John Adams to Thomas Jefferson 13 July 1813:
The first time that you and I differed in opinion on any material question was after your arrival from Europe; and that point was the French Revolution. You was well persuaded in your own mind that the nation would succeed in establishing a free republican government; I was as well persuaded, in mine, that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions of people, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousands of them could neither write nor read, was as unnatural, irrational, and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves, and bears in the Royal Managerie at Versailles….
When Lafayette harangued you and me and John Quincy Adams through a whole evening in your hotel in the cul de sac at Paris and developed the plans then in operation to reform France, though I was as silent as you was… I was astonished at the grossness of his ignorance of government and history, as I had been for years before at that of Turgot, Rochefaucault, Condorcet, and Franklin. This gross Ideology of them all first suggested to me the thought and the inclination which I afterwards hinted to you in London of writing something upon aristocracy. I was restrained for years by many fearful considerations.… I should make enemies of all the French Patriots, the Dutch Patriots, the English Republicans, Dissenters, Reformers, call them what you will; and, what came nearer home to my bosom than all the rest, I knew I should give offense to many if not all of my best friends in America and very probably destroy all the little popularity I ever had in a country where popularity had more omnipotence than the British Parliament assumed….
But when the French Assembly of Notables met and I saw that Turgot’s “Government in one center and that center the nation”--a sentence as mysterious or as contradictory as the Athanasian Creed--was about to take place; and when I saw that Shays’s Rebellion was breaking out in Massachusetts; and when I saw that even my obscure name was often quoted in France as an advocate for simple democracy; when I saw that the sympathies in America had caught the French flame: I was determined to wash my own hands as clean as I could of all this foulness. I had then strong forebodings that I was sacrificing all the honors and emoluments of this life; and so it has happened, but not in so great a degree as I apprehended.
In truth, my Defence of the Constitutions and “Discourses on Davila” laid the foundation of that immense unpopularity which fell like the Tower of Siloam upon me. Your steady defense of democratical principles and your invariable favorable opinion of the French Revolution laid the foundation of your unbounded popularity.
Sic transit gloria mundi….