Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO SAMUEL B. MALCOM. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO SAMUEL B. MALCOM. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO SAMUEL B. MALCOM.
Quincy, 6 August, 1812.
Your favor of July 11th was duly received. Your resolution to subjugate yourself to the control of no party, is noble; but have you considered all the consequences of it? In the whole history of human life this maxim has rarely failed to annihilate the influence of the man who adopts it, and very often exposed him to the tragical vengeance of all parties.1
There are two tyrants in human life who domineer in all nations, in Indians and Negroes, in Tartars and Arabs, in Hindoos and Chinese, in Greeks and Romans, in Britons and Gauls, as well as in our simple, youthful, and beloved United States of America.
These two tyrants are fashion and party. They are sometimes at variance, and I know not whether their mutual hostility is not the only security of human happiness. But they are forever struggling for an alliance with each other; and, when they are united, truth, reason, honor, justice, gratitude, and humanity itself in combination are no match for the coalition. Upon the maturest reflection of a long experience, I am much inclined to believe that fashion is the worst of all tyrants, because he is the original source, cause, preserver, and supporter of all others.
Nothing short of the philosophy of Zeno, Socrates, Seneca, and Epictetus could ever support an ancient, and nothing short of the philosophy of Jesus could ever support a modern, in the resolution you have taken. Nothing less than the spirit of martyrdom is sufficient; for martyrdom will infallibly ensue. Not always in flames at the stake, not always in the guillotine; but in lies, slanders, insults, and privations, oftentimes more difficult to bear than the horrors of Smithfield or the Place de Louis XV.
Men have suffered martyrdom for party and for fashion in sufficient numbers; but none for contempt of party and fashion, but upon principles of the highest order.
But to descend from these romantic heights. I wish to know the name and age of your son, and the meaning of the letter B in your name. Your printed publications I am anxious to see. I am sorry you left your practice at the bar. There is the scene of independence. Cannot you return to it? Integrity and skill at the bar, are better supporters of independence than any fortune, talents, or eloquence elsewhere. A man of genius, talents, eloquence, integrity, and judgment at the bar, is the most independent man in society. Presidents, governors, senators, judges, have not so much honest liberty; but it ought always to be regulated by prudence, and never abused.
Judge Vanderkemp is a great man, a star of the first magnitude under a thick cloud.
Smith has been the enemy of no man but himself; I lament the loss to the nation of military talents and experience, but I fear it is irremediable.
Without entering into any moral, political, or religious discussions of the subject of private combats, and individual administration of justice in one’s own case, I cannot but lament that the sacred, solemn bench of justice should exhibit perpetual exemplifications of the practice before the people. This is not conformable to the policy even of Europe, where duelling is not carried to such rancorous, deliberate, and malicious excess as it is in America. Aristides, I do not remember to have read.1 Colonel Burr, Attorney-General Burr, Senator Burr, Vice-President Burr, almost President Burr, has returned to New York. What is to be his destiny?
Emulation, rivalry, ambition, have unlimited scope under our forms of government. We have seen enough already to admonish us what we have to expect in future. My poor coarse boudoir, five or six-and-twenty years ago, held up mirrors in which our dear countrymen might have seen their pictures. If this is vanity, it is also cool philosophy.
From your real well-wisher.
[1 ] Mr. Malcom had been Mr Adams’s private secretary during a part of his Presidential term. He had just been an unsuccessful applicant for a judicial office under the federal government, to obtain which he had solicited Mr. Adams’s aid. Mr. Jefferson had also been applied to. His letter to President Madison respecting it is in Mr. Randolph’s collection Vol. iv. p. 175
[1 ] A pamphlet with this signature, ascribed to Mr. W. P. Van Ness, who obtained the office for which Mr. Malcom had applied. He was Colonel Burr’s second in the duel with Mr. Hamilton.