Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 28 January 1818

From John Adams

Quincy Jan. 28 1818

Dear Sir

Permit me to introduce to you Mr Horace1 Holley who is on his Way to Kentucky where he has been invited to undertake the Superintendance2 of a University. This Gentleman was Settled very young at Greenfield as Successor to Dr Dwight; but having a Mind too inquisitive for Connecticut he removed to Boston where he has been Settled nine Years and where his fame has erected one of the loftyest Temples and assembled the most numerous Congregation of Auditors in Boston.

You will find him frank enough, candid enough, Social enough, learned enough and eloquent enough. He is indeed an important Character; and if Superstition Bigotry, Fanaticism and Intolerance will allow him to live in Kentucky, he will contribute Somewhat to the illumination of the darkest and most dismal Swamps in the Wilderness. I Shall regret his Removal from Boston because that City ought always to have one Clergyman at least who will compell them to think, and enquire: but if he can be Supported in Kentucky I am convinced he will be more extensively usefull. If upon conversing with him Your Conscience will allow you to give him a Line to any of your Friends in Kentucky where all are your Friends you will do him more Service and perhaps more Service to our Country and our kind than you or I may be aware. He is one of the few who give me delight.

I am anxious for South America. They will be independent of Spain.3 But can they have free Governments? Can the Roman Religion and a free Government4 exist together? I am, dear Sir with

the old Friendship5 your

John Adams

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 6 May 1818 and so recorded in SJL, which adds that it was delivered by “mr Holly.” RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Patrick Gibson, 20 July 1818, on verso; addressed by Susanna Boylston Adams Clark (Treadway): “Thomas Jefferson Esqre Monticello Virginia” by “Revnd Mr Holley.” FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers).

Horace Holley (1781–1827), clergyman and educator, was born in Salisbury, Connecticut, and attended the preparatory school at Williams College before graduating from Yale College (later Yale University) in 1803. Afterwards he briefly studied law in New York City before returning to New Haven to receive theological instruction from Timothy Dwight. During service as pastor of the Congregational church at Greenfield Hill in Fairfield County, Connecticut, 1805–08, Holley embraced Unitarianism, and he next officiated at the Unitarian South End Church in Boston, 1809–18. In the latter year he became president of Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. The struggling institution expanded dramatically under Holley’s direction and developed a flourishing medical school, but opposition to his liberal religious views and fiscal constraints limited his ability to grow the university further and prompted Holley to resign early in 1827. Shortly after accepting an offer to head a college in New Orleans, he caught yellow fever while on a voyage to New York and died at sea (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; Dexter, Yale Biographies, 5:586–90; Charles Caldwell, A Discourse on the Genius and Character of the Rev. Horace Holley, LL. D. [1828]; Essex [Mass.] Register, 13 Aug. 1827).

1Word added to RC by copyist of FC in a space left blank by Adams.

2RC: “Superintendanc.” FC: “Superintendance.”

3RC: “Spaine.” FC: “Spain.”

4RC: “Goverment.” FC: “Government.”

5RC: “Frendship.” FC: “Friendship.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; introduces H. Holley search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on Ky. search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Adams, John; on South America search
  • Boston, Mass.; South End Church search
  • Catholicism; criticized search
  • Christianity; J. Adams on search
  • Dwight, Timothy; mentioned search
  • Holley, Horace; identified search
  • Holley, Horace; introduced to TJ search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; letters of introduction to search
  • Kentucky; J. Adams on search
  • religion; Catholicism search
  • religion; J. Adams on search
  • schools and colleges; Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.) search
  • South America; J. Adams on search
  • South End Church (Boston) search
  • Spain; colonies of search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); president of search