Archive Authors E.J. Hutchinson Nota Bene Reformed Irenicism

John Adams’ Reply to Rush

In response to yesterday’s post on Benjamin Rush, a colleague in History, Matt Gaetano, points to more on this issue among early Americans as recorded in Ellis Sandoz’s book Republicanism, Religion, and the Soul of America. Today we’ll look at one brief episode in the drama.

John Adams, a frequent correspondent of Rush, wrote Rush a letter on September 16, 1810. He therein commiserates with Rush for “hav[ing] felt,” as Rush had, too, “The Odium Theologicum; the Odium Politicum, and The Odium Mercatorium.” Adams had, however, escaped the hatred of the philologists, “The Odium Philologium”–but only because he “never knew enough about” it “to excite any other Mans Jealousy or Envy.”

Or so he says. But he turns immediately to unburden himself of that very same odium philologium in Rush’s general direction. Adams writes:

But now I must tell you a great and grave Truth. I am one among your most Serious haters of the Philological Species. I do most cordially hate you for writing against Latin Greek and Hebrew. I never will forgive you untill you repent, retract and reform. No Never! It is impossible.

Needless to say, #IStandWithAdams. It may be true, as the oracle Taylor Swift says, that “haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate”; but sometimes they are right to do so, especially if they do it “cordially” (!).

By the way, our readers in the mother country will surely appreciate a quotation that Adams includes, in which “The Edinborough Reviewers” do their best to own the Americans. They had written:

If every Thing which has ever been written in America (if you except perhaps the Works of Franklin) were annihilated the Sum total of human Knowledge would in no degree be lessened.

Ouch; good for Franklin, though, I guess.


By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.