Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 24 September 1821

From John Adams

Montizello 24 Septr 1821.

Dear Sir.

I thank you for your favour of the 12 instt. Hope springs eternal. Eight millions of Jews hope for a Messiah more powerful & glorious than Moses, David, or Solomon who is to make them as powerful as he pleases. Some hundreds of millions of Musslemen expect another Prophet more powerful than Mahomet who is to spread Islamism over the whole earth—Hundreds of millions of Christians expect and hope for a millenium in which Jesus is to reign for a thousand years over the whole world before it is burnt up—The Hindoos expect another and a final incarnation of Vishnu who is to do great and wonderful things, I know not what.—All these hopes are founded on real or pretended revelation. The modern Greeks too it seems hope for a deliverer who is to produce them the1 Themistoclese’s and Demostheneses. The Plato’s and Aristotle’s The Solon’s and Lycurgus’. On what prophecies they found their belief I know not.—You and I hope for splendid improvements in human society and vast ameliorations in the condition of mankind.—Our faith may be supported by more rational2 arguments than any of the former—I own that I am very sanguine in the belief of them as I hope and believe you are and your reasoning in your Letter confirmed me in them.—As Brother Floyd has gone I am now the oldest of the little3 Congressional group that remain. I may therefore rationally hope to be the first to depart; and as you are the youngest and the most energetic in mind and body, you may therefore rationally hope to be the last to take your flight and to rake up the fire as father Sherman who always staid to the last and commonly two days afterwards used to say. “that it was his office to sit up and rake the ashes over the coals” and much satisfaction may you have in your office.

The Cholera Morbus has done wonders in St Helena and in London. We shall soon hear of a Negociation for a second Wife. Whether in the body or out of the body I shall always be your friend.

The anecdote of Mr Chase contained in the Oration delivered at Milford must be an idle rumour for neither the State of Maryland nor of their Delegates were very early in their conviction of the necessity of Independence, nor very forward in promoting it—The old Speaker Tilghman, Johnson, Chase, and Paca, were steady in promoting resistance but after some of them Maryland sent one at least of the most turbulent Tory’s that ever came to Congress—

John Adams.

RC (DLC); in Louisa Catherine Johnson Adams’s hand, signed by John Adams; at foot of text in his hand: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 3 Oct. 1821 and so recorded in SJL. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers); in two different unidentified hands.

hope springs eternal comes from line 95 of the first epistle of Alexander Pope, Essay on Man (The Works of Alexander Pope, Esq. [Edinburgh, 1764; Adams’s copy in MBPLi], 2:12). Apparent gastrointestinal illnesses had recently caused the deaths on the island of st helena of Napoleon and in london of Queen Caroline, wife of George IV of England (Boston Repertory, 21 Aug. 1821; Boston Columbian Centinel, 19 Sept. 1821). The turbulent Tory from Maryland was most likely Robert Alexander, who first protested British measures and was appointed to the Continental Congress late in 1775, but then fled, settled in London, and was judged a traitor by the state of Maryland (Biog. Dir. Cong. description begins Biographical Directory of the United States Congress, 1774–Present, online resource, Office of the Clerk, United States House of Representatives description ends ; J. Thomas Scharf, History of Maryland from the Earliest Period to the Present Day [1879], 2:297–8).

1RC: “them.—The.” FC: “them the.”

2FC here adds “natural &.”

3The word “band” is here canceled in an unidentified hand.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and European affairs search
  • Adams, John; and Greece search
  • Adams, John; and origin of American Revolution search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on deaths of Revolutionary colleagues search
  • Adams, John; on Napoleon search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Alexander, Robert; and American Revolution 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
  • Aristotle; J. Adams on search
  • Caroline (Princess Caroline of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel, queen of England); death of search
  • Chase, Samuel; revolutionary leader search
  • Christianity; J. Adams on search
  • David, king of Israel search
  • Demosthenes; J. Adams on search
  • Floyd, William; death of search
  • Fourth of July; orations search
  • Greece, modern; J. Adams on search
  • health; cholera search
  • Hinduism; J. Adams on search
  • Islam search
  • Jesus; J. Adams on search
  • Johnson, Thomas (of Maryland); as member of Continental Congress search
  • Judaism; J. Adams on search
  • Lycurgus (Spartan lawgiver) search
  • Maryland; and American Revolution search
  • Milford, Mass.; Fourth of July oration given in search
  • Moses (Hebrew prophet) search
  • Muhammad (founder of Islam) search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; death of search
  • Paca, William; and American Revolution search
  • Plato; J. Adams on search
  • Pope, Alexander; quoted search
  • religion; Hinduism search
  • Sherman, Roger; anecdote of search
  • Solomon, king of Israel search
  • Solon; J. Adams on search
  • Themistocles; J. Adams on search
  • Tilghman, Matthew; and American Revolution search
  • Vishnu (Hindu deity); J. Adams on search
  • Whittemore, Thomas; An Oration, pronounced on the Fourth of July, 1821, (by request,) before the Republican Citizens of Milford, Mass. search