Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 29 May 1813

From John Adams

Quincy May 29. 1813.

Dear Sir

To leave the Pettifogger of Funivals Inn, or Cliffords Inn, his Archbishop Laud, and his Chevalier of St. Iago of Compostella Sir Christopher Gardiner, for the present; Paulo Multo1 majora canamus.

There has been put into my hands, within a few days a gross Volume in octavo, of 544 Pages with the Title of “Memoirs of the late reverend Theophilus Lindsey. M.A.” including a brief “Analysis of his works; together with Anecdotes and Letters of eminent Persons, his Friends and Correspondents: also a general View of the progress of the Unitarian doctrine in England and America. By Thomas Belsham, Minister of the Chapel in Essex Street.”

Whether you have Seen this work, I know not. but this I know, the Author, and his Friends ought to have Sent you a Copy of it; and therefore I conclude they have.

With Lindsey, Disney, Price, Priestley, Jebb, Kippis &c and their Connections, whom I could name, I was much acquainted in London from 1785 to 1788. These Characters, with Cappe, Farmer, and a multitude of others, figure in this work. The Religion, the Philosophy, the Morality, the Politicks, which these People teach, have been Objects of my anxious Attention for more than Three Score years, as I could demonstrate to you, if I could give you, a brief Sketch of my Life. But my Life has been too trifling and my Actions too insignificant for me to write or the Public to read. In my wandering romantic Life, with my incessant Res angusta Domi, and my numerous unfortunate Family, of Children and Grand Children without the honour, which you have attained of being a great grandfather, tho’ I have a near prospect of it; it has been impossible for me to pursue Such Inquiries, with any thing like Learning.

what may be the Effect, of these “Memoirs” in the U.S. if they Should become public I know not; and I will add I care not; for I wish every Subject to be discussed at all Events. The human Mind is awake: Let it not Sleep. Let it however consider. Let it think, Let it pause.

This work must produce a noise in U.S. Fiat Justitia.—

The 12th Article in the Appendix is “Letters from Dr Priestley to Mr Lindsey: and from Thomas Jefferson Esq. President of the United States to Dr Priestley.”2 p. 525. The first Letter from you is dated March 21. 1801. at Washington. The Second April 9. 1803 at Washington. Dr Priestleys Letter to Mr Lindsey, containing remarks upon Mr Jeffersons Letter is dated Northumberland April 23. 1803.

I wish to know, if you have Seen this Book. I have much to Say on the Subject. And you may depend upon it, I will discuss the Subject with as much Candour, as much Friendship, as much Freedom, as Price, Priestley Lindsey, Cappe or Farmer ever displayed in their Controversies. I have not time to enlarge at present.

I will only Add have you Seen the Naval History by Mr Clark, published by Mathew Carey at Philadelphia? I wish I had time and Eyes and fingers to write much to you on this Subject.

I lament the death of my dear Friend of 38 years Dr Benjamin Rush, much the more, Since I have Seen Lindseys Memoirs.

I am, with unalterable Esteem and Affection your old Friend

John Adams

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “The late President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 9 June 1813 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

The pettifogger of funivals inn was Thomas Morton. paulo multo majora canamus: “let us sing a much loftier strain,” from Virgil, Eclogues, 4.1 (Fairclough, Virgil description begins H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Virgil, ed. rev. by G. P. Goold, Loeb Classical Library, 1999–2000, 2 vols. description ends , 1:28–9 [with “much” revised by Adams from “somewhat”; see note 1 below]). res angusta domi: “cramped personal resources block your talents” (Juvenal, Satires, 3.165, in Juvenal and Persius, ed. and trans. Susanna Morton Braund, Loeb Classical Library [2004], 180–1). fiat justitia: “Let justice be done.” Priestley enclosed TJ’s letter of april 9. 1803 (DLC) in his own letter to mr lindsey of 23 Apr. 1803 (Thomas Belsham, Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. [London, 1812]).

1Word, interlined by Adams, not included in Loeb text of Virgil, Eclogues.

2Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and B. Rush search
  • Adams, John; and T. Belsham’s Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey search
  • Adams, John; and T. Clark’s naval history search
  • Adams, John; family of search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on J. Priestley search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Belsham, Thomas; Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. search
  • books; on history search
  • Cappe, Newcome; English Unitarian search
  • Carey, Mathew; and T. Clark’s Sketches of the Naval History of the United States search
  • Clark, Thomas; Sketches of the Naval History of the United States search
  • Disney, John; English Unitarian search
  • Farmer, Hugh; English theologian search
  • Gardiner, Christopher search
  • history; books on search
  • history; naval search
  • Jebb, John; English theologian search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Juvenal; quoted by J. Adams search
  • Kippis, Andrew; English theologian search
  • Laud, William, archbishop of Canterbury search
  • Lindsey, Theophilus; correspondence with J. Priestley search
  • Lindsey, Theophilus; Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey search
  • Lindsey, Theophilus; mentioned search
  • Memoirs of the Late Reverend Theophilus Lindsey, M.A. (T. Belsham) search
  • Morton, Thomas; mentioned search
  • Price, Richard (British author and philosopher); as theologian and moral philosopher search
  • Priestley, Joseph; correspondence with T. Lindsey search
  • Priestley, Joseph; J. Adams on search
  • Priestley, Joseph; TJ’s correspondence with search
  • Rush, Benjamin; death of search
  • Sketches of the Naval History of the United States (T. Clark) search
  • Virgil (Publius Vergilius Maro); J. Adams quotes search