ALS signed “J. Q. Adams,” one page both sides, 8 x 10, April 17, 1831. Letter to his friend Richard Rush, who had served under Adams as Secretary of the Treasury. In full: "I have to acknowledge the receipt of two kind Letters from you—one of the 24th ulto. and the other of the 12th inst.—the latter accompanied with newspapers containing the second Dissertation of Britannus, and the reply of Temple. I had already received, though I know not from whom, the paper containing the Article of Britannus, and had been amused with his defence of the English Whigs. They are a Class of People ‘sui generis’ almost as much as the Gypsies, of whom I suppose you occasionally have met some in England. The Gypsies are the Romancers of Beggary. The whigs are the Romancers of Liberty. What the Gypsies would do with the Country if his Majesty King William the fourth should compose his Cabinet Council of them is not easily imagined, but if they should display as much ignorance of the world, and of their own Country, with as much self-sufficiency, and a propensity to blunder as signal, as the whigs have done when in power for the last half century, no doubt their administration would be equally short. Since the commencement of the Reign of George the third, once in ten, fifteen or twenty years the whigs have obtained possession of the Government, and hold it just long enough to demonstrate to the conviction of the Nation that they are utterly incompetent to the task of managing the Public Affairs. Their present experiment does not appear likely to last longer than those which preceded it, and the House of Commons is already exhibiting majorities against them upon propositions of their Chancellor of the Exchequer. This Lord Althorp begins his career by proposing a duty of a penny a pound upon raw Cotton from the United States—which may be considered as an indication of the ministerial feeling towards this Country. It would seem from the movements at Manchester and in London after the proposition was made in Parliament, that this Step had been taken, without previous consultation of the great interests at home to be affected by it; and it remains doubtful whether it will yet be carried into effect.
But the great and absorbing interest for the present appears to be concentrated in Lord John Russell’s Plan of Parliamentary Reform. The retrenchment of nearly two hundred members from the House of Commons, with the substitution of nearly an equal number through the medium of Elections really popular, will be in itself so great a Revolution in the British Government, that I can scarcely realize that it will yet be effected. It is a curious spectacle to see a convict for Sedition in Ireland at the same moment seizing the first Rank as the Champion of Reform in the English House of Commons. I propose within three or four days to leave this place for my Residence at Quincy—where I hope often to hear from you." In fine condition. Accompanied by a gorgeous custom-made presentation folder with a quarter leather binding.
In Great Britain, the system of government was undergoing a revolution—spearheaded by Lord John Russell, the Great Reform Act of 1832 was designed to establish a more representative legislative body in Parliament. The Whig government benefitted by enfranchising a large mass of merchants, manufacturers, and other members of the middle class, who were now empowered to elect their representatives. In this letter, written at the advent of of Britain's 'Era of Reform,' Adams marvels at the audacity of instituting a renewed electoral system, but questions whether the leadership can be effective. A wonderful letter on the subject of democracy from the former American president.
Terms and abbreviations used in our descriptions.