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'What Think You of Terrorism, Mr. Jefferson?'

Tuesday, 26 April 2005 12:00 AM

In Liberty Letter 26 (

Put party before principle, before truth, before thinking, before love of country, Adams argued, then right on its heels come its natural companions: blind hatred, senseless violence, class warfare and civil war. It is just a matter of time.

In this letter, Adams discusses the latter. His target audience was "posterity, the present age, and [Thomas Jefferson]," who Adams believed was not as innocent as he claimed – both he and his party – especially in the matter of letting loose a party scoundrel, libeler and seditionist by the name of James Calendar, who brought much evil upon Adams, his country and, by and by, Thomas Jefferson. (1)

Jefferson denied the charge till death. So who can say who was right regarding Calendar? Nevertheless, Adams unloads in blunt, prophetic fashion as to how bad party spirit had gotten and would get if left unchecked.

Wrote Adams:

I have no doubt you [were] fast asleep in philosophical tranquility, when ten thousand people, and perhaps many more, were parading the streets of Philadelphia, on the evening of my Fast Day; when even Governor Mifflin himself, thought it his duty to order a patrol of horse and foot to preserve the peace; when Market Street was as full as men could stand by one another, and even before my door; when some of my domestics in frenzy, determined to sacrifice their lives in my defense; when all were ready to make a desperate salley among the multitude, and others were with difficulty and danger dragged back by the others; when I myself judged it prudent and necessary to order chests of arms from the War Office to be brought through by lanes and back doors: determined to defend my house at the expense of my life, and the lives of the few, very few domestics and friends within it.

What think you of Terrorism, Mr. Jefferson? Shall I investigate the causes, the motives, the incentives of these terrorisms? Shall I remind you of Phillip Freneau, of Loyd? Of Ned Church? Of Peter Markoe? Of Andrew Brown? Of Duane? Of Callender? Of Tom Paine? Of Greenleaf, of Cheetham, of Tennison of New York? Of Benjamin Austin of Boston? [Inflammatory writers and party hacks]

But above all; shall I request you, to collect the circular letters from members of Congress in the middle and southern states to their constituents? …

The real terrors of both parties have always been, and now are, the fear that they shall lose the elections and consequently the loaves and fishes; and that their antagonists will obtain them. Both parties have excited artificial terrors and if I were summoned as a witness to say upon oath, which party had exited, Machiavellialy, the most terror, and which had really felt the most, I could not give a more sincere answer, than in the vulgar style, ‘Put them in a bag and shake them, and then see which comes out first.'

He could only "thank God that terror never seized on my mind."

Adams was being honest. He never had a hand in it. Can we say the same of ourselves?

The Founders came together for a miraculous revolution and the writing of a marvelous Constitution, but once the miracles were wrought and the deeds done, the Devil got to work, and former friends and fellow patriots were now accused of being monarchists and Tories on one side, anarchists and Jacobins (the equivalent of communist conspirators) on the other – and yes, a half century later, we had a civil war, and then another half century after that, the beginnings of a socialism-based class warfare, a "La Vendee" that continues to our time.

What party has wrought! A selfish, mindless crowd on both sides of the political aisle, who daily sacrifice the Miracle of Philadelphia for a bowl of party pottage. We can do better.

Read Steve's daily blog at LibertyLetters.blogspot.com

1. Jefferson pardoned the seditious Calendar, along with several others, when he revoked the Sedition Act. Then an ungrateful Calendar immediately turned on his liberator, blackmailing Jefferson for a job. Jefferson refused. Calendar retaliated by inventing the Sally Hemmings story (the black woman who supposedly fathered Jefferson's child).

John and Abigail Adams, who knew Jefferson, and Hemmings, and Calendar, were certain the story was a fraud, but kind of snickered over it. The charge was so outrageous, Jefferson never responded to it; and it died a quick death until whipped up again by another unprincipled party hack in our day.

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In Liberty Letter 26 ( Put party before principle, before truth, before thinking, before love of country, Adams argued, then right on its heels come its natural companions: blind hatred, senseless violence, class warfare and civil war. It is just a matter of time. In this...
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Tuesday, 26 April 2005 12:00 AM
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