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John Adams to Abigail Adams

13 Mar. 1796

My Dearest Friend Philadelphia March 13. 1796

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’d Mortals learn’d the Arts of Peace

Amphion taught contending things

From various discords to create

The Music of a well tun’d State;

Nor Slack nor Strain the tender Strings

Those useful touches to impart

That Strike the Subjects 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 singing, 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 Sacred Union and consent of Things.

But an uncomplying World will not regard my song \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 all 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.

I have read the Letters from our two young Ambassadors. Thomas has written five Letters, \to the Sec. of State/though two \or three/ only have arrived. I think he carries on the Correspondence as well as his Brother.—John has been presented at Court tho he hoped to have avoided it. There is nothing in Thomas’s but upon Business besides a very clear, handsome and I believe accurate Account of the Operations of the Armies in the Rhine and Parties in France. Johns relate wholly to Business.

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 Elblows 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


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