Front Page Titles (by Subject) The Adams-Jefferson Correspondence John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 13 July 1813 - Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle
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The Adams-Jefferson Correspondence John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 13 July 1813 - Lance Banning, Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle 
Liberty and Order: The First American Party Struggle, ed. and with a Preface by Lance Banning (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2004).
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The Adams-Jefferson Correspondence John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 13 July 1813
The first time that you and I differed in opinion on any material question was after your arrival from Europe; and that point was the French Revolution.
You was well persuaded in your own mind that the nation would succeed in establishing a free republican government; I was as well persuaded, in mine, that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions of people, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousands of them could neither write nor read, was as unnatural, irrational, and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves, and bears in the Royal Managerie at Versailles.
… When Lafayette harangued you and me and John Quincy Adams through a whole evening in your hotel in the cul de sac at Paris and developed the plans then in operation to reform France, though I was as silent as you was, … I was astonished at the grossness of his ignorance of government and history, as I had been for years before at that of Turgot, Rochefaucault, Condorcet, and Franklin. This gross Ideology of them all first suggested to me the thought and the inclination which I afterwards hinted to you in London of writing something upon aristocracy. I was restrained for years by many fearful considerations. … I should make enemies of all the French Patriots, the Dutch Patriots, the English Republicans, Dissenters, Reformers, call them what you will; and, what came nearer home to my bosom than all the rest, I knew I should give offense to many if not all of my best friends in America and very probably destroy all the little popularity I ever had in a country where popularity had more omnipotence than the British Parliament assumed… .
But when the French Assembly of Notables met and I saw that Turgot’s “Government in one center and that center the nation”—a sentence as mysterious or as contradictory as the Athanasian Creed—was about to take place; and when I saw that Shays’s Rebellion was breaking out in Massachusetts; and when I saw that even my obscure name was often quoted in France as an advocate for simple democracy; when I saw that the sympathies in America had caught the French flame: I was determined to wash my own hands as clean as I could of all this foulness. I had then strong forebodings that I was sacrificing all the honors and emoluments of this life; and so it has happened, but not in so great a degree as I apprehended.
In truth, my Defence of the Constitutions and “Discourses on Davila” laid the foundation of that immense unpopularity which fell like the Tower of Siloam upon me. Your steady defense of democratical principles and your invariable favorable opinion of the French Revolution laid the foundation of your unbounded popularity.
Sic transit gloria mundi… .
Adams to Jefferson 30 June 1813
… You never felt the terrorism of Shays’s Rebellion in Massachusetts. I believe you never felt the terrorism of Gallatin’s Insurrection in Pennsylvania. … You certainly never felt the terrorism excited by Genet in 1793, when ten thousand people in the streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his house and effect a revolution in the government, or compel it to declare war in favor of the French Revolution and against England. The coolest and the firmest minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their opinions to me that nothing but the yellow fever … could have saved the United States from a total revolution of government. I have no doubt you was fast asleep in philosophical tranquility when ten thousand people, and perhaps many more, were parading the streets of Philadelphia on the evening of my Fast Day [25 April 1799]; when Governor Mifflin himself thought it his duty to order a patrol of horse and foot to preserve the peace; when Market Street was as full as men could stand by one another, and even before my door; when some of my domestics, in frenzy, determined to sacrifice their lives in my defense; when all were ready to make a desperate sally among the multitude and others were with difficulty and danger dragged back by the others; when I myself judged it prudent and necessary to order chests of arms from the War Office to be brought through bylanes and back doors, determined to defend my house at the expense of my life and the lives of the few, very few, domestics and friends within it. What think you of terrorism, Mr. Jefferson?
Adams to Jefferson 13 November 1815
… The Eighteenth Century, notwithstanding all its errors and vices, has been, of all that are past, the most honorable to human nature. Knowledge and virtues were increased and diffused, arts, sciences useful to men, ameliorating their condition, were improved, more than in any former equal period.
But what are we to say now? Is the Nineteenth Century to be a contrast to the Eighteenth? Is it to extinguish all the lights of its predecessor? … The proceedings of the allies and their Congress at Vienna, the accounts from Spain, France, etc. … indicate which way the wind blows. The priests are at their old work again. The Protestants are denounced and another St. Bartholomew’s Day threatened.
Jefferson to Adams 11 January 1816
I agree with you … on the 18th century. It certainly witnessed the sciences and arts, manners and morals, advanced to a higher degree than the world had ever before seen. … How then has it happened that these nations, France especially and England, so great, so dignified, so distinguished by science and the arts, plunged at once into all the depths of human enormity, threw off suddenly and openly all the restraints of morality, all sensation to character, and unblushingly avowed and acted on the principle that power was right? … Was it from the terror of monarchs alarmed at the light returning on them from the West and kindling a volcano under their thrones? Was it a combination to extinguish that light and to bring back, as their best auxiliaries, those enumerated by you: the Sorbonne, the Inquisition, the Index Expurgatorius, and the Knights of Loyola? Whatever it was, the close of the century saw the moral world thrown back again to the age of the Borgias, to the point from which it had departed 300 years before. … Your prophecies … proved truer than mine; and yet fell short of the fact. … But altho’ your prophecy has proved true so far, I hope it does not preclude a better final result. That same light from our West seems to have spread and illuminated the very engines employed to extinguish it. It has given them a glimmering of their rights and their power. The idea of representative government has taken root and growth among them. Their masters feel it and are saving themselves by timely offers of this modification of their own powers. Belgium, Prussia, Poland, Lombardy, etc. are now offered a representative organization: illusive probably at first, but it will grow into power in the end. … Even France will yet attain representative government … altho’ rivers of blood may yet flow between them and their object.