Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport

John Quincy ADAMS

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"SLAVERY… WAS DESTINED SOONER OR LATER, TO BE BANISHED FROM THE EARTH": FIRST EDITION OF JOHN QUINCY ADAMS’ 1837 ORATION AT NEWBURYPORT, CELEBRATING THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE—RARE PRESENTATION COPY INSCRIBED BY ADAMS

ADAMS, John Quincy. Oration Delivered before the Inhabitants of the Town of Newburyport, at Their Request, on the Sixty-First Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1837. (Newburyport): By Morss and Brewster, at the Newburyport Herald Office, 1837. Slim octavo, original blue-green printed paper wrappers, side stitched as issued. Housed in a custom folding portfolio.

First edition of President John Quincy Adams’ stirring July 4 Oration honoring the foundational document that his father John Adams co-authored and signed, a speech in which he declares slavery incompatible with "the principles of the Declaration of Independence," inscribed and signed on the front wrapper: "Hon. Sidney Willard from John Quincy Adams." A rare speech, made especially so by the fact that Adams has signed directly on the volume—when "signing" and presenting books he almost always signed his name on a presentation slip that would then be pasted into the book.

John Quincy Adams, America's sixth President and Secretary of State under Monroe,was once neutral on slavery, but by 1836 became a passionate opponent when he saw that it "appeared likely to be a permanent painful presence in the republic." In speaking out against slavery, Adams surprised many by his transformation into "a debater so impassioned, so mischievous, so stubborn, and so radical" (Nagel, 355-63). Here Adams especially noted that the continual presence of slavery in the United States besmirched the spirit of the Declaration of Independence: "The inconsistency of the institution of domestic slavery with the principles of the Declaration of Independence, was seen and lamented by all the southern patriots of the Revolution; by no one with deeper and more unalterable conviction, than by the author of the Declaration himself [Jefferson]… They universally considered it as a reproach fastened upon them by the unnatural stepmother country, and they saw that before the principles of the Declaration of Independence, slavery, in common with every other mode of oppression, was destined sooner or later, to be banished from the earth." As David McCullough observes: "No family will ever be as famous as the Adamses… Their family history was History" (John Adams, 566). Sidney Willard, a Harvard professor, author and statesman, served in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and Governor's Council, and was the son of Harvard president Joseph Willard, who "was a personal friend of John Adams" (Memories of Youth II:89).

Text generally fresh with light scattered foxing, faint soiling, light edge-wear to wrappers. An extremely good presentation copy of this stirring speech, most rare and desirable inscribed directly on the volume by Adams.

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