Adams Papers

From John Adams to Richard Price, 4 February 1787

Grosvenor Square, Feb. 4, 1787.

Dear Sir,—

I am happy to learn, by your obliging letter of the second of this month, that you have found some amusement, in the volume I left with you, and that I may entertain a hope of its doing any good. It is but an humble tho’ laborious office, to collect together so many opinions and examples; but it may point out to my young countrymen the genuine sources of information, upon a subject more interesting to them if possible than to the rest of the world. A work might be formed upon that plan which would be worthy of the pen and the talents of a Hume, a Gibbon, a Price or a Priestley, and I cannot but think that the two former would have employed their whole lives in forming into one system and view all the governments that exist, or are recorded, more beneficially to mankind than in attacking all the principles of human knowledge, or in painting the ruins of the Roman Empire, instead of leaving such an enterprise to the temerity of an American demagogue worn out with the cares and vexations of a turbulent life.

There is no proposition, of which I am more fully satisfied, than in the necessity of placing the whole executive authority in one. This I know will make me unpopular with a number of persons in every American State, but this is no new thing. Before even the government of Virginia was erected, and before the Convention that formed it met, which was several months before the Convention which made the constitution of Pennsylvania, in the beginning of 1776, I wrote at the desire of several gentlemen in Congress, a short sketch of a government which they caused to be printed under the title of Thoughts on Government in a Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend, in which three independent branches were insisted on. This pamphlet was scattered through the States and was known to be mine. Afterwards in 1779 in the Convention of Massachusetts, I supported to the utmost of my power the same system in public debates in Convention, as well as in the grand Committee and Sub Committee, and drew up the plan of their constitution, with a negative to the Governor. So that my opinion, such as it is, has always been generally known, and I am not apprehensive of any uncandid reflections in consequence of the late publication. On the contrary it is well known that Mr Turgot’s crude idea is really a personal attack upon me, whether he knew it or not, arid therefore very proper that the defence should come from me.

Your favourable sentiments of it oblige me very much. I have great reason to lament the hurry in which it was done, having neither put pen to paper nor begun to collect the materials till after my return from Holland in September. Such a work too ought to have been grounded wholly upon original authorities; whereas I have made use of any popular publication that happen’d to fall in my way. If apologies were not always suspected, I should have made one.

Mrs Adams and the children desire me to make you their affectionate respects. With the highest esteem, I am, dear Sir, your most obedient servant,

John Adams.

Printed Source--Proceedings of the Massachusetts Historical Society..

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