Passionate Sage: The Character and Legacy of John Adams

By Joseph J. Ellis | Go to book overview
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5
Erudite Effusions

I am willing to allow your Phylosophers your opinion
of the universal Gravitation of Matter, if you will allow mine that
there is in some souls a principle of absolute Levity that buoys them
irresistably into the Clouds
... an uncontroulable Tendency to
ascend
.... This I take to be precisely the Genius of Burr ... and
Hamilton
.

—Adams to Benjamin Rush, April 12, 1807

The Town of Quincy have been pleased to Elect me a
Member of the [Massachusetts Constitutional] Convention—and
wonderful to relate
... I am sufficiently advanced in my dotage to
have accepted the Choice
. And if I should fall like Chatham in
attempting to utter a few sentences, it would be pronounced by the
World
... EUTHANASIA. I feel not much like a maker or mender
of Constitutions, in my present state of imbecility
.... But I pre-
sume one shall not be obliged to carry wind-mills by assault
.

—Adams to Louisa Catherine Adams, October 21, 1820

AT ITS BEST, the dialogue with Jefferson had the character of a good conversation, its pace and rhythm dictated by the more ebullient Adams temperament, its content determined by the play between Adams's compulsion for candor and Jefferson's desire for discretion. One might conjure up the picture of a stately Jefferson, gazing calmly into the middle distance, while Adams, slightly frenzied, briskly paces back and forth, periodically tugging on Jefferson's lapels, slapping him on the back, whispering admonitions into his ear, filling up the Jeffersonian silences with talk.

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