Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GEORGE TICKNOR - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO GEORGE TICKNOR - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 12.
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO GEORGE TICKNOR
Monticello [May ? 1817.]
I suppose that your friends of Boston furnish you with our domestic news. Improvement is now the general word with us. Canals, roads, education occupy principal attention. A bill which had passed both houses of Congress for beginning these works, was negatived by the President, on constitutional, and I believe, sound grounds; that instrument not having placed this among the enumerated objects to which they are authorized to apply the public contributions. He recommended an application to the states for an extension of their powers to this object, which will I believe be unanimously conceded, & will be a better way of obtaining the end, than by strained constructions, which would loosen all the bands of the constitution. In the mean time the states separately are going on with this work. New York is undertaking the most gigantic enterprise of uniting the waters of L. Erie and the Hudson; Jersey those of the Delaware & Raritan. This state proposes several such works; but most particularly has applied itself to establishments for education, by taking up the plan I proposed to them 40. years ago, which you will see explained in the Notes on Virginia. They have provided for this special object an ample fund, and a growing one. They propose an elementary school in every ward or township, for reading, writing and common arithmetic; a college in every district, suppose of 80. or 100. miles square, for laying the foundations of the sciences in general, to wit, languages, geography & the higher branches of Arithmetic; and a single University embracing every science deemed useful in the present state of the world. This last may very possibly be placed near Charlottesville, which you know is under view from Monticello.
Amid these enlarged measures, the papers tell us of one by the legislature of New York, so much in the opposite direction that it would puzzle us to say in what, the darkest age of the history of bigotry and barbarism, we should find an apt place for it. It is said they have declared by law that all those who hereafter shall join in communion with the religious sect of Shaking quakers, shall be deemed civilly dead, their marriage vows dissolved, and all their children and property taken from them; without any provision for rehabilitation in case of resipiscence. To prove that this departure from the spirit of our institutions is local and I hope merely momentary, Pennsylvania about the same time, rejected a proposition to make the belief in a god a necessary qualification for office, altho’ I presume there was not an Atheist in their body: and I dare say you have heard that when the law for freedom of religion was before the Virginia legislature in which the phrase “the author of our holy religion” happened to be they rejected a proposition to prefix to it the name of “Jesus Christ,” altho certainly a great majority of them considered him as such. Yet they would not undertake to say that for every one. The New York law is so recent that nothing has yet been said about it, & I do imagine if it has been past, their next legislature will repeal it, and make an amende honorable to the general spirit of their confederates. Nothing having yet appeared but the naked act, without signature, or a word of the history of it’s passage, there is room to hope it has been merely an abortive attempt.
P. S. the preceding written some time ago, is now only despatched.