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ADAMS, John. Letter signed ("John Adams"), as former President, to Rev. Dr. Aaron Bancroft (1755-1839), Quincy, 24 January 1823. 3 pages, 4to.
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ADAMS, John. Letter signed ("John Adams"), as former President, to Rev. Dr. Aaron Bancroft (1755-1839), Quincy, 24 January 1823. 3 pages, 4to.

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ADAMS, John. Letter signed ("John Adams"), as former President, to Rev. Dr. Aaron Bancroft (1755-1839), Quincy, 24 January 1823. 3 pages, 4to.

"I HAVE LIVED WITH ATHEISTS, DEISTS, AND SCEPTICKS, WITH CARDINALS, ARCHBISHOPS, MONKS, PRIESTS AND FRYERS"

Adams, no stranger to controversy, tells how religious quarrels prepared him for "disputations" at the bar and "in politicks." He thanks Bancroft for a "precious volume": his Sermons on those doctrines of the gospel and on those constituent principles of the church... (Worcester, 1822). "It is a chain of diamonds," Adams writes, "set in links of gold. I have never read, nor heard read, a volume of sermons better calculated and adapted to the age and country in which it was written...As my destiny in life has been somewhat uncommon, I must beg your pardon for indulging in a little egotism. I may say I was born and bred in the centre of theological and ecclesiastical controversy." In his early youth, disputes among various clergy broke out "like the eruption of a volcano... I may almost say that my eyes opened upon books of controversy..." At Worcester, "the town was a scene of disputes all the time I lived there. When I left them I entered into a scene of other disputes at the bar. And not long afterward disputations of another kind in politicks. In later times I have lived with Atheists, Deists, and Scepticks, with Cardinals, Archbishops, Monks, Priests and Fryers of the Roman Catholic persuasion" and of the Church of England. "I have conversed freely with most of the sects in America," he says, and Bancroft's "twenty nine sermons have expressed the result of my reading, experience and reflections in a manner more satisfactory to me than I could have done in the best days of my strength."

"The most afflictive circumstance that I have witnessed in the lot of humanity," Adams continues, "are the narrow views, the unsocial humour, the fastidious scorn and repulsive tempers of all denominations excepting one." He does not say which! But this train of thought reminds him of a humorous anecdote about a prosperous Haverhill merchant who was solicited for a contribution by an agent for a missionary society. The merchant declined but told the agent there were nine clergymen in the town of Newburyport, representing nine different congregations, none of whom were "upon terms of civility with any other... Now, the merchant said, if you will raise a fund to send Missionaries to Newburyport to convert these nine clergymen to Christianity; I will contribute as much as any man!" Adams's presentation copy of Bancroft's book is in the Boston Public Library.

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