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1810 - TO JOHN WAYLES EPPES - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 11 (Correspondence and Papers 1808-1816) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 11.
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TO JOHN WAYLES EPPES
Monticello, January 17, 1810
—Yours of the 10th came safely to hand, and I now enclose you a letter from Francis; he continues in excellent health, and employs his time well. He has written to his mamma and grandmamma. I observe that the H. of R. are sensible of the ill effects of the long speeches in their house on their proceedings. But they have a worse effect in the disgust they excite among the people, and the disposition they are producing to transfer their confidence from the legislature to the executive branch, which would soon sap our constitution. These speeches, therefore, are less and less read, and if continued will cease to be read at all. The models for that oratory which is to produce the greatest effect by securing the attention of hearers and readers, are to be found in Livy, Tacitus, Sallust, and most assuredly not in Cicero. I doubt if there is a man in the world who can now read one of his orations through but as a piece of task-work. I observe the house is endeavoring to remedy the eternal protraction of debate by setting up all night, or by the use of the Previous Question. Both will subject them to the most serious inconvenience. The latter may be turned upon themselves by a trick of their adversaries. I have thought that such a rule as the following would be more effectual and less inconvenient.
“Resolved that at [viii.] o’clock in the evening (whenever the house shall be in session at that hour) it shall be the duty of the Speaker to declare that hour arrived, whereupon all debate shall cease. If there be then before the house a main question for the reading or passing of a bill, resolution or order, such main question shall immediately be put by the Speaker, and decided by yeas and nays.
“If the question before the house be secondary, as for amendment, commitment, postponement, adjournment of the debate or question, laying on the table, reading papers, or a previous question, such secondary, [or any other which may delay the main question,] shall stand ipso facto discharged, and the main question shall then be before the house, and shall be immediately put and decided by yeas and nays. But a motion for adjournment of the house, may once and once only, take place of the main question, and if decided in the negative, the main question shall then be put as before. Should any question of order arise, it shall be decided by the Speaker instanter, and without debate or appeal; and questions of privilege arising, shall be postponed till the main question be decided. Messages from the President or Senate may be received but not acted on till after the decision of the main question. But this rule shall be suspended during the [three] last days of the session of Congress.”
No doubt this, on investigation, will be found to need amendment; but I think the principle of it better adapted to meet the evil than any other which has occurred to me. You can consider and decide upon it, however, and make what use of it you please, only keeping the source of it to yourself. Ever affectionately yours.
TO JOEL BARLOW
Monticello, January 24, 1810
—Yours of the 15th is received, and I am disconsolate on learning my mistake as to your having a dynamometer. My object being to bring a plough to be made here to the same standard of comparison by which Guillaume’s has been proved, nothing less would be satisfactory than an instrument made by the same standard. I must import one, therefore, but how, in the present state of nonintercourse, is the difficulty. I do not know Dr. Mason personally, but by character well. He is the most red-hot federalist, famous, or rather infamous for the lying and slandering which he vomited from the pulpit in the political harangues with which he polluted the place. I was honored with much of it. He is a man who can prove everything if you will take his word for proof. Such evidence of Hamilton’s being a republican he may bring; but Mr. Adams, Edmund Randolph, and myself, could repeat an explicit declaration of Hamilton’s against which Dr. Mason’s proofs would weigh nothing.
I am sorry to learn that your rural occupations impede so much the progress of your much to be desired work. You owe to republicanism, and indeed to the future hopes of man, a faithful record of the march of this government, which may encourage the oppressed to go and do so likewise. Your talents, your principles, and your means of access to public and private sources of information, with the leisure which is at your command, point you out as the person who is to do this act of justice to those who believe in the improvability of the condition of man, and who have acted on that behalf, in opposition to those who consider man as a beast of burthen made to be rode by him who has genius enough to get a bridle into his mouth. The dissensions between two members of the Cabinet are to be lamented. But why should these force Mr. Gallatin to withdraw? They cannot be greater than between Hamilton and myself, and yet we served together four years in that way. We had indeed no personal dissensions. Each of us, perhaps, thought well of the other as a man, but as politicians it was impossible for two men to be of more opposite principles. The method of separate consultation, practised sometimes in the Cabinet, prevents disagreeable collisions.
TO J. GARLAND JEFFERSON
Monticello, January 25, 1810
—Your favor of December 12th was long coming to hand. I am much concerned to learn that any disagreeable impression was made on your mind, by the circumstances which are the subject of your letter. Permit me first to explain the principles which I had laid down for my own observance. In a government like ours, it is the duty of the Chief Magistrate, in order to enable himself to do all the good which his station requires, to endeavor, by all honorable means, to unite in himself the confidence of the whole people. This alone, in any case where the energy of the nation is required, can produce a union of the powers of the whole, and point them in a single direction, as if all constituted but one body and one mind, and this alone can render a weaker nation unconquerable by a stronger one. Towards acquiring the confidence of the people, the very first measure is to satisfy them of his disinterestedness, and that he is directing their affairs with a single eye to their good, and not to build up fortunes for himself and family, and especially, that the officers appointed to transact their business, are appointed because they are the fittest men, not because they are his relations. So prone are they to suspicion, that where a President appoints a relation of his own, however worthy, they will believe that favor and not merit was the motive. I therefore laid it down as a law of conduct for myself, never to give an appointment to a relation. Had I felt any hesitation in adopting this rule, examples were not wanting to admonish me what to do and what to avoid. Still, the expression of your willingness to act in any office for which you were qualified, could not be imputed to you as blame. It would not readily occur that a person qualified for office ought to be rejected merely because he was related to the President, and the then more recent examples favored the other opinion. In this light I considered the case as presenting itself to your mind, and that the application might be perfectly justifiable on your part, while, for reasons occurring to none perhaps, but the person in my situation, the public interest might render it unadvisable. Of this, however, be assured that I consider the proposition as innocent on your part, and that it never lessened my esteem for you, or the interest I felt in your welfare.
My stay in Amelia was too short, (only twenty-four hours,) to expect the pleasure of seeing you there. It would be a happiness to me any where, but especially here, from whence I am rarely absent. I am leading a life of considerable activity as a farmer, reading little and writing less. Something pursued with ardor is necessary to guard us from the tedium-vitœ, and the active pursuits lessen most our sense of the infirmities of age. That to the health of youth you may add an old age of vigor, is the sincere prayer of Yours, affectionately.
TO CÆSAR A. RODNEY
Monticello, February 10, 1810
My Dear Sir,
—I have to thank you for your favor of the 31st ultimo, which is just now received. It has been peculiarly unfortunate for us, personally, that the portion in the history of mankind, at which we were called to take a share in the direction of their affairs, was such an one as history has never before presented. At any other period, the evenhanded justice we have observed towards all nations, the efforts we have made to merit their esteem by every act which candor or liberality could exercise, would have preserved our peace, and secured the unqualified confidence of all other nations in our faith and probity. But the hurricane which is now blasting the world, physical and moral, has prostrated all the mounds of reason as well as right. All those calculations which, at any other period, would have been deemed honorable, of the existence of a moral sense in man, individually or associated, of the connection which the laws of nature have established between his duties and his interests, of a regard for honest fame and the esteem of our fellow men, have been a matter of reproach on us, as evidences of imbecility. As if it could be a folly for an honest man to suppose that others could be honest also, when it is their interest to be so. And when is this state of things to end? The death of Bonaparte would, to be sure, remove the first and chiefest apostle of the desolation of men and morals, and might withdraw the scourge of the land. But what is to restore order and safety on the ocean? The death of George III? Not at all. He is only stupid; and his ministers, however weak and profligate in morals, are ephemeral. But his nation is permanent, and it is that which is the tyrant of the ocean. The principle that force is right, is become the principle of the nation itself. They would not permit an honest minister, were accident to bring such an one into power, to relax their system of lawless piracy. These were the difficulties when I was with you. I know they are not lessened, and I pity you.
It is a blessing, however, that our people are reasonable; that they are kept so well informed of the state of things as to judge for themselves, to see the true sources of their difficulties, and to maintain their confidence undiminished in the wisdom and integrity of their functionaries. Macte virtute therefore. Continue to go straight forward, pursuing always that which is right, as the only clue which can lead us out of the labyrinth. Let nothing be spared of either reason or passion, to preserve the public confidence entire, as the only rock of our safety. In times of peace the people look most to their representatives; but in war, to the executive solely. It is visible that their confidence is even now veering in that direction; that they are looking to the executive to give the proper direction to their affairs, with a confidence as auspicious as it is well founded.
I avail myself of this, the first occasion of writing to you, to express all the depth of my affection for you; the sense I entertain of your faithful co-operation in my late labors, and the debt I owe for the valuable aid I received from you. Though separated from my fellow laborers in place and pursuit, my affections are with you all, and I offer daily prayers that ye love one another, as I love you. God bless you.
TO DOCTOR WALTER JONES
Monticello, March 5, 1810
—I received duly your favor of the 19th ultimo, and I salute you with all ancient and recent recollections of friendship. I have learned, with real sorrow, that circumstances have arisen among our executive counsellors, which have rendered foes those who once were friends. To themselves it will be a source of infinite pain and vexation, and therefore chiefly I lament it, for I have a sincere esteem for both parties. To the President it will be really inconvenient; but to the nation I do not know that it can do serious injury, unless we were to believe the newspapers, which pretend that Mr. Gallatin will go out. That indeed would be a day of mourning for the United States; but I hope that the position of both gentlemen may be made so easy as to give no cause for either to withdraw. The ordinary business of every day is done by consultation between the President and the Head of the department alone to which it belongs. For measures of importance or difficulty, a consultation is held with the Heads of departments, either assembled, or by taking their opinions separately in conversation or in writing. The latter is most strictly in the spirit of the constitution. Because the President, on weighing the advice of all, is left free to make up an opinion for himself. In this way they are not brought together, and it is not necessarily known to any what opinion the others have given. This was General Washington’s practice for the first two or three years of his administration, till the affairs of France and England threatened to embroil us, and rendered consideration and discussion desirable. In these discussions, Hamilton and myself were daily pitted in the cabinet like two cocks. We were then but four in number, and, according to the majority, which of course was three to one, the President decided. The pain was for Hamilton and myself, but the public experienced no inconvenience. I practised this last method, because the harmony was so cordial among us all, that we never failed, by a contribution of mutual views on the subject, to form an opinion acceptable to the whole. I think there never was one instance to the contrary, in any case of consequence. Yet this does, in fact, transform the executive into a directory, and I hold the other method to be more constitutional. It is better calculated too to prevent collision and irritation, and to cure it, or at least suppress its effects when it has already taken place. It is the obvious and sufficient remedy in the present case, and will doubtless be resorted to.
Our difficulties are indeed great, if we consider ourselves alone. But when viewed in comparison to those of Europe, they are the joys of Paradise. In the eternal revolution of ages, the destinies have placed our portion of existence amidst such scenes of tumult and outrage, as no other period, within our knowledge, had presented. Every government but one on the continent of Europe, demolished, a conqueror roaming over the earth with havoc and destruction, a pirate spreading misery and ruin over the face of the ocean. Indeed, my friend, ours is a bed of roses. And the system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst the wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history. We have, to be sure, our petty squabbles and heart burnings, and we have something of the blue devils at times, as to these raw heads and bloody bones who are eating up other nations. But happily for us, the Mammoth cannot swim, nor the Leviathan move on dry land; and if we will keep out of their way, they cannot get at us. If, indeed, we choose to place ourselves within the scope of their tether, a gripe of the paw, or flounce of the tail, may be our fortune. Our business certainly was to be still. But a part of our nation chose to declare against this, in such a way as to control the wisdom of the government. I yielded with others, to avoid a greater evil. But from that moment, I have seen no system which could keep us entirely aloof from these agents of destruction. If there be any, I am certain that you, my friends, now charged with the care of us all, will see and pursue it. I give myself, therefore, no trouble with thinking or puzzling about it. Being confident in my watchmen I sleep soundly. God bless you all, and send you a safe deliverance.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello May 25 10
—I inclose you the extract of a letter from Govr Tyler which will explain itself, and I do it on the same principle on which I have sometimes done the same thing before, that whenever you are called on to select, you may have under consideration all those who may properly be thought of & the grounds of their pretensions. From what I can learn Griffin cannot stand it long, and really the state has suffered long enough by having such a cypher in so important an office, and infinitely the more from the want of any counterpoint to the rancorous hatred which Marshal bears to the government of his country, & from the cunning & sophistry within which he is able to enshroud himself. It will be difficult to find a character of firmness enough to preserve his independence on the same bench with Marshall. Tyler, I am certain, would do it. He is an able & well read lawyer, about 59 years of age: He was popular as a judge, & is remarkably so as a governor, for his incorruptible integrity, which no circumstances have ever been able to turn from it’s course. Indeed I think there is scarcely a person in the state so solidly popular, or who would be so much approved for that place. A milk & water character in that office would be seen as a calamity. Tyler having been the former state judge of that court too, and removed to make way for so wretched a fool as Griffin has a kind of right of reclamation, with the advantage of repeated elections by the legislature, as admiralty judge, circuit judge, & Governor. But of all these things you will judge fairly between him & his competitors. You have seen in the papers that Livingston has served a writ on me, stating damages at 100,000. D. The ground is not yet explained, but it is understood to be the batture. I have engaged Wirt, Hay, & Wickham as counsel. I shall soon look into my papers to make a state of the case to enable them to plead: and as much of our proceedings was never committed to writing, and my memory cannot be trusted, it is probable I shall have to appeal to that of my associates in the proceedings. I believe that what I did was in harmony with the opinion of all the members of the administration, verbally expressed altho’ not in writing. I have been delighted to see the effect of Monroe’s late visit to Washington on his mind. There appears to be the most perfect reconciliation & cordiality established towards yourself. I think him now inclined to rejoin us with zeal. The only embarrassment will be from his late friends. But I think he has firmness of mind enough to act independently as to them. The next session of our legislature will shew.
We are suffering under a most severe drought of now 3. weeks continuance. Late sown wheat is yellow but the oats suffer especially. In speaking of Livingston’s suit, I omitted to observe that it is a little doubted that his knolege of Marshall’s character has induced him to bring this action. His twistifications in the case of Marbury, in that of Burr, & the late Yazoo case shew how dexterously he can reconcile law to his personal biasses: and nobody seems to doubt that he is ready prepared to decide that Livingston’s right to the batture is unquestionable, and that I am bound to pay for it with my private fortune. Ever affectionately yours.1
TO HENRY DEARBORN1
Monticello July 16. 10
Dear General & Friend,
—Your favor of May 31. was duly received, and I join in congratulations with you on the resurrection of republican principles in Massachusetts & N. Hampshire, and the hope that the professors of these principles will not again easily be driven off their ground. The federalists, during their short lived ascendancy, have nevertheless, by forcing us from the embargo, inflicted a wound on our interests which can never be cured, & on our affections which will require time to cicatrise. I ascribe all this to one pseudo-republican, Story. He came on (in place of Crownenshield I believe) and staid only a few days, long enough however to get complete hold of Bacon, who giving in to his representations, became panick struck, & communicated his panick to his colleagues & they to a majority of the sound members of Congress. They believed in the alternative of repeal or civil war, and produced the fatal measure of repeal. This is the immediate parent of all our present evils, and has reduced us to a low standing in the eyes of the world. I should think that even the federalists themselves must now be made, by their feelings, sensible of their error. The wealth which the embargo brought home safely, has now been thrown back into the laps of our enemies; and our navigation completely crushed, and by the unwise & unpatriotic conduct of those engaged in it, should the orders prove genuine which are said to have been given against our fisheries, they too are gone; and if not true as yet, they will be true on the first breeze of success which England shall feel: for it has now been some years that I am perfectly satisfied her intentions have been to claim the ocean as her conquest, & prohibit any vessel from navigating it but on such a tribute as may enable her to keep up such a standing navy as will maintain her dominion over it. She has hauled in, or let herself out, been bold or hesitating according to occurrences, but has in no situation done anything which might amount to an acknowledged relinquishment of her intentions. I have ever been anxious to avoid a war with England, unless forced by a situation more losing than war itself, but I did believe we could coerce her to justice by peaceable means, and the embargo, evaded as it was, proved it would have coerced her, had it been honestly executed. The proof she exhibited on that occasion, that she can exercise such an influence in this country as to controul the will of it’s government & three fourths of it’s people, and oblige the three fourths to submit to one fourth, is to me the most mortifying circumstance which has occurred since the establishment of our government. The only prospect I see of lessening that influence is in her own conduct, & not from any thing in our power. Radically hostile to our navigation and commerce, and fearing its rivalry, she will compleatly crush it, and force us to resort to agriculture, not aware that we shall resort to manufactures also, & render her conquest over our navigation & commerce useless at least, if not injurious to herself in the end, and perhaps salutary to us, as removing out of our way the chief causes & provocations to war.—But these are views which concern the present and future generations, among neither of which I count myself.
You may live to see the change in our pursuits, & chiefly in those of your own state, which England will effect. I am not certain that the change on Massachusetts, by driving her to agriculture, manufactures & emigration will lessen her happiness.—But, once more, to be done with politics—How does Mrs. Dearborne do?—How do you both like your situation?—Do you amuse yourself with a garden, a farm, or what?—That your pursuits, whatever they be, may make you both easy, healthy & happy is the prayer of your sincere friend.
TO JOHN B. COLVIN
Monticello, September 20, 1810
—Your favor of the 14th has been duly received, and I have to thank you for the many obliging things respecting myself which are said in it. If I have left in the breasts of my fellow citizens a sentiment of satisfaction with my conduct in the transaction of their business, it will soften the pillow of my repose through the residue of life.
The question you propose, whether circumstances do not sometimes occur, which make it a duty in officers of high trust, to assume authorities beyond the law, is easy of solution in principle, but sometimes embarrassing in practice. A strict observance of the written laws is doubtless one of the high duties of a good citizen, but it is not the highest. The laws of necessity, of self-preservation, of saving our country when in danger, are of higher obligation. To lose our country by a scrupulous adherence to written law, would be to lose the law itself, with life, liberty, property and all those who are enjoying them with us; thus absurdly sacrificing the end to the means. When, in the battle of Germantown, General Washington’s army was annoyed from Chew’s house, he did not hesitate to plant his cannon against it, although the property of a citizen. When he besieged Yorktown, he leveled the suburbs, feeling that the laws of property must be postponed to the safety of the nation. While the army was before York, the Governor of Virginia took horses, carriages, provisions and even men by force, to enable that army to stay together till it could master the public enemy; and he was justified. A ship at sea in distress for provisions, meets another having abundance, yet refusing a supply; the law of self-preservation authorizes the distressed to take a supply by force. In all these cases, the unwritten laws of necessity, of self-preservation, and of the public safety, control the written laws of meum and tuum. Further to exemplify the principle, I will state an hypothetical case. Suppose it had been made known to the Executive of the Union in the autumn of 1805, that we might have the Floridas for a reasonable sum, that that sum had not indeed been so appropriated by law, but that Congress were to meet within three weeks, and might appropriate it on the first or second day of their session. Ought he, for so great an advantage to his country, to have risked himself by transcending the law and making the purchase? The public advantage offered, in this supposed case, was indeed immense; but a reverence for law, and the probability that the advantage might still be legally accomplished by a delay of only three weeks, were powerful reasons against hazarding the act. But suppose it foreseen that a John Randolph would find means to protract the proceeding on it by Congress, until the ensuing spring, by which time new circumstances would change the mind of the other party. Ought the Executive, in that case, and with that foreknowledge, to have secured the good to his country, and to have trusted to their justice for the transgression of the law? I think he ought, and that the act would have been approved. After the affair of the Chesapeake, we thought war a very possible result. Our magazines were illy provided with some necessary articles, nor had any appropriations been made for their purchase. We ventured, however, to provide them, and to place our country in safety; and stating the case to Congress, they sanctioned the act.
To proceed to the conspiracy of Burr, and particularly to General Wilkinson’s situation in New Orleans. In judging this case, we are bound to consider the state of the information, correct and incorrect, which he then possessed. He expected Burr and his band from above, a British fleet from below, and he knew there was a formidable conspiracy within the city. Under these circumstances, was he justifiable, 1st, in seizing notorious conspirators? On this there can be but two opinions; one, of the guilty and their accomplices; the other, that of all honest men. 2d. In sending them to the seat of government, when the written law gave them a right to trial in the territory? The danger of their rescue, of their continuing their machinations, the tardiness and weakness of the law, apathy of the judges, active patronage of the whole tribe of lawyers, unknown disposition of the juries, an hourly expectation of the enemy, salvation of the city, and of the Union itself, which would have been convulsed to its centre, had that conspiracy succeeded; all these constituted a law of necessity and self-preservation, and rendered the salus populi supreme over the written law. The officer who is called to act on this superior ground, does indeed risk himself on the justice of the controlling powers of the constitution, and his station makes it his duty to incur that risk. But those controlling powers, and his fellow citizens generally, are bound to judge according to the circumstances under which he acted. They are not to transfer the information of this place or moment to the time and place of his action; but to put themselves into his situation. We knew here that there never was danger of a British fleet from below, and that Burr’s band was crushed before it reached the Mississippi. But General Wilkinson’s information was very different, and he could act on no other.
From these examples and principles you may see what I think on the question proposed. They do not go to the case of persons charged with petty duties, where consequences are trifling, and time allowed for a legal course, nor to authorize them to take such cases out of the written law. In these, the example of overleaping the law is of greater evil than a strict adherence to its imperfect provisions. It is incumbent on those only who accept of great charges, to risk themselves on great occasions, when the safety of the nation, or some of its very high interests are at stake. An officer is bound to obey orders; yet he would be a bad one who should do it in cases for which they were not intended, and which involved the most important consequences. The line of discrimination between cases may be difficult; but the good officer is bound to draw it at his own peril, and throw himself on the justice of his country and the rectitude of his motives.
I have indulged freer views on this question, on your assurances that they are for your own eye only, and that they will not get into the hands of newswriters. I met their scurrilities without concern, while in pursuit of the great interests with which I was charged. But in my present retirement, no duty forbids my wish for quiet.
Accept the assurances of my esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello Oct. 15. 10
—Tho’ late, I congratulate you on the revocation of the French decrees, & Congress still more, for without something new from the belligerents, I know not what ground they could have taken for their next move. Britain will revoke her orders of council, but continue their effect by new paper blockades, doing in detail what the orders did in the lump. The exclusive right to the sea by conquest is the principle she has acted on in petto, tho’ she dares not yet avow it. This was to depend on the events of the war. I rejoice however that one power has got out of our way, & left us a clear field with the other.
Another circumstance of congratulation is the death of Cushing. The nation ten years ago declared it’s will for a change in the principles of the administration of their affairs. They then changed the two branches depending on their will, and have steadily maintained the reformation in those branches. The third, not depending on them, has so long bid defiance to their will, erecting themselves into a political body, to correct what they deem the errors of the nation. The death of Cushing gives an opportunity of closing the reformation by a successor of unquestionable republican principles. Our friend Lincoln has of course presented himself to your recollection. I know you think lightly of him as a lawyer; and I do not consider him as a correct common lawyer, yet as much so as any one which ever came, or ever can come from one of the Eastern states. Their system of Jurisprudence made up from the Jewish law, a little dash of common law, & a great mass of original notions of their own, is a thing sui generis, and one educated in that system can never so far eradicate early impressions as to imbibe thoroughly the principles of another system. It is so in the case of other systems of which Ld. Mansfield is a splendid example. Lincoln’s firm republicanism, and known integrity, will give compleat confidence to the public in the long desired reformation of their judiciary. Were he out of the way, I should think Granger prominent for the place. His abilities are great, I have entire confidence in his integrity, tho’ I am sensible that J. R. has been able to lessen the confidence of many in him. But that I believe he would soon reconcile to him, if placed in a situation to shew himself to the public, as he is, and not as an enemy has represented him. As the choice must be of a New Englander, to exercise his functions for New England men, I confess I know of none but these two characters. Morton is really a republican, but inferior to both the others in every point of view. Blake calls himself republican, but never was one at heart. His treachery to us under the embargo should put him by forever. Story & Bacon are exactly the men who deserted us on that measure & carried off the majority. The former unquestionably a tory, & both are too young. I say nothing of professing federalists. Granger & Morton have both been interested in Yazooism. The former however has long been clear of it. I have said thus much because I know you must wish to learn the sentiments of others, to hear all, and then do what on the whole you perceive to be best.1
Does Mr. Lee go back to Bordeaux? If he does, I have not a wish to the contrary. If he does not, permit me to place my friend & kinsman G. J.1 on the list of candidates. No appointment can fall on an honester man and his talents tho’ not of the first order, are fully adequate to the station. His judgment is very sound, & his prudence consummate. Ever affectionately yours.
TO WILLIAM DUANE
Monticello, November 13, 1810
—Your third packet is received before the second had been returned. It is now enclosed, and the other shall go by the next post. I find, as before, nothing to correct but those errors of the copyist which you would have corrected yourself before committed to the press. If it were practicable to send me the original sheets with the translated, perhaps my equal familiarity with both languages might enable me sometimes to be of some advantage; but I presume that might be difficult, and of little use, scarcely perhaps of any. I thank you for the copy of Williams. I have barely dipped into it a little. Enough, however, to see he is far short of the luminous work you are printing. Indeed I think that the most valuable work of the present age. I received from Williams, some years ago, his book on the claims of authors. I found him to be a man of sound and true principles, but not knowing how to go at them, and not able to trace or develop them for others. I believe with you that the crisis of England is come. What will be its issue it is vain to prophesy; so many thousand contingencies may turn up to affect its direction. Were I to hazard a guess, it would be that they will become a military despotism. Their recollections of the portion of liberty they have enjoyed will render force necessary to retain them under pure monarchy. Their pressure upon us has been so severe and so unprincipled, that we cannot deprecate their fate, though we might wish to see their naval power kept up to the level of that of the other principal powers separately taken. But may it not take a very different turn? Her paper credit annihilated, the precious metals must become her circulating medium. The taxes which can be levied on her people in these will be trifling in comparison with what they could pay in paper money; her navy then will be unpaid, unclothed, unfed. Will such a body of men suffer themselves to be dismissed and to starve? Will they not mutiny, revolt, embody themselves under a popular Admiral, take possession of Western and Bermuda islands, and act on the Algerine system? If they should not be able to act on this broad scale, they will become individual pirates; and the modern Carthage will end as the old one has done. I am sorry for her people, who are individually as respectable as those of other nations—it is her government which is so corrupt, and which has destroyed the nation—it was certainly the most corrupt and unprincipled government on earth. I should be glad to see their farmers and mechanics come here, but I hope their nobles, priests, and merchants will be kept at home to be moralized by the discipline of the new government. The young stripling whom you describe is, probably, as George Nicholas used to say, “in the plenitude of puppyism.” Such coxcombs do not serve even as straws to show which way the wind blows. Alexander is unquestionably a man of an excellent heart, and of very respectable strength of mind; and he is the only sovereign who cordially loves us. Bonaparte hates our government because it is a living libel on his. The English hate us because they think our prosperity filched from theirs. Of Alexander’s sense of the merits of our form of government, of its wholesome operation on the condition of the people, and of the interest he takes in the success of our experiment, we possess the most unquestionable proofs; and to him we shall be indebted if the rights of neutrals, to be settled whenever peace is made, shall be extended beyond the present belligerents; that is to say, European neutrals, as George and Napoleon, of mutual consent and common hatred against us, would concur in excluding us. I thought it a salutary measure to engage the powerful patronage of Alexander at conferences for peace, at a time when Bonaparte was courting him; and although circumstances have lessened its weight, yet it is prudent for us to cherish his good dispositions, as those alone which will be exerted in our favor when that occasion shall occur. He, like ourselves, sees and feels the atrociousness of both the belligerents. I salute you with great esteem and respect.
TO JUDGE JOHN TYLER
Monticello, Nov. 25, 10
—Your favor of the 12th gave me the first information that the lectures of my late master and friend1 exist in MS. Knowing how little sensible he was of the eminence of his own mind, I had apprehended, if he had ever committed to writing more than their skeleton, that possibly he might have destroyed them, as I expect he has done a very great number of instructive arguments delivered at the bar, and often written at full length. I do not however conceive myself entitled to claim them under the bequest of his library. I presume they go, with his other papers to his executor. But this must be immaterial, as no one could have a wish to withhold them from the public, if in such a form as would render them useful to them, & honorable to himself. This I am sure they must be if tolerably entire. His mind was too accurate, his reasoning powers too strong, to have committed anything to paper materially incorrect. It is unfortunate that there should be lacunae in them. But you are mistaken, my dear sir, in supposing I could supply them. It is now 37 years since I left the bar, and have ceased to think on subjects of law; & the constant occupation of my mind by other concerns has obliterated from it all but the strongest traces of the science. Others, I am sure, can be found equal to it, and none more so than Judge Roane. It is not my time or trouble which I wish to spare on this occasion. They are due, in any extent, to the memory of one who was my second father, my incompetence is the real obstacle: and in any other circumstance connected with the publication, in which I can be useful to his fame, and the public instruction, I shall be most ready to do my duty. How this may be, I must leave to be pointed out by you, than whom no one better knew the powers & purity of his mind, or feels warmer zeal to render them useful after his death. Accept the assurances of my constant friendship & respect.
[1 ]On the subject of this vacancy in the Supreme Court, Jefferson further wrote to Judge John Tyler:
Monticello, May 26, 1810
—Your friendly letter of the 12th has been duly received. Although I have laid it down as a law to myself, never to embarrass the President with my solicitations, and have not till now broken through it, yet I have made a part of your letter the subject of one to him, and have done it with all my heart, and in the full belief that I serve him and the public in urging that appointment. We have long enough suffered under the base prostitution of law to party passions in one judge, and the imbecility of another. In the hands of one the law is nothing more than an ambiguous text, to be explained by his sophistry into any meaning which may subserve his personal malice. Nor can any milk-and-water associate maintain his own dependance, and by a firm pursuance of what the law really is, extend its protection to the citizens or the public. I believe you will do it, and where you cannot induce your colleague to do what is right, you will be firm enough to hinder him from doing what is wrong, and by opposing sense to sophistry, leave the juries free to follow their own judgment.
I have long lamented with you the depreciation of law science. The opinion seems to be that Blackstone is to us what the Alcoran is to the Mahometans, that everything which is necessary is in him, and what is not in him is not necessary. I still lend my counsel and books to such young students as will fix themselves in the neighborhood. Coke’s institutes and reports are their first, and Blackstone their last book, after an intermediate course of two or three years. It is nothing more than an elegant digest of what they will then have acquired from the real fountains of the law. Now men are born scholars, lawyers, doctors; in our day this was confined to poets. You wish to see me again in the legislature, but this is impossible; my mind is now so dissolved in tranquillity, that it can never again encounter a contentious assembly; the habits of thinking and speaking off-hand, after a disuse of five and twenty years, have given place to the slower process of the pen. I have indeed two great measures at heart, without which no republic can maintain itself in strength. 1. That of general education, to enable every man to judge for himself what will secure or endanger his freedom. 2. To divide every county into hundreds, of such size that all the children of each will be within reach of a central school in it. But this division looks to many other fundamental provisions. Every hundred, besides a school, should have a justice of the peace, a constable and a captain of militia. These officers, or some others within the hundred, should be a corporation to manage all its concerns, to take care of its roads, its poor, and its police by patrols, &c., (as the select men of the Eastern townships.) Every hundred should elect one or two jurors to serve where requisite, and all other elections should be made in the hundreds separately, and the votes of all the hundreds be brought together. Our present Captaincies might be declared hundreds for the present, with a power to the courts to alter them occasionally. These little republics would be the main strength of the great one. We owe to them the vigor given to our revolution in its commencement in the Eastern States, and by them the Eastern States were enabled to repeal the embargo in opposition to the Middle, Southern and Western States, and their large and lubberly division into counties which can never be assembled. General orders are given out from a centre to the foreman of every hundred, as to the sergeants of an army, and the whole nation is thrown into energetic action, in the same direction in one instant and as one man, and becomes absolutely irresistible. Could I once see this I should consider it as the dawn of the salvation of the republic, and say with old Simeon, nunc dimittas Domine. But our children will be as wise as we are, and will establish in the fulness of time those things not yet ripe for establishment. So be it, and to yourself health, happiness and long life.
[1 ]From a copy courteously furnished by Dr. J. S. H. Fogg, of Boston.
[1 ]On the question of this vacancy in its bearing on the Batture case, Jefferson had already written to Albert Gallatin:
Monticello, September 27, 1810
—Your two favors of Sep. 27. and Oct. 4. have been duly received. The substance of the latter I immediately communicated to my friend at Lynchburg, where the information will be received with joy. The former was a week before it got here. About the 25th of Sep. writing to two members of the cabinet on other business, and having just heard of Cushing’s death, I reminded them of our friend Lincoln in those terms which his worth & standing dictated. After the receipt of yours of the 4th writing again on other business, and taking a review of supposed candidates, I expressed with respect to yourself those sentiments of esteem & approbation which are sincerely mine; and with as much earnestness as the laws I lay down for myself in these cases would permit. And with the more in contemplation of an expression in your letter, to wit ‘had our friend Lincoln remained capable my lips would have remained sealed’ for altho’ I have never heard any fact which explains the meaning of this to me, yet I inferred that something had happened of which I had not heard. I shall be perfectly happy if either of you are named, as I consider the substituting, in the place of Cushing, a firm unequivocating republican, whose principles are born with him, and not an occasional ingraftment, as necessary to compleat that great reformation in our government to which the nation gave it’s fiat ten years ago. They have compleated & maintained it steadily in the two branches dependent on them, but the third, unfortunately & unwisely, made independent not only of the nation, but even of their own conduct, have hitherto bid defiance to the public will, and erected themselves into a political body with the assumed functions of correcting what they deem the errors of the nation. Accept the assurances of my great esteem & respect.
[1 ]George Jefferson.
[1 ]George Wythe.