ADAMS, John Quincy. Autograph letter signed ("J.Q. Adams") as Congressman, to Joseph Blunt, Washington, 9 March 1831. 2¼ pages, 4to, separated along central fold, minor marginal stains to second leaf.
ADAMS CONDEMNS THE JACKSON ADMINISTRATION, ESPECIALLY THE PEGGY EATON AFFAIR: "TO CHARGE THEM WITH INCONSISTENCY IS TO CONCEDE THAT THEY HAVE SOME CHARACTER TO LOSE"
An irate, censorious letter written less than three years after his loss to Jackson in the Presidential election of 1828, after a campaign replete with bitter attacks on both candidates' character. Jackson's Democratic Party depicted Adams as a New England aristocrat who had negotiated a "corrupt bargain" with Henry Clay in 1824 to steal the presidency (see preceding lot). Adams regarded Jackson as an "illiterate governed by passion," whose supporters had unfairly vilified him. "It galled the president that someone like himself, who had earned the respect of czars, prime ministers, and distinguished men of science and letters, must receive the abuse of unschooled and self-centered partisans" (Nagel, John Quincy Adams, pp. 304-305).
Following his failure to win a second term, Adams returned to Washington as a congressman. Here, he warmly endorses Blunt's plan to write an account of Jackson's administration: "I approve entirely your Resolution to tell the Truth of this Administration. But beware of censuring them for what you approved in the last. Too much of this Spirit has shown itself in both houses of Congress." Adams scathingly dismisses many of his Congressional colleagues: "It is doing too much honour to the authors of this political balderdash to quote them at all. They never put forth an honest principle but for a dishonest purpose. They never appealed to a useful truth, but with the intent to sustain a pernicious lie. To charge them with inconsistency is to concede that they have some character to lose. To take even a political maxim from them is to go to the gibbet for a lesson of virtue. If the Devil can quote scripture for his purpose, he should not be cited as canonical authority for the text."
Adams suggests that Blunt examine Jackson's "Spolis System" of patronage as exemplified in the Post Office, as well as the recent Eaton Affair. The wife of Jackson's Secretary of War (formerly Mrs. Peggy O'Neale Timberlake, an innkeepers daughter) was accused of an affair with John Eaton before her husband's death and was censoriously shunned by other members of the Cabinet. "Do you incline to trace the connection between the private biography and domestic affinities of certain members of the Administration," he asks. "Do you record the Cabinet Meetings on the character of Mrs. Eaton? The accounts of Purser Timberlake (Peggy Eaton's former husband) and the Trustee sales of O'Neals House?"
Adams continues with his sarcastic questions: "Is your design to lay bare the intertexture of these events, with the recent party at Quackville between Jackson and Calhoun, Van Buren and Crawford? Is it among your imaginations to analyze the Hermitage propensities of the first, the unassuming sincerity of the second, the plain dealing of the third and the lofty independence, the stainless fidelity and the veracity of the fourth? Will you reveal to the world the mercurial dexterity of Mr. James A. Hamilton, the sentimental delicacies of Mr. Forsyth, the defensive versatilities of Major Lewis, and the dinner table disclosures of Dr. Wallace?"
He points to classical history: "Study Tacitus and Juvenal more than Gales and Seaton's Register of Debates....See how informers were want to pursue their prey. See how proscription was preceded by plotting and succeeded by defamation and conclude with Solomon that there is nothing new under the sun." Adams acknowledges the recent rift between Jackson and Calhoun (precipitated by the revelation that Calhoun had recommended Jackson be punished for his 1817 Florida expedition): "It is not two months since you gave me a friendly hint that it was circulated in whispers that I was the scoundrel betrayer of Cabinet secrets and informer who had blown up this flame between Jackson and Calhoun."