John Adams Autograph Letter Signed.
"The longest letter signed and entirely in the hand of John Adams obtainable": Exceptionally rare 16-page autograph letter signed by Founding Father John Adams defending the ultimate necessity of American sovereignty
John Adams Autograph Letter Signed.
Item Number: 121560
Exceptionally rare 16-page autograph letter signed by and entirely in the hand of Founding Father John Adams defending the ultimate necessity of American sovereignty and its precedence over international alliances. Sixteen pages, entirely in the hand of John Adams and written on both the recto and verso of each page, the letter is dated January 9, 1809 and addressed to Speaker of the House of Representatives, Joseph Bradley Varnum. Although France and America shared a strong alliance which proved crucial to winning the Revolutionary War, at the onset of the French Revolution in 1789, Washington’s fear that American involvement would weaken the new nation before it had firmly established itself created tensions and a new war between England and France broke out in 1793. The British Navy soon began targeting French vessels and trading interests across the Atlantic, and although many Federalists thought that America should aid its ally, Washington proclaimed that the United States would be “friendly and impartial toward the belligerent parties.” The Neutrality Proclamation was ignored by Britain and angered France, which then allowed its navy and privateers to prey on American trade. To protect American sailors and merchants without provoking Britain, in March 1794, Congress passed a 30-day embargo, which it then extended. Britain, the strongest sea power, began to seize American ships suspected of trading with France, and stepped up its practice of impressment. From 1806-1807, the British navy, in desperate need of men to oppose Napoleon, forced roughly 5,000 American sailors into service on the pretense that they were deserters. In 1807, King George III proclaimed his right to call any British subjects into war service and claimed that Britain had full discretion to determine who was a British citizen. The crisis reached one peak for America in June of 1807 when the HMS Leopard attacked the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia. Three American sailors were killed, eighteen were wounded, and the Chesapeake surrendered after firing only one shot. The Leopard seized four American seaman, claimed as deserters from the British navy, and hanged one of them. Jefferson and Madison, his Secretary of State, responded with the Embargo of 1807, a ban on all American vessels sailing for foreign ports. Meanwhile, Russia allied with Napoleon and pressed Denmark to turn over her fleet. In September 1807, Britain preemptively bombarded Copenhagen and seized the Danish-Norwegian fleet. While Jefferson’s Republicans still generally favored France, a schism grew in the Federalist party. Men like Timothy Pickering downplayed impressments while focusing on trade and access to British manufacturing. On October 16, 1807, King George III aggravated already high tensions with American following the British attack of the USS Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia by issuing a Royal Proclamation expanding the British right to impressment (the King’s right to call any British subjects into war service and determine their citizenship). News of the King’s Proclamation arrived in the United States in December 1807 and, lacking military options, President Jefferson proposed an embargo to ban all U.S. exports on American vessels in order to protect American sailors’ lives and liberties, despite its potential to cripple American trade. The Embargo Act was signed on December 22, 1807, causing immediate economic devastation. In protesting the Embargo, rather than wrestling with the difficulty of defending American sovereignty, some opponents chose to declare the legality of impressments as defined by King George’s Royal Proclamation. John Adams’ former Secretary of State, Timothy Pickering, took a leading role in fighting the embargo, arguing that Jefferson was using it to draw America closer to Napoleon’s France. Given the devastating economic effects of the embargo, Pickering’s message found a wide audience. Adams, on the other hand, recognized the dire threat the King’s Proclamation posed in denying America the right to determine its own rules for citizenship and in December, took his arguments to Speaker of the House Joseph Varnum. As he stated in the present letter, “He [Pickering] thinks that as every Nation has a Right to the Service of its Subjects, in time of War, the Proclamation of the King of Great Britain, commanding his Naval Officers to practice Such Impressments, on board, not the Vessells of his own Subjects, but of the United States, a foreign Nation could not furnish the Slightest ground for an Embargo! … But I Say with Confidence that it furnished a Sufficient ground for a Declaration of War. Not the Murder of Pierce nor all the Murders on board the Chesapeake, nor all the other Injuries and Insults We have received from foreign Nations, atrocious as they have been, can be of such dangerous, lasting, and pernicious Consequence to this Country, as this Proclamation, if We have Servility enough to Submit to it.” Adams suggested repealing and replacing the Embargo Act with one that allowed international trade with all but the belligerents, while building up the navy. Varnum asked to publish it. Before assenting, Adams completely reworked his argument, mustering all the reason and rhetoric at his disposal into a stirring defense of sovereignty and citizenship, resulting in the present letter. On March 1, 1809, Congress repealed the Embargo Act, following Adams’ suggestion to replace it with the Non-Intercourse Act which allowed trade with all nations except Britain and France. In fine condition. A remarkable piece of early American history illustrating the second President of the United States’ impassioned devotion to the pursuit of American liberty. Housed in a custom half morocco clamshell box. The longest letter signed and entirely in the hand of John Adams obtainable.
American Founding Father John Adams served as the first vice president of the United States from 1789 to 1797, and subsequently the second president of the United States, from 1797 to 1801. A lawyer and political activist prior to the revolution, Adams was devoted to the right to counsel and presumption of innocence. He defied anti-British sentiment and successfully defended British soldiers against murder charges arising from the Boston Massacre. Adams was a Massachusetts delegate to the Continental Congress and became a principal leader of the Revolution. He assisted in drafting the Declaration of Independence in 1776 and was its foremost advocate in Congress. As a diplomat in Europe, he helped negotiate the peace treaty with Great Britain and secured vital governmental loans. Adams was the primary author of the Massachusetts Constitution in 1780, which influenced the United States' own constitution, as did his earlier Thoughts on Government. Adams was elected to two terms as vice president under President George Washington and was elected as the United States' second president in 1796. He was the only president elected under the banner of the Federalist Party. He and his wife generated a family of politicians, diplomats, and historians now referred to as the Adams political family, which includes their son John Quincy Adams, the sixth president of the United States. John Adams died on July 4, 1826 – the fiftieth anniversary of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence – hours after Jefferson's death.