September 21, 2022 11:00 EST

Books and Manuscripts

 
Lot 13
 
Lot 13 - [Americana] Hamilton, Alexander

13

[Americana] Hamilton, Alexander
Letter From Alexander Hamilton, Concerning the Public Conduct and Character of John Adams, Esq. President of the United States

Alexander Hamilton's infamous attack on President John Adams during the election of 1800

"Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate."

New-York: Printed for John Lang, by George F. Hopkins, 1800. First edition. 8vo, 7 9/16 x 4 7/8 in. (192 x 124 mm). 54 pp. Disbound; edges trimmed; heavily worn one-inch circle on verso of title-page where something was seemingly erased; repair in top fore-edge, p. 5/6; scattered foxing to text, mostly in rear; pp. 47-54 starting. Evans 37566; Sabin 29959; Howes H 116; Ford 69; Reese, The Federal Hundred 81; ESTC W6406

First edition of Alexander Hamilton's stinging attack of then-sitting President John Adams during the bitter 1800 presidential election.

By 1800 emerging divisions within the Federalist party risked their chances of victory in the upcoming presidential election. This rift was evident in the animosity between President Adams and former Treasury Secretary Hamilton, as they struggled over the party's direction and blamed the other for the party's increasing internal discord. Hamilton intended this pamphlet to be privately circulated among a few political friends in the hope of swinging the election toward South Carolinian Federalist, and Adams's running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. "His [Hamilton] Letter especially targeted the members of the House who would decide the election in the event of a deadlock between Adams and Pinckney. Written after the fashion of a legal brief, Hamilton's Letter cataloged Adams' unworthiness while it dilated on Pinckney's strengths." (John Ferling, Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, 2004). Somehow a copy of the Letter was acquired by rival Democratic-Republicans and the juiciest and most critical extracts were published in Republican newspapers. The ensuing controversy was an embarrassment to the Federalists and severely damaged Hamilton's reputation. Although the controversy did little to directly affect the outcome of the election (Adams lost after Jefferson and Burr tied in electoral votes), the publication further divided the Federalists and helped set their path toward political irrelevancy in the coming years.

Shortly after the publication of this pamphlet Adams began a lengthy response to Hamilton's claims, but chose not to publish them, and only did so much later, in 1809 in the Boston Patriot. As bibliographer Paul Leicester Ford writes, "This and Adams' reply are probably the plainest talk ever indulged in, in print, between two great statesmen." (Ford, Bibliotecha Hamiltoniana, No. 69)

Increasingly rare. We have only been able to locate six copies of this first edition in available auction records in the last 70 years.

Sold for $8,820
Estimated at $5,000 - $8,000


 

Alexander Hamilton's infamous attack on President John Adams during the election of 1800

"Not denying to Mr. Adams patriotism and integrity, and even talents of a certain kind, I should be deficient in candor, were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the Administration of Government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character, which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate."

New-York: Printed for John Lang, by George F. Hopkins, 1800. First edition. 8vo, 7 9/16 x 4 7/8 in. (192 x 124 mm). 54 pp. Disbound; edges trimmed; heavily worn one-inch circle on verso of title-page where something was seemingly erased; repair in top fore-edge, p. 5/6; scattered foxing to text, mostly in rear; pp. 47-54 starting. Evans 37566; Sabin 29959; Howes H 116; Ford 69; Reese, The Federal Hundred 81; ESTC W6406

First edition of Alexander Hamilton's stinging attack of then-sitting President John Adams during the bitter 1800 presidential election.

By 1800 emerging divisions within the Federalist party risked their chances of victory in the upcoming presidential election. This rift was evident in the animosity between President Adams and former Treasury Secretary Hamilton, as they struggled over the party's direction and blamed the other for the party's increasing internal discord. Hamilton intended this pamphlet to be privately circulated among a few political friends in the hope of swinging the election toward South Carolinian Federalist, and Adams's running mate, Charles Cotesworth Pinckney. "His [Hamilton] Letter especially targeted the members of the House who would decide the election in the event of a deadlock between Adams and Pinckney. Written after the fashion of a legal brief, Hamilton's Letter cataloged Adams' unworthiness while it dilated on Pinckney's strengths." (John Ferling, Adams Vs. Jefferson: The Tumultuous Election of 1800, 2004). Somehow a copy of the Letter was acquired by rival Democratic-Republicans and the juiciest and most critical extracts were published in Republican newspapers. The ensuing controversy was an embarrassment to the Federalists and severely damaged Hamilton's reputation. Although the controversy did little to directly affect the outcome of the election (Adams lost after Jefferson and Burr tied in electoral votes), the publication further divided the Federalists and helped set their path toward political irrelevancy in the coming years.

Shortly after the publication of this pamphlet Adams began a lengthy response to Hamilton's claims, but chose not to publish them, and only did so much later, in 1809 in the Boston Patriot. As bibliographer Paul Leicester Ford writes, "This and Adams' reply are probably the plainest talk ever indulged in, in print, between two great statesmen." (Ford, Bibliotecha Hamiltoniana, No. 69)

Increasingly rare. We have only been able to locate six copies of this first edition in available auction records in the last 70 years.

Images *

Drag and drop .jpg images here to upload, or click here to select images.