The earliest presidential endorsed paycheck we can recall reaching the market by almost a century .
Adams was a noted lawyer. He studied law after graduating from Harvard, and in 1790 was admitted to the bar and set up a law practice in Boston. In 1793 war broke out in Europe and President Washington declared American neutrality. Adams wrote articles defending that neutrality policy, and they were done...
Adams was a noted lawyer. He studied law after graduating from Harvard, and in 1790 was admitted to the bar and set up a law practice in Boston. In 1793 war broke out in Europe and President Washington declared American neutrality. Adams wrote articles defending that neutrality policy, and they were done so ably that in 1794 Washington appointed him U.S. minister to the Netherlands. In 1801 he returned to the U.S. and reopened his law practice; in 1808 he was called before the U.S. Supreme Court to argue his first case there. President Madison appointed Adams ambassador to Russia, thus returning him to diplomatic service. His legal talents were again brought into use when Madison called on him to negotiate the Treaty of Ghent, which ended the War of 1812. President Monroe made him Secretary of State, and in that capacity he played a key role in formulating the Monroe Doctrine, which was very carefully drawn to comply with the Law of Nations and avoid legal challenges.
Just two years after his presidency ended, Adams was sent to Washington as a representative to Congress, the only former president to return to the seat of power as a participant. There he was the conscience of America, opposing slavery at every turn. His legal arguments forced the overturn of the infamous gag rule which kept discussion of petitions protesting slavery from the halls of the House. He persuaded Congress that it had the Constitutional right to accept the bequest to found the Smithsonian Institution, something nearly turned down by those who felt it lacked the power to take and use the money. Adams also became renowned for his part in the Amistad case, which resulted from the rebellion of Africans on board the Spanish schooner Amistad in 1839. The questions to be decided related to whether the Africans were legally held as slaves in the first place, and whether to extradite them to Cuba into slavery or free them. A mixture of international issues and parties, as well as United States law, were involved. Adams's argument before the U.S. Supreme Court extended over two days and lasted seven hours, and centered on what he considered to be the cornerstone of Anglo-American rights and liberties – the principle of habeas corpus. Though slaveholders and their sympathizers constituted a majority of the Court, Adams’s arguments were so moving and telling that he won the case.
Adams took the oath of office as President on March 4, 1825. Until the presidency of Millard Fillmore, whose request for congressional funding spurred a change, there was no White House library. Presidents who were avid readers and collectors usually brought their own books to the White House, or purchased them while in office. Adams had a voracious appetite for and preoccupation with books; as he himself wrote, “I was always…addicted to books beyond…bounds of moderation.” And he was well known for using his salary to purchase books. So it is not surprising that having just arrived in the President’s chair, one of his earliest acts was to purchase a library of books that he thought would be useful to him in performing his duties.
The Philadelphia firm of R.H. Small was one of the nation’s foremost publishers of law books. At the time of Adams’s inauguration, these included treatises on The Constitution and Laws of the Federal Government of the United States, Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Common Law, Montesquieu’s Spirit of the Laws, the Doctrine of Contracts, the Law of Nations (with an important treatment of neutral shipping rights), Maritime Law (and captures and prizes), and scores of other publications. Adams placed an order with the Small firm in April with a total price of $400.15. Since the books cost just a few dollars each back then, he’d likely purchased something over 100 books. And in keeping with past practice, he paid for the books with his salary, this time his salary as President.
Document Signed, Check #3531 drawn on the Office of Discount & Deposit, Bank of the United States, Washington, May 12th, 1825, payable to “the order of The Hon. J.Q. Adams,” for $400.15. It is signed by Adams on the verso, with his endorsement of the check over to R. H. Small. Robert Small also signed the check, beneath Adams's endorsement. The President, who would have been paid monthly, had a salary at that time of $25,000; his monthly government check or checks would have totaled about $2,000. Here he has apparently had the Bank of the United States issue a check he could directly endorse over to Small for a portion of his salary.
This is the only paycheck of a sitting President that we have seen reach the market prior to Woodrow Wilson. That it was used to create a White House library is extraordinary.
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