Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1811: TO BENJAMIN STODDERT. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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1811: TO BENJAMIN STODDERT. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO BENJAMIN STODDERT.
Quincy, 15 October, 1811.
Your obliging letter of August 16th was presented to me by your son-in-law, Dr. Thomas Ewell, and his amiable lady, your daughter. Although I was confined with a wounded leg, which is not yet healed, and afflicted with a series of misfortunes, afflictions, and deaths among my tenderest connections, such as rarely happens to any man even in this troublesome world, I was not the less obliged to you for giving me an opportunity of seeing this sensible and amiable couple. These causes, however, have retarded my answer, and I hope will plead my excuse. I am happy to hear that your health is good, and I hope your happiness unalloyed.
I am as happy as ever I was in my life, as happy as I can ever expect to be in this world, and I believe as happy as any man can be, who sees all the friends of his youth dropping off about him, and so much sickness among his nearest relations, and who expects himself to drop in a very short time. Public affairs move me no more than private. I love my country and my friends, but can do very little for either. Reconciled and resigned to my lot in public and private, I wait with patience for a transfer to another scene.
After an introduction so solemn and gloomy, you will be surprised to find me turn to so ludicrous a subject as friend Timothy. You have seen his addresses to the people, in which he has poured out the phials of his vengeance against me, after having nourished and cherished it in his bosom a dozen years. He has implicated General Sam Smith and his brother Robert Smith, the late Secretary of State, in a manner that ought in my opinion to bring them out in vindication of themselves and me.
God knows, I never made any bargain with them or either of them. I never knew or suspected that they had any animosity against Pickering, more than they had against you or McHenry, Wolcott or Lee. No hint was ever given to me, directly or indirectly from either, that they wished Pickering removed, or that they would vote for me on any condition, or in any circumstances whatsoever. When I appointed Winchester Judge, in opposition to the wish of Robert Smith, as you know very well, I had the best opportunities to conciliate the Smiths, if I had been so disposed. Pickering knows this as well as you. How, then, can he tell such an abominable story? I cannot think that he believes it himself. Had I not scruples about setting an example of a President’s vindicating himself against such attacks from a mortified, disappointed, and vindictive minister, I should be at no loss for reasons to justify the removal of Mr. Pickering.
B. STODDERT TO JOHN ADAMS.
Bladensburg, 27 October, 1811.
I sincerely thank you for your kind letter of the 15th. It always affords me the highest satisfaction to hear of you and from you, and more particularly when I hear favorable accounts of your health and contentment.
I have seen and regretted the attack of Colonel Pickering on you, in a point affecting your moral character. In relation to any intrigue of my countrymen, the Smiths, with you, for his removal from the office of State, I have at all times felt the strongest conviction that you never did descend to such baseness, not only because I knew you were incapable of such degradation, but because I had reason to know that there was no kind of private intercourse between you and General Smith (and his brother was not at the seat of government), about the time of Colonel Pickering’s removal. I knew it from this circumstance. A day or two before the New York election, in which Colonel Burr exerted himself with so much success as to produce a result that disappointed every body, and at a moment when members of Congress and all about the government believed that city would be entirely federal, General Smith and a Senator of high standing called on me at my office, and expressed their satisfaction with most of your measures, though disapproving of some which they seemed disposed rather to ascribe to the influence of others than to you, and signified a desire to have a friendly interview with you, and asked my opinion if such an interview would be agreeable. My reply, in substance, was, that I could not doubt it, but that I would speak to you on the subject, and let them know.
It so happened that I did not speak to you before the result of the New York election was known in Philadelphia. This result afforded Mr. Jefferson a prospect of the Presidential chair he seemed not to have had before. But for this result, I question whether it would not have been decided, about that time, by his friends, to suspend his pretensions for four years longer, and that their support, if from no other motive, for the chance of having influence in your administration, should be given to you.
If I never afterwards mentioned to you my visit from the General and the Senator, it was because I thought I perceived that their views had changed, with the change of prospect occasioned by the result of the New York election. They spoke to me no more, and I am very confident they avoided you.
I am not good at remembering dates; and, never meaning to be a public man, I never kept memoranda of any political transactions. But I believe this election was just before the close of the session of Congress; and that at the close, or a day or two before, Colonel Pickering was removed. On the morning of the day of the removal, you communicated to Mr. Lee and myself, who chanced to meet at your house without being summoned, your intention, and observed, your mind had been made up on the subject before the commencement of the session, but that, to avoid a turbulent session (Colonel Pickering having many warm friends in both Houses), you had delayed to take the step until the close of the session. You said you respected Colonel Pickering for his industry, his talents, and his integrity, but mentioned instances to show that he wanted those feelings a Secretary of State should possess for the character of a President, and wanted temper to enable you to make peace with France, or preserve it with England; and, upon something suggested by Mr. Lee or myself to induce reconsideration on your part, you added, that you felt it a sacred duty to make a change in the Department of State, and proposed, that Mr. Lee or myself should communicate your decision to Colonel Pickering in terms least calculated to hurt his feelings. We both too sincerely respected him to undertake a task so disagreeable. I have never since conversed with Mr. Lee on this subject; but I do presume, were he to relate the occurrence, his relation would agree substantially with mine.
Colonel Pickering, like most honest, warm-tempered men, may be too partial, perhaps, in tracing to the best motives the actions of his friends, and too prone to ascribe to the worst the conduct of those whom he does not like. After hearing of the prediction of Mr. R. Smith at Annapolis (which I presume has been within the last two years), made ten or twelve days before his removal, that he would be removed, it was not extraordinary that he should imagine Mr. R. Smith, his brother, the General, and others, had successfully intrigued with you for his removal as the price of their support. And when he made the charge against you, I cannot, from what I think I know of his character, persuade myself for a moment to doubt that he did most religiously believe in its truth.
Were I to venture to account for Mr. R. Smith’s prediction at Annapolis, it would be in this way. The visit to me, of which I have spoken, shows that the most respectable of that party, with whom Mr. Smith was closely linked, were at least balancing in their minds whether their surest road to more influence in public affairs would not be to attach themselves to you, especially as your reëlection seemed at that time certain. Colonel Pickering, of all your ministers, was most obnoxious to those gentlemen. And it might have been contemplated by them, with the knowledge of Mr. R. Smith, to ask his removal in return for their support. And as it was too well known that the proper harmony between the President and Secretary of State did not exist, Mr. Smith being sure, as he thought, the offer would be made, might conclude, without great violence to probability, that the offer would be made, and, unacquainted with your honorable principles, that it would not be rejected.
If any use can be made of this feeble, though sincere testimony, in removing from that reputation you so justly value a transient cloud, most freely do I consent it should be so used. I may dissatisfy men, whose friendship I prize most highly, and make others my enemies, by this; but consideration of self never did nor ever shall deter me from doing an act of justice.
With my best respects, &c., &c.
TO SAMUEL SMITH.
Quincy, 25 November, 1811.
Colonel Pickering, in his letters or addresses to the people of the United States, has represented to the world, and supported by certificates or testimonies, which some persons think plausible, that a corrupt bargain was made between yourself and your brother on one part, and me on the other, that I should dismiss the then Secretary of State from his office, in consideration of your votes and influence for me at the next election of President and Vice-President.
As such a kind of traffic would be as dishonorable to yourself and your brother as to me, I think it would become all three of us to take some prudent measures to disabuse the public, if not to vindicate our characters.
For my own part, I declare upon my honor, and am at any time ready to depose upon oath, that no such communication, intimation, or insinuation ever passed, directly or indirectly, between me and yourself, or your brother. You must, therefore, know and feel the imputation both upon me and yourself to be false and injurious. Consequently I can see no objection that either of us can have to clearing up this matter before the public. I should be obliged to you, Sir, for your sentiments upon this subject, and continue to be, with much respect, your most obedient and humble servant.
Memorandum. Wrote on the same day, in the same words, mutatis mutandis, to the Hon. Robert Smith at Baltimore.
ROBERT SMITH TO JOHN ADAMS.
Baltimore, 30 November, 1811.
In reply to your letter of the 25th of this month, I have no hesitation in stating to you, that, at no period of your administration did I consider or understand that any kind of bargain or arrangement had, directly or indirectly, in any manner or form, been proposed or made, between yourself on the one part, and my brother and myself, or either of us, on the other part, in relation to the dismission of Mr. Pickering from the office of the Department of State.
Be pleased to accept an assurance of the great respect, with which I have the honor to be, Sir, your humble servant,
SAMUEL SMITH TO JOHN ADAMS.
Washington, 1 December, 1811.
I had the honor, yesterday, to receive your letter of the 25th ultimo, in which you say, “that Colonel Pickering in his letters to the people of the United States has represented to the world, that a corrupt bargain was made between yourself and brother on the one part, and me on the other, that I should dismiss the then Secretary of State from his office, in consideration of your votes and influence for me, at the next election of President and Vice-President.”
You appear to be of opinion, that some notice ought to be taken of this assertion to disabuse the public, justly observing that no such communication had ever passed directly or indirectly between you, my brother, and myself.
I have taught myself to despise every attack upon my political character; and I cannot persuade myself, that any man acquainted with your high character will believe that you would have permitted any person to have made to you a proposition so very dishonorable. For myself I declare, that I never held any conversation with you, respecting Colonel Pickering; that I never heard you utter one word disrespectful of that gentleman; that I never did insinuate or express a wish to you that you would dismiss Colonel Pickering from office, nor did I ever insinuate or say, that I would, for any consideration whatsoever, support you by my vote or influence at the election of President and Vice-President. I never believed myself in your confidence. On the contrary, I did at that period think that you were personally hostile to me. It is well known, that I opposed your first election and your reelection, openly, on political ground. It is not known to me, that you had any knowledge of my brother Robert at the period alluded to; if any communication had ever passed between you and him, it must have been known to me. I never knew of any, and am certain that none did take place.
I have the honor to be, your obedient servant,
TO ROBERT SMITH.
Quincy, 6 December, 1811.
Yesterday I received from the post-office in this town your favor of the 30th of November, in answer to my letter to you of the 25th of that month.
I thank you, Sir, for the promptitude, punctuality, and accuracy of your reply, which is fully satisfactory. It is such, indeed, as I knew it must be from the immutability of truth.
TO SAMUEL SMITH.
Quincy, 13 December, 1811.
I have received your letter of the 1st of this month in answer to mine of the 25th of November. It is not less frank and candid than prompt and punctual.
I have only to remark that you were certainly mistaken when you thought that “I was personally hostile to you.” Your brother Robert I never saw in my life, nor had any communication with him of any kind while I had any share in government.
TO BENJAMIN RUSH.
Quincy, 25 December, 1811.
I never was so much at a loss how to answer a letter as yours of the 16th.
Shall I assume a sober face and write a grave essay on religion, philosophy, laws, or government?
Shall I laugh, like Bacchus among his grapes, wine vats, and bottles?
Shall I assume the man of the world, the fine gentleman, the courtier, and bow and scrape, with a smooth, smiling face, soft words, many compliments and apologies; think myself highly honored, bound in gratitude, &c., &c.?
I perceive plainly enough, Rush, that you have been teasing Jefferson to write to me, as you did me some time ago to write to him. You gravely advise me “to receive the olive branch,” as if there had been war; but there has never been any hostility on my part, nor that I know, on his. When there has been no war, there can be no room for negotiations of peace.
Mr. Jefferson speaks of my political opinions; but I know of no difference between him and myself relative to the Constitution, or to forms of government in general. In measures of administration, we have differed in opinion. I have never approved the repeal of the judicial law, the repeal of the taxes, the neglect of the navy; and I have always believed that his system of gunboats for a national defence was defective. To make it complete, he ought to have taken a hint from Molière’s “Femmes précieuses,” or his learned ladies, and appointed three or four brigades of horse, with a Major-General, and three or four brigadiers, to serve on board his galleys of Malta. I have never approved his non-embargo, or any non-intercourse, or non-importation laws.
But I have raised no clamors nor made any opposition to any of these measures. The nation approved them; and what is my judgment against that of the nation? On the contrary, he disapproved of the alien law and sedition law, which I believe to have been constitutional and salutary, if not necessary.
He disapproved of the eight per cent. loan, and with good reason. For I hated it as much as any man, and the army, too, which occasioned it. He disapproved, perhaps, of the partial war with France, which I believed, as far as it proceeded, to be a holy war. He disapproved of taxes, and perhaps the whole scheme of my administration, &c., and so perhaps did the nation. But his administration and mine are passed away into the dark backwards, and are now of no more importance than the administration of the old Congress in 1774 and 1775.
We differed in opinion about the French revolution. He thought it wise and good, and that it would end in the establishment of a free republic. I saw through it, to the end of it, before it broke out, and was sure it could end only in a restoration of the Bourbons, or a military despotism, after deluging France and Europe in blood. In this opinion I differed from you as much as from Jefferson; but all this made me no more of an enemy to you than to him, nor to him than to you. I believe you both to mean well to mankind and your country. I might suspect you both to sacrifice a little to the infernal Gods, and perhaps unconsciously to suffer your judgments to be a little swayed by a love of popularity, and possibly by a little spice of ambition.
In point of republicanism, all the difference I ever knew or could discover between you and me, or between Jefferson and me, consisted,
1. In the difference between speeches and messages. I was a monarchist because I thought a speech more manly, more respectful to Congress and the nation. Jefferson and Rush preferred messages.
2. I held levees once a week, that all my time might not be wasted by idle visits. Jefferson’s whole eight years was a levee.
3. I dined a large company once or twice a week. Jefferson dined a dozen every day.
4. Jefferson and Rush were for liberty and straight hair. I thought curled hair was as republican as straight.
In these, and a few other points of equal importance, all miserable frivolities, that Jefferson and Rush ought to blush that they ever laid any stress upon them, I might differ; but I never knew any points of more consequence, on which there was any variation between us.
You exhort me to “forgiveness and love of enemies,” as if I considered, or had ever considered, Jefferson as my enemy. This is not so; I have always loved him as a friend. If I ever received or suspected any injury from him, I have forgiven it long and long ago, and have no more resentment against him than against you.
You enforce your exhortations by the most solemn considerations that can enter the human mind. After mature reflection upon them, and laying them properly to heart, I could not help feeling that they were so unnecessary, that you must excuse me if I had some inclination to be ludicrous.
You often put me in mind that I am soon to die; I know it, and shall not forget it. Stepping into my kitchen one day, I found two of my poor neighbors, as good sort of men as two drunkards could be. One had sotted himself into a consumption. His cough and his paleness and weakness showed him near the last stage. Tom, who was not so far gone as yet, though he soon followed, said to John, “You have not long for this world.” John answered very quick: “I know it, Tom, as well as you do; but why do you tell me of it? I had rather you should strike me.” This was one of those touches of nature which Shakspere or Cervantes would have noted in his ivory book.
But why do you make so much ado about nothing? Of what use can it be for Jefferson and me to exchange letters? I have nothing to say to him, but to wish him an easy journey to heaven, when he goes, which I wish may be delayed, as long as life shall be agreeable to him. And he can have nothing to say to me, but to bid me make haste and be ready. Time and chance, however, or possibly design, may produce ere long a letter between us.