ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams"), AS PRESIDENT, to Col. Joseph Ward (1737-1812), Washington, D.C. 4 February 1801. 2 pages, 4to, slight chipping at lower right edge, grazing several words, very light toning at extreme margins. Matted and framed.
THE CONTESTED ELECTION OF 1800: "CLOUDS BLACK AND GLOOMY HANG OVER THIS COUNTRY, THREATENING A FIERCE TEMPEST...FROM PARTY CONFLICTS"
"I WISH YOU WOULD WRITE A DISSERTATION UPON PARTIES IN THIS COUNTRY..." Devastated first by his electoral defeat in the 1800 election and then shaken by the death of his son Charles, a bleak and bitter lame-duck President sees black clouds spreading over America as Jefferson and Burr battle through their electoral college impasse. "...As I have all my Lifetime expected such events as those which have lately occurred," he writes, "I was not Surprised when they happened. They ought to be Lessons and Solemn Warnings to all thinking Men. Clouds black and gloomy hang over this Country threatening a fierce tempest, arising merely from party Conflicts, at a time when the internal and external Prosperity of it, and the national prospects in every other respect are the most pleasing and promising, that We ever beheld. I pray Heaven to dissipate the Storm."
Joseph Ward wrote to Adams on 22 January 1801, enraged over the electorate's rejection of the President: "...To see mock patriots, learned cheats and weak rogues mingling their lies...to remove the Father of his Country from his parental office" was too much for Ward. He worried about Adams's "depression of spirits" but Adams is stoic: "'Depressions of Spirit'...I have not perceived," he wriotes, "and do not apprehend: but I have Some Reason to expect that my Constitution will have another trial, when I come to change a routine of domestic Life without much exercise, for a Life of long Journeys and distant voyages in one or another of which I have been monthly or at least yearly engaged for two and forty years. When...such frequent Agitations of the Body are succeeded by Stillness, it may shake an old frame. Rapid motion ought not to be Succeeded by Sudden rest. But at any rate I have not many years before me and those few are not very enchanting in prospect..." In a postscript Adams writes "Ward! I wish you would write a dissertation upon Parties in this Country."
Factional bitterness conusmed Adams's mind. For four years he endured the savage and merciless attacks of the "Jacobin" press (as he called it)--the hired guns of the Jeffersonian faction. Now, in the election of 1800, even his fellow Federalists had turned on him. Alexander Hamilton penned a devastating appraisal--"great and intrinsic defects in his character...unfit him for the office of the Chief Magistrate"--that was supposed to be private, but which fell into the hands of Aaron Burr, who soon put it before the eyes of all Americans.
With the Federalists sniping among themselves, and South Carolinian Charles Cotesworth Pinckney siphoning off Federalist votes in the South, it was no great surprise to Adams that he lost the election. Jefferson and Burr each had 73 electoral votes to Adams's 65 and Pinckney's 64. Adams took some malicious consolation in the fact that Hamilton's two greatest enemies "are now placed over him." His foes would now have to watch Burr "rise like a balloon filled with flammable air over their heads..." (Smith, Adams, 1053) At the same time that he learned of his electoral defeat, Adams learned of the death of his alcoholic son Charles in a dingy New York City lodging house. He was not yet 30 years old. "Oh! that I had died for him if that would have relieved him from his faults as well as his disease," Adams exclaimed (Smith, 1053). A powerful Adams letter, written at the most painful period of his personal and political life. Quoted by Smith and more recently by McCullough, John Adams, 568, 694.