Papers of John Adams, volume 18

To John Jay

To Thomas Jefferson

Dear friend Paris, Rue du Pot de Fer, 26 January 1786

I had not counted on having the honor of writing you so soon after receiving a letter from you.1 I do not wish to put on our correspondence an intensity that may be inconvenient to you. Have no fear, I will be prudent and I will begin today with a fiendish expression from Massachusetts Bay that I understand not a whit. It is “Rider of Hobby Horses.” Explain it to me so that I may know what opinion you have of a man who is certainly as much, if not more, of a friend to you than anyone.

So you have forgotten what life is like in Paris and that one barely has a single moment to oneself. I hardly had time to write a handful of letters since my arrival and this one would not have been completed in less than eight days had I had not returned home this evening to write it with several others. There are people bothering me. My parishioners have broken one of their bells. They are getting another one made. I will have to name it because they insist on it and it will cost me 20 or 25 Louis. For nothing I would go to Boston where people do not christen bells.

If you wanted to try, I am certain you could cross over in three hours like me and you could dine in Rue du Pot de Fer with Mr. Jefferson, the Chevalier de La Luzerne, and my niece.2 Do you find some hobby horse in that? There will be in fact a few Britons there. I swear that I would most willingly organize a dinner with King Brant; I know the others.

All I can do is to study my lesson for this summer for I can do nothing here. I am not entirely sure yet, but I think you will find nobles and commoners everywhere. The reason is that the two advantages which differentiate men, strength and wit, are more hereditary than they ought to be. Strength that has acquired riches passes them on to its successors and wit provides an education lacking in others. Try as you might, authority will never reside but in a small number of families. All we can do is prevent them from closing the door on themselves.

When horses throw their riders, they run like crazy without knowing where they are going. The cobbler, the tailor, the fishmonger, all of these people have but one need, and no more than country dwellers: police and protection. They cannot procure these for themselves. There must be eminent people to do other jobs just as they do theirs.

Adieu my dear friend. My most humble respects to Mrs. and Miss Adams. I end without ceremony and without signing.