Thomas Jefferson Papers
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John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 10 February 1812

From John Adams

Quincy Feb. 10 1812

Dear Sir

I have received with great pleasure your favour of the 23 of January. I suspected that the Sample was left at the Post Office and that you would Soon have it. I regret the Shabby Condition in which you found it: but it was the only Copy I had, and I thought it Scarcely worth while to wait till I could get a Sett properly bound.

The Dissertation on the State of real homespun was a feast to me, who delight in every Information of that kind. In a moral œconomical and political point of View, it ought to be considered by every American Man Woman and child as a most precious Improvement in the Condition and prosperity of our Country.

Although you and I are weary of Politicks; you may be Surprised to find me making a Transition to Such a Subject as Prophecies. I find that Virginia produces Prophets, as well as the Indiana Territory. There have been lately Sent me, from Richmond two Volumes, one written by Nimrod Hewes and the other by Christopher Macpherson; both, upon Prophecies, and neither, ill written. I Should apprehend that two Such Mulattoes might raise the Devil among the Negroes in that Vicinity: for though they are evidently cracked, they are not much more irrational than Dr Towers1 who wrote two ponderous Vollumes, near twenty years ago to prove that The French Revolution was the Commencement of the Millenium, and the decapitation of The King of France but the beginning of a Series, immediately to follow, by which all The Monarchies were to be destroyed and Succeeded by universal Republicanism over all Europe: nor than Dr Priestly who told me Soberly, cooly and deliberately that though he knew of Nothing in human Nature or in the History of Mankind to justify the opinion, Yet he fully believed upon the Authority of Prophecy, that the French Nation would establish a free Government and2 that The King of France who had been executed, was the first of the Ten Horns of the great Beast and that all the other Nine Monarks were Soon to fall off after him; nor than The Reverend Mr Faber who has lately written a very elegant and learned Volume to prove that Napoleon is Antichrist; nor than our worthy Friend Mr Joseph Wharton of Philadelphia, who in consequence of great Reading and profound Study has long Since Settled his opinion, that the City of London is or is to be the Head Quarters of Antichrist; Nor than the Prophet of The Wabash, of whom I want to know more than I do, because I learn that the Indians the Sons of the Forrest are as Superstitious as any of the great learned Men aforesaid and as firm believers in Witchcraft as all Europe and America were in the Seventeenth Century and as frequently punish Witches by Splitting their Sculls with the Tomahawk, after a Solemn Tryal and Adjudication by the Sachems and Warriours in Council.

The Crusades were commenced by the Prophets and every Age Since, whenever any great Turmoil happens in the World, has produced fresh Prophets. The Continual Refutation of all their Prognostications by Time and Experience has no Effect in extinguishing or damping their Ardor.

I think, these Prophecies are not only unphilosophical and inconsistent with the political Safety of States and Nations; but that the most Sincere and Sober Christians in the World ought upon their own Principles to hold them impious, for nothing is clearer from their Scriptures [than]3 that Their Prophecies were not intended to make Us Prophets.

Pardon this Strange Vagary. I want only to know Something more than I do about the Richmond and Wabash Prophets.

called to Company and to dinner I have only time to repeat the assurances of the Friendship and Respect of

John Adams

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Mr Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 23 Feb. 1812 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

Nimrod Hughes (hewes) published A Solemn Warning To All Dwellers Upon the Earth in Virginia in August 1811. In this pamphlet he described visions foretelling the “destruction of one third of mankind” on 4 June 1812. Hughes was a white Protestant (Susan Juster, Doomsayers: Anglo-American Prophecy in the Age of Revolution [2003], 196–200, 210–12). Christopher McPherson (macpherson), a free mulatto who adhered to Hughes’s prophecies, published a memoir about the same time (A Short History of the Life of Christopher McPherson, 2d ed. [Lynchburg, 1855]). Joseph Lomas towers was the author of Illustrations of Prophecy, 2 vols. (London, 1796; repr. Philadelphia, 1808; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 1548). The first American edition of George Stanley faber, A Dissertation on the Prophecies That Have Been Fulfilled, Are Now Fulfilling, Or Will Hereafter Be Fulfilled was published in Boston in two volumes in 1808. The prophet of the wabash was known by his Shawnee name, Tenskwatawa, or simply as “the Prophet.” He began having visions in 1805, and along with his older brother Tecumseh, a prominent warrior, he advocated giving up the use of European goods and urged the creation of a pan-Indian political and military alliance. Tenskwatawa’s village, Prophetstown, was located in Indiana near the confluence of the Wabash and Tippecanoe rivers (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ).

1Preceding two words added by Adams in a blank he left for the purpose.

2Preceding ten words written perpendicularly along left margin of first page and keyed to this point in text with a dagger.

3Omitted word editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on domestic manufacturing search
  • Adams, John; on prophecy search
  • Adams, John; sends works of J. Q. Adams search
  • Adams, John Quincy; Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory search
  • A Dissertation on the Prophecies (Faber) search
  • Antichrist; Napoleon as search
  • A Solemn Warning To All Dwellers Upon the Earth (Hughes) search
  • Faber, George Stanley; A Dissertation on the Prophecies That Have Been Fulfilled, Are Now Fulfilling, Or Will Hereafter Be Fulfilled search
  • French Revolution; and millennial prophecy search
  • Hughes, Nimrod; A Solemn Warning To All Dwellers Upon the Earth search
  • Hughes, Nimrod; prophecies of search
  • Illustrations of Prophecy (J. L. Towers) search
  • Indians; Shawnee search
  • Lectures on Rhetoric and Oratory (Adams) search
  • Louis XVI, king of France; execution of search
  • manufacturing, household; J. Adams on search
  • McPherson, Christopher; prophetic writings of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; described as Antichrist search
  • Priestley, Joseph; and prophecy search
  • religion; millennial prophecy search
  • Shawnee Indians search
  • Tecumseh (Shawnee chief); leadership of search
  • Tenskwatawa (“the Prophet”; Shawnee leader); prophecy of search
  • Towers, Joseph Lomas; Illustrations of Prophecy search
  • Wharton, Joseph; and J. Adams search