Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO F. A. VANDERKEMP. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO F. A. VANDERKEMP. - 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 F. A. VANDERKEMP.
Philadelphia, 13 July, 1815.
I have read D’Argens’ Ocellus, Timæus, and Julian. Instead of being sincere, he appears to me to be a consummate hypocrite, in the beginning, the middle, and the end; the most frank, candid, impudent, and sincere liar I ever read. It is plain that he believed neither Old Testament nor New, neither Moses nor Jesus. He labors to destroy the credibility of the whole Bible, and all the evidence of a future state, and all this for the sake of establishing the infallibility of the Pope and the church, the necessity of forbidding the Bible to the people, and placing all religion in grace, and its offspring, faith. Among all the disciples of Loyola, I never read a more perfect Jesuit. He is a complete exemplification of Condorcet’s “precious confessions,” as you called them. You speak of his “superficial reflections.” I have not found them. They are all deep, and aiming at the same end, a complete system of Antichristianity. No epic poem, no dramatic romance, not even Don Quixote himself, ever amused me more. Call him not superficial; his Greek and his Latin are remarkably correct, his reading is immense, his system pursued with undeviating uniformity.
I thank you for your letters to Mr. Everett, who, I believe, will not disgrace you or me. Frederic’s works are in my library over the way. But I have lost my George,1 who alone could look them up, and I am too indolent to go in search of them. Indeed, I have no great veneration for the hero,—not more than for Napoleon. He was more “superficial” than D’Argens.
You ask, “What! have you more grandchildren about you?” Yes, I have four pretty little creatures, who, though they disarrange my writing-table, give me much of my enjoyment. Why, you seem to know nothing about me. I have grandchildren and great grandchildren, multiplying like the seed of Abraham. You have no idea of the prolific quality of the New England Adamses. Why, we have contributed more to the population of North America, and cut down more trees, than any other race; and I hope will furnish hereafter, if they should be wanted, more soldiers and sailors for the defence of their country.
If, as our friend De Gyselaer says, “it were lawful to envy,” I should envy Mrs. Vanderkemp, her children and grandchildren, their delicious meeting. It must be as delightful as any thing we find in this pleasant world, as I call it. I cannot call it “a vale of tears.” This is false philosophy and false Christianity. If it is at any time a vale of tears, we make it such.
My friend, what opportunities have I had to do good things, and how few have I done! I am ashamed, I grieve, I am mortified and humiliated, at the recollection of what I have been and where I have been. Yet, I have done nothing to reproach myself with. I have done all in my power to do, and have been overwhelmed by a dispensation, uncontrollable by any talents or virtues I possessed.
My friend, again! the question before mankind is,—how shall I state it? It is, whether authority is from nature and reason, or from miraculous revelation; from the revelation from God, by the human understanding, or from the revelation to Moses and to Constantine, and the Council of Nice. Whether it resides in men or in offices. Whether offices, spiritual and temporal, are instituted by men, or whether they are self-created and instituted themselves. Whether they were or were not brought down from Heaven in a phial of holy oil, sent by the Holy Ghost, by an angel incarnated in a dove, to anoint the head of Clovis, a more cruel tyrant than Frederic or Napoleon. Are the original principles of authority in human nature, or in stars, garters, crosses, golden fleeces, crowns, sceptres, and thrones? These profound and important questions have been agitated and discussed, before that vast democratical congregation, mankind, for more than five hundred years. How many crusades, how many Hussite wars, how many powder plots, St. Bartholomew’s days, Irish massacres, Albigensian massacres, and battles of Marengo have intervened! Sub judice lis est. Will Zinzendorf, Swedenborg, Whitefield, or Wesley prevail? Or will St. Ignatius Loyola inquisitionize and jesuitize them all? Alas, poor human nature! Thou art responsible to thy Maker and to thyself for an impartial verdict and judgment.
“Monroe’s treaty!” I care no more about it than about the mote that floats in the sunbeams before my eyes. The British minister acted the part of a horse-jockey. He annexed a rider that annihilated the whole treaty.
You are “a dissenter from me in politics and religion.” So you say. I cannot say that I am a dissenter from you in either, because I know not your sentiments in either. Tell me plainly your opinions in both, and I will tell you, as plainly, mine. I hate polemical politics and polemical divinity as cordially as you do, yet my mind has been involved in them sixty-five years at least. For this whole period I have searched after truth by every means and by every opportunity in my power, and with a sincerity and impartiality, for which I can appeal to God, my adored Maker. My religion is founded on the love of God and my neighbor; on the hope of pardon for my offences; upon contrition; upon the duty as well as necessity of supporting with patience the inevitable evils of life; in the duty of doing no wrong, but all the good I can, to the creation, of which I am but an infinitesimal part. Are you a dissenter from this religion? I believe, too, in a future state of rewards and punishments, but not eternal.
You have again read Tacitus. What do you think of his religion, his philosophy, his morality? When Nero wished he could cut off the heads of the whole Roman empire with one stroke of his falchion, was this sentiment dictated by tyranny or philosophy, or humanity? And if any man should wish he could cut off the head of every Frenchman, Englishman, or Russian, at one blow, would he not be as wise, as benevolent, and philosophical? And those who wish they could decapitate Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe, are they wiser or better?
As I did not expect to hear again from that manly character, my respected and beloved friend, De Gyselaer, your communication has been very delightful. Tell him, that although the affairs of my country have been administered in many respects very differently from my system, yet they have not been upon the whole so ill conducted as I fear he has been taught to believe. We have made advances, we have acquired glory, we have gained confidence in our Union, our Constitution, and our administration.
If I had good eyes and fingers, I could write you sheets, if not volumes; but I must soon cease to write at all, even the name of
[1 ] A grandson, who had lived in his family until now.