Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

By Joseph J. Ellis | Go to book overview

3
Irreverencies and Oppositions

My nerves were so vibrated, that I seem to hear the
Dongle at this moment. "Dongle!" there is no such Word in John-
son. What then? I have asgood a right to make a Word, as that
Pedant Bigot Cynic and Monk
.

—Adams to Catherine Rush, February 23, 1815

Five and forty years ago, when any terrible News ar-
rived from England of their hostile designs against our Liberties,
when the people, gaping and staring, pale and trembling, asked
me, "What I thought of the News," my invariable Answer was,

"The worse, the better."

—Adams to Elbridge Gerry, July 14, 1814

WHEN ADAMS'S GRANDSON, Charles Francis Adams, sat down in 1850 to write the introduction to his tenvolume edition of the papers and letters that the family patriarch had so meticulously preserved, he too asked, however subtly, for a measure of mercy. "At no time in his life was John Adams a man of many concealments," he warned readers accustomed to a Victorian code of etiquette and self-restraint. But there was "no hypocrisy in him whilst alive," he noted correctly, "and it would scarcely be doing him justice to invest him with a share of it after his death." Then the grandson repeated a refrain that his famous grandfather had shouted to friends and muttered to himself throughout his retirement. "We are beginning to forget that the patriots of former days were men like ourselves," wrote Charles Francis, "acting and acted upon like the present race, and we are almost irresistibly led

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Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Passionate Sage - The Character and Legacy of John Adams *
  • Preface to the Second Edition *
  • Contents *
  • Illustrations *
  • Preface *
  • Memories: A Prologue *
  • 1 - The Education of John Adams *
  • 2 - History and Heroes *
  • 3 - Irreverencies and Oppositions *
  • 4 - The American Dialogue *
  • 5 - Erudite Effusions *
  • 6 - Intimacies *
  • 7 - Legacies *
  • Prophecies: An Epilogue *
  • Notes *
  • Index *
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