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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, 19 April, 1817.
My loving and beloved friend, Pickering, has been pleased to inform the world, that I have “few friends.” I wanted to whip the rogue, and I had it in my power, if it had been in my will to do it, till the blood came. But all my real friends, as I thought them, with Dexter and Gray at their head, insisted that I should not say a word: that “nothing that such a person could write, would do me the least injury;” that “it would betray the constitution and the government, if a President, out or in, should enter into a newspaper controversy with one of his ministers, whom he had removed from his office, in justification of himself for that removal or any thing else.” And they talked a great deal about “the dignity” of the office of President, which I do not find that any other persons, public or private, regard very much.
Nevertheless, I fear that Mr. Pickering’s information is too true. It is impossible that any man should run such a gauntlet as I have been driven through, and have many friends at last. This “all who know me, know,” though I cannot say “who love me, tell.” I have, however, either friends, who wish to amuse and solace my old age, or enemies, who mean to heap coals of fire on my head, and kill me with kindness, for they overwhelm me with books from all quarters, enough to obfuscate all eyes, and smother and stifle all human understanding—Chateaubriand, Grimm, Tucker, Dupuis, La Harpe, Sismondi, Eustace, a new translation of Herodotus, by Beloe, with more notes than text. What shall I do with all this lumber? I make my “woman-kind,” as the Antiquary expresses it, read to me all the English; but, as they will not read the French, I am obliged to excruciate my eyes to read it myself. And all to what purpose? I verily believe I was as wise and good seventy years ago, as I am now. At that period Lemuel Bryant was my parish priest, and Joseph Cleverly my Latin schoolmaster. Lemuel was a jocular and liberal scholar and divine, Joseph a scholar and a gentleman, but a bigoted Episcopalian of the school of Bishop Saunders and Dr. Hicks; a downright, conscientious, passive obedience man in church and state. The parson and the pedagogue lived much together, but were eternally disputing about government and religion. One day, when the schoolmaster had been more than commonly fanatical, and declared, “if he were a monarch, he would have but one religion in his dominions,” the parson coolly replied, “Cleverly! you would be the best man in the world, if you had no religion.” Twenty times, in the course of my late reading, have I been on the point of breaking out, “this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there was no religion in it!!!” But in this exclamation, I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly. Without religion, this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite company—I mean hell. So far from believing in the total and universal depravity of human nature, I believe there is no individual totally depraved. The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his conscience, and, while conscience remains, there is some religion. Popes, Jesuists, and Sorbonnists, and Inquisitors, have some conscience and some religion. So had Marius and Sylla. Cæsar, Catiline, and Antony, and Augustus, had not much more, let Virgil and Horace say what they will. What shall we think of Virgil and Horace, Sallust, Quintilian, Pliny, and even Tacitus? And even Cicero, Brutus, and Seneca? Pompey I leave out of the question, as a mere politician and a soldier. Every one of these great creatures has left indelible marks of conscience, and, consequently, of religion, though every one of them has left abundant proofs of profligate violations of their conscience, by their little and great passions and paltry interests.
The vast prospect of mankind, which these books have passed in review before me, from the most ancient records, histories, traditions, and fables that remain to us, to the present day, has sickened my very soul, and almost reconciled me to Swift’s travels among the Yahoos. Yet I never can be a misanthrope. Homo sum. I must hate myself before I can hate my fellowmen, and that I cannot and will not do. No, I will not hate any of them, base, brutal, and devilish as some of them have been to me. From the bottom of my soul I pity my fellowmen. Fears and terrors appear to have produced a universal credulity. Fears of calamities in life, and punishments after death, seem to have possessed the souls of all men. But fears of pain and death here do not seem to have been so unconquerable as fears of what is to come hereafter. Priests, hierophants, popes, despots, emperors, kings, princes, nobles, have been as credulous as shoe-blacks, boots, and kitchen-scullions. The former seem to have believed in their divine rights as sincerely as the latter. Auto-da-fés in Spain and Portugal, have been celebrated with as good faith as excommunications have been refused1 in Philadelphia. How it is possible that mankind should submit to be governed as they have been, is to me an inscrutable mystery. How they could bear to be taxed to build the temple of Diana at Ephesus, the pyramids of Egypt, Saint Peter’s at Rome, Notre Dame at Paris, St. Paul’s in London, with a million et ceteras, when my navy yards and my quasi army made such a popular clamor, I know not. Yet my peccadilloes never excited such a rage as the late compensation law!!!
I congratulate you on the late election in Connecticut. It is a kind of epocha. Several causes have conspired; one, which you would not suspect. Some one, no doubt instigated by the devil, has taken it into his head to print a new edition of the “Independent Whig,” even in Connecticut, and has scattered the volumes through the State. These volumes, it is said, have produced a burst of indignation against priestcraft, bigotry, and intolerance, and, in conjunction with other causes, have produced the late election. When writing to you, I never know when to subscribe
[1 ] So in the copy, but evidently an error.