Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 11 June 1822

From John Adams

Montezillo June 11th 1822—

dear Sir.—

Half an hour ago I received, and this moment have heard read for the third or fourth time, the best letter that ever was written by an Octogenarian1 dated June the 1st. It is so excellent that I am almost under an invincible temptation to commit a breach of trust by lending it to a printer. my Son Thomas Boylston, says it would be worth five hundred dollars to any newspaper in Boston, but I dare not betray your confidence.2

I have not sprained my wrist, but both my arms and hands are so over strained that I cannot write a line—Poor Starke remembered nothing, and talked of nothing,3 but the Battle of Bennington—

poor Thomson is not quite so reduced. I cannot mount my Horse, but I can walk three miles over a rugged rockey mountain, and have done it within a month; yet I feel when setting in my chair, as if I could not rise out of it, and when risen, as if I could not walk across the room; my sight is very dim hearing pretty4 good, memory poor enough.—

I answer your question? Is Death an Evil. It is not an Evil. it is a blessing to the individual, and to the world. yet we ought not to wish for it till life becomes insupportable; we must wait the pleasure and convenience of the5 great teacher.—Winter is as terrible to me, as to you, I am almost reduced in it, to the life of a Bear or a torpid swallow. I cannot read, but my delight is to hear others read, and I tax all my friends most unmercifully and tyrannically, against their consent.

The ass has kicked in vain, all men say the dull animal has missed the mark.

This globe is a Theatre of War. its inhabitants are all heroes.6 the little Eels7 in Vinegar and the animalcule in pepper water, I believe are quarrelsome, the Bees are as war-like as Romans, Russians, Britains, or Frenchmen.8 Ants or Caterpillars9 and Canker worms; are the only tribes amongst whom, I have not seen battles, and Heaven itself if we believe Hindoos, Jews, and Christians,10 has not always been at peace. We need not trouble ourselves about these things nor fret ourselves because of Evil doers but safely trust the ruler with his skies. Nor need we dread the approach of dotage, let it come if it must.—   Thomson it seems11 still delights in his four stories. and Starke remembers to the last his Bennington, and exulted in his Glory, the worst of the Evil is, that our friends will suffer more by our imbecility than we ourselves.—

Diplomatic flickerings, it seems have not yet ceased, it seems12 as if a Council of Ambassadors could never agree.—

In wishing for your health and happiness I am very selfish for I hope for more letters; this is worth more than five hundred dollars to me, for it has already given me,13 and will continue to give me more pleasure than a thousand—Mr Jay who is about your age I am told experiences more decay than you do.—

I am your old friend—

John Adams

RC (DLC); in Louisa C. Smith’s hand, signed by Adams; at foot of text in Smith’s hand: “President Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers). Tr (MHi: Adams Papers); unsigned. Recorded in SJL as received 22 June 1822. Printed in Boston Christian Register, 6 Dec. 1822, and elsewhere, with wording following FC.

little eels in vinegar: vinegar eels. The pioneering Dutch microscopist Antoni van Leeuwenhoek studied animalcules extensively during the 1670s and thereafter, including bacteria in pepper water (DSB description begins Charles C. Gillispie, ed., Dictionary of Scientific Biography, 1970–80, 16 vols. description ends ).

1RC: “Octogenearian.” FC and Tr: “Octogenarian.”

2Sentence not in Tr.

3Preceding four words interlined. FC and Tr: “and could talk of nothing.”

4RC: “pritty.” FC and Tr: “pretty.”

5RC: “this.” FC and Tr: “the.”

6Omitted period supplied from FC and Tr. RC: “I believe,” redundant and not in FC, is editorially omitted.

7RC: “Eeels.” FC: “Ells.” Tr: “eels.”

8Comma in RC altered to period as in FC and Tr.

9RC: “Caterpilars.” FC: “Catterpillars.” Tr: “caterpillers.”

10FC and Tr here add “& Mahometans.”

11Here and immediately below, RC: "seemes"; FC and Tr: "seems."

12RC: “seem’s.” FC and Tr: “seems.”

13Preceding six words not in FC or Tr.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and attacks on TJ search
  • Adams, John; and correspondence with TJ search
  • Adams, John; and publication of TJ’s letters search
  • Adams, John; health of search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on aging search
  • Adams, John; on death and dying search
  • Adams, John; on religion search
  • Adams, John; on ubiquity of conflict search
  • Adams, John; reading habits of search
  • Adams, Thomas Boylston; on publishing TJ’s letters search
  • aging; of J. Adams search
  • Bennington, Battle of (1777) search
  • health; debility search
  • health; memory loss search
  • health; palsy search
  • health; vision loss search
  • horses; mentioned search
  • Jay, John; J. Adams on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • religion; J. Adams on search
  • Smith, Louisa Catharine (John Adams’s niece); as J. Adams’s amanuensis search
  • Stark, John; Revolutionary War officer search
  • Thomson, Charles; health of search
  • “A Native of Virginia” (pseudonym); accuses TJ of misuse of public funds search