Papers of John Adams, volume 18

From Philip Mazzei

From the Board of Treasury

Paris, 6 March 1786

If I had known about Mr. Jefferson’s trip, I would have had him transmit a few curious reports to you. You know I believe that you people of the other caste can hardly study ours too much in order to know our wrongs and to protect yourselves from them, failing which, in a short while, you would not be worth more than us. There is a memoir from Mr. Dupaty1 as worthy as the letters of Mr. Stuart and Lord Mansfield2 and which is exceedingly curious for those who should wish to know the views of our barbarous criminal jurisprudence.

I reiterate, study us to be prepared to avoid our ills; you cannot begin too soon. This is one of my hobby horses and it makes good sense. I have several. For example, I wish that you would drink to my health with Mr. Jefferson and that Mrs. and Miss Adams would reciprocate with you.

We are experiencing harsh weather here. At this moment snow is falling, which nevertheless will not keep me from going to the Chaussée-d’Antin on foot. Do you know where it is? It is about four miles from here, but one needs to exercise.3

If Mr. Jefferson did not bring you the memoir from Mr. Dupaty, let me know when you have the time to write me and I will send it to you.

This is quite a short letter to cross the sea but it had been a long while since I had given you any news of me.

A better education is without a doubt the first step to take in order to guarantee the prosperity of your nations but it is not enough. There needs be a defense within the reach of all against the love of power among the rich, and the love of disorder among the poor; against eloquence which leads astray, corruption which seduces, poverty which renders one indifferent to everything except that which brings satisfaction to the present moment, debauchery which has the same effects, etc. Structure your laws for the time when your population will be complete, they will be good for the present situation and for the future; instead of those which would be but 204 sufficient for now and would leave the door open to all the evils to be feared. Never forget that in politics there is very little absolute truth and that that which is suitable today will not suit tomorrow.

Adieu my dear friend forever your etc.