A cautionary note from John Adams
President John and Mrs. Adams moved into the White House on this day in 1800.
It was actually still under construction and the Adams had to endure some of the inconveniences of an unfinished home:
Adams had been living in temporary digs at Tunnicliffe’s City Hotel near the half-finished Capitol building since June 1800, when the federal government was moved from Philadelphia to the new capital city of Washington, D.C. In his biography of Adams, historian David McCullough recorded that when Adams first arrived in Washington, he wrote to his wife Abigail, at their home in Quincy, Massachusetts, that he was pleased with the new site for the federal government and had explored the soon-to-be President’s House with satisfaction.
Although workmen had rushed to finish plastering and painting walls before Adams returned to D.C. from a visit to Quincy in late October, construction remained unfinished when Adams rolled up in his carriage on November 1. However, the Adams’ furniture from their Philadelphia home was in place and a portrait of George Washington was already hanging in one room. The next day, Adams sent a note to Abigail, who would arrive in Washington later that month, saying that he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.”
Although Adams was initially enthusiastic about the presidential mansion, he and Abigail soon found it to be cold and damp during the winter. Abigail, in a letter to a friend, wrote that the building was tolerable only so long as fires were lit in every room. She also noted that she had to hang their washing in an empty “audience room” (the current East Room).
The Adams moved back to Massachusetts after his defeat to Thomas Jefferson. They spent the rest of their lives there until Mr. Adams, as well as Mr. Jefferson, died on July 4, 1826.
President John Adams left us an important message about living in what they called then the President’s House. He said this in a letter to Mrs. Adams:
“….he hoped “none but honest and wise men [shall] ever rule under this roof.””
Mr. Adams’ message sounds louder today than ever, especially in light of the Clintons and their total regard for the rule of law.