Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO BENJAMIN RUSH. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO BENJAMIN RUSH. - John Adams, The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes) 
The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: with a Life of the Author, Notes and Illustrations, by his Grandson Charles Francis Adams (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1856). 10 volumes. Vol. 10.
Part of: The Works of John Adams, 10 vols.
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TO BENJAMIN RUSH.
Quincy, 25 December, 1811.
I never was so much at a loss how to answer a letter as yours of the 16th.
Shall I assume a sober face and write a grave essay on religion, philosophy, laws, or government?
Shall I laugh, like Bacchus among his grapes, wine vats, and bottles?
Shall I assume the man of the world, the fine gentleman, the courtier, and bow and scrape, with a smooth, smiling face, soft words, many compliments and apologies; think myself highly honored, bound in gratitude, &c., &c.?
I perceive plainly enough, Rush, that you have been teasing Jefferson to write to me, as you did me some time ago to write to him. You gravely advise me “to receive the olive branch,” as if there had been war; but there has never been any hostility on my part, nor that I know, on his. When there has been no war, there can be no room for negotiations of peace.
Mr. Jefferson speaks of my political opinions; but I know of no difference between him and myself relative to the Constitution, or to forms of government in general. In measures of administration, we have differed in opinion. I have never approved the repeal of the judicial law, the repeal of the taxes, the neglect of the navy; and I have always believed that his system of gunboats for a national defence was defective. To make it complete, he ought to have taken a hint from Molière’s “Femmes précieuses,” or his learned ladies, and appointed three or four brigades of horse, with a Major-General, and three or four brigadiers, to serve on board his galleys of Malta. I have never approved his non-embargo, or any non-intercourse, or non-importation laws.
But I have raised no clamors nor made any opposition to any of these measures. The nation approved them; and what is my judgment against that of the nation? On the contrary, he disapproved of the alien law and sedition law, which I believe to have been constitutional and salutary, if not necessary.
He disapproved of the eight per cent. loan, and with good reason. For I hated it as much as any man, and the army, too, which occasioned it. He disapproved, perhaps, of the partial war with France, which I believed, as far as it proceeded, to be a holy war. He disapproved of taxes, and perhaps the whole scheme of my administration, &c., and so perhaps did the nation. But his administration and mine are passed away into the dark backwards, and are now of no more importance than the administration of the old Congress in 1774 and 1775.
We differed in opinion about the French revolution. He thought it wise and good, and that it would end in the establishment of a free republic. I saw through it, to the end of it, before it broke out, and was sure it could end only in a restoration of the Bourbons, or a military despotism, after deluging France and Europe in blood. In this opinion I differed from you as much as from Jefferson; but all this made me no more of an enemy to you than to him, nor to him than to you. I believe you both to mean well to mankind and your country. I might suspect you both to sacrifice a little to the infernal Gods, and perhaps unconsciously to suffer your judgments to be a little swayed by a love of popularity, and possibly by a little spice of ambition.
In point of republicanism, all the difference I ever knew or could discover between you and me, or between Jefferson and me, consisted,
1. In the difference between speeches and messages. I was a monarchist because I thought a speech more manly, more respectful to Congress and the nation. Jefferson and Rush preferred messages.
2. I held levees once a week, that all my time might not be wasted by idle visits. Jefferson’s whole eight years was a levee.
3. I dined a large company once or twice a week. Jefferson dined a dozen every day.
4. Jefferson and Rush were for liberty and straight hair. I thought curled hair was as republican as straight.
In these, and a few other points of equal importance, all miserable frivolities, that Jefferson and Rush ought to blush that they ever laid any stress upon them, I might differ; but I never knew any points of more consequence, on which there was any variation between us.
You exhort me to “forgiveness and love of enemies,” as if I considered, or had ever considered, Jefferson as my enemy. This is not so; I have always loved him as a friend. If I ever received or suspected any injury from him, I have forgiven it long and long ago, and have no more resentment against him than against you.
You enforce your exhortations by the most solemn considerations that can enter the human mind. After mature reflection upon them, and laying them properly to heart, I could not help feeling that they were so unnecessary, that you must excuse me if I had some inclination to be ludicrous.
You often put me in mind that I am soon to die; I know it, and shall not forget it. Stepping into my kitchen one day, I found two of my poor neighbors, as good sort of men as two drunkards could be. One had sotted himself into a consumption. His cough and his paleness and weakness showed him near the last stage. Tom, who was not so far gone as yet, though he soon followed, said to John, “You have not long for this world.” John answered very quick: “I know it, Tom, as well as you do; but why do you tell me of it? I had rather you should strike me.” This was one of those touches of nature which Shakspere or Cervantes would have noted in his ivory book.
But why do you make so much ado about nothing? Of what use can it be for Jefferson and me to exchange letters? I have nothing to say to him, but to wish him an easy journey to heaven, when he goes, which I wish may be delayed, as long as life shall be agreeable to him. And he can have nothing to say to me, but to bid me make haste and be ready. Time and chance, however, or possibly design, may produce ere long a letter between us.
TO THOMAS McKEAN.
Quincy, 2 June, 1812.
Our ancient and venerable friend Clinton is gone before us. It had long been my intention to write to him, but while I was busied about many things perhaps of less importance, he has slipped out of my reach. I am determined no longer to neglect to write to you, lest I should glide away, where there is no pen and ink.
Nearly thirty-eight years ago our friendship commenced. It has never been interrupted, to my knowledge, but by one event. Among all the gentlemen with whom I have acted and lived in the world, I know not any two who have more uniformly agreed in sentiment upon political principles, forms of government, and national policy, than you and I have done, except upon one great subject—a most important and momentous one, to be sure. That subject was the French revolution. This, at the first appearance of it, you thought a “minister of grace.” I fully believed it to be “a goblin damned.” Hence all the estrangement between us, that I know, or ever suspected. There is no reason that this should now keep us asunder, for I presume there can be little difference of opinion at present upon this subject. When Pultney accepted a peerage, some droll wit wrote,—
We may now say,—
There can be no question of honors or profits, or rank or fame, between you and me at present. Personal friendship and private feelings are all that remain. I should be happy to hear of your health and prosperity, but I cannot conclude without one political observation. In ancient times Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, and Virginia agreed very well. Why should they be at variance now?
I hope, Sir, you will excuse this intrusion, and believe me to be still, with much esteem, your friend and servant.