The following is the original December 21, 1809 letter by John Adams followed by the transcription of this letter. The transcript has been modified from the original to include modern grammar and spelling.
Quincy December 21, 1809
My dear Sir
I thank you for the pleasing account of your family in your favor of the 5th as I have a lively interest in their prosperity and felicity, your relation of it gave me great pleasure. We have letters from our colony navigating the Baltic, dated at Christiansand. They had been so far as prosperous and healthy and happy as such travelers could expect to be.
Pope said of my friend General Oglethorpe.
Some driven by strong benevolence of soul shall fly like Oglethorpe from pole to pole. But what was a trip to Georgia in comparison with the journeys and voyages that J.Q. Adams has performed? I do not believe that Admiral Nelson ever ran greater risks at Sea.
Tell Richard that I hope Mrs. Rush will soon present him with a son that will do him as much honor in proportion as the first born of his genius has already done him in the opinion of the world. W.S.S. our guardian of the Athenaum has obtained it and proclaims it loudly everywhere the best pamphlet that will be read. Be sure you do not hint this to Mrs. Rush Junr. It would alarm her delivery.
I really do not know whether I do not envy your city of Philadelphia for its reputation for science, arts, and letters and especially its medical professor. I know not, neither whether I do not envy you your genius and inspiration. Why have I not some fancy? Some invention? Some ingenuity? Some discursive faculty? Why has all my life been consumed in searching for facts and principles and proofs and reasons to support them? Your dreams and fables have more genius in them than all my life. Your Fable of Dorcas would make a good chapter or a good appendix to the Tale of a Tub.
But my friend there is something very serious in this business. The Holy Ghost carries on the whole Christian system in this Earth. Not a baptism, not a marriage, not a Sacrament can be administered but by the Holy Ghost, who is transmitted from age to age by laying the hands of the Bishop on the heads of candidates for the Ministry. In the same manner as the Holy Ghost is transmitted from monarch to monarch by the holy oil in the vial at Rheims which was brought down from Heaven by a dove and by that other phial [vial] which I have seen in the Tower of London. There is no authority civil or religious: There can be no legitimate government but that which is administered by this Holy Ghost. There can be no salvation without it. All without it is rebellion and perdition, or in more orthodox words damnation. Although this is all artifice and cunning in the sacred original in the heart, yet they all believe it so sincerely that they would lay down their lives under the ax or the fiery fagot [bundle of wood used for burning individuals at the stake] for it. Alas, the poor weak ignorant dupe human nature. There is so much king craft, priest craft, gentlemen’s craft, people’s craft, doctors craft, lawyers craft, merchants craft, tradesmen’s craft, laborers craft and Devil’s craft in the world that it seems a desperate [hopeless] and impractical project to undeceive it.
Do you wonder that Voltaire and Paine have made proselytes [converts]? Yet there [is] near as much subtlety, craft and hypocrisy in Voltaire and Paine and more too than in Ignatious Loyola [a Spanish knight who was a founder of the Jesuits].
This letter is so much in the tone of my friend the Abbe Raynal [a French writer] and the grumblers of the last age, that I pray you to burn it. I cannot copy it.
Your prophecy, my dear friend, has not become history as yet. I have no resentment of animosity against the gentleman and abhor the idea of blackening his character or transmitting him in odious colors to posterity. But I write with difficulty and am afraid of diffusing myself in too many correspondences. If I should receive a letter from him however I should not fail to acknowledge and answer it.
The Auroras you lent me for which I thank you are full of momentous matter.
I am dear sir with every friendly sentiment yours,
*WallBuilders has an article about the dream of Benjamin Rush (which this Adams letter is in response to) and the reconciliation of Adams and Jefferson in 1812. To read this article click here.
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