Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1821 - TO JAMES MADISON - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
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1821 - TO JAMES MADISON - 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 JAMES MADISON
Monticello, Jan. 13, 21
—I return you Mr. Coxe’s letter without saying I have read it. I made out enough to see that it was about the Missouri question, and the printed papers told me on which side he was. Could I have devoted a day to it, by interlining the words as I could pick them out, I might have got at more. The lost books of Livy or Tacitus might be worth this. Our friend would do well to write less and write plainer.
I am sorry to hear of the situation of your family, and the more so as that species of fever is dangerous in the hands of our medical boys. I am not a physician & still less a quack but I may relate a fact. While I was at Paris, both my daughters were taken with what we formerly called a nervous fever, now a typhus, distinguished very certainly by a thread-like pulse, low, quick and every now and then fluttering. Dr. Gem, an English physician, old, & of great experience, & certainly the ablest I ever met with, attended them. The one was about 5. or 6. weeks ill, the other 10. years old was 8. or ten weeks. He never gave them a single dose of physic. He told me it was a disease which tended with certainty to wear itself off, but so slowly that the strength of the patient might first fail if not kept up. That this alone was the object to be attended to by nourishment and stimulus. He forced them to eat a cup of rice, or panada, or gruel, or of some of the farinaceous substances of easy digestion every 2. hours and to drink a glass of Madeira. The youngest took a pint of Madeira a day without feeling it, and that for many weeks. For costiveness, injections were used; and he observed that a single dose of medicine taken into the stomach and consuming any of the strength of the patient was often fatal. He was attending a grandson of Mme. Helvetius, of 10 years old, at the same time, & under the same disease. The boy got so low that the old lady became alarmed and wished to call in another physician for consultation. Gem consented, that physician gave a gentle purgative, but it exhausted what remained of strength, and the patient expired in a few hours.
I have had this fever in my family 3. or 4. times since I have lived at home, and have carried between 20. & 30. patients thro’ it without losing a single one, by a rigorous observance of Dr. Gem’s plan and principle. Instead of Madeira I have used toddy of French brandy about as strong as Madeira. Brown preferred this stimulus to Madeira. I rarely had a case, if taken in hand early, to last above 1. 2. or 3. weeks, except a single one of 7. weeks, in whom when I thought him near his last, I discovered a change in his pulse to regularity, and in 12. hours he was out of danger. I vouch for these facts only, not for their theory. You may on their authority, think it expedient to try a single case before it has shewn signs of danger.
TO FRANCIS EPPES
Monticello, January 19, 1821
—Your letter of the 1st came safely to hand. I am sorry you have lost Mr. Elliot, however the kindness of Dr. Cooper will be able to keep you in the track of what is worthy of your time.
You ask my opinion of Lord Bolingbroke and Thomas Paine. They are alike in making bitter enemies of the priests and pharisees of their day. Both were honest men; both advocates for human liberty. Paine wrote for a country which permitted him to push his reasoning to whatever length it would go. Lord Bolingbroke in one restrained by a constitution, and by public opinion. He was called indeed a tory; but his writings prove him a stronger advocate for liberty than any of his countrymen, the whigs of the present day. Irritated by his exile, he committed one act unworthy of him, in connecting himself momentarily with a prince rejected by his country. But he redeemed that single act by his establishment of the principles which proved it to be wrong. These two persons differed remarkably in the style of their writing, each leaving a model of what is most perfect in both extremes of the simple and the sublime. No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language. In this he may be compared with Dr. Franklin; and indeed his Common Sense was, for awhile, believed to have been written by Dr. Franklin, and published under the borrowed name of Paine, who had come over with him from England. Lord Bolingbroke’s, on the other hand, is a style of the highest order. The lofty, rhythmical, full-flowing eloquence of Cicero. Periods of just measure, their members proportioned, their close full and round. His conceptions, too, are bold and strong, his diction copious, polished and commanding as his subject. His writings are certainly the finest samples in the English language, of the eloquence proper for the Senate. His political tracts are safe reading for the most timid religionist, his philosophical, for those who are not afraid to trust their reason with discussions of right and wrong.
You have asked my opinion of these persons, and, to you, I have given it freely. But, remember, that I am old, that I wish not to make new enemies, nor to give offence to those who would consider a difference of opinion as sufficient ground for unfriendly dispositions. God bless you, and make you what I wish you to be.
TO AROHIBALD THWEAT
Monticello, January 19, 1821
—I duly received your favor of the 11th, covering Judge Roane’s letter, which I now return. Of the kindness of his sentiments expressed towards myself I am highly sensible; and could I believe that my public services had merited the approbation he so indulgently bestows, the satisfaction I should derive from it would be reward enough to his wish that I would take a part in the transactions of the present day. I am sensible of my incompetence. For first, I know little about them, having long withdrawn my attention from public affairs, and resigned myself with folded arms to the care of those who are to care for us all. And, next, the hand of time pressing heavily on me, in mind as well as body, leaves to neither sufficient energy to engage in public contentions. I am sensible of the inroads daily making by the federal, into the jurisdiction of its co-ordinate associates, the State governments. The legislative and executive branches may sometimes err, but elections and dependence will bring them to rights. The judiciary branch is the instrument which, working like gravity, without intermission, is to press us at last into one consolidated mass. Against this I know no one who, equally with Judge Roane himself, possesses the power and the courage to make resistance; and to him I look, and have long looked, as our strongest bulwark. If Congress fails to shield the States from dangers so palpable and so imminent, the States must shield themselves, and meet the invader foot to foot. This is already half done by Colonel Taylor’s book; because a conviction that we are right accomplishes half the difficulty of correcting wrong. This book is the most effectual retraction of our government to its original principles which has ever yet been sent by heaven to our aid. Every State in the Union should give a copy to every member they elect, as a standing instruction, and ours should set the example. Accept with Mrs. Thweat the assurance of my affectionate and respectful attachment.1
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, January 22, 1821
I was quite rejoiced, dear Sir, to see that you had health and spirits enough to take part in the late convention of your State, for revising its constitution, and to bear your share in its debates and labors. The amendments of which we have as yet heard, prove the advance of liberalism in the intervening period; and encourage a hope that the human mind will some day get back to the freedom it enjoyed two thousand years ago. This country, which has given to the world the example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also, for as yet it is but nominal with us. The inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice, the freedom asserted by the laws in theory.
Our anxieties in this quarter are all concentrated in the question, what does the Holy Alliance in and out of Congress mean to do with us on the Missouri question? And this, by-the-bye, is but the name of the case, it is only the John Doe or Richard Roe of the ejectment. The real question, as seen in the States afflicted with this unfortunate population, is, are our slaves to be presented with freedom and a dagger? For if Congress has the power to regulate the conditions of the inhabitants of the States, within the States, it will be but another exercise of that power, to declare that all shall be free. Are we then to see again Athenian and Lacedemonian confederacies? To wage another Peloponnesian war to settle the ascendency between them? Or is this the tocsin of merely a servile war? That remains to be seen; but not, I hope, by you or me. Surely, they will parley awhile, and give us time to get out of the way. What a Bedlamite is man? But let us turn from our own uneasiness to the miseries of our southern friends. Bolivar and Morillo, it seems, have come to the parley, with dispositions at length to stop the useless effusion of human blood in that quarter. I feared from the beginning, that these people were not yet sufficiently enlightened for self-government; and that after wading through blood and slaughter, they would end in military tyrannies, more or less numerous. Yet as they wished to try the experiment, I wished them success in it; they have now tried it, and will possibly find that their safest road will be an accommodation with the mother country, which shall hold them together by the single link of the same chief magistrate, leaving to him power enough to keep them in peace with one another, and to themselves the essential power of self-government and self-improvement, until they shall be sufficiently trained by education and habits of freedom, to walk safely by themselves. Representative government, native functionaries, a qualified negative on their laws, with a previous security by compact for freedom of commerce, freedom of the press, habeas corpus and trial by jury, would make a good beginning. This last would be the school in which their people might begin to learn the exercise of civil duties as well as rights. For freedom of religion they are not yet prepared. The scales of bigotry have not sufficiently fallen from their eyes, to accept it for themselves individually. much less to trust others with it. But that will come in time, as well as a general ripeness to break entirely from the parent stem. You see, my dear Sir, how easily we prescribe for others a cure for their difficulties, while we cannot cure our own. We must leave both, I believe, to heaven, and wrap ourselves up in the mantle of resignation, and of that friendship of which I tender to you the most sincere assurances.
TO GEORGE A. OTIS
Monticello, Feb. 15. 21
—I have just now received your favor of Jan. 30. and confirm, by my belief, Mr. Jay’s criticism on the passages quoted from Botta. I can answer for it’s truth from this state southwardly and Northwardly, I believe, to New York, for which state Mr. Jay is himself a competent witness. What, Eastward of that, might be the dispositions towards England before the commencement of hostilities I know not. Before that I never had heard a whisper of disposition to separate from Great Britain. And after that, it’s possibility was contemplated with affliction by all. Writing is so slow and painful to me that I cannot go into details, but must refer you to Girardin’s history of Virginia pa. 134. and Appendix No. 12, where you will find some evidence of what the sentiment was at the moment, and given at the moment. I salute you with great esteem & respect.
TO JUDGE SPENCER ROANE
Monticello, March 9, 1821
—I am indebted for your favor of February 25th, and especially for your friendly indulgence to my excuses for retiring from the polemical world. I should not shrink from the post of duty, had not the decays of nature withdrawn me from the list of combatants. Great decline in the energies of the body import naturally a corresponding wane of the mind, and a longing after tranquillity as the last and sweetest asylum of age. It is a law of nature that the generations of men should give way, one to another, and I hope that the one now on the stage will preserve for their sons the political blessings delivered into their hands by their fathers. Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them. But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible. We see already germs of this, as might be expected. But we are not the less bound to press against them. The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning-knife; and I doubt not it will be employed; good principles being as yet prevalent enough for that.
The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulphing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them. The recent recall to first principles, however, by Colonel Taylor, by yourself, and now by Alexander Smith, will, I hope, be heard and obeyed, and that a temporary check will be effected. Yet be not weary of well doing. Let the eye of vigilance never be closed.
Last and most portentous of all is the Missouri question. It is smeared over for the present; but its geographical demarcation is indelible. What it is to become, I see not; and leave to those who will live to see it. The University will give employment to my remaining years, and quite enough for my senile faculties. It is the last act of usefulness I can render, and could I see it open I would not ask an hour more of life. To you I hope many will still be given; and, certain they will all be employed for the good of our beloved country, I salute you with sentiments of especial friendship and respect.1
TO SAMUEL H. SMITH
Monticello, Apr. 12. 21
—I received yesterday your favor of the 5th and now inclose for Mr. Barton a letter of introduction to M. de la Fayette, the only personal acquaintance I have, now living in France.
On politics I can say little to you, having withdrawn all attention to them from the day of my retirement. My confidence in both my successors has been so entire, that assured that all was going on for the best under their care I have not enquired what was going on. I am sorry to see our expences greater than our income. Debt & revolution are inseparable as cause and effect. It is the point of peculiar sensibility in our people, and one which they will not long endure. Parties will be arrayed on the principle of reformation, and there can be no doubt which will be the strongest. It would do some good if it would obliterate the geographical division which threatened and still threatens our separation. This last is a most fatal of all divisions as no minority will submit to be governed by a majority acting merely on a geographical principle. It has ever been my creed that the continuance of our union depends entirely on Pennsylve & Virginia, if they hold together nothing North or South will fly off. I firmly believe all the governments of Europe will become representative. The very troops sent to quell the spirit of reformn. in Naples will catch the fever & carry it back to their own country. We owe to all mankind the sacrifice of those morbid passions which would break our confederacy, the only anchor to which the hopes of the world are moored. Our thoughts and conversations are often turned to Mrs. Smith & yourself, and always affectionately. In these sentiments the family now joins me, and in tendering to you our affectionate souvenirs.
TO HENRY DEARBORN
Monticello, August 17, 1821
—Your favor of the 8th came to hand yesterday evening. I hope you will never suppose your letters to be among those which are troublesome to me. They are always welcome, and it is among my great comforts to hear from my ancient colleagues, and to know that they are well. The affectionate recollection of Mrs. Dearborne, cherished by our family, will ever render her health and happiness interesting to them. You are so far astern of Mr. Adams and myself, that you must not yet talk of old age. I am happy to hear of his good health. I think he will outlive us all, I mean the Declaration-men, although our senior since the death of Colonel Floyd. It is a race in which I have no ambition to win. Man, like the fruit he eats, has his period of ripeness. Like that, too, if he continues longer hanging to the stem, it is but an useless and unsightly appendage. I rejoice with you that the State of Missouri is at length a member of our Union. Whether the question it excited is dead, or only sleepeth, I do not know. I see only that it has given resurrection to the Hartford convention men. They have had the address, by playing on the honest feelings of our former friends, to seduce them from their kindred spirits, and to borrow their weight into the federal scale. Desperate of regaining power under political distinctions, they have adroitly wriggled into its seat under the auspices of morality, and are again in the ascendency from which their sins had hurled them. It is indeed of little consequence who governs us, if they sincerely and zealously cherish the principles of union and republicanism.
I still believe that the Western extension of our confederacy will ensure its duration, by overruling local factions, which might shake a smaller association. But whatever may be the merit or demerit of that acquisition, I divide it with my colleagues, to whose counsels I was indebted for a course of administration which, notwithstanding this late coalition of clay and brass, will, I hope, continue to receive the approbation of our country.
The portrait by Stewart was received in due time and good order, and claims, for this difficult acquisition, the thanks of the family, who join me in affectionate souvenirs of Mrs. Dearborne and yourself. My particular salutations to both flow, as ever, from the heart, continual and warm.
TO NATHANIEL MACON
Monticello, Aug. 19. 21
—You have probably seen in the newspapers a letter of mine recommending Colo. Taylor’s book to the notice of our fellow-citizens. I am pelted for it in print, and in letters, also complaining of the unfair use made of it by certain commentators. For this misuse I cannot be responsible. But I inclose to you my answer to one of these letters and place it in your hands as the Depository of old & sound principles and as a record of my protest against this parricide tribunal. There are two measures which if not taken, we are undone. 1st. to check these unconstitutional invasions of state rights by the federal judiciary. How? not by impeachment in the first instance, but by a strong protestation of both houses of Congress that such and such doctrines, advanced by the supreme court, are contrary to the constitution: and if afterwards they relapse into the same heresies, impeach and set the whole adrift. For what was the government divided into three branches, but that each should watch over the others, and oppose their usurpations? 2. To cease borrowing money & to pay off the national debt. If this cannot be done without dismissing the army & putting the ships out of commission, haul them up high and dry, and reduce the army to the lowest point at which it was ever established. There does not exist an engine so corruptive of the government and so demoralizing of the nation as a public debt. It will bring on us more ruin at home than all the enemies from abroad against whom this army and navy are to protect us. What interest have we in keeping ships in service in the Pacific Ocean? To protect a few speculative adventurers in a commerce dealing in nothing in which we have an interest. As if the Atlantic & Mediterranean were not large enough for American capital! As if commerce and not agriculture was the principle of our association! God bless you & long continue your wholesome influence in the public councils.1
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, Sep. 16. 21
—I have no doubt you have occasionally been led to reflect on the character of the duty imposed by Congress on the importation of books. Some few years ago, when the tariff was before Congress, I engaged some of our members of Congress to endeavour to get the duty repealed and wrote on the subject to some other acquaintances in Congress, and pressingly to the Secretary of the treasury. The effort was made by some members with zeal and earnestness, but it failed. The northern colleges are now proposing to make a combined effort for that purpose as you will see by the inclosed extract of a letter from Mr. Ticknor asking the co-operation of the Southern and Western institutions, & of our university particularly. Mr. Ticknor goes so ably into all the considerations justifying this step, that nothing need be added here, & especially to you; and we have only to answer his questions, whether we think with them on the subject of the tax? What should be the extent of the relaxation solicited? What mode of proceeding we think best? And whether we will co-operate in our visitatorial character? I must earnestly request your thoughts on these questions, fearful of answering them unadvisedly, and on my own opinions alone.
I think that another measure, auxiliary to that of petitioning might be employed with great effect. That is for the several institutions, in their corporate capacities, to address letters to their representatives in both houses of Congress, recommending the proposition to their advocation. Such a recommendation would certainly be respected, and might excite to activity those who might otherwise be indifferent and inactive and in this way a great vote, perhaps a majority might be obtained. There is a consideration going to the injustice of the tax which might be added to those noticed by Mr. Ticknor. Books constitute capital. A library book lasts as long as a house, for hundreds of years. It is not then an article of mere consumption but fairly of capital, and often in the case of professional men, setting out in life it is their only capital. Now there is no other form of capital which is first taxed 18. per cent on the gross, and the proprietor then left to pay the same taxes in detail with others whose capital has paid no tax on the gross. Nor is there a description of men less proper to be singled out for extra taxation. Mr. Ticknor, you observe, asks a prompt answer, and I must ask it from you for the additional reason that within about a week, I set out for Bedford to remain there till the approach of winter. Be so good as to return me also the inclosed extract and be assured of my constant & affectionate friendship.
TO MRS. ELIZABETH PAGE1