To Gilbert Wakefield, A.B. November 19, 1795

To Gilbert Wakefield, A.B. November 19, 1795



When you prudently chose, like a starved apothecary, to offer your eighteen penny antidote to those who had taken my two-and-sixpenny Bible-purge, you forgot that although my dose was rather of the roughest, it might not be the less wholesome for possessing that drastic quality; and if I am to judge of its salutary effects on your infuriate polemic stomach, by the nasty things it has made you bring away, I think you should be the last man alive to take your own panacea. As to the collection of words of which you boast the possession, nobody, I believe, will dispute their amount, but every one who reads your answer to my Age of Reason will wish there were not so many scurrilous ones among them; for though they may be very useful in emptying your gall- bladder they are too apt to move the bile of other people.

Those of Greek and Latin are rather foolishly thrown away, I think, on a man like me, who, you are pleased to say, is “the greatest ignoramus in nature”; yet I must take the liberty to tell you, that wisdom does not consist in the mere knowledge of language, but of things.

You recommend me to know myself, a thing very easy to advise, but very difficult to practice, as I learn from your own book; for you take yourself to be a meek disciple of Christ, and yet give way to passion and pride in every page of its composition.

You have raised an ant-hill about the roots of my sturdy oak, and it may amuse idlers to see your work; but neither its body nor its branches are injured by you; and I hope the shade of my Civic Crown may be able to preserve your little contrivance, at least for the season.

When you have done as much service to the world by your writings, and suffered as much for them, as I have done, you will be entitled to dictate: but although I know you to be a keener politician than Paul, I can assure you from my experience of mankind, that you do not much commend the Christian doctrines to them by announcing that it requires the labor of a learned life to make them understood.

May I be permitted, after all, to suggest that your truly vigorous

talents would be best employed in teaching men to preserve their liberties exclusively, leaving to that God who made their immortal souls the care of their eternal welfare.

I am, dear Sir, your true well-wisher,