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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. - 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 THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Quincy, 2 September, 1813.
Grotius renders this into Latin thus:
I should render the Greek into English thus:
“Nor does a woman disdain to be the wife of a bad rich man. But she prefers a man of property before a good man; for riches are honored, and a good man marries from a bad family, and a bad man from a good one. Wealth mingles races.”
Now, please to tell me, whether my translation has not hit the sense of Theognis as exactly as that of Grotius?
Tell me, also, whether poet, orator, historian, or philosopher, can paint the picture of every city, county, or State, in our pure, uncorrupted, unadulterated, uncontaminated federal republic, or, in France, England, Holland, and all the rest of Christendom or Mahometanism, in more precise lines or colors? Another translation of the whole passage of Theognis is this:
Now, my friend, who are the ἄριστοι? Philosophers may answer, “the wise and good.” But the world, mankind, have, by their practice, always answered, “the rich, the beautiful, and well-born.” And philosophers themselves, in marrying their children, prefer the rich, the handsome, and the well-descended, to the wise and good.
What chance have talents and virtues, in competition with wealth and birth and beauty?
The five pillars of aristocracy are beauty, wealth, birth, genius, and virtue. Any one of the three first can, at any time, overbear any one or both of the two last.
Let me ask again, what a wave of public opinion, in favor of birth, has been spread over the globe by Abraham, by Hercules, by Mahomet, by Guelphs, Ghibellines, Bourbons, and a miserable Scottish chief, Stuart, by Zengis, by —, by —, by a million of others. And what a wave will be spread by Napoleon and by Washington! Their remotest cousins will be sought, and will be proud, and will avail themselves of their descent. Call this principle, prejudice, folly, ignorance, baseness, slavery, stupidity, adulation, superstition, or what you will, I will not contradict you. But the fact in natural, moral, political, and domestic history, I will not deny, or dispute, or question.
And is this great fact in the natural history of man, this unalterable principle of morals, philosophy, policy, domestic felicity, and daily experience from the creation, to be overlooked, forgotten, neglected, or hypocritically waved out of sight, by a legislator, by a professed writer upon civil government, and upon constitutions of civil government?
Thus far had I written, when your favor of August 22d was laid on my table from the post-office. I can only say at present that I can pursue this idle speculation no further, at least till I have replied to this fresh proof of friendship and confidence. Mrs. A. joins in cordial thanks with
You may laugh at the introduction of beauty among the pillars of aristocracy. But Madame du Barry says, “la véritable royauté c’est la beauté,” and there is not a more certain truth. Beauty, grace, figure, attitude, movement, have, in innumerable instances, prevailed over wealth, birth, talents, virtues, and every thing else, in men of the highest rank, greatest power, and, sometimes, the most exalted genius, greatest fame, and highest merit.