Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN TAYLOR. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO JOHN TAYLOR. - 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 JOHN TAYLOR.
Quincy, 9 April, 1814.
I have received from Mr. John M. Carter your “Inquiry” in 656 pages, neatly bound. If I had any rational expectation, in my seventy-ninth year, of life, health, unclouded eyes, and unparalyzed fingers for twenty years to come, I would cheerfully engage with you in an analytical investigation of all those subjects which, you say, have amused some of your leisure hours for twenty years past.
The field is vast. It comprehends the first and the last philosophy; the end of man in all his existence. In this letter, I shall confine myself to one topic. In your 519th page, and several that follow, you have taken notice of something of my composition. But I cannot understand it. I suspect, by some accident or other, you have confounded together a little pamphlet with a letter that was never printed. Let me give you an unvarnished explanation, according to my best recollection. In January, 1776, six months before the declaration of independence, Mr. Wythe, of Virginia, passed an evening with me, at my chambers. In the course of conversation upon the necessity of independence, Mr. Wythe, observing that the greatest obstacle, in the way of a declaration of it, was the difficulty of agreeing upon a government for our future regulation, I replied that each colony should form a government for itself, as a free and independent State. “Well,” said Mr. Wythe, “what plan would you institute or advise for any one of the States?” My answer was, “It is a thing I have not thought much of, but I will give you the first ideas that occur to me;” and I went on to explain to him off-hand and in short-hand my first thoughts. Mr. Wythe appeared to think more of them than I did, and requested me to put down in writing what I had then said. I agreed, and, accordingly, that night and the next morning wrote it, and sent it in a letter to him. This letter he sent to R. H. Lee, who came and asked my leave to print it. I said it was not fit to be printed, nor worth printing; but, if he thought otherwise, he might, provided he would suppress my name. He went accordingly to Dunlap, and had it printed under the title of “Thoughts on Government, in a Letter from a Gentleman to his Friend.” Thus much for the printed pamphlet. Now for the unprinted letter. Some time in the ensuing spring, the delegates from North Carolina called upon me with a vote of the legislature of their State, instructing them to apply to me for advice concerning a form of government to be instituted in that State. I blushed, to be sure, to find that my name had reached so far as North Carolina; and still more at such an unexpected honor from so respectable an assembly.1
Overwhelmed, however, as I was at that period, night and day, with business in Congress and on committees, I found moments to write a letter, perhaps as long as that to Mr. Wythe, and containing nearly the same outlines. In what points the two letters agree or differ, I know not, for I kept no copy, and have never seen or heard of it since, till your volume revived the recollection of it. I suspect you have never seen either of the letters, but have taken extracts from them both, which may have been printed in newspapers, and blended them together; for certainly there was not a word about North Carolina in the printed letter to Mr. Wythe.
I may possibly hear hereafter of another letter I wrote to Jonathan Dickinson Sergeant, of New Jersey, in answer to an earnest solicitation from him to give him my sentiments of a proper form of government for that State. I took no copy, and have not heard of it for thirty-five or thirty-six years. Let it come to light, however. I have no wish to conceal any thing in any of these letters, though there may be many things I should not now approve. The experience of thirty-eight years alters many views. Opinionum commenta delet dies.
As you seem to have found some amusement in some of my scribbles, I beg your acceptance of another morsel, the Discourses on Davila, which you may call the fourth volume of the Defence of the Constitutions of the United States. I am, Sir, very respectfully, and with very friendly dispositions, &c.
[1 ] There can be no doubt that there were three separate letters of Mr. Adams in circulation, each of them embodying the same general idea, with more or less amplification. One of them is the printed pamphlet alluded to in the text; the second is that published by Mr. Taylor, which gave rise to this letter, and which that gentleman had obtained from Mr. John Penn, of North Carolina; and still a third has been found in North Carolina, a copy of which was transmitted to Mr. J. Q. Adams, a few years before his decease, by Mr. Charles Philips, Secretary of the Historical Society of the University of North Carolina.