Thomas Jefferson Papers

John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, 12 July 1822

From John Adams

Quincy1 Montezillo July 12th 1822

Dear Sir

Yours of the 27th June is received with pleasure, for the free air of it delights me.

Your number of 1267. letters in a year, does not surprise me; I have no list of mine, and I could not make one without a weeks research, And2 I do not believe I ever received one quarter part of your number. And I very much doubt whether I received in the same year one twelfth part; There are reasons enough for the differance.

I hope one day your letters will be all published in volumes; they will not always appear orthodox, or liberal in politicks; But they will exhibit a mass of Taste, Sense, Literature and Science, presented in a sweet simplicity, and a neat elegance of Stile, which will be read with delight in future ages. I think that when a people turn out their old servants, either by legal suffrages, or from complaisance to a vulgar opinion, they ought to grant them at least, an outfit; for by making them conspicuous, and multiplying their acquaintances, they expose them to expences heavier than when in office. Your stationary bill alone for paper, Quills, Enk, wafers, wax, sand and Pounce, must have amounted to enough to maintain a small family.—I never can forgive new york, Connecticut, or Maine for turning out Venerable men, of sixty, or seventy; from the seats of Judgement, when their judgement is often the best, to turn out such men to eat husks with the prodigal, or grass with Nebuchadnezzar ought to be tormenting to the humanity of the nation; it is infinitely worse than saing “go up thou bald Head.” For my part, my blindness and Palsy lay me under a necessity of neglecting to answer many letters, and other kind civilities which otherwise I should delight to acknowledge. I believe it will be best to brave it ou[t,] it will be impossible to conceal anything.—

I am your friend of forty seven years Standing.—

John Adams

RC (DLC); in Louisa C. Smith’s hand, signed by Adams; edge trimmed, with missing text supplied from FC; endorsed by TJ as received 23 July 1822 and so recorded in SJL. RC (DLC); address cover only; with Dft of TJ to John Adams (of Richmond), William H. Fitzwhylsonn, and Thomas Brockenbrough, 18 Oct. 1824, on verso; addressed in Smith’s hand: “Thomas Jefferson—late President of the United States—Monticello—Virginia”; franked; inconsistently postmarked Quincy, 11 July. FC (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers); dated 10 July 1822.

Newly appointed ministers plenipotentiary were customarily granted an outfit of one year’s additional salary to cover the expense of furnishing themselves for this duty (PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, James P. McClure, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 45 vols. description ends , 28:619n).

The 1821 new york state constitution required its chancellor and justices of the supreme court to step down at the age of sixty. Those of connecticut (1818) and maine (1820) specified that judges were not to serve beyond seventy years of age, although Maine exempted justices of the peace (Benjamin Perley Poore, The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters, and other Organic Laws of the United States [1878], 1:263, 796, 1346).

In the Bible, the prodigal son is reduced to eating husks before returning to his father, nebuchadnezzar goes mad and eats grass, and children who mock the prophet Elisha by saying go up thou bald head are killed by bears (Luke 15.16; Daniel 4.25, 32–3; 2 Kings 2.23).

1Word not in FC.

2FC: “but.”

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and publication of TJ’s letters search
  • Adams, John; correspondence of search
  • Adams, John; friendship with TJ search
  • Adams, John; health of search
  • Adams, John; letters from search
  • Adams, John; on retirement search
  • Bible; 2 Kings referenced search
  • Bible; Daniel referenced search
  • Bible; Luke referenced search
  • blindness search
  • Connecticut; and superannuation of judges search
  • health; blindness search
  • health; palsy search
  • household articles; ink search
  • household articles; pounce search
  • household articles; wafers (for sealing letters) search
  • household articles; wax search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; friendship with J. Adams search
  • Maine; and superannuation of judges search
  • Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon; mentioned search
  • New York (state); and superannuation of judges search
  • quills (writing instruments) search
  • sand search
  • Smith, Louisa Catharine (John Adams’s niece); as J. Adams’s amanuensis search
  • stationery; letter paper search