John Adams to Charles Adams
Quincy Septr. 11. 1794
My dear Charles
Last night I received your kind Letter of Septr. 3d and am sorry to find that your Books were not then arrived.1 Before this day I hope they are in your Office, and I should be glad if you would inform me whether they are or not. The early Part of my Life was Spent among them, and they have never been many Days together out of my thoughts; so that I have contracted an habitual Affection for them, which would be more mortified by the Loss of them, than of their Value in any other Property.
Your Brothers are to Sail on Sunday, the 14th. of this Month, and my Heaven vouch Safe them a prosperous Passage and Successful Mission.
As it is many Years Since I have lost all my former esteem for Mr Paines Character both as a Man and a Politician, his last Publication and the consequent Declension of his Character among virtuous Men, has been no Surprize to me. It is a Pity that his ridiculous “Age of Reason”: had not appeared before his ranting “Rights of Man,[”] that the poison concealed in it, might have been Suspected from the hateful Character of the Physician who prescribed it.2
Rienzi, Massianello, Wat Tyler and other Heroes of democratical Memory, were better Men and not worse Statesmen.3 Cleon and Clodius and all their Successors, among the popular Destroyers of Republicanism, ought to teach Mankind caution.4 But Frederick is right. The Sotteses des Peres sont perdues pour leurs Enfans: il fault que chaque generation fasse les siennes.—5 Experience is not sufficient to teach Mankind Wisdom.
I wish you an honourable Issue of your Examination and pray you to write me as often as you can. Your Mother will require a more constant Attention to her than ever. My Love to the Baron, and Col smith & your sister. thank her for her present of American Manufacture.
I am Dear Charles your affectionate / father.
RC (MHi:Seymour Coll.); internal address: “Charles Adams Esqr”; notation: “Eliza Blaeggs Wharf.”
1. Letter not found.
2. Thomas Paine, The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and of Fabulous Theology, Part I, Paris, 1794. Paine wrote The Age of Reason as a justification of his deist beliefs, laying out proofs for the existence of a god but denying a Christian one. He wrote portions of the book while imprisoned in the Luxembourg Palace during the French Revolution (DAB description begins Allen Johnson, Dumas Malone, and others, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, New York, 1928–1936; repr. New York, 1955–1980; 10 vols. plus index and supplements. description ends ).
3. Cola di Rienzo (1313–1354), though born of humble origins, succeeded in briefly overthrowing the barons who ruled Rome and reestablishing a Roman republic in 1347. Tommaso Aniello, commonly known as Masaniello (1620–1647), led a popular revolt in 1647 against the Spanish viceroy ruling Naples, the Duke of Arcos. The rebels succeeded in overthrowing Arcos, but Masaniello was murdered and the insurgency eventually collapsed (Ronald G. Musto, Apocalypse in Rome: Cola di Rienzo and the Politics of the New Age, Berkeley, Calif., 2003, p. 1–2, 27; Cambridge Modern Hist., description begins The Cambridge Modern History, Cambridge, Eng., 1902–1911; repr. New York, 1969; 13 vols. description ends 4:656–658).
4. Cleon (fl. 430s–420s B.C.), an Athenian politician, the son of a tanner, had a mixed record as a military leader but achieved considerable popular success through his persuasive oratory and extravagant promises. Although of aristocratic birth, Publius Clodius Pulcher (ca. 92–52 B.C.), a Roman tribune, was known for courting the support of the urban plebes and promoting their interests (Oxford Classical Dicy. description begins Simon Hornblower and Antony Spawforth, eds., The Oxford Classical Dictionary, 3d edn., New York, 1996. description ends ).