John Adams to John Quincy Adams
Philadelphia May 26. 1794
My dear son.
The Secretary of State called upon me this morning to inform me by order of the President, that it was determined to nominate you to go to Holland as Resident Minister.1 The President desired to know if I thought you would accept. I answered that I had no Authority from you— But it was my Opinion that you would And that it would be my Advice to you, that you should.
The Salary is 4500 Dollars a Year and as much for an Outfit.
Your Knowledge of Dutch and French: Your Education in that Country: your Acquaintance with my old Friends there will give you Advantages, beyond many others.— It will require all your Prudence and all your other Virtues as well as all your Talents.
It will be expected that you come here to See the President & Secretary of State, before you embark. I shall write you as soon as the Nomination is made and advised by Senate. Be Secret. Dont open your Mouth to any human Being on the Subject except your Mother. Go and see with how little Wisdom this World is governed.2
RC (Adams Papers); internal address: “John Quincy Adams Esq.” Tr (Adams Papers).
1. JQA’s nomination as U.S. minister resident to the Netherlands, replacing William Short, had apparently been under discussion well before this time. On the same day as this letter, JA received word from Edmund Randolph: “You will be so good, as to let it be understood between us, that the mention, which some time ago was made to you by me, of the nomination of your son, was purely confidential between us; and that on any occasion, which you may have to speak of the time, when it was first known to you, you will refer to the communication of this day only” (Adams Papers). JQA’s actual appointment was held up for a few days until the Senate could deal with the appointment of Short to Spain; see JA to JQA, 30 May, 2d letter, and note 1, below.
2. On 3 June, upon receiving this letter, JQA commented at length about it in his Diary: “When I returned to my lodgings at the close of the Evening; upon opening a Letter from my father which I had just before taken from the post-office, I found it contained information that Edmund Randolph, Secretary of State of the United States had on the morning of the day, when the Letter was dated called on the writer and told him that the President of the United States had determined to nominate me to go to the Hague as Resident Minister from the United States. This intelligence was to me very unexpected and indeed surprizing. I had laid down as a principle that I never would solicit for any public office whatever, and from this determination no necessity has hitherto compelled me to swerve. From the principles of the same nature which my father has always rigidly observed, I knew that no influence nor even a request of any kind from him could have occasioned this intention of the President. And yet I was very sensible, that neither my years, my experience, my reputation nor my talents could entitle me to an office of so much respectability. It is however of no service to indulge conjecture upon the subject.”
A week later, on 10 June, he met with JA, who by that time had returned to Quincy. JQA wrote in his Diary, “I found that my nomination had been as unexepcted to him [JA] as to myself, and that he had never uttered a word upon which a wish on his part could be presumed, that a public office should be conferred upon me. His opinion upon the subject agrees with my own; but his satisfaction at the appointment is much greater than mine. I wish I could have been consulted before it was irrevocably made. I rather wish it had not been made at-all. My friends on the other hand appear to be very much pleased with it, and seem to consider it as a subject of pure and simple congratulation” (D/JQA/20, APM Reel 23).