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6   John Adams  $2500 $5363 $5900 9 You must login to place a bid.

#6 - John Adams

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“In the recollection of any share I have taken in the Institution of Our American Navy,” Adams writes, “I am ashamed when I look back and recollect how little I have done”

ALS, one page both sides, 7.75 x 9.75, April 24, 1813. Letter to “The Honourable William Jones, Secretary of the Naval Department.” In full: “As it ever has been, and forever ought to be, a general Rule of The Presidents and Heads of Departments not to answer Letters soliciting or recommending Appointments to Office: the Exception to the general Rule by your kind Letter of the 13th of this month, lays me under a particular obligation. The Reason you assign is perfectly satisfactory to me: and I rejoice in it, as it proves the good sense and generous Feelings of our American young Men, which have animated such Numbers, to sollicit [sic] the Post of danger. Commodore Rodgers has accepted young Marston as a volunteer, and he is now on Board the President below the Castle, ready I presume for Sea as soon as Winds and Circumstances will permit.

Far be from me, any Pride or Vanity, in the recollection of any share I have taken in the Institution of Our American Navy: I am ashamed when I look back and recollect how little I have done said or written in favour of this Essential Arm for the defence of our Country. I know it to be the astonishment of every Man of Sense in Europe that we have neglected it so long. In my opinion a compleat History of our military Marine ought to be written, from the Law of Congress in October 1775 and the Law of Massachusetts in November 1775 to the present hour. Congress could not appropriate Money, to a purpose more beneficial to the Interest, the Safety, the Independence the Honour Power and Glory of their Country, if they should devote to a Man of Letters, who would undertake the Work, four times as large a sum as the Dutchess of Marlborough bequeathes for the Biography of her Husband. I rejoice in the appointment to the Head of the naval Department, of a Gentleman who is represented to me, to be so well qualified and so well disposed to promote the Service.” Intersecting folds, a few spots of mild toning, a couple of edge chips, and light show-through from writing on opposite sides, otherwise fine condition.

From the outset of the American Revolution to the end of his presidency, John Adams actively fought to build a strong American naval power. Since its founding legislation was passed in October of 1775 (due in great part to his support), he played a key role in the Navy’s development—authorizing the construction of the first small fleet, drafting the first regulations, creating a board of admiralty, and, as president, establishing an official Department of the Navy. However, the department’s resources dwindled under Jefferson's leadership, even as war with Britain loomed. By the time the War of 1812 commenced the US Navy had been reduced to a fleet of just 17 ships. In an uncharacteristic show of modesty—saying that he is ashamed for not doing enough—Adams laments the state of the Navy in 1813, despite its recent admirable defeats against the powerful British fleet. Congratulating Jones, a Revolutionary War veteran, on his recent appointment as Secretary of the Navy, the former president goes on to advocate for a “compleat History of our military Marine,” which would come to fruition that same year with the publication of Thomas Clark’s Naval History. He also gives his approval of a young John Marston, who would go on to serve a long, distinguished naval career while building his relationship with the aging Adams; present at the former president’s deathbed, he would one day relay the details of his final hours to son John Quincy. A passionate letter from one of the Navy’s strongest voices, showing that despite his retreat into private life, his care for the institution had not faded.

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