23 July 2020

Friendship Before Politics

Thomas Jefferson, letter to William Hamilton (22 April 1800):
I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend. During the whole of the last war, which was trying enough, I never deserted a friend because he had taken an opposite side; and those of my own state who joined the British government can attest my unremitting zeal in saving their property, and can point out the laws in our statute books which I drew, and carried through in their favor. However I have seen during the late political paroxysm here [the XYZ affair], numbers whom I had highly esteemed draw off from me, insomuch as to cross the street to avoid meeting me. The fever is abating, & doubtless some of them will correct the momentary wanderings of their heart, & return again. If they do, they will meet the constancy of my esteem, & the same oblivion of this as of any other delirium which might happen to them.

Cf. Roger Scruton, quoted in "Roger Scruton: The Patron Saint of Lost Causes," The Independent (3 July 2005):
One of the great distinctions between the left and the right in the intellectual world is that left-wing people find it very hard to get on with right-wing people, because they believe that they are evil. Whereas I have no problem getting on with left-wing people, because I simply believe that they are mistaken. After a while, if I can persuade them that I'm not evil, I find it a very useful thing. I know that my views on many things are open to correction. But if you can't discuss with your opponents, how can you correct your views?

Jacopo Pontormo, Portrait of Two Friends (c. 1522)
(The text they are holding comes from Cicero's Amictia.)