Adams begins by thanking Dalton for the faithfulness of his correspondence, when Adams's own has been sparse: "I am as much in Debts in the literary and epistolary way, as our Princes of modern Speculation are in their pursuits: and I suppose for Similar Reasons viz want of Method, in accuracy of amounts, no Œconomy and undertaking more than I am capable of managing. To you, I am indebted for three late letters, at least."
The letter changes character as Adams comments on, without identifying, a duplicitous person—perhaps Jefferson, Hamilton, or Pickering—earlier mentioned by Dalton: "The Character drawn in the first and alluded to in the Second, has always been civil to me, personally; and especially in his last visit to this Place. But I have heard frequently of his Conversation and Behavior. I am out of all danger from his designs. The Plan, in your last Letter, that I mean of the 26th of this month, shall have all the attention it deserves from me. There are few Men if any to whom my Inclinations and feelings are better disposed, than to the C. in question."
Adams then remarks on his 1787 Defense of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America. "In one of your Letters you recall the memory of forgotten Lucubrations. Alass! Experience, History and Prophecy foundered on both are lost to Mankind. They oppose in vain, their feeble Resistance to the popular Passions of the times. It may in some future time be remarked that those Papers were written in 1786 & 1787, and the Events of the Subsequent ten or eleven years may be compared with them: but this will be done by a very few in their Closets and will influence Nations very little. The Difficulty of leading or guiding Millions, by any means but Power and Establishments can be known only to those who have tried Experiments of it."
Dalton was one of the few close friends to who Adams gave a presentation copy of the Defense. They had been classmates at Harvard, and they remained fast political allies, with Dalton serving as Speaker of the Massachusetts House of Representatives and as the state’s first senator. The letter concludes with Adams renewing his "Protestations of Esteem" for his friend of "almost half a hundred years."
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