Rare ALS as president, one page both sides, 8.25 x 10.25, March 29, 1799. Letter to Attorney General Charles Lee, regarding the fractured Federalist Party and the nomination of William Vans Murray as minister to France, in part: “The nomination of Murray has had one good effect at best. It has shewn to every observing and thinking Man, the real Strength, or Weakness of the Constitution and where one part of that Weakness resides. It has also produced a display of the real Spirit of the Parties in this country, and the object they have in view. To me, it has laid open Characters. Some of these will do well, to Study, a little more maturely the Spirit of their Stations. But Vanity has no Limits. Arrogance shall be made to feel a Curb. If any one entertains the Idea that, because I am a President of three votes only, I am in the Power of a Party, they shall find that I am no more so, than the Constitution forces upon me. If Combinations of Senators Generals and Heads of Departments, shall be formed such as I cannot resist, and Measures are demanded of me that I cannot adopt, my Remedy is plain and certain. I will try my own strength at Resistance first however. This is free and entre nous.” In very good to fine condition, with splits along folds resulting in a couple of areas of paper loss at left edge.
Adams shocked the political establishment in February 1799 when he appointed William Vans Murray as a commissioner to negotiate peace with France without first consulting his cabinet. So frustrated by Alexander Hamilton’s overbearing influence and his disagreeable cabinet that he had threatened to resign, Adams decided to exclude them from the appointment process all together. This was a major political risk, as it split the Federalist Party and made Adams vulnerable in the upcoming 1800 election. Murray did find success in his peace mission and negotiated the end of the ‘Quasi War’ with France, which proved popular among the public; however, Federalist disunity stemming from this political infighting indeed contributed to Adams’s slim loss to Thomas Jefferson in the presidential election. Adams’s strength of character is demonstrated in his action: despite the political backlash, he made the decision he believed best for the nation. More importantly, this was one of the earliest tests of presidential authority under the Constitution and helped to define the role of the office. Pre-certified PSA/DNA.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.