Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1818 - TO WILLIAM WIRT - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
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1818 - TO WILLIAM WIRT - 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.
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TO WILLIAM WIRT
Monticello, January 5, 1818
I have first to thank you, dear Sir, for the copy of your late work which you have been so kind as to send me, and then to render you double congratulations, first, on the general applause it has so justly received, and next on the public testimony of esteem for its author, manifested by your late call to the executive councils of the nation. All this I do heartily, and then proceed to a case of business on which you will have to advise the government on the threshold of your office. You have seen the death of General Kosciusko announced in the papers in such a way as not to be doubted. He had in the funds of the United States a very considerable sum of money, on the interest of which he depended for subsistence. On his leaving the United States, in 1798, he placed it under my direction by a power of attorney, which I executed entirely through Mr. Barnes, who regularly remitted his interest. But he left also in my hands an autograph will, disposing of his funds in a particular course of charity, and making me his executor. The question the government will ask of you, and which I therefore ask, is in what court must this will be proved, and my qualification as executor be received, to justify the United States in placing these funds under the trust? This is to be executed wholly in this State, and will occupy so long a course of time beyond what I can expect to live, that I think to propose to place it under the Court of Chancery. The place of probate generally follows the residence of the testator. That was in a foreign country in the present case. Sometimes the bona notabilia. The evidences or representations of these (the certificates) are in my hands. The things represented (the money) in those of the United States. But where are the United States? Everywhere, I suppose, where they have government or property liable to the demand on payment. That is to say, in every State of the Union, in this, for example, as well as any other, strengthened by the circumstances of the deposit of the will, the residence of the executor, and the place where the trust is to be executed. In no instance, I believe, does the mere habitation of the debtor draw to it the place of probate, and if it did, the United States are omnipresent by their functionaries, as well as property in every State of the Union. I am led by these considerations to suppose our district or general court competent to the object; but you know best, and by your advice, sanctioned by the Secretary of the Treasury, I shall act. I write to the Secretary on this subject. If our district court will do, I can attend it personally; if the general court only be competent, I am in hopes it will find means of dispensing with my personal attendance. I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.
TO JOSEPH C. CABELL1
Monticello, Jan. 14, 1818
—When on the 6th inst. I was answering yours of Dec. 29, I was so overwhelmed with letters to be answered, that I could not take time to notice the objection stated, “that it was apprehended that neither the people, nor their representatives, would agree to the plan of assessment on the wards for the expenses of the ward schools.” I suppose that this is meant the “pecuniary expense of wages to the tutor”; for, as to what the people are to do, or to contribute in kind, every one who knows the situation of our people in the country, knows it will not be felt. The building the long houses will employ the laborers of the ward three or four days in every 20 years. The contributions for subsistence, if averaged on the families, would be 8 or 9 lbs. of pork, and a half a bushel of corn for a family of middling circumstances—not more than 2 days subsistence of the family and its stock—and less in proportion as it could spare less. There is not a family in the country so poor as to feel this contribution. It must then be the assessment of the pecuniary contribution which is thought so formidable an addition to the property tax we now pay to the state that “neither the people, nor their representatives would agree to.” Now, let us look this objection in the face, and bring it to the unerring test of figures;—premising that this pecuniary tax is to be of 150 dollars on a ward.
Not possessing the documents which would give me the numbers to be quoted, correctly to a unit, I shall use round numbers, so near the truth, that with the further advantage of facilitating our calculations as we go a long, they will make no sensible error in the result. I will proceed therefore on the following postulates, and on the ground that there are in the whole state 100 counties and cities.
Let us then proceed on these data, to compare the expense of the proposed and of the existing system of primary schools. I have always supposed that the wards should be laid off as to comprehend the number of inhabitants necessary to furnish a captains company of militia. This is before stated at 500 persons of all ages and sexes. From the tables of mortality (Buffon’s) we find that where there are 500 persons of all ages and sexes, there will always be 14 in their 10th year, 13 and a fraction in their 11th, and 13 in their 12th year; so that the children of these three years (which are those that ought to be devoted to the elementary schools) will be a constant number of 40; about enough to occupy one teacher constantly. His wages of $150, partitioned on these 40, make their teaching cost $3½ a-piece, annually. If we reckon as many heads of families in a ward as there are militia (as I think we may, the unmarried militia men balancing, in numbers, the married and unmarried exempts) $150 on 67 heads of families (if levied equally) would be $2.24 on each. At the same time the property tax on the ward being $5000÷12, or $416, and that again subdivided on 67 heads of families (if it were levied equally) would be $6.20 on a family of middling circumstances, the tax which it now pays to the state. So that to $6.20, the present state tax, the school tax, would add $2.24, which is about 36 cents to the dollar, or one third to the present property tax: and to the whole state would be $150 × 1200 wards equal to $180,000 of tax added to the present $500,000.
Now let us see what the present primary schools cost us, on the supposition that all the children of 10, 11 and 12 years old are, as they ought to be, at school: and if they are not, so much the worse is the system: for they will be untaught, and their ignorance and vices will, in future life cost us much dearer in their consequences, than it would have done, in their correction, by a good education.
I am here at a loss to say what is now paid to our English elementary schools, generally, through the state. In my own neighborhood, those who formerly received from 20s to 30s a scholar, now have from 20 to 30 dollars; and having no other information to go on, I must use my own numbers, the result of which, however, will be easily corrected, and accomodated to the average price through the state, when ascertained; and will yet, I am persuaded, leave abundance of difference between the two systems.
Taking a medium of $25, the 40 pupils in each ward now cost $1000 a year, instead of $150, or $15 on a family, instead of $2.24; and 1200 wards cost to the whole state $1,200,000 of tax, in addition to the present $500,000 instead of $180,000 only; producing a difference of $1,020,000 in favor of the ward system, more than doubling the present tax, instead of adding one third only, and should the price of tuition, which I have adopted from that in my own neighborhood, be much above the average thro’ the state, yet no probable correction will bring the two systems near a level.
But take into consideration, also, the important difference, that the $1,200,000 are now paid by the people as a poll tax, the poor having as many children as the rich, and paying the whole tuition money themselves; whereas, on the proposed ward levies the poor man would pay in proportion to his hut and peculium only, which the rich would pay on their palaces and principalities. It cannot, then be that the people will not agree to have their tuition tax lightened by levies on the ward rather than on themselves; and as little believe that their “representatives” will disagree to it; for even the rich will pay less than they do now. The portion of the $180,000, which, on the ward system, they will pay for the education of the poor as well as of their own children, will not be as much as they now pay for their own alone.
And will the wealthy individual have no retribution? and what will this be? 1. The peopling his neighborhood with honest, useful and enlightened citizens, understanding their own rights and firm in their perpetuation. 2. When his own descendants became poor, which they generally do within three generations, (no law of Primogeniture now perpetuating wealth in the same families) their children will be educated by the then rich, and the little advance he now makes to poverty, while rich himself, will be repaid by the then rich, to his descendants when become poor, and thus give them a chance of rising again. This is a solid consideration, and should go home to the bosom of every parent. This will be seed sowed in fertile ground. It is a provision for his family looking to distant times, and far in duration beyond that he has now in hand for them. Let every man count backwards in his own family, and see how many generations he can go, before he comes to the ancestor who made the fortune he now holds. Most will be stopped at the first generation, many at the 2d, few will reach the third, and not one in the state go beyond the 5th.
I know that there is much prejudice, even among the body of the people, against the expense and even the practicability of a sufficient establishment of elementary schools, but I think it proceeds from vague ideas on a subject they have never brought to the test of facts and figures; but our representatives will fathom its depths, and the people could and would do the same, if the facts and considerations belonging to the subject were presented to their minds and their subsequent as certainly as their previous approbation, would be secured.
But if the whole expense of the elementary schools, wages, subsistence and buildings are to come from the literary fund, and if we are to wait until that fund shall be accumulated to the requisite amount, we justly fear that some one unlucky legislature will intervene within the time, charge the whole appropriation to the lightening of taxes, and leave us where we now are.
There is, however, an intermediate measure which might bring the two plans together. If the literary fund be of one and a half million of dollars, take the half million for the colleges and university, it will establish them meagrely and make a deposite of the remaining million. Its interest of $60,000 will give $50 a year to each ward, towards the teacher’s wages, and reduce the tax to 24 instead of 36 cents to the dollar; and as the literary fund continues to accumulate give one-third of the increase to the colleges and university and two-thirds to the ward schools. The increasing interest of this last portion will be continually lessening the school tax, until it will extinguish it altogether; the subsistence and buildings remaining always to be furnished by the ward in kind.
A system of general instruction, which shall reach every description of our citizens from the richest to the poorest, as it was the earliest, so will it be the latest of all the public concerns in which I shall permit myself to take an interest. Nor am I tenacious of the form in which it shall be introduced. Be that what it may, our descendants will be as wise as we are, and will know how to amend and amend it, until it shall suit their circumstances. Give it to us, then in any shape, and receive for the inestimable boon the thanks of the young and the blessings of the old, who are past all other services but prayers for the prosperity of their country and blessings for those who promote it.
TO DR. BENJAMIN WATERHOUSE
Monticello, March 3, 1818
—I have just received your favor of February 20th, in which you observe that Mr. Wirt, on page 47 of his Life of Patrick Henry, quotes me as saying that “Mr. Henry certainly gave the first impulse to the ball of revolution.” I well recollect to have used some such expression in a letter to him, and am tolerably certain that our own State being the subject under contemplation, I must have used it with respect to that only. Whether he has given it a more general aspect I cannot say, as the passage is not in the page you quote, nor, after thumbing over much of the book, have I been able to find it.1 In page 417 there is something like it, but not the exact expression, and even there it may be doubted whether Mr. Wirt had his eye on Virginia alone, or on all the colonies. But the question, who commenced the revolution? is as difficult as that of the first inventors of a thousand good things. For example, who first discovered the principle of gravity? Not Newton; for Galileo, who died the year that Newton was born, had measured its force in the descent of gravid bodies. Who invented the Lavoiserian chemistry? The English say Dr. Black, by the preparatory discovery of latent heat. Who invented the steamboat? Was it Gerbert, the Marquis of Worcester, Newcomen, Savary, Papin, Fitch, Fulton? The fact is, that one new idea leads to another, that to a third, and so on through a course of time until some one, with whom no one of these ideas was original, combines all together, and produces what is justly called a new invention. I suppose it would be as difficult to trace our revolution to its first embryo. We do not know how long it was hatching in the British cabinet before they ventured to make the first of the experiments which were to develop it in the end and to produce complete parliamentary supremacy. Those you mention in Massachusetts as preceding the stamp act, might be the first visible symptoms of that design. The proposition of that act in 1764, was the first here. Your opposition, therefore, preceded ours, as occasion was sooner given there than here, and the truth, I suppose, is, that the opposition in every colony began whenever the encroachment was presented to it. This question of priority is as the inquiry would be who first, of the three hundred Spartans, offered his name to Leonidas? I shall be happy to see justice done to the merits of all, by the unexceptionable umpirage of date and facts, and especially from the pen which is proposed to be employed in it.
I rejoice, indeed, to learn from you that Mr. Adams retains the strength of his memory, his faculties, his cheerfulness, and even his epistolary industry. This last is gone from me. The aversion has been growing on me for a considerable time, and now, near the close of seventy-five, is become almost insuperable. I am much debilitated in body, and my memory sensibly on the wane. Still, however, I enjoy good health and spirits, and am as industrious a reader as when a student at college. Not of newspapers. These I have discarded. I relinquish, as I ought to do, all intermeddling with public affairs, committing myself cheerfully to the watch and care of those for whom, in my turn I have watched and cared. When I contemplate the immense advances in science and discoveries in the arts which have been made within the period of my life, I look forward with confidence to equal advances by the present generation, and have no doubt they will consequently be as much wiser than we have been as we than our fathers were, and they than the burners of witches. Even the metaphysical contest, which you so pleasantly described to me in a former letter, will probably end in improvement, by clearing the mind of Platonic mysticism and unintelligible jargon. Although age is taking from me the power of communicating by letter with my friends as industriously as heretofore, I shall still claim with them the same place they will ever hold in my affections, and on this ground I, with sincerity and pleasure, assure you of my great esteem and respect.
TO NATHANIEL BURWELL
Monticello, March 14, 1818
—Your letter of February 17th found me suffering under an attack of rheumatism, which has but now left me at sufficient ease to attend to the letters I have received. A plan of female education has never been a subject of systematic contemplation with me. It has occupied my attention so far only as the education of my own daughters occasionally required. Considering that they would be placed in a country situation, where little aid could be obtained from abroad, I thought it essential to give them a solid education, which might enable them, when become mothers, to educate their own daughters, and even to direct the course for sons, should their fathers be lost, or incapable, or inattentive. My surviving daughter accordingly, the mother of many daughters as well as sons, has made their education the object of her life, and being a better judge of the practical part than myself, it is with her aid and that of one of her élèves that I shall subjoin a catalogue of the books for such a course of reading as we have practiced.
A great obstacle to good education is the inordinate passion prevalent for novels, and the time lost in that reading which should be instructively employed. When this poison infects the mind, it destroys its tone and revolts it against wholesome reading. Reason and fact, plain and unadorned, are rejected. Nothing can engage attention unless dressed in all the figments of fancy, and nothing so bedecked comes amiss. The result is a bloated imagination, sickly judgment, and disgust towards all the real businesses of life. This mass of trash, however, is not without some distinction; some few modelling their narratives, although fictitious, on the incidents of real life, have been able to make them interesting and useful vehicles of a sound morality. Such, I think, are Marmontel’s new moral tales, but not his old ones, which are really immoral. Such are the writings of Miss Edgeworth, and some of those of Madame Genlis. For a like reason, too, much poetry should not be indulged. Some is useful for forming style and taste. Pope, Dryden, Thompson, Shakspeare, and of the French, Molière, Racine, the Corneilles, may be read with pleasure and improvement.
The French language, become that of the general intercourse of nations, and from their extraordinary advances, now the depository of all science, is an indispensable part of education for both sexes. In the subjoined catalogue, therefore, I have placed the books of both languages indifferently, according as the one or the other offers what is best.
The ornaments too, and the amusements of life, are entitled to their portion of attention. These, for a female, are dancing, drawing, and music. The first is a healthy exercise, elegant and very attractive for young people. Every affectionate parent would be pleased to see his daughter qualified to participate with her companions, and without awkwardness at least, in the circles of festivity, of which she occasionally becomes a part. It is a necessary accomplishment, therefore, although of short use, for the French rule is wise, that no lady dances after marriage. This is founded in solid physical reasons, gestation and nursing leaving little time to a married lady when this exercise can be either safe or innocent. Drawing is thought less of in this country than in Europe. It is an innocent and engaging amusement, often useful, and a qualification not to be neglected in one who is to become a mother and an instructor. Music is invaluable where a person has an ear. Where they have not, it should not be attempted. It furnishes a delightful recreation for the hours of respite from the cares of the day, and lasts us through life. The taste of this country, too, calls for this accomplishment more strongly than for either of the others.
I need say nothing of household economy, in which the mothers of our country are generally skilled, and generally careful to instruct their daughters. We all know its value, and that diligence and dexterity in all its processes are inestimable treasures. The order and economy of a house are as honorable to the mistress as those of the farm to the master, and if either be neglected, ruin follows, and children destitute of the means of living.
This, Sir, is offered as a summary sketch on a subject on which I have not thought much. It probably contains nothing but what has already occurred to yourself, and claims your acceptance on no other ground than as a testimony of my respect for your wishes, and of my great esteem and respect.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN
Monticello, Apr. 9. 18
—I avail myself as usual of the protection of your cover for my letters that to Cathalan need only be put into the post office; but for that for Appleton I must ask the favor of you to adopt the safest course which circumstances offer. You will have seen by the newspapers that there is a decided ascendancy of the republican party in nearly all the states. Connecticut decidedly so. It is thought the elections of this month in Massachusetts will at length arrange that recreant state on the republican side. Maryland is doubtful, and Delaware only decidedly Anglican; for the term federalist is nearly laid aside, and the distinction begins to be in name, what it always was in fact, that is to say Anglican and American. There are some turbid appearances in Congress. A quondam colleague of yours, who had acquired some distinction and favor in the public eye is throwing it away by endeavouring to obtain his end by rallying an opposition to the administration. This error has already ruined some among us, and will ruin others who do not perceive that it is the steady abuse of power in other governments which renders that of opposition always the popular party. I imagine you receive the newspapers and these will give you everything which I know; so I will only add the assurances of my constant affection & respect.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, May 17, 1818
—I was so unfortunate as not to receive from Mr. Holly’s own hand your favor of January the 28th, being then at my other home. He dined only with my family, and left them with an impression which has filled me with regret that I did not partake of the pleasure his visit gave them. I am glad he is gone to Kentucky. Rational Christianity will thrive more rapidly there than here. They are freer from prejudices than we are, and bolder in grasping at truth. The time is not distant, though neither you nor I shall see it, when we shall be but a secondary people to them. Our greediness for wealth, and fantastical expense, have degraded, and will degrade, the minds of our maritime citizens. These are the peculiar vices of commerce.
I had been long without hearing from you, but I had heard of you through a letter from Doctor Waterhouse. He wrote to reclaim against an expression of Mr. Wirt’s, as to the commencement of motion in the revolutionary ball. The lawyers say that words are always to be expounded secundum subjectam materiem, which, in Mr. Wirt’s case, was Virginia. It would, moreover, be as difficult to say at what moment the Revolution began, and what incident set it in motion, as to fix the moment that the embryo becomes an animal, or the act which gives him a beginning. But the most agreeable part of his letter was that which informed me of your health, your activity, and strength of memory; and the most wonderful, that which assured me that you retained your industry and promptness in epistolary correspondence. Here you have entire advantage over me. My repugnance to the writing table becomes daily and hourly more deadly and insurmountable. In place of this has come on a canine appetite for reading. And I indulge it, because I see in it a relief against the tædium senectutis; a lamp to lighten my path through the dreary wilderness of time before me, whose bourne I see not. Losing daily all interest in the things around us, something else is necessary to fill the void. With me it is reading, which occupies the mind without the labor of producing ideas from my own stock.
I enter into all your doubts as to the event of the revolution of South America. They will succeed against Spain. But the dangerous enemy is within their own breasts. Ignorance and superstition will chain their minds and bodies under religious and military despotism. I do believe it would be better for them to obtain freedom by degrees only; because that would by degrees bring on light and information, and qualify them to take charge of themselves understandingly; with more certainty, if in the meantime, under so much control as may keep them at peace with one another. Surely, it is our duty to wish them independence and self-government, because they wish it themselves, and they have the right, and we none, to choose for themselves, and I wish, moreover, that our ideas may be erroneous, and theirs prove well founded. But these are speculations, my friend, which we may as well deliver over to those who are to see their development. We shall only be lookers on, from the clouds above, as now we look down on the labors, the hurry and bustle of the ants and bees. Perhaps in that supermundane region, we may be amused with seeing the fallacy of our own guesses, and even the nothingness of those labors which have filled and agitated our own time here.
En attendant, with sincere affections to Mrs. Adams and yourself, I salute you both cordially.
TO ARCHIBALD STUART1
Monticello, May 28. 18
—Our fathers taught us an excellent maxim “never to put off to tomorrow what you can do today.” By some of their degenerate sons this has been reversed by never doing today what we can put off to tomorrow. For example I have been more than a year intending to send you a Merino ram, next week, and week after week it has been put off still to next week, which, like tomorrow was never present. I now however send you one of full blood, born of my imported ewe of the race called Aquerres, by the imported ram of the Paular race which belonged to the Prince of peace, was sold by order of the Junto of Estremadura, was purchased and sent to me 1810, by Mr Jarvis our Consul at Lisbon. The Paular’s are deemed the finest race in Spain for size & wool taken together, the aquerres superior to all in wool, but small.—Supposing the season with you has not yet given you peas, the opportunity has inticed me to send you a mess. I have not yet communicated your hospitable message to Mr. Madison but shall soon have an opportunity of doing it. To my engagement I must annex a condition that in case of an adjournment to Charlottesville you make Monticello your headquarters. But in my opinion we should not adjourn at all, and to any other place rather than either of those in competition. I think the opinion of the legislature strongly implied in their avoiding both these places, and calling us to one between both. My own opinion will be against any adjournment, as long as we can get bread & water & a floor to lie on at the gap & particularly against one Westwardly, because there we shall want water. But my information is that we shall be tolerably off at the Gap. That they have 40 lodging rooms and are now making ample preparations. A waggon load of beds has passed thro’ Charlottesville, which at that season however we shall not need. I will certainly however pay you a visit, probably on the day after our meeting (Sunday) as we shall not yet have entered on business. Be so good as to present my respects to Mrs Stuart and to be assured of my constant friendship.
TO GENERAL JAMES WILKINSON
Monticello, June 25. 18
—A life so much employed in public as yours has been, must subject you often to be appealed to for facts by those whom they concern. An occasion occurs to myself of asking this kind of aid from your memory & documents. The posthumous volume of Wilson’s Ornithology, altho’ published some time since, never happened to be seen by me until a few days ago. In the account of his life, prefixed to that volume his biographer indulges himself in a bitter invective against me, as having refused to employ Wilson on Pike’s expedition to the Arkansas, on which particularly he wished to have been employed. On turning to my papers I have not a scrip of a pen on the subject of that expedition which convinces me that it was not one of those which emanated from myself: and if a decaying memory does not deceive me I think that it was ordered by yourself from St. Louis, while Governor and military commander there; that it was an expedition for reconnoitring the Indian and Spanish positions which might be within striking distance; that so far from being an expedition admitting a leisurely and scientific examination of the natural history of the country, it’s movements were to be on the alert, & too rapid to be accommodated to the pursuits of scientific men; that if previously communicated to the Executive, it was not in time for them, from so great a distance, to have joined scientific men to it; nor is it probable it could be known at all to Mr. Wilson and to have excited his wishes and expectations to join it. If you will have the goodness to consult your memory and papers on this subject, & to write me the result you will greatly oblige me.
My retirement placed me at once in a state of such pleasing freedom and tranquility, that I determined never more to take any concern in public affairs, but to consider myself merely as a passenger in the public vessel, placed under the pilotage of others, in whom too my confidence was entire. I therefore discontinued all correspondence on public subjects, and was satisfied to hear only so much as true or false, as a newspaper or two could give me. In these I sometimes saw matters of much concern, and particularly that of your retirement. A witness myself of the merit of your services while I was in a situation to know and to feel their benefit, I made no enquiry into the circumstances which terminated them, whether moving from yourself or others. With the assurance however that my estimate of their value remains unaltered, I pray you to accept that of my great and continued esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD
|imported in bottles, per gallon||70 cents|
|when imported otherwise than in bottles||25. cents|
|black bottles, glass, quart, per gross||144. cents|
If a cask of wine then is imported, and the bottles brought empty to put it into, the wine pays 6¼ cents the quart, & the bottles 1. cent, making 7¼ cents a bottle. But if the same wine is put into the same bottles there it pays 15 cents the quart, which is a tax of 7¾ cents (more than doubling the duty) for the act of putting it into the bottle there, where it is so much more skilfully done and contributes so much to the preservation of the wine on it’s passage, for many of the cheap wines will not bear transportation in the cask which stand it well enough in the bottle. This is a further proscription of the light wines, and giving the monopoly of our tables to the strong & alcoholic, such as are all but equivalent in their effects to whisky. It would certainly be much more for the health & temperance of society to encourage the use of the weak, rather than the strong wines. 2. cents a quart first cost, & ½ a cent duty would give us wine at 2½ cents the bottle with the addition of freight & other small charges, which is but half the price of grog.
These, dear Sir, are the thoughts which have long dwelt on my mind, and have given me the more concern as I have the more seen of the loathsome and fatal effects of whisky, destroying the fortunes, the bodies, the minds & morals of our citizens. I suggest them only to you, who can turn them to account if just; without meaning to add the trouble of an answer to the overwhelming labors of your office. In all cases accept the assurance of my sincere esteem & high consideration.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, November 13, 1818
The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement, our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and whom we shall still love and never lose again. God bless you and support you under your heavy affliction.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN
Monticello, November 24, 18
—Your letter of July 22 was most acceptable to me, by the distinctness of the view it presented of the state of France. I rejoice in the propsect that that country will so soon recover from the effects of the depression under which it has been laboring; and especially I rejoice in the hope of its enjoying a government as free as perhaps the state of things will yet bear. It appears to me, indeed, that their constitution, as it now is, gives them a legislative branch more equally representative, more independent, and certainly of more integrity, than the corresponding one in England. Time and experience will give what is still wanting, and I hope they will wait patiently for that without hazarding new convulsions.
Here all is well. The President’s message, delivered a few days ago, will have given you a correct view of the state of our affairs. The capture of Pensacola, which furnished so much speculation for European news-writers (who imagine that our political code, like theirs, had no chapter of morality), was nothing here. In the first moment, indeed, there was a general outcry of condemnation of what appeared to be a wrongful aggression. But this was quieted at once by information that it had been taken without orders and would be instantly restored; and although done without orders, yet not without justifiable cause, as we are assured will be satisfactorily shown. This manifestation of the will of our citizens to countenance no injustice towards a foreign nation filled me with comfort as to our future course.
Emigration to the West and South is going on beyond anything imaginable. The President told me lately that the sales of public lands within the last year would amount to ten millions of dollars. There is one only passage in his message which I disapprove, and which I trust will not be approved by our legislature. It is that which proposes to subject the Indians to our laws without their consent. A little patience and a little money are so rapidly producing their voluntary removal across the Mississippi, that I hope this immorality will not be permitted to stain our history. He has certainly been surprised into this proposition, so little in concord with our principles of government.
My strength has been sensibly declining the last few years, and my health greatly broken by an illness of three months, from which I am but now recovering. I have been able to get on horseback within these three or four days, and trust that my convalescence will now be steady. I am to write you a letter on the subject of my friend Cathalan, a very intimate friend of three and thirty years’ standing, and a servant of the United States of near forty years. I am aware that his office is coveted by another, and suppose it possible that intrigue may have been employed to get him removed. But I know him too well not to pronounce him incapable of such misconduct as ought to overweigh the long course of his services to the United States. I confess I should feel with great sensibility a disgrace inflicted on him at this period of life. But on this subject I must write to you more fully when I shall have more strength, for as yet I sit at the writing table with great pain.
I am obliged to usurp the protection of your cover for my letters—a trouble, however, which will be rare hereafter. My package is rendered more bulky on this occasion by a book I transmit for M. Tracy. It is a translation of his Economie politique, which we have made and published here in the hope of advancing our countrymen somewhat in that science; the most profound ignorance of which threatened irreparable disaster during the late war, and by the parasite institutions of banks is now consuming the public industry. The flood with which they are deluging us of nominal money has placed us completely without any certain measure of value, and, by interpolating a false measure, is deceiving and ruining multitudes of our citizens.
I hope your health, as well as Mrs. Gallatin’s, continues good, and that whether you serve us there or here, you will long continue to us your services. Their value and their need are fully understood and appreciated. I salute you with constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO ROBERT WALSH
Monticello, December 4, 1818
—Yours of November the 8th has been some time received; but it is in my power to give little satisfaction as to its inquiries. Dr. Franklin had many political enemies, as every character must, which, with decision enough to have opinions, has energy and talent to give them effect on the feelings of the adversary opinion. These enmities were chiefly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In the former, they were merely of the proprietary party. In the latter, they did not commence till the Revolution, and then sprung chiefly fom personal animosities, which spreading by little and little, became at length of some extent. Dr. Lee was his principal calumniator, a man of much malignity, who, besides enlisting his whole family in the same hostility, was enabled, as the agent of Massachusetts with the British government, to infuse it into that State with considerable effect. Mr. Izard, the Doctor’s enemy also, but from a pecuniary transaction, never countenanced these charges against him. Mr. Jay, Silas Deane, Mr. Laurens, his colleagues also, ever maintained towards him unlimited confidence and respect. That he would have waived the formal recognition of our independence, I never heard on any authority worthy notice. As to the fisheries, England was urgent to retain them exclusively, France neutral, and I believe, that had they been ultimately made a sine quâ non, our commissioners (Mr. Adams excepted) would have relinquished them, rather than have broken off the treaty. To Mr. Adams’ perseverance alone, on that point, I have always understood we were indebted for their reservation. As to the charge of subservience to France, besides the evidence of his friendly colleagues before named, two years of my own service with him at Paris, daily visits, and the most friendly and confidential conversation, convince me it had not a shadow of foundation. He possessed the confidence of that government in the highest degree, insomuch, that it may truly be said, that they were more under his influence, than he under theirs. The fact is, that his temper was so amiable and conciliatory, his conduct so rational, never urging impossibilities, or even things unreasonably inconvenient to them, in short, so moderate and attentive to their difficulties, as well as our own, that what his enemies called subserviency, I saw was only that reasonable disposition, which, sensible that advantages are not all to be on one side, yielding what is just and liberal, is the more certain of obtaining liberality and justice. Mutual confidence produces, of course, mutual influence, and this was all which subsisted between Dr. Franklin and the government of France.
I state a few anecdotes of Dr. Franklin,1 within my own knowledge, too much in detail for the scale of Delaplaine’s work, but which may find a cadre in some of the more particular views you contemplate. My health is in a great measure restored, and our family join with me in affectionate recollections and assurances of respect.
[1 ]From Niles’s Register, vol. xiv., p. 174.
[1 ]It was on page 41.
[1 ]From the original in the possession of the Virginia Historical Society.
[1 ]“Our revolutionary process as is well known, commenced by petitions, memorials, remonstrances &c. from the old Congress. These were followed by a non-importation agreement, as a pacific instrument of coercion. While that was before us, and sundry exceptions, as of arms, ammunition &c. were moved from different quarters of the house, I was sitting by Dr. Franklin and observed to him that I thought we should except books: that we ought not to exclude science, even coming from an enemy. He thought so too, and I proposed the exception, which was agreed to. Soon after it occured that medicine should be excepted, & I suggested that also to the Doctor. ‘As to that,’ said he ‘I will tell you a story. When I was in London, in such a year, there was a weekly club of Physicians, of which St. John Pringle was President, and I was invited by my friend Dr. Fothergill to attend when convenient. Their rule was to propose a thesis one week, and discuss it the next. I happened there when the question to be considered was whether Physicians had, on the whole, done most good or harm? The young members, particularly, having discussed it very learnedly and eloquently till the subject was exhausted, one of them observed to St. John Pringle, that, altho’ it was not usual for the President to take part in a debate, yet they were desirous to know his opinion on the question. He said, they must first tell him whether, under the appellation of Physicians, they meant to include old women; if they did, he thought they had done more good than harm, otherwise more harm than good.’
“The confederation of the States, while on the carpet before the old Congress, was strenuously opposed by the smaller states, under apprehensions that they would be swallowed up by the larger ones. We were long engaged in the discussion; it produced great heats, much ill humor, and intemperate declarations from some members. Dr. Franklin at length brought the debate to a close with one of his little apologues. He observed that ‘at the time of the Union of England & Scotland, the Duke of Argyle was most violently opposed to that measure, and among other things predicted that, as the whale had swallowed Jonas, so Scotland would be swallowed by England. However,’ said the Doctor, ‘when Ld. Bute came into the government, he soon brought into it’s administration so many of his countrymen that it was found in event that Jonas swallowed the whale.’ This little story produced a general laugh, restored good humor, & the Article of difficulty was passed.
“When Dr. Franklin went to France on his revolutionary mission, his eminence as a philosopher, his venerable appearance, and the cause on which he was sent, rendered him extremely popular. For all ranks and conditions of men there, entered warmly into the American interest. He was therefore feasted and invited to all the court parties. At these he sometimes met the old Duchess of Bourbon, who being a chess player of about his force, they very generally played together. Happening once to put her king into prise, the Doctor took it. ‘Ah,’ says she, ‘we do not take kings so.’ ‘We do in America,’ said the Doctor.
“At one of these parties, the emperor Joseph II, then at Paris, incog. under the title of Count Falkenstein, was overlooking the game, in silence, while the company was engaged in animated conversations on the American question. ‘How happens it M. le Comte,’ said the Duchess, ‘that while we all feel so much interest in the cause of the Americans, you say nothing for them’? ‘I am a king by trade,’ said he.
“When the Declaration of Independence was under the consideration of Congress, there were two or three unlucky expressions in it which gave offence to some members. The words ‘Scotch and other foreign auxiliaries’ excited the ire of a gentleman or two of that country. Severe strictures on the conduct of the British king, in negativing our repeated repeals of the law which permitted the importation of slaves, were disapproved by some Southern gentlemen whose reflections were not yet matured to the full abhorrence of that traffic. Altho’ the offensive expressions were immediately yielded, these gentlemen continued their depredations on other parts of the instrument. I was sitting by Dr. Franklin who perceived that I was not insensible to these mutilations. ‘I have made it a rule,’ said he ‘whenever in my power, to avoid becoming the draughtsman of papers to be reviewed by a public body. I took my lesson from an incident which I will relate to you. When I was a journeyman printer, one of my companions, an apprentice Hatter, having served out his time, was about to open shop for himself, his first concern was to have a handsome signboard, with a proper inscription. He composed it in these words “John Thompson, Hatter, makes and sells hats for ready money,” with a figure of a hat subjoined. But he thought he would submit it to his friends for their amendments. The first he shewed it to thought the word “Hatter” tautologous, because followed by the words “makes hats” which shew he was a Hatter. It was struck out. The next observed that the word “makes” might as well be omitted, because his customers would not care who made the hats. If good & to their mind, they would buy by whomsoever made. He struck it out. A third said he thought the words “for ready money,” were useless as it was not the custom of the place to sell on credit. Every one who purchased expected to pay. They were parted with, and the inscription now stood “John Thompson sells hats.” “sells hats” says his next friend? “Why nobody will expect you to give them away. What then is the use of that word?” It was stricken out, and “hats” followed it,—the rather as there was one painted on the board. So his inscription was reduced ultimately to “John Thompson” with the figure of a hat subjoined.’
“The Doctor told me, at Paris, the two following anecdotes of Abbe Raynal. He had a party to dine with him one day at Passy of whom one half were Americans, the other half French & among the last was the Abbe. During the dinner he got on his favorite theory of the degeneracy of animals and even of man, in America, and urged it with his usual eloquence. The Doctor at length noticing the accidental stature and positions of his guests, at table, ‘Come’ says he, ‘M. L’Abbe, let us try this question by the fact before us. We are here one half Americans, & one half French, and it happens that the Americans have placed themselves on one side of the table, and our French friends are on the other. Let both parties rise and we will see on which side nature has degenerated.’ It happened that his American guests were Carmichael, Harmer, Humphreys and others of the finest stature and form, while those of the other side were remarkably diminutive, and the Abbe himself particularly was a mere shrimp. He parried the appeal however, by a complimentary admission of exceptions, among which the Doctor himself was a conspicuous one.
“The Doctor & Silas Deane were in conversation one day at Passy on the numerous errors in the Abbe’s Historie des deux Indes, when he happened to step in. After the usual salutations, Silas Deane said to him ‘The Doctor and myself Abbe, were just speaking of the errors of fact into which you have been led in your history.’ ‘Oh no, Sir,’ said the Abbe, ‘that is impossible. I took the greatest care not to insert a single fact, for which I had not the most unquestionable authority.’ ‘Why,’ says Deane, ‘there is the story of Polly Baker, and the eloquent apology you have put into her mouth, when brought before a court of Massachusetts to suffer punishment under a law, which you cite, for having had a bastard. I know there never was such a law in Massachusetts.’ ‘Be assured,’ said the Abbe, ‘you are mistaken, and that that is a true story. I do not immediately recollect indeed the particular information on which I quote it, but I am certain that I had for it unquestionable authority.’ Doctor Franklin who had been for some time shaking with restrained laughter at the Abbe’s confidence in his authority for that tale, said, ‘I will tell you, Abbe, the origin of that story. When I was a printer and editor of a newspaper, we were sometimes slack of news, and to amuse our customers, I used to fill up our vacant columns with anecdotes, and fables, and fancies of my own, and this of Polly Baker is a story of my making, on one of those occasions.’ The Abbe without the least disconcert, exclaimed with a laugh, ‘Oh, very well, Doctor, I had rather relate your stories than other men’s truths.’”