"IT OUGHT TO BE IN THE HANDS OF EVERY PUBLIC MAN IN AMERICA" (JOHN ADAMS): AN EXTRAORDINARY AMERICAN RARITY—JEFFERSON'S PERSONAL COPY OF DE PRADT'S EUROPE, PRESENTED TO JEFFERSON BY THE TRANSLATOR, GEORGE ALEXANDER OTIS—A WORK THAT INFLUENCED JEFFERSON'S VIEWS ON THE MONROE DOCTRINE—TOGETHER WITH AN EXCEPTIONAL ORIGINAL 1820 JOHN ADAMS MANUSCRIPT LETTER SIGNED BY ADAMS, COMPLIMENTING OTIS FOR HIS TRANSLATION OF THIS WORK
(JEFFERSON, Thomas) DE PRADT, (Dominique-Dufour) OTIS, George Alexander, translator. Europe after the Congress of Aix-La-Chapelle. Forming the Sequel to the Congress of Vienna [Jefferson's copy]. WITH: ADAMS, John. Manuscript letter signed, dated Montezillo [Peacefield, Quincy, Massachusetts], April 22, 1820. Philadelphia: M. Carey & Son, 1820. Octavo, contemporary three-quarter brown calf, red morocco spine label, marbled boards. Letter: single sheet of unlined paper, measuring 8 by 10 inches; pp. 2. Housed together in a custom clamshell box. $125,000.
Thomas Jefferson's personal copy of the first edition in English of De Pradt's Europe, presented to him by the translator, George Alexander Otis. A most rare and remarkable volume from President Jefferson's working library, containing Jefferson's characteristic and distinctive ownership marks (at signatures "I" and "T"), and with the ownership signature of his grandson Benjamin F. Randolph, son of Jefferson's daughter Martha Jefferson Randolph. A most desirable presidential association copy in unrestored contemporary binding. Offered together with a fascinating 1820 John Adams letter expressing gratitude to Otis for sending his translation of De Pradt's Europe, lauding the elegance and accuracy of the translation, and arguing for a friendly yet isolationist stance toward Europe and its affairs, written in a secretarial hand and boldly signed by Adams.
The Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle, held in the autumn of 1818, was a meeting of the four allied powers of Britain, Austria, Prussia and Russia to end the evacuation of France, make decisions about their alliance, discuss the governance of Europe, and consider the military measures, if any, to be adopted as a precaution against a fresh outburst on the part of France. The Abbé Dominique de Pradt was a chaplain and confidant of Napoleon who was well-known for his political writings. The present volume Europe After the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle dealt with how the political map of Europe was constituted in the wake of the Congress. The translator, George Alexander Otis, sent Jefferson a copy of his translation, along with a translation of Carlo Botta's Storia della Guerra dell Independenza d'America (History of the War of American Independence). Otis has inscribed this copy in fine and bold calligraphic script across a front flyleaf: "To Thomas Jefferson late President of the United States of America. Presented by the Translator."
Pradt's Europe "through its discussion of the European congress that coincidentally defined the principles of the concert of powers, seems to have profoundly influenced Jefferson's concept of the political system of the old world… Though Pradt may not have originally implanted the ideas of an American system in Jefferson's mind, it is almost certain that he served to crystallize Jefferson's views in regard to it" (T.R. Schellenberg, Jeffersonian Origins of the Monroe Doctrine, 1934). When Jefferson acknowledged this gift in a letter to Otis on July 8, 1820, he wrote: "I thank you for De Pradt's book on the Congress of Aix-La-Chapelle. It is a work I had never seen, and had much wished to see… we gather from him great outlines and profound views of the new constitution of Europe and of its probable consequences. These are things we should understand to know how to keep clear of them." In 1823, Jefferson wrote to President James Monroe, responding to the President's request for advice, and while he didn't specifically cite Pradt, his counsel to President Monroe echoes the sentiments he expressed to Otis in 1820: "Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America, North and South, has a set of interest distinct from those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. While the last is laboring to become the domicil of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom" (Jefferson to Monroe, October 24, 1823).
Otis also presented a copy of his work to then-President John Adams, who wrote to Otis on April 22, 1820, to thank him. The original letter, published in Adams' correspondence, is included with this book. "My sincere thanks are due to you for the valuable present of your translation of Arch Bishop De Pradt's Europe after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. The translation reads so much like an original—that I presume it is faithful as well as elegant, and is a meritorious service rendered to your Country. It ought to be in the hands of every public man in America; it is a work of great experience and profound knowledge of Europe, and the condition of the world" (Adams to Otis, April 22, 1820).
Adams' letter, written in a secretarial hand (at this point in his life the elderly Adams was not personally writing letters of this length), signed by Adams, and dated "April 22d 1820," reads: "Dear Sir, My sincere thanks are due to you for the valuable present of your Translation of Arch Bishop De Pradt's Europe after the Congress of Aix-la-Chapelle. The Translation reads so much like an original that I presume it is faithfull as well as Elegant and is a meritorious service rendered to your Country—It ought to be in the hands of every public man in America—it is a work of great experience and profound knowledge of Europe, and the condition of the world—I presume that the lame Bishop is in the secret, and I should wonder if Louis the 18th has consented to its publication, for it counsels him to a course of conduct which can alone save his family from the fate of the Stuarts—The prominent features of the work are conspicuous and self evident—I cannot enter into details—but this Country is as deeply interested in the investigation of the present State of Society in Europe, as any nation of Europe is—and the general aphorism to be deduced from the whole; by the United States is,—that perpetual neutrality in all the wars of Europe—a total abstraction from all their quarrels—Is not only a moral and religious duty—but their highest and soundest political interest—If it be possible and as far as lieth in us, live peaceable with all Europe—it is our duty to that quarter of the World—as well as to ourselves—for by intermingling in their affairs we shall only be a plague to them—as they will be a torment to us—For five and forty years I have invariably preached the doctrine of american neutrality.—but we should keep aloof from Europe, and hold her aloof from us—peace and friendship with all—perplexing political alliances with none, has been one of my fundamental maxims for almost half a Century—And this whole work of Talleyrand and perhaps a Council of the wisest men in France is as demonstrative as proof of the rectitude of this principle as anything I have ever read. Again I thank you for the present and am your friend, and obliged humble servant. [signed] John Adams."
Catalogue of President Jefferson's Library (1829) item 643, page 11. Thomas Jefferson built three collections of books in his lifetime. The first burned in a fire at his childhood home, Shadwell, in 1770. In 1815, Jefferson sold his second collection of books to the government in order to help rebuild the collection of the Library of Congress, which had been destroyed in 1814 when the British burned Washington and the Capitol building during the War of 1812. The third collection was dispersed after Jefferson's death in 1826, largely through auction, and the present volume, published in 1820, comes from this third collection. Jefferson's characteristic ownership markings are present: as was his custom, he penned a "T" before the "I" signature mark (the letter "J" not being used in signature markings at the time) on page 45 in this volume and a "J" following the "T" signature mark on page 125. Early ownership signature of Jefferson's grandson, "Benj. F. Randolph, Albemarle," on front pastedown; ink annotations on page v, possibly in Randolph's hand (not in Jefferson's hand). Later ink ownership signature on front flyleaf.
Letter with original creasing, faint foxing, small repair to edge just touching letter's content but not affecting legibility, near-fine. Book with text a bit toned; Jefferson's ownership initials at signatures "I" and "T" bleeding slightly but distinct and recognizable. Light wear to corners, joints tender but holding. A very good unrestored copy. A truly remarkable and important volume, from Jefferson's library, a work that he consulted, passed down through his grandson's family and never in an institutional collection, together with a John Adams letter praising the same work.