ADAMS, JOHN QUINCY.
ADAMS ON THE COMING WAR WITH ENGLAND.
Autograph Letter Signed ("John Quincy Adams"), 3 pp recto and verso, 4to (conjoining leaves), Washington, April 15, 1808, to Governor [James] Sullivan, tipped at centerfold to album leaf, a couple of small dampspots, still fine.
Just two months before he broke with the Federalist Party and resigned as Senator, John Quincy Adams writes this lengthy letter detailing strong opinions on party politics and the attempts of Britain and of France to lure the United States out of neutrality. In part: "I have for many months retained apprehensions that a considerable party in our Country, from the Terror in France, and a misinformed partiality for England, are labouring to bring us into a connection with Britain, which I do sincerely deprecate, as believing it utterly irreconcilable with the interests and Independence of this nation. I hope and believe however that this party will not be so formidable as your letter apprehends. When their real views shall be more fully disclosed, I trust in the Spirit and self-respect of my Country, too much to dread that they will suffer themselves to be reduced again to the condition of British Colonists. Nor am I without hopes that the present situation of Great Britain with a Russian and Austrian War upon her hands in addition to that which was already bearing upon her, and with the impatience for Peace, which is beginning to be manifested by her People, will deter her Ministers from rushing into that foolish and extravagant War, which I believe they were fully determined upon against us the last summer and autumn. One of the greatest immediate temptations to that War, was the mass of our commercial property which was exposed to the pillage of her Navy. This inducement is now almost entirely taken away, and the influence of the Navy and of the Admiralty will have no stimulus to hostility from the prospect of that harvest of confiscation which a war might have promised them but for our Embargo ... There is however now very little temptation to allure them to a War, from this source. There are indications also in the late Parliamentary Debates of both houses, which lead me to think it less probable that the Ministry will drive us to the extremity of War. And if we have no British War, I think the influence of the party, which favours the designs of that nation will decline instead of increasing. / I have transmitted to your Excellency, copies of all the documents relating to our foreign affairs which have yet been published. It will appear from these that our measures have been calculated to secure our Independence of action from the coercion of both the great belligerent powers. We are still free to resist the violence of either or of both parties. We are free to oppose the pretensions of each of them to impel us into War with her Enemy. The Efforts of Britain to get us into a War with France have been obvious ever since the signature of the Treaty, which was partly on that account returned without ratification. The attempts of France have been delayed untill a very recent period, and her means of success are comparatively much inferior to her rival. In truth our neutrality would be of great advantage to France, if England would suffer us to enjoy the rights of neutrals. But when Britain says, you shall not carry on neutral trade, because that trade favours France, and when she actually carries this denial into execution, France can have no interest in the existence of any neutrality. Hence her violent and unjustifiable decrees."
Provenance: The Presidential Autograph Collection of Alfred L. Baker.