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ADAMS, Thomas Boylston (1772-1832). Autograph letter signed...

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LETTER FROM HER SON, DOCKETED BY ABIGAIL ADAMS AS THE SECOND FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES

ADAMS, Thomas Boylston (1772-1832). Autograph letter signed (“Thomas B. Adams”) to his mother Abigail Adams, The Hague, 21 December 1796. 4pp. on bifolium, 8vo (229 x 191 mm), “D. & C. Blauw” watermark, docketed in upper corner by Abigail Adams, old folds, some browning, small tissue repair at fold and outer margin, not affecting text. Thomas B. Adams was the third and youngest son of John Adams, the second President of the United States, and First Lady Abigail Adams. Thomas was a representative to the Massachusetts legislature from 1809 to 1811 and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. Thomas was also secretary to his brother John Quincy Adams, who was appointed the United States foreign minister to the Netherlands by President George Washington, and continued with John Quincy when the latter was appointed minister to Prussia by their father, by now the second president of the United States. During the French Revolution, which lasted between 1789 and 1799, the United States was propelled into French foreign politics, forcing them to articulate a clear policy of neutrality to avoid being embroiled in these European conflicts. John Adams of the Federalist Party was elected president in 1797 and soon played a crucial role in the shaping of early American foreign relations.

Adams, who already inherited strained relations with France from his predecessor, George Washington, was faced with the challenge of navigating this delicate balance between preserving American neutrality and dealing with the hostilities arising from the French Revolutionary Wars. Despite these challenges, Adams pursued a path of diplomacy, avoiding a full-scale war with France, and ultimately negotiating a resolution through the Convention of 1800 to end the undeclared Quasi-War. In this letter, his son Thomas describes this delicate balance between the two nations and his mission in the French occupied Netherlands: “I say delicate because there is no knowing how soon the French Directory may order the Government of this Country to break of[f] all communications with the United States, until they shall redress the wrongs of which the French Republic has reason to complain. This mode of preceding has of late become so fashionable that it ought not to surprise the most friendly Nation of the Globe, to find itself without ceremony ranked among the number of those upon which the French Directory is disposed to cast as frown of disapprobation”. He goes on, “Such a policy is surely not founded upon accurate knowledge of the human temper. But they expect to terrify us into a subserviency to their sovereign will… Our anarchists have I presume already received their cue, and the whole doctrine of rewards & punishments has doubtless been rung in the ears of Government, with as much emphasis as it is chimed by the French Minister to the Batavian National Assembly. What a mercenary friendship is that of the French Government at this time!” Adams also affectionately writes on several personal matters, which includes his health (“Rheumatic complaints”) and the health of Abigail who at the time was “considerably impaired”. Adams responds to his mother and father’s desire for him to return home, which he abided. Adams expresses his view of his successor to assist his brother as secretary who he “sincerely hope[s] it may be some man of respectable talents, but above all a firm & decided character. To deal properly with these people, to maintain the harmony between the two Countries, and at the same time to yield nothing to them but strict justice, the Minister of the United States at the Hague ought to possess those qualities”. After signing his name, Adams additionally remarks: “I wrote to my father but a few days since.”

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[ translate ]

LETTER FROM HER SON, DOCKETED BY ABIGAIL ADAMS AS THE SECOND FIRST LADY OF THE UNITED STATES

ADAMS, Thomas Boylston (1772-1832). Autograph letter signed (“Thomas B. Adams”) to his mother Abigail Adams, The Hague, 21 December 1796. 4pp. on bifolium, 8vo (229 x 191 mm), “D. & C. Blauw” watermark, docketed in upper corner by Abigail Adams, old folds, some browning, small tissue repair at fold and outer margin, not affecting text. Thomas B. Adams was the third and youngest son of John Adams, the second President of the United States, and First Lady Abigail Adams. Thomas was a representative to the Massachusetts legislature from 1809 to 1811 and served as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Massachusetts. Thomas was also secretary to his brother John Quincy Adams, who was appointed the United States foreign minister to the Netherlands by President George Washington, and continued with John Quincy when the latter was appointed minister to Prussia by their father, by now the second president of the United States. During the French Revolution, which lasted between 1789 and 1799, the United States was propelled into French foreign politics, forcing them to articulate a clear policy of neutrality to avoid being embroiled in these European conflicts. John Adams of the Federalist Party was elected president in 1797 and soon played a crucial role in the shaping of early American foreign relations.

Adams, who already inherited strained relations with France from his predecessor, George Washington, was faced with the challenge of navigating this delicate balance between preserving American neutrality and dealing with the hostilities arising from the French Revolutionary Wars. Despite these challenges, Adams pursued a path of diplomacy, avoiding a full-scale war with France, and ultimately negotiating a resolution through the Convention of 1800 to end the undeclared Quasi-War. In this letter, his son Thomas describes this delicate balance between the two nations and his mission in the French occupied Netherlands: “I say delicate because there is no knowing how soon the French Directory may order the Government of this Country to break of[f] all communications with the United States, until they shall redress the wrongs of which the French Republic has reason to complain. This mode of preceding has of late become so fashionable that it ought not to surprise the most friendly Nation of the Globe, to find itself without ceremony ranked among the number of those upon which the French Directory is disposed to cast as frown of disapprobation”. He goes on, “Such a policy is surely not founded upon accurate knowledge of the human temper. But they expect to terrify us into a subserviency to their sovereign will… Our anarchists have I presume already received their cue, and the whole doctrine of rewards & punishments has doubtless been rung in the ears of Government, with as much emphasis as it is chimed by the French Minister to the Batavian National Assembly. What a mercenary friendship is that of the French Government at this time!” Adams also affectionately writes on several personal matters, which includes his health (“Rheumatic complaints”) and the health of Abigail who at the time was “considerably impaired”. Adams responds to his mother and father’s desire for him to return home, which he abided. Adams expresses his view of his successor to assist his brother as secretary who he “sincerely hope[s] it may be some man of respectable talents, but above all a firm & decided character. To deal properly with these people, to maintain the harmony between the two Countries, and at the same time to yield nothing to them but strict justice, the Minister of the United States at the Hague ought to possess those qualities”. After signing his name, Adams additionally remarks: “I wrote to my father but a few days since.”

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18 Apr 2024
USA, Chicago, IL
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