John Quincy Adams' administration, and gave their jobs to his loyal supporters. Senator William L. Marcy of New York later defended the policy of "rotation of office" by declaring on the Senate floor, "To the victors belong the spoils." Porter had been communicating with Adams about his services as commissioner. He and Barclay had held their final meeting trying to determine the boundary from Lake Huron to the Lake of the Woods on December 24, 1827. There was a question concerning his compensation for services rendered. On September 11, 1830, Porter wrote Adams that his question relating to his accounts and compensation had been finally adjudicated to his satisfaction. Evidently, others who had been employed by the Adams administration and been owed money by the government were having difficulty getting paid by the Jackson administration. A decision by Judge Conkling (misspelled "Conklin" by Adams), U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of New York, helped Porter receive compensation for his services. Porter lived in Black Rock, Cayuga County, N.Y., within the jurisdiction of the Northern District.

    Alfred Conkling (1789-1874) represented New York in the House of Representatives from 1821-1823. A Democratic-Republican, he was appointed U.S. District Judge for the Northern District of New York and served from 1825-1852 when he was appointed U.S. Minister to Mexico by his friend, President Millard Fillmore, serving from 1852-1853. His son, Roscoe Conkling, represented New York in the U.S. Senate from 1867-1881.

    Adams' reply to Porter is a scathing attack upon his successor in the White House: "There is nothing in the political system of the present Administration calculated to engage the affections of the People - nothing that posterity can look to with satisfaction - All its successes are identified with national degradation - The Triumph is already passing away - the disgrace remains - to be redeemed hereafter by wiser and more virtuous men."

    Historian Edward Channing attributed Adams' 1828 defeat to Jackson's overwhelming support in the South "combined with the employment of most unjustifiable methods by his partisans in Pennsylvania and New York." Adams writes in this letter that "all the vices of this Administration are saddled irrevocably upon the Union till New York and Pennsylvania shall discover that they have been playing the Farce of Who's the Dupe for the benefit of others," others being the south and the west, areas swept by Jackson in 1828. The popular two-act farce "Who's the Dupe?" was written by English playwright Hannah Cowey (1743-1809) in 1779. It mocked pretentious uses of Classical learning.

    Just a few weeks after writing this letter, John Quincy Adams was elected to Congress as a National Republican, becoming the only former President ever to serve in the House of Representatives. He served from 1831 until 1848 when he collapsed on the floor of the House from a stroke and was carried to the Speaker's Room where he died two days later. He was 80 years old.

    While there have been instances of Presidents and their successors of another party not getting along, none approaches Adams' animosity toward Jackson. Rarely does one find a President attacking another President in writing. This remarkable letter, in extra fine condition, would be the cornerstone of a presidential collection. From the Gary Grossman Collection.


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