John Marshall to John Adams on incurring “odium & calumny” for offending the dominant party by writing historical truth

On July 6, 1806, John Marshall wrote to John Adams about including in his forthcoming Volume 5 of Marshall’s Life of Washington portions of letters that President Adams wrote to George Washington offering him command of the army in 1798. (See pp. 750-55.) In this letter, Marshall expresses empathy toward Adams for the criticism he had received. Marshall also reveals his own awareness of the public criticism from opponents of Washington that would be coming Marshall’s way for recounting his sympathetic-to-Washington account of “a most turbulent & factious period.” Marshall knows some of what he writes will offend the dominant party, but he refuses “a cowardly abandonment or concealment of truth.”

Here’s an excerpt:

Beleive me, sir, no man has felt more sincerely than myself the malignant, unjust, & intolerant spirit which has been exhibited with respect to you. I trust its bitterness is diminishing. With respect to myself, I have reason to fear that the imprudent task I have just executed will draw upon me a degree of odium & calumny which I might perhaps otherwise have escaped. I should never have undertaken it but in the hope, certainly a very fallacious one, that the author would forever remain totally unknown. But having undertaken it I have endeavoured to detail the events of a most turbulent & factious perioud without unnecessarily wounding the dominant party, but without a cowardly abandonment or concealment of truth. What may be the consequences of having ventured to offend those whom truth however moderately related must offend, it is not difficult to divine.