Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN M. JACKSON. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
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TO JOHN M. JACKSON. - 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 JOHN M. JACKSON.
Quincy, 30 December, 1817.
In 1774, I became acquainted with McKean, Rodney, and Henry. Those three appeared to me to see more clearly to the end of the business than any others of the whole body. At least, they were more candid and explicit with me than any others. Mr. Henry was in Congress only in 1774, and a small part of 1775. He was called home by his State to take a military command. McKean and Rodney continued members, and. I believe, I never voted in opposition to them in any one instance. When, as it happened, I was appointed to draw the plan of a treaty to be carried to France by Dr. Franklin, and proposed by him, Mr. Deane, and Mr. Lee, to the French court, I carefully avoided every thing that could involve us in any alliance more than a commercial friendship. When this plan was reported to Congress, my own most intimate friends. Samuel Adams and Richard Henry Lee, differed from me in opinion. They thought there was not sufficient temptation to France to join us. They moved for cessions and concessions, which implied warranties and political alliance that I had studiously avoided. My principle was perpetual peace, after that war should be concluded, with all powers of Europe, and perfect neutrality in all their future wars. This principle I was obliged to support against long arguments and able disputants, and, fortunately, carried every point: and, in every point, McKean and Rodney adhered to me, and supported me with inflexible perseverance. And, for four years, I know not that Mr. McKean ever differed from me in a vote. Mr. McKean, however, was not constantly in Congress. He was soon appointed Attorney-General of Pennsylvania. and, afterwards, Chief Justice; and the duties of those offices, though he was always a member of Congress, often necessarily prevented his attendance in the House. While I was in Europe, nothing passed between Mr. McKean and me, except, now and then, a few lines of introduction for a travelling friend about to cross the Atlantic; and except that my bookseller, by my advice, sent a quantity of those dull volumes, called “A Defence,” to Mr. McKean, who committed them to Mr. Dobson for sale. Mr. McKean often expressed to me his entire approbation of the system, and concurrence in all the sentiments in that work.
When I met Mr. McKean again in person at Philadelphia, which was in 1790, after a separation of eleven years and more, I found him, as well as President Washington and all his family, and all his ministers, both Houses of Congress, the city of Philadelphia, and all mankind, for I know not one exception, glowing with sanguine hopes and confident expectation of a revolution in France that should produce a free, democratical republic, as sister to ours, in the first nation in Europe. I stood alone, would agree with nobody in opinion upon that subject. I could foresee nothing but calamities to France and to the world, and the French constitution of 1789 confirmed all my fears. I saw a disposition everywhere to enter into closer connections with our sister republic, and unite with her in a war against all her enemies. Mr. McKean was arranged with Mr. Mifflin, Mr. Sergeant, Dr. Hutchinson, Mr. Rittenhouse, Mr. Gallatin, Mr. Findlay, Mr. Swanwick, and even my bosom friend, Dr. Rush, in this enthusiasm for the French Revolution, and a closer connection, and an alliance, offensive and defensive, with our young sister democratical republic at the head of all Europe.
This appeared to me not only a total departure from our old system, “Friendship with all nations, but entangling alliances with one,” as fully understood and determined by Congress; but a policy which must be ruinous and destructive to our country. From this source arose, I will not say a separation or an alienation between Mr. McKean and me, for we still continued on terms of mutual civility; but a cessation of that intimacy which had formerly subsisted between us. But it was impossible that either of us should ever forget the other.
I wish I could extend this letter; but it is impossible. If I regret the infirmities of age, it is not because they announce the rapid approach of the end of my life, but because they disable me to associate and correspond with my friends according to their wishes and my own. And this must be my apology for the shortness of this letter.
TO WILLIAM WIRT.
Quincy, 5 January, 1818.
Your sketches of the life of Mr. Henry have given me a rich entertainment. I will not compare them to the Sybil conducting Æneas to see the ghosts of departed sages and heroes in the region below, but to an angel conveying me to the abodes of the blessed on high, to converse with the spirits of just men made perfect. The names of Henry, Lee, Bland, Pendleton, Washington, Rutledge, Dickinson, Wythe, and many others, will ever thrill through my veins with an agreeable sensation. I am not about to make any critical remarks upon your work, at present. But, Sir,
Erant heroes ante Agamemnona multi.
Or, not to garble Horace,
If I could go back to the age of thirty-five, Mr. Wirt, I would endeavor to become your rival; not in elegance of composition, but in a simple narration of facts, supported by records, histories, and testimonies, of irrefragable authority. I would adopt, in all its modesty, your title, “Sketches of the Life and Writings of James Otis, of Boston,” and, in imitation of your example, I would introduce portraits of a long catalogue of illustrious men, who were agents in the Revolution, in favor of it or against it.
Jeremiah Gridley, the father of the Bar in Boston, and the preceptor of Pratt, Otis, Thacher, Cushing, and many others; Benjamin Pratt, Chief Justice of New York; Colonel John Tyng, James Otis, of Boston, the hero of the biography; Oxenbridge Thacher, Jonathan Sewall, Attorney-General and Judge of Admiralty; Samuel Quincy, Solicitor-General; Daniel Leonard, now Chief Justice of Bermuda; Josiah Quincy, the Boston Cicero; Richard Dana, and Francis Dana, his son, first minister to Russia, and afterwards Chief Justice; Jonathan Mayhew, D. D., Samuel Cooper, D. D., Charles Chauncy, D. D., James Warren and his wife; Joseph Warren, of Banker’s Hill; John Winthrop, Professor at Harvard College, and a member of council; Samuel Dexter, the father; John Worthington, of Springfield; Joseph Hawley, of Northampton, and James Lovell, of Boston; Governors Shirley, Pownall, Bernard, Hutchinson, Hancock, Bowdoin, Adams, Sullivan, and Gerry; Lieutenant-Governor Oliver, Chief Justice Oliver, Judge Edmund Trowbridge, Judge William Cushing, and Timothy Ruggles, ought not to be omitted. The military characters, Ward, Lincoln, Warren, Knox, Brooks, Heath, &c., must come in, of course. Nor should Benjamin Kent, Samuel Swift, or John Read, be forgotten.
I envy none of the well-merited glories of Virginia, or any of her sages or heroes. But, Sir, I am jealous, very jealous, of the honor of Massachusetts.
The resistance to the British system for subjugating the colonies, began in 1760, and in the month of February, 1761, James Otis electrified the town of Boston, the province of Massachusetts Bay, and the whole continent, more than Patrick Henry ever did in the whole course of his life. If we must have panegyric and hyperbole, I must say, that if Mr. Henry was Demosthenes and Mr. Richard Henry Lee, Cicero, James Otis was Isaiah and Ezekiel united.
I hope, Sir, that some young gentleman of the ancient and honorable family of the “Searches,” will hereafter do impartial justice both to Virginia and Massachusetts.
After all this freedom, I assure you, Sir, it is no flattery, when I congratulate the nation on the acquisition of an Attorney-General of such talents and industry as your “Sketches” demonstrate.