Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES LLOYD. - 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 JAMES LLOYD. - 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 JAMES LLOYD.
Quincy, 11 February, 1815.
We are ignorant, as you intimate, of one another. We are ignorant of our own nation; we are ignorant of the geography, the laws, customs, and manners and habits of our own country. Massachusetts, as knowing as any State in the Union, is deplorably ignorant of her sister States, and, what is more to be lamented still, she is ignorant of herself. She is composed of two nations, if not three. One party reads the newspapers and pamphlets of its own church, and interdicts all writings of the opposite complexion. The other party condemns all such as heresy, and will not read or suffer to be read, as far as its influence extends, any thing but its own libels. “The avenue to the public ear is shut” in Massachusetts, as Mr. Randolph says it is in Virginia. With us, the press is under a virtual imprimatur, to such a degree, that I do not believe I could get these letters to you printed in a newspaper in Boston. Each party is deliberately and studiously kept in ignorance of the other. Have naked truth and honest candor a fair hearing or impartial reading in this or any other country? Have not narrow bigotry, the most envious malignity, the most base, vulgar, sordid, fishwoman scurrility, and the most palpable lies, a plenary indulgence, and an unbounded licentiousness? If there is ever to be an amelioration of the condition of mankind, philosophers, theologians, legislators, politicians and moralists will find that the regulation of the press is the most difficult, dangerous, and important problem they have to resolve. Mankind cannot now be governed without it, nor at present with it. Instead of a consolation, it is an aggravation to know that this kind of ignorance is not peculiar to Massachusetts. It is universal. It runs through every State in the Union. It is at least as prevalent in New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, as in Massachusetts. Parties in politics, like sects in religion, will not read, indeed they are not permitted by their leaders to read, any thing against their own creed, nor indeed to converse with any but their own club. The Bible is forbidden to the vulgar by all parties.
Let me give an example. Coming down from the Senate chamber, when I was Vice-President, a hawker, at the bottom of the stairs presented to me an octavo volume. Turning to the title-page, I found it was the “American Remembrancer,” written by Callender. I knew nothing of the book or its author, gave the pedlar his price, and pocketed the book. Turning over the leaves at home, I found it full of the grossest lies and calumnies against Washington, against myself, and the whole government. I pointed to passages, but the gentlemen of the ruling party would take no notice of them. “They were below contempt.” New England is ignorant of this book, but it was circulated in the middle and southern States, and believed as an oracle. No measures were taken to counteract an engine that contributed so essentially to the final prevalence of the southern over the northern interests. “The Prospect before Us” appeared afterwards, but no measures were taken as an antidote to that poison. Not only was ignorance permitted to remain, but error and falsehood to run and be glorified.
If we turn our attention to another subject, we shall see the same ignorance, inadvertency, nonchalance, or apathy in the leaders of the faction, who were for continuing the war. The utmost exertions of all their recruiting officers, with all the influence of Hamilton and Pinckney, reënforced by the magical name of Washington, had not been able to raise one half of their favorite little army. That army was as unpopular, as if it had been a ferocious wild beast let loose upon the nation to devour it. In newspapers, in pamphlets, and in common conversation they were called cannibals. A thousand anecdotes, true or false, of their licentiousness, were propagated and believed. There was not in the house of representatives a more unbridled tongue or a more licentious vituperatory orator against war, the army, the navy, the administration, and all their measures and men, than Mr. Randolph. He called the army ragamuffins, and was not even called to order. Yet all these things did not remove from the minds of those leaders the ignorance of the faintness of their own influence and the imbecility of their power. No proper measures were taken by means of the press to counteract abuses. Indiscreet and injudicious prosecutions were instituted by some of the law officers of the United States, which did more harm than good; yet these were thought sufficient to suppress all opposition. I pray you to remark, Sir, that I speak of the leaders, of the advocates for continuing the war. The soundest statesmen of the ruling party in both houses approved of my missions to France, and were highly pleased with them, as I will show you hereafter.
Another demonstration of the inattention and inconsideration, if not of the ignorance of those leaders, arose from an unfashionable source of mischief, which I fear labitur et labetur in omne volubilis ævum. I mean that stream of misrepresentations of the men and measures of the administration in circular letters from members of Congress to their constituents in the middle and especially in the southern States, which began as early as 1789, when Congress was held in New York, and continued through the eight years of Washington’s administration, flowing all the time in peculiarly copious abundance against me, and which, in the electioneering parliamentary campaign of 1796, and from thence to 1801, swelled, raged, foamed in all the fury of a tempest at sea against me. A collection of those circular letters would make many volumes, and contain more lies in proportion to the time than the Acta Sanctorum. Yet no measures were taken to raise dikes against this inundation!
Another proof of ignorance may surprise you; I hope it will not offend you. Washington, Hamilton, and Pinckney were assembled at Philadelphia to advise in the selection of officers for the army. The history of the formation of this triumvirate would be as curious as that of Pompey, Cæsar, and Crassus, or that of Antony, Octavius, and Lepidus, and the effects of it have been and may be, for any thing I know, as prosperous or adverse to mankind. One thing I know, that Cicero was not sacrificed to the vengeance of Antony by the unfeeling selfishness of the latter triumvirate more egregiously than John Adams was to the unbridled and unbounded ambition of Alexander Hamilton in the American triumvirate.
Washington, Hamilton, and Pinckney depended for the support of their power and the system of their politics entirely on New York and Pennsylvania. The northern and the southern States were immovably fixed in opposition to each other. If this triumvirate did not know this, they were as ignorant as you and I know, and acknowledge, we all are of each other. Pennsylvania was compounded of Germans, Irish, Quakers, and a few ancient English families, who had been generally attached to the proprietary government. These were the great capital classes. The subdivisions of Roman Catholics, Episcopalians, Presbyterians, Methodists, Anabaptists, Moravians, &c., &c., &c., were infinite. The Quakers were all in principle hostile to war.