Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1816

Letter from John Adams to Thomas Jefferson, November 4, 1816

John Adams
November 4, 1816

Adams suggests that before we promote the Bible in the rest of the world, we should fix Christianity’s problems.

Your letter of October 14th has greatly obliged me. Tracy’s Analysis I have read once, and wish to read it a second time. It shall be returned to you; but I wish to be informed whether this gentleman is one of that family of Tracys with which the Marquis Lafayette is connected by intermarriages. I have read not only the Analysis, but eight volumes out of twelve of the ” Origine de tons les Cultes” and, if life lasts, will read the other four. But, my dear Sir, I have been often obliged to stop and talk to myself, like the reverend, allegorical, hieroglyphical, and apocalyptical Mr. John Bunyan, and say, so- brius esto, John, be not carried away by sudden blasts of wind, by unexpected flashes of lightning, nor terrified by the sharpest crashes of thunder.” We have now, it seems, a national Bible Society, to propagate King James’s Bible through all nations. Would it not be better to apply these pious subscriptions to purify Christendom from the corruptions of Christianity than to propagate those corruptions in Europe, Asia, Africa, and America? Suppose we should project a society to translate Dupuis into all languages, and offer a reward in medals of diamonds to any man or body of men who would produce the best answer to it.

Enthusiasms, crusades, French revolutions, are epidemical or endemieal distempers, to which mankind is liable. They are not tertian or quartan agues. Ages and centuries are sometimes required to cure them. It is more worth your while to read Dupuis than Grimm. Of all the romances and true histories I ever read, it is the most entertaining and instructive, though Priestley calls it “dull.” Conclude not from all this that I have renounced the Christian religion, or that I agree with Dupuis in all his sentiments. Far from it. I see in every page something to recommend Christianity in its purity, and something to discredit its corruptions. If I had strength, I would give you my opinion of it in a fable of the bees. The ten commandments and the sermon on the mount contain my religion. I agree perfectly with you that “the moral sense is as much a part of our condition as that of feeling,” and in all that you say upon this subject. My History of the Jesuits is in four volumes in twelves, under the title of ” Histoire Generate de la Naissance el des Progres de la Compagnie de Jesus, et l’Analyse de ses Constitutions et ses Privileges” printed at Amsterdam in 1761. The work is anonymous, because, as I suppose, the author was afraid, as all the monarchs of Europe were, at that time, of Jesuitical assassination. The author, however, supports his facts by authentic records and known authorities which the public may consult. This society has been a greater calamity to mankind than the French Revolution, or Napoleon’s despotism or ideology. It has obstructed the progress of reformation and the improvement of the human mind in society much longer and more fatally. The situation of England may be learned from the inclosed letter, which I pray yon to return to me. Little reason as I have to love the old lady, I cannot but dread that she is going after France into a revolution, which will end like that of England in 1660, and like that of France in 1816. In all events our country must rise. England cannot. We have long been afflicted with a report, that your books, and Harvard College books, and John Quincy Adams’s Uranologiawere lost at sea. But lo! the Astronomy has arrived in c lte ship and College books in another. We hope your books are equally safe, but should be glad to know. It seems that father and son have been employed in contemplating the heavens! I should like to sit down with him and compare Dupuis with his Uranoloyia. I have been disappointed in the review of Sir John Malcolm’s History of Persia. Those cunning Edinburgh men break off at the point of the only subject that excited my curiosity, the ancient and modern religion and government of Persia. I should admire to read an Edinburgh or Quarterly review of Dupuis’s twelve volumes. They have reviewed Grimm, who is not of half the importance to mankind. I suspect the reviewers evaded the religion of Persia for fear they should be compelled to compare it with Dupuis. A scrap of an English paper, in which you are honorably mentioned, and I am not much abused, must close this letter from your friend.

The Works of John Adams, Second President of the United States: With A Life of the Author by Charles Francis Adams, Volume IX, Boston: Little Brown and Company, 1854.