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spirit to strengthen my good desires and to subdue my
propensities to evil, for it is from him that every good and
every perfect gift descends.

My custom is to read four or five chapters of the Bible
every morning immediately after rising from bed. It em-
ploys about an hour of my time, and seems to me the most
suitable manner of beginning the day. But as other cares,
duties and occupations engage the remainder of it, I have
perhaps never devoted a sufficient portion of my hours to
meditation upon what I have read thus. Even meditation
itself is often fruitless, unless it has some special object in
view. Useful thoughts arise in the mind and pass away
without being remembered, or even applied to any good
purpose. Like seed scattered upon the surface of the ground
which the birds devour, or the wind blows away, or which
rots without taking root, however good the soil may be upon
which it is cast.

We are all, my dear George, unwilling to confess our own
infirmities, even to ourselves; and when our own consciences
are too honest to conceal them from us, our self love is al-
ways busy either in attempting to disguise them to us under
false and delusive colors, or in seeking out excuses and
apologies to conceal them to our own minds. Thus, although
I am always sensible that I have not derived from my
assiduous perusal of the Bible (and I might apply the same
remark to almost everything else that I do) all the benefit
that I might and ought, I am as constantly endeavoring to
persuade myself that it is not my own fault. Sometimes I
say to myself I do not undertsand what I have read. I
cannot help it. I did not make my own understanding.


There are many things In the Bible hard to be understood,
as St, Peter expressly says of Paul's Epistles. Some are hard
in the Hebrew and Greek, the original languages in which
the Scriptures were written. Some are harder still in the
translations. I have been obliged to lead a wandering life
about the world, and scarcely ever have had at hand the
books which might help me to surmount the difficulties.
Conscience sometimes asks the question, whether my not
understanding many passages is not owing to my want of
attention in reading them. I must admit that it is; a full
proof of which is that every time I read the Book through,
I do understand some passages which I never understood
before, and which I should have understood at a former
reading had it been effected with a sufficient degree of atten-
tion. Then in answer to myself I say, it is true. But I can-
not always command at all my own attention, and never
can to the degree that I should wish. My mind is oftentimes
so full of other things, absorbed in bodily pain, or engrossed
by passions, or distracted by pleasures, or exhausted by
dissipation, that I cannot give to my proper daily employ-
ment the attention that I gladly would, and that is abso-
lutely necessary to make it "fruitful of good works." This
acknowledgment of my weakness is just; but for how much
of it I am still accountable to myself and to God, I hardly
dare acknowledge to myself. Is it bodily pain? How often
was that brought upon me by my own imprudence and folly?
Was it passion? Heaven has given to every human being
the power of controlling his passions, and if he neglects or
uses It, the fault Is his own and he must be answerable for it.
Was it pleasure? Why did I indulge in it? Was it dissipa-
tion? This is the most inexcusable of all, for it must have
been occasioned by my own thoughtlessness or irresolution.
It is of no use to discover our own faults and infirmities,


unless the discovery prompts us to amendment. I have
thought that if in addition to the daily hour which I give to
the reading of the Bible, I should also from time to time, and
especially on Sundays, apply another occasional hour to
communicate to you the reflections which arose in my
mind upon its perusal, it might not only tend to fix and
promote my own attention to the excellent instructions of
that book, but perhaps also your advancement in its knowl-
edge and wisdom. At your age it is probable that you have
the greater difficulties to understand all that you read in the
Bible, than I have at mine, and if you have as much self
observation as your letters show, you will be sensible of as
much want of attention, both voluntary and involuntary, as
I have acknowledged in myself. I intend, therefore, for the
purpose of contributing to your improvement and my own,
to write you several letters, in due time to follow this, and in
which I shall endeavor to show you how you may derive the
most advantage to yourself from the perusal of the Script-
ures. It is probable that when you receive the letters, you
will not on first reading them entirely understand them. If
that should be the case, ask your grandparents, or your
uncle or aunt, to explain them to you, and if you still find
them too hard, put them upon file and lay them by two or
three years; after which read them again and you will find
them easy enough.

It is essential, my son, in order that you may go through
this life with comfort to yourself and usefulness to your
fellow creatures, that you should form and adopt certain
rules or principles for the government of your own conduct
and temper. Unless you have such rules and principles
there will be numberless occasions on which you will have no
guide for your government but your passions. In your
infancy and youth you have been and will be for some years


under the authority and control of your friends and instruc-
tors. You must soon come to the age when you must govern
yourself. You have already come to that age in many re-
spects. You know the difference between right and wrong.
You know some of your duties, and the obligation you are
under of becoming acquainted with them all. It is in the
Bible that you must learn them, and from the Bible how
to practise them.

Those duties are to God, to your fellow creatures, and to
yourself. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy
heart, with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all
thy strength, and thy neighbor as thyself" (Luke x, 27;
Mat. XXII, 40). "On these two commandments (Jesus
Christ expressly says) hang all the law and the prophets.'*
That is to say that the whole purpose of divine revelation is
to Inculcate them efficaciously upon the minds of men.

You will perceive that I have spoken of duties to yourself,
distinct from those to God and to your fellow creatures,
while Jesus Christ speaks only of two commandments. The
reason is, because Christ and the commandments repeated
by him consider self-love as so implanted in the heart of every
man by the law of his nature that it required no other com-
mandment to establish its influence over the heart. And so
great do they know its power to be that they demand no
other measure for the love of your neighbor than that which
they know we shall have for ourselves. But from the love of
God and the love of our neighbor result duties to ourselves
as well as to them, and they are all to be learnt in equal
perfection by searching the Scriptures.

Let us then search the Scriptures, and in order to pursue
our inquiries with methodical order, let us consider the va-
rious sources of instruction that we may draw from in this
study. The Bible contains the revelation of the will of God;


it contains the history of the creation, of the world and of
mankind; and afterwards the history of one peculiar nation,
certainly the most extraordinary nation that has ever
appeared upon earth. It contains a system of religion and
morality, which we may examine upon its own merits,
independent of the sanction it receives from being the word
of God, and it contains a numerous collection of books,
written at different ages of the world by different authors,
which we may survey as curious monuments of antiquity
and as literary compositions. In what light soever we
regard it, whether with reference to revelation, to history, to
morality or to literature, it is an invaluable and inexhaustible
mine of knowledge and virtue.

I shall number separately these letters that I mean to
write you on the subject of the Bible. And as, after they are
finished, I shall perhaps ask you to read them all together or
to look over them again myself, you must keep them on a
separate file. I wish that hereafter they may be useful to
your brothers and sister as well as to you. As you will re-
ceive every one of them as a token of my affection for you
during my absence, I pray that they may all be worthy of
being read by them all with benefit to themselves, if it please
God that they may live to be able to understand them.

From your affectionate father.^

1 The series of letters, of which this is the first, was printed in 1848, with
the letters of Abigail Adams, and again, separately, in 1850.



St. Petersburg, 14 September, 181 1.
Dear Sir:

Some time in the month of June last there was published
in the Boston Patriot a pretended state paper, purporting
to be signed by the Duke of Cadore, and addressed to his
Excellency ^ — as in extreme secrecy — and containing a com-
monplace invective against the British nation, constitu-
tion and royal family, mixed up with a panegyric upon the
Duke of York and the incendiary Jackson; a curse upon the
murder of Louis 16 and his murderers, a dissertation upon
Wicliff, Huss, Luther and the price of seats at Covent
Garden theatre, abuse upon Erskine, Cobbett, the Burdett
party and ministerial opposition in England; and, as the
choicest effusion of gall, of which all the rest seems to be
only the froth, an allusion to the government of the United
States as the "weakest and most contemptible of govern-

How the editors of the Patriot can have been imposed
upon to take and publish as a genuine state paper what
appears to me the most stupid, because the most glaring

^ September 3. "The French Ambassador sent me the Moniteur from the iith
to the i6th of August containing the Memoir with the name of the Duke of Cadore,
in a translation from the London Courier of 30 July, and also a number of para-
graphs extracted from several other English newspapers concerning it. The
Moniteur declares it an English forgery. Count RomanzofF afterwards sent me a
packet from Mr. Russell at Paris, brought by a courier. Mr. Russell encloses to
me the Moniteurs of 13 and 14 August containing the Memoir, and some paragraphs
about it, and the New York Commercial Advertiser of 22 June, also containing it, and
announcing it as extracted from the Boston Patriot. Mr. Russell's letter to me
expresses great doubts whether it was genuine or not." Ms. Diary. The paper
appeared in the Boston Patriot, June 19, 18 1 1.

^ Prince Kurakin, Russian Ambassador at Paris.


forgery that I ever saw is not for me to explain. They do
not expressly warrant its authenticity, but they declare
their own persuasion of it, not only from their confidence
In the source from which they received it, but from what
they consider as Its Internal evidence.

It appears to have been published in many of the federal
newspapers in the United States, whose editors were doubt-
less highly delighted with the terms in which it speaks of
their government. I have it in the New York Commercial
Advertiser of 22 June, which has been sent me by Mr. Russell
from Paris, and in which the paragraph containing this in-
sult is printed over a second time in a different page of the
paper with evident marks of exultation. There is also a
little comment of sympathy and love for the English king
and constitution, natural enough for its place, but into
which the Patriot, the original publisher, had not been

But the great fortune of this state paper was to be made In
England. The London Courier of 30 July published it as
the most important state paper ever laid before the British
nation; and instead of speaking like the American editors
in terms of doubt or hesitation with regard to its authentic-
ity, the Courier not only solemnly declares that it is beyond
all question authentic, but undertakes to give a history of
its publication. It says that during the last autumn (the
piece is dated 30 October, 18 10) there appeared to be some
wavering and irresolution in the policy of the Russian cab-
inet. That the paper was then written and addressed by
the Duke of Cadore to the Russian ambassador at Paris,
to be laid before his government, in order to persuade the
Emperor of Russia that the war with England must be con-
tinued until the British constitution should be destroyed
or the present royal family driven from the throne. That


the Russian ambassador accordingly sent it to his court,
where it did not prove successful. That the Russian govern-
ment, to let the United States know how their government
was spoken of by the French Minister of Foreign Affairs,
and perhaps to have the paper made known in England, com-
municated it to Mr. J. Q. Adams, American minister at
St. Petersburg, who transmitted a copy of it to his own
government and also to his father, through whom it was
first published.

From the Courier, a ministerial paper, this miserable
fabrication was copied into many of the other English news-
papers, but in most of them is recognized as a forgery. The
Courier persisted in asserting its authenticity, and in the
tale of its having been transmitted by me and published by
you. A translation of it was soon after published in the
Moniteur, and copied into the Journal de VEmpire with a
few short notes, in one of which it is declared to have been
forged in England. A German translation with the notes
of the Moniteur has appeared in the Hamburg Correspondent,
so that it has been now thoroughly circulated all over
Europe, together with the falsehood which ascribes its trans-
mission from this country to me and its publication to you.

It was in the London Courier that I first saw it, and then
considered it in the same light as it is viewed in the note of
the Moniteur, as a mere English forgery. I did not suspect
that the imposture had ever appeared in the Boston Patriot,
and I could not conjecture what motive could have prompted
the editor of the London Courier to use my name as instru-
mental to the circulation of so wretched a fable. Some days
afterwards I received a letter from Mr. Russell, inclosing
the New York paper above mentioned and the Moniteur
containing the translation. Since I knew that the first
publication was in the Boston Patriot I am not so totally


at a loss to imagine why the EngHsh editors so boldly palmed
your name and mine upon the public to avouch this infamous
fraud, but I am not a little surprised that the editor of the
Patriot should have been misled to credit so far the authentic-
ity of the pretended memoir as to have admitted it into his
paper, and to have avowed his belief that it was genuine.
If the braying of the animal had not been sufficiently
audible to disclose the imposition of the lion's skin, I should
really have thought that the editor of the Patriot would have
discovered him by his ears. If a dramatic author were to
put in the mouth of a known character sentiments, I will
not say so foolish and absurd, but so totally at war with the
notorious sentiments of the person represented, he would
be hooted off" the stage for ignorance of the first principles of
his art. That there should have been in human nature
baseness enough to attempt this deception is not at all re-
markable; but that there should have been in men of worth
and discernment blindness enough to believe in it for a
moment, Is extraordinary. I am not, however, at present
of opinion that It was of English invention altogether. The
editor of the Patriot must know whence it came to him, and
he may be sure it was a cheat practised upon hlm.^ No such

^ "It is utterly unaccountable to me how the Editor of the Patriot could have
been made the dupe of what appears to me to be so clear an imposition. He says
it bears the very image and superscription of the modern Caesar — which only
shows how little he is acquainted with that personage, and how open he has suffered
his mind to the rank absurdities, and cunning misrepresentations of Englishmen
and anglified Americans. Ames tried to scare all our federal old women out of their
senses by telling them with a grave face that he trembled for fear Bonaparte would
take his and their children for a conscription against St. Domingo; and Walsh,
with a little mincing of the matter, just enough to show that he does not believe
a word of it, says that indeed he docs not know but — he is no coward — but really
there may be some danger of the conscription against St. Domingo. In all this
however there is no forgery. Ames's fears raised a spectre before his mind's eye,
which he really believed he saw, and from which he started with a shriek of horror.


paper was ever written by the Duke de Cadore, or sent by
the Russian ambassador in France to this country, or com-
municated by the Russian government to me, or transmitted
by me to any person in the United States, or (without a
particle of hesitation I add) first published through you.
It is more to be regretted that the Patriot should have
given countenance and currency to this trick of political
swindling, because its intended effect and, so far as it ob-
tained credit its real eifect, must be to propagate and
strengthen those false opinions and groundless jealousies
which the present English ministry and their faction every-
where are attempting to impose upon mankind. Ignorant
or blind to the real state of the world and to the necessity
which every wise statesman must feel of adapting his politi-
cal system to it, the English ministry of this day have come
to the avowal that their only plan for futurity is perpetual,
or at least interminable war. They will neither discuss
nor even listen to any proposition of peace, and as in this
long war, like that of the house of Saul against the house of
David, they are waxing weaker and weaker while their ad-
versary waxes stronger and stronger, they find the spirit of

Walsh affects to partake of his trepidation because he has his purposes to answer
bv spreading it among others; but the author of this spurious step advances one
step further in the righteous cause. Hobgoblins and prophecies are not highly-
seasoned enough for his palate. Plain, downright forgery is his fashion of raising
bugbears, and so he puts the Duke of Cadore's name to a jumble of materials as
incongruous, and ridiculous as the composition of the caldron of Macbeth's witches,
the result of which is to be, that Bonaparte intends to destroy the English Consti-
tution, and dethrone the house of Hanover, and that he considers the United States
as ruled by the weakest and most contemptible of governments. That such a wretched
piece of patch work should have passed current for genuine among the profound
wiseacres of the federal gazettes, that Russell or Coleman should have taken or
given it all out for Gospel would have been natural enough; but I really should
never have suspected quite so much gullability in the Editor of the Patriot." To
Thomas Boylston Adams, September 25, 18 11. Ms.


their people beginning to flag, and think it necessary to make
them believe they are fighting for their existence, for their
constitution, or for their sovereign, when in truth they are
only fighting for the Chateaux en Espagne of their ministers.
As the plain truth will not answer to justify their policy
they have recourse to such falsehoods as they know to be
best calculated to stimulate and to control the passions of
their people. Swift in his art of political lying complains
that the French king and universal monarchy had been so
prodigally brought out, instead of being kept like the bears
for show once a year, that they had almost lost their effect
of terror. But Napoleon is a more durable bugbear than
Louis 14; and, lavish as they have been of him for these
nine or ten years, they have not yet worn him out. The
Bonaparte panic has been made a political engine in America,
too, where but for the camel, swallow and ostrich man of
faction it would have been only ridiculous. With us, too, it
has howled the song of war against his universal empire
until it grew hoarse upon the sky; and now, when the whip-
poor-will warble of Walsh and the raven croak of Pickering
waste alike their sweetness on the desert air, at a moment
when the talk of British outrage and insult is smarting in
every honest vein, a gross, direct and palpable forgery
comes with unblushing face to turn the public indignation
away from its proper object, and through the Boston Patriot
obtains access to the public mind.

Although the use of my name in this piece of villainy was
first made in the London Courier and does not appear in
the American papers, it must in all probability have been
suggested to the English editors from America, and may have
been intended by the original author of the spurious memoir
certainly with views of no friendship or kindness for me. The
Courier has even been grateful enough to pronounce a pane-


gyric upon yourself and me, wisely and ingeniously con-
founding us together as one and the same person. I believe
you will be as little ambitious as myself of such praise. I
have written to Mr. Russell at Paris and declared to the
French ambassador here, that the whole of the story so far
as my name concerned was false and destitute of all founda-
tion. Count RomanzoflF declares the same as respects the
Russian government, and the Russian ambassador at
Paris has equally denied having ever received anything
like the pretended memoir. I have no doubt you will
be equally surprised as I was, to find yourself vouched
for as an authority in the Courier to authenticate this de-


St. Petersburg, 25 September, 181 1.

Since I wrote you last I have also read in the Aurora the
whole of Mr. R. Smith's publication,^ and I have seen one or
two more of Mr. Pickering's addresses to the people, I hear
that Mr. Smith has been answered in the National Intelli-
gencer, and has replied. ^ There seems to be something in
that office of Secretary of State peculiarly calculated to
overset underballasted minds. Edmund Randolph — peace

* Address to the People of the United States, Baltimore, 1811. It appeared in the
Aurora, June 26. See Henry Adams, History, V. 378; Writings of Madison (Rives),
II- S07> 513- An earlier "authorized explanation" had been printed in the Aurora,
April 5, drawing out Madison's memorandum in Writings of Madison (Rives),
II. 495.

2 Joel Barlow wrote the reply to Smith {National Intelligencer), and Smith an-
swered in the Baltimore American.


be to his remainders — but he like Mr. Smith was obliged to
vindicate his resignation. Pickering mistook Mrs. Reynolds'
paramour for President of the United States, and surrendered
up his official virtue to that gay deceiver as fondly as the
lady did her conjugal virtue. He did not choose to resign,
and so he now vindicates his going out upon expulsion. Mr.
Smith seems to have mistaken who was President too, but
his optical illusion terminated in himself. As a party
pamphlet his publication is written with some address;
but do you think he ever put to himself the question, whether
the single fact of the publication did not involve in it a
breach of trust, more dishonorable to him and more detri-
mental to the public, than everything he has made out
against Mr. Madison.^ If he did, and settled it to his own
satisfaction that he should not be chargeable with such a
breach of trust, he ought instead of the hackneyed and
in his case not very applicable adage about measures and not
men, and the dramatic parade about the dangers to which
he was exposing himself, to have begun by proving as much
to the satisfaction of his readers. These breaches of trust
have, indeed, unfortunately been so frequent in our short
history, and they have always been so much countenanced
by party spirit, and so secure of impunity, that I am afraid
it has infected the very principle of our national character.
The vote of censure upon Mr. Pickering last winter was a
tardy, feeble, and I fear Ineffectual attempt to maintain

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