ADAMS, John. Autograph letter signed ("J. A."), to Benjamin Rush, Quincy, 12 September 1811. 3½ pages, 4to, loss to lower third of second leaf repaired, with the loss of some dozen lines, signature and the beginning of the postscript.
"WHAT GOOD HAS WASHINGTON'S ADDRESS DONE? BOTH PARTIES QUOTE IT AS AN ORACLE. BUT NEITHER ONE CARES ONE FARTHING ABOUT IT"
A feisty letter packed with Adams's thoughts on Washington, his bitter memories of attacks from Hamilton, Paine and other foes, Roman political philosophy, and the "dangers of American liberty." "It is not a pleasant thing to be told every day in a Newspaper that one is a Rascal a Scounderel a Lyar a Villain, a Thief a Robber, a Traytor an Apostate," he tells Rush. This train of thought got started by a discussion of Roman political invective: "To be sure, honest Men have been Satyrized, ridiculed, calumniated, belied. Sometimes the lies have stuck, sometimes not. Julius Caesar as corrupt a rascal as Sallust, and as exquisite a writer, wrote Anticatones, i.e. libels against Cato. Who has destroyed these villainous effusions of alarmed Ambition? Not the friends of Liberty surely, they never had the Power. It must have been Roman Tyrants, heathen or Christian, ecclesiastical or temporal. I would consent that Callender, Paine and Hamilton should write ten times as much Billingsgate against me as they have done if by this Condition I could procure a copy of Caesar's Anticatones."
Adams reflects on Washington's failure to quell the vicious passions of party spirit: "It would be easy my Friend to compose an Address which should contain nothing but obvious truths that all Men would at once approve. Such was Washington's [Farewell Address]. Religion, Morality, Union, Constitution. Who even among the Atheists, the despisers and abhorrers of the Constitution, the Disorganizers and promoters of a Northern Confederacy, would dare publickly attack such Topics? What good has Washington's Address done? Both parties quote it as an oracle. But neither one cares one farthing about it. With the knowing ones of both Parties it is known to have no weight but as Argumentum ad hominem to the ignorant of both sides." For forty years, Adams says, "I have sufficiently explained my sentiment and sufficiently warned my Countrymen against the dangers of American Liberty, long enough before the pretty Prattler Ames wrote his Jeremiads....In my opinion every Thing depends on the form of Government. Without this you declaim as Religion, Morality, Union, Constitution to all Eternity to no Purpose."
Turning to financial matters, he scoffs at the notion that his estate is worth nearly $100,000. Half that was nearer the truth. "I have never added one farthing to my Property for ten years; but on the contrary have been obliged to make In roads on my little Capital." In the portion of the postscript that remains, he is evidently speaking about the failing health of his daughter Abigail Amelia ("Nabby"), who was diagnosed with cancer in 1811 and died two years later. Not in Spur of Fame.