ADAMS, John Quincy (1767-1848), President. Autograph letter signed ("John Quincy Adams") as Minister to Russia, TO PRESIDENT JAMES MADISON, PARTLY IN DIPLOMATIC CIPHER, St. Petersburg, Russia, 7 January 1811. 3¾ pages, 4to. Fine condition.
ADAMS POSTPONES HIS RECALL AS MINISTER TO RUSSIA: A LETTER PARTLY IN DIPLOMATIC CIPHER
A diplomatic letter partly in numeric cipher, in which Adams attempts to extricate himself from an awkward situation caused by his mother, Abigail Adams. Three months after his arrival in Russia, Adams had complained to his mother in exagerrated humorous fashion of the high costs and extravagant lifestyle in St. Petersburg. The protective Abigail "took him at his word and interpreted the letter as a cry from a penitent son to be recalled from St. Petersburg" (Nagel, John Quincy Adams, p. 197). Abigail had been opposed from the outset to her son's serving in the administration of a Jeffersonian Republican, so she promptly wrote to President Madison and requested John be recalled. Madison wisely urged Adams to persevere, but agreed to forward the necessary documents for presentation to the Czar and his officials should Adams decide to relinquish his post.
Adams, who had recently learned that his wife was pregnant, had no desire to give up a stimulating and challenging post. In the present carefully couched letter, he explains to the President that he has chosen to stay on: "I have determined to avail myself of the discretionary power...to postpone the delivery of the letter to the Emperor." He is grateful for Madison's solicitude, and that he would "acquiescence in what you understood to be my wish....I consider it incumbent in duty upon me to state explicitly to you the grounds upon which I shall reserve the letter of leave." He explains that to curtail his term as Minister "seemed scarcely the suitable object of so long and distant a voyage," in light of the painful "separation from my Country and from the objects of my particular affections whom I was to leave behind." As to the expenses of living in the Russian capital, he explains that "it was never my intention to trouble you or the Secretary of State on a subject which was merely my private concern." While his modest means have "forbidden me the exhibition of magnificence which the example of other foreign Ministers here has made customary," he has been permitted "every arrangement of a domestic nature which decency requires, and which from the representative of a frugal Republic, ought to be expected."
Adams also hints that the pregnancy of Louisa is a consideration: "from the peculiar situation of my family it is very uncertain whether it will not be equally impracticable to embark for such a voyage, during the next Summer." While he might remain as a private citizen if Madison chooses to replace him, that might prove unacceptable to the Czar: "As the letter to the Emperor itself mentions considerations of a private nature as the motives for my departure, there would be obviously an inconsistency in my presenting it, and still remaining here...Nor would any explanation which I could give probably remove an unfavourable impression which would result from it at this Court."
Having clarified his position on the question of recall, he avails himself of the American diplomatic cipher to inform the President that "the emperor and his principal minister are not only particularly attached to the idea of regular and permanent diplomatic intercourse of ministers between [the] United States and Russia but that repeated indirect intimations have been given to me of a wish to cement the relations between the two countries by a commercial treaty."
Adams performed admirably as the first American Minister at the court of the Czar, serving until 1814.