Tyrants If They Could By Abigail Adams: Meditation and Reading

October 3, 2020  • Todd Breyfogle

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The wonderfully rich correspondence between Abigail and John Adams never ceases to delight and inform. One reads their correspondence almost like an e-mail chain, the back and forth is so frequent and spontaneous. In this selection, from a letter in March 1776, Abigail expresses her longing to hear news of the colonies’ assertion of independence. But what she phrases as an afterthought is both rhetorically and substantively at the heart of her dedication to liberty: as you think about your own liberty, she reminds her husband, think also about those whose liberty you deny. “Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” A feminist exclamation to be sure, but one which touches all of us. How often do we demand for ourselves what we are reluctant to grant to others? 

Todd Breyfogle, Denver, Colorado

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