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Knox, Henry (1750-1806) to John Adams

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC02437.06936 Author/Creator: Knox, Henry (1750-1806) Place Written: Boston, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 19 March 1797 Pagination: 6 p. : docket ; 30.5 x 18.4 cm.

Writes that he does not know if he ought to congratulate Adams on becoming the next president, since there are also a lot of issues and heavy responsibilities that come with the office, but expresses his happiness that Adams will be "at the helm of Government." Discusses Adams' inaugural speech and an impending war with France.

Boston March 19, 1797

My dear Sir
I experience a reluctance in addressing you lest I should absorb a certain portion of your name what ought to be used for more important purposes - I doubt whether I ought to congratulate you, on your being elevated to the chief magistray [sic] of the United States. - for it is questionable whether there are not more thorns than roses in the situation - But [illegible] felicitate my Country, on having you at the helm of Government - and in doing this I feel the [operation?] of a certain selfishness, that our maker [illegible] inseparably interwoven our [illegible] - I feel a confidence in the safety our political [part?] - The elevation was justly of one and had any other person been [2] chosen the majority of electors in my poor opinion would either have been ignorant of your character or unworthy of the confidence reposed in them
Your speech on the day of ye inauguration appears to have given general satisfaction. The part [relatively?] to France is peculiarly pleasing, as [thereon?] hopes are entertained think you may devise some decisive and prompt expedient to prevent that rash people from pushing us to extremities - a little further and every principle of attachment in this Country will be uprooted forever, and the public mind prepared, to embrace the first opportunity of being avenged for the [unproved?] outrages we are suffering -
Whether this crisis can be avoided, is with the little information I possess entirely uncertain - But it appears highly proper that what would offend every hope expedient [3] should be tried[.] If after every effort nothing shall be found to be effective the American people would meet with fortitude an event that could not by their chief magistrates be averted or confronted - Among the expedients that have presented themselves to my mind, the one I am about to mention, only seems to promise [illegible], and I freely confess I should entertain considerable hopes from [them?] I pretended it with respectful [difidence?] as a suggestion, what may perhaps not before have been entertained by you -
Let Mr Jefferson be sent to France as soon as possible as envoy extraordinary to make those explaniations, of our situations and disposition towards france which can be done consistently with the perfect truth, and what [illegible] told in the language of friendship & [illegible] would probably be acceptable - Their pride will be gratified by the mission of the Vice President of the [4] United States … and the high estimation he is held in by the [friends?] of the french revolution, would effect all the reconciliation that could possibly be effected by any measure whatever - And if the mission should be unsuccessful, his report upon his return, would unite and brace the public mind to those exertions which the case might require - In either event the Glory of the wisdom of the measure would rebound to [the] President of the US who would be considered, as having done all that was possible to serve the interests of [the] Country. The measure, would be acceptable to the great majority of the [federals?] who wish peace with all the world - The party in his country whose zeal for france has been greater than their love for the US, would be delighted with the event - for excepting some renegade foreigners [5] of that party, It cannot be suppressed, that many native Americans would wish to pledge their country in a war.
It may perhaps be suggested that Genl Pinckneys pride should be part of the [illegible] I should believe the contrary - On so momentous a crisis It would be natural for him to desire the countenance of so dignified a person as the Vice President of the US who is well known and regarded in France
It may perhaps be suggested further that the [dignity?] of the US, might be offended in the measure infinitely so important a character in the Government on such a mission. But this objection cannot be a sound one as the chief Justice who may be ranked as the [illegible] men in the government was employed in a similar Measure[.] But the dignity of the character is unimportant [illegible] in the mission - I entertain [6] so good an opinion of Mr Jeffersons patriotism as to believe that on this occasion he would not hesitate, much less refuse the offer.
The motive which has [illegible] this suggestion, is as pure, as respectful to you. I know not the reasons which might be argued against its adoption. But there may exist just and insuperable objections with which I am unacquainted - Every political measure is susceptible of [numerous?] views and it is the duty of all good Citizens, to repose themselves with confidence under the protection of their government - No person has this confidence in a greater degree than I have in the present in france and there is no one who wishes more sincerely that your administration may be prosperous to your Country and glorious to yourself
I am my Dear sir
with perfect respect and
Attachment Your humble
John Adams,
The President of
the US
To John Adams -
President of the
United States
19 March 1797 -

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