PRESIDENT JOHN ADAMS
IN THE WAKE OF THE “X,Y,Z AFFAIR” ADDRESSES THE CITIZENS OF HAMILTON, MASSACHUSETTS:
“DURING MY ADMINISTRATION; THE ZEAL TO CONVINCE THE WORLD, THAT WE ARE NOT A DIVIDED PEOPLE; THEIR OFFER OF THEIR PROPERTY AND LIVES, TO SUPPORT THE HARD-EARNED LIBERTY OF THEIR COUNTRY; AND THEIR CONFIDENCE UNDER HEAVEN, THAT WE SHALL BE ABLE TO WITHSTAND THE MOST POWERFUL EFFORTS, AND MACHINATIONS OF FOREIGN OR DOMESTIC ENEMIES”
ADAMS, JOHN. (1735-1826). Second President of the United States, Signer of Declaration of Independence. Exceedingly choice Manuscript Letter boldly Signed, “John Adams”, as President, just days after making the details of the ‘X,Y,Z Affair’ known to Congress. One full page, small quarto. Philadelphia, May 19, 1798. To: ‘The Inhabitants of: The Town of Hamilton in the State of Massachusetts”. [Research shows letter was possibly sent via/care of the Reverend Doctor Manasseth Cutler, Hamilton, Mass] . Adams writes:
“Gentlemen, The affectionate address from the Inhabitants of Hamilton; their opinion of the patriotism, and Virtue of the Supreme Executive authority of the Union, from the beginnings of the Government; the decided approbation of the Measures Taken, during my administration; the Zeal to convince the World, that we are not a divided people; their offer of their property and Lives, to support the hard-earned Liberty of their Country; and their confidence under Heaven, that we shall be able to withstand the most powerful efforts, and machinations of foreign or Domestic Enemies, are as honorable to their public Spirit, as their earnest prayers for me, are affecting to my feelings, and deserving of my Gratitude. John Adams”.
The importance of this letter is fairly self-evident and is a clear indication of Adams’ passionate position taken by him in response to what has become known as “the X,Y,Z Affair”.
The French and English were at war. The ‘Jay Treaty’ of 1795 had polarized American political factions, with Hamilton and the Federalists supporting Britain, and Jefferson along with the Democratic-Republicans supporting France. Adams, in his hope to maintain friendly relations with France, sent a delegation to Paris, consisting of John Marshall, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney and Elbridge Gerry. Our envoys were kept waiting for days, and only granted a 15-minute meeting with French Foreign Minister Talleyrand. After this, the diplomats were met by three of Talleyrand’s agents. The men were: Jean Hottinguer (later X), Pierre Bellamy (later Y), and Lucien Hauteval (later Z), and they refused to open diplomatic negotiations unless the United States paid enormous bribes. The Americans refused to negotiate on such terms, with Marshall and Pinckney returning home in protest, while Gerry remained in France.
President Adams informed Congress of the “XYZ Affair” in April 1798. The reaction in America was total outrage. Members of both the Federalist and Republican political parties joined together in indignation. “Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute,” was the cry of the day in response to the “XYZ Affair”. This also sparked what was to become the “Quasi War” with France, fought entirely at sea, from July 1798, until the signing of the Treaty of Mortefontaine on September 30, 1800.
Simply a superb Presidential Adams letter, filled with patriotic zeal and passion which wonderfully documents this important episode in American history.