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TO THOMAS JEFFERSON. - 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 JEFFERSON.
Quincy, 9 August, 1816.
The biography of Mr. Vanderkemp would require a volume, which I could not write if a million were offered me as a reward for this work. After a learned and scientific education, he entered the army in Holland, and served as a captain with reputation; but loving books more than arms, he resigned his commission, and became a preacher. My acquaintance with him commenced at Leyden, in 1780. He was then minister of the Mennonist congregation, the richest in Europe, in that city, where he was celebrated as the most elegant writer in the Dutch language. He was the intimate friend of Luzac and De Gyselaer. In 1788, when the king of Prussia threatened Holland with invasion, his party insisted on his taking a command in the army of defence, and he was appointed to the command of the most exposed and most important post in the seven provinces. He was soon surrounded by the Prussian forces; but he defended his fortress with a prudence, fortitude, patience, and perseverance, which were admired by all Europe, till, abandoned by his nation, destitute of provisions and ammunition, still refusing to surrender, he was offered the most honorable capitulation. He accepted it, was offered very advantageous proposals, but despairing of the liberty of his country, he returned to Antwerp; determined to emigrate to New York, he wrote to me in London, requesting letters of introduction. I sent him letters to Governor Clinton and several others of our little great men. His history in this country is equally curious and affecting. He left property in Holland, which the revolutions there have annihilated, and I fear is now pinched with poverty. His head is deeply learned, and his heart is pure. I scarcely know a more amiable character. A gentleman here asked my opinion of him. My answer was, “he is a mountain of salt to the earth.” He has written to me occasionally, and I have answered his letters in great haste. You may well suppose that such a man has not always been able to understand our American politics. Nor have I. Had he been as great a master of our language as he was of his own, he would at this day have been one of the most conspicuous characters in the United States.
So much for Vanderkemp. Now for your letter of August 1st. Your poet, the Ionian, I suppose, ought to have told us, whether Jove, in the distribution of good and evil from his two urns, observes any rule of equity or not; whether he thunders out flames of eternal fire on the many, and power, glory, and felicity on the few, without any consideration of justice. Let us state a few questions “sub rosâ.”
1. Would you accept a life, if offered you, of equal pleasure and pain, e. g. one million of moments of pleasure and one million of moments of pain? 1,000,000 pleasure = 1,000,000 pain. Suppose the pleasure as exquisite as any in life, and the pain as exquisite as any, e. g. stone, gravel, gout, headache, earache, toothache, colic, &c. I would not. I would rather be blotted out.
2. Would you accept a life of one year of incessant gout, headache, &c., for seventy-two years of such life as you have enjoyed? I would not. 1 year of cholic = 72 of boule de savon. Pretty, but unsubstantial. I would rather be extinguished. You may vary these algebraical equations at pleasure and without end. All this ratiocination, calculation, call it what you will, is founded on the supposition of no future state. Promise me eternal life, free from pain, though in all other respects no better than our present terrestrial existence, I know not how many thousand years of Smithfield fires I would not endure to obtain it. In fine, without the supposition of a future state, mankind and this globe appear to me the most sublime and beautiful bubble and bauble that imagination can conceive. Let us, then, wish for immortality at all hazards, and trust the ruler with his skies. I do, and earnestly wish for his commands, which, to the utmost of my power, shall be implicitly and piously obeyed.
It is worth while to live to read Grimm, whom I have read. And La Harpe, and Mademoiselle d’Espinasse, the fair friend of d’Alembert, both of whom Grimm characterizes very distinctly, are, I am told, in print. I have not seen them, but hope soon to have them.
My History of the Jesuits is not elegantly written, but is supported by unquestionable authorities, is very particular and very horrible. Their restoration is indeed “a step towards darkness,” cruelty, perfidy, despotism, death and—! I wish we were out of danger of bigotry and Jesuitism. May we be “a barrier against the returns of ignorance and barbarism.” What a colossus shall we be! But will it not be of brass, iron, and clay? Your taste is judicious in liking better the dreams of the future than the history of the past. Upon this principle I prophesy that you and I shall soon meet better friends than ever. So wishes