John Adams on the so called Pre-Trump Days of Comity

One of the things that reading history does is give one a perspective on reality (which is why the left is so keen to erase it) and nothing does this better than to read the words of people from the past as they were

One such example of this is John Adams letter to William Keteltas which I found while reading Albert Bushnell Hart’s class American History as told by Contemporaries Vol III National Expansion 1783-1845. (1901 MacMillian Company) In this letter Adams answers Keteltas pamphelt lamenting growth of parties and factionalism giving him an education on the realities of life before 1812.  (all emphasis mine)


I have received your polite letter of the 6th of the month and your present of “The Crisis.” You will excuse a question or two. In page 1st you say “Our administrations with the exception of Washingtons have been party administrations.” On what ground do you except Washingtons? If by party you mean majority his majority was the smallest of the four in all his legislative and executive acts though not in his Election.


You say “our divisions began with Federalism and Antifederalism.” Alass! They began with human nature; they have existed in America from its first plantation; in every century division always prevailed; in N York, Pensylvania, Virginia, Massachusetts, and all the rest. [In court] and Country party have always contended: whig and Tory disputed very sharply before the revolution, and in every step during the revolution. Every measure of Congress from 1774 to 1787 inclusively was disputed with acrimony and decided by as small majorities as any question is decided in these days.

In the same volume I was reading the debates on the adaption of the Constitution and some of the arguments against in the various state legislatures. All of these things were fiercely debated and discussed with much disagreement.

Adams goes on to note that Keteltas’ suggestion of a “rotation” for the presidency will kill this “snake in the grass” but Adams is having none of it.


Suppose your President in rotation is to be chosen for Rhode Island. There will be a Federal and a republican candidate in that state. Every Federalist in the nation will vote for the former, and every republican for the latter. The light troops on both sides will skirmish; the same northern, and southern distinctions will still prevail. the same running and riding, the same railing, and reviling, the same lying, and libelling, cursing & swearing, will still continue. The same caucusing, Assembleying and Conventioning.

Hart’s closes his excerpt of Adams’ letter here but online the full letter is available and President Adams notes that the partisan arrow shoots both ways:

In the same page 11th you speak [for] a portion of our own people who palsy the arm of the nation.” There is too much truth in this. When I was exerting every nerve to vindicate the honour and demand a redress of the wrongs of the nation against the tyranny of France the arm of the nation was palsied by one party. Now Mr Madison is acting the same part for the same ends, against Great Britain, the arm of the nation is now palsied by the opposite party.

Or in other words, let’s not pretend that we once lived in a fairy land of agreement, the reality is there has always been a fight to decide which direction the country will go.


And that brings us to Never Trump, the media and the present day.

The media and the Never Trump forces would have people, particularly people who are young and inexperienced believe that the time before Trump was a time of harmony and if only the GOP would abandon this president all would be well and unity and comity will return. What they in fact want is a return to the time when they were winning.

Anyone old enough to remember can tell you how Ronald Reagan and those who supported him were treated by the media/left. George Bush was called a Nazi and a murderer. Mitt Romney is a darling of the media today but it was just a few years ago that he was beyond the pale and the same media lamenting John McCain crucified him just eight years ago.

What the Adams letter teaches us is that this myth making is not a new tactic because while technology changes over time human nature and Adams noted does not. This is a trap designed to change our perception of facts on the ground because those facts favor us rather than them.

Let’s not fall for the deception and disarm ourselves in the face of honeyed words.


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