Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO JAMES MONROE - The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO JAMES MONROE - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 4.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO JAMES MONROE
—You were informed by my letters of Nov. 11. & Jan. 14. that the cypher established between us would not explain a syllable of your letters.—Those of Nov. 1. & Dec. 14. having rendered me extremely desirous of deciphering them, I set to work with a resolution to effect it if possible. I soon found that they were written by your first cypher. To this, therefore, I applied myself and after several days spent on it I was able to set to rights the many errors of your copyist, whose inattention alone had inducted those difficulties. I found the numbers in my copy & yours to correspond as follows.
From 1–153 was right.
154. in yours corresponded to 185 in mine.
From 156 to 205 in yours corresponded to from 186 to 235 in mine.
From 206 to 236 in yours corresponded to from 154 to 184 in mine.
From 237 to 248 in yours corresponded to from 236 to 247 in mine.
From 268 to 352 in yours corresponded to from 266 to 350 in mine.
From 359 to 454 in yours corresponded to from 356 to 451 in mine.
From 456 to 551 in yours corresponded to from 452 to 547 in mine.
From 558 to 989 in yours corresponded to from 553 to 984 in mine.
994 in yours corresponded to 988, 989 in mine.
996, 997 in yours corresponded to 01. 02 in mine.
02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08. 09. in yours corresponded to 06. 07. 08.09. 009. 008. 007. 006. in mine.
006. 002. 017. 016. 060. 050. 032. 041. 042. in yours corresponds to 002. 017. 013. 012. 020. 021. 036. 045. 046.
The remaining numbers of the cypher either did not enter into your letters at all, or not often enough to detect the errors. I have now therefore completely deciphered your letters of June 1. June 25. Nov. 1. and Dec. 14. At present my only uneasiness is about my letters which have gone to you in cypher. That of Nov. 11. must have been in the 1st cypher. For this reason I have noted to you the differences in our copies as above that you may translate my numbers into yours. As I received the 2d cypher the 29th of Nov., I think it probable that my letters of Dec. 10. & Jan. 14. were written by that. If they were, I am in hopes you will have understood them. If they were written by the 1st. you will now be able by translating the numbers to understand them also; and thus this comedy of errors will be cleared up. Since writing so far I have made out a table adjusting the numbers in my copy to those in yours, which will enable you to translate with ease. Our business goes on very slowly. No answers from Spain or Britain. The backwardness of the latter is not new. Perhaps Mr. Jay or Mr. Laurens who have been at that court since the present ministry has been in place may have been able to account for this on better grounds than we can. The English Parliament, Irish Parliament and Irish Convention sitting together will surely bring their disputes to a crisis. Scotland too seems to be stepping in as a third party with her difficulties, and their affairs in the East Indies are in a wretched situation. The opposition have opened their campaign on the East India regulations, the proceedings with Ireland, & the late taxes. The minister having declared he will propose a plan of parliamentary reform, they have taken the contrary side of course on that question. I am anxious to see whether the parliament will take any and what steps as to our commerce. The effecting treaties with the powers holding positions in the West Indies, I consider as the important part of our business. It is not of great consequence whether the others treat or not. Perhaps trade may go on with them well enough without. But Britain, Spain, Portugal, France are consequent, and Holland, Denmark, Sweden may be of service too. We have hitherto waited for favorable circumstances to press matters with France. We are now about to do it tho I cannot say the prospect is good. The merchants of this country are very clamorous against our admission into the West Indies and ministers are afraid for their places. The pamphlet which I sent you is approved by the sensible people here and I am in hopes has been of some service. There are warm ones written against it. Our affairs with the pyratical states are distressing. It is impossible I fear to find out what is given by other countries. Either shame or jealousy makes them wish to keep it secret. Several of their ministers to whom we have applied have promised to procure information. These pyrates are contemptibly weak. Morocco who has just dared to commit an outrage on us owns only four or five frigates of 18 or 20 guns. There is not a port in their country which has more than 13 feet water. Tunis is not quite so strong (having 3 or 4 frigates only, small and worthless) is more mercantile than predatory, and would easily be led to treat either by money or fear. Tripoli has one frigate only. Algiers alone possesses any power, & they are brave. As far as I have been able to discover she possesses about 16 vessels from 22 up to 52 guns, but the vessels of all these powers are wretched in the last degree, being mostly built of the discordant pieces of other vessels which they take and pull asunder, their cordage & sails are of the same kind, taken from vessels of different sizes & powers, seldom any two guns of the same bore, & all of them light. These States too are divided, & jealous of each other, & especially of Algiers the most powerful. The others would willingly see her reduced. We have two plans to pursue. The one to carry nothing for ourselves, & thereby render ourselves invulnerable to the European states, the other (which our country will be for) is to carry as much as possible. But this will require a protecting force on the sea. Otherwise the smallest power in Europe, every one which possesses a single ship of the line, may dictate to us, and enforce their demands by captures on our commerce. Some naval force then is necessary if we mean to be commercial. Can we have a better occasion of beginning one? or find a foe more certainly within our dimensions? The motives pleading for war rather than tribute are numerous & honorable, those opposing them are mean & short sighted. However if it be decided that their peace shall be bought it shall engage my most earnest endeavours.—it is as uncertain as ever whether we are to have war or peace. The ministers of this country intimate peace and Monst. de Maillebois who is to command the Dutch army is not set out. I should consider his departure as an indication of war.
I must pray you to send your letters by the French packet. They come by that conveyance with certainty, having first undergone the Ceremony of being opened & read in the post office which I am told is done in every country in Europe. Letters by the way of England are sometimes months getting from London here. Give me fully always the Congressional news, & by every letter if you please the journals of Congress.
I would make an additional observation or two as to the pyratical states. If we enter into treaty there, a consul must be kept with each to recover our vessels taken in breach of their treaty. For these violations they practise constantly against the strongest nations & the vessels so taken are recovered with trouble & always some loss & considerable delay. The attempts heretofore made to suppress these powers have been to exterminate them at one blow. They are too numerous and powerful by land for that. A small effort, but long continued, seems to be the only method. By suppressing their marine & trade totally and continuing this till the present race of seamen should be pretty well out of the way & the younger people betake themselves to husbandry for which their toil & climate is well fitted, these nests of banditti might be reformed. I am not well enough acquainted with the present disposition of the European courts to say whether a general confederacy might be formed for suppressing these Pyracies. Such as should refuse would give us a just right to turn pyrates also on their West India trade, and to require an annual tribute which might reimburse what we may be obliged to pay to obtain a safe navigation in their seas. Were we possessed even of a small naval force what a bridle would it be in the mouths of the West Indian powers and how respectfully would they demean themselves towards us. Be assured that the present disrespect of the nations of Europe for us will inevitably bring on insults which must involve us in war. A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
Be so good as to present one of the pamphlets with my esteem to Mr. Gherry & let him know he is a letter in my debt.