Front Page Titles (by Subject) THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS. - 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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THOMAS McKEAN TO JOHN ADAMS.
Philadelphia, 20 November, 1815.
I can now answer the questions in your favor of the 30th of July last, namely, “Who shall write the history of the American Revolution, &c.?”
Major-General James Wilkinson has written it. He commences with the battle of Bunker’s or Breed’s hill, at Boston, and concludes with the battle near New Orleans, on the Mississippi, a period of forty years. It will be published in three volumes, large octavo, each containing about five hundred pages.
The General, I am informed, confines himself to military transactions, with a reference to a very few of the civil. I knew him personally nearly forty years ago, but have not seen or heard from him for the last seven years. I think him above mediocrity. He has been in the army during the whole time, and is better qualified to give a description of its proceedings, than any gentleman with whom I am acquainted.
This history has been written within the last seven or eight months, at Germantown, about six miles from this city, though I have not heard of the General being there until lately; he has kept himself quite retired and private.
I do not recollect any formal speeches, such as are made in the British Parliament and our late Congresses, to have been made in the revolutionary Congress, though I was a member for eight years, from 1774 until the preliminaries of peace were signed. We had no time to hear such speeches; little for deliberation; action was the order of the day. The speech of Mr. Richard H. Lee, given by the Italian, the Chevalier Botta, which I have read, may have been delivered, but I have no remembrance of it, though in Congress, nor would it do any member much credit. I have no favorable opinion of the Chevalier; he appears to me a vain and presuming character to have attempted such a history; perhaps the res angustæ domi (poverty) impelled him.
Although we may not in the United States have a Thucydides, a Tacitus, Hume, Robertson, or Gibbon, who have been reckoned the best historians in Greece, Rome, or Great Britain, yet we have gentlemen of great talents, and capable of writing the history of our Revolution with at least as much regard to truth as any of them has exhibited.
With respect to General Wilkinson, I recollect an anecdote. He was, in 1777, an aid to General Gates, and by him sent to Congress at Yorktown, in Pennsylvania, with the despatches, giving an account of the surrender of Sir John Burgoyne and the British army to the Americans at Saratoga. On the way he spent a day at Reading, about fifty miles from Yorktown, with a young lady from Philadelphia, whom he afterwards married. When the despatches were read in Congress, propositions were made for paying a proper compliment to the favorite of General Gates, who brought us such pleasing news. Governor Samuel Adams, with a grave and solemn face, moved Congress, that the young gentleman should be presented with “a pair of spurs.”
What changes in Europe have occurred since I had the pleasure of writing to you last! Louis XVIII. is again on the throne of France; the great Napoleon at the bottom of the wheel, never to rise more, a prisoner for life. The French nation miserable; Spain has reestablished the tribunal of the Inquisition, and restored the Jesuits. The rulers of Portugal void of common sense. South America in a state of opposition to the government of Spain, and in all appearance will soon be independent of it. Whatever is, is right, said Mr. Pope, the first of poets and moralists.
I have nothing to do with politics, nor much with any thing else in this world, but I hear and listen. It is said, that James Monroe, Secretary of State, John Armstrong, late Secretary at War, Dewitt Clinton, late Mayor of New York, and perhaps Rufus King, now a senator, will be proposed as candidates for the next Presidency. I do not think the prospect of either, or any of them, very encouraging.
Mr. John Q. Adams has been named; but it is not known whether this may not create jealousy, or injure him with the present administration, which his friends would by all means avoid.
My sheet is almost finished. God bless you.
Your old friend,