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John Quincy Adams

Mediterranean Ship’s Passport
Issued on April 21, 1826

John Quincy Adams Mediterranean Ship's Passport Issued on April 21, 1826

Photo by Timothy D. Bartolo

This passport was issued in New York to the brig Sarah, which was under the command of N. Mayhew. There is no information on destination or cargo, but the Sarah carried one gun and a crew of nine men. She appears to be a small trading brig.

This Mediterranean passport is signed by President John Quincy Adams who served for a single term from March 4, 1825 until March 4, 1829. He was exceptionally well prepared for the Presidency. He had diplomatic experience from the age of 27, with appointments by Presidents Washington, John Adams (his father) and James Madison. He headed the commission that negotiated the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812. He served as a U.S. Senator and then Secretary of State from his appointment on March 5, 1817 until March 3, 1817, the day before he became President. As President, he, a New Englander, sought to diminish the “geographic sectionalism” that he felt weakened the country and appointed a southerner, Henry Clay as Secretary of State. After leaving the Presidency he served in the U.S. House of Representatives. He came out of retirement to defend the slaves who had risen up and taken control of the Amistad, when that case went to the U.S. Supreme Court. His Secretary of State, Henry Clay, also signed this passport. Clay who was born in Virginia and had a long career in both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U. S. Senate representing Kentucky. Early in his career he had served on the Peace Commission negotiating the Treaty of Ghent to end the War of 1812. As Secretary of State, Clay’s foreign policy emphasized the “American System” which stressed federal support of national economic development. He achieved numerous successes. The passport is also signed by Jonathan Thompson, Collector of Customs for the Port of New York. To remedy the slowness with which U.S. diplomatic mail arriving in Britain got to the legation, Thompson recommended to Secretary of State Clay that the masters of the Liverpool packets, ships that sailed on a regular schedule from New York to Liverpool, be instructed to put all U.S. legation and consular mail in separate bags and insist that British postal officials in Liverpool promptly forward these bags to their destination. This is an early form of the “sealed diplomatic pouch.”

This passport is printed on vellum and as is typical of Mediterranean passports, the top is scalloped where the top portion was cut off and sent to United States consuls in the Mediterranean for later matching with the passport held by the ship. It bears the Great Seal of the United States on the lower left.

[Description provided by J. Revell Carr, former President and Director, Mystic Seaport: The Museum of American and the Sea]