Quincy, [Ma.]. November 24, 1813. pp. Quarto. Old fold lines. A few small spots of foxing, faint stain from wax seal. Very good. In a folio-sized half morocco and cloth clamshell box, leather labels. Item #WRCAM42352
A warm letter from former President John Adams to his dear friend and writer, Mercy Otis Warren, with whom he had been recently reconciled after their long falling out. Throughout the Revolutionary period, historian, poet, and dramatist Mercy Otis Warren actively corresponded on political matters with numerous leaders, including Samuel Adams, John Hancock, Patrick Henry, Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and especially John Adams, who became her literary mentor in those early years of unrest. In 1805 her literary career culminated with the publication of THE HISTORY OF THE RISE, PROGRESS, AND TERMINATION OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION. The book's sharp criticisms of Adams - that his passions and prejudices often debilitated his judgment and that he had demonstrated a distinct leaning toward monarchy during his sojourn in England - led to a heated correspondence and a breach in their friendship in 1807. After nearly five years Elbridge Gerry managed to effect a reconciliation between Mercy and Abigail and John. It was Mrs. Adams who sent word to Mercy on Sept. 15, 1813 that her daughter, Nabby, had died of breast cancer a month earlier. Adams' opening salutation in this letter likely refers to condolences sent by Warren, and suggests that Nabby's death prompted an invitation to visit her:
"I am very much obliged to you for your civilities to my wife, my son, Coll Smith and my granddaughters. My girls have long expressed an earnest desire to see Madam Warren, and have been highly gratified by their visit and very grateful for the kind hospitality, the social enjoyments and instructive conversations they experienced. I congratulate you Madam on the happy marriage of a granddaughter who once obliged us with a very short visit. I was delighted with her manners and accomplishments, and found her visit much too short. May every blessing attend her and all your family, in whose prosperity I take a constant interest."
Adams moves beyond the opening exchange of family pleasantries to discuss Thomas McKean's comments on Mrs. Warren's late brother, the brilliant but erratic James Otis, Jr., at the 1765 Stamp Act Congress. "Governor M.Keans notice of your brother I thought worth preserving in your family. The oddity of the dialogue and the particular moment of its composition were the circumstances that made it rather an object of curiosity than use. I think however the traits of character are correct." In a letter from McKean to Adams dated Aug. 20, 1813, McKean reminisces about the Stamp Act Congress that convened in New York on Oct. 7 to elect a president of that body: "In the Congress of 1765, there were several conspicuous characters. Mr. James Otis appeared to be the boldest and best speaker. I voted for him as our President, but Brigadier Ruggles succeeded by one vote, owing to the number of the committee from New York, as we voted individually" (THE WORKS OF JOHN ADAMS, X, pp.60-62). Adams then moves on to further reflection on the rest of her family of ardent patriots: "I know not madam what your father [James Otis, Sr.], your husband [James Warren] or your brother would think of these times." Adams, however, is reluctant to conjecture about what the future might hold for America. "A mighty effort of nature is in operation that no understanding below that Providence which superintends and directs it, can comprehend. An entire separation, in government at least, between America and Europe seems to be commencing: but what will be its course when and how it will terminate; and what influence it will have upon Asia and Africa, no living man, I believe will pretend to foresee." Nevertheless, Adams believes that he, Mercy, and their fellow patriots had long since laid the necessary groundwork for the political sanguinity of America, but whose fate no longer lay in their hands, due to advanced age. "We have acted our parts. The curtain will soon be drawn upon us. We must leave the future to that Providence which has protected us in the past. This sentiment of duty and interest I doubt not, Madam, will be approved by you; as I hope it is reallized [sic] with gratitude, and entire confidence and submission by your old friend and respectful humble servant."
A cordial letter to an old friend, showing a more mature and philosophical John Adams. Warren was eighty-five at the time - she was older than Adams - and she died less than a year later.