Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1816 - TO COLONEL CHARLES YANCEY - The Works, vol. 11 (Correspondence and Papers 1808-1816)
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1816 - TO COLONEL CHARLES YANCEY - 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 COLONEL CHARLES YANCEY
Monticello, January 6, 1816
—I am favored with yours of December 24th, and perceive you have many matters before you of great moment. I have no fear but that the legislature will do on all of them what is wise and just. On the particular subject of our river, in the navigation of which our county has so great an interest, I think the power of permitting dams to be erected across it, ought to be taken from the courts, so far as the stream has water enough for navigation. The value of our property is sensibly lessened by the dam which the court of Fluvana authorized not long since to be erected, but a little above its mouth. This power over the value and convenience of our lands is of much too high a character to be placed at the will of a county court, and that of a county, too, which has not a common interest in the preservation of the navigation for those above them. As to the existing dams, if any conditions are proposed more than those to which they were subjected on their original erection, I think they would be allowed the alternative of opening a sluice for the passage of navigation, so as to put the river into as good a condition for navigation as it was before the erection of their dam, or as it would be if their dam were away. Those interested in the navigation might then use the sluices or make locks as should be thought best. Nature and reason, as well as all our constitutions, condemn retrospective conditions as mere acts of power, against right.
I recommend to your patronage our Central College. I look to it as a germ from which a great tree may spread itself.
There is before the assembly a petition of a Captain Miller which I have at heart, because I have great esteem for the petitioner as an honest and useful man. He is about to settle in our county, and to establish a brewery, in which art I think him as skilful a man as has ever come to America. I wish to see this beverage become common instead of the whiskey which kills one-third of our citizens and ruins their families. He is staying with me until he can fix himself, and I should be thankful for information from time to time of the progress of his petition.
Like a dropsical man calling out for water, water, our deluded citizens are clamoring for more banks, more banks. The American mind is now in that state of fever which the world has so often seen in the history of other nations. We are under the bank bubble, as England was under the South Sea bubble, France under the Mississippi bubble, and as every nation is liable to be, under whatever bubble, design, or delusion may puff up in moments when off their guard. We are now taught to believe that legerdemain tricks upon paper can produce as solid wealth as hard labor in the earth. It is vain for common sense to urge that nothing can produce nothing; that it is an idle dream to believe in a philosopher’s stone which is to turn everything into gold, and to redeem man from the original sentence of his Maker, “in the sweat of his brow shall he eat his bread.” Not Quixot enough, however, to attempt to reason Bedlam to rights, my anxieties are turned to the most practicable means of withdrawing us from the ruin into which we have run. Two hundred millions of paper in the hands of the people, (and less cannot be from the employment of a banking capital known to exceed one hundred millions,) is a fearful tax to fall at haphazard on their heads. The debt which purchased our independence was but of eighty millions, of which twenty years of taxation had in 1809 paid but the one half. And what have we purchased with this tax of two hundred millions which we are to pay by wholesale but usury, swindling, and new forms of demoralization. Revolutionary history has warned us of the probable moment when this baseless trash is to receive its fiat. Whenever so much of the precious metals shall have returned into the circulation as that everyone can get some in exchange for his produce, paper, as in the revolutionary war, it will experience at once an universal rejection. When public opinion changes, it is with the rapidity of thought. Confidence is already on the totter, and every one now handles this paper as if playing at Robin’s alive. That in the present state of the circulation the bank should resume payments in specie, would require their vaults to be like the widow’s cruse. The thing to be aimed at is, that the excesses of their emissions should be withdrawn as gradually, but as speedily, too, as is practicable, without so much alarm as to bring on the crisis dreaded. Some banks are said to be calling in their paper. But ought we to let this depend on their discretion? Is it not the duty of the legislature to avert from their constituents such a catastrophe as the extinguishment of two hundred millions of paper in their hands? The difficulty is indeed great: and the greater, because the patient revolts against all medicine. I am far from presuming to say that any plan can be relied on with certainty, because the bubble may burst from one moment to another; but if it fails, we shall be but where we should have been without any effort to save ourselves. Different persons, doubtless, will devise different schemes of relief. One would be to suppress instantly the currency of all paper not issued under the authority of our State or of the General Government; to interdict after a few months the circulation of all bills of five dollars and under: after a few months more, all of ten dollars and under; after other terms, those of twenty, fifty, and so on to one hundred dollars, which last, if any must be left in circulation, should be the lowest denomination. These might be a convenience in mercantile transactions and transmissions, and would be excluded by their size from ordinary circulation. But the disease may be too pressing to await such a remedy. With the legislature I cheerfully leave it to apply this medicine, or no medicine at all. I am sure their intentions are faithful; and embarked in the same bottom, I am willing to swim or sink with my fellow citizens. If the latter is their choice, I will go down with them without a murmur. But my exhortation would rather be “not to give up the ship.”
I am a great friend to the improvements of roads, canals, and schools. But I wish I could see some provision for the former as solid as that of the latter,—something better than fog. The literary fund is a solid provision, unless lost in the impending bankruptcy. If the legislature would add to that a perpetual tax of a cent a head on the population of the State, it would set agoing at once, and forever maintain, a system of primary or ward schools, and an university where might be taught, in its highest degree, every branch of science useful in our time and country; and it would rescue us from the tax of toryism, fanaticism, and indifferentism to their own State, which we now send our youth to bring from those of New England. If a nation expects to be ignorant and free, in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be. The functionaries of every government have propensities to command at will the liberty and property of their constituents. There is no safe deposit for these but with the people themselves; nor can they be safe with them without information. Where the press is free, and every man able to read, all is safe. The frankness of this communication will, I am sure, suggest to you a discreet use of it. I wish to avoid all collisions of opinion with all mankind. Show it to Mr. Maury, with expressions of my great esteem. It pretends to convey no more than the opinions of one of your thousand constituents, and to claim no more attention than every other of that thousand.
I will ask you once more to take care of Miller and our College, and to accept assurance of my esteem and respect.
TO CHARLES THOMSON
Monticello, January 9, 1816
My Dear and Ancient Friend,
—An acquaintance of fifty-two years, for I think ours dates from 1764, calls for an interchange of notice now and then, that we remain in existence, the monuments of another age, and examples of a friendship unaffected by the jarring elements by which we have been surrounded, of revolutions of government, of party and of opinion. I am reminded of this duty by the receipt, through our friend Dr. Patterson, of your synopsis of the four Evangelists. I had procured it as soon as I saw it advertised, and had become familiar with its use; but this copy is the more valued as it comes from your hand. This work bears the stamp of that accuracy which marks everything from you, and will be useful to those who, not taking things on trust, recur for themselves to the fountain of pure morals. I, too, have made a wee-little book from the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of his doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were he to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. If I had time I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side. And I wish I could subjoin a translation of Gosindi’s Syntagma of the doctrines of Epicurus, which, notwithstanding the calumnies of the Stoics and caricatures of Cicero, is the most rational system remaining of the philosophy of the ancients, as frugal of vicious indulgence, and fruitful of virtue as the hyperbolical extravagances of his rival sects.
I retain good health, am rather feeble to walk much, but ride with ease, passing two or three hours a day on horseback, and every three or four months taking in a carriage a journey of ninety miles to a distant possession, where I pass a good deal of my time. My eyes need the aid of glasses by night, and with small print in the day also; my hearing is not quite so sensible as it used to be; no tooth shaking yet, but shivering and shrinking in body from the cold we now experience, my thermometer having been as low as 12° this morning. My greatest oppression is a correspondence afflictingly laborious, the extent of which I have been long endeavoring to curtail. This keeps me at the drudgery of the writing-table all the prime hours of the day, leaving for the gratification of my appetite for reading, only what I can steal from the hours of sleep. Could I reduce this epistolary corvée within the limits of my friends and affairs, and give the time redeemed from it to reading and reflection, to history, ethics, mathematics, my life would be as happy as the infirmities of age would admit, and I should look on its consummation with the composure of one “qui summum nec me tuit diem nec optat.”
So much as to myself, and I have given you this string of egotisms in the hope of drawing a similar one from yourself. I have heard from others that you retain your health, a good degree of activity, and all the vivacity and cheerfulness of your mind, but I wish to learn it more minutely from yourself. How has time affected your health and spirits? What are your amusements, literary and social? Tell me everything about yourself, because all will be interesting to me who retains for you ever the same constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO BENJAMIN AUSTIN
Monticello, January 9, 1816
—Your favor of December 21st has been received, and I am first to thank you for the pamphlet it covered. The same description of persons which is the subject of that is so much multiplied here too, as to be almost a grievance, and by their numbers in the public councils, have wrested from the public hand the direction of the pruning knife. But with us as a body, they are republican, and mostly moderate in their views; so far, therefore, less objects of jealousy than with you. Your opinions on the events which have taken place in France, are entirely just, so far as these events are yet developed. But they have not reached their ultimate termination. There is still an awful void between the present and what is to be the last chapter of that history; and I fear it is to be filled with abominations as frightful as those which have already disgraced it. That nation is too high-minded, has too much innate force, intelligence and elasticity, to remain under its present compression. Samson will arise in his strength, as of old, and as of old will burst asunder the withes and the cords, and the webs of the Philistines. But what are to be the scenes of havoc and horror, and how widely they may spread between brethren of the same house, our ignorance of the interior feuds and antipathies of the country places beyond our ken. It will end, neverthless, in a representative government, in a government in which the will of the people will be an effective ingredient. This important element has taken root in the European mind, and will have its growth; their despots, sensible of this, are already offering this modification of their governments, as if of their own accord. Instead of the parricide treason of Bonaparte, in perverting the means confided to him as a republican magistrate, to the subversion of that republic and erection of a military despotism for himself and his family, had he used it honestly for the establishment and support of a free government in his own country, France would now have been in freedom and rest; and her example operating in a contrary direction, every nation in Europe would have had a government over which the will of the people would have had some control. His atrocious egotism has checked the salutary progress of principle, and deluged it with rivers of blood which are not yet run out. To the vast sum of devastation and of human misery, of which he has been the guilty cause, much is still to be added. But the object is fixed in the eye of nations, and they will press on to its accomplishment and to the general amelioration of the condition of man. What a germ have we planted, and how faithfully should we cherish the parent tree at home!
You tell me I am quoted by those who wish to continue our dependence on England for manufactures. There was a time when I might have been so quoted with more candor, but within the thirty years which have since elapsed, how are circumstances changed! We were then in peace. Our independent place among nations was acknowledged. A commerce which offered the raw material in exchange for the same material after receiving the last touch of industry, was worthy of welcome to all nations. It was expected that those especially to whom manufacturing industry was important, would cherish the friendship of such customers by every favor, by every inducement, and particularly cultivate their peace by every act of justice and friendship. Under this prospect the question seemed legitimate, whether, with such an immensity of unimproved land, courting the hand of husbandry, the industry of agriculture, or that of manufactures, would add most to the national wealth? And the doubt was entertained on this consideration chiefly, that to the labor of the husbandman a vast addition is made by the spontaneous energies of the earth on which it is employed: for one grain of wheat committed to the earth, she renders twenty, thirty, and even fifty fold, whereas to the labor of the manufacturer nothing is added. Pounds of flax, in his hands, yield, on the contrary, but pennyweights of lace. This exchange, too, laborious as it might seem, what a field did it promise for the occupations of the ocean; what a nursery for that class of citizens who were to exercise and maintain our equal rights on that element? This was the state of things in 1785, when the Notes on Virginia were first printed; when, the ocean being open to all nations, and their common right in it acknowledged and exercised under regulations sanctioned by the assent and usage of all, it was thought that the doubt might claim some consideration. But who in 1785 could foresee the rapid depravity which was to render the close of that century the disgrace of the history of man? Who could have imagined that the two most distinguished in the rank of nations, for science and civilization, would have suddenly descended from that honorable eminence, and setting at defiance all those moral laws established by the Author of nature between nation and nation, as between man and man, would cover earth and sea with robberies and piracies, merely because strong enough to do it with temporal impunity; and that under this disbandment of nations from social order, we should have been despoiled of a thousand ships, and have thousands of our citizens reduced to Algerine slavery. Yet all this has taken place. One of these nations interdicted to our vessels all harbors of the globe without having first proceeded to some one of hers, there paid a tribute proportioned to the cargo, and obtained her license to proceed to the port of destination. The other declared them to be lawful prize if they had touched at the port or been visited by a ship of the enemy nation. Thus were we completely excluded from the ocean. Compare this state of things with that of ’85, and say whether an opinion founded in the circumstances of that day can be fairly applied to those of the present. We have experienced what we did not then believe, that there exists both profligacy and power enough to exclude us from the field of interchange with other nations: that to be independent for the comforts of life we must fabricate them ourselves. We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturist. The former question is suppressed, or rather assumes a new form. Shall we make our own comforts, or go without them, at the will of a foreign nation? He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufacture, must be for reducing us either to dependence on that foreign nation, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of these; experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort; and if those who quote me as of a different opinion, will keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price, it will not be our fault if we do not soon have a supply at home equal to our demand, and wrest that weapon of distress from the hand which has wielded it. If it shall be proposed to go beyond our own supply, the question of ’85 will then recur, will our surplus labor be then most beneficially employed in the culture of the earth, or in the fabrications of art? We have time yet for consideration, before that question will press upon us; and the maxim to be applied will depend on the circumstances which shall then exist; for in so complicated a science as political economy, no one axiom can be laid down as wise and expedient for all times and circumstances, and for their contraries. Inattention to this is what has called for this explanation, which reflection would have rendered unnecessary with the candid, while nothing will do it with those who use the former opinion only as a stalking horse, to cover their disloyal propensities to keep us in eternal vassalage to a foreign and unfriendly people.
I salute you with assurances of great respect and esteem.1
TO HORATIO GATES SPAFFORD
Monticello Jan. 10. 16
—Of the last 5 months 4 have been passed at my distant possession, to which no letters are carried to me, because the crosspost is too circuitous and unsafe to be trusted. On my return I find an immense accummulation of them calling for answers, & among these your favor of the 25th ult. In this you request me to examine the MS. tract it covered, to suggest amendments or alterations, give my remarks & opinion of the propriety of the sentiments, point out improvements, and say whether it should be published now. From this undertaking, my good sir, I must pray you to excuse me. In the first place I really have not the time to spare. My other occupations are incessant and indispensable. Within doors and without, there is something ever pressing, insomuch that I have not a moment to read the papers of the day, and if to read anything else it must be in hours stolen from those of sleep. In the next place I have made it a point not to meddle with the writings of others. It is unpleasant to one’s self, and generally injurious to the composition reviewed. The train in which a man commits his own thoughts to paper has in it generally a certain method and order. If this be altered, interrupted, chequered by the ideas of another, the composition becomes a medley of different views on the same subject, incoherent & deformed. So few are my spare moments that I have not been able even to read it through: because the MS. is in a handwriting extremely difficult to me; and I shall read it with more pleasure, and more understanding in print. I concur with you in it’s design; and as far as I have penetrated, I find the matter good and am sure it will be useful. I hope therefore to see it in your next magazine to be followed by many others having the same object.
[You judge truly that I am not afraid of the priests. They have tried upon me all their various batteries, of pious whining, hypocritical canting, lying & slandering, without being able to give me one moment of pain. I have contemplated their order from the Magi of the East to the Saints of the West, and I have found no difference of character, but of more or less caution, in proportion to their information or ignorance of those on whom their interested duperies were to be plaid off. Their sway in New England is indeed formidable. No mind beyond mediocrity dares there to develope itself. If it does, they excite against it the public opinion which they command, & by little, but incessant and teasing persecutions, drive it from among them. Their present emigrations to the Western country are real flights from persecution, religious & political, but the abandonment of the country by those who wish to enjoy freedom of opinion leaves the despotism over the residue more intense, more oppressive. They are now looking to the flesh pots of the South and aiming at foothold there by their missionary teachers. They have lately come forward boldly with their plan to establish “a qualified religious instructor over every thousand souls in the US.” And they seem to consider none as qualified but their own sect. Thus, in Virginia, they say there are but 60, qualified, and that 914 are still wanting of the full quota. All besides the 60, are “mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology.” Now the 60. they allude to are exactly in the string of counties at the Western foot of the Blue ridge, settled originally by Irish presbyterians, and composing precisely the tory district of the state. There indeed is found in full vigor the hypocrisy, the despotism, and anti-civism of the New England qualified religious instructors. The country below the mountains, inhabited by Episcopalians, Methodists & Baptists (under mere nominal ministers unacquainted with theology) are pronounced “destitute of the means of grace, and as sitting in darkness and under the shadow of death.” They are quite in despair too at the insufficient means of New England to fill this fearful void, “with Evangelical light, with catechetical instructions, weekly lectures, & family visiting.” That Yale cannot furnish above 80. graduates annually, and Harvard perhaps not more. That there must therefore be an immediate, universal, vigorous & systematic effort made to evangelize the nation. To see that there is a bible for every family, a school for every district, and a qualified (i. e. Presbyterian) “pastor for every thousand souls; that newspapers, tracts, magazines must be employed; the press be made to groan, & every pulpit in the land to sound it’s trumpet long and loud. A more homogeneous” (I.E. New England) “character must be produced thro’ the nation.” That section then of our union having lost it’s political influence by disloyalty to it’s country is now to recover it under the mask of religion. It is to send among us their Gardiners, their Osgoods, their Parishes & Pearsons, as apostles to teach us their orthodoxy. This is the outline of the plan as published by Messrs. Beecher, Pearson & Co. It has uttered however one truth. “That the nation must be awaked to save itself by it’s own exertions, or we are undone.” And I trust that this publication will do not a little to awaken it; and that in aid of it newspapers, tracts and magazines must sound the trumpet. Yours I hope will make itself heard, and the louder as yours is the nearest house in the course of conflagration.]1
I have not sent your tract to the President as you requested, fearing that if any further delay be added to that already incurred, it will be too late for your purpose of inserting it in the January magazine.
From contest of every kind I withdraw myself entirely. I have served my hour, and a long one it has been. Tranquility is the object of my remaining years, and I leave to more vigorous bodies & minds the service which has rightfully, & in succession devolved on them. Accept the assurances of my great respect and esteem.
TO DABNEY CARR
Monticello, January 19, 1816
—At the date of your letter of December the 1st, I was in Bedford, and since my return, so many letters, accumulated during my absence, have been pressing for answers, that this is the first moment I have been able to attend to the subject of yours. While Mr. Girardin was in this neighborhood writing his continuation of Burke’s history, I had suggested to him a proper notice of the establishment of the committee of correspondence here in 1773, and of Mr. Carr, your father, who introduced it. He has doubtless done this, and his work is now in the press. My books, journals of the times, &c., being all gone, I have nothing now but an impaired memory to resort to for the more particular statement you wish. But I give it with the more confidence, as I find that I remember old things better than new. The transaction took place in the session of Assembly of March 1773. Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Frank Lee, your father and myself, met by agreement, one evening, about the close of the session, at the Raleigh Tavern, to consult on the measures which the circumstances of the times seemed to call for. We agreed, in result, that concert in the operations of the several colonies was indispensable; and that to produce this, some channel of correspondence between them must be opened; that therefore, we would propose to our House the appointment of a committee of correspondence, which should be authorized and instructed to write to the Speakers of the House of Representatives of the several Colonies, recommending the appointment of similar committees on their part, who, by a communication of sentiment on the transactions threatening us all, might promote a harmony of action salutary to all. This was the substance, not pretending to remember the words. We proposed the resolution, and your father was agreed on to make the motion. He did it the next day, March the 12th, with great ability, reconciling all to it, not only by the reasonings, but the temper and moderation with which it was developed. It was adopted by a very general vote. Peyton Randolph, some of us who proposed it, and who else I do not remember, were appointed of the committee. We immediately despatched letters by expresses to the Speakers of all the other Assemblies. I remember that Mr. Carr and myself, returning home together, and conversing on the subject by the way, concurred in the conclusion that that measure must inevitably beget the meeting of a Congress of Deputies from all the colonies, for the purpose of uniting all in the same principles and measures for the maintenance of our rights. My memory cannot deceive me, when I affirm that we did it in consequence of no such proposition from any other colony. No doubt the resolution itself and the journals of the day will show that ours was original, and not merely responsive to one from any other quarter. Yet, I am certain I remember also, that a similar proposition, and nearly cotemporary, was made by Massachusetts, and that our northern messenger passed theirs on the road. This, too, may be settled by recurrence to the records of Massachusetts. The proposition was generally acceded to by the other colonies, and the first effect, as expected, was the meeting of a Congress at New York the ensuing year. The committee of correspondence appointed by Massachusetts, as quoted by you from Marshall, under the date of 1770, must have been for a special purpose, and functus officio before the date of 1773, or Massachusetts herself would not then have proposed another. Records should be examined to settle this accurately. I well remember the pleasure expressed in the countenance and conversation of the members generally, on this debut of Mr. Carr, and the hopes they conceived as well from the talents as the patriotism it manifested. But he died within two months after, and in him we lost a powerful fellow-laborer. His character was of a high order. A spotless integrity, sound judgment, handsome imagination, enriched by education and reading, quick and clear in his conceptions, of correct and ready elocution, impressing every hearer with the sincerity of the heart from which it flowed. His firmness was inflexible in whatever he thought was right; but when no moral principle stood in the way, never had man more of the milk of human kindness, of indulgence, of softness, of pleasantry of conversation and conduct. The number of his friends, and the warmth of their affection were proofs of his worth, and of their estimate of it. To give to those now living, an idea of the affliction produced by his death in the minds of all who knew him, I liken it to that lately felt by themselves on the death of his eldest son, Peter Carr, so like him in all his endowments and moral qualities, and whose recollection can never recur without a deep-drawn sigh from the bosom of any one who knew him. You mention that I showed you an inscription I had proposed for the tomb stone of your father. Did I leave it in your hands to be copied? I ask the question, not that I have any such recollection, but that I find it no longer in the place of its deposit, and think I never took it out but on that occasion. Ever and affectionately yours.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, February 4, 1816
—Your letter concerning that of General Scott is received, and his is now returned. I am very thankful for these communications. From forty years’ experience of the wretched guess-work of the newspapers of what is not done in open daylight, and of their falsehood even as to that, I rarely think them worth reading, and almost never worth notice. A ray, therefore, now and then, from the fountain of light, is like sight restored to the blind. It tells me where I am; and that to a mariner who has long been without sight of land or sun, is a rallying of reckoning which places him at ease. The ground you have taken with Spain is sound in every part. It is the true ground, especially, as to the South Americans. When subjects are able to maintain themselves in the field, they are then an independent power as to all neutral nations, are entitled to their commerce, and to protection within their limits. Every kindness which can be shown the South Americans, every friendly office and aid within the limits of the law of nations, I would extend to them, without fearing Spain or her Swiss auxiliaries. For this is but an assertion of our own independence. But to join in their war, as General Scott proposes, and to which even some members of Congress seem to squint, is what we ought not to do as yet. On the question of our interest in their independence, were that alone a sufficient motive of action, much may be said on both sides. When they are free, they will drive every article of our produce from every market, by underselling it, and change the condition of our existence, forcing us into other habits and pursuits. We shall, indeed, have in exchange some commerce with them, but in what I know not, for we shall have nothing to offer which they cannot raise cheaper; and their separation from Spain seals our everlasting peace with her. On the other hand, so long as they are dependent, Spain, from her jealousy, is our natural enemy, and always in either open or secret hostility with us. These countries, too, in war, will be a powerful weight in her scale, and, in peace, totally shut to us. Interest then, on the whole, would wish their independence, and justice makes the wish a duty. They have a right to be free, and we a right to aid them, as a strong man has a right to assist a weak one assailed by a robber or murderer. That a war is brewing between us and Spain cannot be doubted. When that disposition is matured on both sides, and open rupture can no longer be deferred, then will be the time for our joining the South Americans, and entering into treaties of alliance with them. There will then be but one opinion, at home or abroad, that we shall be justifiable in choosing to have them with us, rather than against us. In the meantime, they will have organized regular governments, and perhaps have formed themselves into one or more confederacies; more than one I hope, as in single mass they would be a very formidable neighbor. The geography of their country seems to indicate three: 1. What is north of the Isthmus. 2. What is south of it on the Atlantic; and 3. The southern part on the Pacific. In this form, we might be the balancing power. A propos of the dispute with Spain, as to the boundary of Louisiana. On our acquisition of that country, there was found in possession of the family of the late Governor Messier, a most valuable and original MS. history of the settlement of Louisiana by the French, written by Bernard de la Harpe, a principal agent through the whole of it. It commences with the first permanent settlement of 1699, (that by de la Salle in 1684, having been broken up,) and continues to 1723, and shows clearly the continual claim of France to the Province of Texas, as far as the Rio Bravo, and to all the waters running into the Mississippi, and how, by the roguery of St. Denis, an agent of Crozat the merchant, to whom the colony was granted for ten years, the settlements of the Spaniards at Nacadoches, Adais, Assinays, and Natchitoches, were fraudulently invited and connived at. Crozat’s object was commerce, and especially contraband, with the Spaniards, and these posts were settled as convenient smuggling stages on the way to Mexico. The history bears such marks of authenticity as place it beyond question. Governor Claiborne obtained the MS. for us, and thinking it too hazardous to risk its loss by the way, unless a copy were retained, he had a copy taken. The original having arrived safe at Washington, he sent me the copy, which I now have. Is the original still in your office? or was it among the papers burnt by the British? If lost, I will send you my copy; if preserved, it is my wish to deposit the copy for safe keeping with the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, where it will be safer than on my shelves. I do not mean that any part of this letter shall give to yourself the trouble of an answer; only desire Mr. Graham to see if the original still exists in your office, and to drop me a line saying yea or nay; and I shall know what to do. Indeed the MS. ought to be printed, and I see a note to my copy which shows it has been in contemplation, and that it was computed to be of twenty sheets at sixteen dollars a sheet, for three hundred and twenty copies, which would sell at one dollar apiece, and reimburse the expense.
TO LEROY AND BAYARD
Monticello, Apr. 7, 16
—I received by our last mail only, your favor of Mar. 19, reminding me of a very ancient and very just debt to Messrs. Van Staphorsts, and which I ought certainly long ago to have replaced to them, unasked. But, engaged constantly in offices of more expence than compensation, our means are ever absorbed as soon as received by the needy who press, while the indulgent lie over for a moment of greater convenience. Yet ancient and just as is this debt, it presents itself at a moment when I am not prepared to meet it. I am a landholder, and depend on the income of my farms. Three years of war & close blackade of the Chesapeak compleatly sunk the produce of those three years, and the year of peace which has followed has barely met arrearages and taxes. Commerce and free markets being now restored to us, we may count on the future with more certainty. I shall be able to pay off one of my bonds [torn] at the date of a year from this time, and one other each year after until the three are discharged. I hope that this arrangement will be acceptable to Messrs. Van Staphorsts, and that their indulgence will not be withdrawn suddenly and all at once. With the forbearance I ask, I shall replace their money from annual income which I can spare, and be saved the regret of injuriously mutilating my landed property. It will give me great pleasure to learn that the measure of kindness hitherto shewn, will be filled up by so much further forbearance, as will make it in the end, as it was in the beginning, a salutary accommodation. Accept the assurances of my great esteem & respect.1
TO P. S. DUPONT DE NEMOURS
Poplar Forest, April 24, 1816
I received, my dear friend, your letter covering the constitution for your Equinoctial republics, just as I was setting out for this place. I brought it with me, and have read it with great satisfaction. I suppose it well formed for those for whom it was intended, and the excellence of every government is its adaptation to the state of those to be governed by it. For us it would not do. Distinguishing between the structure of the government and the moral principles on which you prescribe its administration, with the latter we concur cordially, with the former we should not. We of the United States, you know, are constitutionally and conscientiously democrats. We consider society as one of the natural wants with which man has been created; that he has been endowed with faculties and qualities to effect its satisfaction by concurrence of others having the same want; that when, by the exercise of these faculties, he has procured a state of society, it is one of his acquisitions which he has a right to regulate and control, jointly indeed with all those who have concurred in the procurement, whom he cannot exclude from its use or direction more than they him. We think experience has proved it safer, for the mass of individuals composing the society, to reserve to themselves personally the exercise of all rightful powers to which they are competent, and to delegate those to which they are not competent to deputies named, and removable for unfaithful conduct, by themselves immediately. Hence, with us, the people (by which is meant the mass of individuals composing the society) being competent to judge of the facts occurring in ordinary life, they have retained the functions of judges of facts, under the name of jurors; but being unqualified for the management of affairs requiring intelligence above the common level, yet competent judges of human character, they chose, for their management, representatives, some by themselves immediately, others by electors chosen by themselves. Thus our President is chosen by ourselves, directly in practice, for we vote for A as elector only on the condition he will vote for B, our representatives by ourselves immediately, our Senate and judges of law through electors chosen by ourselves. And we believe that this proximate choice and power of removal is the best security which experience has sanctioned for ensuring an honest conduct in the functionaries of society. Your three or four alembications have indeed a seducing appearance. We should conceive primâ facie, that the last extract would be the pure alcohol of the substance, three or four times rectified. But in proportion as they are more and more sublimated, they are also farther and farther removed from the control of the society; and the human character, we believe, requires in general constant and immediate control, to prevent its being biased from right by the seductions of self-love. Your process produces therefore a structure of government from which the fundamental principle of ours is excluded. You first set down as zeros all individuals not having lands, which are the greater number in every society of long standing. Those holding lands are permitted to manage in person the small affairs of their commune or corporation, and to elect a deputy for the canton; in which election, too, every one’s vote is to be an unit, a plurality, or a fraction, in proportion to his landed possessions. The assemblies of cantons, then, elect for the districts; those of districts for circles; and those of circles for the national assemblies. Some of these highest councils, too, are in a considerable degree self-elected, the regency partially, the judiciary entirely, and some are for life. Whenever, therefore, an esprit de corps, or of party, gets possession of them, which experience shows to be inevitable, there are no means of breaking it up, for they will never elect but those of their own spirit. Juries are allowed in criminal cases only. I acknowledge myself strong in affection to our own form, yet both of us act and think from the same motive, we both consider the people as our children, and love them with parental affection. But you love them as infants whom you are afraid to trust without nurses; and I as adults whom I freely leave to self-government. And you are right in the case referred to you; my criticism being built on a state of society not under your contemplation. It is, in fact, like a critic on Homer by the laws of the Drama.
But when we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, we come to what is proper for all conditions of society. I meet you there in all the benevolence and rectitude of your native character; and I love myself always most where I concur most with you. Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of your society. I believe with you that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution; that there exists a right independent of force; that a right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings; that no one has a right to obstruct another, exercising his faculties innocently for the relief of sensibilities made a part of his nature; that justice is the fundamental law of society; that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest breaks up the foundations of society; that action by the citizens in person, in affairs within their reach and competence, and in all others by representatives, chosen immediately, and removable by themselves, constitutes the essence of a republic; that all governments are more or less republican in proportion as this principle enters more or less into their composition; and that a government by representation is capable of extension over a greater surface of country than one of any other form. These, my friend, are the essentials in which you and I agree; however, in our zeal for their maintenance, we may be perplexed and divaricate, as to the structure of society most likely to secure them.
In the constitution of Spain, as proposed by the late Cortes, there was a principle entirely new to me, and not noticed in yours, that no person, born after that day, should ever acquire the rights of citizenship until he could read and write. It is impossible sufficiently to estimate the wisdom of this provision. Of all those which have been thought of for securing fidelity in the administration of the government, constant ralliance to the principles of the constitution, and progressive amendments with the progressive advances of the human mind, or changes in human affairs, it is the most effectual. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Although I do not, with some enthusiasts, believe that the human condition will ever advance to such a state of perfection as that there shall no longer be pain or vice in the world, yet I believe it susceptible of much improvement, and most of all, in matters of government and religion; and that the diffusion of knowledge among the people is to be the instrument by which it is to be effected. The constitution of the Cortes had defects enough; but when I saw in it this amendatory provision, I was satisfied all would come right in time, under its salutary operation. No people have more need of a similar provision than those for whom you have felt so much interest. No mortal wishes them more success than I do. But if what I have heard of the ignorance and bigotry of the mass be true, I doubt their capacity to understand and to support a free government; and fear that their emancipation from the foreign tyranny of Spain, will result in a military despotism at home. Palacios may be great; others may be great; but it is the multitude which possess force: and wisdom must yield to that. For such a condition of society, the constitution you have devised is probably the best imaginable. It is certainly calculated to elicit the best talents; although perhaps not well guarded against the egoism of its functionaries. But that egoism will be light in comparison with the pressure of a military despot, and his army of Janissaries. Like Solon to the Athenians, you have given to your Columbians, not the best possible government, but the best they can bear. By-the-bye, I wish you had called them the Columbian republics, to distinguish them from our American republics. Theirs would be the most honorable name, and they best entitled to it; for Columbus discovered their continent, but never saw ours.
To them liberty and happiness; to you the meed of wisdom and goodness in teaching them how to attain them, with the affectionate respect and friendship of,
TO DR. GEORGE LOGAN
Monticello, May 19. 16
It gives me the greatest pain, dear Sir, to make a serious complaint to you. From the letter which I wrote you on the 3d of Oct. 1813. an extract was published with my name, in the newspapers, conveying a very just, but certainly a very harsh censure on Bonaparte. This produced to me more complaints from my best friends, and called for more explanations than any transaction of my life had ever done. They inferred from this partial extract an approbation of the conduct of England, which yet the same letter had censured with equal rigour. It produced too from the Minister of Bonaparte a complaint, not indeed formal, for I was but a private citizen, but serious, of my volunteering with England in the abuse of his sovereign. It was incumbent on me to explain, by declaring to a member of the government that the extract was partial, and it’s publication unauthorised. Notwithstanding the pain which this act had cost me, considering it on your part but as a mere inadvertence, on the receipt of your letter of Aug. 16. 15. I wrote an answer of Oct. 13. & again on receipt of that of the 27th Ult. I had begun an answer, when the arrival of our mail put into my hands a newspaper containing at full length mine of Oct. 13. It became necessary then to ask myself seriously whether I meant to enter as a political champion in the field of the newspapers? He who does this throws the gauntlet of challenge to every one who will take it up. It behoves him then to weigh maturely every sentiment, every fact, every sentence and syllable he commits to paper, and to be certain that he is ready with reason, and testimony to maintain every tittle before the tribunal of the public. But this is not our purpose when we write to a friend. We are careless, incorrect, in haste, perhaps under some transient excitement, and we hazard things without reflection, because without consequence in the bosom of a friend. Perhaps it may be said that the letter of Oct. 15 contained nothing offensive to others, nothing which could injure myself. It contained reprobation of the murders and desolations committed by the French nation, under their leader Bonaparte. It contained a condemnation of the allied powers for seizing and taking to themselves independent & unoffending countries, because too weak to defend themselves. In this they had done wrong, but was it my business to become the public accuser? And to undertake before the world to renounce their iniquities? And do you not think I had a right to decide this for myself? And to say whether the sentiments I trusted to you were meant for the whole world? I am sure that on reflection you will perceive that I ought to have been consulted.
I might have manifested my dissatisfaction by a silent reserve of all answer. But this would have offered a blank, which might have been filled up with erroneous imputations of sentiment. I prefer candid and open expression. No change of good will to you, none in my estimate of your integrity or understanding, has taken place, except as to your particular opinion on the rights of correspondence: and I pray you especially to assure Mrs. Logan of my constant and affectionate esteem & attachment, the just tribute of a respect for the virtues of her heart & head.1
TO JOHN TAYLOR
Monticello, May 28, 1816
—On my return from a long journey and considerable absence from home, I found here the copy of your Enquiry into the principles of our government, which you had been so kind as to send me; and for which I pray you to accept my thanks. The difficulties of getting new works in our situation, inland and without a single bookstore, are such as had prevented my obtaining a copy before; and letters which had accumulated during my absence, and were calling for answers, have not yet permitted me to give to the whole a thorough reading; yet certain that you and I could not think differently on the fundamentals of rightful government, I was impatient, and availed myself of the intervals of repose from the writing table, to obtain a cursory idea of the body of the work.
I see in it much matter for profound reflection; much which should confirm our adhesion, in practice, to the good principles of our constitution, and fix our attention on what is yet to be made good. The sixth section on the good moral principles of our government, I found so interesting and replete with sound principles, as to postpone my letter-writing to its thorough perusal and consideration. Besides much other good matter, it settles unanswerably the right of instructing representatives, and their duty to obey. The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life. You have successfully and completely pulverized Mr. Adams’ system of orders, and his opening the mantle of republicanism to every government of laws, whether consistent or not with natural right. Indeed, it must be acknowledged, that the term republic is of very vague application in every language. Witness the self-styled republics of Holland, Switzerland, Genoa, Venice, Poland. Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say, purely and simply, it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority; and that every other government is more or less republican, in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of the direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township. The first shade from this pure element, which, like that of pure vital air, cannot sustain life of itself, would be where the powers of the government, being divided, should be exercised each by representatives chosen either prohac vice, or for such short terms as should render secure the duty of expressing the will of their constituents. This I should consider as the nearest approach to a pure republic, which is practicable on a large scale of country or population. And we have examples of it in some of our State constitutions, which, if not poisoned by priest-craft, would prove its excellence over all mixtures with other elements; and, with only equal doses of poison, would still be the best. Other shades of republicanism may be found in other forms of government, where the executive, judiciary and legislative functions, and the different branches of the latter, are chosen by the people more or less directly, for longer terms of years or for life, or made hereditary; or where there are mixtures of authorities, some dependent on, and others independent of the people. The further the departure from direct and constant control by the citizens, the less has the government of the ingredient of republicanism; evidently none where the authorities are hereditary, as in France, Venice, &c., or self-chosen, as in Holland; and little, where for life, in proportion as the life continues in being after the act of election.
The purest republican feature in the government of our own State, is the House of Representatives. The Senate is equally so the first year, less the second, and so on. The Executive still less, because not chosen by the people directly. The Judiciary seriously anti-republican, because for life; and the national arm wielded, as you observe, by military leaders, irresponsible but to themselves. Add to this the vicious constitution of our county courts (to whom the justice, the executive administration, the taxation, police, the military appointments of the county, and nearly all our daily concerns are confided), self-appointed, self-continued, holding their authorities for life, and with an impossibility of breaking in on the perpetual succession of any faction once possessed of the bench. They are in truth, the executive, the judiciary, and the military of their respective counties, and the sum of the counties makes the State. And add, also, that one half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil and not for the men inhabiting it; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent.
In the General Government, the House of Representatives is mainly republican; the Senate scarcely so at all, as not elected by the people directly, and so long secured even against those who do elect them; the Executive more republican than the Senate, from its shorter term, its election by the people, in practice, (for they vote for A only on an assurance that he will vote for B,) and because, in practice also, a principle of rotation seems to be in a course of establishment; the judiciary independent of the nation, their coercion by impeachment being found nugatory.
If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require. And this I ascribe, not to any want of republican dispositions in those who formed these constitutions, but to a submission of true principle to European authorities, to speculators on government, whose fears of the people have been inspired by the populace of their own great cities, and were unjustly entertained against the independent, the happy, and therefore orderly citizens of the United States. Much I apprehend that the golden moment is past for reforming these heresies. The functionaries of public power rarely strengthen in their dispositions to abridge it, and an unorganized call for timely amendment is not likely to prevail against an organized opposition to it. We are always told that things are going on well; why change them? “Chi sta bene, non si muove,” said the Italian, “let him who stands well, stand still.” This is true; and I verily believe they would go on well with us under an absolute monarch, while our present character remains, of order, industry and love of peace, and restrained, as he would be, by the proper spirit of the people. But it is while it remains such, we should provide against the consequences of its deterioration. And let us rest in the hope that it will yet be done, and spare ourselves the pain of evils which may never happen.
On this view of the import of the term republic, instead of saying, as has been said, “that it may mean anything or nothing,” we may say with truth and meaning, that governments are more or less republican as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition; and believing, as I do, that the mass of the citizens is the safest depository of their own rights, and especially, that the evils flowing from the duperies of the people, are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents, I am a friend to that composition of government which has in it the most of this ingredient. And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
TO FRANCIS W. GILMER
Monticello, June 7, 1816
—I received a few days ago from Mr. Dupont the enclosed manuscript, with permission to read it, and a request, when read, to forward it to you, in expectation that you would translate it. It is well worthy of publication for the instruction of our citizens, being profound, sound, and short. Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him; and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes. There is a work of the first order of merit now in the press at Washington, by Destutt Tracy, on the subject of political economy, which he brings into the compass of three hundred pages, octavo. In a preliminary discourse on the origin of the right of property, he coincides much with the principles of the present manuscript; but is more developed, more demonstrative. He promises a future work on morals, in which I lament to see that he will adopt the principles of Hobbes, or humiliation to human nature; that the sense of justice and injustice is not derived from our natural organization, but founded on convention only. I lament this the more, as he is unquestionably the ablest writer living, on abstract subjects. Assuming the fact, that the earth has been created in time, and consequently the dogma of final causes, we yield, of course to this short syllogism. Man was created for social intercourse; but social intercourse cannot be maintained without a sense of justice; then man must have been created with a sense of justice. There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well-known state of society of our Indians ought, before now, to have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they suppose it to have commenced in the patriarchal or monarchical form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family; and not yet submitted to the authority of positive laws, or of any acknowledged magistrate. Every man, with them, is perfectly free to follow his own inclinations. But if, in doing this, he violates the rights of another, if the case be slight, he is punished by the disesteem of his society, or, as we say, by public opinion; if serious, he is tomahawked as a dangerous enemy. Their leaders conduct them by the influence of their character only; and they follow, or not, as they please, him of whose character for wisdom or war they have the highest opinion. Hence the origin of the parties among them adhering to different leaders, and governed by their advice, not by their command. The Cherokees, the only tribe I know to be contemplating the establishment of regular laws, magistrates, and government, propose a government of representatives, elected from every town. But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man. This, the only instance of actual fact within our knowledge, will be then a beginning by republican, and not by patriarchal or monarchical government, as speculative writers have generally conjectured.
We have to join in mutual congratulations on the appointment of our friend Correa, to be minister or envoy of Portugal, here. This, I hope, will give him to us for life. Nor will it at all interfere with his botanical rambles or journeys. The government of Portugal is so peaceable and inoffensive, that it has never any altercations with its friends. If their minister abroad writes them once a quarter that all is well, they desire no more. I learn, (though not from Correa himself,) that he thinks of paying us a visit as soon as he is through his course of lectures. Not to lose this happiness again by my absence, I have informed him I shall set out for Poplar Forest the 20th instant, and be back the first week of July. I wish you and he could concert your movements so as to meet here, and that you would make this your head quarters. It is a good central point from which to visit your connections; and you know our practice of placing our guests at their ease, by showing them we are so ourselves and that we follow our necessary vocations, instead of fatiguing them by hanging unremittingly on their shoulders. I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD
Monticello, June 20, 1816
—I am about to sin against all discretion, and knowingly, by adding to the drudgery of your letter-reading, this acknowledgment of the receipt of your favor of May the 31st, with the papers it covered. I cannot, however, deny myself the gratification of expressing the satisfaction I have received, not only from the general statement of affairs at Paris, in yours of December the 12th, 1814, (as a matter of history which I had not before received,) but most especially and superlatively, from the perusal of your letter of the 8th of the same month to Mr. Fisk, on the subject of draw-backs. This most heterogeneous principle was transplanted into ours from the British system, by a man whose mind was really powerful, but chained by native partialities to everything English; who had formed exaggerated ideas of the superior perfection of the English constitution, the superior wisdom of their government, and sincerely believed it for the good of this country to make them their model in everything; without considering that what might be wise and good for a nation essentially commercial, and entangled in complicated intercourse with numerous and powerful neighbors, might not be so for one essentially agricultural, and insulated by nature from the abusive governments of the old world.
The exercise, by our own citizens, of so much commerce as may suffice to exchange our superfluities for our wants, may be advantageous for the whole. But it does not follow, that with a territory so boundless, it is the interest of the whole to become a mere city of London, to carry on the business of one half the world at the expense of eternal war with the other half. The agricultural capacities of our country constitute its distinguishing feature; and the adapting our policy and pursuits to that, is more likely to make us a numerous and happy people, than the mimicry of an Amsterdam, a Hamburgh, or a city of London. Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of its association, and to say to all individuals, that, if they contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles, and involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms. We may exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with disease. Such is the situation of our country. We have most abundant resources of happiness within ourselves, which we may enjoy in peace and safety, without permitting a few citizens, infected with the mania of rambling and gambling, to bring danger on the great mass engaged in innocent and safe pursuits at home. In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose: 1, licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many; or, 2, restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, “let us separate.” I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture. I know that every nation in Europe would join in sincere amity with the latter, and hold the former at arm’s length, by jealousies, prohibitions, restrictions, vexations and war. No earthly consideration could induce my consent to contract such a debt as England has by her wars for commerce, to reduce our citizens by taxes to such wretchedness, as that laboring sixteen of the twenty-four hours, they are still unable to afford themselves bread, or barely to earn as much oatmeal or potatoes as will keep soul and body together. And all this to feed the avidity of a few millionary merchants, and to keep up one thousand ships of war for the protection of their commercial speculations. I returned from Europe after our government had got under way, and had adopted from the British code the law of draw-backs. I early saw its effects in the jealousies and vexations of Britain; and that, retaining it, we must become like her an essentially warring nation, and meet, in the end, the catastrophe impending over her. No one can doubt that this alone produced the orders of council, the depredations which preceded, and the war which followed them. Had we carried but our own produce, and brought back but our own wants, no nation would have troubled us. Our commercial dashers, then, have already cost us so many thousand lives, so many millions of dollars, more than their persons and all their commerce were worth. When war was declared, and especially after Massachusetts, who had produced it, took side with the enemy waging it, I pressed on some confidential friends in Congress to avail us of the happy opportunity of repealing the draw-back; and I do rejoice to find that you are in that sentiment. You are young, and may be in the way of bringing it into effect. Perhaps time, even yet, and change of tone, (for there are symptoms of that in Massachusetts,) may not have obliterated altogether the sense of our late feelings and sufferings; may not have induced oblivion of the friends we have lost, the depredations and conflagrations we have suffered, and the debts we have incurred, and have to labor for through the lives of the present generation. The earlier the repeal is proposed, the more it will be befriended by all these recollections and considerations. This is one of three great measures necessary to insure us permanent prosperity. This preserves our peace. A second should enable us to meet any war, by adopting the report of the war department, for placing the force of the nation at effectual command; and a third should insure resources of money by the suppression of all paper circulation during peace, and licensing that of the nation alone during war. The metallic medium of which we should be possessed at the commencement of a war, would be a sufficient fund for all the loans we should need through its continuance; and if the national bills issued, be bottomed (as is indespensable) on pledges of specific taxes for their redemption within certain and moderate epochs, and be of proper denominations for circulation, no interest on them would be necessary or just, because they would answer to every one the purposes of the metallic money withdrawn and replaced by them.
[1 ]Jefferson further wrote to Col. William Duane:
Monticello, April 30, 1811
—Yours of the 19th is received. I have carefully examined my letter files from July 1808 to this day, & find among them no such anonymous letter as you mention. Indeed the strong impression on my memory is that I never received an Anonymous letter from England, or from any other country than our own.
Certain newspapers are taking a turn which gives me uneasiness. Before I was aware of it, I was led to an interference which tho’ from just motives, I should not, at a later moment, have shaped exactly as I did. I cannot therefore repress the desire to communicate it fully to you. On the 24th of March I received a friendly letter from Duane, informing me of the distress into which he had been thrown by his former friends, Lieper & Clay, withdrawing their endorsements for him at the banks; the latter expressly for his attacks on John Randolph, the former without assigning any particular cause: & he concluded by asking whether, in Virginia, where he had been flattered by the support of his paper, 80. gentlemen could not be found, who would advance him their hundred Dollars apiece, to be repaid at short periods. I immediately engaged Mr. Peter Carr here, & Mr. Wirt in Richmond to set the experiment afoot, & one of these engaged a friend in Baltimore to do the same. But I mentioned to these gentlemen that to apprise Duane of the grounds on which we interested ourselves for him, to wit, his past services to the cause of republicanism, & that he might not mistake it as an approbation of his late attacks on Mr. Gallatin, of which we unequivocally disapproved, I would write him a letter. I accordingly wrote him the one now inclosed, which I previously communicated to Messrs. Carr & Wirt. It did not leave this till the 1st of April. The thing was going on hopefully enough, when his papers of the 4th & 8th arrived here, the latter written probably after he had received my letter. The effect at Baltimore I have not learned, but every person who had offered, here or at Richmond to join in aiding him, immediately withdrew, considering him as unequivocally joining the banners of the opposition, federal or factious. I have to give an account of this to Duane, but am waiting, in expectation of an answer to mine of March 26. In that I shall make one effort more to reclaim him from the dominion of his passions, but I expect it will be the last, and as unavailing as the former.
I could not be satisfied until I informed you of this transaction and must even request you to communicate it to Mr. Gallatin: for altho the just tribute rendered him in the letter was certainly never meant to meet his eyes yet it is there, among other things, it must go to him. Ritchie has been under hesitation. His paper of the 16th decides his course as to yourself, and I propose to set him to rights, as to Mr. Gallatin, through a letter to Wirt, in which I shall expose the falsehood or futility of the facts they have harped upon. All this however is confidential to yourself & Mr. Gallatin; because, while I wish to do justice to truth, I wish also to avoid newspaper observation.
With respect to the opposition threatened, altho it may give some pain, no injury of consequence is to be apprehended. Duane flying off from the government, may, for a little while, throw confusion into our ranks as John Randolph did. But, after a moment of time to reflect & rally, & to see where he is, we shall stand our ground with firmness. A few malcontents will follow him, as they did John Randolph, & perhaps he may carry off some well meaning Anti-Snyderites of Pennsylvania. The federalists will sing Hosannas, & the world will thus know of a truth what they are. This new minority will perhaps bring forward their new favorite, who seems already to have betrayed symptoms of consent. They will blast him in the bud, which will be no misfortune. They will sound the tocsin against the antient dominion, and anti-dominionism may become their rallying point. And it is better that all this should happen two than six years hence.
Disregarding all this, I am sure you will pursue steadily your own wise plans, that peace, with the great belligerents at least, will be preserved until it becomes more losing than war, & that the total extinction of the national debt, & liberation of our revenues, for defence in war and improvement in peace, will seal your retirement with the blessings of your country. For all this, & for your health & happiness I pray to God fervently.
P. S. Be so good as to return the inclosed as I have no other copy.
[1 ]Jefferson further wrote to Austin:
Monticello, February 9, 1816
—Your favor of January 25th is just now received. I am in general extremely unwilling to be carried into the newspapers, no matter what the subject; the whole pack of the Essex kennel would open upon me. With respect, however, to so much of my letter of January 9th as relates to manufactures, I have less repugnance, because there is perhaps a degree of duty to avow a change of opinion called for by a change of circumstance, and especially on a point now become peculiarly interesting.
What relates to Bonaparte stands on different ground. You think it will silence the misrepresentations of my enemies as to my opinion of him. No, Sir; it will not silence them. They had no ground either in my words or actions for these misrepresentations before, and cannot have less afterwards; nor will they calumniate less. There is, however, a consideration respecting our own friends, which may merit attention. I have grieved to see even good republicans so infatuated as to this man, as to consider his downfall as calamitous to the cause of liberty. In their indignation against England which is just, they seem to consider all her enemies as our friends, when it is well known there was not a being on earth who bore us so deadly a hatred. In fact, he saw nothing in this world but himself, and looked on the people under him as his cattle, beasts for burthen and slaughter. Promises cost him nothing when they could serve his purpose. On his return from Elba, what did he not promise? But those who had credited them a little, soon saw their total insignificance, and, satisfied they could not fall under worse hands, refused every effort after the defeat of Waterloo. Their present sufferings will have a term; his iron despotism would have had none. France has now a family of fools at its head, from whom, whenever it can shake off its foreign riders, it will extort a free constitution, or dismount them and establish some other on the solid basis of national right. To whine after this exorcised demon is a disgrace to republicans, and must have arisen either from want of reflection, or the indulgence of passion against principle. If anything I have said could lead them to take correcter views, to rally to the polar principles of genuine republicanism, I could consent that that part of my letter also should go into a newspaper. This I leave to yourself and such candid friends as you may consult. There is one word in the letter, however, which decency towards the allied sovereigns requires should be softened. Instead of despots, call them rulers. The first paragraph, too, of seven or eight lines, must be wholly omitted. Trusting all the rest to your discretion, I salute you with great esteem and respect.
[1 ]Jefferson omitted the paragraph which he bracketed as above, but he sent a transcript of it to Thomas Ritchie, editor of the Richmond Enquirer, with the following letter:
Monticello, January 21, 1816
—In answering the letter of a northern correspondent lately, I indulged in a tirade against a pamphlet recently published in this quarter. On revising my letter, however, I thought it unsafe to commit myself so far to a stranger. I struck out the passage therefore, yet I think the pamphlet of such a character as not to be unknown, or unnoticed by the people of the United States. It is the most bold and impudent stride New England has ever made in arrogating an ascendency over the rest of the Union. The first form of the pamphlet was an address from the Reverend Lyman Beecher, chairman of the Connecticut Society for the education of pious young men for the ministry. Its matter was then adopted and published in a sermon by Reverend Mr. Pearson of Andover in Massachusetts, where they have a theological college; and where the address ‘with circumstantial variations to adapt it to more general use’ is reprinted on a sheet and a half of paper, in so cheap a form as to be distributed, I imagine, gratis, for it has a final note indicating six thousand copies of the first edition printed. So far as it respects Virginia, the extract of my letter gives the outline. I therefore send it to you to publish or burn, abridge or alter, as you think best. You understand the public palate better than I do. Only give it such a title as may lead to no suspicion from whom you receive it. I am the more induced to offer it to you because it is possible mine may be the only copy in the State, and because, too, it may be à propos for the petition for the establishment of a theological society now before the legislature, and to which they have shown the unusual respect of hearing an advocate for it at their bar. From what quarter this theological society comes forward I know not; perhaps from our own tramontaine clergy, of New England religion and politics; perhaps it is the entering wedge from its theological sister in Andover, for the body of ‘qualified religious instructors’ proposed by their pious brethren of the East ‘to evangelize and catechize,’ to edify our daughters by weekly lectures, and our wives by ‘family visits’ from these pious young monks from Harvard and Yale. However, do with this what you please, and be assured of my friendship and respect.
[1 ]On August 15, 1816, Jefferson wrote to Leroy and Bayard.
Monticello, Aug. 15, 16
—Your favor of the 7th is received, and I shall endeavor to comply as exactly as in my power with the instalments with which Messrs. Van Staphorsts are so kind as to indulge me. My resources are those of a farmer, depending on the produce of my farms, which is usually sold in April or May, but sometimes necessarily on some credit to avoid sacrificing it, which I am sure the kind motives of the loan would spare were these causes at any time to oblige me to overrun the exact day. Accept my thanks for your friendly intermediation in this business and the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
[1 ]Jefferson further wrote to Logan.
Monticello, June 20. 1816
—Your favor of the 5th is now received. I never doubted the purity of your intentions in the publications of which I complained; but the correctness only of committing to the public a private correspondence not intended for their eye. As to federal slanders, I never wished them to be answered, but by the tenor of my life, half a century of which has been on a theatre at which the public have been spectators, and competent judges of it’s merit. Their approbation has taught a lesson, useful to the world, that the man who fears no truths has nothing to fear from lies. I should have fancied myself half guilty had I condescended to put pen to paper in refutation of their falsehoods, or drawn to them respect by any notice from myself. But let all this be forgotten. Knowing now my repugnance to take any part in public discussions, I shall be confident in future of being spared that pain, and avail myself freely of every occasion of renewing to Mrs. Logan and yourself the assurance of my sincere & friendly remembrance, respect and attachment.