Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 2 February 1813

From John Adams

Quincy Feb. 2. 1813

Dear Sir

I will not wait for regular answers to my Letters, while I am engaged in this important occupation of giving you Some Account of Tom Moretons New Canaan; which is infinitely more entertaining and instructive to me, than our Friend Condorcets “New Heaven” was almost 30 years ago, or than Swedenborgs “New Jerusalem” is now.

In his third Chapter is a curious History. Before the English came to New Plymouth, Frenchmen had been here, who had given Some “distast” to the Natives, who Set upon them, killed many, burned their Ship, at Peddocks Island So called in Memory of Leonard Peddock, who first landed there. N. B. This Island is well known, at this day and is called by all of Us Petticks Island, without knowing why.—“Many wild Anckies haunted there.” Your Researches, in natural History may enable you to Say what are Anckies. Unless they be wild Geese, I know no more about them than I do about Yankies. Of these Frenchmen, who came to trade in Beaver, and misbehaved, Some were killed and the rest taken Prisoners. These Prisoners, were distributed among Five Sachems, Lords of Several Adjoining Territories, kept for Sport and to fetch Wood and Water. One of these five Frenchmen outliving the rest, learned their Language and rebuked them for their bloody1 deed, Saying that God would be angry with them for it, and in his displeasure destroy them; but the Savages replyed They were So many that God could not kill them.

“But the hand of God fell heavily upon them. They died on heaps. The living could not bury the dead. Crows Kites and Vermin prayed upon them.2 (Homer would have Said devouring Dogs and hungry Vultures tore) “The Bones and Skulls, made Such a Spectacle, that as I travelled it Seemed to me, a newfound Golgotha. But it is the Custom of these Indian People to bury their dead ceremoniously, and then abandon the Place; because they have no mind that the Place Should put them in Mind of Mortality.”

Dft (MHi: Adams Papers); presumably begun as a letter to TJ, but unaddressed, unsigned, evidently unfinished, not recorded in SJL, and probably never seen by TJ.

our friend Condorcet’s four Lettres d’un Bourgeois de New-Heaven à un Citoyen de Virginie, sur l’inutilité de partager le pouvoir législatif entre plusieurs corps were printed in Philip Mazzei, Recherches Historiques et Politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale (Paris, 1788; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3005), 1:267–371. TJ also bound them separately with other works by Condorcet (Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 2443). Swedish scientist Emanuel Swedenborg inspired a religious sect, the Swedenborgians, known as the Church of the new jerusalem. Adams quotes and paraphrases from Thomas Morton, New English Canaan or New Canaan. Containing an Abstract of New England (Amsterdam, 1637; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 4056), specifically the third chapter entitled “Of a great mortality that happened amongst the Natives of New England neere about the time, that the English came there to plant” (pp. 22–4). devouring dogs and hungry vultures tore is Book 1, line 6 of The Iliad of Homer. Translated by Alexander Pope, Esq. (London, 1759), vol. 1, pt. 3, p. 3.

1Manuscript: “blody.”

2Omitted closing quotation mark editorially added.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on Indians search
  • Adams, John; on M. Condorcet search
  • Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de; J. Adams on search
  • Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de; Lettres d’un Bourgeois de New-Heaven search
  • Homer; The Iliad of Homer (trans. A. Pope) search
  • Indians; J. Adams on search
  • Lettres d’un Bourgeois de New-Heaven (Condorcet) search
  • Mazzei, Philip; Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale search
  • Morton, Thomas; New English Canaan or New Canaan search
  • New English Canaan or New Canaan (Morton) search
  • Peddock, Leonard search
  • Recherches historiques et politiques sur les États-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale (P. Mazzei) search
  • Swedenborg, Emanuel; and New Jerusalem Church search
  • The Iliad (Homer); cited search
  • The Iliad (Homer); The Iliad of Homer (trans. A. Pope) search