Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN TAYLOR. - 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 JOHN TAYLOR. - 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 JOHN TAYLOR.
Quincy, 12 April, 1824.
I have received with kindness and thankfulness your learned work upon the Constitution. I have had as much read to me as I have been able to hear, but intend to have it all read to me, if I live.
It is long since I have ceased to write, read, speak, or think upon theories of government, and now, at half way on my eighty-ninth year, I am incapable of either. I see you have treated me with honor and respect enough, but I think you have not correctly comprehended the intentions of my poor book. That work was written under the old confederation, and had no relation at all to the General Government. It respected only a State Government, and particularly the Constitution of Massachusetts, and others that resembled it, as against Mr. Turgot, who had censured them all. There is but one allusion to the General Government in the whole work; in that, I expressly say that Congress is not a representative body, but a diplomatic body, a collection of ambassadors from thirteen sovereign States. A consolidated government was never alluded to, or proposed, or recommended in any part of the work; nor indeed, in any moment of my life, did I ever approve of a consolidated government, or would I have given my vote for it. A consolidated government under a monarchy, an aristocracy or democracy, or a mixture of either, would have flown to pieces like a glass bubble under the first blow of a hammer on an anvil. Nor had I any thoughts of recommending any hereditary branch of any State Government. But I am incapable of thinking clearly, or pursuing any train of thought. Of the present Constitution I can only say, with father Paul, “Esto perpetua.” I sincerely wish it; but I cannot see how it can be converted into a consolidated government. But I cannot enlarge. Again I thank you for your present, and wish you may contribute to preserve the present Constitution.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
Quincy, 22 January, 1825.
Your letter of the 8th revived me. It is true that my hearing has been very good, but the last year it has decayed so much, that I am in a worse situation than you are. I cannot hear any of the common conversation of my family, without calling upon them to repeat it in a louder tone.
The Presidential election has given me less anxiety than I myself could have imagined.1 The next administration will be a troublesome one, to whomsoever it falls, and our John has been too much worn to contend much longer with conflicting factions. I call him our John, because, when you were at the Cul de sac at Paris, he appeared to me to be almost as much your boy as mine. I have often speculated upon the consequences that would have ensued from my taking your advice, to send him to William and Mary College in Virginia for an education.
As to the decision of your author,2 though I wish to see the book, I look upon it as a mere game at push-pin. Incision-knives will never discover the distinction between matter and spirit, or whether there is any or not. That there is an active principle of power in the universe, is apparent; but in what substance that active principle resides, is past our investigation. The faculties of our understanding are not adequate to penetrate the universe. Let us do our duty, which is to do as we would be done by; and that, one would think, could not be difficult, if we honestly aim at it.
Your university is a noble employment in your old age, and your ardor for its success does you honor; but I do not approve of your sending to Europe for tutors and professors. I do believe there are sufficient scholars in America, to fill your professorships and tutorships with more active ingenuity and independent minds than you can bring from Europe. The Europeans are all deeply tainted with prejudices, both ecclesiastical and temporal, which they can never get rid of. They are all infected with episcopal and presbyterian creeds, and confessions of faith. They all believe that great Principle which has produced this boundless universe, Newton’s universe and Herschell’s universe, came down to this little ball, to be spit upon by Jews. And until this awful blasphemy is got rid of, there never will be any liberal science in the world.
I salute your fireside with best wishes and best affections for their health, wealth and prosperity.
[1 ] “I have had one advantage of you. This presidential election has given me few anxieties. With you this must have been impossible, independently of the question whether we are at last to end our days under a civil or military government?” Extract from Mr. Jefferson’s letter.
[2 ] Flourens’s Experiments on the functions of the nervous system in vertebrated animals.