Front Page Titles (by Subject) THOMAS JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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THOMAS JEFFERSON 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 JEFFERSON TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, 1 August, 1816.
Your two philosophical letters, of May 4th and 6th, have been too long in my carton of “letters to be answered.” To the question, indeed, to the utility of grief, no answer remains to be given. You have exhausted the subject. I see that with the other evils of life it is destined to temper the cup we are to drink.
Putting to myself your question, Would I agree to live my seventy-three years over again forever, I hesitate to say. With Chew’s limitations, from twenty-five to sixty, I would say yes; and I might go further back, but not come lower down. For at the latter period, with most of us, the powers of life are sensibly on the wane; sight becomes dim, hearing dull, memory constantly enlarging its frightful blank, and parting with all we have ever seen or known, spirits evaporate, bodily debility creeps on, palsying every limb, and so faculty after faculty quits us, and where, then, is life? If, in its full vigor, of good as well as evil, your friend Vassall could doubt its value, it must be purely a negative quantity, when its evils alone remain. Yet I do not go into his opinion entirely. I do not agree that an age of pleasure is no compensation for a moment of pain. I think, with you, that life is a fair matter of account, and the balance often, nay generally, in its favor. It is not, indeed, easy, by calculation of intensity and time, to apply a common measure, or to fix the par between pleasure and pain; yet it exists, and is measurable. On the question, for example, whether to be cut for the stone, the young, with a longer prospect of years, think these overbalance the pain of the operation. Dr. Franklin, at the age of eighty, thought his residuum of life not worth that price. I should have thought with him, even taking the stone out of the scale. There is a ripeness of time for death, regarding others as well as ourselves, when it is reasonable we should drop off, and make room for another growth. When we have lived our generation out, we should not wish to encroach on another. I enjoy good health. I am happy in what is around me; yet I assure you, I am ripe for leaving all, this year, this day, this hour. If it could be doubted, whether we would go back to twenty-five, how can it be, whether we would go forward from seventy-three? Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect; but of all human contemplations, the most abhorrent is body without mind. Perhaps, however, I might accept of time to read Grimm before I go. Fifteen volumes of anecdotes and incidents, within the compass of my own time and cognizance, written by a man of genius, of taste, of point, an acquaintance, the measure and traverses of whose mind I knew, could not fail to turn the scale in favor of life during their perusal. I must write to Ticknor, to add it to my catalogue, and hold on till it comes.
There is a Mr. Vanderkemp, of New York, a correspondent, I believe, of yours, with whom I have exchanged some letters, without knowing who he is. Will you tell me?
I know nothing of the History of the Jesuits you mention, in four volumes. Is it a good one? I dislike, with you, their restoration, because it marks a retrograde step from light towards darkness. We shall have our follies without doubt. Some one or more of them will always be afloat, but ours will be the follies of enthusiasm, not of bigotry, not of Jesuitism. Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds; enthusiasm, of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both. We are destined to be a barrier against the returns of ignorance and barbarism. Old Europe will have to lean on our shoulders, and to hobble along by our side, under the monkish trammels of priests and kings, as she can. What a colossus shall we be, when the southern continent comes up to our mark! What a stand will it secure as a ralliance for the reason and freedom of the globe! I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past. So good night. I will dream on, always fancying that Mrs. Adams and yourself are by my side marking the progress and the obliquities of ages and countries.