President John Adams Visits Alexandria and Offers A Surprising Toast

Ken Lopez
Posted by Ken Lopez on Jul 3, 2021 4:22:35 PM

It was June 1800, and the country was still very much in mourning after George Washington's death six months before. President Adams was, unknowingly, in the twilight of his presidency, and the presidential election was underway from April through December. Popular vote results were to be announced in February 1801. The White House was still incomplete and under construction. Still, President Adams, our second president, would begin to move the presidency, and the rest of the Government, from Philadelphia to Washington, D.C. 

While President Adams was running for reelection, it was his vice president, Thomas Jefferson, who would win the presidency roughly six months later. It's hard to now imagine a sitting president running against a sitting vice president in a contested election.

In June 1800, Adams would travel to Washington, D.C. for the first time. He was surprised by the advanced state of completion of federal buildings. He would move into the White House in November and say in a letter to his wife, "Before I end my letter, I pray Heaven to bestow the best of Blessings on this House and all that shall hereafter inhabit it. May none but honest and wise Men ever rule under this roof."

Having become used to the attention of Alexandria-based George Washington, the citizens of Alexandria invited President Adams to visit. He would visit Mount Vernon to pay his respects to his predecessor and Martha Washington. After that, he would return to the City of Alexandria, and the following mini-articles pleasantly describe that journey. It is noteworthy that these articles appeared in a Philadelphia newspaper, then the hometown of the American government.

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The accounts of Adams's visit went like this:

 

Alexandria, June 12

His Excellency John Adams returned to this place yesterday forenoon from Mount Vernon. He was escorted into town by captains Dick and Simpson's troops of cavalry. On his entrance into town he was saluted by the uniform companies of the 10th regiment, Captain Sims’ company of Silver Grays, and the 16 little heroes, who composed a part of the procession on 22 February last, who were drawn

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up between Washington and Fairfax Street. After the President had passed the line in review, 16 rounds were fired from two field pieces, placed on the flanks of the regiment – the regiment then were wheeled by sections, and marched down King Street and round the market and adjoining squares, and again formed a line in the street opposite Gadsby’s Hotel, where, in view of the President, they fired 16 rounds and were dismissed, when the officers and citizens were introduced and paid their respects to the chief magistrate of their common country.

Between one and 2 o’clock present was addressed by William Fitzhugh esquire on behalf of the citizens of Alexandria as follows, to which the President made the subjoined reply.

 

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Address

 

To John Adams,

President of the United States.

 

Sir,

The citizens of Alexandria seeing among them, with sincere joy, their revered president — his presence brings to their view the constancy and ability with which he labored in the vineyard of liberty, when devotion to its cause was surrounded with gibbet and the halter.

Her intrepid and faithful defender, dear as he then was to the sons of America, is now more dear from the additional claim on their hearts, growing out of his unabated zeal in extending and confirming their common happiness.

In this resentment of our respectful homage to the successor of our late incomparable Washington, we cannot but add our prayer, that like him, you will pass through the storms and vicissitudes which always encircle the highest stations, most admired when best understood.

On behalf and at the request of the citizens of Alexandria.

Alexandria, June 11, 1800.

 

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Reply of the President to the preceding address.

 

To the citizens of Alexandria.

Gentlemen,

I receive from the Citizens of Alexandria, this kind salutation on a first visit to Virginia, with much pleasure. In the earlier part of my life, I felt, at sometimes, and inexpressible grief, and others in unutterable indignation, at the injustice and indignities which, I thought, wantonly heat on my innocent, virtuous, peaceable and an offending country. In perceiving that the American people, from New Hampshire to Georgia, felt and thought in the same manor, I determined, refusing all flavors and renouncing all proverbial obligations to the aggressors, to run every hazard with my countrymen, and their invitation by sea and land, in opposing and resistance – well knowing that, if we should be unfortunate, all the pains and all the disgrace, which injustice and cruelty could inflict, would be the destination of me and mine. Providence smiled on our well meant endeavors, and perhaps no particular more remarkably then and giving us your incomparable Washington for the leader of our armies. Our country has since enjoyed an enviable tranquility and uncommon prosperity. We are grown a great people. This city and many others, which I’ve seen since I left Philadelphia, Exhibit very striking proofs of our increase, on which I congratulate you. May no error or misfortune throw a veil over the bright prospect before us.

 

John Adams

Alexandria, June 11, 1800.

 

 

At about 3 o’clock the President sat down to a very elegant entertainment provided at Mr. Gadsby‘s hotel, in company with General Marshall, Secretary of State, Charles Lee Esquire, Attorney General Richard Harrison, Esquire Auditor, the chief commissioners of the City of Washington, and as Great a number of citizens of Alexandria and its neighborhood, as his recollected to have assembled at this place on a similar occasion.

Commodore Thomas Tungsten, who arrived here yesterday morning, I am sorry to learn, was so much indisposed as to oblige him to decline excepting the invitation given to him to become one of the company at dinner.

 

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Toasts

1 The constitution of the United States.

2 The memory of our late incomparable Washington.

3 The President of the United States.

[drink after the president had retired.]

4 The vice president of the United States.

5 The Congress of the United States.

6 The head of the Departments.

7 The judiciary of the United States.

8 The militia of the United States.

9 The navy and army of the United States.

10 Our envoys to the French nation and resident ministers abroad.

11 The agriculture of the United States.

12 The commerce and manufacturers of the United States.

13 The people and Commonwealth of Virginia

14 The district of Columbia.

15 Peace and harmony throughout the world.

16 The American Fair

 

 

Toast by the president.

Alexandria — may it become intimate in commerce with its namesake in Egypt.

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A few observations. First, William Fitzhugh must have been the worst speechwriter and speaker on the face of the earth. He apparently took an hour to get through that short speech on behalf of the Citizens of Alexandria. Can you imagine? George Washington's address to the citizens of Alexandria and the reply by the mayor of Alexandria was noticeably better.

Second, I wonder if they drank after each one of those toasts.

Third, what was the President thinking? That's a pretty unusual toast. Alexandria was not named after the city in Egypt. It was named after John Alexander, one of the landholders and one of the cofounders of the town.

Topics: Alexandria, VA, Mount Vernon, Fairfax Street, Philadelphia, PA, Washington Street, John Adams, William Fitzhugh, People

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