Sunday, March 27, 2016

From the Writings of John Adams

This post is not my work. It is from the Diary of John Adams. My purpose in posting it in this fashion lies purely in my selfish desire to further communicate of a small nugget of a most eloquent and profound wisdom. I've modernized the spelling and removed John Adams' cross outs to make the reading easier but other than that it is as represented in his own handwriting which you can find at this link.

I will not comment further other than to say that Adams, in this writing, has most certainly cut through the situation in politics today; as well as across the vast expanse of time. We would be wise to check our premises according to the standards below before casting our support to anybody whom we would give our power to.

"1772. FEB. 9. SUNDAY.

"'If I would but go to Hell for an eternal Moment or so, I might be knighted.' — Shakespeare.

"Shakespeare, that great Master of every Affection of the Heart and every Sentiment of the Mind as well as of all the Powers of Expression, is sometimes fond of a certain pointed Oddity of Language, a certain Quaintness of Style, that is an Imperfection, in his Character. The Motto prefixed to this Paper, may be considered as an Example to illustrate this Observation.

"Abstracted from the Point and Conceit in the Style, there is Sentiment enough in these few Words to fill a Volume. It is a striking Representation of that Struggle which I believe always happens, between Virtue and Ambition, when a Man first commences a Courtier. By a Courtier I mean one who applies himself to the Passions and Prejudices, the Follies and Vices of great Men in order to obtain their Smiles, Esteem and Patronage and consequently their favors and Preferments. Human Nature, depraved as it is, has interwoven in its very Frame, a Love of Truth, Sincerity, and Integrity, which must be overcome by Art, Education, and habit, before the Man can become entirely ductile to the Will of a dishonest Master. When such a Master requires of all who seek his favor, an implicit Resignation to his Will and Humor, and these require that he be soothed, flattered and assisted in his Vices, and Follies, perhaps the blackest Crimes, that Men can commit, the first Thought of this will produce in a Mind not yet entirely debauched, a Soliloquy, something like my Motto — as if he should say — The Minister of State or the Governor would promote my Interest, would advance me to Places of Honor and Profit, would raise me to Titles and Dignities that will be perpetuated in my family, in a Word would make the Fortune of me and my Posterity forever, if I would but comply with his Desires and become his Instrument to promote his Measures. — But still I dread the Consequences. He requires of me, such Compliances, such horrid Crimes, such a Sacrifice of my Honor, my Conscience, my Friends, my Country, my God, as the Scriptures inform us must be punished with nothing less than Hell Fire, eternal Torment. And this is so unequal a Price to pay for the Honors and Emoluments in the Power of a Minister or Governor, that I cannot prevail upon myself to think of it. The Duration of future Punishment terrifies me. If I could but deceive myself so far as to think Eternity a Moment only, I could comply, and be promoted.

"Such as these are probably the Sentiments of a Mind as yet pure, and undefiled in its Morals. And many and severe are the Pangs, and Agonies it must undergo, before it will be brought to yield entirely to Temptation. Notwithstanding this, We see every Day, that our Imaginations are so strong and our Reason so weak, the Charms of Wealth and Power are so enchanting, and the Belief of future Punishments so faint, that Men find Ways to persuade themselves, to believe any Absurdity, to submit to any Prostitution, rather than forego their Wishes and Desires. Their Reason becomes at last an eloquent Advocate on the Side of their Passions, and they bring themselves to believe that black is white, that Vice is Virtue, that Folly is Wisdom and Eternity a Moment."

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