ADAMS, John (1735-1826), President. Letter signed ("John Adams") to Charles W. F. Dumas, Bath Hotel, Westminster, 3 June 1785. 2 pages, 4to, neatly inlaid. Fine condition.
ADAMS RECOUNTS HIS HISTORIC MEETING WITH KING GEORGE III, COMMENTING UPON THE "RESPECT" AND "KINDNESS" SHOWN TO HIM BY THE FORMER FOE
John Adams, once on King George's short list of those to be "hanged separately" for treason, stood before his former enemy on 1 June 1785 in the capacity of the first United States ambassador to the court of Great Britain, to formally present his diplomatic credentials. Two days later, still deeply moved by the momentous event, Adams reports to his Dutch friend, Dumas: "I had the Honour on the first of this month to be introduced by his Lordship [the Marquis of Carmarthen, Secretary of State] to His Majesty, in his Closet, with all the ceremonies and Formalities practised on such occasions with other foreign ministers, where I delivered to His Majesty my Letter of Credence from the United States of America...The Mission was treated by His Majesty with all the respect, and the Person with all the Kindness which could have been expected or reasonably desired and with much more I confess than was in fact expected by me." (For the King's take on this encounter, see Lot 261.)
Colonel William Smith, secretary of the American legation, was to be presented to the King on "the next Levee-day" and a date for Adams to meet the Queen had not yet been fixed, but Adams was to dine on the following night with Carmarthen, to celebrate the King's birthday: "I must go to Court again on that Day."
In the 1 June audience, Adams appeared in a new suit bought for the occasion, with a ceremonial sword, white gloves and powdered wig. He followed the protocol punctiliously, bowing three times, once at the door, again at the middle of the room, and finally when standing before the King. He told George III in trembling voice: "I think myself more fortunate than all my fellow-citizens, in having the distinguished honor to be the first to stand in your Majesty's royal presence in a diplomatic character." He looked forward to "restoring an entire esteem, confidence, and affection, or, in better words, the old good nature and the old good humor between people who, though separated by an ocean and under different governments, have the same language, a similar religion, and kindred blood." (McCullough, 336) The King, also moved by the occasion, reciprocated Adams's sentiments and added, "I have done nothing in the late contest but what I thought...the duty which I owed to my people. I will be very frank with you, I was the last to consent to separation; but the separation having been made...I have always said, as I say now, that I would be the first to meet the friendship of the United States as an independent power." (McCullough, 336) The two men even engaged in some witty banter, with King George chiding Adams: "There is an opinion among some people that you are not the most attached of all your countrymen to the manners of France." Adams returned the volley smoothly, saying "That opinion, sir, is not mistaken; I must avow to Your Majesty I have no attachment but to my own country." The King replied, "An honest man will never have any other." (Page Smith, 2:629)
Adams's appointment provoked less controversy in London than in Philadelphia, where there was intense opposition among some Congressmen to putting Adams's volatile temper into such a sensitive diplomatic post. But Adams proved a creditable envoy, treating effectively with the British government and negotiating several important loans from Dutch bankers. This informal account is dated the day after Adams's formal report to Secretary of State John Jay of his audience with the King (that letter, part of the Spiro Collection, was sold here on 14 May 1992, lot 28, $209,000).