Want to save this letter now that you've found it?
It's easy - just create your own collection of letters after signing up for a free account.
TO JEREMY BELKNAP
I received your favor of the 3d instant, and am really at a loss how to return you my thanks for the undeserved expression of politeness which it contains. With respect to the publication of my performance, I wish equally to avoid giving any just ground for a charge of presumption or of obstinacy. The reason which induced me to wish that Harris's * poem might be published was that I supposed it might in some measure serve as a justification for me. But I fear, Sir, that persons of judgment and candor who were present at Commencement, and who would therefore be proper judges of the comparative merit of the performances on that day would be displeased to see mine alone in print, and would reasonably think it a breach of common decency in me to consent to it. This is my objection. I only request that you would weigh it in your own mind, and I will leave it to you to determine whether I ought not to prevent the publication. Judge me impartially, and without favor and I shall readily submit to your decision.
If you should finally conclude to have it printed, I do not wish that anything should be said respecting the difficulty of obtaining a copy; any preface of that kind could at best only palliate my faults, and would only give an air of importance to the piece, which it does not deserve, and which it could not support. Apologies of this nature never have any influence upon impartial persons, and these are the only characters I am fearful of offending.
To the publication of the name my objections are more numerous and still stronger than to the other point. In several collegiate performances which have heretofore been published the names are omitted: indeed,.! do not recollect that I ever saw one with the name before it. If the piece is said to have been delivered by one of the candidates for the bachelor's degree at the last Commencement, I confess I cannot see of what importance it can be, either to the university, or to the public, that the individual person should be named. And if my father has been so fortunate as to render services of importance to his country men, that is certainly no reason why they should be prejudiced in favor of his son.
I have, however, such an implicit confidence in your judgment, that I shall leave even this point to your final determination : and if you think these reasons sufficiently valid, you will be so kind as to return the oration to Mr. Foster, who will transmit it to me. With every sentiment of esteem and respect, I remain, Sir, etc.
- Writings of John Quincy Adams,Worthington Chauncy Ford,Vol. I, 1779-1796, digitized by the Internet Archive