Here it may be proper to recollect something which makes an Article of great importance in the Life of every Man. I was of an amorous disposition and very early from ten or eleven Years of Age, was very fond of the Society of females. I had my favorites among the young Women and spent many of my Evenings in their Company and this disposition although controlled for seven Years after my Entrance into College returned and engaged me too much till I was married.
I shall draw no Characters nor give any enumeration of my youthfull flames. It would be considered as no compliment to the dead or the living: This I will say—they were all modest and virtuous Girls and always maintained this Character through Life. No Virgin or Matron ever had cause to blush at the sight of me, or to regret her Acquaintance with me. No Father, Brother, Son or Friend ever had cause of Grief or Resentment for any Intercourse between me and any Daughter, Sister, Mother, or any other Relation of the female Sex. My Children may be assured that no illegitimate Brother or Sister exists or ever existed. These Reflections, to me consolatory beyond all expression, I am able to make with truth and sincerity and I presume I am indebted for this blessing to my Education.
My Parents held every Species of Libertinage in such Contempt and horror, and held up constantly to view such pictures of disgrace, of baseness and of Ruin, that my natural temperament was always overawed by my Principles and Sense of decorum. This Blessing has been rendered the more prescious to me, as I have seen enough of the Effects of a different practice. Corroding Reflections through Life are the never failing consequence of illicit amours, in old as well as in new Countries. The Happiness of Life depends more upon Innocence in this respect, than upon all the Philosophy of Epicurus, or of Zeno without it. I could write Romances, or Histories as wonderfull as Romances of what I have known or heard in France, Holland and England, and all would serve to confirm what I learned in my Youth in America, that Happiness is lost forever if Innocence is lost, at least untill a Repentance is undergone so severe as to be an overballance to all the gratifications of Licentiousness. Repentance itself cannot restore the Happiness of Innocence, at least in this Life.
John Adams takes time out of his autobiography to lecture on the dangers of ‘libertinage’.
The profound mysteries of nature…
Answer to the Inquiry Why I Sighed
Before no mortal ever knew
A love like mine so tender, true,
Completely wretched—you away,
And but half blessed e’en while you stay.
If present love [illegible] face
Deny you to my fond embrace
No joy unmixed my bosom warms
But when my angel’s in my arms."
"But few letters remain which enable us to mark the advance of Hamilton’s wooing, but a little verse is in my possession which was found in a tiny bag hanging from his wife’s neck after her death, and which she had evidently always worn, and it was quite probably given to her when they were together this winter. What is apparently a sonnet was written upon a piece of torn and yellow paper, fragments of which had been sewn together with ordinary thread.”
— The Intimate Life of Alexander Hamilton
…Damnit, I was going to make fun of this poem, but now I’m all sad. And touched.
Allan Bowie Magruder
John Marshall, modest bearer of turkeys for free.
I promised to write you an account of the scituation of my mind. The natural strength of my facultys is quite insufficient for the task. Attend therefore to the invocation. Oh! thou goddess, Muse, or Whatever is thy name who inspired immortal Miltons pen with a confusion ten thousand times confounded, when describing Satan’s Voyage thro’ Chaos, help me in the same cragged strains, to sing things unattempted yet in prose or Rhime.
When the nimble Hours have tack’led Apollo’s Coursers, and the gay Deity mounts the eastern sky, the gloomy Paedagogue arises, frowning and lowring, like a black Cloud begrimm’d with uncommon wrath to blast a devoted Land. When the destin’d time arrives, he enters upon action and as a haughty Monarch, ascends his Throne, The Paedagogue mounts his awful great Chair and dispenses right and Justice thro’ his whole empire.
His obsequious subjects execute the imperial Mandates with chearfullness, and think it their high happiness to be employ’d in the service of the Emperor. Sometimes Paper, sometimes his penknife, now Birch, now Arithmetick, now a ferril, then A.B.C., then scolding, then flattering, then thwacking, calls for the Paedagogues attention.
At length, his spirits all exhausted, down comes Paedagogue from his Throne and walks out in awful solemnity, thro’ a cringing multitude. In the afternoon he passes thro’ the same dreadful scenes, smokes his Pipe and goes to bed.
John Adams to Richard Cranch
Is there anything more amusing than imagining Adams teaching kids?
I like to bash on TJ sometimes, as it is my duty as a Hamilton fan. However, I can’t deny that he had some truly brilliant and insightful ideas.
"Every constitution, then, and every law, naturally expires at the end of nineteen years. If it be enforced longer, it is an act of force, and not of right."
Jefferson wrote a letter to Madison where he advocating tearing up the constitution and every law after 19 years. Otherwise, in his view, the people had not really consented to the laws imposed upon them, because 19 years as about a generation. Why should this new generation be held to their parents laws?
This letter is sometimes cited as proof of Jefferson’s impracticality, idealism, and naiveté. Oh, Mr. Jefferson! You and your impractical ideas!
But this is actually a great idea.
It is so easy to stick to the old ways, just because that’s how everything has always been done. It is easier to do than to undo. Change is a natural part of societies. Creating a mechanism that would put old laws, policies, and even constitutions under review prevents build-up, stagnation, and complacency.
How’s that for original intent? I would be all for instituting something like this.
"I am for freedom of religion, and against all manœuvres to bring about a legal ascendancy of one sect over another."
TJ was the one who coined the term separation of church and state. I love separation of church and state! It is seriously the best. He got his share of hate for not being sufficiently Christian (he was basically a Deist), poor fellow, but he wisely avoided mixing religion with politics. Author of the Virginia Statue for Religious Freedom. How cool is that?
He was also very skeptical of clergy, dogma, and the supernatural, though he kept these kinds of opinions private. He was also pro-tolerance, and avoided discussing and debating private religious opinions because he believed it was a private matter. I’m not inclined to do that myself, but I can’t help respecting that mindset.
"Another means of silently lessening the inequality of property is to exempt all from taxation below a certain point, and to tax the higher portions of property in geometrical progression as they rise."
Ah, yes. The letter Jefferson wrote to Madison on preventing excessive accumulations of property through taxation is fabulous. He wrote that letter from France, after seeing how property was concentrated into the hands of the aristocracy, while the poor resorted to begging. He believed that it was possible for the laws of property to violate natural right . “The earth is given as a common stock for man to labour and live on.”
At some point, I got the impression that Jefferson wanted the absolute minimum amount of government interference possible, and it annoyed me because I felt issues like inequality could only be dealt with through government interference. Yet, here is this letter, where Jefferson frankly asserts that “legislators cannot invent too many devices for subdividing property, only taking care to let their subdivisions go hand in hand with the natural affections of the human mind”. I don’t share his preference for independent family farms, but the basic principle? Perfect.
Jefferson was smart as hell. He thought this shit through.
"I told President [Washington] that it was a fact, as certainly known as that he and I were then conversing, that particular members of the Legislature, while those laws [Assumption, Funding, &c.] were on the carpet, had feathered their nests with paper, had then voted for the laws, and constantly since lent all the energy of their talents, and instrumentality of their offices, to the establishment and enlargement of the [Treasury] system."
Okay, Jefferson was pretty paranoid about corruption. But I have learned to appreciate Jefferson’s paranoia. Corporations have got their claws into our representatives, who need their money to run campaigns and get elected. Jefferson’s concerns were valid and important. He understood that those in power are inherently dangerous.
Ah, Teej. It’s times like this when I really wish Jefferson and Hamilton had come to an understanding. Hamiltonian means to Jeffersonian ends, you know? Methinks Hamilton needed a Jefferson looking over his shoulder, and Jefferson needed to worry less about federal government power and more on how to prevent abuses of those powers.