Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO RICHARD RUSH. - The Works of John Adams, vol. 10 (Letters 1811-1825, Indexes)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO RICHARD RUSH. - 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.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO RICHARD RUSH.
Quincy, 28 November, 1821.
I love to see a young man, who, in the language of Montesquieu, is capable de s’estimer beaucoup; but in an old man this is rather odious than amiable. The kind compliments in your letter of the 30th September make me too proud for a man in his eighty-seventh year; but your idea of a picture overcame all my gravity, and made me laugh outright. What would the lords of the gentlemen’s seats in England say to a picture of my house of eight rooms, as Fearon said, though he has diminished the number nearly one half? However, my imagination was soon seized with other questions. What point of time would a painter seize, and what particular scene would he select? That in which the young gentlemen were at breakfast, under an awning, after a march of nine miles in a very hot morning; or that, in which after breakfast they prostrated themselves on the ground, under shades of trees, and went to sleep as decently and as soundly as if they had been at church; or that, in which they were drawn up on a small round elevation of green grass, opposite the house, on the other side of the road, going through their exercises and manœuvres? Or, when they were drawn up in a body, before the piazza, listening to an old man, melting with heat, quaking with palsy, tormented with rheumatism and sciatic, and scarcely able to stand, uttering a few words by way of commentary on their two mottoes, “Scientia ad gloriam,” and “Paremus?” After mature reflection, I rejected all these, and fixed upon the last, when the whole body marched up in a file, taking the old man by the hand; taking a final leave of him forever, and receiving his poor blessing.1
Never before, but once, in the whole course of my life, was my soul so melted into the milk of human kindness; and that once was when four or five hundred fine young fellows appeared before me in Philadelphia, presenting an address and receiving my answer. On both occasions I felt as if I could lay down a hundred lives to preserve the liberties and promote the prosperity of so noble a rising generation. But enough, and too much, of this. No picture will ever be drawn; indeed, the subject is too slight.
Is all Europe going together by the ears about the Turkish province of Albania? Are the Greeks rising, like the phœnix, from their ashes? Is Britain sending forces to the Ionian islands to check the empires?
The South Americans have translated the clumsy book you hint at into Spanish, but whether they will derive any benefit from it, I know not.
TO RICHARD PETERS.
Quincy, 31 March, 1822.
If you have brought upon yourself the garrulity of old age, you must blame yourself for it. Theophrastus at ninety, as some say, and at one hundred and fifteen, as others, in his last moments is recorded to have said, it was hard to go out of the world, when he had just learned to live in it. I am so far from his temper and his philosophy, that I think myself so well drilled and disciplined a soldier as to be willing to obey the word of command whenever it shall come, and in general or particular orders. Nevertheless, your letter has excited feelings somewhat like his. I agree with you in your recollection of the suffering, the sacrifices, the dangers, distresses, and the disinterested character of the principal actors in the Revolution, but I have lately plunged into a new sea of reading. The collections of our Massachusetts Historical Society have lately attracted my attention, and though I am too blind to read them, I have put in requisition sons and daughters, nephews and nieces, grandsons and granddaughters, or occasional friends, to perform the office of reader. In this way, I have heard read Hubbard’s History of New England, Johnson’s Wonder-Working Providence, Morton’s Memorial, the original writings of Winslow, Bradford, Gookin, Eliot, and twenty others, the most ancient memorials of emigrations to America. All the superstition, fanaticism, quaintness, cant, barbarous poetry, and uncouthness of style have not prevented this reading exciting in me as ardent an interest as I ever felt in reading Homer or Virgil, Milton, Pope, or Shakspeare.
Silence, then, ye revolutionary heroes, patriots, and sages! Never boast of your superiority for services or sufferings or sacrifices! Our Hancocks and Washingtons never exceeded in disinterestedness dozens of emigrants to America two hundred years ago. In short, the whole history of America for two hundred years appears to me to exhibit a uniform, general tenor of character for intelligence, integrity, patience, fortitude, and public spirit. One generation has little pretension for boasting over another.
I will add one other extraordinary. I have heard read the proceedings of the New York convention. They have been as entertaining to me as a romance. The gentlemen have sagaciously and profoundly searched their own and one another’s hearts, and very frankly, candidly, and penitentially confessed their sins to one another, like good Christians. A great number of enlightened men have distinguished themselves by their information and by their eloquence. The new constitution is an improvement, upon the whole, upon the old, though a tendency to the extreme of democracy is apparent in that State, as in all the others in the Union.
If I have wearied your patience, I shall endeavor to be shorter for the future. I am, Sir, and will be, your friend, forever.
[1 ] This alludes to the same event mentioned in the preceding note.