Adams, John (1735-1826) to Benjamin Rush re: support for US in War of 1812
High-resolution images are available to schools and libraries via subscription to American History, 1493-1943. Check to see if your school or library already has a subscription. Or click here for more information. You may also order a pdf of the image from us here.
Writing from retirement, Adams writes to his friend Rush on a variety of topics, especially the War of 1812. This letter was written one month after the United States declared war on Great Britain. "I believe with you that Wars are the natural and unavoidable Effect of the constitution of human Nature and the fabric of the globe is destined to inhabit and to rule. I believe further that wars, at times, are as necessary to the preservation and perfection, the Prosperity, Liberty, Happiness, Virtue and independence of Nations as Gales of Winds to the Salubrity of the Atmosphere...." Adams also suggests that projects for universal peace are little better than "Short Sighted frivolous Romances." Adams supported the war.
Quincy July 7th 1812
If I were as rich as Mr. Stephen Gerard or Mr. William Grey, I would publish and proclaim offers and promises of Rewards in Gold and Silver, in Money and in medals, for the best essays on several subjects, some of which I will now hint, without any regard to arrangement.
1. 100 Dollars or Eagles if I could afford them and a gold Medal for the best History of our American Navy and its Exploits as well as of its rise and progress in 1775, 6, 7, 8, 9, 1780, 1, 2 and three.
2. Ditto for the best History of the American Navy in 1797, 8, 9, 1800, 1801, 1802.
3. For the most compleat[sic] History of Gallatin's Insurrection its rise progress decline and suppression.
4. Ditto for the best Relation in detail of the Motives causes views designs and Actions in Fries's Insurrection; and of the Measures civil, political, military and judicial employed to suppress it.
5. Ditto for the most exact impartial and intelligible comparison between these Insurrections their Causes conduct suppression and consequences.
6. Ditto for the best History of the Friendship and Benevolence of Great Britain towards America from the year 1600 to 1774.
7. An hundred thousand Eagles for true History of the American Revolution.
These are but a few of the generous projects I have in contemplation, but I will not trouble you with too many at once. I pray you to suggest to me such subjects as want and merit Encouragement, that when I shall be worth half a Dozen million I may give full scope to my benevolence. I will appoint John Jay, Thomas Jefferson, and Benjamin Rush, the Judges.
I believe with you that Wars are the natural and unavoidable Effects of the constitution of human Nature and the fabric of the globe it is destined to inhabit and to rule. I believe further that Wars at times are as necessary for the preservation and perfection, the Prosperity Liberty Happiness Virtue and independence of nations as Gales of Wind to the Salubrity of the Atmosphere or the Agitations of the Ocean to prevent its stagnation and putrifaction [sic]. As I believe this to be the constitution of God Almighty and the constant order of his Providence, I must esteem all the Speculations of Divines and Phylosophers [sic] about universal and perpetual Peace, as Short Sighted frivolous Romances.
Your Reflection in your Yard of Insanity, reminds me of mine in the Royal menagerie at Versailles vizt. "What should a man Say the this Assembly of Birds and Beasts, if he had thoughts of recommending to them the Institution of a Republican Government by universal suffrage?" Just the same as he could rationally say to the same number of Frenchmen taken at random or by choice from the Court the City the Country, the Army, the Navy the Merchants Tradesmen Farmers, or the Sorbon or the Church. The Project of a Republican Government in France was often suggested in conversation even then and occupied much of my thought during the whole time I was in that Country.
In my letter of the 3d of this month I have corrected a Mistake of your Pen or Memory. It was Hillsborough not Grenville who expressed the Jealousy of American Canvas and Tars.
I have not calculated with precision enough yet, to resolve the Theorem Whether the Banking Capital does not exceed the value of the Free Simple of the United States.
The Sunday before last I went to the next Town to Church, our Minister having gone to the Funeral of his Brother. A Mr. Shelden, the occasional Preachers One of our ardent Spirits in Pulpit oratory told us "that "Awakenings" and "Revivals" produced great divisions in Society. They Set Fathers against Sons, Mothers against Daughters, Brothers against Brothers, Sisters against Sisters, Neighbour against Neighbour and Friend against Friend.
Wars do as much of this as Revivals or Awakenings, and I believe as innocently and piously. Your Family is peculiarly situated: but I doubt not every Brach of it will perform its duty with honor and Integrity.
Our Massachusetts and Connecticut are a little out of humour and are retaliating upon Virginia and Pensilvania[sic] in 1798 somewhat grossly: but the little Eddy in the Atmosphere will dissipate and whirl away. a rate to build a few Frigates would blow it off at once.
I have made my Sons and Daughters sing "There is no Comfort in the Hills when my good Girls awa[sic]" those thirty years. It is one of the best Morcels[sic] of Poetry that ever was conceived.
The copyright law of the United States (title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproductions of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specific conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be “used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research.” If a user makes a request for, or later uses, a photocopy or reproduction for purposes in excess of “fair use,” that user may be liable for copyright infringement. This institution reserves the right to refuse to accept a copying order if, in its judgment, fulfillment of the order would involve violation of copyright law.