ON EUROPEAN EDUCATION
To John Banister, Jr.
Paris, October 15, 1785
Let us view the disadvantages of sending a youth to Europe. To
enumerate them all, would require a volume. I will select a few.
If he goes to England, he learns drinking, horse racing and boxing.
These are the peculiarities of English education. The following
circumstances are common to education in that, and the other
countries of Europe. He acquires a fondness for European luxury
and dissipation, and a contempt for the simplicity of his own country;
he is fascinated with the privileges of the European aristocrats, and
sees, with abhorrence, the lovely equality which the poor enjoy with
the rich, in his own country; he contracts a partiality for aristocracy
or monarchy; he forms foreign friendships which will never be useful
to him, and loses the season of life for forming in his own country,
those friendships, which, of all others, are the most faithful and
permanent; he is led by the strongest of all the human passions,
into a spirit for female intrigue, destructive of his own and others'
happiness, or a passion for whores, destructive of his health, and,
in both cases, learns to consider fidelity to the marriage bed as an
ungentlemanly practice, and inconsistent with happiness; he
recollects the voluptuary dress and arts of the European women,
and pities and despises the chaste affections and simplicity of
those of his own country; .....
It appears to me then, that an American coming to Europe for education,
loses in his knowledge, in his morals, in his health, in his habits, and in
his happiness. I had entertained only doubts on this head, before I
came to Europe: what I see and hear, since I came here, proves more
than I had even suspected. Cast your eye over America: who are the
men of most learning, of most eloquence, most beloved by their
countrymen, and most trusted and promoted by them? They are those
who have been educated among them, and whose manners, morals and
habits, are perfectly homogeneous with those of the country.
"AMAZONS AND ANGELS"
To Anne Willing Bingham
Paris, May 11, 1788
DEAR MADAM, -- A gentleman
going to Philadelphia furnishes me
the occasion of sending you some numbers of the Cabinet des Modes &
some new theatrical pieces. These last have had great success on the
stage, where they have excited perpetual applause. We have now need
of something to make us laugh, for the topics of the times are sad
and eventful. The gay and thoughtless Paris is now become a furnace
of Politics. All the world is now politically mad. Men, women,
children talk nothing else, & you know that naturally they talk much,
loud & warm. Society is spoilt by it, at least for those who, like
myself, are but lookers on. -- You too have had your political
fever. But our good ladies, I trust, have been too wise to wrinkle
their foreheads with politics. They are contented to soothe & calm
the minds of their husbands returning ruffled from political debate.
They have the good sense to value domestic happiness above all other,
and the art to cultivate it beyond all others. There is no part of
the earth where so much of this is enjoyed as in America. You agree
with me in this; but you think that the pleasures of Paris more than
supply its wants; in other words that a Parisian is happier than an
American. You will change your opinion, my dear Madam, and come over
to mine in the end. Recollect the women of this capital, some on
foot, some on horses, & some in carriages hunting pleasure in the
streets, in routs & assemblies, and forgetting that they have left it
behind them in their nurseries; compare them with our own
countrywomen occupied in the tender and tranquil amusements of
domestic life, and confess that it is a comparison of Amazons and
Angels. -- You will have known from the public papers that Monsieur
de Buffon, the father, is dead & you have known long ago that the son
and his wife are separated. They are pursuing pleasure in opposite
directions. Madame de Rochambeau is well: so is Madame de la
Fayette. I recollect no other Nouvelles de societe interesting to
you. And as for political news of battles & sieges, Turks &
Russians, I will not detail them to you, because you would be less
handsome after reading them. I have only to add then, what I take a
pleasure in repeating, tho' it will be the thousandth time that I
have the honour to be with sentiments of very sincere respect &
attachment, dear Madam, your most obedient & most humble servant.
COMMERCE, WAR, AND REVOLUTION
To George Washington
Paris, Dec. 4, 1788
The nation [France] has been awaked by our revolution ... How
they can proceed, in the end, towards a thorough reformation of
abuse, cannot be foreseen. In my opinion a kind of influence, which
none of their plans of reform take into account, will elude them all;
I mean the influence of women in the government. The manners of the
nation allow them to visit, alone, all persons in office, to sollicit
the affairs of the husband, family, or friends, and their
sollicitations bid defiance to laws and regulations. This obstacle
may seem less to those who, like our countrymen, are in the habit of
considering Right, as a barrier against all sollicitation. Nor can
such an one, without the evidence of his own eyes, believe the
desperate state to which things are reduced in this country from the
omnipotence of an influence which, fortunately for the happiness of
the sex itself, does not endeavor to extend itself in our country
beyond the domestic line.
RELIGION AND THE UNIVERSITY
To Dr. Thomas Cooper
Monticello, November 2, 1822
DEAR SIR, -- Your favor of
October the 18th came to hand
yesterday. The atmosphere of our country is unquestionably charged
with a threatening cloud of fanaticism, lighter in some parts, denser
in others, but too heavy in all.... In our Richmond there is much
fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night
meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and
sometimes by a hen-pecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of
their love to Jesus, in terms as amatory and carnal, as their modesty
would permit them to use to a mere earthly lover.
ON MARIE ANTOINETTE
The King [of France]... had a Queen of absolute sway over his weak mind
and timid virtue,
and of a character the reverse of his in all points .. proud, disdainful of restraint, indignant
of all obstacles to her will, eager in the pursuit of pleasure, and firm enough to hold to her
desires or perish in the wreck. Her inordinate gambling and dissipations .. had been a sensible
item in the exhaustion of the treasury which called into action the reforming hand of the nation;
and her opposition to it, her inflexible perverseness and dauntless spirit, led herself to the guillotine,
drew the King on with her, and plunged the world into crimes and calamities which will forever
stain the pages of modern history. I have ever believed that had there been no Queen there would
have been no revolution...
ON MRS. MERRY [Wife of the British Minister
to the United States]
Mr. Merry is with us, and we believe him to be personally as desirable
a character as could
have been sent us. But he is unluckily associated with one of an opposite character in every
point. She has already disturbed are harmony extremely... The latter, be assured, is a virago,
and in the short course of a few weeks has established a degree of dislike among all classes
which one would have thought impossible in so short of time... It is unfortunate that the good
understanding of nations should hang on the caprice of an individual who ostensibly has nothing
to do with them.
A Bill for Proportioning
Crimes and Punishments
SECT. XIV. Whosoever shall be guilty of rape,
polygamy or sodomy with man or woman, shall be
punished; if .. a woman, by boring through the cartilage
of her nose a hole of one half inch in diameter at the
RANDOM REMARKS AS A YOUNG MAN
Is there any such thing as happiness in this world? No. And as for admiration,
I am sure the man who powders most, perfumes most, embroiders most,
and talks the most nonsense, is most admired. Though to be candid, there
are some who have too much good sense to esteem such monkey-like animals as these ..
I can view the beauties of this world with the most philosophical indifference
In the most melancholy fit that ever any poor soul was, I sit down to
write to you.
Last night, as merry as agreeable company with Belinda in the Apollo could make me,
I never could have thought the succeeding sun would have seen me so wretched as
I am now! I was prepared to say a great deal; I had dressed up, in my own mind,
such thoughts as occurred to me, in as moving a language as I knew how, and
expected to have performed in a tolerably creditable manner. But, good God!.
When I had an opportunity of venting them, a few broken sentences, uttered
in great disorder, and interrupted with pauses of uncommon length, were the too
visible marks of my strange confusion!
You are determined to be married as soon as possible, and advise me
to the same.
No, thank ye .. Many and great are the comforts of a single state..
THE ARISTOCRACY OF BEAUTY
John Adams to Thomas Jefferson,
November 15, 1813.
A daughter of a greengrocer walks the streets in London
daily with a basket of cabbage sprouts, dandelions, and
spinach on her head. She is observed by the painters to
have a beautiful face, an elegant figure, a graceful step,
and a debonairness. They hire her to sit. She complies,
and is painted by forty artists in a circle around her. The
scientific Dr. William Hamilton outbids the painters, sends
her to school for a genteel education, and marries her.
This lady not only causes the triumphs of the Nile,
Copenhagen, and Trafalgar but separates Naples from
France and finally banishes the King and Queen from
Sicily. Such is the aristocracy of the natural talent of beauty.
Millions of examples might be quoted from history, sacred
and profane, from Eve, Hannah, Deborah, Susanna,
Abigail, Judith, Ruth, down to Helen, Mrs. de Mainbenor,
and Mrs. Fitzherbert. For mercy's sake, do not compel me
to look to our chaste states and territories to find women,
one of whom let go would, in the words of Holofernes'
guards, deceive the whole earth....