Jefferson-Adams Correspondence (Excerpts)
Adams to Jefferson, Quincy, Sept. 12, 1813
. . . the human Understanding is a revelation from its Maker which can never be disputed or doubted. There can be no Scepticism, Phyrrhonism or Incredulity or Infidelity here. No Prophecies, no Miracles are necessary to prove this celestial communication. This revelation has made it certain that two and one make three; and that one is not three; nor can three be one. We can never be so certain of any Prophecy, or the fulfillment of any Prophecy; or of any miracle, or the design of any miracle as We are, from the revelation of nature i.e. natures God that two and two are equal to four. Miracles or Prophecies might frighten J\us out of our Witts [sic]; might scare us to death; might induce Us to lie; to say that We believe that 2 and 2 make 5. But we should not believe it. We should know the contrary
Had you and I been forty days with Moses on Mount Sinai and admitted to behold, the divine Shekinah, and there told that one was three and three, one: We might not have had courage to deny it. But We could not have believed it. The thunders and Lightenings [sic] and Earthquakes and the transcendant [sic] Splendors and Glories, might have overwhelmed Us with terror and Amazement: but we could not have believed the doctrine. We should be more likely to say in our hearts, whatever We might say with our Lips, This is Chance. There is no God! No Truth. This is all Delusion, fiction and a lie: or it is all Chance. But what is Chance? It is motion; it is Action; it is event; it is Phenomenon, without Cause. Chance is no cause at all. It is nothing. And Nothing has produced all this Pomp and Splendor; and Nothing may produce Our eternal damnation in the flames of Hell fire and Brimstone for what We know, as well as this tremendous Exhibition of Terror and Falsehood.
God has infinite Wisdom, goodness and power. He created the Universe. His Duration is eternal, a parte ante, and a parte post. His presence is as extensive as Space. What is Space? an infinite, spherical Vaccuum [sic]. He created this Speck of Dirt and the human Species for his glory: and with the deliberate to design of making, nine tenths of our Species miserable forever, file his glory. This is the doctrine of Christian Theologians in general: ten to one.
Now, my Friend, can Prophecies, or miracles convince You, or Me, that infinite Benevolence, Wisdom and Power, created and preserves, for a time, innumerable millions to make them miserable, forever; for his own Glory? Wretch! What is his Glory? Is he ambitious? does he want promotion? Is he vain? tickled with Adulation, Exulting and try triumphing [sic] in his Power and the Sweetness of his Vengeance! Pardon me, my Maker, for these Aweful [sic] Questions. My Answer to them is always ready: I believe no such Things. My Adoration of the author of the Universe is too profound and too sincere The Love of God and his Creation; delight, joy, Tryumph [sic], Exultation in my own existence, 'tho but an atom, a Molecule Organique [sic], in the Universe; are my religion. Howl, Snarl, bite, Ye Calvinistick! Ye Athanasian Divines, if you will. Ye will say, I am no Christian: I say Ye are no Christians: and there the Account is balanced [sic]. Yet I believe all the honest men among you, are Christians in my Sense of the Word . . . .
When I was in England from 1785, to 1788 I may say, I was intimate with Dr. [Richard] Price. I had much conversation with him at his own House, at my houses, and at the houses and Tables of Friends. In some of our most unreserved Conversations, when We have been alone, he has repeatedly said to me "I and inclined to believe that the Universe, is eternal and infinite. It seems to me that an eternal and infinite Effect, must necessarily flow from an eternal infinite Cause; and an infinite Wisdom Goodness and Power that could have been induced to produce a Universe in time, must have produced it from eternity." "It seems to me, the effect must flow from the Cause.”
Now my Friend Jefferson, suppose an eternal self-existent Being existing from Eternity, possessed of infinite Wisdom, Goodness and Power, in absolute total Solitude, Six thousand ears ago, conceiving the benevolent project of creating a Universe! I have no more to say at present.
It has been long, very long a settled opinion in my Mind that there is now, never will be, and never was but one being who can Understand the Universe. And that it is not only vain but wicked for insects to pretend to comprehend it.
Jefferson to Adam, Monticello, May 5, 1817
. . . Your recommendations are always welcome, for indeed the subjects of them always merit that welcome, and some of them in an extraordinary degree. They make us acquainted with what there is of excellent in our ancient sister state of Massachusetts, once venerated and be beloved, and still hanging on our hopes, for what need we despair of after the resurrection of Connecticut light and liberality. [Connecticut disestablished the Congregational Church in 1817] I had believed that, the last retreat of Monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other states a century ahead of them. They seemed still to be exactly where their forefathers were when they schismatised [sic] from the Covenant of works, and to consider, as dangerous heresies, all innovations good or bad. I join you therefore in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a protestant popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character. If, by religion, we are to understand Sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree; then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, 'that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion ill it.' But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism [sic], and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, 'something not fit to be named, even indeed a Hell.'