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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

John Adams’s Monarchical Ideas

By Mercy Otis Warren (1728–1814)

[Correspondence of John Adams and Mercy Warren. 1878.]

SIR:—,…. You complain that I have asserted that a partiality for monarchy appeared in your conduct. This fact you deny, and entreat me to bring forward the evidences which I suppose will warrant the assertion. The assertion was not founded on vague rumor, nor was it the result of any scattered and dubious expressions through your Defence of the American Constitutions that might warrant such a suspicion, but from my own judgment and observation soon after your return from Europe in the year 1788. There certainly was then an observable alteration in your whole deportment and conversation. Many of your best friends saw, felt, and regretted it. If time has not weakened your memory you will recollect many instances of yourself. I will remind you of a few. Do you not remember an interview at Cambridge soon after your return from England, when his lady and myself met you walking up to Mr. Gerry’s? We stopped the carriage, and informed you that Mrs. Gerry and myself were engaged to take tea with Madam Winthrop. You returned and took tea with us at the house of that excellent lady. You will remember that Mr. Gerry’s carriage was sent for me in the edge of the evening. You took a seat with me, and returned to Mr. Gerry’s. Do you not recollect, sir, that in the course of conversation on the way you replied thus to something that I had observed?—“It does not signify, Mrs. Warren, to talk much of the virtue of Americans. We are like all other people, and shall do like other nations, where all well-regulated governments are monarchic.” I well remember my own reply, “That a limited monarchy might be the best government, but that it would be long before Americans would be reconciled to the idea of a king.” Do you not recollect that, a very short time after this, Mr. Warren and myself made you a visit at Braintree? The previous conversation, in the evening, I do not so distinctly remember; but in the morning, at breakfast at your own table, the conversation on the subject of monarchy was resumed. Your ideas appeared to be favorable to monarchy, and to an order of nobility in your own country. Mr. Warren replied, “I am thankful that I am a plebeian.” You answered: “No, sir, you are one of the nobles. There has been a national aristocracy here ever since the country was settled,—your family at Plymouth, Mrs. Warren’s at Barnstable, and many others in very many places that have kept up a distinction similar to nobility.” This conversation subsided by a little mirth. Do you not remember that, after breakfast, you and Mr. Warren stood up by the window, and conversed on the situation of the country, on the Southern States, and some principal characters there? You, with a degree of passion, exclaimed, “They must have a master;” and added, by a stamp with your foot, “By God, they shall have a master.” In the course of the same evening you observed that you “wished to see a monarchy in this country and an hereditary one too.” To this you say I replied as quick as lightning, “And so do I too.” If I did, which I do not remember, it must have been with some additional stroke which rendered it a sarcasm. You added with a considerable degree of emotion that you hated frequent elections, that they were the ruin of the morals of the people, that when a youth you had seen more iniquity practised at a town meeting for the purpose of electing officers, than you had ever seen in any of the courts in Europe.

These conversations were not disseminated by me,—we were too much hurt by the apparent change of sentiment and manner; they were concealed in our own bosoms until time should develop the result of such a change in such a man. Is not the above sufficient to warrant everything that I have said relative to your monarchic opinions? Had you recollected the conversations alluded to above, you would not have asserted on your faith and honor that every sentiment in a paragraph you refer to is “totally unfounded.” On your return from Europe it was generally thought that you looked coldly on your Republican friends and their families, and that you united yourself with the party in Congress who were favorers of monarchy; that the old Tories, denominating themselves Federalists, gathered round you. And did not your administration while in the presidential chair evince that you had no aversion to the usages of monarchic governments? Sedition, stamp, and alien laws, a standing army, house and land taxes, and loans of money at an enormous interest, were alarming symptoms in the American Republic. Your removal from the chair by the free suffrages of a majority of the people of the United States sufficiently evinces that I was not mistaken when I asserted that “a large portion” of the inhabitants of America from New Hampshire to Georgia viewed your political opinions in the same point of light in which I have exhibited them, and considered their liberties in imminent danger, without an immediate change of the Chief Magistrate. However, I never supposed that you had a wish to submit again to the monarchy of Great Britain, or to become subjugated to any foreign sovereign. An American monarchy with an American character at its head would, doubtless, have been more pleasing to yourself. The veracity of an historian is his strongest base; and I am sure I have recorded nothing but what I thought I had the highest reason to believe. If I have been mistaken I shall be forgiven; and, if there are errors, they will be candidly viewed by liberal-minded and generous readers.

PLYMOUTH, MASS., 28 July, 1807.