TO THOMAS RITCHIE
Monto. Jan. 7. 22
—I see with much concern in your paper of the 3d that they are endeavoring to compromit me on the subject of the next President. The informn said to come from a gent. from Columbia is totally unfounded, & you will observe that the Augusta Chronicle which cited me as giving an acct. of the same Caucus says not a word of any letter from me. For all of the gentlemen named as subjects of the future election I have the highest esteem and should much regret that they should suppose me to take any part in it. I entirely and decidedly withdraw myself from all intermeddling in matters of this nature. You will oblige me by inserting in your paper some such contribution as below in a form not importing to come directly from myself. It is the more necessary as you seem to have given credit to it. I salute you with frdshp & resp.
TO JEDEDIAH MORSE
Monticello, March 6, 1822
—I have duly received your letter of February the 16th, and have now to express my sense of the honorable station proposed to my ex-brethren and myself, in the constitution of the society for the civilization and improvement of the Indian tribes. The object too, expressed as that of the association, is one which I have ever had much at heart, and never omitted an occasion of promoting while I have been in situations to do it with effect, and nothing, even now, in the calm of age and retirement, would excite in me a more lively interest than an approvable plan of raising that respectable and unfortunate people from the state of physical and moral abjection, to which they have been reduced by circumstances foreign to them. That the plan now proposed is entitled to unmixed approbation, I am not prepared to say, after mature consideration, and with all the partialities which its professed object would rightfully claim from me.
I shall not undertake to draw the line of demarcation between private associations of laudable views and unimposing numbers, and those whose magnitude may rivalize and jeopardize the march of regular government. Yet such a line does exist. I have seen the days, they were those which preceded the revolution, when even this last and perilous engine became necessary; but they were days which no man would wish to see a second time. That was the case where the regular authorities of the government had combined against the rights of the people, and no means of correction remained to them but to organize a collateral power, which, with their support, might rescue and secure their violated rights. But such is not the case with our government. We need hazard no collateral power, which, by a change of its original views, and assumption of others we know not how virtuous or how mischievous, would be ready organized and in force sufficient to shake the established foundations of society, and endanger its peace and the principles on which it is based. Is not the machine now proposed of this gigantic stature? It is to consist of the ex-Presidents of the United States, the Vice President, the Heads of all the Executive departments, the members of the supreme judiciary, the Governors of the several States and territories, all the members of both Houses of Congress, all the general officers of the army, the commissioners of the navy, all Presidents and Professors of colleges and theological seminaries, all the clergy of the United States, the Presidents and Secretaries of all associations having relation to Indians, all commanding officers within or near Indian territories, all Indian superintendents and agents; all these ex officio; and as many private individuals as will pay a certain price for membership. Observe, too, that the clergy will constitute nineteen twentieths of this association, and, by the law of the majority, may command the twentieth part, which, composed of all the high authorities of the United States, civil and military, may be outvoted and wielded by the nineteen parts with uncontrollable power, both as to purpose and process. Can this formidable array be reviewed without dismay? It will be said, that in this association will be all the confidential officers of the government; the choice of the people themselves. No man on earth has more implicit confidence than myself in the integrity and discretion of this chosen band of servants. But is confidence or discretion, or is strict limit, the principle of our constitution? It will comprehend, indeed, all the functionaries of the government; but seceded from their constitutional stations as guardians of the nation, and acting not by the laws of their station, but by those of a voluntary society, having no limit to their purposes but the same will which constitutes their existence. It will be the authorities of the people and all influential characters from among them, arrayed on one side, and on the other the people themselves deserted by their leaders. It is a fearful array. It will be said that these are imaginary fears. I know they are so at present. I know it is as impossible for these agents of our choice and unbounded confidence, to harbor machinations against the adored principles of our constitution, as for gravity to change its direction, and gravid bodies to mount upwards. The fears are indeed imaginary, but the example is real. Under its authority, as a precedent, future associations will arise with objects at which we should shudder at this time. The society of Jacobins, in another country, was instituted on principles and views as virtuous as ever kindled the hearts of patriots. It was the pure patriotism of their purposes which extended their association to the limits of the nation, and rendered their power within it boundless; and it was this power which degenerated their principles and practices to such enormities as never before could have been imagined. Yet these were men, and we and our descendants will be no more. The present is a case where, if ever, we are to guard against ourselves; not against ourselves as we are, but as we may be; for who can now imagine what we may become under circumstances not now imaginable? The object of this institution, seems to require so hazardous an example as little as any which could be proposed. The government is, at this time, going on with the process of civilizing the Indians on a plan probably as promising as any one of us is able to devise, and with resources more competent than we could expect to command by voluntary taxation. Is it that the new characters called into association with those of the government, are wiser than these? Is it that a plan originated by a meeting of private individuals is better than that prepared by the concentrated wisdom of the nation, of men not self-chosen, but clothed with the full confidence of the people? Is it that there is no danger that a new authority, marching, independently, along side of the government, in the same line and to the same object, may not produce collision, may not thwart and obstruct the operations of the government, or wrest the object entirely from their hands? Might we not as well appoint a committee for each department of the government, to counsel and direct its head separately, as volunteer ourselves to counsel and direct the whole, in mass? And might we not do it as well for their foreign, their fiscal, and their military, as for their Indian affairs? And how many societies, auxiliary to the government, may we expect to see spring up, in imitation of this, offering to associate themselves in this and that of its functions? In a word, why not take the government out of its constitutional hands, associate them indeed with us, to preserve a semblance that the acts are theirs, but insuring them to be our own by allowing them a minor vote only?
These considerations have impressed my mind with a force so irresistible, that (in duty bound to answer your polite letter, without which I should not have obtruded an opinion) I have not been able to withhold the expression of them. Not knowing the individuals who have proposed this plan, I cannot be conceived as entertaining personal disrespect for them. On the contrary, I see in the printed list persons for whom I cherish sentiments of sincere friendship, and others, for whose opinions and purity of purpose I have the highest respect. Yet thinking as I do, that this association is unnecessary; that the government is proceeding to the same object under control of the law; that they are competent to it in wisdom, in means, and inclination; that this association, this wheel within a wheel, is more likely to produce collision than aid; and that it is, in its magnitude, of dangerous example; I am bound to say, that, as a dutiful citizen, I cannot in conscience become a member of this society, possessing as it does my entire confidence in the integrity of its views. I feel with awe the weight of opinion to which I may be opposed, and that, for myself, I have need to ask the indulgence of a belief that the opinion I have given is the best result I can deduce from my own reason and experience, and that it is sincerely conscientious. Repeating, therefore, my just acknowledgments for the honor proposed to me, I beg leave to add the assurances to the society and yourself of my highest confidence and consideration.
TO MESSRS. RITCHIE AND GOOCH
Monticello, May 13, 1822
Messrs. Ritchie and Gooch,
—I am thankful to you for the paper you have been so kind as to send me, containing the arraignment of the Presidents of the United States generally, as peculators or accessories to peculation, by an informer who masks himself under the signature of “a Native Virginian.” What relates to myself in this paper, (being his No. VI., and the only No. I have seen,) I had before read in the Federal Republican of Baltimore, of August 28th, which was sent to me by a friend, with the real name of the author. It was published there during the ferment of a warmly-contested election. I considered it, therefore, as an electioneering manœuvre merely, and did not even think it required the trouble of recollecting, after a lapse of thirty-three years, the circumstances of the case in which he charges me with having purloined from the treasury of the United States the sum of $1,148. But as he has thought it worth repeating in his Roll of informations against your Presidents nominally, I shall give the truths of the case, which he has omitted, perhaps because he did not know them, and ventured too inconsiderately to supply them from his own conjectures.
On the return from my mission to France, and joining the government here, in the spring of 1790, I had a long and heavy account to settle with the United States, of the administration of their pecuniary affairs in Europe, of which the superintendence had been confided to me while there. I gave in my account early, but the pressure of other business did not permit the accounting officers to attend to it till October 10th, 1792, when we settled, and a a balance of $888 67 appearing to be due from me, (but erroneously as will be shown,) I paid the money the same day, delivered up my vouchers, and received a certificate of it. But still the articles of my draughts on the bankers could be only provisionally past; until their accounts also should be received to be confronted with mine. And it was not till the 24th of June, 1804, that I received a letter from Mr. Richard Harrison the auditor, informing me “that my accounts, as Minister to France, had been adjusted and closed,” adding, “the bill drawn and credited by you under date of the 21st of October, 1789, for banco florins 2,800, having never yet appeared in any account of the Dutch bankers, stand at your debit only as a provisional charge. If it should hereafter turn out, as I incline to think it will, that this bill has never been negotiated or used by Mr. Grand, you will have a just claim on the public for its value.” This was the first intimation to me that I had too hastily charged myself with that draught. I determined, however, as I had allowed it in my account, and paid up the balance it had produced against me, to let it remain awhile, as there was a possibility that the draught might still be presented by the holder to the bankers; and so it remained till I was near leaving Washington, on my final retirement from the administration in 1809. I then received from the auditor, Mr. Harrison, the following note: “Mr. Jefferson, in his accounts as late Minister to France, credited among other sums, a bill drawn by him on the 21st October, 1789, to the order of Grand & Co., on the bankers of the United States at Amsterdam, f. Banco f. 2,800, equal with agio to current florins 2,870, and which was charged to him provisionally in the official statement made at the Treasury, in the month of October, 1804. But as this bill has not yet been noticed in any account rendered by the bankers, the presumption is strong that it was never negotiated or presented for payment, and Mr. Jefferson, therefore, appears justly entitled to receive the value of it, which, at forty cents the gilder, (the rate at which it was estimated in the abovementioned statement,) amounts to $1,148. Auditor’s office, January 24th, 1809.”
Desirous of leaving nothing unsettled behind me, I drew the money from the treasury, but without any interest, although I had let it lie there twenty years, and had actually on that error paid $888 67, an apparent balance against me, when the true balance was in my favor $259 33. The question then is, how has this happened? I have examined minutely, and can state it clearly.
Turning to my pocket diary I find that on the 21st day of October, 1789, the date of this bill, I was at Cowes in England, on my return to the United States. The entry in my diary is in these words: “1789, October 21st. Sent to Grand & Co., letter of credit on Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard, for 2,800 florins Banco.” And I immediately credited it in my account with the United States in the following words: “1789, October 21. By my bill on Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard, in favor of Grand & Co., for 2,800 florins, equal to 6,230 livres 18 sous.” My account having been kept in livres and sous of France, the auditor settled this sum at the current exchange, making it $1,148. This bill, drawn at Cowes in England, had to pass through London to Paris by the English and French mails, in which passage it was lost, by some unknown accident, to which it was the more exposed in the French mail, by the confusion then prevailing; for it was exactly at the time that martial law was proclaimed at Paris, the country all up in arms, and executions by the mobs were daily perpetrating through town and country. However this may have been, the bill never got to the hands of Grand & Co., was never, of course, forwarded by them to the bankers of Amsterdam, nor anything more ever heard of it. The auditor’s first conjecture then was the true one, that it never was negotiated, nor therefore charged to the United States in any of the bankers’ accounts. I have now under my eye a duplicate furnished me by Grand of his account of that date against the United States, and his private account against myself, and I affirm that he has not noticed this bill in either of these accounts, and the auditor assures us the Dutch bankers had never charged it. The sum of the whole then is, that I drew a bill on the United States bankers, charged myself with it on the presumption it would be paid, that it never was paid however, either by the bankers of the United States, or anybody else. It was surely just then to return me the money I had paid for it. Yet “the Native Virginian” thinks that this act of receiving back the money I had thus through error overpaid, “was a palpable and manifest act of moral turpitude, about which no two honest, impartial men can possibly differ.” I ascribe these hard expressions to the ardor of his zeal for the public good, and as they contain neither argument nor proof, I pass them over without observation. Indeed, I have not been in the habit of noticing these morbid ejections of spleen either with or without the names of those venting them. But I have thought it a duty on the present occasion to relieve my fellow citizens and my country from the degradation in the eyes of the world to which this informer is endeavoring to reduce it by representing it as governed hitherto by a succession of swindlers and peculators. Nor shall I notice any further endeavors to prove or to palliate this palpable misinformation. I am too old and inert to undertake minute investigations of intricate transactions of the last century; and I am not afraid to trust to the justice and good sense of my fellow-citizens on future, as on former attempts to lessen me in their esteem.
I ask of you, gentlemen, the insertion of this letter in your paper; and I trust that the printers who have hazarded the publication of the libel, on anonymous authority, will think that of the answer a moderate retribution of the wrong to which they have been accessory.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, June 1, 1822
It is very long, my dear Sir, since I have written to you. My dislocated wrist is now become so stiff that I write slow and with pain, and therefore write as little as I can. Yet it is due to mutual friendship to ask once in awhile how we do? The papers tell us that General Starke is off at the age of 93. Charles Thomson still lives at about the same age, cheerful, slender as a grasshopper, and so much without memory that he scarcely recognizes the members of his household. An intimate friend of his called on him not long since; it was difficult to make him recollect who he was, and, sitting one hour, he told him the same story four times over. Is this life?
- “With lab’ring step
- To tread our former footsteps? pace the round
- Eternal?—to beat and beat
- The beaten track? to see what we have seen,
- To taste the tasted? o’er our palates to decant
- Another vintage?”
It is at most but the life of a cabbage; surely not worth a wish. When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and athumy, debility and malaise left in their places, when friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not, is death an evil?
- When one by one our ties are torn,
- And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
- When man is left alone to mourn,
- Oh! then how sweet it is to die!
- When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
- And films slow gathering dim the sight,
- When clouds obscure the mental light
- ’T is nature’s kindest boon to die!
I really think so. I have ever dreaded a doting old age; and my health has been generally so good, and is now so good, that I dread it still. The rapid decline of my strength during the last winter has made me hope sometimes that I see land. During summer I enjoy its temperature, but I shudder at the approach of winter, and wish I could sleep through it with the Dormouse, and only wake with him in spring, if ever. They say that Starke could walk about his room. I am told you walk well and firmly. I can only reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue. I ride, however, daily. But reading is my delight. I should wish never to put pen to paper; and the more because of the treacherous practice some people have of publishing one’s letters without leave. Lord Mansfield declared it a breach of trust, and punishable at law. I think it should be a penitentiary felony; yet you will have seen that they have drawn me out into the arena of the newspapers; although I know it is too late for me to buckle on the armor of youth, yet my indignation would not permit me passively to receive the kick of an ass.
To turn to the news of the day, it seems that the Cannibals of Europe are going to eating one another again. A war between Russia and Turkey is like the battle of the kite and snake. Whichever destroys the other, leaves a destroyer the less for the world. This pugnacious humor of mankind seems to be the law of his nature, one of the obstacles to too great multiplication provided in the mechanism of the Universe. The cocks of the henyard kill one another up. Bears, bulls, rams, do the same. And the horse, in his wild state, kills all the young males, until worn down with age and war, some vigorous youth kills him, and takes to himself the Harem of females. I hope we shall prove how much happier for man the Quaker policy is, and that the life of the feeder, is better than that of the fighter; and it is some consolation that the desolation by these maniacs of one part of the earth is the means of improving it in other parts. Let the latter be our office, and let us milk the cow, while the Russian holds her by the horns, and the Turk by the tail. God bless you, and give you health, strength, and good spirits, and as much of life as you think worth having.
TO DOCTOR BENJAMIN WATERHOUSE
Monticello, June 26, 1822
—I have received and read with thankfulness and pleasure your denunciation of the abuses of tobacco and wine. Yet, however sound in its principles, I expect it will be but a sermon to the wind. You will find it as difficult to inculcate these sanative precepts on the sensualities of the present day, as to convince an Athanasian that there is but one God. I wish success to both attempts, and am happy to learn from you that the latter, at least, is making progress, and the more rapidly in proportion as our Platonizing Christians make more stir and noise about it. The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and he all perfect.
2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which he endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.
1. That there are three Gods.
2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.
3. That faith is every thing, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.
4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned; and that no crimes of the former can damn them; no virtues of the latter save.
Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus? Or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.
But much I fear, that when this great truth shall be re-established, its votaries will fall into the fatal error of fabricating formulas of creed and confessions of faith, the engines which so soon destroyed the religion of Jesus, and made of Christendom a mere Aceldama; that they will give up morals for mysteries, and Jesus for Plato. How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in the fundamental doctrines of the gospel, schismatize about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion, any more than of feature, to impair the love of their brethren. Be this the wisdom of Unitarians, this the holy mantle which shall cover within its charitable circumference all who believe in one God, and who love their neighbor! I conclude my sermon with sincere assurances of my friendly esteem and respect.
TO LEROY AND BAYARD
Monticello, July 5. 22
Messrs. Leroy and Bayard,
—Your favor of June 26. is just now received. After the delays of my last bond with which I have been indulged I consider it my bounden duty to obey the call for the principal whenever required. This delay was at first made convenient by the great revolution which took place in our circulating medium some time past; and the continuance of low markets since that period has not yet relieved the scarcity of medium so far as that fixed property can command even the half of what is it’s value in regular times. My own annual income arises from the culture of tobacco and wheat. These articles, from the interior country cannot be got to market till the spring of the year ensuing their growth, and at that season alone the cultivator can pay from his produce. Still if the earlier term of 6. months be necessary for the affairs of the heirs of Mr. Van Staphorst, it shall be complied with by a sale of fixed property, altho’ it will double the debt. If on the other hand, consistently with their convenience, the indulgence can be continued until the ensuing spring, (say till May) it can then be paid without loss, and shall certainly be paid. This however is left to your kind consideration, and your final determination shall be my law, at any loss whatever. With the just acknolegement of the past indulgencies, accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM JOHNSON
Monticello, Oct: 27. 22
—I have deferred my thanks for the copy of your Life of Genl. Greene, until I could have time to read it. This I have done, and with the greatest satisfaction; and can now more understandingly express the gratification it has afforded me. I really rejoice that we have at length a fair history of the Southern war. It proves how much we were left to defend ourselves as we could, while the resources of the Union were so disproportionately devoted to the North. I am glad too to see the Romance of Lee removed from the shelf of History to that of Fable. Some small portion of the transactions he relates were within my own knolege; and of these I can say he has given more falsehood than fact; and I have heard many officers declare the same as to what had passed under their eyes. Yet this book had begun to be quoted as history. Greene was truly a great man, he had not perhaps all the qualities which so peculiarly rendered Genl. Washington the fittest man on earth for directing so great a contest under so great difficulties. Difficulties proceeding not from lukewarmness in our citizens or their functionaries, as our military leaders supposed; but from the pennyless condition of a people, totally shut out from all commerce & intercourse with the world, and therefore without any means for converting their labor into money. But Greene was second to no one in enterprise, in resource, in sound judgment, promptitude of decision, and every other military talent. In addition to the work you have given us, I look forward with anxiety to that you promise in the last paragraph of your book. Lee’s military fable you have put down. Let not the invidious libel on the views of the Republican party, and on their regeneration of the government go down to posterity as hypocritically masked. I was myself too laboriously employed, while in office, and too old when I left it, to do justice to those who had labored so faithfully to arrest our course towards monarchy, and to secure the result of our revolutionary sufferings and sacrifices in a government bottomed on the only safe basis, the elective will of the people. You are young enough for the task, and I hope you will undertake it.
There is a subject respecting the practice of the court of which you are a member, which has long weighed on my mind, on which I have long thought I would write to you, and which I will take this opportunity of doing. It is in truth a delicate undertaking, & yet such is my opinion of your candor and devotedness to the Constitution, in it’s true spirit, that I am sure I shall meet your approbation in unbosoming myself to you. The subject of my uneasiness is the habitual mode of making up and delivering the opinions of the supreme court of the US.
You know that from the earliest ages of the English law, from the date of the year-books, at least, to the end of the IId George, the judges of England, in all but self-evident cases, delivered their opinions seriatim, with the reasons and authorities which governed their decisions. If they sometimes consulted together, and gave a general opinion, it was so rarely as not to excite either alarm or notice. Besides the light which their separate arguments threw on the subject, and the instruction communicated by their several modes of reasoning, it shewed whether the judges were unanimous or divided, and gave accordingly more or less weight to the judgment as a precedent. It sometimes happened too that when there were three opinions against one, the reasoning of the one was so much the most cogent as to become afterwards the law of the land. When Ld. Mansfield came to the bench he introduced the habit of caucusing opinions. The judges met at their chambers, or elsewhere, secluded from the presence of the public, and made up what was to be delivered as the opinion of the court. On the retirement of Mansfield, Ld. Kenyon put an end to the practice, and the judges returned to that of seriatim opinions, and practice it habitually to this day, I believe. I am not acquainted with the late reporters, do not possess them, and state the fact from the information of others. To come now to ourselves I know nothing of what is done in other states, but in this our great and good Mr. Pendleton was, after the revolution, placed at the head of the court of Appeals. He adored Ld. Mansfield, & considered him as the greatest luminary of law that any age had ever produced, and he introduced into the court over which he presided, Mansfield’s practice of making up opinions in secret & delivering them as the Oracles of the court, in mass. Judge Roane, when he came to that bench, broke up the practice, refused to hatch judgments, in Conclave, or to let others deliver opinions for him. At what time the seriatim opinions ceased in the supreme Court of the US., I am not informed. They continued I know to the end of the 3d Dallas in 1800. Later than which I have no Reporter of that court. About that time the present C. J. came to the bench. Whether he carried the practice of Mr. Pendleton to it, or who, or when I do not know; but I understand from others it is now the habit of the court, & I suppose it true from the cases sometimes reported in the newspapers, and others which I casually see, wherein I observe that the opinions were uniformly prepared in private. Some of these cases too have been of such importance, of such difficulty, and the decisions so grating to a portion of the public as to have merited the fullest explanation from every judge seriatim, of the reasons which had produced such convictions on his mind. It was interesting to the public to know whether these decisions were really unanimous, or might not perhaps be of 4. against 3. and consequently prevailing by the preponderance of one voice only. The Judges holding their offices for life are under two responsibilities only. 1. Impeachment. 2. Individual reputation. But this practice compleatly withdraws them from both. For nobody knows what opinion any individual member gave in any case, nor even that he who delivers the opinion, concurred in it himself. Be the opinion therefore ever so impeachable, having been done in the dark it can be proved on no one. As to the 2d guarantee, personal reputation, it is shielded compleatly. The practice is certainly convenient for the lazy, the modest & the incompetent. It saves them the trouble of developing their opinion methodically and even of making up an opinion at all. That of seriatim argument shews whether every judge has taken the trouble of understanding the case, of investigating it minutely, and of forming an opinion for himself, instead of pinning it on another’s sleeve. It would certainly be right to abandon this practice in order to give to our citizens one and all, that confidence in their judges which must be so desirable to the judges themselves, and so important to the cement of the union. During the administration of Genl. Washington, and while E. Randolph was Attorney General, he was required by Congress to digest the judiciary laws into a single one, with such amendments as might be thought proper. He prepared a section requiring the Judges to give their opinions seriatim, in writing, to be recorded in a distinct volume. Other business prevented this bill from being taken up, and it passed off, but such a volume would have been the best possible book of reports, and the better, as unincumbered with the hired sophisms and perversions of Counsel.
What do you think of the state of parties at this time? An opinion prevails that there is no longer any distinction, that the republicans & Federalists are compleatly amalgamated but it is not so. The amalgamation is of name only, not of principle. All indeed call themselves by the name of Republicans, because that of Federalists was extinguished in the battle of New Orleans. But the truth is that finding that monarchy is a desperate wish in this country, they rally to the point which they think next best, a consolidated government. Their aim is now therefore to break down the rights reserved by the constitution to the states as a bulwark against that consolidation, the fear of which produced the whole of the opposition to the constitution at it’s birth. Hence new Republicans in Congress, preaching the doctrines of the old Federalists, and the new nick-names of Ultras and Radicals. But I trust they will fail under the new, as the old name, and that the friends of the real constitution and union will prevail against consolidation, as they have done against monarchism. I scarcely know myself which is most to be deprecated, a consolidation, or dissolution of the states. The horrors of both are beyond the reach of human foresight.
I have written you a long letter, and committed to you thoughts which I would do to few others. If I am right, you will approve them; if wrong, commiserate them as the dreams of a Superannuate about things from which he is to derive neither good nor harm. But you will still receive them as a proof of my confidence in the rectitude of your mind and principles, of which I pray you to receive entire assurance with that of my continued and great friendship and respect.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE
Monticello, Oct. 28, 22
I will not, my dear friend, undertake to quote by their dates the several letters you have written me. They have been proofs of your continued friendship to me, and my silence is no evidence of any abatement of mine to you. That can never be while I have breath and recollections so dear to me. Among the few survivors of our revolutionary struggles, you are as distinguished in my affections, as in the eyes of the world, & especially in those of this country. You are now, I believe, the Doyen of our military heroes, & may I not say of the soldiers of liberty in the world? We differ in this. My race is run; while you have three good lustres yet to reach my time; & these may give you much to do. Weighed down with years, I am still more disabled from writing by a wrist & fingers almost without joints. This has obliged me to withdraw from all correspondence that is not indispensable. I have written, for a long time, to none of my foreign friends, because I am really unable to do it. I owe them therefore apologies, or rather truths. Will you be my advocate with those who complain and especially with Mr. Tracy, who I hope is in the recovery of health, & enabled to continue his invaluable labors.
On the affairs of your hemisphere I have two reasons for saying little. The one that I know little of them. The other that, having thought alike thro’ our lives, my sentiments, if intercepted, might be imputed to you, as reflections of your own. I will hazard therefore but the single expression of assurance that this general insurrection of the world against it’s tyrants will ultimately prevail by pointing the object of government to the happiness of the people and not merely to that of their self-constituted governors. On our affairs little can be expected from an Octogenary, retired within the recesses of the mountains, going nowhere, seeing nobody but his own house, & reading a single newspaper only, & that chiefly for the sake of the advertisements. I dare say you see & read as many of them as I do. You will have seen how prematurely they have begun to agitate us with the next presidential election. Many candidates are named: but they will be reduced to two, Adams & Crawford. Party principles, as heretofore will have their weight, but the papers tell you there are no parties now, republicans and federalists forsooth are all amalgamated. This, my friend, is not so. The same parties exist now which existed before. But the name of Federalist was extinguished in the battle of New Orleans; and those who wore it now call themselves republicans. Like the fox pursued by the dogs, they take shelter in the midst of the sheep. They see that monarchism is a hopeless wish in this country, and are rallying anew to the next best point a consolidated government. They are therefore endeavouring to break down the barriers of the state rights, provided by the constitution against a consolidation. Hence you will see in the debates of Congress these new republicans maintaining the most ultra doctrines of the old federalists. This new metamorphosis is the only clue which will enable you to understand these strange appearances. They will become more prominent in the ensuing discussions. One candidate is supposed to be a consolidationist, the other a republican of the old school, a friend to the constitutional organization of the government, and believing that the strength of the members can alone give real strength to the body. And this is the sentiment of the nation, and will probably prevail if the principle of the Missouri question should not mingle itself with those of the election. Should it do so, all will be uncertain. This uncertainty however gives me no uneasiness. Both are able men, both honest men, and whatever be the bias, the good sense of our people will direct the boat ultimately to it’s proper point.
I learn with great pleasure that you enjoy good health. Mine is also good altho’ I am very weak. I cannot walk further than my garden without fatigue. But I am still able to ride on horseback, and it is my only exercise. That your life may be continued in health and happiness to the term of your own wishes is the fervent prayer of your constant and affectionate friend.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN
Monticello, October 29, 1822
—After a long silence, I salute you with affection. The weight of eighty years pressing heavily upon me, with a wrist and fingers almost without joints, I write as little as possible, because I do it with pain and labor. I retain, however, still the same affection for my friends, and especially for my ancient colleagues, which I ever did, and the same wishes for their happiness. Your treaty has been received here with universal gladness. It was indeed a strange quarrel, like that of two pouting lovers, and a pimp filching both; it was nuts for England. When I liken them to lovers, I speak of the people, not of their governments. Of the cordial love of one of these the Holy Alliance may know more than I do. I will confine myself to our own affairs. You have seen in our papers how prematurely they are agitating the question of the next President. This proceeds from some uneasiness at the present state of things. There is considerable dissatisfaction with the increase of the public expenses, and especially with the necessity of borrowing money in time of peace. This was much arraigned at the last session of Congress, and will be more so at the next. The misfortune is that the persons most looked to as successors in the government are of the President’s Cabinet; and their partisans in Congress are making a handle of these things to help, or hurt those for or against whom they are. The candidates, ins and outs, seem at present to be many; but they will be reduced to two, a Northern and Southern one, as usual; to judge of the event the state of parties must be understood. You are told, indeed, that there are no longer parties among us; that they are all now amalgamated; the lion and the lamb lie down together in peace. Do not believe a word of it. The same parties exist now as ever did. No longer, indeed, under the name of Republicans and Federalists. The latter name was extinguished in the battle of Orleans. Those who wore it, finding monarchism a desperate wish in this country, are rallying to what they deem the next best point, a consolidated government. Although this is not yet avowed (as that of monarchism, you know, never was), it exists decidedly, and is the true key to the debates in Congress, wherein you see many calling themselves Republicans and preaching the rankest doctrines of the old Federalists. One of the prominent candidates is presumed to be of this party; and the other a Republican of the old school and a friend of the barrier of States rights, as provided by the Constitution against the danger of consolidation, which danger was the principal ground of opposition to it at its birth. Pennsylvania and New York will decide this question. If the Missouri principle mixes itself in the question, it will go one way; if not it may go the other. Among the smaller motives, hereditary fears may alarm one side, and the long line of local nativities on the other. In this division of parties the judges are true to their ancient vocation of sappers and miners.
Our University of Virginia, my present hobby, has been at a stand for a twelve-month past for want of funds. Our last Legislature refused anything. The late elections give better hopes of the next. The institution is so far advanced that it will force itself through. So little is now wanting that the first liberal Legislature will give it its last lift. The buildings are in a style of purely classical architecture, and, although not yet finished, are become an object of visit to all strangers. Our intention is that its professors shall be of the first order in their respective lines which can be procured on either side of the Atlantic. Sameness of language will probably direct our applications chiefly to Edinburgh.
I place some letters under the protection of your cover. You will be so good as to judge whether that address to Lodi will go more safely through the public mail or by any of the diplomatic couriers, liable to the curiosity and carelessness of public officers. Accept the assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO HENRY DEARBORN
(U. S. MINISTER TO PORTUGAL.)
Monticello, Oct. 31. 22
—Your letter of Aug. 31, dated so soon after your departure gave me hopes that the sufferings at sea of Mrs. Dearborn and yourself, if any, had been short. I hope you will both find Lisbon a pleasant residence. I have heard so much of it’s climate that I suppose that alone will go far towards making it so; and should the want of the language of the country lessen the enjoyment of it’s society, this will be considerably supplied by the numbers you will find there who speak your own language. Take into the account also that you will escape the two years agitation just commencing with us. Even before you had left us our newspapers had already begun to excite the question of the next president. They are advancing fast into it. Many candidates are named, but they will settle down, as is believed, to Adams and Crawford. If the Missouri principle should mingle itself with the party divisions the result will be very doubtful. For altho’ it is pretended there are no longer any parties among us, that all are amalgamated, yet the fact is that the same parties exist now that ever existed, not indeed under the old names of Republicans and Federalists. The Hartford Convention and battle of New Orleans extinguished the latter name. All now call themselves republicans, as the fox when pursued by dogs takes shelter in the midst of the sheep. Finding monarchy desperate here, they rally to their next hope, a consolidated government, and altho’ they do not avow it (as they never did monarchism) yet it is manifestly their next object.
Hence you see so many of these new republicans maintaining in Congress the rankest doctrines of the old federalists. The judges aid in their old way as sappers and miners. One of the candidates is supposed to be a Consolidationist, the other for maintaining the banner of state rights as provided by the constitution against the fear of Consolidation.
Our Virginia University is now my sole occupation. It is within sight of Monticello, and the buildings nearly finished, and we shall endeavor, by the best Professors either side of the Atlantic can furnish to make it worthy of the public notice. Strange as the idea may seem, I sincerely think that the prominent characters of the country where you are could not better prepare their sons for the duties they will have to perform in their new government than by sending them here where they might become familiarised with the habits and practice of self-government. This lesson is scarcely to be acquired but in this country, and yet without it, the political vessel is all sail and no ballast.
I have a friend, of Portugal, in whose welfare I feel great interest, but whether now there, or where, I know not. It is the Abbé Correa who past some years in the U. S. and was a part of the time the Minister of Portugal at Washington. He left it under an appointment to the cabinet-council of Rio Janeiro, taking his passage thither by the way of England. While at London or Paris he would have heard that the King and court had returned to Lisbon; and what he did next is unknown here. He writes to none of his friends, & yet there is no one on whose behalf his friends feel a more lively solicitude, or wish more to hear of or from. If at Lisbon, and it should ever fall in your way to render him a service or kindness, I should consider it as more than if done to myself. If things go unfavorably to him there, he would be received with joy into our University, and would certainly find it a comfortable and lucrative retirement. Should he be in Lisbon, be so good as to say so to him. Say to Mrs. Dearborn also, how much she possesses the affection and respect of the whole family at Monticello, and accept for yourself the assurance of my constant friendship & respect.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, November 1, 1822
—I have racked my memory and ransacked my papers, to enable myself to answer the inquiries of your favor of October 15th; but to little purpose. My papers furnish me nothing, my memory, generalities only. I know that while I was in Europe, and anxious about the fate of our seafaring men, for some of whom, then in captivity in Algiers, we were treating, and all were in like danger, I formed, undoubtingly, the opinion that our government, as soon as practicable, should provide a naval force sufficient to keep the Barbary States in order; and on this subject we communicated together, as you observe. When I returned to the United States and took part in the administration under General Washington, I constantly maintained that opinion; and in December, 1790, took advantage of a reference to me from the first Congress which met after I was in office, to report in favor of a force sufficient for the protection of our Mediterranean commerce; and I laid before them an accurate statement of the whole Barbary force, public and private. I think General Washington approved of building vessels of war to that extent. General Knox, I know, did. But what was Colonel Hamilton’s opinion, I do not in the least remember. Your recollections on that subject are certainly corroborated by his known anxieties for a close connection with Great Britain, to which he might apprehend danger from collisions between their vessels and ours. Randolph was then Attorney General; but his opinion on the question I also entirely forget. Some vessels of war were accordingly built and sent into the Mediterranean. The additions to these in your time, I need not note to you, who are well known to have ever been an advocate for the wooden walls of Themistocles. Some of those you added, were sold under an act of Congress passed while you were in office. I thought, afterwards, that the public safety might require some additional vessels of strength, to be prepared and in readiness for the first moment of a war, provided they could be preserved against the decay which is unavoidable if kept in the water, and clear of the expense of officers and men. With this view I proposed that they should be built in dry docks, above the level of the tide waters, and covered with roofs. I further advised, that places for these docks should be selected where there was a command of water on a high level, as that of the Tyber at Washington, by which the vessels might be floated out, on the principle of a lock. But the majority of the legislature was against any addition to the navy, and the minority, although for it in judgment, voted against it on a principle of opposition. We are now, I understand, building vessels to remain on the stocks, under shelter, until wanted, when they would be launched and finished. On my plan they could be in service at an hour’s notice. On this, the finishing, after launching, will be a work of time.
This is all I recollect about the origin and progress of our navy. That of the late war, certainly raised our rank and character among nations. Yet a navy is a very expensive engine. It is admitted, that in ten or twelve years a vessel goes to entire decay; or, if kept in repair, costs as much as would build a new one; and that a nation who could count on twelve or fifteen years of peace, would gain by burning its navy and building a new one in time. Its extent, therefore, must be governed by circumstances. Since my proposition for a force adequate to the piracies of the Mediterranean, a similar necessity has arisen in our own seas for considerable addition to that force. Indeed, I wish we could have a convention with the naval powers of Europe, for them to keep down the pirates of the Mediterranean, and the slave ships on the coast of Africa, and for us to perform the same duties for the society of nations in our seas. In this way, those collisions would be avoided between the vessels of war of different nations, which beget wars and constitute the weightiest objection to navies. I salute you with constant affection and respect.
TO DOCTOR THOMAS COOPER
Monticello, November 2, 1822
—Your favor of October the 18th came to hand yesterday. The atmosphere of our country is unquestionably charged with a threatening cloud of fanaticism, lighter in some parts, denser in others, but too heavy in all. I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy and absurdity of the five points of Calvin, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation. In Boston, however, and its neighborhood, Unitarianism has advanced to so great strength, as now to humble this haughtiest of all religious sects; insomuch that they condescend to interchange with them and the other sects, the civilities of preaching freely and frequently in each others’ meeting-houses. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, no sectarian preacher will permit an Unitarian to pollute his desk. In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a hen-pecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus, in terms as amatory and carnal, as their modesty would permit them to use to a mere earthly lover. In our village of Charlottesville, there is a good degree of religion, with a small spice only of fanaticism. We have four sects, but without either church or meeting-house. The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others’ preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power. Systematical in grasping at an ascendency over all other sects, they aim, like the Jesuits, at engrossing the education of the country, are hostile to every institution which they do not direct, and jealous at seeing others begin to attend at all to that object. The diffusion of instruction, to which there is now so growing an attention, will be the remote remedy to this fever of fanaticism; while the more proximate one will be the progress of Unitarianism. That this will, ere long, be the religion of the majority from north to south, I have no doubt.
In our university you know there is no Professorship of Divinity. A handle has been made of this, to disseminate an idea that this is an institution, not merely of no religion, but against all religion. Occasion was taken at the last meeting of the Visitors, to bring forward an idea that might silence this calumny, which weighed on the minds of some honest friends to the institution. In our annual report to the legislature, after stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets, on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there, and have the free use of our library, and every other accommodation we can give them; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences. I think the invitation will be accepted, by some sects from candid intentions, and by others from jealousy and rivalship. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality.
The time of opening our university is still as uncertain as ever. All the pavilions, boarding houses, and dormitories are done. Nothing is now wanting but the central building for a library and other general purposes. For this we have no funds, and the last legislature refused all aid. We have better hopes of the next. But all is uncertain. I have heard with regret of disturbances on the part of the students in your seminary. The article of discipline is the most difficult in American education. Premature ideas of independence, too little repressed by parents, beget a spirit of insubordination, which is the great obstacle to science with us, and a principal cause of its decay since the revolution. I look to it with dismay in our institution, as a breaker ahead, which I am far from being confident we shall be able to weather. The advance of age, and tardy pace of the public patronage, may probably spare me the pain of witnessing consequences.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
TO JAMES MONROE
Dec. 1, 22
I thank you Dr. Sir for the oppy. of reading Mr Taylor’s lr̃e. which I now return. News that one can rely on from a country with which we have so little intercourse & so much mutual interest is doubly grateful. I rejoice to learn that Iturbide’s is a mere usurpñ. & slenderly supported. Although we have no right to intermeddle with the form of government of other nations yet it is lawful to wish to see no emperors nor king in our hemisphere, and that Brazil as well as Mexico will homologize with us. The accident to my arm was slight, its doing well & free from pain. I thank you sincerely for your favor to Gibson. He is a worthy but unfortunate man.
Monticello, Feb. 25, 22
—Your favor of Mar. 14. has been duly received. In that you ask if my letter to Mr. Morse may be communicated to the gentlemen of the administration and other friends. In the first place the former are entitled to it’s communication from Mr. Morse as named members of his society. But independantly of that, a letter addressed to a society of 6. or 8000 people is de facto made public. I had supposed it possible indeed that the society or some of it’s members might perhaps publish it as the only practicable means of communicating it to so extensive an association. This would be best, because Mr. Morse might otherwise consider it as done by myself, and that it was a gauntlet thrown down to challenge him into the Arena of the public papers; and should be take it up, I should certainly prove a recreant knight, and never meet him in that field. But do in this whatever you please. I abandon the letter to any good it may answer. With respect to Spanish America I think you have taken the exact point of time for recognizing it’s independance, neither sooner nor later. I give whatever credit they merit to those who are glorifying themselves on their premature advice to have done it 3. or 4. years ago. We have preserved the approbation of nations, and yet taken the station we were entitled to of being the first to receive & welcome them as brothers into the family of nations. Affectionate & respectful salutations.
Monticello, June 10, 1822
Page 2, column 2, l. 48 to 29 from the bottom, ‘he [Mr. J.] admits in his account rendered in 1790 and settled in 1792, that he had received the “cash,” [placing the word cash between inverted commas to have it marked particularly as a quotation] that he had received the “cash” for the bill in question, and he does not directly deny it now. Will he, can he, in the face of his own declaration in writing to the contrary, publicly say that he did not receive the money for this bill in Europe? This is the point on which the whole matter rests, the pivot on which the arguments turn. If he did receive the money in Europe, (no matter whether at Cowes or at Paris,) he certainly had no right to receive it a second time from the public treasury of the United States. This is admitted I believe on all sides. Now, that he did receive the money in Europe on this bill, is proved by the acknowledgment of the receiver himself, who credits the amount in his account as settled at the treasury thus: “cash received of Grand for bill on Willincks, Van Staphorsts, 2,876 gilders, 1,148 dollars.’” Col. 3, l. 28 to 21 from bottom. ‘There is a plain difference in the phraseology of the account, from which an extract is given by Mr. J. as above, and that which he rendered to the Treasury. In the former he gives the credit thus, “By my bills on Willincks,” &c. In the latter he states, “By cash received of Grand for bill on Willincks,” &c.’ There is a difference, indeed, as he states it, but it is made solely by his own interpolation. Col. 3, l. 8, from bottom. ‘That Mr. Jefferson should, in the very teeth of the facts of the evidence before us, and in his own breast, gravely say that he had paid the money for this bill, and that therefore it was but just to return him the amount of it, when he had, by his own acknowledgment, sent it to Grand & Co., and received the money for it, is, I confess, not only matter of utter astonishment but regret.’ I spare myself the qualifications which these paragraphs may merit, leaving them to be applied by every reader according to the feelings they may excite in his own breast. He proceeds: ‘And now to place this case beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, and to show most conclusively that he had negotiated this bill in Europe, and received the cash for it there, and that such was the understanding of the matter at the treasury in 1809, when he received the money.’ These are his own words. Col. 4, he brings forward the overwhelming fact ‘not hitherto made public but stated from the most creditable and authentic source, that one of the accounting officers of the treasury suggested in writing the propriety of taking bond and security from Mr. J., for indemnification of the United States against any future claim on this bill. But it seems the bond was not taken, and the government is now liable in law, and in good faith for the payment of this bill to the rightful owner.’ How this suggestion of taking bond at the treasury, so solemnly paraded, is more conclusive proof than his own interpolation, that the cash was received, I am so dull as not to perceive; but I say, that had the suggestion been made to me, it would have been instantly complied with. But I deny his law. Were the bill now to be presented to the treasury, the answer would and should be the same as a merchant would give: ‘You have held up this bill three and thirty years without notice; we have settled in the meantime with the drawer, and have no effects of his left in our hands. Apply to him for payment.’ On his application to me, I should first inquire into the history of the bill; where it had been lurking for three and thirty years? how came he by it? by interception? by trover? by assignment from Grand? by purchase? from whom, when and where? And according to his answers I should either institute criminal process against him, or if he showed that all was fair and honest, I should pay him the money, and look for reimbursement to the quarter appearing liable. The law deems seven years’ absence of a man, without being heard of, such presumptive evidence of his death, as to distribute his estate, and to allow his wife to marry again. The Auditor thought that twenty years non-appearance of a bill which had been risked through the post-offices of two nations, was sufficient presumption of its loss. But this self-styled native of Virginia thinks that the thirty-three years now elapsed are not sufficient. Be it so. If the accounting officers of the treasury have any uneasiness on that subject, I am ready to give a bond of indemnification to the United States in any sum the officers will name, and with the security which themselves shall approve. Will this satisfy the native Virginian? or will he now try to pick some other hole in this transaction, to shield himself from a candid acknowledgment, that in making up his case, he supplied by gratuitous conjectures, the facts which were not within his knowledge, and that thus he has sinned against truth in his declarations before the public? Be this as it may, I have so much confidence in the discernment and candor of my fellow-citizens, as to leave to their judgment, and dismiss from my own notice any future torture of words or circumstances which this writer may devise for their deception. Indeed, could such a denunciation, and on such proof, bereave me of that confidence and consolation, I should, through the remainder of life, brood over the afflicting belief that I had lived and labored in vain.
Monticello, June 27, 1822
—Your kind letter of the 11th has given me great satisfaction. For although I could not doubt but that the hand of age was pressing heavily on you, as on myself, yet we like to know the particulars and the degree of that pressure. Much reflection, too, has been produced by your suggestion of lending my letter of the 1st, to a printer. I have generally great aversion to the insertion of my letters in the public papers; because of my passion for quiet retirement, and never to be exhibited in scenes on the public stage. Nor am I unmindful of the precept of Horace, ‘solvere senescentem, mature sanus equum, ne peccet ad extremum ridendus.’ In the present case, however, I see a possibility that this might aid in producing the very quiet after which I pant. I do not know how far you may suffer, as I do, under the persecution of letters, of which every mail brings a fresh load. They are letters of inquiry, for the most part, always of good will, sometimes from friends whom I esteem, but much oftener from persons whose names are unknown to me, but written kindly and civilly, and to which, therefore, civility requires answers. Perhaps, the better known failure of your hand in its function of writing, may shield you in greater degree from this distress, and so far qualify the misfortune of its disability. I happened to turn to my letter-list some time ago, and a curiosity was excited to count those received in a single year. It was the year before the last. I found the number to be one thousand two hundred and sixty-seven, many of them requiring answers of elaborate research, and all to be answered with due attention and consideration. Take an average of this number for a week or a day, and I will repeat the question suggested by other considerations in mine of the 1st. Is this life? At best it is but the life of a mill-horse, who sees no end to his circle but in death. To such a life, that of a cabbage is paradise. It occurs then, that my condition of existence, truly stated in that letter, if better known, might check the kind indiscretions which are so heavily oppressing the departing hours of life. Such a relief would, to me, be an ineffable blessing. But yours of the 11th, equally interesting and affecting, should accompany that to which it is an answer. The two, taken together, would excite a joint interest, and place before our fellowcitizens the present condition of two ancient servants, who having faithfully performed their forty or fifty campaigns, stipendiis omnibus expletis, have a reasonable claim to repose from all disturbance in the sanctuary of invalids and superannuates. But some device should be thought of for their getting before the public otherwise than by our own publication. Your printer, perhaps, could frame something plausible. Thomson’s name should be left blank, as his picture, should it meet his eye, might give him pain. I consign, however, the whole subject to your consideration, to do in it whatever your own judgment shall approve, and repeat always, with truth, the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
Monticello, July 19, 1822
—An anciently dislocated, and now stiffening wrist, makes writing an operation so slow and painful to me, that I should not so soon have troubled you with an acknowledgment of your favor of the 8th, but for the request it contained of my consent to the publication of my letter of June the 26th. No, my dear Sir, not for the world. Into what a nest of hornets would it thrust my head! the genus irritabile vatum, on whom argument is lost, and reason is, by themselves, disclaimed in matters of religion. Don Quixote undertook to redress the bodily wrongs of the world, but the redressment of mental vagaries would be an enterprise more than Quixotic. I should as soon undertake to bring the crazy skulls of Bedlam to sound understanding, as inculcate reason into that of an Athanasian. I am old, and tranquility is now my summum bonum. Keep me, therefore, from the fire and faggots of Calvin and his victim Servetus. Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages. I am not aware of the peculiar resistance to Unitarianism, which you ascribe to Pennsylvania. When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a respectable congregation of that sect, with a meeting-house and regular service which I attended, and in which Dr. Priestley officiated to numerous audiences. Baltimore has one or two churches, and their pastor, author of an inestimable book on this subject, was elected chaplain to the late Congress. That doctrine has not yet been preached to us: but the breeze begins to be felt which precedes the storm; and fanaticism is all in a bustle, shutting its doors and windows to keep it out. But it will come, and drive before it the foggy mists of Platonism which have so long obscured our atmosphere. I am in hopes that some of the disciples of your institution will become missionaries to us, of these doctrines truly evangelical, and open our eyes to what has been so long hidden from them. A bold and eloquent preacher would be nowhere listened to with more freedom than in this State, nor with more firmness of mind. They might need a preparatory discourse on the text of ‘prove all things, hold fast that which is good,’ in order to unlearn the lesson that reason is an unlawful guide in religion. They might startle on being first awaked from the dreams of the night, but they would rub their eyes at once, and look the spectres boldly in the face. The preacher might be excluded by our hierophants from their churches and meeting-houses, but would be attended in the fields by whole acres of hearers and thinkers. Missionaries from Cambridge would soon be greeted with more welcome, than from the tritheistical school of Andover. Such are my wishes, such would be my welcomes, warm and cordial as the assurances of my esteem and respect for you.
Monticello, July 8, 23
Messrs. Leroy and Bayard,
—You have reason to believe I am unmindful that I ought ere this to have remitted you the amount of my last bond; but it is duly in mind altho’ delayed. My resources for payment as stated to you on former occasions, are the produce of my farms. They have usually got to Richmond in June: but are tardier this year than ever. Calculating the passage of my tobacco down the river and time for inspection and sale, I shall be able to remit you one half the amount by the end of this month, and the other half soon after. I have thought it a duty to remove suspense on the subject. Always acknoleging the kindness of your indulgence I salute you ever with friendship and respect.
Monticello, June 12, 1823
—Our correspondence is of that accommodating character, which admits of suspension at the convenience of either party, without inconvenience to the other. Hence this tardy acknowledgment of your favor of April the 11th. I learn from that with great pleasure, that you have resolved on continuing your history of parties. Our opponents are far ahead of us in preparations for placing their cause favorably before posterity. Yet I hope even from some of them the escape of precious truths, in angry explosions or effusions of vanity, which will betray the genuine monarchism of their principles. They do not themselves believe what they endeavor to inculcate, that we were an opposition party, not on principle, but merely seeking for office. The fact is, that at the formation of our government, many had formed their political opinions on European writings and practices, believing the experience of old countries, and especially of England, abusive as it was, to be a safer guide than mere theory. The doctrines of Europe were, that men in numerous associations cannot be restrained within the limits of order and justice, but by forces physical and moral, wielded over them by authorities independent of their will. Hence their organization of kings, hereditary nobles, and priests. Still further to constrain the brute force of the people, they deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor, poverty and ignorance, and to take from them, as from bees, so much of their earnings, as that unremitting labor shall be necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus barely to sustain a scanty and miserable life. And these earnings they apply to maintain their privileged orders in splendor and idleness, to fascinate the eyes of the people, and excite in them an humble adoration and submission, as to an order of superior beings. Although few among us had gone all these lengths of opinion, yet many had advanced, some more, some less, on the way. And in the convention which formed our government, they endeavored to draw the cords of power as tight as they could obtain them, to lessen the dependence of the general functionaries on their constituents, to subject to them those of the States, and to weaken their means of maintaining the steady equilibrium which the majority of the convention had deemed salutary for both branches, general and local. To recover, therefore, in practice the powers which the nation had refused, and to warp to their own wishes those actually given, was the steady object of the federal party. Ours, on the contrary, was to maintain the will of the majority of the convention, and of the people themselves. We believed, with them, that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights, and with an innate sense of justice; and that he could be restrained from wrong and protected in right, by moderate powers, confided to persons of his own choice, and held to their duties by dependence on his own will. We believed that the complicated organization of kings, nobles, and priests, was not the wisest nor best to effect the happiness of associated man; that wisdom and virtue were not hereditary; that the trappings of such a machinery, consumed by their expense, those earnings of industry, they were meant to protect, and, by the inequalities they produced, exposed liberty to sufferance. We believed that men, enjoying in ease and security the full fruits of their own industry, enlisted by all their interests on the side of law and order, habituated to think for themselves, and to follow their reason as their guide, would be more easily and safely governed, than with minds nourished in error, and vitiated and debased, as in Europe, by ignorance, indigence and oppression. The cherishment of the people then was our principle, the fear and distrust of them, that of the other party. Composed, as we were, of the landed and laboring interests of the country, we could not be less anxious for a government of law and order than were the inhabitants of the cities, the strongholds of federalism. And whether our efforts to save the principles and form of our constitution have not been salutary, let the present republican freedom, order and prosperity of our country determine. History may distort truth, and will distort it for a time, by the superior efforts at justification of those who are conscious of needing it most. Nor will the opening scenes of our present government be seen in their true aspect, until the letters of the day, now held in private hoards, shall be broken up and laid open to public view. What a treasure will be found in General Washington’s cabinet, when it shall pass into the hands of as candid a friend to truth as he was himself! When no longer, like Cæsar’s notes and memorandums in the hands of Anthony, it shall be open to the high priests of federalism only, and garbled to say so much, and no more, as suits their views!
With respect to his farewell address, to the authorship of which, it seems, there are conflicting claims, I can state to you some facts. He had determined to decline re-election at the end of his first term, and so far determined, that he had requested Mr. Madison to prepare for him something valedictory, to be addressed to his constituents on his retirement. This was done, but he was finally persuaded to acquiesce in a second election, to which no one more strenuously pressed him than myself, from a conviction of the importance of strengthening, by longer habit, the respect necessary for that office, which the weight of his character only could effect. When, at the end of his second term, his Valedictory came out, Mr. Madison recognized in it several passages of his draught, several others, we were both satisfied, were from the pen of Hamilton, and others from that of the President himself. These he probably put into the hands of Hamilton to form into a whole, and hence it may all appear in Hamilton’s hand-writing, as if it were all of his composition.
I have stated above, that the original objects of the federalists were, 1st, to warp our government more to the form and principles of monarchy, and, 2d, to weaken the barriers of the State governments as coördinate powers. In the first they have been so completely foiled by the universal spirit of the nation, that they have abandoned the enterprise, shrunk from the odium of their old appellation, taken to themselves a participation of ours, and under the pseudo-republican mask, are now aiming at their second object, and strengthened by unsuspecting or apostate recruits from our ranks, are advancing fast towards an ascendancy. I have been blamed for saying, that a prevalence of the doctrines of consolidation would one day call for reformation or revolution. I answer by asking if a single State of the Union would have agreed to the constitution, had it given all powers to the General Government? If the whole opposition to it did not proceed from the jealousy and fear of every State, of being subjected to the other States in matters merely its own? And if there is any reason to believe the States more disposed now than then, to acquiesce in this general surrender of all their rights and powers to a consolidated government, one and undivided?
You request me confidentially, to examine the question, whether the Supreme Court has advanced beyond its constitutional limits, and trespassed on those of the State authorities? I do not undertake it, my dear Sir, because I am unable. Age and the wane of mind consequent on it, have disqualified me from investigations so severe, and researches so laborious. And it is the less necessary in this case, as having been already done by others with a logic and learning to which I could add nothing. On the decision of the case of Cohens vs. The State of Virginia, in the Supreme Court of the United States, in March, 1821, Judge Roane, under the signature of Algernon Sidney, wrote for the Enquirer a series of papers on the law of that case. I considered these papers maturely as they came out, and confess that they appeared to me to pulverize every word which had been delivered by Judge Marshall, of the extra-judicial part of his opinion; and all was extra-judicial, except the decision that the act of Congress had not purpoted to give to the corporation of Washington the authority claimed by their lottery law, of controlling the laws of the States within the States themselves. But unable to claim that case, he could not let it go entirely, but went on gratuitously to prove, that notwithstanding the eleventh amendment of the constitution, a State could be brought as a defendant, to the bar of his court; and again, that Congress might authorize a corporation of its territory to exercise legislation within a State, and paramount to the laws of that State. I cite the sum and result only of his doctrines, according to the impression made on my mind at the time, and still remaining. If not strictly accurate in circumstance, it is so in substance. This doctrine was so completely refuted by Roane, that if he can be answered, I surrender human reason as a vain and useless faculty, given to bewilder, and not to guide us. And I mention this particular case as one only of several, because it gave occasion to that thorough examination of the constitutional limits between the General and State jurisdictions, which you have asked for. There were two other writers in the same paper, under the signatures of Fletcher of Saltoun, and Somers, who, in a few essays, presented some very luminous and striking views of the question. And there was a particular paper which recapitulated all the cases in which it was thought the federal court had usurped on the State jurisdictions. These essays will be found in the Enquirers of 1821, from May the 10th to July the 13th. It is not in my present power to send them to you, but if Ritchie can furnish them, I will procure and forward them. If they had been read in the other States, as they were here, I think they would have left, there as here, no dissentients from their doctrine. The subject was taken up by our legislature of 1821-’22, and two draughts of remonstrances were prepared and discussed. As well as I remember, there was no difference of opinion as to the matter of right; but there was as to the expediency of a remonstrance at that time, the general mind of the States being then under extraordinary excitement by the Missouri question; and it was dropped on that consideration. But this case is not dead, it only sleepeth. The Indian Chief said he did not go to war for every petty injury by itself, but put it into his pouch, and when that was full, he then made war. Thank Heaven, we have provided a more peaceable and rational mode of redress.
This practice of Judge Marshall, of travelling out of his case to prescribe what the law would be in a moot case not before the court, is very irregular and very censurable. I recollect another instance, and the more particularly, perhaps, because it in some measure bore on myself. Among the midnight appointments of Mr. Adams, were commissions to some federal justices of the peace for Alexandria. These were signed and sealed by him, but not delivered. I found them on the table of the department of State, on my entrance into office, and I forbade their delivery. Marbury, named in one of them, applied to the Supreme Court for a mandamus to the Secretary of State, (Mr. Madison) to deliver the commission intended for him. The court determined at once, that being an original process, they had no cognizance of it; and therefore the question before them was ended. But the Chief Justice went on to lay down what the law would be, had they jurisdiction of the case, to wit: that they should command the delivery. The object was clearly to instruct any other court having the jurisdiction, what they should do if Marbury should apply to them. Besides the impropriety of this gratuitous interference, could anything exceed the perversion of law? For if there is any principle of law never yet contradicted, it is that delivery is one of the essentials to the validity of the deed. Although signed and sealed, yet as long as it remains in the hands of the party himself, it is in fieri only, it is not a deed, and can be made so only by its delivery. In the hands of a third person it may be made an escrow. But whatever is in the executive offices is certainly deemed to be in the hands of the President; and in this case, was actually in my hands, because, when I countermanded them, there was as yet no Secretary of State. Yet this case of Marbury and Madison is continually cited by bench and bar, as if it were settled law, without any animadversion on its being merely an obiter dissertation of the Chief Justice.
It may be impracticable to lay down any general formula of words which shall decide at once, and with precision, in every case, this limit of jurisdiction. But there are two canons which will guide us safely in most of the cases. 1st. The capital and leading object of the constitution was to leave with the States all authorities which respected their own citizens only, and to transfer to the United States those which respected citizens of foreign or other States: to make us several as to ourselves, but one as to all others. In the latter case, then, constructions should lean to the general jurisdiction, if the words will bear it; and in favor of the States in the former, if possible to be so construed. And indeed, between citizens and citizens of the same State, and under their own laws, I know but a single case in which a jurisdiction is given to the General Government. That is, where anything but gold or silver is made a lawful tender, or the obligation of contracts is any otherwise impaired. The separate legislatures had so often abused that power, that the citizens themselves chose to trust it to the general, rather than to their own special authorities. 2d. On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. Let us try Cohen’s case by these canons only, referring always, however, for full argument, to the essays before cited.
1. It was between a citizen and his own State, and under a law of his State. It was a domestic case, therefore, and not a foreign one.
2. Can it be believed, that under the jealousies prevailing against the General Government, at the adoption of the constitution, the States meant to surrender the authority of preserving order, of enforcing moral duties and restraining vice, within their own territory? And this is the present case, that of Cohen being under the ancient and general law of gaming. Can any good be effected by taking from the States the moral rule of their citizens, and subordinating it to the general authority, or to one of their corporations, which may justify forcing the meaning of words, hunting after possible constructions, and hanging inference on inference, from heaven to earth, like Jacob’s ladder? Such an intention was impossible, and such a licentiousness of construction and inference, if exercised by both governments, as may be done with equal right, would equally authorize both to claim all power, general and particular, and break up the foundations of the Union. Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties, which may make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure. It should be left to the sophisms of advocates, whose trade it is, to prove that a defendant is a plaintiff, though dragged into court, torto collo, like Bonaparte’s volunteers, into the field in chains, or that a power has been given, because it ought to have been given, et alia talia, The States supposed that by their tenth amendment, they had secured themselves against constructive powers. They were not lessoned yet by Cohen’s case, nor aware of the slipperiness of the eels of the law. I ask for no straining of words against the General Government, nor yet against the States. I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market.
But the Chief Justice says, ‘there must be an ultimate arbiter somewhere.’ True, there must; but does that prove it is either party? The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union, assembled by their deputies in convention, at the call of Congress, or of two-thirds of the States. Let them decide to which they mean to give an authority claimed by two of their organs. And it has been the peculiar wisdom and felicity of our constitution, to have provided this peaceable appeal, where that of other nations is at once to force.
I rejoice in the example you set of seriatim opinions. I have heard it often noticed, and always with high approbation. Some of your brethren will be encouraged to follow it occasionally, and in time, it may be felt by all as a duty, and the sound practice of the primitive court be again restored. Why should not every judge be asked his opinion, and give it from the bench, if only by yea or nay? Besides ascertaining the fact of his opinion, which the public have a right to know, in order to judge whether it is impeachable or not, it would show whether the opinions were unanimous or not, and thus settle more exactly the weight of their authority.
The close of my second sheet warns me that it is time now to relieve you from this letter of unmerciful length. Indeed, I wonder how I have accomplished it, with two crippled wrists, the one scarcely able to move my pen, the other to hold my paper. But I am hurried sometimes beyond the sense of pain, when unbosoming myself to friends who harmonize with me in principle. You and I may differ occasionally in details of minor consequence, as no two minds, more than two faces, are the same in every feature. But our general objects are the same, to preserve the republican form and principles of our constitution and cleave to the salutary distribution of powers which that has established. These are the two sheet anchors of our Union. If driven from either, we shall be in danger of foundering. To my prayers for its safety and perpetuity, I add those for the continuation of your health, happiness, and usefulness to your country.
October 15, 1822
—I have long entertained scruples about writing this letter, upon a subject of some delicacy. But old age has overcome them at last.
You remember the four ships ordered by Congress to be built, and the four captains appointed by Washington, Talbot, and Truxton, and Barry, &c., to carry an ambassador to Algiers, and protect our commerce in the Mediterranean. I have always imputed this measure to you, for several reasons. First, because you frequently proposed it to me while we were at Paris, negotiating together for peace with the Barbary powers. Secondly, because I knew that Washington and Hamilton were not only indifferent about a navy, but averse to it. There was no Secretary of the Navy; only four Heads of department. You were Secretary of State; Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Knox, Secretary of War; and I believe Bradford was Attorney General. I have always suspected that you and Knox were in favor of a navy. If Bradford was so, the majority was clear. But Washington, I am confident, was against it in his judgment. But his attachment to Knox, and his deference to your opinion, for I know he had a great regard for you, might induce him to decide in favor of you and Knox, even though Bradford united with Hamilton in opposition to you. That Hamilton was averse to the measure, I have personal evidence; for while it was pending, he came in a hurry and a fit of impatience, to make a visit to me. He said he was likely to be called upon for a large sum of money to build ships of war, to fight the Algerines, and he asked my opinion of the measure. I answered him that I was clearly in favor of it. For I had always been of opinion, from the commencement of the revolution, that a navy was the most powerful, the safest and the cheapest national defence for this country. My advice, therefore, was, that as much of the revenue as could possibly be spared, should be applied to the building and equipping of ships. The conversation was of some length but it was manifest in his looks and in his air, that he was disgusted at the measure, as well as at the opinion that I had expressed.
Mrs. Knox not long since wrote a letter to Dr. Waterhouse, requesting him to procure a commission for her son, in the navy; that navy, says her ladyship, of which his father was the parent. ‘For,’ says she, ‘I have frequently heard General Washington say to my husband, the navy was your child.’ I have always believed it to be Jefferson’s child, though Knox may have assisted in ushering it into the world. Hamilton’s hobby was the army. That Washington was averse to a navy, I had full proof from his own lips, in many different conversations, some of them of length, in which he always insisted that it was only building and arming ships for the English. ‘Si quid novisti rectius istis candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum.’
If I am in error in any particular, pray correct your humble servant.