Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to James Brooks
Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05508.001
Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848)
Place Written: Washington, D.C.
Type: Autograph letter signed
Date: 20 January 1842
Pagination: 2 p. + FF 25.4 x 20.2 cm
Summary of Content: Adams comments upon his ”essay” in defense of British actions in China during the Opium War. He maintains that he confined himself ”to the question of right from wrong between the parties, as it stood upon the ransom of Canton.” He bases his judgments on two principles: the equality of men and the love of God and neighbor. Adams alludes to Chinese demands of submission, and contrasts that with the Britons, ”a Christian nation of Freeman” whom he hopes will practice mercy and moderation.
Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860
Full Transcript: James Brooks Esqr., Express Office, New York, Washington 20 Jany. 1842, Dear Sir,, I have received your note of the 17th inst. I have no time now to finish my Essay upon the war between Great Britain and China[.] My Lecture was confined to the question of Right and Wrong between the parties, as it stood at the ransom of Canton. Whether I live to finish it depends upon him under whose eye the principles of my argument were penned -- the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God., The principles are two. , First, all men are born equal and entitled to unalienable rights, among which are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. , Second - thou shall love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy mind, and thy neighbor as thyself., The first of these principles contains the whole Science of Politics. The second the whole Science of Religion. When the gates of Hell shall prevail against them, my lecture shall be answered. Until then an Alexandrian Library of Lectures cannot answer it., Of the conduct and issue of the War, it is not yet time for neutrals to speak with confidence. Perhaps the children of the celestial empire in their superiority to  the rest of mankind may ultimately compel the outside barbarians to become again reverently submissive and tributary to the great emperor of the flowery land to perform the Kotou [Kowtow] with nine knocks of the forehead on the floor to supplicate subalterns by a Pin for the privilege of purchasing and paying for Bohea tea; and to sign bonds that they shall be strangled by their own consent, if they should ever attempt to bring a chest of opium within sight of the celestial empire. Should the Britons, on the other hand, prove themselves as far above their adversaries in the art of war as a Christian nation of Freemen is in the career of human improvement above an atheist nation of slaves, I hope - would I could promise, that the free Christian Warrior will sheath his sword in mercy and in moderation., I am Dear Sir, very respectfully yours,, John Quincy Adams.
Keywords/Subjects: Presidents;, Religion;, Global History and Civics;, Foreign Affairs;, Asia;, Drugs;, Morality and Ethics;, Christianity;
Sub Era: Age of Jackson
Background: Notes: Written shortly after Adam’s famous defense of the British in the Opium War with China. Bohea was the first black tea to came to Britain and thus became a synonym for all teas.
LOC Search Terms: China--History--Opium War, 1840-1842--Theological aspects., Presidents--United States.Order Image