Priestley corresponded with both Adams and Jefferson. Both men urged Priestley to settle in their region of the country, with Adams singing the praises of New England, Jefferson those of Virginia (9). Both men met Priestley in Philadelphia, and both attended services in the Unitarian Church where Priestley occasionally preached. All three were members of the American Philosophical Society. The affection that the two aging revolutionaries felt for Priestley never waned. In 1813 Adams wrote “I never recollect Dr. Priestley, but with tenderness of Sentiment. Certainly one of the greatest Men in the World.” But the New Englander added, “certainly one of the weakest” (10). To Jefferson, Adams wrote that same year, “Oh! That Priestley could live again! and have leisure and means.” And a few weeks later, Adams exclaimed, “Will it not follow, that I ought to rejoice and be thankful that Priestley has lived?” (11). Jefferson, whose intellectual debt to Priestley was great, once simply told the scientist, “Yours is one of the few lives precious to mankind for the continuance of which every thinking man is solicitous” (12).
It was the French Revolution that revealed the early differences between Priestley and Adams. ...
A group blog to promote discussion, debate and insight into the history, particularly religious, of America's founding. Any observations, questions, or comments relating to the blog's theme are welcomed.
Tuesday, January 6, 2015
Judah B. Ginsberg: "PRIESTLEY, JEFFERSON, AND ADAMS: THE ÉMIGRE AND AMERICAN POLITICS*"
Check it here. A taste:
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Jon - great article. I've submitted four Inter-Library Loan requests from the excellent bibliography.
I would only disagree with Professor Ginsberg's claim on p. 94 that Jefferson "may" have gotten the idea for the "pursuit of happiness" from Priestley. As noted in a previous comment I made, Donald Lutz has documented how ubiquitous the concept was from a host of American and European sources.
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