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John Adams thanks a prominent historian for the copy of two volumes of Naval History of the United States from the Commencement of the Revolutionary War. Written during the last year of the War of 1812, Clark’s book remains as one of the greatest texts of American naval prowess. JOHN ADAMS.
Autograph Letter Signed “John Adams”
to Thomas Clark. Quincy, [Mass.], January 25, 1814, 1p. 8 x 9¾ in.
Quincy Jan 25, 1814
I thank you for your polite and obliging Letter of the 17th, and for the Copy in two volumes of The Naval History of the United States, and for several Copies of your Proposals for publishing A History of U.S.
The Plan is ample and judicious, and I wish you every Encouragement in the execution of it.
Mr. Trumbull of Connecticutt [sic] has published a general History of this Country. I have not Seen it since it was printed. It is probably familiar to you. I am so ill at present that I cannot enlarge.
Your Proposals shall be distributed to the best of my Judgment. I have given one to the modest Gentleman who would not allow his name to appear, and told him at the same time,
Contemptu Famae, Fama Augetur. Farewell
Thomas Clark Esquire/ No. 37 South Second Street /Philadelphia.
Adams’ closing can be roughly translated: “contempt of fame increases notoriety.” It draws upon a favorite quote by Tacitus, “Contemptu Famae, contemni Virutem,” which Adams translated in an early diary as “Contempt of Fame generally begets or accompanies a Contempt of Virtue.”
John Adams writes to naval historian Thomas Clark and suggests Adams’ renowned stature as “Father of the American Navy.” During the Revolution, when the Continental Congress hoped that a small naval force could help offset the uncontested exercise of British sea power, Adams championed the founding legislation that called for fitting out armed vessels for national service, as well as the creation of a Marine Committee to oversee naval affairs. Before year’s end, again in large part due to Adams’ lobbying, Congress authorized the construction of a fleet. It was Adams who drafted the first set of rules and regulations for the new navy, a point of pride with him for as long as he lived. In addition, Adams rigorously studied naval armaments and strategy. He would call his “work on the naval committee the pleasantest part of his labors... In the advocacy of sea defenses he stood second to none.”
John Adams (1735-1826), a lawyer and early supporter of the independence movement, defended the British soldiers accused of the Boston Massacre. In the Continental Congress, he helped Jefferson and Franklin draft the Declaration of Independence, which he signed. As Washington’s Vice President, he founded the Federalist Party. Elected President in 1796, his term was marked by events such as the XYZ Affair with France and passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts. In his retirement, he carried on an extensive correspondence, and saw his son, John Quincy Adams, elected as the sixth President.
Thomas Clark served in the War of 1812 as a captain of engineers who employed the defenders of the Delaware River. His Naval History first appeared in 1813. Soon after, Adams wrote Thomas Jefferson, “Have you seen the Naval History by Mr. Clark, published by Mathew Carey at Philadelphia? I wish I had time and Eyes and fingers to write much to you on this Subject.” (Adams, May 29, 1813). Jefferson subsequently wrote Clark with suggestions for an expanded edition. On its publication in January, 1814, Jefferson praised the work for “ensuring to us the preservation of the facts as they occur.” In Clark’s preface to the first edition, he warmly “acknowledged the valuable assistance of John Adams.” In his preface to the 1814 edition, Clark again spoke of Adams, while also regretting that it was only the “want of proper documents, and the hurry of the work” that prevented him from pursuing Jefferson’s suggestions regarding the Tripolitan war. John Adams felt Clark’s book was the decisive factor in persuading the largely agrarian populace to support an American Navy. James Fennimore Cooper used it as the foundation for his “Naval History” in 1839.
Typical folds, text and signature bold and dark, minor expert archival restoration to edges, small bit of expert archival tissue repair to verso, none affecting text or signatures, overall very good to fine condition.
The Text of Clark’s letter to Adams follows:
To John Adams from Thomas Clark, 17 January 1814
Philadelphia January 17th 1814
I have taken the liberty to forward to you a Copy of the Naval history of the U.S. Your kindness & zealous exertions have excited in me a sincere gratitude. Of our naval history, as well as of our naval establishment, you have been the first patron, & most active promoter.
Enclosed are some of the proposals for the publication of my long contemplated history of the United States. Your patronage is earnestly solicited. The work is on a more extensive & enlarged plan than any that has yet been offered to the public on the history of our contry. Something of the kind is much wanted.
The prospectus will explain the plan of the work. In collecting materials all the printed histories & documents relative to our country have been examined. The records & papers in the offices of the General & States’ Governments will all be consulted: & one of the principal objects, in distributing these proposals, is the collection of information. Any Communications from you will be thankfully received.
The first volume, containing an account of the aborigines of America, & the history of the first period, will immediately be put to press.
I am desirous of knowing your opinion on the plan of the work; &, whether if properly executed, it would not be attended with beneficial effects, by diverting the studies of our countrymen from foreign history to our own.
I am Sir with great respect & / esteem your most humble & obedient Servnt
My address is No 37 South Second Street Philadelphia.