Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1811 - TO JOHN WAYLES EPPES - The Works, vol. 11 (Correspondence and Papers 1808-1816)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
1811 - 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.
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 JOHN WAYLES EPPES
Monticello, Jan. 5, 11
—Your two letters of Dec. 14 reached this place just after I had left it, for Bedford. This has occasioned the delay of the answer. I now inclose you the paper you requested on the boundaries of Louisiana. It is a bad Polygraph copy; however it is legible. There is nothing secret in the paper and therefore may be freely used as you please, except that I would not have it printed but with the advice of the President—with his sanction, if it be thought material to satisfy the public opinion on the solidity of a right, the assertion of which may lead to war, it may be printed. But the paper I send you wants a very material appendix. This was a chronological table of all the facts relating to the discovery & history of Louisiana which I compiled from all the authors I possess or could obtain, who have written on Louisiana, with a reference to the authority for every fact. This is not now among my papers, and I have no conception what has become of it, unless it remains in the office of state. I sent both papers to that office, from which copies were taken and sent to our ministers at Paris & Madrid & perhaps given in by them to those governments. Copies were also retained for the use of the office, and perhaps only the original of the principal paper may have been returned to me. I write by this post to Mr. Graham to examine & if he has not the original of the chronological table, to lend me his copy, from which I will send you one. With respect to the boundaries they are as well ascertained as those of any unsettled country whatever, as well as the boundaries of several of these states, about which disputes still exist & as the boundaries of many of the unsettled Northern countries of Europe. I wish you would authorise the President to take possession of East Florida immediately. The seizing West Florida will be a signal to England to take Pensacola & St. Augustine; and be assured it will be done as soon as the order can return after they hear of our taking Baton rouge, and we shall never get it from them but by a war, which may be prevented by anticipation—there never was a case where the adage was more true, “in for a penny, in for a pound;” and no more offence will be taken by France & Spain at our seizure of both than of one. The English will take East Florida, pretendedly for Spain. We should take it with a declaration 1. That it is a reprisal for indemnities Spain has acknoleged due to us. 2. To keep it from falling into hands in which it would essentially endanger our safety. 3. That in our hands it will still be held as a subject of negociation. The leading Republican members should come to an understanding, close the doors, and determine not to separate till the vote is carried and all the secrecy you can enjoin should be aimed at until the measure is executed. The militia of Georgia will do it in a fortnight.
I proposed to Francis, as you desired, his staying here. He asked me if I had written to you to ask permission for his stay. I told him I had & that you left it to himself. He said at once he would stay. I have put him into his Latin grammar, rather to learn him to exercise his memory in getting by heart, than from an expectation that he may otherwise profit by it as yet. I observe he gets very readily & perfectly. I inclose you a letter from him. Accept assurances of my constant affection.
TO THOMAS LAW
Monticello, January 15, 1811
—An absence from home of some length has prevented my sooner acknowledging the receipt of your letter, covering the printed pamphlet, which the same absence has as yet prevented me from taking up, but which I know I shall read with great pleasure. Your favor of December the 22d, is also received.
Mr. Wagner’s malignity, like that of the rest of his tribe of brother printers, who deal out calumnies for federal readers, gives me no pain. When a printer cooks up a falsehood, it is as easy to put it into the mouth of a Mr. Fox, as of a smaller man, and safer into that of a dead than a living one. Your sincere attachment to this country, as well as to your native one, was never doubted by me; and in that persuasion, I felt myself free to express to you my genuine sentiments with respect to England. No man was more sensible than myself of the just value of the friendship of that country. There are between us so many of those circumstances which naturally produce and cement kind dispositions, that if they could have forgiven our resistance to their usurpations, our connections might have been durable, and have insured duration to both our governments. I wished, therefore, a cordial friendship with them, and I spared no occasion of manifesting this in our correspondence and intercourse with them; not disguising, however, my desire of friendship with their enemy also. During the administration of Mr. Addington, I thought I discovered some friendly symptoms on the part of that government; at least, we received some marks of respect from the administration, and some of regret at the wrongs we were suffering from their country. So, also, during the short interval of Mr. Fox’s power. But every other administration since our Revolution has been equally wanton in their injuries and insults, and have manifested equal hatred and aversion. Instead, too, of cultivating the government itself, whose principles are those of the great mass of the nation, they have adopted the miserable policy of teazing and embarrassing it, by allying themselves with a faction here, not a tenth of the people, noisy and unprincipled, and which never can come into power while republicanism is the spirit of the nation, and that must continue to be so, until such a condensation of population shall have taken place as will require centuries. Whereas, the good will of the government itself would give them, and immediately, every benefit which reason or justice would permit it to give. With respect to myself, I saw great reason to believe their ministers were weak enough to credit the newspaper trash about a supposed personal enmity in myself towards England. This wretched party imputation was beneath the notice of wise men. England never did me a personal injury, other than in open war; and for numerous individuals there, I have great esteem and friendship. And I must have had a mind far below the duties of my station, to have felt either national partialities or antipathies in conducting the affairs confided to me. My affections were first for my own country, and then, generally, for all mankind; and nothing but minds placing themselves above the passions, in the functionaries of this country, could have preserved us from the war to which their provocations have been constantly urging us. The war interests in England include a numerous and wealthy part of their population; and their influence is deemed worth courting by ministers wishing to keep their places. Continually endangered by a powerful opposition, they find it convenient to humor the popular passions at the expense of the public good. The shipping interest, commercial interest, and their janizaries of the navy, all fattening on war, will not be neglected by ministers of ordinary minds. Their tenure of office is so infirm that they dare not follow the dictates of wisdom, justice, and the well-calculated interests of their country. This vice in the English constitution, renders a dependence on that government very unsafe. The feelings of their King, too, fundamentally adverse to us, have added another motive for unfriendliness in his ministers. This obstacle to friendship, however, seems likely to be soon removed; and I verily believe the successor will come in with fairer and wiser dispositions towards us; perhaps on that event their conduct may be changed. But what England is to become on the crush of her internal structure, now seeming to be begun, I cannot foresee. Her monied interest, created by her paper system, and now constituting a baseless mass of wealth equal to that of the owners of the soil, must disappear with that system, and the medium for paying great taxes thus failing, her navy must be without support. That it shall be supported by permitting her to claim dominion of the ocean, and to levy tribute on every flag traversing that, as lately attempted and not yet relinquished, every nation must contest, even ad internecionem. And yet, that retiring from this enormity, she should continue able to take a fair share in the necessary equilibrium of power on that element, would be the desire of every nation.
I feel happy in withdrawing my mind from these anxieties, and resigning myself, for the remnant of life, to the care and guardianship of others. Good wishes are all an old man has to offer to his country or friends. Mine attend yourself, with sincere assurances of esteem and respect, which, however, I should be better pleased to tender you in person, should your rambles ever lead you into the vicinage of Monticello.
TO DOCTOR BENJAMIN RUSH
Monticello, January 16, 1811
—I had been considering for some days, whether it was not time by a letter, to bring myself to your recollection, when I received your welcome favor of the 2d instant. I had before heard of the heart-rending calamity you mention, and had sincerely sympathized with your afflictions. But I had not made it the subject of a letter, because I knew that condolences were but renewals of grief. Yet I thought, and still think, this is one of the cases wherein we should “not sorrow, even as others who have no hope.” I have myself known so many cases of recovery from confirmed insanity, as to reckon it ever among the recoverable diseases. One of them was that of a near relative and namesake of mine, who, after many years of madness of the first degree, became entirely sane, and amused himself to a good old age in keeping school; was an excellent teacher and much valued citizen.
You ask if I have read Hartley? I have not. My present course of life admits less reading than I wish. From breakfast, or noon at latest, to dinner, I am mostly on horseback, attending to my farm or other concerns, which I find healthful to my body, mind and affairs; and the few hours I can pass in my cabinet, are devoured by correspondences; not those of my intimate friends, with whom I delight to interchange sentiments, but with others, who, writing to me on concerns of their own in which I have had an agency, or from motives of mere respect and approbation, are entitled to be answered with respect and a return of good will. My hope is that this obstacle to the delights of retirement, will wear away with the oblivion which follows that, and that I may at length be indulged in those studious pursuits, from which nothing but revolutionary duties would ever have called me.
I shall receive your proposed publication and read it with the pleasure which everything gives me from your pen. Although much of a sceptic in the practice of medicine, I read with pleasure its ingenious theories.
I receive with sensibility your observations on the discontinuance of friendly correspondence between Mr. Adams and myself, and the concern you take in its restoration. This discontinuance has not proceeded from me, nor from the want of sincere desire and of effort on my part, to renew our intercourse. You know the perfect coincidence of principle and of action, in the early part of the Revolution, which produced a high degree of mutual respect and esteem between Mr. Adams and myself. Certainly no man was ever truer than he was, in that day, to those principles of rational republicanism which, after the necessity of throwing off our monarchy, dictated all our efforts in the establishment of a new government. And although he swerved, afterwards, towards the principles of the English constitution, our friendship did not abate on that account. While he was Vice President, and I Secretary of State, I received a letter from President Washington, then at Mount Vernon, desiring me to call together the Heads of departments, and to invite Mr. Adams to join us (which, by-the-bye, was the only instance of that being done) in order to determine on some measure which required despatch; and he desired me to act on it, as decided, without again recurring to him. I invited them to dine with me, and after dinner, sitting at our wine, having settled our question, other conversation came on, in which a collision of opinion arose between Mr. Adams and Colonel Hamilton, on the merits of the British constitution, Mr. Adams giving it as his opinion, that, if some of its defects and abuses were corrected, it would be the most perfect constitution of government ever devised by man. Hamilton, on the contrary, asserted, that with its existing vices, it was the most perfect model of government that could be formed; and that the correction of its vices would render it an impracticable government. And this you may be assured was the real line of difference between the political principles of these two gentlemen. Another incident took place on the same occasion, which will further delineate Mr. Hamilton’s political principles. The room being hung around with a collection of the portraits of remarkable men, among them were those of Bacon, Newton and Locke, Hamilton asked me who they were. I told him they were my trinity of the three greatest men the world had ever produced, naming them. He paused for some time: “the greatest man,” said he, “that ever lived, was Julius Cæsar.” Mr. Adams was honest as a politician, as well as a man; Hamilton honest as a man, but, as a politician, believing in the necessity of either force or corruption to govern men.
You remember the machinery which the federalists played off, about that time, to beat down the friends to the real principles of our constitution, to silence by terror every expression in their favor, to bring us into war with France and alliance with England, and finally to homologize our constitution with that of England. Mr. Adams, you know, was overwhelmed with feverish addresses, dictated by the fear, and often by the pen, of the bloody buoy, and was seduced by them into some open indications of his new principles of government, and in fact, was so elated as to mix with his kindness a little superciliousness towards me. Even Mrs. Adams, with all her good sense and prudence, was sensibly flushed. And you recollect the short suspension of our intercourse, and the circumstance which gave rise to it, which you were so good as to bring to an early explanation, and have set to rights, to the cordial satisfaction of us all. The nation at length passed condemnation on the political principles of the federalists, by refusing to continue Mr. Adams in the Presidency. On the day on which we learned in Philadelphia the vote of the city of New York, which it was well known would decide the vote of the State, and that, again, the vote of the Union, I called on Mr. Adams on some official business. He was very sensibly affected, and accosted me with these words: “Well, I understand that you are to beat me in this contest, and I will only say that I will be as faithful a subject as any you will have.” “Mr. Adams,” said I, “this is no personal contest between you and me. Two systems of principles on the subject of government divide our fellow citizens into two parties. With one of these you concur, and I with the other. As we have been longer on the public stage than most of those now living, our names happen to be more generally known. One of these parties, therefore, has put your name at its head, the other mine. Were we both to die to-day, to-morrow two other names would be in the place of ours, without any change in the motion of the machinery. Its motion is from its principle, not from you or myself.” “I believe you are right,” said he, “that we are but passive instruments, and should not suffer this matter to affect our personal dispositions.” But he did not long retain this just view of the subject. I have always believed that the thousand calumnies which the federalists, in bitterness of heart, and mortification at their ejection, daily invented against me, were carried to him by their busy intriguers, and made some impression. When the election between Burr and myself was kept in suspense by the federalists, and they were mediating to place the President of the Senate at the head of the government, I called on Mr. Adams with a view to have this desperate measure prevented by his negative. He grew warm in an instant, and said with a vehemence he had not used towards me before, “Sir, the event of the election is within your own power. You have only to say you will do justice to the public creditors, maintain the navy, and not disturb those holding offices, and the government will instantly be put into your hands. We know it is the wish of the people it should be so.” “Mr. Adams,” said I, “I know not what part of my conduct, in either public or private life, can have authorized a doubt of my fidelity to the public engagements. I say, however, I will not come into the government by capitulation. I will not enter on it, but in perfect freedom to follow the dictates of my own judgment.” I had before given the same answer to the same intimation from Gouverneur Morris. “Then,” said he, “things must take their course.” I turned the conversation to something else, and soon took my leave. It was the first time in our lives we had ever parted with anything like dissatisfaction. And then followed those scenes of midnight appointment, which have been condemned by all men. The last day of his political power, the last hours, and even beyond the midnight, were employed in filling all offices, and especially permanent ones, with the bitterest federalists, and providing for me the alternative, either to execute the government by my enemies, whose study it would be to thwart and defeat all my measures, or to incur the odium of such numerous removals from office, as might bear me down. A little time and reflection effaced in my mind this temporary dissatisfaction with Mr. Adams, and restored me to that just estimate of his virtues and passions, which a long acquaintance had enabled me to fix. And my first wish became that of making his retirement easy by any means in my power; for it was understood he was not rich. I suggested to some republican members of the delegation from his State, the giving him, either directly or indirectly, an office, the most lucrative in that State, and then offered to be resigned, if they thought he would not deem it affrontive. They were of opinion he would take great offence at the offer; and moreover, that the body of republicans would consider such a step in the outset as arguing very ill of the course I meant to pursue. I dropped the idea, therefore, but did not cease to wish for some opportunity of renewing our friendly understanding.
Two or three years after, having had the misfortune to lose a daughter, between whom and Mrs. Adams there had been a considerable attachment, she made it the occasion of writing me a letter, in which, with the tenderest expressions of concern at this event, she carefully avoided a single one of friendship towards myself, and even concluded it with the wishes “of her who once took pleasure in subscribing herself your friend, Abigail Adams.” Unpromising as was the complexion of this letter, I determined to make an effort towards removing the cloud from between us. This brought on a correspondence which I now enclose for your perusal, after which be so good as to return it to me, as I have never communicated it to any mortal breathing, before. I send it to you, to convince you I have not been wanting either in the desire, or the endeavor to remove this misunderstanding. Indeed, I thought it highly disgraceful to us both, as indicating minds not sufficiently elevated to prevent a public competition from affecting our personal friendship. I soon found from the correspondence that conciliation was desperate, and yielding to an intimation in her last letter, I ceased from further explanation. I have the same good opinion of Mr. Adams which I ever had. I know him to be an honest man, an able one with his pen, and he was a powerful advocate on the floor of Congress. He has been alienated from me, by belief in the lying suggestions contrived for electioneering purposes, that I perhaps mixed in the activity and intrigues of the occasion. My most intimate friends can testify that I was perfectly passive. They would sometimes, indeed, tell me what was going on; but no man ever heard me take part in such conversations; and none ever misrepresented Mr. Adams in my presence, without my asserting his just character. With very confidential persons I have doubtless disapproved of the principles and practices of his administration. This was unavoidable. But never with those with whom it could do him any injury. Decency would have required this conduct from me, if disposition had not; and I am satisfied Mr. Adams’ conduct was equally honorable towards me. But I think it part of his character to suspect foul play in those of whom he is jealous, and not easily to relinquish his suspicions.
I have gone, my dear friend, into these details, that you might know everything which had passed between us, might be fully possessed of the state of facts and dispositions, and judge for yourself whether they admit a revival of that friendly intercourse for which you are so kindly solicitous. I shall certainly not be wanting in anything on my part which may second your efforts, which will be the easier with me, inasmuch as I do not entertain a sentiment of Mr. Adams, the expression of which could give him reasonable offence. And I submit the whole to yourself, with the assurance, that whatever be the issue, my friendship and respect for yourself will remain unaltered and unalterable.1
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Monticello Jan. 20, 11
I have to acknolege, my dear friend, the receipt of many of your letters within the last twelvemonth, and altho’ I have not answered them specifically to yourself, yet I have not been inattentive or inactive as to their contents. On leaving the government two years ago, I knew I could not serve you so effectually as by committing the whole care of your Orleans affairs to the President. The weight of his agency merged all other interferences & no one could have more zeal. The arrival of your letters therefore to me, was used as occasions for refreshing his memory on your situation, and always produced answers which shewed he had it ever in view, till at length he informed me he had been able to have the grants brought forward for his signature which they had received & were forwarded by a confidential person. Your letters after this I considered as effectively answered by the fact of the grants being expedited, & by that time in your hands. Your last of Sep. 20. recd Nov. 29. accordingly informed me of Mr. Parish’s arrival on the continent with them. Notwithstanding the discouragements from Hope & Co. I have such reliance on the genius & resources of our friend Parker in these matters as not to despair of means being found of making this property a present relief as well as future provision. I should consider money lent on it’s hypothecation as on the solidest bottom of any loan existing. Of which of the dominant powers of Europe is the good faith as trustworthy? In what spot of Europe is the money of a lender more secure than in this peaceable, industrious, & thriving country? Had Mr. Goldsmidt’s Omnium been all bottomed on the grounds around N. Orleans, he would not have needed the resource of the pistol. On the subject of your location adjacent to the city of N. O. I am not able to say any thing now, in fact I have considered your affairs as so securely placed in the hands of M. Duplantier there, and of the President here, that my interferences were better suspended as it might have disturbed & could not aid their operations. I did not omit however on a late visit to Govr. Claiborne to me at this place to strengthen as far as in my power, his good dispositions to give any aid his situation would afford to Mr. Duplantier. I trust then that for my failure to write for some time past other motives will be perceived than inattention to your happiness and prosperity. Old men do not easily contract new friendships, but neither do they forget old ones. Yours & mine commenced in times too awful, has continued thro’ times too trying & changeful to be forgotten at the moment when our chief solace is in our recollections. You will be more sensible of this as you advance more towards my years. My situation too, so far in the interior country, prevents my knowing of the opportunities of writing. You remember your camps at the Raccoonford & Mechunck, & that I am still farther inland. For some time past there has been no opportunities but by public vessels; and the first we hear of them is generally that they sailed on such a day from such a port. One sailed lately from Hampton, which I learned only by the newspapers, after she was gone, and I am now writing without knowing when, or whence the letter can be forwarded. To these unfavorable circumstances for correspondence must be added the total change of the habits of my life. I am now on horseback among my farms from an early breakfast to a late dinner, with little regard to weather. I find it gives health to body, mind & affairs. I go to my writing table with great reluctance & only for those calls which cannot be put off to tomorrow. I am always happy to hear of the welfare of your family, & especially of your own. I hope you enjoy habitually good health & spirits. In the present state of the European world your comforts must all flow from what is immediately around you. There can be none in casting your eye over scenes of murder, rapine, devastation, pyracy, demoralization of national societies & degradation of the instruments of all this evil. If there be a god, & he is just his day will come. He will never abandon the whole race of man to be eaten up by the leviathans and mammoths of a day. I enjoy good health & am happy in contemplating the peace, prosperity, liberty & safety of my country, & especially the wide ocean, the barrier of all these. My daughter is in good health & continues to multiply the objects of our affection.
Mar. 27. Since the date of this letter, I am promoted to the honors of a great grandfather. God bless you & send you many & happy days. Yours ever and affectionately.
TO JOHN LYNCH
Monticello, January 21, 1811
—You have asked my opinion on the proposition of Mrs. Mifflin, to take measures for procuring, on the coast of Africa, an establishment to which the people of color of these States might, from time to time, be colonized, under the auspices of different governments. Having long ago made up my mind on this subject, I have no hesitation in saying that I have ever thought it the most desirable measure which could be adopted, for gradually drawing off this part of our population, most advantageously for themselves as well as for us. Going from a country possessing all the useful arts, they might be the means of transplanting them among the inhabitants of Africa, and would thus carry back to the country of their origin, the seeds of civilization which might render their sojournment and sufferings here a blessing in the end to that country.
I received, in the first year of my coming into the administration of the General Government, a letter from the Governor of Virginia, (Colonel Monroe,) consulting me, at the request of the Legislature of the State, on the means of procuring some such asylum, to which these people might be occasionally sent. I proposed to him the establishment of Sierra Leone, to which a private company in England had already colonized a number of negroes, and particularly the fugitives from these States during the Revolutionary War; and at the same time suggested, if this could not be obtained, some of the Portuguese possessions in South America, as next most desirable. The subsequent Legislature approving these ideas, I wrote, the ensuing year, 1802, to Mr. King, our Minister in London, to endeavor to negotiate with the Sierra Leone company a reception of such of these people as might be colonized thither. He opened a correspondence with Mr. Wedderburne and Mr. Thornton, secretaries of the company, on the subject, and in 1803 I received through Mr. King the result, which was that the colony was going on, but in a languishing condition; that the funds of the company were likely to fail, as they received no returns of profit to keep them up; that they were therefore in treaty with their government to take the establishment off their hands; but that in no event should they be willing to receive more of these people from the United States, as it was exactly that portion of their settlers which had gone from hence, which, by their idleness and turbulence, had kept the settlement in constant danger of dissolution, which could not have been prevented but for the aid of the Maroon negroes from the West Indies, who were more industrious and orderly than the others, and supported the authority of the government and its laws. I think I learned afterwards that the British Government had taken the colony into its own hands, and I believe it still exists. The effort which I made with Portugal, to obtain an establishment for them within their claims in South America, proved also abortive.
You inquire further, whether I would use my endeavors to procure for such an establishment security against violence from other powers, and particularly from France? Certainly, I shall be willing to do anything I can to give it effect and safety. But I am but a private individual, and could only use endeavors with private individuals; whereas, the National Government can address themselves at once to those of Europe to obtain the desired security, and will unquestionably be ready to exert its influence with those nations for an object so benevolent in itself, and so important to a great portion of its constituents. Indeed, nothing is more to be wished than that the United States would themselves undertake to make such an establishment on the coast of Africa. Exclusive of motives of humanity, the commercial advantages to be derived from it might repay all its expenses. But for this, the national mind is not yet prepared. It may perhaps be doubted whether many of these people would voluntarily consent to such an exchange of situation, and very certain that few of those advanced to a certain age in habits of slavery, would be capable of self-government. This should not, however, discourage the experiment, nor the early trial of it; and the proposition should be made with all the prudent cautions and attentions requisite to reconcile it to the interests, the safety and the prejudices of all parties.
TO A. C. V. C. DESTUTT DE TRACY
Monticello, January 26, 1811
—The length of time your favor of June the 12th, 1809, was on its way to me, and my absence from home the greater part of the autumn, delayed very much the pleasure which awaited me of reading the packet which accompanied it. I cannot express to you the satisfaction which I received from its perusal. I had, with the world, deemed Montesquieu’s work of much merit; but saw in it, with every thinking man, so much of paradox, of false principle and misapplied fact, as to render its value equivocal on the whole. Williams and others had nibbled only at its errors. A radical correction of them, therefore, was a great desideratum. This want is now supplied, and with a depth of thought, precision of idea, of language and of logic, which will force conviction into every mind. I declare to you, Sir, in the spirit of truth and sincerity, that I consider it the most precious gift the present age has received. But what would it have been, had the author, or would the author, take up the whole scheme of Montesquieu’s work, and following the correct analysis he has here developed, fill up all its parts according to his sound views of them? Montesquieu’s celebrity would be but a small portion of that which would immortalize the author. And with whom? With the rational and high-minded spirits of the present and all future ages. With those whose approbation is both incitement and reward to virtue and ambition. Is then the hope desperate? To what object can the occupation of his future life be devoted so usefully to the world, so splendidly to himself? But I must leave to others who have higher claims on his attention, to press these considerations.
My situation, far in the interior of the country, was not favorable to the object of getting this work translated and printed. Philadelphia is the least distant of the great towns of our States, where there exists any enterprise in this way; and it was not till the spring following the receipt of your letter, that I obtained an arrangement for its execution. The translation is just now completed. The sheets came to me by post, from time to time, for revisal; but not being accompanied by the original, I could not judge of verbal accuracies. I think, however, it is substantially correct, without being an adequate representation of the excellences of the original; as indeed no translation can be. I found it impossible to give it the appearance of an original composition in our language. I therefore think it best to divert inquiries after the author towards a quarter where he will not be found; and with this view, propose to prefix the prefatory epistle, now enclosed. As soon as a copy of the work can be had, I will send it to you by duplicate. The secret of the author will be faithfully preserved during his and my joint lives; and those into whose hands my papers will fall at my death, will be equally worthy of confidence. When the death of the author, or his living consent shall permit the world to know their benefactor, both his and my papers will furnish the evidence. In the meantime, the many important truths the work so solidly establishes, will, I hope, make it the political rudiment of the young, and manual of our older citizens.
One of its doctrines, indeed, the preference of a plural over a singular executive, will probably not be assented to here. When our present government was first established, we had many doubts on this question, and many leanings towards a supreme executive council. It happened that at that time the experiment of such an one was commenced in France, while the single executive was under trial here. We watched the motions and effects of these two rival plans, with an interest and anxiety proportioned to the importance of a choice between them. The experiment in France failed after a short course, and not from any circumstance peculiar to the times or nation, but from those internal jealousies and dissensions in the Directory, which will ever arise among men equal in power, without a principal to decide and control their differences. We had tried a similar experiment in 1784, by establishing a committee of the States, composed of a member from every State, then thirteen, to exercise the executive functions during the recess of Congress. They fell immediately into schisms and dissensions, which became at length so inveterate as to render all co-operation among them impracticable; they dissolved themselves, abandoning the helm of government, and it continued without a head, until Congress met the ensuing winter. This was then imputed to the temper of two or three individuals; but the wise ascribed it to the nature of man. The failure of the French Directory, and from the same cause, seems to have authorized a belief that the form of a plurality, however promising in theory, is impracticable with men constituted with the ordinary passions. While the tranquil and steady tenor of our single executive, during a course of twenty-two years of the most tempestuous times the history of the world has ever presented, gives a rational hope that this important problem is at length solved. Aided by the counsels of a cabinet of heads of departments, originally four, but now five, with whom the President consults, either singly or altogether, he has the benefit of their wisdom and information, brings their views to one centre, and produces an unity of action and direction in all the branches of the government. The excellence of this construction of the executive power has already manifested itself here under very opposite circumstances. During the administration of our first President, his cabinet of four members was equally divided by as marked an opposition of principle as monarchism and republicanism could bring into conflict. Had that cabinet been a directory, like positive and negative quantities in algebra, the opposing wills would have balanced each other and produced a state of absolute inaction. But the President heard with calmness the opinions and reasons of each, decided the course to be pursued, and kept the government steadily in it, unaffected by the agitation. The public knew well the dissensions of the cabinet, but never had an uneasy thought on their account, because they knew also they had provided a regulating power which would keep the machine in steady movement. I speak with an intimate knowledge of these scenes, quorum pars fui; as I may of others of a character entirely opposite. The third administration, which was of eight years, presented an example of harmony in a cabinet of six persons, to which perhaps history has furnished no parallel. There never arose, during the whole time, an instance of an unpleasant thought or word between the members. We sometimes met under differences of opinion, but scarcely ever failed, by conversing and reasoning, so to modify each other’s ideas, as to produce an unanimous result. Yet, able and amicable as these members were, I am not certain this would have been the case, had each possessed equal and independent powers. Ill-defined limits of their respective departments, jealousies, trifling at first, but nourished and strengthened by repetition of occasions, intrigues without doors of designing persons to build an importance to themselves on the divisions of others, might, from small beginnings, have produced persevering oppositions. But the power of decision in the President left no object for internal dissension, and external intrigue was stifled in embryo by the knowledge which incendiaries possessed, that no division they could foment would change the course of the executive power. I am not conscious that my participations in executive authority have produced any bias in favor of the single executive; because the parts I have acted have been in the subordinate, as well as superior stations, and because, if I know myself, what I have felt, and what I have wished, I know that I have never been so well pleased, as when I could shift power from my own, on the shoulders of others; nor have I ever been able to conceive how any rational being could propose happiness to himself from the exercise of power over others.
I am still, however, sensible of the solidity of your principle, that, to insure the safety of the public liberty, its depository should be subject to be changed with the greatest ease possible, and without suspending or disturbing for a moment the movements of the machine of government. You apprehend that a single executive, with eminence of talent, and destitution of principle, equal to the object, might, by usurpation, render his powers hereditary. Yet I think history furnishes as many examples of a single usurper arising out of a government by a plurality, as of temporary trusts of power in a single hand rendered permanent by usurpation. I do not believe, therefore, that this danger is lessened in the hands of a plural executive. Perhaps it is greatly increased, by the state of inefficiency to which they are liable from feuds and divisions among themselves. The conservative body you propose might be so constituted, as, while it would be an admirable sedative in a variety of smaller cases, might also be a valuable sentinel and check on the liberticide views of an ambitious individual. I am friendly to this idea. But the true barriers of our liberty in this country are our State governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man, is that of which our Revolution and present government found us possessed. Seventeen distinct States, amalgamated into one as to their foreign concerns, but single and independent as to their internal administration, regularly organized with legislature and governor resting on the choice of the people, and enlightened by a free press, can never be so fascinated by the arts of one man, as to submit voluntarily to his usurpation. Nor can they be constrained to it by any force he can possess. While that may paralyze the single State in which it happens to be encamped, sixteen others, spread over a country of two thousand miles diameter, rise up on every side, ready organized for deliberation by a constitutional legislature, and for action by their governor, constitutionally the commander of the militia of the State, that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms; and that militia, too, regularly formed into regiments and battalions, into infantry, cavalry and artillery, trained under officers general and subordinate, legally appointed, always in readiness, and to whom they are already in habits of obedience. The republican government of France was lost without a struggle, because the party of “un et indivisible” had prevailed; no provincial organizations existed to which the people might rally under authority of the laws, the seats of the directory were virtually vacant, and a small force sufficed to turn the legislature out of their chamber, and to salute its leader chief of the nation. But with us, sixteen out of seventeen States rising in mass, under regular organization, and legal commanders, united in object and action by their Congress, or, if that be in duresse, by a special convention, present such obstacles to an usurper as forever to stifle ambition in the first conception of that object.
Dangers of another kind might more reasonably be apprehended from this perfect and distinct organization, civil and military, of the States; to wit, that certain States from local and occasional discontents, might attempt to secede from the Union. This is certainly possible; and would be befriended by this regular organization. But it is not probable that local discontents can spread to such an extent, as to be able to face the sound parts of so extensive an Union; and if ever they should reach the majority, they would then become the regular government, acquire the ascendency in Congress, and be able to redress their own grievances by laws peaceably and constitutionally passed. And even the States in which local discontents might engender a commencement of fermentation, would be paralyzed and self-checked by that very division into parties into which we have fallen, into which all States must fall wherein men are at liberty to think, speak, and act freely, according to the diversities of their individual conformations, and which are, perhaps, essential to preserve the purity of the government, by the censorship which these parties habitually exercise over each other.
You will read, I am sure, with indulgence, the explanations of the grounds on which I have ventured to form an opinion differing from yours. They prove my respect for your judgment, and diffidence in my own, which have forbidden me to retain, without examination, an opinion questioned by you. Permit me now to render my portion of the general debt of gratitude, by acknowledgements in advance for the singular benefaction which is the subject of this letter, to tender my wishes for the continuance of a life so usefully employed, and to add the assurances of my perfect esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM DUANE
Monticello, March 28, 1811
—I learn with sincere concern, from yours of the 15th received by our last mail, the difficulties into which you are brought by the retirement of particular friends from the accommodations they had been in the habit of yielding you. That one of those you name should have separated from the censor of John Randolph, is consonant with the change of disposition which took place in him at Washington. That the other, far above that bias, should have done so, was not expected. I have ever looked to Mr. Lieper as one of the truest republicans of our country, whose mind, unaffected by personal incidents, pursues its course with a steadiness of which we have rare examples. Looking about for a motive, I have supposed it was to be found in the late arraignments of Mr. Gallatin in your papers. However he might differ from you on that subject, as I do myself, the indulgences in difference of opinion which we all owe to one another, and every one needs for himself, would, I thought, in a mind like his, have prevented such a manifestation of it. I believe Mr. Gallatin to be of a pure integrity, and as zealously devoted to the liberties and interests of our country as its most affectionate native citizen. Of this his courage in Congress in the days of terror, gave proofs which nothing can obliterate from the recollection of those who were witnesses of it. These are probably the opinions of Mr. Lieper, as I believe they are of every man intimately acquainted with Mr. Gallatin. An intercourse, almost daily, of eight years with him, has given me opportunities of knowing his character more thoroughly than perhaps any other man living; and I have ascribed the erroneous estimate you have formed of it to the want of that intimate knowledge of him which I possessed. Every one, certainly, must form his judgment on the evidence accessible to himself; and I have no more doubt of the integrity of your convictions than I have of my own. They are drawn from different materials and different sources of information, more or less perfect, according to our opportunities. The zeal, the disinterestedness, and the abilities with which you have supported the great principles of our revolution, the persecutions you have suffered, and the firmness and independence with which you have suffered them, constitute too strong a claim on the good wishes of every friend of elective government, to be effaced by a solitary case of difference in opinion. Thus I think, and thus I believed my much-esteemed friend Lieper would have thought; and I am the more concerned he does not, as it is so much more in his power to be useful to you than in mine. His residence, and his standing at the great seat of the monied institutions, command a credit with them, which no inhabitant of the country, and of agricultural pursuits only, can have. The two or three banks in our uncommercial State are too distant to have any relations with the farmers of Albemarle. We are persuaded you have not overrated the dispositions of this State to support yourself and your paper. They have felt its services too often to be indifferent in the hour of trial. They are well aware that the days of danger are not yet over. And I am sensible that if there were any means of bringing into concert the good will of the friends of the Aurora scattered over this State, they would not deceive your expectations. One month sooner might have found such an opportunity in the assemblage of our legislature in Richmond. But that is now dispersed not to meet again under a twelvemonth. We, here, are but one of a hundred counties, and on consultation with friends of the neighborhood, it is their opinion that if we can find an endorser resident in Richmond, (for that is indispensable,) ten or twelve persons of this county would readily engage, as you suggest, for their $100 each, and some of them for more. It is believed that the republicans in that city can and will do a great deal more; and perhaps their central position may enable them to communicate with other counties. We have written to a distinguished friend to the cause of liberty there to take the lead in the business, as far as concerns that place; and for our own, we are taking measures for obtaining the aid of the bank of the same place. In all this I am nearly a cypher. Forty years of almost constant absence from the State have made me a stranger in it, have left me a solitary tree, from around which the axe of time has felled all the companions of its youth and growth. I have, however, engaged some active and zealous friends to do what I could not. Their personal acquaintance and influence with those now in active life can give effect to their efforts. But our support can be but partial, and far short, both in time and measure, of your difficulties. They will be little more than evidences of our friendship. The truth is that farmers, as we all are, have no command of money. Our necessaries are all supplied, either from our farms, or a neighboring store. Our produce, at the end of the year, is delivered to the merchant, and thus the business of the year is done by barter, without the intervention of scarcely a dollar; and thus also we live with a plenty of everything except money. To raise that negociations and time are requisite. I sincerely wish that greater and prompter effects could have flowed from our good will. On my part, no endeavors or sacrifices shall be withheld. But we are bound down by the laws of our situation.
I do not know whether I am able at present to form a just idea of the situation of our country. If I am, it is such as, during the bellum omnium in omnia of Europe, will require the union of all its friends to resist its enemies within and without. If we schismatize on either men or measures, if we do not act in phalanx, as when we rescued it from the satellites of monarchism, I will not say our party, the term is false and degrading, but our nation will be undone. For the republicans are the nation. Their opponents are but a faction, weak in numbers, but powerful and profuse in the command of money, and backed by a nation, powerful also and profuse in the use of the same means; and the more profuse, in both cases, as the money they thus employ is not their own but their creditors, to be paid off by a bankruptcy, which whether it pays a dollar or a shilling in the pound is of little concern with them. The last hope of human liberty in this world rests on us. We ought, for so dear a state to sacrifice every attachment and every enmity. Leave the President free to choose his own coadjutors, to pursue his own measures, and support him and them, even if we think we are wiser than they, honester than they are, or possessing more enlarged information of the state of things. If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously, we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, every one pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check. I repeat again, that we ought not to schismatize on either men or measures. Principles alone can justify that. If we find our government in all its branches rushing headlong, like our predecessors, into the arms of monarchy, if we find them violating our dearest rights, the trial by jury, the freedom of the press, the freedom of opinion, civil or religious, or opening on our peace of mind or personal safety the sluices of terrorism, if we see them raising standing armies, when the absence of all other danger points to these as the sole objects on which they are to be employed, then indeed let us withdraw and call the nation to its tents. But while our functionaries are wise, and honest, and vigilant, let us move compactly under their guidance, and we have nothing to fear. Things may here and there go a little wrong. It is not in their power to prevent it. But all will be right in the end, though not perhaps by the shortest means.
TO DUPONT DE NEMOURS
Monticello, April 15, 1811
—I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letters of January 20 and September 14, 1810, and, with the latter, your observations on the subject of taxes. They bear the stamps of logic and eloquence which mark everything coming from you, and place the doctrines of the Economists in their strongest points of view. My present retirement and unmeddling disposition make of this une question viseuse pour moi. But after reading the observations with great pleasure, I forwarded them to the President and Mr. Gallatin, in whose hands they may be useful. Yet I do not believe the change of our system of taxation will be forced on us so early as you expect, if war be avoided. It is true we are going greatly into manufactures; but the mass of them are household manufactures of the coarse articles worn by the laborers and farmers of the family. These I verily believe we shall succeed in making to the whole extent of our necessities. But the attempts at fine goods will probably be abortive. They are undertaken by company establishments, and chiefly in the towns; will have little success and short continuance in a country where the charms of agriculture attract every being who can engage in it. Our revenue will be less than it would be were we to continue to import instead of manufacturing our coarse goods. But the increase of population and production will keep pace with that of manufactures, and maintain the quantum of exports at the present level at least; and the imports need be equivalent to them, and consequently the revenue on them be undiminished. I keep up my hopes that if war be avoided, Mr. Madison will be able to complete the payment of the national debt within his term, after which one-third of the present revenue would support the government. Your information that a commencement of excise had been again made, is entirely unfounded. I hope the death blow to that most vexatious and unproductive of all taxes was given at the commencement of my administration, and believe its revival would give the death blow to any administration whatever. In most of the middle and southern States some land tax is now paid into the State treasury, and for this purpose the lands have been classed and valued, and the tax assessed according to that valuation. In these an excise is most odious. In the eastern States land taxes are odious, excises less unpopular. We are all the more reconciled to the tax on importations, because it falls exclusively on the rich, and with the equal partition of intestate’s estates, constitute the best agrarian law. In fact, the poor man in this country who uses nothing but what is made within his own farm or family, or within the United States, pays not a farthing of tax to the general government, but on his salt; and should we go into that manufacture as we ought to do, we will pay not one cent. Our revenues once liberated by the discharge of the public debt, and its surplus applied to canals, roads, schools, &c., and the farmer will see his government supported, his children educated, and the face of his country made a paradise by the contributions of the rich alone, without his being called on to spare a cent from his earnings. The path we are now pursuing leads directly to this end, which we cannot fail to attain unless our administration should fall into unwise hands.
Another great field of political experiment is opening in our neighborhood, in Spanish America. I fear the degrading ignorance into which their priests and kings have sunk them, has disqualified them from the maintenance or even knowledge of their rights, and that much blood may be shed for little improvement in their condition. Should their new rulers honestly lay their shoulders to remove the great obstacles of ignorance, and press the remedies of education and information, they will still be in jeopardy until another generation comes into place, and what may happen in the interval cannot be predicted, nor shall you or I live to see it. In these cases I console myself with the reflection that those who will come after us will be as wise as we are, and as able to take care of themselves as we have been. I hope you continue to preserve your health, and that you may long continue to do so in happiness, is the prayer of yours affectionately.
TO JOEL BARLOW
Monticello, April 16, 1811
—I felicitate you sincerely on your destination to Paris, because I believe it will contribute both to your happiness and the public good. Yet it is not unmixed with regret. What is to become of our past revolutionary history? Of the antidotes of truth to the misrepresentations of Marshall? This example proves the wisdom of the maxim, never to put off to to-morrow what can be done to-day. But, putting aside vain regrets, I shall be happy to hear from you in your new situation. I cannot offer you in exchange the minutiæ of the Cabinet, the workings in Congress, or under-workings of those around them. General views are all which we at a distance can have, but general views are sometimes better taken at a distance than nearer. The working of the whole machine is sometimes better seen elsewhere than at its centre. In return you can give me the true state of things in Europe, what is its real public mind at present, its disposition towards the existing authority, its secret purposes and future prospects, seasoned with the literary news. I do not propose this as an equal barter, because it is really asking you to give a dollar for a shilling. I must leave the difference to be made up from other motives. I have been long waiting for a safe opportunity to write to some friends and correspondents in France. I troubled Mr. Warden with some letters, and he kindly offered to take all I could get ready before his departure. But his departure seems not yet definitely settled, and should he not go with you, what is in your hands will be less liable to violation than in his. I therefore take the liberty of asking your care of the letters now enclosed, and their delivery through confidential hands. Most of them are of a complexion not proper for the eye of the police, and might do injury to those to whom they are addressed. Wishing to yourself and Mrs. Barlow a happy voyage, and that the execution of the duties of your mission may be attended with all agreeable circumstances, I salute you with assurance of my perfect esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, May 5, 1811
—Your favor on your departure from Richmond, came to hand in due time. Although I may not have been among the first, I am certainly with the sincerest, who congratulate you on your entrance into the national councils. Your value there has never been unduly estimated by those whom personal feelings did not misguide. The late misunderstandings at Washington have been a subject of real concern to me. I know that the dissolutions of personal friendship are among the most painful occurrences in human life. I have sincere esteem for all who have been affected by them, having passed with them eight years of great harmony and affection. These incidents are rendered more distressing in our country than elsewhere, because our printers ravin on the agonies of their victims, as wolves do on the blood of the lamb. But the printers and the public are very different personages. The former may lead the latter a little out of their track, while the deviation is insensible; but the moment they usurp their direction and that of their government, they will be reduced to their true places. The two last Congresses have been the theme of the most licentious reprobation for printers thirsting after war, some against France and some against England. But the people wish for peace with both. They feel no incumbency on them to become the reformers of the other hemisphere, and to inculcate, with fire and sword, a return to moral order. When, indeed, peace shall become more losing than war, they may owe to their interests what these Quixotes are clamoring for on false estimates of honor. The public are unmoved by these clamors, as the re-election of their legislators shows, and they are firm to their executive on the subject of the more recent clamors.
We are suffering here, both in the gathered and the growing crop. The lowness of the river, and great quantity of produce brought to Milton this year, render it almost impossible to get our crops to market. This is the case of mine as well yours, and the Hessian fly appears alarmingly in our growing crops. Everything is in distress for the want of rain.
Present me respectfully to Mrs. Monroe, and accept yourself assurances of my constant and affectionate esteem.
TO CORNELIA JEFFERSON RANDOLPH1
Monticello, June 3, ’11
My Dear Cornelia,
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, July 3d, 1811
—I have seen with very great concern the late address of Mr. Smith to the public. He has been very ill-advised, both personally and publicly. As far as I can judge from what I hear, the impression made is entirely unfavorable to him. Every man’s own understanding readily answers all the facts and insinuations, one only excepted, and for that they look for explanations without any doubt that they will be satisfactory. What is Irving’s case? I have answered the inquiries of several on this head, telling them at the same time what was really the truth, that the failure of my memory enabled me to give them rather conjectures than recollections. For in truth, I have but indistinct recollections of the case. I know that what was done was on a joint consultation between us, and I have no fear that what we did will not have been correct and cautious. What I retain of the case, on being reminded of some particulars, will reinstate the whole firmly in my remembrance, and enable me to state them to inquirers with correctness, which is the more important from the part I bore in them. I must therefore ask the favor of you to give me a short outline of the facts, which may correct as well as supply my own recollections. But who is to give an explanation to the public? not yourself, certainly. The Chief Magistrate cannot enter the arena of the newspapers. At least the occasion should be of a much higher order. I imagine there is some pen at Washington competent to it. Perhaps the best form would be that of some one personating the friend of Irving, some one apparently from the North. Nothing labored is requisite. A short and simple statement of the case will, I am sure, satisfy the public. We are in the midst of a so-so harvest, probably one-third short of the last. We had a very fine rain on Saturday last. Ever affectionately yours.
TO ARCHIBALD STUART1
Monticello, Aug. 8, 11
—I ask the favor of you to purchase for me as much fresh timothy seed as the inclosed bill will pay for, pack & forward, and that you will have the goodness to direct it to be lodged at Mr. Leitch’s store in Charlottesville by the waggoner who brings it. You see how bold your indulgencies make me in intruding on your kindness.
I do not know that the government means to make known what has passed between them & Foster before the meeting of Congress but in the meantime individuals, who are in the way, think they have a right to fish it out and in this way the sum of it has become known. Great Britain has certainly come forward and declared to our government by an official paper that the conduct of France towards her during this war has obliged her to take possession of the ocean, and to determine that no commerce shall be carried on with the nations connected with France, that however she is disposed to relax in this determination so far as to permit the commerce which may be carried on thro the British ports. I have, for 3 or 4 years been confident, that knowing her own resources were not adequate to the maintenance of her present navy, she meant with it to claim the conquest of the ocean, and to permit no nation to navigate it, but on paiment of a tribute for the maintenance of the fleet necessary to secure that dominion. A thousand circumstances brought together left me without a doubt that that policy directed all her conduct, altho’ not avowed. This is the first time she has thrown off the mask. The answer & conduct of the government have been what they ought to have been, & Congress is called a little earlier, to be ready to act on the receipt of the reply, for which time has been given. God bless you. From yours affectionately.1
TO BENJAMIN RUSH
Poplar Forest, August 17, 1811
—I write to you from a place ninety miles from Monticello, near the new London of this State, which I visit three or four times a year, and stay from a fortnight to a month at a time. I have fixed myself comfortably, keep some books here, bring others occasionally, am in the solitude of a hermit, and quite at leisure to attend to my absent friends. I note this to show that I am not in a situation to examine the dates of our letters, whether I have overgone the annual period of asking how you do? I know that within that time I have received one or more letters from you, accompanied by a volume of your introductory lectures, for which accept my thanks. I have read them with pleasure and edification, for I acknowledge facts in medicine as far as they go, distrusting only their extension by theory. Having to conduct my grandson through his course of mathematics, I have resumed that study with great avidity. It was ever my favorite one. We have no theories there, no uncertainties remain on the mind; all is demonstration and satisfaction. I have forgotten much, and recover it with more difficulty than when in the vigor of my mind I originally acquired it. It is wonderful to me that old men should not be sensible that their minds keep pace with their bodies in the progress of decay. Our old revolutionary friend Clinton, for example, who was a hero, but never a man of mind, is wonderfully jealous on this head. He tells eternally the stories of his younger days to prove his memory, as if memory and reason were the same faculty. Nothing betrays imbecility so much as the being insensible of it. Had not a conviction of the danger to which an unlimited occupation of the executive chair would expose the republican constitution of our government, made it conscientiously a duty to retire when I did, the fear of becoming a dotard and of being insensible of it, would of itself have resisted all solicitations to remain. I have had a long attack of rheumatism, without fever and without pain while I keep myself still. A total prostration of the muscles of the back, hips and thighs, deprived me of the power of walking, and leaves it still in a very impaired state. A pain when I walk, seems to have fixed itself in the hip, and to threaten permanence. I take moderate rides, without much fatigue; but my journey to this place, in a hard-going gig, gave me great sufferings which I expect will be renewed on my return as soon as I am able. The loss of the power of taking exercise would be a sore affliction to me. It has been the delight of my retirement to be in constant bodily activity, looking after my affairs. It was never damped as the pleasures of reading are, by the question of cui bono? for what object? I hope your health of body continues firm. Your works show that of your mind. The habits of exercise which your calling has given to both, will tend long to preserve them. The sedentary character of my public occupations sapped a constitution naturally sound and vigorous, and draws it to an earlier close. But it will still last quite as long as I wish it. There is a fulness of time when men should go, and not occupy too long the ground to which others have a right to advance. We must continue while here to exchange occasionally our mutual good wishes. I find friendship to be like wine, raw when new, ripened with age, the true old man’s milk and restorative cordial. God bless you and preserve you through a long and healthy old age.
TO CLEMENT CAINE
Monticello, September 16, 1811
—Your favor of April 2d was not received till the 23d of June last, with the volume accompanying it, for which be pleased to accept my thanks. I have read it with great satisfaction, and received from it information, the more acceptable as coming from a source which could be relied on. The retort on European censors, of their own practices on the liberties of man, the inculcation on the master of the moral duties which he owes to the slave, in return for the benefit of his service, that is to say, of food clothing, care in sickness, and maintenance under age and disability, so as to make him in fact as comfortable and more secure than the laboring man in most parts of the world; and the idea suggested of substituting free whites in all household occupations and manual arts, thus lessening the call for the other kind of labor, while it would increase the public security, give great merit to the work, and will, I have no doubt, produce wholesome impressions. The habitual violation of the equal rights of the colonist by the dominant (for I will not call them the mother) countries of Europe, the invariable sacrifice of their higher interests to the minor advantages of any individual trade or calling at home, are as immoral in principle as the continuance of them is unwise in practice, after the lessons they have received. What in short, is the whole system of Europe towards America but an atrocious and insulting tyranny? One hemisphere of the earth, separated from the other by wide seas on both sides, having a different system of interests flowing from different climates, different soils, different productions, different modes of existence, and its own local relations and duties, is made subservient to all the petty interests of the other, to their laws, their regulations, their passions and wars, and interdicted from social intercourse, from the interchange of mutual duties and comforts with their neighbors, enjoined on all men by the laws of nature. Happily these abuses of human rights are drawing to a close on both our continents, and are not likely to survive the present mad contest of the lions and tigers of the other. Nor does it seem certain that the insular colonies will not soon have to take care of themselves, and to enter into the general system of independence and free intercourse with their neighboring and natural friends. The acknowledged depreciation of the paper circulation of England, with the known laws of its rapid progression to bankruptcy, will leave that nation shortly without revenue, and without the means of supporting the naval power necessary to maintain dominion over the rights and interests of different nations. The intention too, which they now formally avow, of taking possession of the ocean as their exclusive domain, and of suffering no commerce on it but through their ports, makes it the interest of all mankind to contribute their efforts to bring such usurpations to an end. We have hitherto been able to avoid professed war, and to continue to our industry a more salutary direction. But the determination to take all our vessels bound to any other than her ports, amounting to all the war she can make (for we fear no invasion), it would be folly in us to let that war be all on one side only, and to make no effort towards indemnification and retaliation by reprisal. That a contest thus forced on us by a nation a thousand leagues from us both, should place your country and mine in relations of hostility, who have not a single motive or interest but of mutual friendship and interchange of comforts, shows the monstrous character of the system under which we live. But however, in the event of war, greedy individuals on both sides, availing themselves of its laws, may commit depredations on each other, I trust that our quiet inhabitants, conscious that no cause exists but for neighborly good will, and the furtherance of common interests, will feel only those brotherly affections which nature has ordained to be those of our situation.
A letter of thanks for a good book has thus run away from its subject into fields of speculation into which discretion perhaps should have forbidden me to enter, and for which an apology is due. I trust that the reflections I hazard will be considered as no more than what they really are, those of a private individual, withdrawn from the councils of his country, uncommunicating with them, and responsible alone for any errors of fact or opinion expressed; as the reveries, in short, of an old man, who, looking beyond the present day, looks into times not his own, and as evidences of confidence in the liberal mind of the person to whom they are so freely addressed. Permit me, however, to add to them my best wishes for his personal happiness, and assurances of the highest consideration and respect.
[1 ]Jefferson later wrote Rush:
Poplar Forest, December 5, 1811
—While at Monticello I am so much engrossed by business or society, that I can only write on matters of strong urgency. Here I have leisure, as I have everywhere the disposition to think of my friends. I recur, therefore, to the subject of your kind letters relating to Mr. Adams and myself, which a late occurrence has again presented to me. I communicated to you the correspondence which had parted Mrs. Adams and myself, in proof that I could not give friendship in exchange for such sentiments as she had recently taken up towards myself, and avowed and maintained in her letters to me. Nothing but a total renunciation of these could admit a reconciliation, and that could be cordial only in proportion as the return to ancient opinions was believed sincere. In these jaundiced sentiments of hers I had associated Mr. Adams, knowing the weight which her opinions had with him, and notwithstanding she declared in her letters that they were not communicated to him. A late incident has satisfied me that I wronged him as well as her, in not yielding entire confidence to this assurance on her part. Two of the Mr. —, my neighbors and friends, took a tour to the northward during the last summer. In Boston they fell into company with Mr. Adams, and by his invitation passed a day with him at Braintree. He spoke out to them everything which came uppermost, and as it occurred to his mind, without any reserve; and seemed most disposed to dwell on those things which happened during his own administration. He spoke of his masters, as he called his Heads of departments, as acting above his control, and often against his opinions. Among many other topics, he adverted to the unprincipled licentiousness of the press against myself, adding, ‘I always loved Jefferson, and still love him.’
This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all the affections of the most cordial moments of our lives. Changing a single word only in Dr. Franklin’s character of him, I knew him to be always an honest man, often a great one, but sometimes incorrect and precipitate in his judgments; and it is known to those who have ever heard me speak of Mr. Adams, that I have ever done him justice myself, and defended him when assailed by others, with the single exception as to political opinions. But with a man possessing so many other estimable qualities, why should we be dissocialized by mere differences of opinions in politics, in religion, in philosophy, or anything else. His opinions are as honestly formed as my own. Our different views of the same subject are the result of a difference in our organization and experience.
I never withdrew from the society of any man on this account, although many have done it from me; much less should I do it from one with whom I had gone through, with hand and heart, so many trying scenes. I wish, therefore, but for an apposite occasion to express to Mr. Adams my unchanged affections for him. There is an awkwardness which hangs over the resuming a correspondence so long discontinued, unless something could arise which should call for a letter. Time and chance may perhaps generate such an occasion, of which I shall not be wanting in promptitude to avail myself. From this fusion of mutual affections, Mrs. Adams is of course separated. It will only be necessary that I never name her. In your letters to Mr. Adams, you can, perhaps, suggest my continued cordiality towards him, and knowing this, should an occasion of writing first present itself to him, he will perhaps avail himself of it, as I certainly will should it first occur to me. No ground for jealousy now existing, he will certainly give fair play to the natural warmth of his heart. Perhaps I may open the way in some letter to my old friend Gerry, who I know is in habits of the greatest intimacy with him.
I have thus, my friend, laid open my heart to you, because you were so kind as to take an interest in healing again revolutionary affections, which have ceased in expression only, but not in their existence. God ever bless you, and preserve you in life and health.
[1 ]From Randall’s Life of Jefferson,iii, 633.
[1 ]From the original in the possession of the Virginia Historical Society.
[1 ]Jefferson further wrote to Stuart:
Monticello, Nov. 14, 11
—We have safely received the cask of timothy seed, as also the very excellent parcel of butter which you have been so kind as to send us; for which be pleased to accept my thanks, or properly request you to tender them with my respects to Mrs. Stuart.
You have, day since, seen the most excellent, national & dignified message of the president, & the documents accompanying it. In these you see the British government have openly avowed that they will enforce their orders of council, that is, will keep exclusive possession of the ocean, until France will allow her manufactures to go in the ships of other nations into the continent of Europe & France herself, altho she does not permit, even in time of peace, the manufactures of any nation to be brought to England in other ships but of the nation manufacturing them. In the meantime she is taking all our vessels, which is all the war she can make on her side and indeed the style of Foster’s correspondence is altogether a style of defiance. Always affectionately yours.