Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JOHN ADAMS - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
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TO JOHN ADAMS - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 12.
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TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, June 1, 1822
It is very long, my dear Sir, since I have written to you. My dislocated wrist is now become so stiff that I write slow and with pain, and therefore write as little as I can. Yet it is due to mutual friendship to ask once in awhile how we do? The papers tell us that General Starke is off at the age of 93. Charles Thomson still lives at about the same age, cheerful, slender as a grasshopper, and so much without memory that he scarcely recognizes the members of his household. An intimate friend of his called on him not long since; it was difficult to make him recollect who he was, and, sitting one hour, he told him the same story four times over. Is this life?
It is at most but the life of a cabbage; surely not worth a wish. When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and athumy, debility and malaise left in their places, when friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not, is death an evil?
I really think so. I have ever dreaded a doting old age; and my health has been generally so good, and is now so good, that I dread it still. The rapid decline of my strength during the last winter has made me hope sometimes that I see land. During summer I enjoy its temperature, but I shudder at the approach of winter, and wish I could sleep through it with the Dormouse, and only wake with him in spring, if ever. They say that Starke could walk about his room. I am told you walk well and firmly. I can only reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue. I ride, however, daily. But reading is my delight. I should wish never to put pen to paper; and the more because of the treacherous practice some people have of publishing one’s letters without leave. Lord Mansfield declared it a breach of trust, and punishable at law. I think it should be a penitentiary felony; yet you will have seen that they have drawn me out into the arena of the newspapers; although I know it is too late for me to buckle on the armor of youth, yet my indignation would not permit me passively to receive the kick of an ass.
To turn to the news of the day, it seems that the Cannibals of Europe are going to eating one another again. A war between Russia and Turkey is like the battle of the kite and snake. Whichever destroys the other, leaves a destroyer the less for the world. This pugnacious humor of mankind seems to be the law of his nature, one of the obstacles to too great multiplication provided in the mechanism of the Universe. The cocks of the henyard kill one another up. Bears, bulls, rams, do the same. And the horse, in his wild state, kills all the young males, until worn down with age and war, some vigorous youth kills him, and takes to himself the Harem of females. I hope we shall prove how much happier for man the Quaker policy is, and that the life of the feeder, is better than that of the fighter; and it is some consolation that the desolation by these maniacs of one part of the earth is the means of improving it in other parts. Let the latter be our office, and let us milk the cow, while the Russian holds her by the horns, and the Turk by the tail. God bless you, and give you health, strength, and good spirits, and as much of life as you think worth having.1
[1 ]In reply to a question from Adams, Jefferson further wrote:
Monticello, June 27, 1822
—Your kind letter of the 11th has given me great satisfaction. For although I could not doubt but that the hand of age was pressing heavily on you, as on myself, yet we like to know the particulars and the degree of that pressure. Much reflection, too, has been produced by your suggestion of lending my letter of the 1st, to a printer. I have generally great aversion to the insertion of my letters in the public papers; because of my passion for quiet retirement, and never to be exhibited in scenes on the public stage. Nor am I unmindful of the precept of Horace, ‘solvere senescentem, mature sanus equum, ne peccet ad extremum ridendus.’ In the present case, however, I see a possibility that this might aid in producing the very quiet after which I pant. I do not know how far you may suffer, as I do, under the persecution of letters, of which every mail brings a fresh load. They are letters of inquiry, for the most part, always of good will, sometimes from friends whom I esteem, but much oftener from persons whose names are unknown to me, but written kindly and civilly, and to which, therefore, civility requires answers. Perhaps, the better known failure of your hand in its function of writing, may shield you in greater degree from this distress, and so far qualify the misfortune of its disability. I happened to turn to my letter-list some time ago, and a curiosity was excited to count those received in a single year. It was the year before the last. I found the number to be one thousand two hundred and sixty-seven, many of them requiring answers of elaborate research, and all to be answered with due attention and consideration. Take an average of this number for a week or a day, and I will repeat the question suggested by other considerations in mine of the 1st. Is this life? At best it is but the life of a mill-horse, who sees no end to his circle but in death. To such a life, that of a cabbage is paradise. It occurs then, that my condition of existence, truly stated in that letter, if better known, might check the kind indiscretions which are so heavily oppressing the departing hours of life. Such a relief would, to me, be an ineffable blessing. But yours of the 11th, equally interesting and affecting, should accompany that to which it is an answer. The two, taken together, would excite a joint interest, and place before our fellowcitizens the present condition of two ancient servants, who having faithfully performed their forty or fifty campaigns, stipendiis omnibus expletis, have a reasonable claim to repose from all disturbance in the sanctuary of invalids and superannuates. But some device should be thought of for their getting before the public otherwise than by our own publication. Your printer, perhaps, could frame something plausible. Thomson’s name should be left blank, as his picture, should it meet his eye, might give him pain. I consign, however, the whole subject to your consideration, to do in it whatever your own judgment shall approve, and repeat always, with truth, the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.