Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

elementary qualification only, and sufficient age. Our institution will proceed on the principle of doing all the good it can without consulting its own pride or ambition; of letting every one come and listen to whatever he thinks may improve the condition of his mind. The rock which I most dread is the discipline of the institution, and it is that on which most of our public schools labor. The insubordination of our youth is now the greatest obstacle to their education. We may lessen the difficulty, perhaps, by avoiding too much government, by requiring no useless observances, none which shall merely multiply occasions for dissatisfaction, disobedience and revolt by referring to the more discreet of themselves the minor discipline, the graver to the civil magistrates, as in Edinburg. On this head I am anxious for information of the practices of other places, having myself had little experience of the government of youth. I presume there are printed codes of the rules of Harvard, and if so, you would oblige me by sending me a copy, and of those of any other academy which you think can furnish anything useful. You flatter me with a visit “as soon as you learn that the University is fairly opened.” A visit from you at any time will be the most welcome possible to all our family, who remember with peculiar satisfaction the pleasure they received from your former one. But were I allowed to name the time, it should not be de. ferred beyond the autumn of the ensuing year. Our last building, and that which will be the principal ornament and keystone, giving unity to the whole, will then be nearly finished, and afford you a gratification compensating the trouble of the journey. We shall then, also, be engaged in our code of regulations preparatory to our opening, which may, perhaps, take place in the beginning of 1825. There is no person from whose information of the European institutions, and especially their discipline, I should expect so much aid in that difficult work. Come, then, dear Sir, at that, or any earlier epoch, and give to our institution the benefit of your counsel. I know that you scout, as I do, the idea of any rivalship. Our views are Catholic for the improvement of our country by science, and indeed, it is better even for your own University to have its yoke natè at this distance, rather than to force a nearer one from the increasing necessity for it. And how long before we may expect others in the southern, western, and middle regions of this vast country?

I send you by mail a print of the ground-plan of our institution; it may give you some idea of its distribution and conveniences, but not of its architecture, which being chastely classical, constitutes one of its distinguishing characters. I am much indebted for your kind attentions to Mr. Harrison; he is a youth of promise. I could not deny myself the gratification of communicating to his father the part of your letter respecting him.

Our family all join me in assurances of our friendly esteem and great respect.

JOHN ADAMS TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Quincy, August 15, 1823. Watchman, what of the night? Is darkness that may be felt, to prevail over the whole world ? or can you perceive any rays of a returning dawn? Is the devil to be the “Lord's anointed” over the whole globe ? or do you foresee the fulfilment of the prophecies according to Dr. Priestley's interpretation of them? I know not, but I have in some of my familiar, and frivolous letters to you, told the story four times over; but if I have, I never applied it so well as now.

Not long after the denouement of the tragedy of Louis XVI, when I was Vice-President, my friend the Doctor came to breakfast with me alone; he was very sociable, very learned and eloquent, on the subject of the French revolution. It was opening a new era in the world, and presenting a near view of the millennium. I listened ; I heard with great attention and perfect sang froid. At last I asked the Doctor. Do you really believe the French will establish a free democratical government in France ? He answered: I do firmly believe it. Will you give me leave to ask you upon what grounds you entertain this opinion? Is it from anything you ever read in history? Is there any instance of a Roman Catholic monarchy of five and twenty millions at once converted into a free and national people ? No. I know of no instance like it. Is there anything in your knowledge of human nature, derived from books, or experience, that any nation, ancient or modern, consisting of such multitudes of ignorant people, ever were, or ever can be converted suddenly into materials capable of conducting a free government, especially a democratical republic ? No—I know nothing of the kind. Well then, Sir, what is the ground of your opinion? The answer was, my opinion is founded altogether upon revelation, and the prophecies. I take it that the ten horns of the great beast in revelations, mean the ten crowned heads of Europe ; and that the execution of the King of France, is the falling off of the first of those horns; and the nine monarchies of Europe will fall one after another in the same way. Such was the enthusiasm of that great man, that reasoning machine. After all, however, he did recollect himself so far as to say: There is, however, a possibility of doubt; for I read yesterday a book put into my hands, by a gentleman, a volume of travels written by a French gentleman in 1659; in which he says he had been travelling a whole year in England; into every part of it, and conversed freely with all ranks of people; he found the whole nation earnestly engaged in discussing and contriving a form of government for their future regulations; there was but one point in which they all agreed, and in that they were unanimous: that monarchy, nobility, and prelacy never would exist in England again. The Doctor paused; and said : Yet, in the very next year, the whole nation called in the King and run mad with nobility, monarchy, and prelacy. I am no King killer; merely because they are Kings. Poor creatures; they know no better; they believe sincerely and conscientiously that God made them to rule the world. I would not, therefore, hehead them, or send them to St. Helena, to be treated as Bonaparte was; but I would shut them up like the man in the iron mask; feed them well, give them as much finery as they pleased, until they could be converted to right reason and common sense. I have nothing to communicate from this part of the country, except that you must not be surprised if you hear something wonderful in Boston before long. With my profound respects for your family, and half a century's affection for yourself, I am your humble servant.

TO JAMES MADISON.

MONTICELLO, August 30, 1823. DEAR SIR,—I received the enclosed letters from the President, with a request, that after perusal I would forward them to you, for perusal by yourself also, and to be returned then to him.

You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickerings' fourth of July observations on the Declaration of Independence. If his principles and prejudices, personal and political, gave us no reason to doubt whether he had truly quoted the information he alleges to have received from Mr. Adams, I should then say, that in some of the particulars, Mr. Adams' memory has led him into unquestionable error. At the age of eighty-eight, and forty-seven years after the transactions of Independence, this is not wonderful. Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on the small advantage of that difference only, venture to oppose my memory to his, were it not supported by written notes, taken by myself at the moment and on the spot. He says, "the committee of five, to wit, Dr. Franklin, Sherman, Livingston, and ourselves, met, discussed the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the draught; that we, as a sub-committee, met, and after the urgencies of each on the other, I consented to undertake the task ; that the draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested a single alteration.” Now these details are quite incorrect The committee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately

to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, requesting their corrections, because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit, before presenting it to the committee ; and you have seen the original paper now in my hands, with the corrections of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams interlined in their own hand writings. Their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered, to Congress. This personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he has misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickering's observations, and Mr. Adams' in addition, that it contained no new ideas, that it is a common-place con lation, its sentiments hacknied in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis' pamphlet,” may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge. Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke's treatise on government. Otis' pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before. Had Mr. Adams been so restrained, Congress would have lost the benefit of his bold and impressive advocations of the rights of Revolution. For no man's confident and fervid addresses, more than Mr. Adams', encouraged and supported us through the difficulties surrounding us, which, like the ceaseless action of gravity, weighed on us by night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we may ask what of these elevated thoughts was new, or can be affirmed never before to have entered the conceptions of man?

Whether, also, the sentiments of Independence, and the reasons - for declaring it, which make so great a portion of the instrument,

had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before the 4th of July, '76, or this dictum also of Mr. Adams be another slip of memory, let history say. This, however, I will say for Mr. Adams, that he supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. As to myself, I thought it a duty VOL. VII.

20

« AnteriorContinuar »