Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1812 - TO JAMES MONROE - The Works, vol. 11 (Correspondence and Papers 1808-1816)
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1812 - TO JAMES MONROE - 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 JAMES MONROE
Monticello, January 11, 1812
—I thank you for your letter of the 6th. It is a proof of your friendship, and of the sincere interest you take in whatever concerns me. Of this I have never had a moment’s doubt, and have ever valued it as a precious treasure. The question indeed whether I knew or approved of General Wilkinson’s endeavors to prevent the restoration of the right of deposit at New Orleans, could never require a second of time to answer. But it requires some time for the mind to recover from the astonishment excited by the boldness of the suggestion. Indeed, it is with difficulty I can believe he has really made such an appeal; and the rather as the expression in your letter is that you have “casually heard it,” without stating the degree of reliance which you have in the source of information. I think his understanding is above an expedient so momentary and so finally overwhelming. Were Dearborne and myself dead, it might find credit with some. But the world at large, even then, would weigh for themselves the dilemma, whether it was more probable that, in the situation I then was, clothed with the confidence and power of my country, I should descend to so unmeaning an act of treason, or that he in the wreck now threatening him, should wildly lay hold of any plank. They would weigh his motives and views against those of Dearborne and myself, the tenor of his life against that of ours, his Spanish mysteries against my open cherishment of the Western interests; and, living as we are, and ready to purge ourselves by any ordeal, they must now weigh, in addition, our testimony against his. All this makes me believe he will never seek this refuge. I have ever and carefully restrained myself from the expression of any opinion respecting General Wilkinson, except in the case of Burr’s conspiracy, wherein, after he had got over his first agitations, we believed his decision firm, and his conduct zealous for the defeat of the conspiracy, and although injudicious, yet meriting, from sound intentions, the support of the nation. As to the rest of his life, I have left it to his friends and his enemies, to whom it furnishes matter enough for disputation. I classed myself with neither, and least of all in this time of his distresses, should I be disposed to add to their pressure. I hope, therefore, he has not been so imprudent as to write our names in the pannel of his witnesses.
Accept the assurances of my constant affections.
TO JOHN ADAMS1
Monticello, January 21, 1812
—I thank you before hand (for they are not yet arrived) for the specimens of homespun you have been so kind as to forward me by post. I doubt not their excellence, knowing how far you are advanced in these things in your quarter. Here we do little in the fine way, but in coarse and middling goods a great deal. Every family in the country is a manufactory within itself, and is very generally able to make within itself all the stouter and middling stuffs for its own clothing and household use. We consider a sheep for every person in the family as sufficient to clothe it, in addition to the cotton, hemp and flax which we raise ourselves. For fine stuff we shall depend on your northern manufactories. Of these, that is to say, of company establishments, we have none. We use little machinery. The spinning jenny, and loom with the flying shuttle, can be managed in a family; but nothing more complicated. The economy and thriftiness resulting from our household manufactures are such that they will never again be laid aside; and nothing more salutary for us has ever happened than the British obstructions to our demands for their manufactures. Restore free intercourse when they will, their commerce with us will have totally changed its form, and the articles we shall in future want from them will not exceed their own consumption of our produce.
A letter from you calls up recollections very dear to my mind. It carries me back to the times when, beset with difficulties and dangers, we were fellow-laborers in the same cause, struggling for what is most valuable to man, his right of self-government. Laboring always at the same oar, with some wave ever ahead, threatening to overwhelm us, and yet passing harmless under our bark, we knew not how we rode through the storm with heart and hand, and made a happy port. Still we did not expect to be without rubs and difficulties; and we have had them. First, the detention of the western posts, then the coalition of Pilnitz, outlawing our commerce with France, and the British enforcement of the outlawry. In your day, French depredations; in mine, English, and the Berlin and Milan decrees; now the English orders of council, and the piracies they authorize. When these shall be over, it will be the impressment of our seamen or somethnig else; and so we have gone on, and so we shall go on puzzled and prospering beyond example in the history of man. And I do believe we shall continue to grow, to multiply and prosper until we exhibit an association, powerful, wise and happy beyond what has yet been seen by men. As for France and England, with all their preëminence in science, the one is a den of robbers, and the other of pirates. And if science produces no better fruits than tyranny, murder, rapine and destitution of national morality, I would rather wish our country to be ignorant, honest and estimable, as our neighboring savages are. But whither is senile garrulity leading me? Into politics, of which I have taken final leave. I think little of them and say less. I have given up newspapers in exchange for Tacitus and Thucydides, for Newton and Euclid, and I find myself much the happier. Sometimes, indeed, I look back to former occurrences, in remembrance of our old friends and fellowlaborers, who have fallen before us. Of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, I see now living not more than half a dozen on your side of the Potomac, and on this side, myself alone. You and I have been wonderfully spared, and myself with remarkable health, and a considerable activity of body and mind. I am on horseback three or four hours of every day; visit three or four times a year a possession I have ninety miles distant, performing the winter journey on horseback. I walk little, however, a single mile being too much for me, and I live in the midst of my grandchildren, one of whom has lately promoted me to be a great grandfather. I have heard with pleasure that you also retain good health, and a greater power of exercise in walking than I do. But I would rather have heard this from yourself, and that, writing a letter like mine, full of egotisms, and of details of your health, your habits, occupations and enjoyments, I should have the pleasure of knowing that in the race of life, you do not keep, in its physical decline, the same distance ahead of me which you have done in political honors and achievements. No circumstances have lessened the interest I feel in these particulars respecting yourself; none have suspended for one moment my sincere esteem for you, and I now salute you with unchanged affection and respect.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA
Monticello, January 22, 1812
—Your favor of the 14th has been duly received, and I sincerely congratulate you, or rather my country, on the just testimony of confidence which it has lately manifested to you. In your hands I know that its affairs will be ably and honestly administered.
In answer to your inquiry whether, in the early times of our government, where the council was divided, the practice was for the Governor to give the deciding vote? I must observe that, correctly speaking, the Governor not being a counsellor, his vote could make no part of an advice of council. That would be to place an advice on their journals which they did not give, and could not give because of their equal division. But he did what was equivalent in effect. While I was in the administration, no doubt was ever suggested that where the council, divided in opinion, could give no advice, the Governor was free and bound to act on his own opinion and his own responsibility. Had this been a change of the practice of my predecessor, Mr. Henry, the first governor, it would have produced some discussion, which it never did. Hence, I conclude it was the opinion and practice from the first institution of the government. During Arnold’s and Cornwallis’ invasion, the council dispersed to their several homes, to take care of their families. Before their separation, I obtained from them a capitulary of standing advices for my government in such cases as ordinarily occur: such as the appointment of militia officers, justices, inspectors, &c., on the recommendations of the courts; but in the numerous and extraordinary occurrences of an invasion, which could not be foreseen, I had to act on my own judgment and my own responsibility. The vote of general approbation, at the session of the succeeding winter, manifested the opinion of the Legislature, that my proceedings had been correct. General Nelson, my successor, staid mostly, I think, with the army; and I do not believe his council followed the camp, although my memory does not enable me to affirm the fact. Some petitions against him for impressment of property without authority of law, brought his proceedings before the next Legislature; the questions necessarily involved were whether necessity, without express law, could justify the impressment, and if it could, whether he could order it without the advice of council. The approbation of the Legislature amounted to a decision of both questions. I remember this case the more especially, because I was then a member of the Legislature, and was one of those who supported the Governor’s proceedings, and I think there was no division of the House on the question. I believe the doubt was first suggested in Governor Harrison’s time, by some member of the council, on an equal division. Harrison, in his dry way, observed that instead of one governor and eight counsellors, there would then be eight governors and one counsellor, and continued, as I understood, the practice of his predecessors. Indeed, it is difficult to suppose it could be the intention of those who framed the constitution, that when the council should be divided the government should stand still; and the more difficult as to a constitution formed during a war, and for the purpose of carrying on that war, that so high an officer as their Governor should be created and salaried, merely to act as the clerk and authenticator of the votes of the council. No doubt it was intended that the advice of the council should control the governor. But the action of the controlling power being withdrawn, his would be left free to proceed on its own responsibility. Where from division, absence, sickness or other obstacle, no advice could be given, they could not mean that their Governor, the person of their peculiar choice and confidence, should stand by, an inactive spectator, and let their government tumble to pieces for want of a will to direct it. In executive cases, where promptitude and decision are all important, an adherence to the letter of a law against its probable intentions, (for every law must intend that itself shall be executed,) would be fraught with incalculable danger. Judges may await further legislative explanations, but a delay of executive action might produce irretrievable ruin. The State is invaded, militia to be called out, an army marched, arms and provisions to be issued from the public magazines, the Legislature to be convened, and the council is divided. Can it be believed to have been the intention of the framers of the constitution, that the constitution itself and their constituents with it should be destroyed for want of a will to direct the resources they had provided for its preservation? Before such possible consequences all verbal scruples must vanish; construction must be made secundum arbitrium boni viri, and the constitution be rendered a practicable thing. That exposition of it must be vicious, which would leave the nation under the most dangerous emergencies without a directing will. The cautious maxims of the bench, to seek the will of the legislator, and his words only, are proper and safer for judicial government. They act ever on an individual case only, the evil of which is partial, and gives time for correction. But an instant of delay in executive proceedings may be fatal to the whole nation. They must not, therefore, be laced up in the rules of the judiciary department. They must seek the intention of the legislator in all the circumstances which may indicate it in the history of the day, in the public discussions, in the general opinion and understanding, in reason and in practice. The three great departments having distinct functions to perform, must have distinct rules adapted to them. Each must act under its own rules, those of no one having any obligation on either of the others. When the opinion first began that a governor could not act when his council could not or would not advise, I am uninformed. Probably not till after the war; for, had it prevailed then, no militia could have been opposed to Cornwallis, nor necessaries furnished to the opposing army of Lafayette. These, Sir, are my recollections and thoughts on the subject of your inquiry, to which I will only add the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello Feb. 19. 12
—Yours of the 12th has been duly received. I have much doubted whether, in case of a war, Congress would find it practicable to do their part of the business. That a body containing 100 lawyers in it, should direct the measures of a war, is, I fear, impossible; and that thus that member of our Constitution, which is its bulwark, will prove to be an impracticable one from it’s cacoethes loquendi. It may be doubted how far it has the power, but I am sure it has not the resolution to reduce the right of talking to practicable limits.
TO WILLIAM WIRT
Monticello Apr. 12. 12
—Mr. Livingston’s suit having gone off on the plea to the jurisdiction, it’s foundation remains of course unexplained to the public. I have therefore concluded to make it public thro’ the ordinary channel of the press. An earlier expectation of the pamphlets and the desire to send one has delayed, from post to post, my sooner acknowledging your kind aid in this case, and praying your acceptance of the remuneration I now inclose, for the trouble I gave you in reading so much stuff on the subject, and your exertions in the defence. The debt of gratitude however is of a different nature, & is sincerely felt. Considering the infinite trouble which the question of right to the Batture, & the immense volume of evidence to be taken, at New Orleans, would have given to my counsel and myself, I am well satisfied to be relieved from it, altho’ I had a strong desire that the public should have been satisfied by a trial on the merits, & the abler discussion of them by my counsel.
A love of peace and tranquility, strengthened by age and a lassitude of business, renders it extremely disquieting to me to be harrassed by vexatious lawsuits by persons who have no earthly claim on me, in cases where I have been merely acting for others. In Nov. last I was served with a subpœna in chancery at the suit of the executors of Mrs. Randolph (mother to Mr. E. R.) in which Mr. Norborne Nicholas, & perhaps a dozen others, are also named defendants. The object of this I cannot devine: I never had any matter of business with Mrs. Randolph, nor ever saw a farthing of hers. I once indeed transacted a single affair of hers as a friend, at her earnest sollicitation, to relieve her from pressing distress, and under a regular power of attorney. How this can have subjected me to pass the remainder of my life in a court of chancery is as incomprehensible, as it is discouraging to the indulgence of our feelings in the services asked from us by our friends. I have taken measures to get a copy of the bill; and if a substantive defence is required from me, I shall ask the favor of your attention to it, as I have done in the same case of Mr. Hay.
The enclosed paper written for you a year or two ago, has laid by me with a view still to add something to it, but on reflection, I send it as it is.1 The additional matter contemplated respected Mr. Henry’s ravenous avarice, the only passion paramount to his love of popularity. The facts I have heard on that subject are not within my own knolege, & ought not to be hazarded but on better testimony than I possess. And if they are true, you have been in a much better situation than I was to have information of them. I salute you with great & affectionate esteem and respect.
P. S. Altho the pamphlets have been some weeks at Fredsbg and expected by every stage, I am still disappointed in receiving them. I detain my letter therefore no longer, but will inclose one on it’s arrival.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, April 17, 1812
—The enclosed papers will explain themselves. Their coming to me is the only thing not sufficiently explained.
Your favor of the 3d came duly to hand. Although something of the kind had been apprehended, the embargo found the farmers and planters only getting their produce to market, and selling as fast as they could get it there. I think it caught them in this part of the State with one-third of their flour or wheat and three-quarters of their tobacco undisposed of. If we may suppose the rest of the middle country in the same situation, and that the upper and lower country may be judged by that as a mean, these will perhaps be the proportions of produce remaining in the hands of the producers. Supposing the objects of the government were merely to keep our vessels and men out of harm’s way, and that there is no idea that the want of our flour will starve Great Britain, the sale of the remaining produce will be rather desirable, and what would be desired even in war, and even to our enemies. For I am favorable to the opinion which has been urged by others, sometimes acted on, and now partly so by France and Great Britain, that commerce, under certain restrictions and licenses, may be indulged between enemies mutually advantageous to the individuals, and not to their injury as belligerents. The capitulation of Amelia Island, if confirmed, might favor this object, and at any rate get off our produce now on hand. I think a people would go through a war with much less impatience if they could dispose of their produce, and that unless a vent can be provided for them, they will soon become querulous and clamor for peace. They appear at present to receive embargo with perfect acquiescence and without a murmur, seeing the necessity of taking care of our vessels and seamen. Yet they would be glad to dispose of their produce in any way not endangering them, as by letting it go from a neutral place in British vessels. In this way we lose the carriage only; but better that than both carriage and cargo. The rising of the price of flour, since the first panic is passed away, indicates some prospects in the merchants of disposing of it. Our wheat had greatly suffered by the winter, but is as remarkably recovered by the favorable weather of the spring. Ever affectionately yours.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, April 20, 1812
—I have it now in my power to send you a piece of homespun in return for that I received from you. Not of the fine texture, or delicate character of yours, or, to drop our metaphor, not filled as that was with that display of imagination which constitutes excellence in Belles Lettres, but a mere sober, dry and formal piece of logic. Ornari res ipsa negat. Yet you may have enough left of your old taste for law reading, to cast an eye over some of the questions it discusses. At any rate, accept it as the offering of esteem and friendship.
You wish to know something of the Richmond and Wabash prophets. Of Nimrod Hews I never heard before. Christopher Macpherson I have known for twenty years. He is a man of color, brought up as a book-keeper by a merchant, his master, and afterwards enfranchized. He had understanding enough to post up his ledger from his journal, but not enough to bear up against hypochondriac affections, and the gloomy forebodings they inspire. He became crazy, foggy, his head always in the clouds, and rhapsodizing what neither himself nor any one else could understand. I think he told me he had visited you personally while you were in the administration, and wrote you letters, which you have probably forgotten in the mass of the correspondences of that crazy class, of whose complaints, and terrors, and mysticisms, the several Presidents have been the regular depositories. Macpherson was too honest to be molested by anybody, and too inoffensive to be a subject for the mad-house; although, I believe, we are told in the old book, that “every man that is mad, and maketh himself a prophet, thou shouldst put him in prison and in the stocks.”
The Wabash prophet is a very different character, more rogue than fool, if to be a rogue is not the greatest of all follies. He arose to notice while I was in the administration, and became, of course, a proper subject of inquiry for me. The inquiry was made with diligence. His declared object was the reformation of his red brethren, and their return to their pristine manner of living. He pretended to be in constant communication with the Great Spirit; that he was instructed by him to make known to the Indians that they were created by him distinct from the whites, of different natures, for different purposes and placed under different circumstances, adapted to their nature and destinies; that they must return from all the ways of the whites to the habits and opinions of their forefathers; they must not eat the flesh of hogs, of bullocks, of sheep, &c., the deer and buffalo having been created for their food; they must not make bread of wheat but of Indian corn; they must not wear linen nor woollen, but dress like their fathers in the skins and furs of animals; they must not drink ardent spirits, and I do not remember whether he extended his inhibitions to the gun and gunpowder, in favor of the bow and arrow. I concluded from all this, that he was a visionary; enveloped in the clouds of their antiquities, and vainly endeavoring to lead back his brethren to the fancied beatitudes of their golden age. I thought there was little danger of his making many proselytes from the habits and comfort they had learned from the whites, to the hardships and privations of savagism, and no great harm if he did. We let him go on, therefore, unmolested. But his followers increased till the English thought him worth corruption and found him corruptible. I suppose his views were then changed; but his proceedings in consequence of them were after I left the administration, and are, therefore, unknown to me; nor have I ever been informed what were the particular acts on his part, which produced an actual commencement of hostilities on ours. I have no doubt, however, that his subsequent proceedings are but a chapter apart, like that of Henry and Lord Liverpool, in the book of the kings of England.
Of this mission of Henry, your son had got wind in the time of the embargo, and communicated it to me. But he had learned nothing of the particular agent, although, of his workings, the information he had obtained appears now to have been correct. He stated a particular which Henry has not distinctly brought forward, which was that the Eastern States were not to be required to make a formal act of separation from the Union, and to take a part in the war against it; a measure deemed much too strong for their people; but to declare themselves in a state of neutrality, in consideration of which they were to have peace and free commerce, the lure most likely to insure popular acquiescence. Having no indications of Henry as the intermediate in this negotiation of the Essex junto, suspicions fell on Pickering, and his nephew Williams, in London. If he was wronged in this, the ground of the suspicion is to be found in his known practices and avowed opinions, as that of his accomplices in the sameness of sentiment and of language with Henry, and subsequently by the fluttering of the wounded pigeons.
This letter, with what it encloses, has given you enough, I presume, of law and the prophets. I will only add to it, therefore, the homage of my respects to Mrs. Adams, and to yourself the assurances of affectionate esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MAURY
Monticello, April 25, 1812
My dear and ancient Friend and Classmate,
—Often has my heart smote me for delaying acknowledgments to you, receiving, as I do, such frequent proofs of your kind recollection in the transmission of papers to me. But instead of acting on the good old maxim of not putting off to to-morrow what we can do to-day, we are too apt to reverse it, and not to do to-day what we can put off to to-morrow. But this duty can be no longer put off. To-day we are at peace; to-morrow, war. The curtain of separation is drawing between us, and probably will not be withdrawn till one, if not both of us, will be at rest with our fathers. Let me now, then, while I may, renew to you the declarations of my warm attachment, which in no period of life has ever been weakened, and seems to become stronger as the remaining objects of our youthful affections are fewer.
Our two countries are to be at war, but not you and I. And why should our two countries be at war, when by peace we can be so much more useful to one another? Surely the world will acquit our government from having sought it. Never before has there been an instance of a nation’s bearing so much as we have borne. Two items alone in our catalogue of wrongs will forever acquit us of being the aggressors: the impressment of our seamen, and the excluding us from the ocean. The first foundations of the social compact would be broken up, were we definitively to refuse to its members the protection of their persons and property, while in their lawful pursuits. I think the war will not be short, because the object of England, long obvious, is to claim the ocean as her domain, and to exact transit duties from every vessel traversing it. This is the sum of her orders of council, which were only a step in this bold experiment, never meant to be retracted if it could be permanently maintained. And this object must continue her in war with all the world. To this I see no termination, until her exaggerated efforts, so much beyond her natural strength and resources, shall have exhausted her to bankruptcy. The approach of this crisis is, I think, visible in the departure of her precious metals, and depreciation of her paper medium. We, who have gone through that operation, know its symptoms, its course, and consequences. In England they will be more serious than elsewhere, because half the wealth of her people is now in that medium, the private revenue of her money-holders, or rather of her paper-holders, being, I believe, greater than that of her land-holders. Such a proportion of property, imaginary and baseless as it is, cannot be reduced to vapor but with great explosion. She will rise out of its ruins, however, because her lands, her houses, her arts will remain, and the greater part of her men. And these will give her again that place among nations which is proportioned to her natural means, and which we all wish her to hold. We believe that the just standing of all nations is the health and security of all. We consider the overwhelming power of England on the ocean, and of France on the land, as destructive of the prosperity and happiness of the world, and wish both to be reduced only to the necessity of observing moral duties. We believe no more in Bonaparte’s fighting merely for the liberty of the seas, than in Great Britain’s fighting for the liberties of mankind. The object of both is the same, to draw to themselves the power, the wealth and the resources of other nations. We resist the enterprises of England first, because they first come vitally home to us. And our feelings repel the logic of bearing the lash of George the III. for fear of that of Bonaparte at some future day. When the wrongs of France shall reach us with equal effect, we shall resist them also. But one at a time is enough; and having offered a choice to the champions, England first takes up the gauntlet.
The English newspapers suppose me the personal enemy of their nation. I am not so. I am an enemy to its injuries, as I am to those of France. If I could permit myself to have national partialities, and if the conduct of England would have permitted them to be directed towards her, they would have been so. I thought that in the administration of Mr. Addington, I discovered some dispositions toward justice, and even friendship and respect for us, and began to pave the way for cherishing these dispositions, and improving them into ties of mutual good will. But we had then a federal minister there, whose dispositions to believe himself, and to inspire others with a belief in our sincerity, his subsequent conduct has brought into doubt; and poor Merry, the English minister here, had learned nothing of diplomacy but its suspicions, without head enough to distinguish when they were misplaced. Mr. Addington and Mr. Fox passed away too soon to avail the two countries of their dispositions. Had I been personally hostile to England, and biased in favor of either the character or views of her great antagonist, the affair of the Chesapeake put war into my hand. I had only to open it and let havoc loose. But if ever I was gratified with the possession of power, and of the confidence of those who had entrusted me with it, it was on that occasion when I was enabled to use both for the prevention of war, towards which the torrent of passion here was directed almost irresistibly, and when not another person in the United States, less supported by authority and favor, could have resisted it. And now that a definitive adherence to her impressments and orders of council renders war no longer avoidable, my earnest prayer is that our government may enter into no compact of common cause with the other belligerent, but keep us free to make a separate peace, whenever England will separately give us peace and future security. But Lord Liverpool is our witness that this can never be but by her removal from our neighborhood.
I have thus, for a moment, taken a range into the field of politics, to possess you with the view we take of things here. But in the scenes which are to ensue, I am to be but a spectator. I have withdrawn myself from all political intermeddlings, to indulge the evening of my life with what have been the passions of every portion of it, books, science, my farms, my family and friends. To these every hour of the day is now devoted. I retain a good activity of mind, not quite as much of body, but uninterrupted health. Still the hand of age is upon me. All my old friends are nearly gone. Of those in my neighborhood, Mr. Divers and Mr. Lindsay alone remain. If you could make it a partie quarrée, it would be a comfort indeed. We would beguile our lingering hours with talking over our youthful exploits, our hunts on Peter’s mountain, with a long train of et cetera, in addition, and feel, by recollection at least, a momentary flash of youth. Reviewing the course of a long and sufficiently successful life, I find in no portion of it happier moments than those were. I think the old hulk in which you are, is near her wreck, and that like a prudent rat, you should escape in time. However, here, there, and everywhere, in peace or in war, you will have my sincere affections and prayers for your life, health and happiness.
TO JOHN JACOB ASTOR
Monticello, May 24, 1812
—Your letter of March 14th lingered much on the road, and a long journey before I could answer it, has delayed its acknowledgment till now. I am sorry your enterprise for establishing a factory on the Columbia river, and a commerce through the line of that river and the Missouri, should meet with the difficulties stated in your letter. I remember well having invited your proposition on that subject, and encouraged it with the assurance of every facility and protection which the government could properly afford. I considered as a great public acquisition the commencement of a settlement on that point of the Western coast of America, and looked forward with gratification to the time when its descendants should have spread themselves through the whole length of that coast, covering it with free and independent Americans, unconnected with us but by the ties of blood and interest, and employing like us the rights of self-government. I hope the obstacles you state are not insurmountable; that they will not endanger, or even delay the accomplishment of so great a public purpose. In the present state of affairs between Great Britain and us, the government is justly jealous of contraventions of those commercial restrictions which have been deemed necessary to exclude the use of British manufactures in these States, and to promote the establishment of similar ones among ourselves. The interests too of the revenue require particular watchfulness. But in the non-importation of British manufactures, and the revenue raised on foreign goods, the legislature could only have in view the consumption of our own citizens, and the revenue to be levied on that. We certainly did not mean to interfere with the consumption of nations foreign to us, as the Indians of the Columbia and Missouri are, or to assume a right of levying an impost on that consumption; and if the words of the laws take in their supplies in either view, it was probably unintentional, and because their case not being under the contemplation of the legislature, has been inadvertently embraced by it. The question with them would be not what manufactures these nations should use, or what taxes they should pay us on them, but whether we should give a transit for them through our country. We have a right to say we will not let the British exercise that transit. But it is our interest as well as a neighborly duty to allow it when exercised by our own citizens only. To guard against any surreptitious introduction of British influence among those nations, we may justifiably require that no Englishman be permitted to go with the trading parties, and necessary precautions should also be taken to prevent this covering the contravention of our own laws and views. But these once securely guarded, our interest would permit the transit free of duty. And I do presume that if the subject were fully presented to the legislature, they would provide that the laws intended to guard our own concerns only, should not assume the regulation of those of foreign and independent nations; still less that they should stand in the way of so interesting an object as that of planting the germ of an American population on the shores of the Pacific. From meddling however with these subjects it is my duty as well as my inclination to abstain. They are in hands perfectly qualified to direct them, and who knowing better the present state of things, are better able to decide what is right; and whatever they decide on a full view of the case, I shall implicitly confide has been rightly decided. Accept my best wishes for your success, and the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, May 25, 
—The difference between a communication & solicitation is too obvious to need suggestion. While the latter adds to embarrassments, the former only enlarges the field of choice. The inclosed letters are merely communications. Of Stewart I know nothing. Price who recommends him is I believe a good man, not otherwise known to me than as a partner of B. Morgan of N. O. and as having several times communicated to me useful information, while I was in the government. Timothy Matlack I have known well since the first Congress to which he was an assistant secretary. He has been always a good whig & being an active one has been abused by his opponents, but I have ever thought him an honest man. I think he must be known to yourself.
Flour, depressed under the first panic of the embargo has been rising by degrees to 8 1/2 D. This enables the upper country to get theirs to a good market. Tobacco (except of favorite qualities) is nothing. It’s culture is very much abandoned. In this county what little ground had been destined for it is mostly put into corn. Crops of wheat are become very promising, altho’ deluged with rain, of which 10. inches fell in 10. days and closed with a very destructive hail. I am just returned from Bedford. I believe every county South of James river, from Buckingham to the Blue ridge (the limits of my information) furnished its quota of volunteers. Your declaration of war is expected with perfect calmness, and if those in the North mean systematically to govern the majority it is as good a time for trying them as we can expect. Affectionately adieu.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, May 30, 1812
—Another communication is enclosed, and the letter of the applicant is the only information I have of his qualifications. I barely remember such a person as the secretary of Mr. Adams, and messenger to the Senate while I was of that body. It enlarges the sphere of choice by adding to it a strong federalist. The triangular war must be the idea of the Anglomen and malcontents, in other words, the federalists and quids. Yet it would reconcile neither. It would only change the topic of abuse with the former, and not cure the mental disease of the latter. It would prevent our eastern capitalists and seamen from employment in privateering, take away the only chance of conciliating them, and keep them at home, idle, to swell the discontents; it would completely disarm us of the most powerful weapon we can employ against Great Britain, by shutting every port to our prizes, and yet would not add a single vessel to their number; it would shut every market to our agricultural productions, and engender impatience and discontent with that class which, in fact, composes the nation; it would insulate us in general negotiations for peace, making all the parties our opposers, and very indifferent about peace with us, if they have it with the rest of the world, and would exhibit a solecism worthy of Don Quixotte only, that of a choice to fight two enemies at a time, rather than to take them by succession. And the only motive for all this is a sublimated impartiality, at which the world will laugh, and our own people will turn upon us in mass as soon as it is explained to them, as it will be by the very persons who are now laying that snare. These are the hasty views of one who rarely thinks on these subjects. Your own will be better, and I pray to them every success, and to yourself every felicity.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, June 6, 1812
—I have taken the liberty of drawing the attention of the Secretary at War to a small depot of military stores at New London, and leave the letter open for your perusal. Be so good as to seal it before delivery. I really thought that General Dearborne had removed them to Lynchburg, undoubtedly a safer and more convenient deposit.
Our county is the only one I have heard of which has required a draught; this proceeded from a mistake of the colonel, who thought he could not receive individual offers, but that the whole quota, 241, must present themselves at once. Every one, however, manifests the utmost alacrity; of the 241 there having been but ten absentees at the first muster called. A further proof is that Captain Carr’s company of volunteer cavalry being specifically called for by the Governor, though consisting of but 28 when called on, has got up to 50 by new engagements since their call was known. The only inquiry they make is whether they are to go to Canada or Florida? Not a man, as far as I have learned, entertains any of those doubts which puzzle the lawyers of Congress and astonish common sense, whether it is lawful for them to pursue a retreating enemy across the boundary line of the Union?
I hope Barlow’s correspondence has satisfied all our Quixottes who thought we should undertake nothing less than to fight all Europe at once. I enclose you a letter from Dr. Bruff, a mighty good and very ingenious man. His method of manufacturing bullets and shot, has the merit of increasing their specific gravity greatly, (being made by composition,) and rendering them as much heavier and better than the common leaden bullet, as that is than an iron one. It is a pity he should not have the benefit of furnishing the public when it would be equally to their benefit also. God bless you.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, June 11, 1812
—By our post preceding that which brought your letter of May 21st, I had received one from Mr. Malcolm on the same subject with yours, and by the return of the post had stated to the President my recollections of him. But both your letters were probably too late; as the appointment had been already made, if we may credit the newspapers.
You ask if there is any book that pretends to give any account of the traditions of the Indians, or how one can acquire an idea of them? Some scanty accounts of their traditions, but fuller of their customs and characters, are given us by most of the early travellers among them; these you know were mostly French. Lafitau, among them, and Adair an Englishman, have written on this subject; the former two volumes, the latter one, all in 4to. But unluckily Lafitau had in his head a preconceived theory on the mythology, manners, institutions and government of the ancient nations of Europe, Asia and Africa, and seems to have entered on those of America only to fit them into the same frame, and to draw from them a confirmation of his general theory. He keeps up a perpetual parallel, in all those articles, between the Indians of America and the ancients of the other quarters of the globe. He selects, therefore, all the facts and adopts all the falsehoods which favor his theory, and very gravely retails such absurdities as zeal for a theory could alone swallow. He was a man of much classical and scriptural reading, and has rendered his book not unentertaining. He resided five years among the Northern Indians, as a Missionary, but collects his matter much more from the writings of others, than from his own observation.
Adair too had his kink. He believed all the Indians of America to be descended from the Jews; the same laws, usages, rites and ceremonies, the same sacrifices, priests, prophets, fasts and festivals, almost the same religion, and that they all spoke Hebrew. For, although he writes particularly of the Southern Indians only, the Catawbas, Creeks, Cherokees, Chickasaws and Chocktaws, with whom alone he was personally acquainted, yet he generalizes whatever he found among them, and brings himself to believe that the hundred languages of America, differing fundamentally every one from every other, as much as Greek from Gothic, yet have all one common prototype. He was a trader, a man of learning, a self-taught Hebraist, a strong religionist, and of as sound a mind as Don Quixotte in whatever did not touch his religious chivalry. His book contains a great deal of real instruction on its subject, only requiring the reader to be constantly on his guard against the wonderful obliquities of his theory.
The scope of your inquiry would scarcely, I suppose, take in the three folio volumes of Latin of De Bry. In these, facts and fable are mingled together, without regard to any favorite system. They are less suspicious, therefore, in their complexion, more original and authentic, than those of Lafitau and Adair. This is a work of great curiosity, extremely rare, so as never to be bought in Europe, but on the breaking up and selling some ancient library. On one of these occasions a bookseller procured me a copy, which, unless you have one, is probably the only one in America.
You ask further, if the Indians have any order of priesthood among them, like the Druids, Bards or Minstrels of the Celtic nations? Adair alone, determined to see what he wished to see in every object, metamorphoses their Conjurers into an order of priests, and describes their sorceries as if they were the great religious ceremonies of the nation. Lafitau called them by their proper names, Jongleurs, Devins, Sortileges; De Bry præstigiatores; Adair himself sometimes Magi, Archimagi, cunning men, Seers, rain makers; and the modern Indian interpreters call them conjurers and witches. They are persons pretending to have communications with the devil and other evil spirits, to foretell future events, bring down rain, find stolen goods, raise the dead, destroy some and heal others by enchantment, lay spells, &c. And Adair, without departing from his parallel of the Jews and Indians, might have found their counterpart much more aptly, among the soothsayers, sorcerers and wizards of the Jews, their Gannes and Gambres, their Simon Magus, Witch of Endor, and the young damsel whose sorceries disturbed Paul so much; instead of placing them in a line with their high-priest, their chief priests, and their magnificent hierarchy generally. In the solemn ceremonies of the Indians, the persons who direct or officiate, are their chiefs, elders and warriors, in civil ceremonies or in those of war; it is the head of the cabin in their private or particular feasts or ceremonies; and sometimes the matrons, as in their corn feasts. And even here, Adair might have kept up his parallel, with ennobling his conjurers. For the ancient patriarchs, the Noahs, the Abrahams, Isaacs and Jacobs, and even after the consecration of Aaron, the Samuels and Elijahs, and we may say further, every one for himself offered sacrifices on the altars. The true line of distinction seems to be, that solemn ceremonies, whether public or private, addressed to the Great Spirit, are conducted by the worthies of the nation, men or matrons, while conjurers are resorted to only for the invocation of evil spirits. The present state of the several Indian tribes, without any public order of priests, is proof sufficient that they never had such an order. Their steady habits permit no innovations, not even those which the progress of science offers to increase the comforts, enlarge the understanding, and improve the morality of mankind. Indeed, so little idea have they of a regular order of priests, that they mistake ours for their conjurers, and call them by that name.
So much in answer to your inquiries concerning Indians, a people with whom, in the early part of my life, I was very familiar, and acquired impressions of attachment and commiseration for them which have never been obliterated. Before the revolution, they were in the habit of coming often and in great numbers to the seat of government, where I was very much with them. I knew much the great Outassetè, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees; he was always the guest of my father, on his journeys to and from Williamsburg. I was in his camp when he made his great farewell oration to his people the evening before his departure for England. The moon was in full splendor, and to her he seemed to address himself in his prayers for his own safety on the voyage, and that of his people during his absence; his sounding voice, distinct articulation, animated action, and the solemn silence of his people at their several fires, filled me with awe and veneration, although I did not understand a word he uttered. That nation, consisting now of about 2,000 warriors, and the Creeks of about 3,000 are far advanced in civilization. They have good cabins, enclosed fields, large herds of cattle and hogs, spin and weave their own clothes of cotton, have smiths and other of the most necessary tradesmen, write and read, are on the increase in numbers, and a branch of Cherokees is now instituting a regular representative government. Some other tribes are advancing in the same line. On those who have made any progress, English seductions will have no effect. But the backward will yield, and be thrown further back. Those will relapse into barbarism and misery, lose numbers by war and want, and we shall be obliged to drive them with the beasts of the forest into the stony mountains. They will be conquered, however, in Canada. The possession of that country secures our women and children forever from the tomahawk and scalping knife, by removing those who excite them; and for this possession orders, I presume, are issued by this time; taking for granted that the doors of Congress will re-open with a declaration of war. That this may end in indemnity for the past, security for the future, and complete emancipation from Anglomany, Gallomany, and all the manias of demoralized Europe, and that you may live in health and happiness to see all this, is the sincere prayer of yours affectionately.
TO ELBRIDGE GERRY
Monticello, June 11, 1812
—It has given me great pleasure to receive a letter from you. It seems as if, our ancient friends dying off, the whole mass of the affections of the heart survives undiminished to the few who remain. I think our acquaintance commenced in 1764, both then just of age. We happened to take lodgings in the same house in New York. Our next meeting was in the Congress of 1775, and at various times afterwards in the exercise of that and other public functions, until your mission to Europe. Since we have ceased to meet, we have still thought and acted together, “et idem velle, atque idem nolle, ea demum amicitia est.” Of this harmony of principle, the papers you enclosed me are proof sufficient. I do not condole with you on your release from your government. The vote of your opponents is the most honorable mark by which the soundness of your conduct could be stamped. I claim the same honorable testimonial. There was but a single act of my whole administration of which that party approved. That was the proclamation on the attack of the Chesapeake. And when I found that they approved of it, I confess I began strongly to apprehend I had done wrong, and to exclaim with the Psalmist, “Lord, what have I done that the wicked should praise me!”
What, then, does this English faction with you mean? Their newspapers say rebellion, and that they will not remain united with us unless we will permit them to govern the majority. If this be their purpose, their anti-republican spirit, it ought to be met at once. But a government like ours should be slow in believing this, should put forth its whole might when necessary to suppress it, and promptly return to the paths of reconciliation. The extent of our country secures it, I hope, from the vindictive passions of the petty incorporations of Greece. I rather suspect that the principal office of the other seventeen States will be to moderate and restrain the local excitement of our friends with you, when they (with the aid of their brethren of the other States, if they need it) shall have brought the rebellious to their feet. They count on British aid. But what can that avail them by land? They would separate from their friends, who alone furnish employment for their navigation, to unite with their only rival for that employment. When interdicted the harbors of their quondam brethren, they will go, I suppose, to ask a share in the carrying trade of their rivals, and a dispensation with their navigation act. They think they will be happier in an association under the rulers of Ireland, the East and West Indies, than in an independent government, where they are obliged to put up with their proportional share only in the direction of its affairs. But I trust that such perverseness will not be that of the honest and well-meaning mass of the federalists of Massachusetts; and that when the questions of separation and rebellion shall be nakedly proposed to them, the Gores and the Pickerings will find their levees crowded with silk stocking gentry, but no yeomanry; an army of officers without soldiers. I hope, then, all will still end well; the Anglomen will consent to make peace with their bread and butter, and you and I shall sink to rest, without having been actors or spectators in another civil war.
TO GENERAL THADDEUS KOSCIUSKO
Monticello, June 28, 1812
Nous voila donc, mon cher ami, en guerre avec l’Angleterre. This was declared on the 18th instant, thirty years after the signature of our peace in 1782. Within these thirty years what a vast course of growth and prosperity we have had! It is not ten years since Great Britain began a series of insults and injuries which would have been met with war in the threshold by any European power. This course has been unremittingly followed up by increasing wrongs, with glimmerings indeed of peaceable redress, just sufficient to keep us quiet, till she has had the impudence at length to extinguish even these glimmerings by open avowal. This would not have been borne so long, but that France has kept pace with England in iniquity of principle, although not in the power of inflicting wrongs on us. The difficulty of selecting a foe between them has spared us many years of war, and enabled us to enter into it with less debt, more strength and preparation. Our present enemy will have the sea to herself, while we shall be equally predominant at land, and shall strip her of all her possessions on this continent. She may burn New York, indeed, by her ships and congreve rockets, in which case we must burn the city of London by hired incendiaries, of which her starving manufacturers will furnish abundance. A people in such desperation as to demand of their government aut parcem, aut furcam, either bread or the gallows, will not reject the same alternative when offered by a foreign hand. Hunger will make them brave every risk for bread. The partisans of England here have endeavored much to goad us into the folly of choosing the ocean instead of the land, for the theatre of war. That would be to meet their strength with our own weakness, instead of their weakness with our strength. I hope we shall confine ourselves to the conquest of their possessions, and defence of our harbors, leaving the war on the ocean to our privateers. These will immediately swarm in every sea, and do more injury to British commerce than the regular fleets of all Europe would do. The government of France may discontinue their license trade. Our privateers will furnish them much more abundantly with colonial produce, and whatever the license trade has given them. Some have apprehended we should be overwhelmed by the new improvements of war, which have not yet reached us. But the British possess them very imperfectly, and what are these improvements? Chiefly in the management of artillery, of which our country admits little use. We have nothing to fear from their armies, and shall put nothing in prize to their fleets. Upon the whole, I have known no war entered into under more favorable auspices.
Our manufacturers are now very nearly on a footing with those of England. She has not a single improvement which we do not possess, and many of them better adapted by ourselves to our ordinary use. We have reduced the large and expensive machinery for most things to the compass of a private family, and every family of any size is now getting machines on a small scale for their household purposes. Quoting myself as an example, and I am much behind many others in this business, my household manufactures are just getting into operation on the scale of a carding machine costing $60 only, which may be worked by a girl of twelve years old, a spinning machine, which may be made for $10, carrying 6 spindles for wool, to be worked by a girl also, another which can be made for $25, carrying 12 spindles for cotton, and a loom, with a flying shuttle, weaving its twenty yards a day. I need 2,000 yards of linen, cotton and woollen yearly, to clothe my family, which this machinery, costing $150 only, and worked by two women and two girls, will more than furnish. For fine goods there are numerous establishments at work in the large cities, and many more daily growing up; and of merinos we have some thousands, and these multiplying fast. We consider a sheep for every person as sufficient for their woollen clothing, and this State and all to the north have fully that, and those to the south and west will soon be up to it. In other articles we are equally advanced, so that nothing is more certain than that, come peace when it will, we shall never again go to England for a shilling where we have gone for a dollar’s worth. Instead of applying to her manufacturers there, they must starve or come here to be employed. I give you these details of peaceable operations, because they are within my present sphere. Those of war are in better hands, who know how to keep their own secrets. Because, too, although a soldier yourself, I am sure you contemplate the peaceable employment of man in the improvement of his condition, with more pleasure than his murders, rapine and devastations.
Mr. Barnes, some time ago, forwarded you a bill of exchange for 5,500 francs, of which the enclosed is a duplicate. Apprehending that a war with England would subject the remittances to you to more casualties, I proposed to Mr. Morson, of Bordeaux, to become the intermediate for making remittances to you, which he readily acceded to on liberal ideas arising from his personal esteem for you, and his desire to be useful to you. If you approve of this medium I am in hopes it will shield you from the effect of the accidents to which the increased dangers of the seas may give birth. It would give me great pleasure to hear from you oftener. I feel great interest in your health and happiness. I know your feelings on the present state of the world, and hope they will be cheered by the successful course of our war, and the addition of Canada to our confederacy. The infamous intrigues of Great Britain to destroy our government (of which Henry’s is but one sample), and with the Indians to tomahawk our women and children, prove that the cession of Canada, their fulcrum for these Machiavelian levers, must be a sine qua non at a treaty of peace. God bless you, and give you to see all these things, and many and long years of health and happiness.
TO THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES
Monticello, June 29, 1812
—I duly received your favor of the 22d covering the declaration of war. It is entirely popular here, the only opinion being that it should have been issued the moment the season admitted the militia to enter Canada. To continue the war popular, two things are necessary mainly. 1. To stop Indian barbarities. The conquest of Canada will do this. 2. To furnish markets for our produce, say indeed for our flour, for tobacco is already given up, and seemingly without reluctance. The great profits of the wheat crop have allured every one to it; and never was such a crop on the ground as that which we generally begin to cut this day. It would be mortifying to the farmer to see such an one rot in his barn. It would soon sicken him to war. Nor can this be a matter of wonder or of blame on him. Ours is the only country on earth where war is an instantaneous and total suspension of all the objects of his industry and support. For carrying our produce to foreign markets our own ships, neutral ships, and even enemy ships under neutral flag, which I would wink at, will probably suffice. But the coasting trade is of double importance, because both seller and buyer are disappointed, and both are our own citizens. You will remember that in this trade our greatest distress in the last war was produced by our own pilot boats taken by the British and kept as tenders to their larger vessels. These being the swiftest vessels on the ocean, they took them and selected the swiftest from the whole mass. Filled with men they scoured everything along shore, and completely cut up that coasting business which might otherwise have been carried on within the range of vessels of force and draught. Why should not we then line our coast with vessels of pilot-boat construction, filled with men, armed with cannonades, and only so much larger as to assure the mastery of the pilot boat? The British cannot counter-work us by building similar ones, because, the fact is, however unaccountable, that our builders alone understand that construction. It is on our own pilot boats the British will depend, which our larger vessels may thus retake. These, however, are the ideas of a landsman only. Mr. Hamilton’s judgment will test their soundness.
Our militia are much afraid of being called to Norfolk at this season. They all declare a preference of a march to Canada. I trust however that Governor Barbour will attend to circumstances, and so apportion the service among the counties, that those acclimated by birth or residence may perform the summer tour, and the winter service be allotted to the upper counties.
I trouble you with a letter for General Kosciusko. It covers a bill of exchange from Mr. Barnes for him, and is therefore of great importance to him. Hoping you will have the goodness so far to befriend the General as to give it your safest conveyance, I commit it to you, with the assurance of my sincere affections.
TO WILLIAM DUANE
Monticello, August 4, 1812
—Your favor of the 17th ult. came duly to hand, and I have to thank you for the military manuals you were so kind as to send me. This is the sort of book most needed in our country, where even the elements of tactics are unknown. The young have never seen service, and the old are past it, and of those among them who are not superannuated themselves, their science is become so. I see, as you do, the difficulties and defects we have to encounter in war, and should expect disasters if we had an enemy on land capable of inflicting them. But the weakness of our enemy there will make our first errors innocent, and the seeds of genius which nature sows with even hand through every age and country, and which need only soil and season to germinate, will develop themselves among our military men. Some of them will become prominent, and seconded by the native energy of our citizens, will soon, I hope, to our force add the benefits of skill. The acquisition of Canada this year, as far as the neighborhood of Quebec, will be a mere matter of marching, and will give us experience for the attack of Halifax the next, and the final expulsion of England from the American continent. Halifax once taken, every cock-boat of hers must return to England for repairs. Their fleet will annihilate our public force on the water, but our privateers will eat out the vitals of their commerce. Perhaps they will burn New York or Boston. If they do, we must burn the city of London, not by expensive fleets or congreve rockets, but by employing an hundred or two Jack-the-painters, whom nakedness, famine, desperation and hardened vice, will abundantly furnish from among themselves. We have a rumor now afloat that the orders of council are repealed. The thing is impossible after Castlereagh’s late declaration in Parliament, and the re-construction of a Percival ministry.
I consider this last circumstance fortunate for us. The repeal of the orders of council would only add recruits to our minority, and enable them the more to embarrass our march to thorough redress of our past wrongs, and permanent security for the future. This we shall attain if no internal obstacles are raised up. The exclusion of their commerce from the United States, and the closing of the Baltic against it, which the present campaign in Europe will effect, will accomplish the catastrophe already so far advanced on them. I think your anticipations of the effects of this are entirely probable, their arts, their science, and what they have left of virtue, will come over to us, and although their vices will come also, these, I think, will soon be diluted and evaporated in a country of plain honesty. Experience will soon teach the new-comers how much more plentiful and pleasant is the subsistence gained by wholesome labor and fair dealing, than a precarious and hazardous dependence on the enterprises of vice and violence. Still I agree with you that these immigrations will give strength to English partialities, to eradicate which is one of the most consoling expectations from the war. But probably the old hive will be broken up by a revolution, and a regeneration of its principles render intercourse with it no longer contaminating. A republic there like ours, and a reduction of their naval power within the limits of their annual facilities of payment, might render their existence even interesting to us. It is the construction of their government, and its principles and means of corruption, which makes its continuance inconsistent with the safety of other nations. A change in its form might make it an honest one, and justify a confidence in its faith and friendship. That regeneration however will take a longer time than I have to live. I shall leave it to be enjoyed among you, and make my exit with a bow to it, as the most flagitious of governments I leave among men. I sincerely wish you may live to see the prodigy of its renovation, enjoying in the meantime health and prosperity.
TO WILLIAM DUANE
Monticello, October 1, 1812
—Your favor of September the 20th, has been duly received, and I cannot but be gratified by the assurance it expresses, that my aid in the councils of our government would increase the public confidence in them; because it admits an inference that they have approved of the course pursued, when I heretofore bore a part in those councils. I profess, too, so much of the Roman principle, as to deem it honorable for the general of yesterday to act as a corporal to-day, if his services can be useful to his country; holding that to be false pride, which postpones the public good to any private or personal considerations. But I am past service. The hand of age is upon me. The decay of bodily faculties apprizes me that those of the mind cannot be unimpaired, had I not still better proofs. Every year counts by increased debility, and departing faculties keep the score. The last year it was the sight, this it is the hearing, the next something else will be going, until all is gone. Of all this I was sensible before I left Washington, and probably my fellow laborers saw it before I did. The decay of memory was obvious; it is now become distressing. But the mind too, is weakened. When I was young, mathematics was the passion of my life. The same passion has returned upon me, but with unequal powers. Processes which I then read off with the facility of common discourse, now cost me labor, and time, and slow investigation. When I offered this, therefore, as one of the reasons deciding my retirement from office, it was offered in sincerity and a consciousness of its truth. And I think it a great blessing that I retain understanding enough to be sensible how much of it I have lost, and to avoid exposing myself as a spectacle for the pity of my friends; that I have surmounted the difficult point of knowing when to retire. As a compensation for faculties departed, nature gives me good health, and a perfect resignation to the laws of decay which she has prescribed to all the forms and combinations of matter.
The detestable treason of Hull has, indeed, excited a deep anxiety in all breasts. The depression was in the first moment gloomy and portentous. But it has been succeeded by a revived animation, and a determination to meet the occurrence with increased efforts; and I have so much confidence in the vigorous minds and bodies of our countrymen, as to be fearless as to the final issue. The treachery of Hull, like that of Arnold, cannot be matter of blame on our government. His character, as an officer of skill and bravery, was established on the trials of the last war, and no previous act of his life had led to doubt his fidelity. Whether the Head of the war department is equal to his charge, I am not qualified to decide. I knew him only as a pleasant, gentlemanly man in society; and the indecision of his character rather added to the amenity of his conversation. But when translated from the colloquial circle to the great stage of national concerns, and the direction of the extensive operations of war, whether he has been able to seize at one glance the long line of defenceless border presented by our enemy, the masses of strength which we hold on different points of it, the facility this gave us of attacking him, on the same day, on all his points, from the extremity of the lakes to the neighborhood of Quebec, and the perfect indifference with which this last place, impregnable as it is, might be left in the hands of the enemy to fall of itself; whether, I say, he could see and prepare vigorously for all this, or merely wrapped himself in the cloak of cold defence, I am uninformed. I clearly think with you on the competence of Monroe to embrace great views of action. The decision of his character, his enterprise, firmness, industry, and unceasing vigilance, would, I believe, secure, as I am sure they would merit, the public confidence, and give us all the success which our means can accomplish. If our operations have suffered or languished from any want of energy in the present head which directs them, I have so much confidence in the wisdom and conscientious integrity of Mr. Madison, as to be satisfied, that however torturing to his feelings, he will fulfil his duty to the public and to his own reputation, by making the necessary change. Perhaps he may be preparing it while we are talking about it; for of all these things I am uninformed. I fear that Hull’s surrender has been more than the mere loss of a year to us. Besides bringing on us the whole mass of savage nations, whom fear and not affection has kept in quiet, there is danger that in giving time to an enemy who can send reinforcements of regulars faster than we can raise them, they may strengthen Canada and Halifax beyond the assailment of our lax and divided powers. Perhaps, however, the patriotic efforts from Kentucky and Ohio, by recalling the British force to its upper posts, may yet give time to Dearborne to strike a blow below. Effectual possession of the river from Montreal to the Chaudiere, which is practicable, would give us the upper country at our leisure, and close forever the scenes of the tomahawk and scalping knife.
But these things are for others to plan and achieve. The only succor from the old must lie in their prayers. These I offer up with sincere devotion; and in my concern for the great public, I do not overlook my friends, but supplicate for them, as I do for yourself, a long course of freedom, happiness and prosperity.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, Nov. 6, ’12
—I inclose you a letter from Colo: Gibson Secretary under Governor Harrison. I suppose he has addressed it to me on the footing of a very old acquaintance. He is a very honest man, very old in public service & much esteemed by all who know him. All this I believe however is known to yourself & possibly he may be personally known to you.
The seeing whether our untried Generals will stand proof is a very dear operation. Two of them have cost us a great many men. We can tell by his plumage whether a cock is dunghill or game. But with us cowardice & courage wear the same plume. Hull will of course be shot for cowardice & treachery. And will not Van Renslaer be broke for cowardice and incapacity? To advance such a body of men across a river without securing boats to bring them off in case of disaster, has cost us 700 men: and to have taken no part himself in such an action & against such a general would be nothing but cowardice. These are the reflections of a solitary reader of his own letter. Dearborne & Harrison have both courage & understanding, & having no longer a Brock to encounter, I hope we shall hear something good from them. If we could but get Canada to Trois rivieres in our hands we should have a set off against spoliations to be treated of, & in the mean time separate the Indians from them and set the friendly to attack the hostile part with our aid. Ever affectionately yours.
[1 ]Concerning this letter, Jefferson wrote to Benjamin Rush:
Monticello, Jan. 21, 12
—As it is through your kind interposition that two old friends are brought together, you have a right to know how the first approaches are made. I send you, therefore a copy of Mr. Adams’ letter to me & of my answer. To avoid the subject of his family, on which I could say nothing, I have written him a rambling, gossiping epistle which gave openings for the expression of sincere feelings, & may furnish him ground of reciprocation, if he merely waited for the first declaration; for so I would construe the reserve of his letter. In the course of the spring I can have a good occasion of writing to him again on sending him a law case of Livingston’s against myself, which having been dismissed out of court, for want of jurisdiction, remains unexplained to the world. This explanation I shall print for my own justification; and a copy may not be unamusing to one who is himself a profound lawyer.
[1 ]The following is the paper alluded to: My acqce with mr Henry commenced in the winter of 1759–60. On my way to college I passed the Xmas holidays at Colo Dandridge’s, in Hanover, to whom mr Henry was a near neighbor. During the festivity of the season I met him in society every day, & we became well acquainted, altho I was much his junior, being then but in my 17th year & he a married man. The spring following he came to Wmsbg to obtain a license as a lawyer, & he called on me at college. He told me he had been reading law only 6. weeks. Two of the examiners, however, Peyton & John Randolph, men of great facility of temper, signed his license with as much reluctance as their dispositions would permit them to shew. Mr Wythe absolutely refused. Rob: C. Nicholas refused also at first, but on repeated importunities and promises of future reading, he signed. These facts I had afterwds from the gentlemen themselves, the two Randolphs acknoleging he was very ignorant of law, but that they perceived him to be a young man of genius, & did not doubt he would soon qualify himself. He was some time after elected a representative of the county of Hanover and brought himself into public notice on the following occasion, which I think took place in 1762, or a year sooner or later. The gentlemen of this country had at that time become deeply involved in that state of indebtment which has since ended in so general a crush of their fortunes. Robinson the speaker was also Treasurer, an officer always chosen by the Assembly. He was an excellent man, liberal, friendly and rich. He had been drawn in to lend on his own account great sums of money to persons of this description, & especially those who were of the assembly. He used freely for this purpose the public money, confiding for it’s replacement in his own means & the securities he had taken on those loans. About this time however he became sensible that his deficit to the public was become so enormous as that a discovery must soon take place, for as yet the public had no suspicion of it. He devised therefore with his friends in the assembly a plan for a public loan office to a certain amount, from which monies might be lent on public acct & on good landed security to individuals. This was accordingly brought forward in the House of Burgesses, and had it succeeded, the debts due to Robinson on these loans would have been transferred to the public, & his deficit thus compleetly covered. This state of things however was not yet known; but mr Henry attacked the scheme on other general grounds in that style of bold grand and overwhelming eloquence, for which he became so justly celebrated afterwds. He carried with him all the members of the upper counties, and left a minority composed merely of the aristocracy of the country. From this time his popularity swelled apace, & Robinson dying 4. years after, his deficit was brought to light, & discovered the true object of the proposition. The next great occasion on which he signalised himself was that which may be considered as the dawn of the Revoln in March 1764. The British parliament had passed resolns. preparatory to the levying a revenue on the colonies by a stamp tax. The Virginia assembly at their next session, prepared & sent to England very elaborate representns addressed in separate forms to the King, Lords and Commons, against the right to impose such taxes. The famous stamp act was, however, past in Jan., 1765 and in the session of the Virgi assembly of May following, mr. Henry introduced the celebrated resolns of that date. These were drawn by George Johnson, a lawyer of the Northern neck, a very able, logical and correct speaker. Mr Henry moved and Johnston seconded these resolns successively. They were opposed by Randolph, Blood, Pendleton, Nicholas, Wythe & all the old members whose influence in the house had till then been unbroken. They did it, not from any question of our rights, but on the ground that the same sentiments had been at their preceding session expressed in a more conciliatory form to which the answers were not yet received. But torrents of sublime eloquence from mr Henry, backed up by the solid reasoning of Johnston, prevailed. The last however, & strongest resoln was carried but by a single vote. The debate on it was most bloody. I was then but a student and was listening at the door of the lobby (for as yet there was no gallery) when Peyton Randolph, after the vote, came out of the house and said, as he entered the lobby ‘By god I would have given 500 guineas for a single vote,’ for as this would have divided the house, the vote of Robinson, the speaker, would have rejected the resolution. Mr. Henry left town that evening and the next morning before the meeting of the house, I saw Peter Randolph, then of the council, but who had formerly been clerk in the house, for an hour or two at the clerk’s table searching the old journals for a precedent while he was clerk, of a resolution of the house erased from the journals by a subsequent order of the house. Whether he found it or not I do not remember; but when the house met, a motion was made & carried to erase that resoln; and there being at that day but one printer & he entirely under the controul of the governor, I do not know that this resoln ever appeared in print. I write this from memory, but the impression made on me, at the time, was such as to fix the facts indelibly in my mind. I came into the Legislature as a burgess for Albemarle in the winter of 1768/9. on the accession of L’d. Botetourt to the government and about 9. years after mr. Henry had entered on the stage of public life. The exact conformity of our political opinions strengthened our friendship, and indeed, the old leaders of the house being substantially firm, we had not after this any differences of open in the H. of B. on matters of principles, tho sometimes on matters of form. We were dissolved by Ld Botetourt at our first session; but all were re-elected. There being no divisions among us, occasions became very rare for any display of mr H’s eloquence. In ordinary business he was a very inefficient member. He could not draw a bill on the most simple subject which wd bear legal criticism, or even the ordinary criticism which looks to correctness of style & ideas, for indeed there was no accuracy of idea in his head. His imagination was copious, poetical, sublime, but vague also. He said the strongest things in the finest language, but without logic, without arrangement, desultoryly. This appeared eminently & in a mortifying degree in the 1st session of the 1st Congress which met in Sep 1774. Mr Henry & Richard Henry Lee took at once the lead in that assembly, and by the high style of their eloquence were in the first days of the session looked up to as primi inter pares. A petition to the King, an Address to the people of G. Britain, and a Memorial to the people of British America were agreed to be drawn. Lee, Henry & others were appointed for the first, & Lee, Livingston & Jay for the two last. The splendor of their debut occasioned mr Henry to be designated by his commee to draw the petn to the king, with which they were charged, and mr Lee was charged with the address to the people of England. The last was first reported. On reading it every countenance fell and a dead silence ensued for many minutes. At length, it was laid on the table for perusal and considn till the next day when first one member, and then another arose, & paying some faint compliment to the composition observed that there were still certain considerns not expressed in it, which should properly find a place in it. At length mr Livingston (the govr of N. J.) a member of the commee rose and observed that a friend of his had been sketching what he had thought might be proper for such an address, from which he thought some paragraphs might be advantageously introduced into the draught proposed: and he read an address which mr Jay had prepared de bene ese as it were. There was but one sentiment of admirn. The address was recommitted for amendment, and mr Jays draught reported & adopted with scarce any altern. These facts were stated to me by mr Pendleton and Colo Harrison of our own delegation, except that Colo Harrison ascribed the draught to Govr. Livingston & were afterwards confirmed to me by Gov’r Livingston, & I will presently mention an anecdote confirmative of them from mr Jay and R. H. Lee themselves. Mr. Henry’s draught of a petn to the king was equally unsuccessful, and was recommitted for amendment. Mr John Dickenson was added to the commee & a new draught prepared by him was passed. The occasion of my learning from mr Jay that he was the author of the Address to the people of Gr. Britain requires explanation by a statement of some preceding circumstances. The 2d session of the 1st Congress met on their own adjmt in May, 1775. Peyton Randolph was their president. In the mean time Ld. North’s conciliatory proposns came over to be laid by the Governors before their Legislatures. Ld. Dunmore accdly called that of Virginia to meet in June. This obliged P. Randolph as Speaker to return. Our other old members being at Congress, he pressed me to draw the answer to Ld. North’s proposn. I accdly did so, and it passed with a little softening of some expressions for which the times were not yet ripe & wiredrawing & weakening some others to satisfy individuals. I had been appointed to go on to Congress in place of Peyton Randolph, & proceed immediately, charged with presenting this answer to Congress. As it was the first which had been given, and the tone of it was strong the members were pleased with it hoping it would have a good effect on the answers of the other states. A Commee which had been appointed to prepare a Declaration to be published by Genl. Washington on his arrival at the army, having reported one, it was committed, & Dickinson & myself added to the commee. On the adjournment of the house happening to go out with Govr. Livingston, one of the Commee, I expressed to him my hope he would draw the Declaration. He modestly excused himself, & expressed his wish that I would do it. But urging him with considerable importunity, he at length said ‘You & I, sir, are but new acquaintances: what can have excited so earnest a desire on your part that I should be the Draughtsman?’ ‘Why, sir,’ said I, ‘I have been informed you drew the Address to the people of Gr. Brit. I think it the first composition in the English language, & therefore am anxious this declaration should be prepared by the same pen.’ He replied, that I might have been ‘misinformed on that subject.’ A few days after being in conversation with R. H. Lee in Congress till a little before the meeting of the house, mr Jay observing us, came up, & taking R. H. Lee by a button of the coat said to him pretty sternly, ‘I understand, sir, that you informed this gentleman that the Address to the people of Gr. Br. presented to the commee by me was drawn by Govr. Livingston.’ The fact was that the Commee having consisted of only Lee, Livingston, who was fath-in-1. of Jay & Jay himself & Lee’s draught having been rejected & Jay’s approved so unequivocally, his suspicions naturally fell on Lee as the author of the report; & the rather as they had daily much sparring in Congress, Lee being firm in the revolutionary measures, and Jay hanging heavily on their rear. I immediately stopped mr Jay, and assured him that tho’ I had indeed been so informed, it was not by mr Lee, whom I had never heard utter a word on the subject. I found mr Henry to be a silent & almost unmeddling member in Congress. On the original opening of that body, while general grievances were the topics, he was in his element & captivated all by his bold & splendid eloquence. But as soon as they came to specific matters, to sober reasoning and solid argumentation he had the good sense to perceive that his declamation however excellent in it’s proper place, had no weight at all in such an assembly as that, of cool-headed, reflecting, judicious men. He ceased therefore in a great measure to take any part in the business. He seemed indeed very tired of the place & wonderfully relieved when, by appointment of the Virginia convention to be Colo of their 1st regiment he was permitted to leave Congress about the last of July. How he acquitted himself in his military command will be better known from others. He was relieved from his position again by being appointed Governor on the first organization of the government. After my service as his successor in the same office my appointment to Congress in 1783. mission to Europe in 84. & appointment in the new govmt in 89. kept us so far apart that I had no further personal knolege of him. Mr Henry began his career with very little property. He acted, as I have understood, as barkeeper in the tavern at Hanover C. H. for sometime. He married very young; settled, I believe, at a place called the Roundabout in Louisa, got credit for some little store of merchandize, but very soon failed. From this he turned his views to the law, for the acquisition or practice of which however he was too lazy. Whenever the courts were closed for the winter session, he would make up a party of poor hunters of his neighborhood, would go off with them to the pinywoods of Fluvanna, and pass weeks in hunting deer, of which he was passionately fond, sleeping under a tent, before a fire, wearing the same shirt the whole time, & covering all the dirt of his dress with a hunting-shirt. He never undertook to draw pleadings if he could avoid it or to manage that part of a cause & very unwillingly engaged, but as an assistant, to speak in the cause. And the fee was an indispensable preliminary, observing to the applicant that he kept no accounts, never putting pen to paper, wch was true. His powers over a jury were so irresistible that he received great fees for his services, & had the reputation of being insatiable in money. After about 10. years practice in the Country courts he came to the Genl. court where however being totally unqualified for anything but mere jury causes, he devoted himself to these, & chiefly to the criminal business. From these poor devils it was always understood that he squeezed exorbitant fees of 50 100. & 200. From this source he made his great profits, & they were said to be great. His other business, exclusive of the criminal, would never, I am sure, pay the expenses of his attendance. He now purchased from mr Lomax the valuable estate on the waters of Smith’s river, to which he afterwards removed. The purchase was on long credit & finally paid in depreciated paper not worth oak leaves. About the close of the war he engaged in the Yazoo speculation, & bought up a great deal of depreciated paper at 2/ & 2/6 in the pound to pay for it. At the close of the war, many of us wished to reopen all accounts which had been paid in depreciated money, and have them settled by the scale of depreciation, but on this he frowned most indignantly, & knowing the general indisposition of the legislature, it was considered hopeless to attempt it with such an opponent at their head as Henry. I believe he never distinguished himself so much as on the similar question of British debts in the case of Jones & Walker. He had exerted a degree of industry in that case totally foreign to his character, and not only seemed, but had made himself really learned on the subject. Another of the great occasions on which he exhibited examples of eloquence such as probably had never been exceeded, was on the question of adopting the new constitution in 1788. To this he was most violently opposed, as is well known; and after its adoption he continued hostile to it, expressing more than any other man in the U. S. his thorough contempt & hatred of Genl. Washington. From being the most violent of all anti-federalists however he was brought over to the new constitution by his Yazoo speculation, before mentioned. The Georgia legislature having declared that transaction fraudulent & void, the depreciated paper which he had bought up to pay for the Yazoo purchase was likely to remain on his hands worth nothing. But Hamilton’s founding system came most opportunely to his relief, and suddenly raised his paper from 2/6 to 27/6 the pound. Hamilton became now his idol, and abandoning the republican advocates of the constitution, the federal government on federal principles became his political creed. Genl. Washington flattered him by an appointment to a mission to Spain, which he declined; & by proposing to him the office of Secretary of State, on the most earnest sollicitations of Genl Henry Lee, who pledged himself that Henry should not accept it; for Genl Washington knew that he was entirely unqualified for it, & moreover that his self-esteem had never suffered him to act as second to any man on earth. I had this fact from information, but that of the mission to Spain is of my own knolege because after my retiring from the office of Secy of State Genl. Washington passed the papers to mr Henry through my hands. Mr Henry’s apostacy sunk him to nothing in the estimation of his country. He lost at once all that influence which federalism had hoped, by cajoling him, to transfer with him to itself and a man who thro a long & active life had been the idol of his country beyond any one that ever lived, descended to the grave with less than it’s indifference, and verified the saying of the philosopher, that no man must be called happy till he is dead. [Printed in The (Philadelphia) Age, July, 1867, ‘from the original manuscript in the office’ of the paper. It was sharply criticised in the New York World of August 2 and 3, 1867, by William Wirt Henry.]