Item of the Day: Letter from John Quincy Adams to Mr. Murray (1801)

Full Title: To Monsieur Murray, Ministre des Estats Un d’Amerique, La Haye from John Quincy Adams. May 2, 1801.

[This signed letter from John Quincy Adams to William Vans Murray was written shortly after Adams’ recall as Minister to Prussia by President John Adams following John Adams’ defeat by Thomas Jefferson in the election of 1800. William Vans Murray, a great personal friend of John Quincy Adams, served as Minister Resident to The Netherlands from March 2, 1797 to September 2, 1801. Murray is best known as a diplomat especially in his role as envoy during the Convention of Mortefontaine in 1800 which ended the Quasi-War between the United States and France.]

Dear Sir

I am much obliged to you for the information from Mr. McHenry which was accurate. I have already received my letter of recall, the motive which alledged to me is that the objects of my mission have been entirely accomplished. I have long been of opinion that the expense of maintaining a minister constantly at this court could not be compensated to the public by any service he can render. I have express’d repeatedly these sentiments to my father and have often felt very uneasy at finding myself in such a situation. […?…] the tempest in the North of Europe, my [opinion?] has been in some degree apparent but my utility here is still so problematical in my own mind — that I feel relieved by my removal from the station.

I will not pretend that there are no points of view in which this incident affects me otherwise than agreeably. But if the most immediate affects of interest or convenience would be clearer from a longer continuance in the diplomatic career, perhaps more liberal and more extensive considerations concur to urge my return. I have spent nearly half my life in Europe. The centre of every good American’s attachments ought to be in his own country: and we find both from reason and experience that too long a residence in Europe is apt to give Americans habits and sentiments not congenial to their native soil. I have always apprehended the danger of this effect to myself, and its removal now for the second time counterbalances feelings of the moment which would cast lingering looks behind.

As you live, eat and sleep in your boots, I hope you will not think I mean by this to recommend your putting on your spurs. When the sum of your residence in Europe shall have amounted to fourteen years, you will only have the same to weight these considerations that I have already.

In the English newspapers I have read the President’s inaugural speech. It contains ample professions of a conciliatory temper, an high panegyric upon Washington, an offensive and ungenerous allusion to the immediate predecessor. It is not the first time that Jefferson has indulged his passions in such an indirect attack against a man he always esteemed but according to my notions of what is decent and fit even between political antagonists he could not have chosen a more improper time to gratify his spleen than he now did. There is in the speech too a great deal of the common jacobinical cant — “friends & fellow citizens — and the spasmodic affections of infuriated man” etc etc etc. But setting aside these mere formalities there are engagements, which if words have any meaning, pledge the new administration to the support of all the essential principles upon which our government has hitherto been conducted. I have a sincere hope that this pledge will not be forfeited — I consider it as one of the misfortunes of the new administration that they are placed in the unavoidable dilemma, of ruining their country, or of proving apostates to their own principles, and as I love my country much more than I feel concerned for their reputations, I hope they will take the latter alternative.

I write you still with perfect freedom upon this subject. After my return to America, I hope still to enjoy the benefit of your correspondence, but I shall be sensible to the reserve due to your situation, as I hope and believe Mr. Jefferson will not deprive the union of your active and useful services. If he […?…] can give him elevated sentiments, he will on the contrary place you in a post more worthy of you.

My wife is yet so ill, confined to her bed, that I shall not be able to leave this place for several weeks. Continue to write me therefore until further notice. I intend if possible to embark at Hamburg for Boston.

Faithfully yours,



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Filed under 1800's, Legal, Letters, Posted by Rebecca Dresser

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