ADAMS, ABIGAIL, First Lady. Autograph letter signed in full to Richard Rush, Attorney General of the United States, Quincy, [Massachusetts], 29 November 1814. One page, 4to, integral address leaf with panel addressed by Abigail, and franked "Free," by her husband "J. Adams." Fine condition.
"I HAVE NOT A WORD TO SAY, IN VINDICATION OF THE CONDUCT OF MY NATIVE STATE, BUT MUCH TO DEPLORE"
An informative letter written at the height of the War of 1812, in the wake of the British burning of Washington and sack of Alexandria. The wife of the former President relays information from Europe, via her son John Quincy Adams, comments on the fate of Alexandria and the "farce" of peace negotiations with Britain. "As my husband has thought it proper to inclose a Letter, received from our son [John Quincy Adams] to the President [James Madison], which I presume you may read, I inclose one to me, for your perusal, the political part of which you may read to the President if you judge best. It is a more free expression of his feelings and opinions, respecting the continuance of this farce of a negotiation on the part of the British Government, than he might think prudent to commit to public Dispatches. His feelings respecting the capture of Alexandria were excited, by the first account, which reached him through British channels -- they were similar to those experiences by every real American. Yet situated and defenceless as Alexandria was, what could they have done? Why were they thus left? is another question. I have not a word to say, in vindication of the conduct of my own native State, but much to deplore...."
In late August a British force under General George Cockburn had routed the weak defenses around Washington and looted and burned the Capitol (including the Library of Congress) and the buildings housing the Departments of State, War, and the Treasury. President Madison fled to Virginia in the company of Richard Rush, Abigail's correspondent. In the meantime a large British naval force had sailed up the Potomac, passed Fort Washington (whose commander, drunk at the time, chose not to fight), then seized and looted the prosperous river town of Alexandria, carrying off a fortune in agricultural produce.