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Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to editor of Quincy Patriot

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03707 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Quincy Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 September 1838 Pagination: 4 p. ; 20 x 16.1 cm.

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC03707 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Quincy Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 September 1838 Pagination: 4 p. ; 20 x 16.1 cm.

Summary of Content: Written as Member of Congress. A report to his constituents regarding petitions made concerning the right to petition and its suppression through the Gag Rule, abolishing slavery in the District of Columbia and the slave trade in the US, his opposition to the admission of Texas, a condemnation of the "fraudulent" Treaty of New Echota which removed the Cherokee Indians and a bill for suppressing duelling between representatives. Pages are stained.

Background Information: In 1837, Adams began to send reports on Congressional affairs to a local newspaper, the Quincy Patriot. In this letter, he refers to a duel in which a pro-slavery Kentucky member ...of Congress, William Graves (1805-1848), killed a Maine Representative, Jonathan Cilley (1802-1838). After the incident took place--the two men stood a hundred yards apart and shot at each other four times with rifles--Adams persuaded Congress to pass a law outlawing dueling in the District of Columbia.See More

Full Transcript: To the Editor of the Quincy Patriot
Quincy 21. September 1838. Sir,
At the Second Session of the 24th and the First and Second sessions of the 25th or present Congress great ...numbers of Petitions Memorials and Remonstrances, addressed to the House of Representatives of the United States, were committed to my charge, from Citizens of other Districts in The Commonwealth and from other States of the Union besides those directed to me as the Representative of the 12th Congressional District of Massachusetts….
The great Mass of these Appeals from the constituent to the Representative body have…. the following purport.
1. Praying for the abolition of Slavery, and the traffic in Slaves, within the District of Columbia
2. For the abolition of Slavery and the Slave trade in all the Territories of the United States
3. For the prohibition of the Slave trade between the several States and Territories of the Union
4. Against the admission into this Union of any new State, the Constitution of which recognizes or tolerates the institution of Domestic Slavery
5. Against the admission of Texas into this Union
6. Against the fraudulent Treaty of New-Echota, and imploring Mercy for the perishing remnants of the Indian Tribes
7. Remonstrances to the House of Representatives against the Gag Resolutions of 18. January and 21. December 1837
8. Concerning the fatal duel, and demanding some act of Congress for the suppression of the practice between its members
Of those eight classes of Petitions large numbers were received and presented to the House by me --
Upon the duel, from three to four weeks of the time of the House were consumed in a struggle to turn the whole transaction into a political electioneering Engine, to blacken all the individuals concerned in the Tragedy on one side, and to whitewash those on the other -- A Bill to suppress as far as possible the practice duelling among the members, actually passed the Senate and was referred to the duel Committee in the House -- They did not report it back to the House till it was extorted from them, and never made the slightest effort even to call it up for consideration. It may be taken up at the next session, and feeble and inefficient as it is, would at least have the good effect of bearing the solemn testimony of Congress against a practice congenial only to the moral code of Slavery.
All the other classes of those Petitions were without being read or considered laid on the table. Those relating directly to Slavery or the Slave trade, by the sweeping Resolutions of 18 Jany and 21 Dec. All the rest by separate motions of individual members--To this universal extinction of the Constituent voice, the only exception has been enjoyed by the Petitioners against the admission of Texas, and they only by inadvertance;….or rather only because four State Legislatures of the South, had passed Resolutions, earnestly urging the annexation on the express ground of fortifying the peculiar Institution of the South and strengthening the feeble knees of Slavery -- It was this interposition of State legislatures thirsting for Texas, which burst open the doors of discussion upon the blessings of Slavery, so long and so pertinaciously bolted and barred by Northern labour and Southern capital, against all freedom of debate in the Representative Hall of the American People.
The Petitions, Memorials, Remonstrances and Resolutions of State Legislatures concerning the annexation of Texas to the United States, were referred to the Committee of Foreign Affairs; a Committee, with the exception of two members out of nine which could not have been better suited for [Texian] purposes if in their appointment the Tennessee Speaker had taken the nomination of them from the Tennessee President of Texas….
The Chairman and the Slaveholding portion of the Committee, were as tenacious of the freedom of debate, and as anxious for their right of reply, as the truest believer in the self-evident truths of the Declaration of Independence….
I offered a Resolution to the House requiring … a complete list of all the Petitions … treated at the Last Three Sessions of Congress but the combination of Northern labour and Southern Capital to suppress the right of Petition and the freedom of debate, unwilling to expose to the world the extent of their success, and the blushing honours of their triumph, refused to entertain the motion. Nor can I find it in my heart to blame the tacit confession implied by this refusal that this Catalogue of Petitioners spurned from the doors of a North American Congress, would have [exhibited] us to the amazement of mankind and to the contempt of after ages, the most melancholy document that ever issued from the successors of that band of Patriots, who but three score and two years since, promulgated from the State house in Philadelphia the Declaration of Independence.
John Quincy Adams.

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People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: PresidentCongressGovernment and CivicsPetitionSlaveryAfrican American HistoryAbolitionSlave TradeWashington, D.C.TexasStatehoodAmerican WestTreatyForgery and FraudAmerican Indian HistoryLawDuelWestward ExpansionLand TransactionRefugeesImmigration and Migration

Sub Era: Slavery & Anti-slavery

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