Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Adams, Jefferson and Coke

In his response to the letter of General Brattle in the Boston Gazette in 1773 on the Independence of the Judiciary, John Adams cites Lord Coke who wrote The Institutes of the Laws of England which became a standard text on common law in both England and America. Coke was removed as Chief Justice for his refusal to submit to the king's command. He was later influential as an opponent to the king championing the rule of law and playing a pivotal role in the writing of the Petition of Right.

Thomas Jefferson also appears to have been familiar with Coke. In a letter to John Page dated December 25, 1762, he writes,

"However, whatever misfortunes may attend the picture or lover, my hearty prayers shall be, that all the health and happiness which Heaven can send may be the protion of the original, and that so much goodness may ever meet with what may be the most agreeable in this world, as I am sure it must be in the next. And now, although the picture be defaced, there is so lively an image of her imprinted in my mind, that I shall think of her too often, I fear, for my peace of mind; and too often, I am sure, to get through old Coke this winter; for God knows I have not seen him since I packed him up in my trunk in Williamsburg. Well, Page, I do wish the Devil had old Coke, for I am sure I never was so tired of an old dull scoundrel in my life...But the old fellows say we must read to gain knowledge, and gain knowledge to make us happy and admired. Mere jargon!"

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