ADAMS, John. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams") to Elbridge Gerry (1744-1814, a Signer), Grosvenor Square, London, 24 May 1786. 4 pages, folio. Fine condition.
"A MORE DISAGREEABLE SITUATION THAN MINE NO MAN EVER HELD IN LIFE..."
Adams, struggling in London to negotiate a commercial treaty with Britain, offers a penetrating analysis of the failure of government under the Articles of Confederation, expresses the hope that "Federal ideas" will grow and prosper, and deplores the problems of the American financial system. "The Issue of all my 'Negotiations' respecting the Interest of British Debts, during the War, and respecting every Thing else, is just nothing at all. I have done all in my Power to do to no purpose, and I tell you freely, that the British Ministry will do nothing about this or any Thing else untill the States shall Support their Credit, and regulate their own trade, in a manner that shall shew them that it is not left to British Merchants and Politicians to manage as they please. Nor then in my opinion will they ever intermeddle, or agree to relinquish the Interest." The American economy will be a jumble of private arrangements, with "every Debtor to make the best agreement he can with his Creditors, or to dispute it at Law, and avoid the Payment of the Interest by the Verdict of a Jury. If the juries give it against our Merchants, they will never find any other Remedy."
Addressing his critics back in Congress, Adams defiantly states that anyone who thinks they can do better is welcome to his job: "If they want my Place, and Congress give it them it will be with my hearty Consent, without any Clamour at all. A more disagreeable situation than mine no Man ever held in Life and whoever succeeds me, will not find it more pleasant. If any one thinks he can do better in mercy, let him put up..." He would rather go back to the drudge work of his Boston practice, "draw Writs and Pleas in Abatement than [to] suffer what is now my Lot." The chance for a favorable commercial treaty was "long since perfectly past," and the prospect for improved relations "will never arrive, untill after a long and arduous Struggle." He closes by jibing Gerry and their friend Rufus King for marrying "the two finest Girls in New York...[You]...are in a way to make federal Ideas, grow, and may they prosper untill Congress shall have the Power and the Will, to form a System, which shall bring this Country to think..." When Adams learned of Shays' Rebellion in 1786 his frustration boiled over and he put pen to paper to create his famous attack on the Articles (and his plea for mixed government): Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America... (1787). Adams was still abroad when the Framers met in Philadelphia, and finally brought "this country to think" about a new political system. But his Defence was crucial to the ratification of the new charter.