Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 18 May 1817

From John Adams

Quincy May 18. 1817

Dear Sir

Lyman was mortified that he could not visit Monticello. He is gone to Europe a Second time. I regret that he did not See you, He would have executed any commision for you in the litterary line, at any pain or any expence. I have many apprehensions for his health, which is very delicate and precarious. But he is Seized with the Mania of all our young etherial Spirits, for foreign travel. I fear they will loose more than they will acquire. They will loose that unadulterated Enthusiasm for their native Country which has produced the greatest Characters among Us.

Oh! Lord! Do you think that a Protestant Popedom is annihilated in America.? Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the ecclesiastical Strifes in Maryland Pensilvania, New York, and every part of New England? What a mercy it is, that these People cannot whip and crop, and pillory and roast, as yet in the U.S.? If they could they would.

Do you know that The General of the Jesuits and consequently all his Host have their Eyes on this Country? Do you know that the Church of England is employing more means and more Art, to propagate their demipopery among Us, than ever? Quakers, Anabaptists Moravians Swedenborgians, Methodists, Unitarians, Nothingarians in all Europe are employing underhand means to propagate their Sectarian Systems in these States.

The multitude and diversity of them, you will Say, is our Security against them all. God grant it. But if We consider that the Presbyterians and Methodists are far the most numerous; and the most likely to unite1 let a George Whitefield arise, with a military cast, like Mahomet, or Loyola, and what will become of all the other Sects who can never unite?

My Friends or Enemies continue to overwhelm me with Books, Whatever may be their intension, charitable or otherwise, they certainly contribute, to continue me to vegetate, much as I have done for the Sixteen years last past.

Sir John Malcoms History of Persia, and Sir William Jones’s Works are now poured out upon me and a little cargo is coming from Europe. What can I do with all this learned lumber? Is it necessary to Salvation to investigate all these Cosmogonies and Mythologies? Is Bryant Gebelin, Dupuis, or Sir William Jones, right.?

What a frown upon Man kind, was the premature death of Sir William Jones? Why could not Jones and Dupuis have conversed or corresponded with each other? Had Jones read Dupuis, or Dupuis Jones, the Works of both would be immensely improved though each would probably have adhered to his System.

I Should admire to See a Counsel, composed of Gebelin, Bryant Jones and Dupuis. Let them live together and compare Notes. The human race ought to contribute to furnish them with all the Books in the Universe, and the means of Subsistence.

I am not expert enough in Italien to read Botta, and I know not that he has been translated. Indeed I have been So little Satisfied with Histories of the American Revolution, that I have long Since, ceased to read them. The Truth is lost, in adulatory Panegyricks, and in vituperary Insolence.

I wish you, Mr Madison and Mr Monroe Success, in your Collegiate institution. And I wish that Superstition in Religion exciting2 Superstition in Politicks, and both united in directing military Force, alias glory may never blow up all your benevolent and phylanthropic Lucubrations. But the History of all ages is against you.

It is said, that no Effort in favour of Virtue, is ever lost. I doubt whether it was ever true; whether it is now true; but hope it will be true. In the moral Government of the World, no doubt it was, is, and ever will be true: but it has not yet appeared to be true on this Earth.

I am Sir, Sincerely your friend

John Adams

P.S. Have you Seen the Phylosophy of human Nature, and the History of the War, in the Western States, from Kentucky[?] How vigorously Science and Litterature Spring up, as well as Patriotism and Heroism in transalleganian Regions? Have You Seen Wilkinsons History? &c. &c. &c.

J. A.

RC (DLC); edge trimmed; endorsed by TJ as received 2 June 1817 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to David Knight, [12] Aug. 1817, on verso; addressed in an unidentified hand: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson. Monticello. Virginia”; postmarked Quincy, 21 May. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

The superior general of the Jesuits was Tadeusz Brzozowski. nothingarians lack religious beliefs (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Preceding six words interlined.

2FC: “excelling.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and letters of introduction for T. Lyman search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Adams, John; works sent to search
  • American Revolution; books on search
  • Anabaptists; mentioned search
  • books; on American Revolution search
  • books; on War of1812 search
  • Botta, Carlo Giuseppe Guglielmo; Storia della Guerra dell’ Independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America search
  • Bryant, Jacob; works of search
  • Brzozowski, Tadeusz search
  • Buchanan, Joseph; The Philosophy of Human Nature search
  • Central College, Board of Visitors; members of search
  • Central College; establishment of search
  • Court de Gébelin, Antoine; works of search
  • Dupuis, Charles François; J. Adams on search
  • History of the Late War in the Western Country (R. B. McAfee) search
  • Ignatius of Loyola, Saint search
  • Jesuits; mentioned search
  • Jones, Sir William (1746–94); works of search
  • Kentucky; literature from search
  • Lyman, Theodore (1792–1849); letters of introduction requested for search
  • Malcolm, Sir John; The History of Persia search
  • McAfee, Robert Breckinridge; History of the Late War in the Western Country search
  • Memoirs of My Own Times (J. Wilkinson) search
  • Methodists; mentioned search
  • Moravians; mentioned search
  • Muhammad (founder of Islam) search
  • Persia; history of search
  • Presbyterians; mentioned search
  • Quakers; mentioned search
  • religion; Anabaptists search
  • religion; J. Adams on search
  • religion; Methodism search
  • religion; Moravians search
  • religion; Presbyterians search
  • religion; Quakers search
  • religion; Swedenborgians search
  • religion; Unitarianism search
  • Storia della Guerra dell’ Independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America (C. G. G. Botta) search
  • Swedenborg, Emanuel; followers of search
  • The History of Persia (J. Malcolm) search
  • The Philosophy of Human Nature (J. Buchanan) search
  • Unitarianism; mentioned search
  • Whitefield, George; mentioned search
  • Wilkinson, James; Memoirs of My Own Times search