Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Adams, 12 September 1821

To John Adams

Monticello Sep. 12. 21.

Dear Sir

I am just returned from my other home, and shall within a week go back to it for the rest of the autumn. I find here your favor of Aug. 20. and was before in arrear for that of May 19. I cannot answer, but join in, your question, of May 19. Are we to surrender the pleasing hopes of seeing improvement in the moral and intellectual condition of Man? the events of Naples & Piedmont cast a gloomy cloud over that hope: and Spain & Portugal are not beyond jeopardy. and what are we to think of this Northern triumvirate, arming their nations to dictate despotisms to the rest of world? and the evident connivance of England, as the price of secret stipulations for continental armies, if her own should take side with her malcontent and pulverised people? and what of the poor Greeks, and their small chance of amelioration even if the hypocritical Autocrat should take them under the iron cover of his Ukazes. would this be lighter or safer than that of the Turk? these, my dear friend, are speculations for the new generation, as, before they will be resolved, you and I must join our deceased brother Floyd. yet I will not believe our labors are lost. I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on steady advance. we have seen indeed once1 within the records of history a compleat eclipse of the human mind continuing for centuries. and this too by swarms of the same Northern barbarians, conquering and taking possession of the countries & governments of the civilized world. should this be again attempted, should the same Northern hordes, allured again by the corn,2 wine, and oil of the South, be able again to settle their swarms in the countries of their growth, the art of printing alone, and the vast dissemination of books, will maintain the mind where it is, and raise the conquering ruffians to the level of the conquered, instead of degrading those to that of their conquerors. and even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them. in short, the flames kindled on the 4th of July 1776. have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism. on the contrary they will consume those engines, and all who work them.

I think with you that there should be a school of instruction for our navy as well as artillery; and I do not see why the same establishment might not suffice for both. both require the same basis of general mathematics, adding projectiles & fortification for the artillery exclusively, and Astronomy & the theory of navigation exclusively for the Naval students. Bezout conducted both schools in France, and has left us the best book extant for their joint & separate instruction. it ought not to require a separate professor.

A 4th of July oration delivered in the town of Milford in your state gives to Samuel Chase the credit of having ‘first started the cry of independance in the ears of his countrymen.’ do you remember any thing of this? I do not. I have no doubt it was uttered in Massachusets even before it was by Thomas Paine. but certainly I never considered Samuel Chase as foremost, or even forward in that hallowed cry. I know that Maryland hung heavily on our backs, & that Chase, altho’ first named, was not most in unison with us of that delegation, either in politics or morals. et c’est ainsi que l’on ecrit l’histoire!   Your doubt of the legitimacy of the word gloriola is resolved by Cicero, who in his letter to Lucceius expresses a wish ‘ut nosmetipsi vivi gloriola nostra perfruamur.’ affectly Adieu

Th: Jeff[erson]

RC (MHi: Adams Papers); signature, clipped, supplied from PoC, where it is faint; endorsed by Adams. PoC (DLC); trimmed; several words rewritten by TJ to supply text lost due to polygraph misalignment.

The northern triumvirate was the Holy Alliance of Austria, Prussia, and Russia. The hypocritical autocrat was Alexander I of Russia. et c’est ainsi que l’on ecrit l’histoire: “and thus is history written.”

ut nosmetipsi vivi gloriola nostra perfruamur: “to enjoy my modicum of glory myself before I die.” Quotation, with a minor variation, is from Cicero to Lucius Lucceius, letter 22 (V.12) in Cicero, Letters to Friends, ed. and trans. David R. Shackleton Bailey, Loeb Classical Library (2001), 1:164–5.

1Word interlined.

2Omitted comma at right margin editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and European affairs search
  • Adams, John; and Greece search
  • Adams, John; and naval school search
  • Adams, John; and origin of American Revolution search
  • Adams, John; letters to search
  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and Greece search
  • American Revolution; disputes over origin of search
  • An Oration, pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1821, (by request,) before the Republican Citizens of Milford, Mass. (T. Whittemore) search
  • astronomy; and military education search
  • Austria; and Holy Alliance search
  • Bézout, Étienne; Cours De Mathématiques search
  • books; and human progress search
  • Chase, Samuel; revolutionary leader search
  • Cicero; Letters to Friends search
  • Cicero; TJ quotes search
  • Cours De Mathématiques (É. Bézout) search
  • Floyd, William; death of search
  • Fourth of July; international influence of search
  • Fourth of July; orations search
  • Great Britain; political unrest in search
  • Great Britain; supports despotism in Europe search
  • Greece, modern; and Ottoman Empire search
  • Greece, modern; and Russia search
  • Holy Alliance; TJ on search
  • Italy; and revolution in Naples search
  • Italy; and revolution in Piedmont search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Cicero search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European affairs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; human progress search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; liberty search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; naval education search
  • Letters to Friends (Cicero) search
  • Lucceius, Lucius; and Cicero search
  • Maryland; and American Revolution search
  • Massachusetts; and origin of American Revolution search
  • mathematics; and military education search
  • Milford, Mass.; Fourth of July oration given in search
  • Naples, kingdom of (later Kingdom of the Two Sicilies); revolution in search
  • navigation; study of search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; proposed school for search
  • Ottoman Empire; and Greece search
  • Paine, Thomas; and American Revolution search
  • Piedmont, Italy; revolution in search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Portugal; affairs in search
  • printing; and human progress search
  • Prussia; and Holy Alliance search
  • Russia; and Greece search
  • Russia; and Holy Alliance search
  • schools and colleges; naval search
  • Spain; affairs in search
  • United States; and liberty search
  • Whittemore, Thomas; An Oration, pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1821, (by request,) before the Republican Citizens of Milford, Mass. search