Page images
PDF
EPUB

be dissapointed in his Wishes that mutual affection may be restored; as much as he is mistaken in his opinion that this is the only means of the Prosperity of both Countries. America will prosper whether Love or Hatred Subsists.

It is indeed improbable that mutual affection will ever be restored, not indeed so much from Resentments of what is past, or Suspicious that Resentments exist, as from the Secret Cause of all the late Claims and Proceedings, a Jealousy of America as a Rival. This Nation sees the United States are the most formidable Rival they have in the Commerce of Asia, Africa, and Europe.

We must be content to live with her upon Terms of Jealousy, at best.

Men in private Life nevertheless may, without affection, live with each other upon Terms of Honour, and Nations, amidst the most habitual Prejudices and ancient Rivalry are known to live together in Times of Peace, with Decorum and mutual good Faith.

Can we say this of Great Britain, and the United States ? No not of either.

I think we have the worst of it. The Peltries with the Posts, The Pay for the Negroes and other Things they hold unjustly from Us, are of greater Value than the Articles we withhold with equal Injustice from them. So that I think that Economy, leaving out of the Question all Considerations of Honour and Good · Faith, and also the Danger of War and Bloodshed growing out of this imprudent Flickering, Should dictate to Us to repeal all the Laws impeding the Recovery of Debts, and all others inconsistent with the Treaty respecting the Tories. When we have done Equity we may with a good Grace, demand Equity. “Put your Ennemy in the Wrong" was a Precept of Mr. Otis, but I think the same important Truth is better expressed by saying "Keep yourself always in the Right," and then whenever your Ennemy is in the Wrong you have the advantage of him, if the Cause is to be discussed before an honest Trybunal, such as your own Conscience the impartial World or the Judge of all.

Another War with G. B. would be a very serious Thing to the U. S. It would be still more calamitous perhaps to her, G. B. But if she is nearly desperate and Thinks that Things cannot be much worse, We are not so. I think therefore that we should avoid it if possible. It would turn to the advantage of Artfull Allies, and a turbulent Ambitious Army; it might excuse those who are involved, from paying their Debts to England, and it might keep out the Tories; but it would entail upon our Posterity forever a System of Debts and Taxes with all its concommittent Corruption of Principles and Manners, all the Avariced Ambition Intrigue and chicane of the most depraved Country in Europe.

Let us however be prepared, as well as we can. The Spirit which begins to appear of encouraging Manufactures, especially of all the materials for Navigation, and Munitions of War is very judicious.

The World is at present calm, but a storm may be not far off. a Cloud hangs over South America, which altho at present no bigger than a hand, may soon darken the whole horizon. The Courts of Europe are Secretly at work. Leagues are forming, but of what nature and to what Ends are not yet clear.

I should be unworthy of the Confidence which you suppose my Country has in me if I should encourage it. She must confide in herself alone. She must fullfill the Treaty of Peace or it will never be fullfilled by G. Britain. She must oppose Navigation Acts to Navigation Acts or she will never have a free Commerce with any Part of the British Empire. My Family returns to yours assurances of Esteem & Love

JOHN ADAMS Hon. S. ADAMS

THE SAME TO THE SAME.

PHILADELPHIA May II, 1797 SIR

It was but two days ago that I received your obliging Letter of the Seventeenth of April by Mr. Wyllis. I have found this Gentleman as You represent him intelligent, observing and impartial. I have had much pleasure in his conversation and expect more

I thank you Sir for your kind congratulations. As to party Papers they will represent us as they please: and there is no remedy but Patience, and now and then a little contempt. I can with pleasure reciprocate your conclusion by subscribing myself your old and unvaried Friend

JOHN ADAMS His Excellency

G or ADAMS.

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS TO Arthur LEE.

ALLIANCE, MINDEN, May *, 1779 SIR

I have received a Volume intitled "Fondemens de la Jurisprudence naturelle traduit Du Latin de Mr. Pestel professeur en Droit public a Leyde” which you did me the honour to send me as a present. I entreat you, sir to accept of my sincere thanks for the proof of your attention to me. It was very good in you, to turn my young head to such a subject so important in it self, & likely to be particularly so to our Country, I will endeavour to make the best use of it I can, as soon as I shall be able to comprehend it.

Please to present my Respects to Your Nephew & Believe me with great veneration

Yours &c.

John QUINCY ADAMS the Honble A. LEE Esqr.

THE SAME TO GEORGE BANCROFT.

GEORGE BANCROFT Esqr. Northampton

WASHINGTON 31 October 1834 MY DEAR SIR

i In the Letter which I regret not to have now before me, enclosing a copy of your printed answer to enquiries from certain Gentlemen of your vicinity, respecting your opinions upon some of the public topics of discussion in which I perceive you take a strong interest, I understood you particularly to consult me with regard to that passage principally, if not exclusively, wherein you allude to the Masonic and antimasonic controversy. I think you remarked that some of your friends apprehended you had not been sufficiently explicit, in the expression of your Sentiments on that subject-and you intimate your confidence that I should think otherwise.

If the object of your address was merely to make known your impressions with regard to the character of Free Masonry and its antient landmarks, it is quite sufficiently explicit for my satisfaction. You think of them in the abstract as I do. If your object further was to abstain from taking part in the controversy now agitating our native Commonwealth on this subject, I should consider your manner alluding to it also sufficiently explicit. But those of your friends if there were such, who took a deep interest in the discussions connected with this topic, as now in debate before the People of Massachusetts, might have desired that in your address, you should have entered into it more at large; and especially that you should have disclosed your views with regard to the desire manifested by a portion of the People of the Commonwealth that the administration of the Masonic Oaths and obligations, within the State should be prohibited by further legislative enactment.

This appears to me to be now the only question remaining between those who disapprove the Masonic obligations, that is, if I mistake not, four fifths of the people of the State.

The act of the last Session of the Legislature against unlawful oaths, would in my Judgment have been altogether satisfactory had it been received and understood by the adhering Masons of the State as applicable to their Institution. But the adhering Masons avowed that they did not consider it as applicable to them, and although there have since then been a considerable number of highly respectable seceders from the Institution no Sympton of Submission to the Law of the State as applicable to them has been manifested by the Grand Lodge, chapter or Encampment, nor by any subordinate lodge, with the exception perhaps of two or three which have surrounded their charters. The Masonic organization remains unimpaired. The anti masons have therefore generally deemed it premature to Strike their Political Standard, and the difference between them yet forms an unfortunte source of division between portions of the People who on all other questions of great present political interest appear to be agreed.

This difference has given me great concern and it has been my most earnest desire that those divisions should be healed. The coincidence of my own opinions with those of the Anti Masons, which I have not felt myself justified in attempting to conceal or to withhold, has deprived me of the Confidence of all those who disapprove of political anti-masonry throughout the State, excepting in the 12th Congressional District, where I reside. It is to me a satisfaction inexpressible that there, among my neighbors and friends, even those whigs who have most strenuously differed from me upon the Masonic question have yet been satisfied with my conduct as the Representative of the district, and have not withdrawn their confidence from me. To the Anti-Masons therefore and to the whigs of that District, I feel myself under equal obligations for their generous confidence and friendly estimate of my service, and if the uncompromising Freedom with which I have avowed opinions in advance of the prevailing sentiments of the People throughout the rest of the Commonwealth has shaken the hold which a long and much contested political career "had acquired for me in their good will I can cheerfully wait for that cool and settled public opinion, which after all the ordinary fluctuations of time and chance, ultimately locates the reputation of public men where it must remain.

The Masonic and Anti Masonic question, at issue, before the People of Massachusetts, is not upon the merits or demerits of Freemasonry. It is how that pernicious institution shall be suppressed and whether it shall or shall not be suppressed by prohibitory Laws. Upon this point your published Letter is not explicit. Mr. Merrick heretofore an ardent Anti-mason has declared his opinion that the Act of the Last Session of the Legislature was sufficient, and has published a powerful argument against the Bill afterwards proposed, and which may be brought forward again at the next Session. Governor Davis and Governor Lincoln have exerted themselves much, and have effected something by means of persuasion addressed to the Masons themselves, whose confidence and support they have been fortunate enough to retain. It would be infinitely more pleasing to me, if by a frank and voluntary renunciation of the craft, the Masons would supersede all necessity for further Legislation in the State against it. But until the administration of any one Masonic Oath shall cease to be effected within the Commonwealth, I should regret to see the Anti-Masonic Spirit Subside. I believe this opinion is not yet popular, and that it might be safer to keep on the non committal side. That is no longer in my power.

I have answered your enquiry as fully as I believe it was your purpose to extend it. Your printed Letter touches upon other topics of great National interest. I do not understand you as desiring to know how far my opinions concerning them correspond with yours and therefore leave them without commentary, but with assurance of the great regard, and respect, with which I am your friend and sert.

J. Q. ADAMS,

THE SAME TO THE SAME.

GEORGE BANCROFT Esqr. SPRINGFIELD

QUINCY 25 October 1835 DEAR SIR

I have read with great attention the address to the Democratic Electors of Massachusetts which you did me the favour to enclose; with your Letter of the 16th inst and for which I pray you to accept my cordial acknowledgments. There is much in every part of the Address, with which my judgment entirely concurs, and I have no doubt, that it will make useful impression upon the public mind. With some of the speculative opinions upon the nature of Government,

a

and some of the definitions of Democracy which it contains, I am not sufficiently familiarized to come to an immediate conclusion of their soundness.

The word Democracy like all other highly significant words, is susceptible of several very distinct and different meanings. The word itself first used by the Greeks, as the thing was first practiced by them, imparts simply the Government of the People. It is as you know, defined by Aristotle as one of the three simple forms of Government, and is represented by him as in itself a good form of Government, but having a tendency to degenerate into a very bad one, ochlocracy, or the Government of the mob.

Aristocracy, the Government of the best, is also according to Aristotle a good Government, but its tendency is to degenerate into oligarchy or the Government of the few, and the few in all such cases must necessarily be the rich, who very soon settle it as a maxim that the ruling power of a state is Property.

The third legitimate Government according to Aristotle is Monarchy, the Government of one, according to the Laws, and its degeneracy is despotism, or the Government of one, according to his will-arbitrary power.

Now the Theory of good Government which I have imbibed from childhood, which I was taught by the instructions of my father, which I learnt in every stage of the history of mankind, which the French Revolution, at the dawn of my political life, brought up again as a problem in politics to be solved again by experiment, and which from that day to this has been tested by a continued succession of experiments by almost every civilized nation in Europe, all terminating in the same results and fixing it upon my mind firm as an oracle of Holy writ, is a Government compounded of the three elements—A Government, instituted for the protection both of persons and of property, to secure alike the rights of persons and the rights of things. The right of property is a natural right as much as the right of life, which is merely personal, but as the earth was given by the creator to mankind in common, the distribution of property in it is left to be settled among the human race, by physical force or by agreement, compact, covenant. This I take to be the origin of Government. It is founded on persons and on property. And if Democracy is founded exclusively on persons and not on property, I fear it will follow the tendency of its nature and degenerate into ochlocracy and Lynch Law, burning down convents and hanging abolitionists or gamblers, without Judge or Jury, without fear of God to restrain, and without remorse to punish.

You consider Aristocracy as a Government founded on property. I consider this as the degeneracy of Aristocracy, and agree with you that it is a very bad Government, but if you define Government, by Moral properties, is not Aristocracy the Government of the best, as much entitled to all the attributes of virtue as your Democracy.

From the whole tenour of this argument in your address I am convinced that after full and mutual explanations there would be found no material difference of principle between us. But we should find it necessary to come to rigorous definitions of terms to reconcile my mind to your conclusion that a Government founded on the rights of persons and not of property, can be identical with a Government of Justice and Benevolence.

[ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »