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Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 13 March 1796

My Dearest Friend

I covet the Harp of Amphion. What would I not give for the Harp of Amphion?

In my Walks in the Caedar Grove, in Rocky run and on Pens hill, I should play upon my Lyre and the merry Rocks would dance after me, and reel into Walls. This would be to me a very pleasant and profitable private Amusement.

But there is another Use I could make of my Instrument in my public Employment more grateful to a benevolent Mind Heart because more Useful to Mankind. In no Age of the World was it more wanted.

Amphion thus bad wild Dissension cease
And Soften's Mortals learn'd the Arts of Peace
Amphion taught contending things
From various discords to create
The Music of a well turn'd State;
Nor Slack nor Strain the tender Strings
Those useful touches to impart
That Strike the Subject answering heart,
And the Soft Silent Harmony that Springs
From Sacred Union and consent of Things.

Alass! I am not an Amphion. I have been thirty years Singing and whistleing among my Rocks and not one would ever move without Money. I have been Twenty Years, Saying if

not Sings, preaching if not  [illegible playing.

From various discords to create
The Music of a well tun'd State;
And the soft silent harmony that springs
From sound Union and content of Things.

But an uncomplying World will not regard my Long Uncouth Discourses. I cannot Sing nor play. If I had Eloquence or Humour or Irony or Satyr or the Harp or Lyre of Amphion, how much good could I do to the World: What a Mortification to my Vanity: What a humiliation to my self Love?

The Rocks in our H. of R. will not dance to my Lyre. They will not accord to a well tun'd State. They will not endure the Harmony that Springs from Sacred Union and consent of Things. They are for breaking all the Instruments but of the thorough Bass and then blowing you deaf and dumb. There are bold and daring strides making to demolish  [illegible the P., Senate and all but the House, which as it seems to me must be the Effect of the Measures that many are Urging.

Be not alarmed however. They will not carry their Point. The Treaty will be executed and that by the Consent of the House.

[No transcription available -- see page image]

I am going to hear Dr. Priestley. His Discourses are learned, ingenious and Useful. They will be printed, and He says dedicated to me. Dont tell this secret though, for no other being knows it. It will get me

the Character of an Heretick I fear. I presume however, that dedicating a Book to a Man, will not imply that he approves every Thing in it.

The Weather is so fine, that I long to be upon my Hills. Pray since my Harp cannot build Walls, how do my Friends go on who are obliged to employ their Elbows in that laborious Work? Has Dr. Tufts begun to build the Line that Newcomb did not engage for? Those Walls must be compleated or Burrells Corn field will not be safe.

I Sometimes think, that if I was in the H. of R. and could make Speeches there I could throw some Light upon these Things. If Mr. Jefferson should be president, I believe I must put up, as a Candidate for the House. But this is my Vanity. I feel sometimes as if I could Speechify among them, but alass, alass, I am too old. It would soon destroy my Health. I declare, however, if I were in that House I would drive out of it some Daemons that haunt it. There are false Doctrines and false Jealousies predominant there at times that it would be easy to exorcise. You see I mind no order in what I write to you.

I know your Criticisms will not be cruel to

Mrs A

[Endorsement -- see page image]

Cite web page as: Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 13 March 1796 [electronic edition]. Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive. Massachusetts Historical Society. http://www.masshist.org/digitaladams/
Original manuscript: Adams, John. Letter from John Adams to Abigail Adams, 13 March 1796. 4 pages. Original manuscript from the Adams Family Papers, Massachusetts Historical Society.
Source of transcription: Adams Papers Editorial Project. Unverified transcriptions.
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