Dumb Strategies for Peace

June 28, 1812 – May 27, 1813

A somewhat disappointing conclusion from John Adams regarding his discussion with Thomas Jefferson about Native American origins: “Whether Serpents teeth were sown here and sprung up Men; whether Men and Women dropped from the Clouds upon this Atlantic Island; whether the Almighty created them here, or whether they immigrated from Europe, are questions of no moment to the present or future happiness of Man. Neither Agriculture, Commerce, Manufactures, Fisheries, Science, Litterature, Taste, Religion, Morals, nor any other good will be promoted, or any Evil averted, by any discoverie that can be made in answer to those questions.”

Spoken like someone who can’t get answers. At this point I feel comfortable saying this sounds like typical Adams blustering, and I wouldn’t take it too seriously. Of course, maybe he’s right. This does undercut the whole “knowledge for the sake of knowledge” mantra that history-lovers, er, love. Or, wait, do we hate it?

Later, JA recollects the local Indian leaders and families he knew or saw during his childhood (TJ did the same thing in a previous letter), which are now gone. “We scarcely see an Indian in a year. I remember the Time when Indian Murders, Scalpings, Depredations, and conflagrations were as frequent on the Eastern and Northern Frontier of Massachusetts as they are now in Indiana, and spread as much terror. But since the conquest of Canada, all this ceased; and I believe with you that another Conquest of Canada will quiet the Indians forever and be as great a Blessing to them as to Us.”

The “another Conquest of Canada” line is JA’s only mention so far of anything relating to the War of 1812. It’s a response to this earlier comment by TJ (June 11): “The possession of that country secures our women and children for ever from the tomahawk and scalping knife, by removing those who excite them: and for this possession orders I presume are issued by this time; taking it for granted that the doors of Congress will re-open with a Declaration of war.” The USofA declared war on Great Britain on June 18.

So, the Brits are agitating Indian tribes against America. By taking Canada and booting Great Britain, the USofA will assure everlasting harmony with Native Americans. Um (hand up in the back of the class), say what?

I’m surprised not to hear more from JA. The war was hated by New Englanders and Federalists; JA was both. Maybe he just doesn’t want to get into it with TJ quite yet.

You know, these Canada comments ring false to me. It’s Jefferson’s lofty, unrealistic idealism followed by Adams’s “yeah, whatever” acquiescence.

Lame, fellas.


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