ADAMS, John, President. Autograph letter signed ("John Adams") as Vice President elect, TO ELBRIDGE GERRY ("My dear friend"), Braintree, 20 March 1789. 3 pages, 4to, 230 x 191mm (9 x 7½ in.), integral address panel in Adams' hand, docket by Gerry, small seal hole patched affecting two words, otherwise fine.
ADAMS ANAYLZES THE FIRST PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION: "I ONLY REGRET THAT THE FIRST GREAT ELECTION SHOULD BE TARNISHED IN THE EYES OF THE WORLD AND OF POSTERITY WITH THE APPEARANCE OR SUSPICION OF AN INTRIGUE"
A fascinating letter, written less than a month before Washington and Adams took office, regarding the first election under the Constitution and the nature of the Presidency. Hamilton, the leader of the Federalists, had sought to deflect Adams from seeking the Vice-Presidency, preferring "someone as Vice-President who would be more pliant" (Page Smith, John Adams, 2:739). In light of Adams' popularity among New England Federalists, though, Hamilton supported Adams, with reservations, but "was determined to whittle away his electoral vote so the New Englander's apparent popularity and thus his political strength would be diminished...He wrote to electors in various states and made the suggestion that they should divert several votes from Adams to other candidates" (Smith, 3:740). The states' electoral votes were counted (69 for Washington, 34 for Adams) and Adams received word in early March: "lacking any real notion of Hamilton's intrigues, it seemed [to Adams] like a direct rebuff, almost an insult, and for a few days he thought of resigning" (Smith, 742). Here, a little over a month before he and Washington were to be inaugurated in New York, he deplores the manipulations of the plot, (which he had not yet connected with Hamilton).
"The right and duty of throwing away votes I cannot, cleverly comprehend, having never read of any such morality of policy...The anxiety to obtain Washington for the first office, was very just and very universal: so unanimous, that it is and ever was astonishing to me that any man ever doubted of his having every vote. For myself, I only regret that the first great election should be tarnished in the eyes of the world and of posterity with the appearance or suspicion of an intrigue. Who the knaves and who the fools I neither know nor care; but there is a strong appearance that a proportion of each species must have been concerned. This however must be between you and me." He writes warmly of his long friendship with Gerry and vows that "those who know each other, on tryal and experience, must communicate freely and unite as much as possible, or the new Government will soon be demolished or undermined by the Seperate States. The House of Representatives will find it necessary to make the Executive respectable, or they will soon be overpowered by the Senate. The President is the natural ally of the House of Reps, and they must give him an unequivocal support, or he will be made a mere cats paw of a Junto of Grandees in the Senate. You must give him a splendor, which shall place him decidedly above any one Senator."
Even when he did learn of Hamilton's role in tampering with the election, Adams tended to put a good face on Hamilton's motives, as here, ascribing it to his desire to ensure Washington's election, even though he continued to deplore such intrigues.