Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 2 March 1819

From John Adams

Quincy March 2d 1819

Dear Sir

I have taxed my eyes with a very heavy impost to read the senator Tracy’s Political Economy & been amply rewarded for the expense. When I first saw the volume I thought it was impossible I should get through it,1 but when I had once made a beginning I found myself led on in so easy a train from proposition to proposition, every one of which appeared to me self evident, that I could not leave the book till I had finished. It is a condensation into a little globule not comparatively bigger than a nut shell of all the sound sense and solid knowledge of the grand master Quesnay2 and all the redoubtable knights his disciples and all their numerous3 huge volumes and those of Sir James Stuart & Adam Smith the Chevalier-Pinto and the Enciclopedists, discarding all their mysteries paradoxies and enigmas.

I have endeavoured and shall endeavour to draw the attention of all my acquaintances to this work: I would endeavour to get it reviewed but I should despair of success—for there is no man in this quarter who would dare to avow such sentiments; and no printer who would not think himself ruined by the publication of it for it is a magazine of gun powder placed under the foundation of all our mercantile institutions.   Yet every sensible man in the nation, knows it to be founded in immutable truth though not one in a hundred would acknowledge it, & they only—sub-rosa. I have never been so prudent.4 I have preached this doctrine thirty years in season and out of season & this heresy has been one of the principal5 causes of the immense unpopularity of

Your old friend and6 humble servant

John Adams

RC (DLC); in Harriet Welsh’s hand, signed by Adams; endorsed by TJ as received 11 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL. RC (MHi); address cover only; with PoC of TJ to Thomas Eston Randolph, 15 Jan. 1820, on verso; addressed in Welsh’s hand: “President Jefferson Monticello”; franked; postmarked Quincy, 3 Mar. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers). Tr (ViU: TJP); in TJ’s hand; unsigned; with note by TJ at head of text (two words clipped): “A letter from John Adams to [Th: Jefferson] dated Quincy Mar. 2. 1819.” Enclosed in TJ to Joseph Milligan, 13 Apr. 1819.

James Steuart (stuart) (1713–80) was a British economist.

1RC: “get through, it.” FC: “ever get through.” Tr: “get through it.”

2RC and FC: “Quanay.” Tr: “Quesnay.”

3RC: “numerrous.” FC and Tr: “numerous.”

4Omitted periods at end of preceding two sentences supplied from FC.

5RC: “principle.” FC and Tr: “principal.”

6FC here adds “most.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and Destutt de Tracy’s writings search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Alembert, Jean Le Rond d’; Encyclopédie search
  • A Treatise on Political Economy (Destutt de Tracy) search
  • books; encyclopedias search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; A Treatise on Political Economy search
  • Diderot, Denis; Encyclopédie search
  • Encyclopédie (J. d’Alembert and D. Diderot) search
  • Pinto de Sousa Coutinho, Luís, chevalier de search
  • political economy; works on search
  • Quesnay, François; French economist search
  • Smith, Adam; works of search
  • Steuart, James; British economist search
  • Welsh, Harriet; as J. Adams’s amanuensis search