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Adams, John (1735-1826) to Samuel B. Malcolm

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC05262 Author/Creator: Adams, John (1735-1826) Place Written: Quincy, Massachusetts Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 6 August 1812 Pagination: 2 p. ; 23.5 x 20 cm

Summary of Content: Remarks upon Malcolm's decision to keep himself free of a political party and asks if he has considered the consequences. ". . . this Maxim, has rarely failed to annihilate the Influence of the Man who adopts it and very often exposed him to the tragical Vengence of all Parties." Thoughtfully examines the need for political parties despite their evils. Discusses at length "These two Tyrants... Fashion and Party." Comments that he is sorry Malcolm has left his practice and the bar and would like to see his publications. Condemns the practice of dueling in America stating it is carried out, "to such rancorous deliberate and malicious excess. . ." He concludes with wonderment at Aaron Burr's career, "Colonel Burr; Attorney General Burr; Senator Burr; Vice President Burr; almost President Burr; . . . What is to be, his destiny? Emulation, Rivalry, Ambition, have unlimited Scope, under our forms of Government. We have Seen enough already to admonish Us, what We have to expect in the future." Written to Malcolm in Utica, New York.

Background Information:

Full Transcript: Quincy August 6. 1812
Dear Malcom
Your favour of July 18 was duly received. Your Resolution to Subjugate yourself to the controul of no Party, is noble; but have you considered all the ...Consequences of it? In the whole History of human Life, this Maxim, has rarely failed to annihilate the Influence of the Man who adopts [inserted: it], and very often exposed him to the tragical Vengence of all Parties.
There are two Tyrants in human Life, who domineer in All Nations; in Indians and Negroes, in Tartars and Arabs, in Hindoos and Chinese; in Greeks and Romans, in Britons and Gauls: as well as in our Simple, youthfull and beloved United States of America.
These two Tyrants, are Fashion and Party. They are Some times at variance: and I know not whether their mutual Hostility, is not the only Security of human happiness. But they are forever Struggling for an alliance with each other. And when they are United, Truth Reason Honour, Justice Gratitude and Humanity itself in Combination, are no Match for the Coalition. Upon the maturest Reflections of a long Experience I am much inclined to believe that Fashion, is the worst of all Tyrants, because he is the original Source, cause, preserver and Supporter of all others.
Nothing Short of the Philosophy of Zeno, Socrates, Seneca and Epictetus, could ever Support an Antient; and nothing Short of the Philosophy of Jesus, could ever Support a Modern in the Resolution you have taken. Nothing less than the Spirit of Martyrdom is Sufficient: for Martyrdom will infallibly insue. Not always in flames at the Stake; not always in the Guillotine: but in Lies Slanders, Insults and privations, often times more difficult to bear, than the horrors of Smithfield or the Place de Louis quinze.
Men have suffered Martyrdom for Party and for Fashion, in Sufficient Numbers; but none for Contempt of Party and Fashion, but upon Principles of the highest order.
But to descend from these romantic Heights. I wish to know the Name and Age of your Son, and the Meaning of the Letter, B, in your Name.
[2] Your printed Publications I am anxious to See. I am sorry you left your Practice at the Bar. There is the Scene of Independence. Cannot you return to it. Integrity and Skill at the Bar, are better Supporters of Independence than any fortune, Talents or Eloquence elsewhere. A Man of Genius Talents Eloquence, Integrity and Judgment at the Bar is the most independent Man in Society. Presidents Governors, Senators, Judges have not So much honest Liberty: but it ought always to be regulated by prudence and never abused.
Judge Vanderkemp is a great Man; a Star of the first Magnitude under a thick Cloud.
Smith has been the Enemy of no Man but himself. I lament the Loss to the Nation of military Talents and Experiense: but I fear it is irremediable.
Without entering into any moral, political or religious discussion of the Subject of private Combats and Individual Administration of Justice in ones own Case, I cannot but Lament, that the Sacred Solemn Benches of Justice Should exhibit perpetual Exemplifications of the Practice before the People. This is not conformable to the Policy even of Europe, where Duelling is not carried to Such [rancorous] deliberate and malicious Excess that it is in America.
Aristides, I do not remember to have read. [inserted: Colonel] Burr, Attorney General Burr; Senator Burr; Vice President Burr; almost President Burr: has returned to New York. What is to be, his destiny?
Emulation, Rivalry, Ambition, have unlimited Scope, under our forms of Government. We have Seen enough already to admonish Us, what We have to expect in future. My poor, coarse Boudoir, five or Six and twenty years ago, held up Mirrors in which our dear Countrymen migh have Seen their Pictures. If this is Vanity it is also cool Philosophy from your
real Well Wisher
John Adams
Samuel B Malcom Esq
Utica.
See More

People: Adams, John, 1735-1826
Malcolm, Samuel B., fl. 1812
Burr, Aaron, 1756-1836

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: PoliticsGovernment and CivicsVice PresidentDuelMorality and Ethics

Sub Era: The Age of Jefferson & Madison

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