ADAMS, John. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams") TO BENJAMIN RUSH, Quincy, 17 January 1811. 4 full pages, 4to, closely written. In very fine condition.
MONEY IN POLITICS, INCLUDING FUNDS FROM OVERSEAS FOR "PROMOTING AND SECURING THE FIRST ELECTION OF MR. JEFFERSON AS PRESIDENT." ADAMS CHARGES THAT "THE MOST UNBLEMISHED CHARACTERS IN THE COUNTRY" ARE "DEEP IN THIS MIRE, OF BANKS, STOCKS AND SPECULATION"
A typically unflinching letter, considering a "nauseous subject": the corrupting influence of money in politics, spiced with anecdotes from Adams's and his friends' political careers, including unfounded rumorss of foreign financial support for Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. Adams writes: "What Shall I say to you, on the Subject of Corruption? Elections engender it as naturally and I fear as unavoidably as excessive Heat in Summer Sours bread or taints meat. You may trace it in a Thousand Instances and in various ways already: besides Dr. Donne's in his fourth Satyr as versified by Pope" [here Adams inserts ten lines of verse, commencing, "Who in the Secret, deals in Stocks secure, And cheats th'unknowing Widow and the poor: Who makes the Trust of Charity a job, And gets an Act of Parliament to Rob..."].
"I will give you an Ancedote, to answer yours of the Bribe offered to General Muhlenberg for his vote in favour of the Funding System [of Alexander Hamilton]. J.Q.A. [John Quincy Adams] was offered fifty shares in our Boston Bank for his vote in favour of it. He refused and opposed the Institution, which first provoked the eternal Vengeance of the Junto [the so-called Essex Junto, led by Adams's enemy Timothy Pickering]. His opposition in the Senate would have prevailed if the Federalists had not won over Skinner and Bidwell the two famous uncorrupted Republicans who made them a bare Majority of one vote. I can give you another Anecdote of a more allarming [sic] kind. Mr. [Rufus] King told me, that General Gun [James Gunn (1753-1801)] assured him that Mr. Swan offered him Ten Thousand Dollars for his vote and Influence, in a Question in the Senate..." Then, bitterly recalling the campaign and election of 1800 that ended in his defeat at the hands of Jefferson, Adams adds: "I have been informed that a large Sum of Money was Shipped in Hambourg for Philadelphia for the express purpose of promoting and Securing the first Election of Mr. Jefferson as President. Venal Presses and venal Scriblers [sic] have undoubtedly been Supported by French and English Intrigues, Corruption from abroad and Corruption at home we shall no doubt have in abundance."
Adams vigorously condemns the role of financiers and speculators in the political system, citing "two Instances of Corrupt Influence of Banks. Dr. Tufts [Cotton Tufts (1732-1815)] one of the best men in the world, had been chosen a Senator for near twenty years I believe...In short there was not a Senator half so popular for half so long a Time. But a Posse petitioned for The Union Bank. Tufts was a Man of Sense and voted against it. At the next Election all the Engines of Speculators were set to work in all the Towns in the Country, and the pious virtuous, learned ingenious upright and incorruptible Tufts was turned out, and has never been in, since. The Same Year my Brother Peter Boylston Adams Esqr was chosen Representative for the Town of Quincy...Upon the Question of the Union Bank he saw its corrupt Tendency and gave his Nay against it. The Gallery was full of Speculators, amd upon his Nay being pronounced The Cry in the Gallery, loud enough to be heard by Many was "God damn the Nays, who would have expected a Nay from that corner?" All their Engines were set to work in all the Taverns and Dram Shops of our Town of Quincy, and at the next Election, My Brother was turned out and has never been in since. Since that we have been constantly represented by an Irishman, a Liverpool Man or a Boston Man. The Cry against Peter, at our Dram Shops was, he voted against the new Bank, is a Dupe of his Brother the Vice President. Any Cry will do when reinforced by Rum Whisky or Toddy or Porter enough, at Alehouses Taverns dram Shops or Nanny Houses in England or America. What shall we say? The most unblemished characters in the Country, have been and are as deep in this Mire, of Banks, Stocks and Speculation of all Sorts, as the most profligate and abandoned. Phillips has erected a magnificent Block of Brick Buildings in one of the most conspicuous spots in the Town and called it Hamilton Place, in Honour of his System of Funds and Banks by which this Phillips Father and himself have made immense Fortunes. And when can you find, purer Characters than the Phillips? Hancock...and all the Democrats were engaged [with] the Union Bank. Again what shall we say? Who shall throw the first stone? I am disgusted with the nauseous subject..."
In the remainder of the letter, Adams thanks his old friend for reading a pamphlet [probably Fisher Ames, The Dangerous Power of France], mentions letters from John Quincy Adams that "I wish I could print...but I dare not." He praises Ames's works: "The English, The Scotch and the Irish may boast of themselves as they will, and despise America as much as they can: but I know of no Productions of Robertson, Hume, Gibbon or Johnson, which exhibit a more entire Mastery of The English Language, and all its Graces, ornaments and Elegance, than this little Pamphlet and Several other Productions of the Same Pen. Ames was ingenious, had read a good deal, and was a fair Character and a good Man: but he owed his Rise, and was bouyed [sic] up by a British Faction and the Remnants and Threads of old Toryism, as an Egg is borne upon the Surface of a Strong Lie. It was not in him, nor in the Citizens [tories] who removed to Nova Scotia Canada and England in 1776, a monoarchical Mania but a Mania of fear and ambition: Fear that we should be conquered and beheaded; and ambition to obtain wealth and power by the favour of Great Britain...."