To John Adams
New York August 1. 1800
It has been repeatedly mentioned to me that you have, on different occasions, asserted the existence of a British Faction in this Country, embracing a number of leading or influential characters of the Fœderal Party (as usually denominated) and that you have sometimes named me, at other times plainly alluded to me, as one of this description of persons:1 And I have likewise been assured that of late some of your warm adherents, for electioneering purposes, have employed a corresponding language.2
I must, Sir, take it for granted, that you cannot have made such assertions or insinuations without being willing to avow them, and to assign the reasons to a party who may conceive himself injured by them. I therefore trust that you will not deem it improper that I apply directly to yourself, to ascertain from you, in reference to your own declarations, whether the information, I have received, has been correct or not, and if correct what are the grounds upon which you have founded the suggestion.
With respect I have the honor to be Sir Your obedient servt.
John Adams Esqr
President of The United States
ALS, Adams Family Papers, deposited in the Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston; ADf, Hamilton Papers, Library of Congress.
2. For example, on July 15, 1800, Timothy Phelps, a New Haven, Connecticut, merchant, wrote to Wolcott: “Our friend Webster has lately been on to the eastward; has visited Quincy, and has returned quite an Adamite, and in my opinion trimmed ship very much; says the President has done perfectly right; that he, Noah, has taken much pains and expense to ascertain facts; that the President found a very strong English party in this country, (Hamilton at the head,) and that he found it necessary to rip it up; that the report of his temporizing with the democrats, Gov. [Thomas] McKean’s [of Pennsylvania] dining with the President, Col. [Aaron] Burr’s being closeted with the President before the dismissal of Mr. [Timothy] Pickering from office, Mrs. Adams saying that the President found it necessary to displace Pickering or give up the Presidential chair, are all false and malicious fabrications; that this English party was well known, was known to his (Noah’s) keen penetration four years since, &c., &c., &c. Can these things be so? or what can be the cause of this mighty change in the political sentiments of friend Webster?” (Gibbs, Wolcott description begins George Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and John Adams: Edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury (New York, 1846). description ends II, 380.) Noah Webster, Jr., the lexicographer, was the publisher of The [New York] Spectator. In 1798 he left New York for New Haven, but he retained an interest in the newspaper. On September 17, 1800, in answer to a letter from Wolcott, dated September 4, Webster wrote: “Your information respecting what I have lately declared is very incorrect and has probably been communicated from report at second, third, or fourth hand. That there is a party in this country who wish to strive to bring about an alliance with Great Britain, I presume you will not deny; and that some of them have been in administration, you cannot be ignorant. If this is a ‘British Party,’ there certainly is one; and you cannot but remember how pointedly I opposed this policy in 1798; nor how severely I was abused for it in the public prints. Why it should be said that I have lately declared this, I cannot conceive, as I have often said and written and published a similar opinion for two or three years past” (Harry R. Warfel, ed., Letters of Noah Webster [New York, 1953], 220). See also Wolcott to Chauncey Goodrich, July 20, 1800; Goodrich to Wolcott, August 26, 1800 (Gibbs, Wolcott description begins George Gibbs, Memoirs of the Administrations of Washington and John Adams: Edited from the Papers of Oliver Wolcott, Secretary of the Treasury (New York, 1846). description ends , II, 382, 411). Goodrich, a lawyer from Hartford, was a Federalist member of the House of Representatives from 1795 to 1801.