3. In 1823, in an obvious attempt to injure JQA’s chances for the Presidency, there was published in Boston a volume entitled Correspondence between the Hon. John Adams . . . and the Late William Cunningham, Esq..... The letters from JA, written between 1803 and 1810 to his first cousin once removed, William Cunningham Jr. (1767–1823), were strongly anti-Jeffersonian in the early years but gradually became vigorously anti-Federalist. Cunningham wanted JA to soften his criticism of the old Federalists, especially since JA was contributing anti-Federalist letters to the Boston Patriot, and threatened to make public JA’s earlier, anti-Jeffersonian letters to embarrass JA with the Madison administration, which JA and JQA were supporting.
Cunningham committed suicide in 1823, but his son, Ephraim May Cunningham (1792–1852), published the now famous correspondence, which Timothy Pickering, an old Federalist whom JA had dismissed from his office as Secretary of State in 1800, reviewed in May 1824. In a 200-page pamphlet entitled A Review of the Correspondence between the Hon. John Adams and the Late William Cunningham, Esq. . . . , Salem, Pickering violently attacked both JA and Jefferson.
For a fuller account of this affair see CFA’s comment in JA, Works
, 1:628–629; Columbian Centinel,
15 May 1824; and Jefferson’s thoughtful letter to JA, 12 Oct. 1823, Adams Papers
. On the Cunninghams’ connection with JA, see Adams Genealogy