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President John Quincy Adams’ Remarks & Toast Commemorating William Penn’s Landing
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The Land of William Penn, and his ‘Great Town,’ the City of brotherly Love.”

In these brief remarks at Masonic Hall in Philadelphia in October 1825, President Adams proposed the above toast at the second annual meeting of the Penn Society and the 143rd anniversary of William Penn’s landing in America.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS. Autograph Manuscript, Remarks and Toast to Penn Society, October 25, 1825, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 1 pp., 8 x 9¼ in.

Inventory #27469       Price: $6,800

Complete Transcript

           I pray you to accept my thanks for the pleasure I have enjoyed, in witnessing the celebration, and partaking in the festivity of this day. And for the notice with which you have just honoured me; rendered doubly dear to me by the revolutionary lips from which it proceeded, and for the flattering Sentiments by which it was accompanied.
            I will not trespass upon your time; nor encroach upon topics fresh in your minds from the touches of a master’s hand, in the discourse which we have this day heard; but content myself with proposing to you for a toast
            ‘The Land of William Penn, and his ‘Great Town,’ the City of brotherly Love.’

Historical Background
In 1824, during a period of heightened reflection on history and national character as the 50th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence approached, Peter S. Duponceau and others met to organize the Society for the Commemoration of the Landing of William Penn. Better known as the Penn Society. That same year, General Lafayette’s visit to Philadelphia also revived memories of the Revolutionary War generation, and many of the Society’s founders were also instrumental in establishing the Historical Society of Pennsylvania.

On Monday, October 24, 1825, President John Quincy Adams attended two events hosted by the Society. At the University of Pennsylvania, former and future Congressman Charles Jared Ingersoll delivered an address before President John Quincy Adams, the Duke of Saxe-Weimar, the Judges of the Circuit Court, and “several strangers of celebrity, and a crowd of citizens eminent in the various professions.”[1] Following that, the Penn Society hosted a dinner at the Masonic Hall (now the Masonic Library and Museum of Philadelphia, where President Adams gave this toast.[2]

A year after this document, controversy involving the Masons caused JQA to become an opponent. While a significant number of Founding Fathers were Freemasons, as politics grew increasingly democratic in the Age of Jackson, many rural Americans believed Masons represented urban arrogance, and that their secrecy and rituals posed a threat to Republican democracy. An anti-Masonic movement began in upstate New York with the help of a major scandal: William Morgan, a former Mason, promised to expose the inner workings of the secret society, but he mysteriously disappeared before his pamphlet could be published. Morgan’s disappearance and presumed murder has never been solved. Within a few years, the movement spread through Pennsylvania, New England, and the Mid-Atlantic States, eventually reaching into the Northwest Territory. Anti-Masonic Party members were even elected officials to Congress in some states. It was America’s first third party, and was instrumental in elevating the careers of such luminaries as William H. Seward, William Lloyd Garrison, and Thaddeus Stevens. By 1836, the Anti-Masonic movement had been absorbed into the Whig Party.

In an 1833 letter, JQ Adams differentiates between Masons who took their oath before or after Morgan’s murder. If before, “Most of them took the Oaths without reflecting upon what they imported, or sheltering their consciences under the great names which had gone before them. They were always taken by surprize, Summoned to take the Oath without knowing what it was. [But after,]Now the case is otherwise. How they can now take or administer the cutthroat Oath to keep Secret, what all the world knows, I cannot comprehend.”  John Quincy Adams ALS to Stephen Bates, April 1, 1833

John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), sixth president of the United States (1825-1829), and the son of John Adams. He studied at Harvard and was admitted to the bar in 1790. Having been educated partly in Europe while his father held various diplomatic posts in the 1780s, John Quincy Adams served successively as minister to The Netherlands, Portugal, Prussia, Russia, and Britain. He began his career as a moderate Federalist but switched to the Jeffersonian Republican Party around the year 1807. He helped negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, ending the War of 1812 and was a brilliant Secretary of State (1817-1825), taking the lead role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine. He won the election of 1824, which was decided in the House of Representatives because no candidate won a majority in the Electoral College. Adams’s “deal” with House Speaker Henry Clay, whom he named Secretary of State, helped spark the formation of an opposition party around Andrew Jackson. John Quincy Adams served one largely frustrating term as president and lost in the election of 1828 to Andrew Jackson. Surprising most observers, Adams stood for election to the House of Representatives in 1831 and served seventeen memorable years, becoming a bulwark for civil liberties and a voice in the emerging anti-slavery movement. He defended the Amistad slaves before the Supreme Court in 1841 and died of a stroke on the floor of the House in 1848.

Condition: Old folds; mat burns along margins; left edge reinforced; remnants from an old mount on verso of integral leaf. JQA’s writing is bold and legible.

Additional source: Laura Turner Igoe, “The Opulent City and the Sylvan State: Art and Environmental Embodiment in Early National Philadelphia,” Ph.D. dissertation, Temple University, 2014.

[1]National Gazette and Literary Register (Philadelphia, PA), October 27, 1825, 1:1. See C. J. Ingersoll, A Discourse Delivered Before the Society for the Commemoration of the Landing of William Penn(Philadelphia: R. H. Small, 1825).

[2]“Commemoration of the Landing of William Penn,” Poulson’s American Daily Advertiser (Philadelphia, PA), October 29, 1825, 2:1-3.

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