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, 14 February, 1815.
The Quakers, as I said in my last, were in principle against all wars, and, moreover, greatly prejudiced against New England, and personally against me. The Irish, who are very numerous and powerful in Pennsylvania, had been, and still were enthusiasts for the French revolution, extremely exasperated against old England, bitterly prejudiced against New England, strongly inclined in favor of the southern interest and against the northern. The Germans hated France and England too, but had been taught to hate New England more than either, and to abhor taxes more than all. A universal and perpetual exemption from taxes was held up to them as a temptation, by underhand politicians. The English, Scotch, and Irish Presbyterians, the Methodists, Anabaptists, the Unitarians and Universalists, with Dr. Priestley at their head, and all the other sectaries, even many of the Episcopalians themselves, had been carried away with the French revolution, and firmly believed that Bonaparte was the instrument of Providence to destroy the Pope and introduce the millennium. All these interests and parties were headed by Mr. McKean, an upright Chief Justice, an enlightened lawyer, a sagacious politician, and the most experienced statesman in the nation; by Mr. Mifflin, one of the earliest in the legislature of Pennsylvania and the first and second Congresses of the nation, an active officer in the revolutionary army, always extremely popular; by Jonathan B. Smith, an old revolutionary character. Dr. Rush, George Clymer, Mr. Ingersoll, wished well to the administration, but saw that nothing could be done, and were quite discouraged. Mr. John Dickinson and the venerable Charles Thomson were decidedly against us. Gallatin and Dallas, able and indefatigable men, as opposite to us as the poles, and Tenche Coxe, a runaway from his master Hamilton.
My triumvirate were either ignorant or wholly inattentive and inconsiderate of all these things. Mr. Jefferson knew them all. These parties had all been making their court to him for fifteen years. And what had my triumvirate to depend upon to support a war against France? The Willings, the Chews, and the Allens, three very respectable families, it is true, but who lost all their influence in Pennsylvania by their invariable opposition to the American revolution. A complete revolution had taken place in the minds of the people, against the national administration, as appeared by the election of Mr. McKean for governor, by a majority. I believe, of thirty thousand votes. The revolution in the legislature, though not yet so decisive, was nevertheless so great that the friends of the national administration, apprehensive of losing all the votes, were obliged to beat a parley with their antagonists, and agree to appoint half their electors of President and Vice-President from one party, and half from another. Such was the state of things when I received two letters, one from Frederic Augustus Muhlenberg, and another from Peter Muhlenberg. These two Germans, who had been long in public affairs and in high offices, were the great leaders and oracles of the whole German interest, in Pennsylvania and the neighboring States. Augustus very respectfully requested me to appoint him to some office. I suggested the idea to some of the heads of department, but none would hear it with patience. I had determined against it myself, because he had failed in business, and several reports were in circulation unfavorable to his integrity, as always happens in cases of bankruptcy. As his poverty might tempt him to misapply public money. I was afraid to trust him in any office that would give him the disposal of any of it, and no other employment occurred. Peter had served with reputation in the revolutionary army as a general officer, commanded a brigade of German troops, was universally allowed to be a brave and able officer; he had long been a member of Congress, had the universal character of an honest man, representing a district of honest Germans. It is true, he had voted generally against the administration. This gentleman wrote me a letter, asking nothing, but offering his services in the army, and expressly declaring that he would make no stipulation with regard to rank.
Detesting in my heart that contracted principle of monopoly and exclusion, which had prevailed through Washington’s administration, and to which I had so often been compelled to submit, I was very desirous of relaxing it upon this occasion. I determined to propose it to the triumvirate. Accordingly I took an opportunity to propose it to General Washington, in a conference between him and me alone. General Washington said, “By all that I have seen and heard in the late war, General Muhlenberg is a good officer.” But the triumvirate would not consent. I was provoked enough to have nominated him notwithstanding; but I knew that he would be negatived by the Senate. Hamilton would give the hint to Pickering, Pickering to Goodhue and Hillhouse, Sedgwick and Bingham, &c., &c., and down would fall the guillotine of a negative upon the neck of poor Muhlenberg. Unwilling to expose him to such an affront, or myself to another, for this would not have been the first, I forbore to nominate him. And what was the consequence? These two Muhlenbergs addressed the public with their names, both in English and German, with invectives against the administration, and warm recommendations of Mr. Jefferson. Although I dreaded the change, well knowing that the party about to come into power would conduct themselves as they have done, I could not very severely condemn the Muhlenbergs; for a faction, selfish and contracted, so entirely devoted to such a leader as Hamilton, would pursue a system more destructive than the other.
The Muhlenbergs turned the whole body of Germans, great numbers of the Irish, and many of the English, and in this manner introduced the total change that followed in both houses of the legislature, and in all the executive departments of the national government. Upon such slender threads did our elections then depend! The federalists had marched for twelve years “super ignes suppositos cineri doloso.” What strength, what power, what force, had such a party to support a war against France, when she held the olive branch to us, with both her hands, upon our own terms?
With feelings and sentiments that I am not master of language to express, I must enter on another subject. If American history is ever to be understood or related with truth, two characters must be explained. Their portraits must be drawn at full length. Their birth, their education, their services, their marriages, their religion, their morals, their manners, their political principles and connections, their lives and their deaths, must be narrated by a historian, under the oath of the President de Thou, “Pro veritate historiarum mearum Deum ipsum obtestor.” I myself could write a volume of biography for each of them, if I had clear eyes and steady hands; but, if I should spend years in writing them, I know they would not be read by any party; and, after all, I should not dare to take the oath of Thuanus. These characters are Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton.
But I must pause to acknowledge your favor of February 6th. Its sentiments are worthy of the best men and citizens. I may be more particular hereafter. Your sagacity has penetrated one cause of the impossibility of maintaining the war against France, to wit, “prostration of public credit.” The gulf of national bankruptcy yawned. The monsters, paper money, tender law, and regulation of prices, all stalked in horrors before me. I have hinted at this subject in a former letter, and will consider it more in detail in a future one.
Meantime, with unfeigned regard.