Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES LLOYD. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO JAMES LLOYD. - 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 JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 17 February, 1815.
I have never known, in any country, the prejudice in favor of birth, parentage, and descent more conspicuous than in the instance of Colonel Burr. That gentleman was connected by blood with many respectable families in New England. He was the son of one president and the grandson of another president of Nassau Hall, or Princeton University: the idol of all the Presbyterians in New York, New England, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and elsewhere. He had served in the army, and came out of it with the character of a knight without fear and an able officer. He had afterwards studied and practised law with application and success. Buoyed upon these religious partialities and this military and juridical reputation, it is no wonder that Governor Clinton and Chancellor Livingston should take notice of him. They made him attorney-general, and the legislature sent him to Congress as a senator, where he served, I believe, six years. At the next election he was, however, left out, and being at that time somewhat embarrassed in his circumstances, and reluctant to return to the bar, he would have rejoiced in an appointment in the army. In this situation, I proposed to General Washington, in a conference between him and me, and through him to the triumvirate, to nominate Colonel Burr for a brigadier-general. Washington’s answer to me was, “By all that I have known and heard, Colonel Burr is a brave and able officer; but the question is, whether he has not equal talents at intrigue.” How shall I describe to you my sensations and reflections at that moment? He had compelled me to promote, over the heads of Lincoln, Gates, Clinton, Knox, and others, and even over Pinckney, one of his own triumvirate, the most restless, impatient, artful, indefatigable and unprincipled intriguer in the United States, if not in the world, to be second in command under himself, and now dreaded an intriguer in a poor brigadier! He did, however, propose it to the triumvirate, at least to Hamilton. But I was not permitted to nominate Burr. If I had been, what would have been the consequence? Shall I say, that Hamilton would have been now alive, and Hamilton and Burr now at the head of our affairs? What then? If I had nominated Burr without the consent of the triumvirate, a negative in Senate was certain. Burr to this day knows nothing of this. But what followed? A volume would be necessary to explain the consequences. A few hints must suffice. Hamilton made a journey to Boston, to Providence, &c., to persuade the people and their legislatures, but without success, to throw away some of their votes, that Adams might not have the unanimous vote of New England; consequently that Pinckney might be brought in as President and Adams as Vice-President. Washington was dead, and the Cincinnati were assembled at New York to choose Hamilton for their new President. Whether he publicly opened his project to the whole assembly of the Cincinnati or not, I will not say; but of this I have such proof that I cannot doubt, namely, that he broached it privately to such members as he could trust; for the learned and pious Doctors Dwight and Badcock, who having been chaplains in the army, were then attending as two reverend knights of the order, with their blue ribbons and bright eagles at their sable buttonholes, were heard to say repeatedly in the room where the society met, “we must sacrifice Adams,” “we must sacrifice Adams.” Of this fact I have such evidence that I should dare to appeal, if it were worth while, to the only survivor, Dr. Dwight, of New Haven University.
About the same time, walking in the streets of Philadelphia, I met, on the opposite sidewalk, Colonel Joseph Lyman, of Springfield, one of the most amiable men in Congress, and one of the most candid men in the world. As soon as he saw me, he crossed over to my side of the street, and said, “Sir, I cross over to tell you some news.” “Aye! what news? I hope it is good.” “Hamilton has divided the federalists, and proposed to them to give you the go-by and bring in Pinckney. By this step he has divided the federalists, and given great offence to the honestest part of them. I am glad of it, for it will be the ruin of his faction.” My answer was, “Colonel Lyman, it will be, as you say, the ruin of his faction; but it will also be the ruin of honester men than any of them.” And with these words I marched on, and left him to march the other way. I was soon afterwards informed by personal witnesses and private letters, that Hamilton had assembled a meeting of the citizens and made an elaborate harangue to them. He spoke of the President, John Adams, with respect! But with what respect, I leave you, Sir, to conjecture. Hamilton soon after called another more secret caucus to prepare a list of representatives for the city of New York, in their State legislature, who were to choose electors of President and Vice-President. He fixed upon a list of his own friends, people of little weight or consideration in the city or the country. Burr, who had friends in all circles, had a copy of this list brought to him immediately. He read it over, with great gravity folded it up, put it in his pocket, and, without uttering another word said, “Now I have him all hollow;” but immediately went to Governor Clinton, General Gates, Chancellor Livingston, &c., &c., stirred them all up, and persuaded the Governor and the General to stand candidates, with a list of the most respectable citizens, to represent the city in the legislature. Burr’s list was chosen, as common sense must have foreseen, by a great majority, went to Albany, and chose electors, who voted unanimously for Mr. Jefferson, though New York at all antecedent elections voted unanimously for Adams. Thus ignorant of the character of this nation, of Pennsylvania, and of his own city and State of New York, was Alexander Hamilton! And how could it be otherwise? Born in Nevis, educated in Scotland, spending a short time at Columbia College, and then as aid-de-camp in the army, depending wholly on the Cincinnati, the old English tory interest in New York, Philadelphia, and Boston,—had such a faction, with such a leader at their head, influence or power to support a war against France? The very supposition is ridiculous. Especially when France had cried Peccavi; when France had renounced all her claims and demands of tribute; when France had abandoned all demands of apologies from me, for certain free expressions in my speeches to Congress and answers to addresses; when France, by an authentic act of her sovereign authority, authentically certified to me through several channels, had solemnly pledged herself to receive my ambassadors in their highest character. The rage of the Hamilton faction upon that occasion appeared to me then, and has appeared ever since, an absolute delirium.
I thank you, Sir, for your kind note of the 13th. Madam Breck and Mrs. Lloyd will confer an obligation on Mrs. and Mr. Adams, whenever they can find it convenient to make a visit to Quincy, and Mr. Lloyd’s company with them will enhance the favor.
It is not my design nor desire to excite you to a controversy. Be assured, I considered what you said of me, exactly as you intended it, and that in a very friendly light. My wish is equally friendly to give you information of some facts, of which, from your age, I presume you were not aware.