In a Document Signed By Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, J.Q. Adams Says American Law Is No Longer Burdened by Antiquated British Legal Precedents, Which Have Been “Obliterated”

A Free Frank of John Adams is on the verso of this warm personal letter to his brother .

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On the verge of commencing his elective political career, JQA reports John and Abigail “are well”, and that the law suits him: “I have succeeded in filling my whole time with employment that I find none for fretting, and never in my whole life felt more ease and contentment.”

At fourteen Adams...

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In a Document Signed By Both John Adams and John Quincy Adams, J.Q. Adams Says American Law Is No Longer Burdened by Antiquated British Legal Precedents, Which Have Been “Obliterated”

A Free Frank of John Adams is on the verso of this warm personal letter to his brother .

On the verge of commencing his elective political career, JQA reports John and Abigail “are well”, and that the law suits him: “I have succeeded in filling my whole time with employment that I find none for fretting, and never in my whole life felt more ease and contentment.”

At fourteen Adams became private secretary to Francis Dana, the U.S. Minister to Russia; Adams also served as secretary to his father during the negotiations of the Treaty of Paris that ended the Revolution in 1783. In 1787 the twenty year-old Adams graduated from Harvard College. After studying law, he gained admission to the bar in 1790 and began practicing law in Boston. Adams’ unsurpassed diplomatic career addressed the major foreign policy challenges of his time. President George Washington appointed him U.S. Minister to the Netherlands in 1794. After serving three years in the Netherlands, Adams became U.S. Minister to Prussia from 1797 to 1801, appointed this time by his father. At the end of this service he returned home, arriving in September 1801; he resumed his law practice in December.

An extremely rare item with the signatures of both John and John Quincy Adams

Manuscript free frank “J. Adams”, on the verso of an Autograph letter signed of John Quincy Adams, Quincy, Mass., January 25, 1802, to his brother Thomas Boylston Adams, telling that things with their parents are fine, reporting news, and saying that his law practice is keeping him busy but is not too taxing. “I have kept the within letter until this time, for the sake of bringing it out here, and now find little or nothing to say in addition excepting that our parents and friends here are well. Boylston Adams was married last week – And by the way, speaking of marriages, by the natural transition from cause to affect I may tell you that our friend Quincy has a son – born about ten days ago. By way of encouragement to you and to confirm and establish your tottering virtue of patience I shall add that after a month experience in my office, I find no interruption whatsoever of my learned leisure, no perplexing calls for the obliterated black letter lore. N’importe. I have succeeded in filling my whole time with employment that I find none for fretting, and never in my whole life felt more ease and contentment.  N.B. Please to call upon Mr. Ustick, N.79. North 3rd, extract and pay for him for a sett of Mosheim’s Ecclesiastical History which he sent your father – Let me know the amount and charge it to my account. J.Q.A.”  The letter is addressed in John Quincy’s’ hand to his brother in Philadelphia, and is docketed by the latter. The postmark reads ”Boston Jan 27″ with a “Free” handstamp. The Boylston Adams mentioned was a cousin.

The term “black letter lore” relates to old legal usages under the British. As Edward Everett later defined it, abandoning black letter lore meant “no more musty parchments to be unrolled; no more American privileges to be spelled out of Norman French”. The background to this is that after independence, there was a great controversy in the legal community as to whether British common law still applied, and precedents set in British courts maintained legal validity. As this letter indicates, Adams found reliance on old British precedents “perplexing”, but was finding that obedience to them had been “obliterated”.

Adams’s content with his legal practice did not last long, as in April, less than three months later, he sought and was elected to his first elective office: a member of the Massachusetts State Senate.

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