John Adams As He Lived

Unpublished letters to Dr. Benjamin Waterhouse, Professor of Physic at Harvard College



Your Favour of the 25th is received. I feel much at East under the Lash: as much as Epictetus when he told his Master torturing his Leg ‘You will break it,’ and as much more so as I have no fear of having the Leg broken.

As to your ‘concern of Mind’ I advise you to be very deliberate: and weigh all Things as they will affect yourself, your Family your Friends your Country and Mankind: and then determine as the ‘Spirit’ Shall dictate.

The Query whether ‘Mr. Adams will Answer’? or treat it ‘with Silent Contempt’? I will not at present Answer. I will say to you in Confidence, I can when I will harrow up their Souls, by a very Simple Tale of Truth.

If J. Q. A. were here, instead of making ‘The Features fly’ as you Say, I hope he would not foul his Fingers in Such dirt.

When a Man who has been thought honest, tho passionate and fiery, begins to be crazy, I have often observed, that one of the first decisive Symptoms of Insanity, is Knavery. How has your Experience been? have you ever remarked the Same Thing? I could name Several Instances.

Whether Hamilton was a Man ‘wiser and more righteous than myself’ I Shall indeavour to furnish Posterity with the Information necessary to form an impartial and enlightened Judgment, in my own Time and in my own Way, but I will not be unnecessarily diverted from my Course. My pious and virtuous, Sensible and Learned, orthodox and rigid, odd, droll and eccentric, Reverend Spiritual Guide Parson Anthony Wibert, who was a great Admirer of Mr. George Whitfield as well as Sandiman and Dr. Hopkins often told me a Story. He once observed to Mr. Whitfield, ‘How you are vilified and Slandered in the Newspapers, and in Pamphlets! I wonder how you can bear it. Does it not affect your Sensibility and make you very unhappy’? Oh No, Said Whitfield, if they knew how much pleasure they give me, they would not do it.

I remain your Friend




The Charge of ‘Change of Politicks’ hinted in your Letter of the 8th deserves no Answer other than this, ‘The Hyperfederalists are become Jacobins, and The Hyperrebuiclans are become Federalists. John Adams remains Semper Idem, both Federalist and Republican in every rational and intelligible Sense of both those Words.

Of Pickering and Smith I have nothing to Say at present: but this A Secretary of State ought to have pierced into the remotest Periods of ancient Times and into the most distant Regions of the Earth: He should have studied the Map of Man, in his Savage as well as civilized State. It is more necessary that a Secretary of State should be omniscient, than a President, provided The President be honest and judicious. Where can We find Such Men? either for Presidents or Secretaries?

If there ever was an ‘Hamiltonian Conspiracy’ as you call it: and as you seem to Suppose: I have no reason to think its object was not ‘a Northern Confederation.’ Hamiltons Ambition was too large for So Small an Aim. He aimed at commanding the whole Union, and He did not like to be Shackled even with an Alliance with G. Britain. I know that Pickering was disappointed in not finding Hamilton zealous for an Allyance with England, when We were at Swords Points with France: and I have information, which I believe, but could not legally prove perhaps, that Pickering was mortified to find that neither Hamilton nor King would adopt the Plan that he carried from Boston, in his Way to Congress after he was first chosen into the Senate, of a division of the States and a Northern Confederacy. No! H. had wider Views! If he could have made a Tool of Adams as he did of Washington, he hoped to erect Such a Government as he pleased under the whole Union, and enter into Allyance with France or England as would Suit his Convenience.

H. and Burr, in point of Ambition were equal. In Principle equal. In Talents different. H. Superior in Litterary Talents: B. in military. H. a Nevis Adventurer, B. descended from the earliest, most learned Pious and virtuous of our American Nation, and buoyed up by Prejudices of half the Nation. He found himself thwarted, persecuted, calumniated by a wandering Stranger. The deep Malice of H. against Bur, and his indefatigable Exertions to defeame him are little known. I knew So much of it for a Course of Years, that I wondered a Duel had not taken Place Seven Years before it did. I could have produced Such a Duel at any Moment for Seven Years. I kept the Secrets Sacred and inviolable: and have kept them to this day.

I can do no more.




You ask my Opinion, (if I understand you) whether Duane or General Hull be the fittest Man for Secretary of War. I answer, In my Opinion, Wilkinson was fitter than either. But his Vanity and the Collision of Faction have rendered his Appointment improper and impossible.

Again, if you wish my Opinion, you Shall have it. I know that Colonel William Stevens Smith of Lebanon, in Smiths Valley on Chenango River in the State of New York, was and is fitter for the Command of the Northwestern Army, and fitter for Secretary at War, than Ustis, Wilkinson or Hull, or Dearborn. But his Pride, his Marriage with my Daughter, and the Collision of Factions have rendered his Appoointment improper and impossible.

I have never had my Copies of the Botanist. My Son lent me his to read. I wish to have mine neatly bound.

The Booksellers in Boston and Salem, who refused to take any of them, disliked the Dedicator as well as the Dedicatee. You must know by this time, that the Tories in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut have all Reputations in their Powers; Yours, mine, my Son’s and Son in Law’s. And Washington’s too. If a freak Should take them, they could hunt down into Contem[pt] the Character of Washington, which they have been twelve Years exalting above all that is called Gd and that is worshipped.

You must know that poor Rush and you, and I, a[nd] all our Posterity are in the Power of the Tories. I mean the British Faction, whose Justice is Machiavillianism and whose tender Mercies are Cruelty, and whose Gratitude is Treachery and Perfidy.

I am, as ever your Friend


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Brigadier General (ret.) John Adams retired from the U.S. Army in 2007 and is an independent defense consultant.

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