1780

265. John Adams

Without date, 1780.

My dear Portia,—The inclosed dialogue in the shades was written by Mr. Edmund Jennings, now residing at Brussels, a native of Maryland. I will send you the rest when I can get it. How I lament the loss of my packets by Austin! There were, I suppose, letters from Congress of great importance to me. I know not what I shall do without them. I suppose there was authority to draw, etc. Mr. T.'s letter from his father hints that Mr. L. is coming here. This will be excellent.

Since my arrival this time, I have driven about Paris more than I did before. The rural scenes around this town are charming. The public walks, gardens, etc., are extremely beautiful. The gardens of the Palais Royal and the gardens of the Tuileries are very fine. The Place de Louis XV., the Place Vendôme or Place de Louis XIV., the Place Victoire, the Place Royale, are fine squares, ornamented with very magnificent statues. I wish I had time to describe these objects to you, in a manner that I should have done twenty-five years ago; but my head is too full of schemes, and my heart of anxiety, to use expressions borrowed from you know whom. To take a walk in the gardens of the palace of the Tuileries, and describe the statues there, all in marble, in which the ancient divinities and heroes are represented with exquisite art, would be a very pleasant amusement and instructive entertainment, improving in history, mythology, poetry, as well as in statuary. Another walk in the gardens of Versailles would be useful and agreeable. But to observe these objects with taste, and describe them so as to be understood, would require more time and thought than I can possibly spare. It is not indeed the fine arts which our country requires; the useful, the mechanic arts are those which we have occasion for in a young country as yet simple and not far advanced in luxury, although perhaps much too far for her age and character. I could fill volumes with descriptions of temples and palaces, paintings, sculptures, tapestry, porcelain, etc., etc., etc., if I could have time; but I could not do this without neglecting my duty. The science of government it is my duty to study, more than all other sciences; the arts of legislation and administration and negotiation ought to take place of, indeed to exclude, in a manner, all other arts. I must study politics and war, that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. Adieu.

264. John Adams

Without date, 1780.

My dear Portia,—Yesterday we went to see the garden of the King, Jardin du Roi, and his cabinet of natural history, cabinet d'histoire naturelle. The cabinet of natural history is a great collection of metals, minerals, shells, insects, birds, beasts, fishes, and precious stones. They are arranged in good order and preserved in good condition, with the name of everything, beautifully written on a piece of paper, annexed to it. There is also a collection of woods and marbles. The garden is large and airy, affording fine walks between rows of trees. Here is a collection, from all parts of the world, of all the plants, roots, and vegetables that are used in medicine, and indeed of all the plants and trees in the world. A fine scene for the studious youths in physic and philosophy. It was a public day. There was a great deal of company, and I had opportunity only to take a cursory view. The whole is very curious. There is a handsome statue of M. Buffon, the great natural historian, whose works you have, whose labors have given fame to this cabinet and garden. When shall we have in America such collections? The collection of American curiosities that I saw in Norwalk, in Connecticut, made by Mr. Arnold, which he afterwards, to my great mortification, sold to Governor Tryon, convinces me that our country affords as ample materials for collections of this nature as any part of the world.

Five midshipmen of the Alliance  came here last night, Marston, Hogan, Fitzgerald, and two others, from Norway, where they were sent with prizes, which the court of Denmark were absurd and unjust enough to restore to the English. They, however, treated the officers and people well, and defrayed their expenses. They say the Norwegians were very angry with the court of Copenhagen for delivering up these vessels. It was the blunder of ignorance, I believe, rather than any ill will.

Every day, when I ride out without any particular business to do or visit to make, I order my servant to carry me to some place where I never was before, so that, at last, I believe, I have seen all Paris and all the fields and scenes about it that are near it. It is very pleasant. Charles is as well beloved here as at home. Wherever he goes everybody loves him. Mr. Dana is as fond of him, I think, as I am. He learns very well.

There is a volume in folio just published here, which I yesterday ran over at a bookseller's shop. It is a description and a copper-plate of all the engravings upon precious stones in the collection of the Duke of Orleans. The stamps are extremely beautiful, and are representations of the gods and heroes of antiquity, with most of the fables of their mythology. Such a book would be very useful to the children in studying the classics, but it is too dear; three guineas, unbound. There is everything here that can inform the understanding or refine the taste, and indeed, one would think, that could purify the heart. Yet it must be remembered there is everything here, too, which can seduce, betray, deceive, deprave, corrupt, and debauch it. Hercules marches here in full view of the steeps of virtue on one hand and the flowery paths of pleasure on the other, and there are few who make the choice of Hercules. That my children may follow his example is my earnest prayer; but I sometimes tremble when I hear the siren song of sloth, lest they should be captivated with her bewitching charms and her soft, insinuating music.