One and a half pages, 4to, with integral address panel. Loss where seal removed just touching signature. Item #404244
A very fine letter shedding light on the political conflict arising several months after the Massachusetts ratification of the constitution and the establishment of the so-called “new government.”
Here John Adams asks, or more specifically “begs,” to be taken out of consideration for the position of senator, which appears to have been thrust upon him by Parsons and “other gentlemen.”
From the conversation that passed between you and me when I had the pleasure to see you for a few moment at this place, I am apprehensive that you may think of me for a Senator, as I find that some other gentlemen have done and continue to do.
You know very well how ungracious and odious the non acceptance of an appointment by Election is, and therefore let me beg of you, not to expose me to the necessity of incurring the censure of the public and the obloquy of individuals by so unpopular a measure.
I have long revolved in an anxious mind the Duties of the Man and the Citizen, and without entering into Details at present, the result of all my reflections on the place of a Senator in the New Government is an unchangeable Determination to refuse it.
With much respect and sincere affection, I am dear Sir your most obedient and most humble servant
As related in Parsons’ memoir, Adams expressed “‘some difficulties and doubts respecting parts of the proposed Constitution,’ but, as a member for Boston in his assembly, was by his constituents expected to sustain it” (Memoir, pp. 84-85.) In his letter to Parsons on the senatorial question, Adams clearly reveals a state of ambivalence.
Along with the inner turmoil regarding his political identity and beliefs, Adams also fell into ill physical health. In his journals, he describes sleeplessness, physical weakness, and “irritable nerves” beginning in September of 1788 (Life in a New England Town: Diary of John Quincy Adams, Boston: Little, Brown, 1903, pp. 166-167). His ill health rendered him unable to complete his duties and studies as usual in Boston. “This circumstance with some others,” he writes on October 1, “has determined me to spend some weeks, perhaps some months, at Braintree (Diary of John Quincy Adams, pp. 168).
The discussion of the senatorial question with Parsons would have occurred between October 1 and November 2nd, when the present letter was written. Though his sojourn to Braintree was meant to be restorative, it appears to have caused him further turmoil. There is no explicit mention made in John Adams’ journals from these months about the specific question of senatorship. This may be because, as Adams writes, it would have been viewed “ungracious and odious” not to accept the position.
Reproduced in the "Memoir of Theophilus Parsons", p. 465.