Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

By Joseph J. Ellis | Go to book overview
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4
The American Dialogue

I consider you and [Jefferson] as the North and South
Poles of the American Renolution. Some talked, some wrote, and
some fought to promote and establish it, but you and Mr. Jefferson

thought for us all.

—Benjamin Rush to Adams, February 17, 1812

You and I ought not to die, before We have explained
ourselves to each other
.

—Adams to Thomas Jefferson, July 15, 1813

THE OUTBREAK OF WAR with Great Britain in 1812 allowed all the oppositional tendencies of the Adams temperament to align themselves properly, like the moons and planets in a favorable astrological forecast. Whether it was the arrival of a war he had been predicting was inevitable and necessary, or the completion of his long series of self-justifying articles for the Boston Patriot, Adams became discernibly more relaxed and outgoing. He had discovered at last his fulcrum or centerpoint, a psychological equivalent of his political ideal of balance.

The pace of his correspondence picked up and more of the Adams playfulness appeared in his prose. "I am as cheerful as ever I was," he wrote to Thomas McKean, "and my health is as good, excepting a quiveration of the hands." He then apologized in mock fashion for the word "quiveration," explaining that "though I borrowed it from an Irish boy, I think it an improvement in our language worthy a place in Webster's dictionary." When Robert Fulton, inventor of the steamboat, wrote to him about America's promising contributions to sci

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