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TO THOMAS McKEAN. - 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 THOMAS McKEAN.
Quincy, 26 November, 1815.
Your favor of the 20th revives me. A brother octogenarian, who can write with such vigor of hand and mind, excites a kind of emulation even in these old veins.
A history of the first war of the United States is a very different thing from a history of the American Revolution. I have seen in France a military history of France during the reign of Louis XIV., by the Marquis of Quincy. This work was held in high esteem by military men, but it was nothing like a history of the reign of that monarch. General Wilkinson may have written the military history of the war that followed the Revolution; that was an effect of it, and was supported by the American citizens in defence of it against an invasion of it by the government of Great Britain and Ireland, and all her allies, black, white, and pied; but this will by no means be a history of the American Revolution. The revolution was in the minds of the people, and in the union of the colonies, both of which were accomplished before hostilities commenced. This revolution and union were gradually forming from the year 1760 to 1775. The records of the British government, and the records of all the thirteen colonies, and the pamphlets, newspapers, and handbills of both parties must be examined, and the essence extracted, before a correct history can be written of the American Revolution.
I agree with you, that General Wilkinson’s talents are by no means inconsiderable. His openness of soul, and a little too much pomp, have as usual made him enemies and given them advantages. I do not recollect that my impatience was ever wrought up to a higher pitch than by the total failure of all intelligence, official and unofficial, from Saratoga, for so long a time after we had heard a confused, fugitive rumor of the defeat of Burgoyne. Wilkinson, according to your anecdote, which I never heard before, seems to have put an amorous construction on the precept, cedant arma togæ. Had I known that he had fallen in love at Reading with so fine a woman as his after wife really was, my rigorous heart would have somewhat relented.
I remember a jocular suggestion thrown out in a private conversation, in which Mr. Samuel Adams and Mr. Hancock were present, on the morning after Wilkinson’s arrival and before Congress met, that it would be proper to present the courier with a horsewhip and a pair of spurs; but I never before heard that a motion was actually made in Congress, in jest or in earnest, to that purpose. I must have been absent at that moment upon some committee.
Awakenings and revivals of religion always attend the most cruel extremities of anarchy, despotism, and civil war. They have brought again the Pope and all his train of Jesuits, Inquisitions, Sorbonnes, massacres, &c. The pendulum swings as far on one side as on the other. You and I should be convinced that our friend, Governor Adams, was in the right when he said, that anarchy was better than tyranny, because it was of shorter duration, if we did not know that anarchy is always followed by more permanent despotism.
Washington and Jefferson have introduced a custom of retiring after eight years, and Madison, it is said, will follow their example. I am not enamored with this practice. I may be wrong.
I have heard the names you mention, and Governor Tompkins, of New York, added to them. I can only conjecture; but I presume Mr. Monroe will be nominated by the republicans, and Mr. King by the federalists. The event cannot be doubtful in your mind or mine. A Vice-President will probably be sought by the republicans in New York. I know not who will be selected by the federalists, unless it be Mr. Harper, of Maryland; but in the present posture of men and things, Mr. King for President and Mr. Harper for Vice-President, will not be an equal match for Mr. Monroe for President and any one of the gentlemen of New York you have named, as Vice-President, or any respectable gentleman of Pennsylvania.
I must acknowledge I contemplate with pleasure the rising generation. As much secluded as I am from the world, I see a succession of able and honorable characters, from members of Congress down to bachelors and students in our universities, who will take care of the liberties which you have cherished and done so much to support. The greatest danger is, that their numbers are so great, and their pretensions will all be so high, that rivalries pernicious to the nation and her union may arise.
The federalists will still hold up their pretensions and nominate their men, however desperate their prospect may be.