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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;

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81. ADAMS (John), Jefferson, Paine and.—[further continued].
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81. ADAMS (John), Jefferson, Paine and.—[further continued].

I was happy to find that
you saw in its true point of view the way in
which I had been drawn into the scene, which
must have been so disagreeable to you. The
importance which you still seem to allow to
my note, and the effect you suppose it to have
had, though unintentional in me, induce me to
show you that it really had no effect. Paine's
pamphlet, with my note, was published here about
the second week in May. Not a word ever
appeared in the public papers here [Philadelphia] on the subject for more than a month;
and I am certain not a word on the subject
would ever have been said, had not a writer,
under the name “Publicola” [John Quincy
Adams] at length undertaken to attack Mr.
Paine's principles, which were the principles of
the citizens of the United States. Instantly a
host of writers attacked “Publicola” in support


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of those principles. He had thought proper to
misconstrue a figurative expression in my note;
and these writers so far noticed me as to place
the expression in its true light. But this was
only an incidental skirmish preliminary to the
general engagement, and they would not have
thought me worth naming, had he not thought
proper to have brought me on the scene. His
antagonists, very criminally, in my opinion,
presumed you to be “Publicola,” and on that
presumption hazarded a personal attack on
you. No person saw with more uneasiness
than I did, this unjustifiable assault; and the
more so, when I saw it continued after the
printer had declared you were not the author.
But you will perceive from all this, my dear
sir, that my note contributed nothing to the
production of these disagreeable pieces. As
long as Paine's pamphlet stood on its own
feet and on my note, it was unnoticed. As
soon as “Publicola” attacked Paine, swarms
appeared in his defence. To “Publicola,” then,
and not in the least degree to my note, this
whole contest is to be ascribed and all its
consequences. You speak of the execrable
paragraph in the Connecticut papers. This, it
is true, appeared before “Publicola”; but it
has no more relation to Paine's pamphlet and
my note than to the Alcoran. I am satisfied
the writer of it had never seen either; for
when I passed through Connecticut about the
middle of June, not a copy had ever been
seen by anybody, either in Hartford or New
Haven, nor probably in that whole State: and
that paragraph was so notoriously the reverse
of the disinterestedness of character
which you are known to possess by everybody
who knows your name, that I never heard a
person speak of the paragraph, but with an
indignation in your behalf, which did you entire
justice. This paragraph, then, certainly did
not flow from my note, any more than the
publications which “Publicola” produced. Indeed
it was impossible that my note should
occasion your name to be brought into question;
for so far from meaning you, I had not even in
view any writing which I might suppose to be
yours, and the opinions I alluded to were
principally those I had heard in common conversation
from a sect aiming at the subversion
of the present government to bring in their favorite form of a king, lords and commons.
Thus I hope, my dear sir, that you will see
me to have been as innocent in effect as I was
in intention. I was brought before the public
without my own consent, and from the first
moment of seeing the effort of the real aggressors,
in this business to keep me before the
public, I determined that nothing should induce
me to put pen to paper in the controversy.
The business is now over, and I hope its effects
are over, and that our friendship will never
be suffered to be committed, whatever use
others may think proper to make of our names.—
To John Adams. Washington ed. iii, 291. Ford ed., v, 380.
(Pa., Aug. 1791)