Our Collection

At the Institute’s core is the Gilder Lehrman Collection, one of the great archives in American history. More than 70,000 items cover five hundred years of American history, from Columbus’s 1493 letter describing the New World to soldiers’ letters from World War II and Vietnam. Explore primary sources, visit exhibitions in person or online, or bring your class on a field trip.

Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) to Henry Clay

High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also request a pdf of the image from us here.

Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00104 Author/Creator: Adams, John Quincy (1767-1848) Place Written: Quincy, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 31 August 1827 Pagination: 1 p. : docket ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: President Adams, writing to Secretary of State Clay, defends Joel R. Poinsett, the American ambassador to Mexico, against accusations of Masonism. Describes Congress' accusations as "vague, indefinite and sustained by no better evidence than morbid suspicions." Rejects calls to recall Poinsett.

Full Transcript: Henry Clay - Secretary of State
Quincy 31 August 1827.
Dear Sir,
Your Letter of the 23d. inst. has been received - with copies of the Letter of 29 June from Mr. Brown, ...and of the private Letter of 16 July from Mr. W. Taylor - The translation of the Manifesto of the Congress of Vera Cruz, and the Exposition of Mr. Poinsett - as also the translated article from the newspaper.
I have considered with great attention your observations with regard to the expediency of immediately recalling Mr. Poinsett; and have thought it best to postpone my final determination, till my return to Washington - The Manifesto of the Congress has further increased my repugnance, to acting so decisively against Mr. Poinsett, at this stage of the controversy - The charges of the Congress are vague, indefinite and sustained by no better evidence than morbid suspicions. The only fact alleged specifically against him, he very distinctly denies and although I regret, that he should have established any, special relations between himself and a Society in which the mysteries of the Masonic fraternity were connected with political movements, yet there appears nothing in his conduct leading to doubt of the integrity integrity of his intentions, and he declares that he withdrew from the Meetings of the society immediately on finding that they were assuming a political complexion. To recall him now would seem not only to sacrifice him to the unfounded jealousies of the Congress, but to sanction their unjust complaints and as they themselves indicate an excess of patriotic zeal, as the supposed cause of his proceedings it would appear harsh treatment of him by his own government to take part against him by a recall which could not be altogether divested of the aspect of censure. These sentiments shall however be fully reconsidered when we meet:
With high and undeviating regard and esteem, I remain faithfully yours
J. Q. Adams

[Docket:] 1827
J. Q. Adams P.h.S.
16. 14th Bundle
See More

People: Adams, John Quincy, 1767-1848
Clay, Henry, 1777-1852
Poinsett, Joel Roberts, 1779-1851

Historical Era: National Expansion and Reform, 1815-1860

Subjects: MasonsPresidentCongressCorruption and ScandalLatin and South AmericaGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGovernment and CivicsGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyPolitics

Sub Era: The First Age of Reform

Order a Copy Citation Guidelines for Online Resources