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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, 4 October, 1813.
Σὲ γὰρ πάντεσσι ϑέμις ϑνητοῖσι προσαυδᾶν
“It is not only permitted, but enjoined upon all mortals to address you.” Why should not our divines translate it,
“It is our duty and our privilege to address the throne of thy grace, and pray for all needed lawful blessings, temporal and spiritual”?
θεμις was the goddess of honesty, justice, decency, and right; the wife of Jove, another name for Juno. She presided over all oracles, deliberations, and councils. She commanded all mortals to pray to Jupiter for all lawful benefits and blessings. Now, is not this (so far forth) the essence of Christian devotion? Is not this Christian piety? Is it not an acknowledgment of the existence of a Supreme Being, of his universal Providence, of a righteous administration of the government of the universe? And what can Jews, Christians, or Mahometans do more? Priestley, the heroic Priestley, would not have dared to answer or to ask these questions, though he might have answered them consistently enough with the spirit of his system. I regret, that Grotius has not translated this hymn, and cannot account for his omission of it. Duport translates the above line only by,—
Where he finds his ægris, I know not; no such idea is in the Greek. All mortals, sick or well, have a right, and it is their duty, to pray, as far as I can understand the Greek. Bougainville translates it,—
This translation is Christian with a witness. None but a Jew, a Mahometan, or a Christian could ever have translated that simple line in this manner. Yet, the idea, the sentiment, translated into Christianity, is very well; well enough. The gentleman of Verona, Girolamo Pompei translates it thus, after “Salve, O Giove,” for “Χαῖρε”
Now, tell me what resemblance of the Greek you can find in this Italian version? In this manner are the most ancient Greek theologians rendered and transmitted to our youth by the Christians!
Ἐκ σοῦ γὰρ γένος ἐσμὲν, I presume, is the phrase quoted by Saint Paul, when he says to the Athenians, “one of your own poets hath said, we are all his offspring.” Acts, xvii. 28. “For in Him we live and move and have our being; as certain, also, of your own poets have said, ‘for we are also his offspring.’ Forasmuch, then, as we are the offspring of God, we ought not to think that the Godhead is like unto silver, or gold, or stone graven by art and man’s device.” This reasoning is irresistible; for what can be more mad than to represent the eternal, almighty, omnipresent cause and principle of the universe by statues and pictures, by coins or medals!
Duport renders these two lines by,—
Bougainville translates them thus:—
Pompei renders them:—
Moses says, Genesis i. 27: “God created man in his own image.” What, then, is the difference between Cleanthes and Moses? Are not the being and attributes of the Supreme Being, the resemblance, the image, the shadow of God in the intelligence and moral qualities of man, and the lawfulness and duty of prayer, as clearly asserted by Cleanthes as by Moses? And did not the Chaldeans, the Egyptians, the Persians, the Indians, the Chinese, believe all this, as well as the Jews and Greeks?
Alexander appears to have behaved to the Jews as Napoleon did to the Mahometans in the pyramid of Grand Cairo. Ptolemy, the greatest of his generals, and a greater man than himself, was so impressed with what he learned in Judea, that he employed seventy learned men to translate the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, nearly three hundred years before Christ. He sent learned men to collect books from all nations, and deposited them in the Alexandrian library. Will any man make me believe that Cæsar, that Pompey, that Cicero, that Seneca, that Tacitus, that Dionysius Halicarnassensis, that Plutarch, had never seen or heard of the Septuagint? Why might not Cleanthes have seen the Septuagint? The curiosity of Pompey to see the interior of the temple shows that the system of the Jews was become an object of speculation. It is impossible to believe that the Septuagint was unknown and unheard of by Greeks or Romans at that time, at least by the great generals, orators, historians, philosophers, and statesmen, who looked through the then known world for information of every thing. On the other hand, how do we know how much Moses, Samuel, Joshua, David, Solomon, and Esdras, Daniel, Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Jeremiah learned in Babylon, Egypt, and Persia? The destruction of the library at Alexandria is all the answer we can obtain to these questions. I believe that Jews, Grecians, Romans, and Christians all conspired or connived at that savage catastrophe. I believe Cleanthes to be as good a Christian as Priestley.
But enough of my school-boy criticisms and crude philosophy, problematical history and heretical divinity, for the present.