Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1823 - TO JAMES MADISON - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
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1823 - TO JAMES MADISON - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 12.
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TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, Jan. 6. 23
—I send you a mass of reading, and so rapidly does my hand fail me in writing that I can give but very briefly the necessary explanations.
1. Mr. Cabell’s letter to me & mine to him which passed each other on the road will give you the state of things respecting the University, and I am happy to add that letters received from Appleton give us reason to expect our capitals by the first vessel from Leghorn, done of superior marble and in superior style.
2. Young E. Gerry informed me some time ago that he had engaged a person to write the life of his father, and asked for any materials I could furnish. I sent him some letters, but in searching for them, I found two, too precious to be trusted by mail, of the date of 1801. Jan. 15. & 20. in answer to one I had written him Jan. 26. 99. two years before. It furnishes authentic proof that in the X. Y. Z. mission to France, it was the wish of Pickering, Marshall, Pinckney and the Federalists of that stamp, to avoid a treaty with France and to bring on war, a fact we charged on them at the time and this letter proves, and that their X. Y. Z. report was cooked up to dispose the people to war. Gerry their colleague was not of their sentiment, and this is his statement of that transaction. During the 2. years between my letter & his answer, he was wavering between Mr. Adams & myself, between his attachment to Mr. Adams personally on the one hand, and to republicanism on the other; for he was republican, but timid & indecisive. The event of the election of 1800–1. put an end to his hesitations.
3. A letter of mine to judge Johnson & his answer. This conveys his views of things, and they are so serious and sound, that they are worth your reading. I am sure that in communicating it to you I commit no breach of trust to him; for he and every one knows that I have no political secrets from you; & from the tenor of his letter with respect to yourself, it is evident he would as willingly have them known to you as myself.
You will observe that Mr. Cabell, if the loan bill should pass, proposes to come up with Mr. Loyall, probably Mr. Johnson, and Genl. Cocke to have a special meeting. This is necessary to engage our workmen before they undertake other work for the ensuing season. I shall desire him, as soon as the loan bill passes the lower house (as we know it will pass the Senate) to name a day by mail to yourself to meet us, as reasonable notice to all the members is necessary to make the meeting legal. I hope you will attend, as the important decision as to the Rotunda may depend on it.
Our family is all well and joins in affections to Mrs. Madison and yourself. My arm goes on slowly, still in a sling and incapable of any use, and will so continue some time yet. Be so good as to return the inclosed when read and to be assured of my constant and affectionate friendship.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monto. Feb. 21. 23
—The inclosed answers your favor of the 29th ult. on the value of your lands. I had had great hopes that while in your present office you would break up the degrading practice of considering the President’s house as a general tavern and economise sffly to come out of it clear of difficulties. I learn the contrary with great regret. Your society during the little time I have left would have been the chief comfort of my life. Of the 3. portions into which you have laid off your lands here, I will not yet despair but that you may retain that on which your house stands. Perhaps you may be able to make an equivalent partial sale in Loudon before you can a compleat one here.
I had flattered myself that a particular and new resource would have saved me from my unfortunate engagements for W. C. N.1 but they fail me, and I must sell property to their amount.
You have had some difficulties and contradiction to struggle with in the course of your admn but you will come out of them with honor and with the affections of your country. Mine to you have been & ever will be constant and warm.
TO JUDGE WILLIAM JOHNSON
Monticello, March 4, 1823
—I delayed some time the acknowledgment of your welcome letter of December 10th on the common lazy principle of never doing to-day what we can put off to to-morrow, until it became doubtful whether a letter would find you at Charleston. Learning now that you are at Washington, I will reply to some particulars which seem to require it.
The North American Review is a work I do not take, and which is little known in this State, consequently I have never seen its observations on your inestimable history, but a reviewer can never let a work pass uncensured. He must always make himself wiser than his author. He would otherwise think it an abdication of his office of censor. On this occasion, he seems to have had more sensibility for Virginia than she has for herself; for, on reading the work, I saw nothing to touch our pride or jealousy, but every expression of respect and good will which truth could justify. The family of enemies, whose buzz you apprehend, are now nothing. You may learn this at Washington; and their military relation has long ago had the full-voiced condemnation of his own State. Do not fear, therefore, these insects. What you write will be far above their grovelling sphere. Let me, then, implore you, dear Sir, to finish your history of parties, leaving the time of publication to the state of things you may deem proper but taking especial care that we do not lose it altogether. We have been too careless of our future reputation, while our tories will omit nothing to place us in the wrong. Besides the five-volumed libel which represents us as struggling for office, and not at all to prevent our government from being administered into a monarchy, the life of Hamilton is in the hands of a man who, to the bitterness of the priest, adds the rancor of the fiercest federalism. Mr. Adams’ papers, too, and his biography, will descend of course to his son, whose pen, you know, is pointed, and his prejudices not in our favor. And doubtless other things are in preparation, unknown to us. On our part we are depending on truth to make itself known, while history is taking a contrary set which may become too inveterate for correction. Mr. Madison will probably leave something, but I believe, only particular passages of our history and these chiefly confined to the period between the dissolution of the old and commencement of the new government, which is peculiarly within his knowledge. After he joined me in the administration, he had no leisure to write. This, too, was my case. But although I had not time to prepare anything express, my letters, (all preserved) will furnish the daily occurrences and views from my return from Europe in 1790, till I retired finally from office. These will command more conviction than anything I could have written after my retirement; no day having ever passed during that period without a letter to somebody. Written too in the moment, and in the warmth and freshness of fact and feeling, they will carry internal evidence that what they breathe is genuine. Selections from these, after my death, may come out successively as the maturity of circumstances may render their appearance seasonable. But multiplied testimony, multiplied views will be necessary to give solid establishment to truth. Much is known to one which is not known to another, and no one knows everything. It is the sum of individual knowledge which is to make up the whole truth, and to give its correct current through future time. Then do not, dear Sir, withhold your stock of information; and I would moreover recommend that you trust it not to a single copy, nor to a single depository. Leave it not in the power of any one person, under the distempered view of an unlucky moment, to deprive us of the weight of your testimony, and to purchase, by its destruction, the favor of any party or person, as happened with a paper of Dr. Franklin’s.
I cannot lay down my pen without recurring to one of the subjects of my former letter, for in truth there is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore unalarming, instrumentality of the supreme court. This is the form in which federalism now arrays itself, and consolidation is the present principle of distinction between republicans and the pseudo-republicans but real federalists. I must comfort myself with the hope that the judges will see the importance and the duty of giving their country the only evidence they can give of fidelity to its constitution and integrity in the administration of its laws; that is to say, by every one’s giving his opinion seriatim and publicly on the cases he decides. Let him prove by his reasoning that he has read the papers, that he has considered the case, that in the application of the law to it, he uses his own judgment independently and unbiased by party views and personal favor or disfavor. Throw himself in every case on God and his country; both will excuse him for error and value him for his honesty. The very idea of cooking up opinions in conclave, begets suspicions that something passes which fears the public ear, and this, spreading by degrees, must produce at some time abridgment of tenure, facility of removal, or some other modification which may promise a remedy. For in truth there is at this time more hostility to the federal judiciary, than to any other organ of the government.
I should greatly prefer, as you do, four judges to any greater number. Great lawyers are not over abundant, and the multiplication of judges only enables the weak to out-vote the wise, and three concurrent opinions out of four give a strong persumption of right.
I cannot better prove my entire confidence in your candor, than by the frankness with which I commit myself to you, and to this I add with truth, assurances of the sincerity of my great esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM SHORT1
Monticello, March 28. 23
—From your letter of prophecies I too have caught the spirit of prophecy: for who can withhold looking into futurity, on events which are to change the face of the world, and the condition of man throughout it, without indulging himself in the effusions of the holy spirit of Delphos? I may do it the more safely, as to my vaticinations I always subjoin the Proviso “that nothing unexpected happen to change the predicted course of events.” If, then, France has invaded Spain, an insurrection immediately takes place in Paris, the Royal family is sent to the Temple, thence perhaps to the Guillotine; to the 2. or 300,000 men able to bear arms in Paris will flock all the young men of the nation, born and bred in principles of freedom, and furnish a corps d’armee with Orleans, Beauharnais, or Fayette at their head; the army of the Pyrenees catch the same flame and return to Paris with their arms in their hands. The Austrian and Prussian armies march to the relief of Louis XVIII, a descendant as well as Ferdinand of Henry IV. As soon as their backs are turned, an universal insurrection takes place in Germany, Prussia, perhaps the Netherlands, thro’ all Italy certainly, who besides a force sufficient to settle their own governments, can send aids to France. Alexander, in the meantime, having dexterously set all the South of Europe together by the ears, leaves them the bag to hold, and turns his whole force on Turkey, profiting of the opportunity at length obtained, which never occurred before, and never would again.
In the mean time Great Britain and the U S. prepare for milking the cow; and, as friends to all parties, furnish all with cabotage, commerce, manufactures and food. Great Britain particularly gets full employment for all her hands, machines and capital; she recovers from her distresses & rises again into prosperity and splendour. She goes hand in hand with us in reaping this harvest and on fair principles of Neutrality, which it will now be her interest to settle and observe: She joins us too in a guarantee of the independence of Cuba, with the consent of Spain, and removes thus this bone of contention from between us. We avail ourselves of this occasion of a cordial conciliation and friendship with Spain, by assuring her of every friendly office which even a partial neutrality will permit, and particularly that, during their struggle they need fear nothing hostile from us in their colonies, and Spain and Portugal wisely relinquish the dependance of all their American colonies, on condition they make common cause with them in the present conflict. Is not this a handsome string of events, which are to give Representative Governments to all Europe, and all of which are surely to take place “if nothing unexpected happens to change their course”? It might be amusing half a dozen years hence, to review these predictions and see how they tally with history.
I shall receive, with high pleasure, your visit in the Autumn. When the time approaches, we must secure a concert between that and mine to Bedford to which all times are indifferent. Our University is now compleat to a single building, which, having seen the Pantheon, your imagination will readily supply, so as to form a good idea of its ultimate appearance. You must bequeath it your library, as many others of us propose to do.
The bone of my arm is well knitted and strong, but the carpal bones, having been disturbed, maintain an œdematous swelling of the hand and fingers, keeping them entirely helpless and holding up no definite term for the recovery of their usefulness. I am now in the 5th months of this disability.
Nothing could have carried me through the labor of this long letter but the glow of the Pythian inspiration, and I must rest, after exhaustion, as that goddess usually did, adding only assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO SAMUEL SMITH
Monticello, May 3, 1823
—I duly received your favor of the 24th ult. But I am rendered a slow correspondent by the loss of the use, totally of the one, and almost totally of the other wrist, which renders writing scarcely and painfully practicable. I learn with great satisfaction that wholesome economies have been found, sufficient to relieve us from the ruinous necessity of adding annually to our debt by new loans. The deviser of so salutary a relief deserves truly well of his country. I shall be glad, too, if an additional tax of one-fourth of a dollar a gallon on whiskey shall enable us to meet all our engagements with punctuality. Viewing that tax as an article in a system of excise, I was once glad to see it fall with the rest of the system, which I considered as prematurely and unnecessarily introduced. It was evident that our existing taxes were then equal to our existing debts. It was clearly foreseen also that the surplus from excise would only become aliment for useless offices, and would be swallowed in idleness by those whom it would withdraw from useful industry. Considering it only as a fiscal measure, this was right. But the prostration of body and mind which the cheapness of this liquor is spreading through the mass of our citizens, now calls the attention of the legislator on a very different principle. One of his important duties is as guardian of those who from causes insusceptible of precise definition, cannot take care of themselves. Such are infants, maniacs, gamblers, drunkards. The last, as much as the maniac, requires restrictive measures to save him from the fatal infatuation under which he is destroying his health, his morals, his family, and his usefulness to society. One powerful obstacle to his ruinous self-indulgence would be a price beyond his competence. As a sanatory measure, therefore, it becomes one of duty in the public guardians. Yet I do not think it follows necessarily that imported spirits should be subjected to similar enhancement, until they become as cheap as those made at home. A tax on whiskey is to discourage its consumption; a tax on foreign spirits encourages whiskey by removing its rival from competition. The price and present duty throw foreign spirits already out of competition with whiskey, and accordingly they are used but to a salutary extent. You see no persons besotting themselves with imported spirits, wines, liquors, cordials, &c. Whiskey claims to itself alone the exclusive office of sot-making. Foreign spirits, wines, teas, coffee, segars, salt, are articles of as innocent consumption as broadcloths and silks and ought, like them, to pay but the average ad valorem duty of other imported comforts. All of them are ingredients in our happiness, and the government which steps out of the ranks of the ordinary articles of consumption to select and lay under disproportionate burthens a particular one, because it is a comfort, pleasing to the taste, or necessary to health, and will therefore be bought, is, in that particular, a tyranny. Taxes on consumption like those on capital or income, to be just, must be uniform. I do not mean to say that it may not be for the general interest to foster for awhile certain infant manufactures, until they are strong enough to stand against foreign rivals; but when evident that they will never be so, it is against right, to make the other branches of industry support them. When it was found that France could not make sugar under 6 h. a lb., was it not tyranny to restrain her citizens from importing at 1 h.? or would it not have been so to have laid a duty of 5 h. on the imported? The permitting an exchange of industries with other nations is a direct encouragement of your own, which without that, would bring you nothing for your comfort, and would of course cease to be produced.
On the question of the next Presidential election, I am a mere looker on. I never permit myself to express an opinion, or to feel a wish on the subject. I indulge a single hope only, that the choice may fall on one who will be a friend of peace, of economy, of the republican principles of our constitution, and of the salutary distribution of powers made by that between the general and the local governments, to this, I ever add sincere prayers for your happiness and prosperity.
TO THOMAS LEIPER
May 31, 23
—On my late return from Bedford I found here your three favors of May 9. 13. & —. The millet you have been so kind as to send me is not yet arrived. Accept my thanks for it as well as for the details as to it’s culture & produce. I shall turn it over to my grandson T. J. Randolph, to whom I have committed the management of the whole of my agricultural concerns, in which I was never skilful and am now entirely unequal from age and debility. He had recd. some seed of the same kind from another quarter and had sowed an acre & a half by way of experiment. To this he will add what you are so kind as to send if it comes in time. We had heard much of it’s great produce & particularly in Kentucky. We have also obtained a little of the genuine Guinee grass, a plant of great & nutritious produce. This too is under trial. Withdrawn entirely from agriculture I am equally so from the business of the world & especially from political concerns which I trust entirely to the genern of the day, without enquiry, or reading but a single newspaper. I shall therefore accdg to your permission consign the several valuable pamphlets you have sent me to some of our members of Congress or others in power, who may use them to advantage. I am sure however I should read your vinegar & pepper letters with pleasure should you send them on; for whenever I have been confounded in the labyrinth of politics of Pennsylve especially I have ever applied to you for their clue & have found myself kept right by your informn. I am all alive however to the war of Spain & it’s atrocious invasion by France. I trust it will end in an Universal insurrection of continental Europe & in the establmt of representative government in every country of it. We surely see the finger of providence in the insanity of France which brings on this great consummation.
I learn from you with great satisfn the details concerning your family, and their happy & prosperous progress in life. Your own losses by endorsements are heavy indeed. I do not know whether you may recollect how loudly my voice was raised agt. the establmt of banks in the begng. But like that of Cassandra it was not listened to. I was set down as a madman by those who have since been victims to them. I little thought then how much I was to suffer by them myself, for I too am taken in by endorsements for a friend to the amount of 20,000 D. for the payment of which I shall have to make sale of that much of my property the ensuing winter. And yet the general revoln of fortunes which these instrmns have produced seem not at all to have cured our country of this mania.
Your last letter first enables me to return you the thanks so long due & unrendered for the two prints of Bonaparte, being the first informn I have recd that they came from you. They came to me without the least indicn from what quarter. I went to the village of Milton, & enquired of the boatmen, who could tell me nothing more than that they were delivered to them for me by a person whom they did not know, and the present was so magnificent that I really suspected it came from Joseph Bonaparte or some of the refugee French Generals who were then with us. Dr. Watson first suggested that he believed they had come from you and that you had never learnt their safe arrival. I prayed him on his return to Phila to ascertain the fact, and your letter now, for the first time gives me the informn desired. I pray you to be assured that nothing but this ignorance could so long have withheld my just acknolegmts for this mark of your frdshp so splendid & so acceptable. You suppose that in some letter of mine an idea is conveyed of dissatsn on my part for something mentd. by you on the subject of my religion. Certainly no letter of mine to you can ever have expressed such an idea. I never heard of any animadversion of yours on my religion & I believe that is one of the subjects on which our conversn never turned, and that neither of us ever knew what was the religion of the other. On this point I suppose we are both equally tolerant & charitable.
I am far from being in the condn of easy-writing which your letter supposes, with 2 crippled wrists, the one scarcely able to move my pen, the other to hold my paper. This double misfortune, the one of antr date now aggravated by age, the other recent, renders writing so slow & painful that nothing can induce me to approach the writing table but business indispensable or the irresistible impulse to assure my friends, as I now do you, of my constant & affecte frdshp & respect.
TO WILLIAM BRANCH GILES
Monticello, June 9. 23
—I received yesterday your favor of the 31st ult. and my Grandson Th: J. R. having set out to Richmond the day before I immediately inclosed the papers to him by mail and informed him that I should be ready if thot necessary, to bear testimony to the honble character of our decd. friend, as I knew him. I am sorry to learn that you are among the sufferers by his misfortunes. I am dreadfully so, to an amount which will weigh heavily on the remr of my life.
I was much gratified by the visit of your son and formed as favorable an opinion of him as it’s shortness would permit. I hope we shall have our Univty. opened yet in time for him. This however must depend on the future acts of the legislature. They started the schemes of their Primary schools and university at the same time, and as if on the same footing, without considering that the former required no preliminary expence, the latter an immense one, and their supplies of the deficiency they have called hitherto by the name of loans, as if the monies of the literary fund could be more legitimately appropriated. Their last vote will compleatly finish the buildings, and whenever they shall declare our annuity liberated from this incumbrance, we shall take measures to procure professors and to open the institution. I hope they will make this declaration at their next session. We can immediately accommodate 200 students, which number I am sure will be quickly furnished to overflowing. Every student addnal to that number, and I think they will be many, will require progressive accommdns to the amount of 300. D. for each until we attain our maximum, which the success of the establmt will I hope by that time encourage the legislature to furnish, in considn of the D. & cents they will add to our circuln as well as to the diffusion of science among our citizens.
I have been gratified lately by hearing that your health was improving. The bone of my arm which was fractured, is well knitted, but the small bones of the wrist being dislocated at the same time, could not be truly replaced, so that it’s use will never be recovered in any great degree. My health is good, but so weakened by age that I can walk but little, but I ride daily & with little fatigue. I hope you will continue as long as you wish it to enjoy life and health, and pray you to be assured of my constant and sincere frdshp and respect.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, June 11, 1823
—Considering that I had not been to Bedford for a twelvemonth before, I thought myself singularly unfortunate in so timing my journey, as to have been absent exactly at the moment of your late visit to our neighborhood. The loss, indeed, was all my own; for in these short interviews with you, I generally get my political compass rectified, learn from you whereabouts we are, and correct my course again. In exchange for this, I can give you but newspaper ideas, and little indeed of these, for I read but a single paper, and that hastily. I find Horace and Tacitus so much better writers than the champions of the gazettes, that I lay those down to take up these with great reluctance. And on the question you propose, whether we can, in any form, take a bolder attitude than formerly in favor of liberty, I can give you but commonplace ideas. They will be but the widow’s mite, and offered only because requested. The matter which now embroils Europe, the presumption of dictating to an independent nation the form of its government, is so arrogant, so atrocious, that indignation, as well as moral sentiment, enlists all our partialities and prayers in favor of one, and our equal execrations against the other. I do not know, indeed, whether all nations do not owe to one another a bold and open declaration of their sympathies with the one party and their detestation of the conduct of the other. But farther than this we are not bound to go; and indeed, for the sake of the world, we ought not to increase the jealousies, or draw on ourselves the power of this formidable confederacy. I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States, never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people. On our part, never had a people so favorable a chance of trying the opposite system, of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of improvement instead of destruction. With Europe we have few occasions of collision, and these, with a little prudence and forbearance, may be generally accommodated. Of the brethren of our own hemisphere, none are yet, or for an age to come will be, in a shape, condition, or disposition to war against us. And the foothold which the nations of Europe had in either America, is slipping from under them, so that we shall soon be rid of their neighborhood. Cuba alone seems at present to hold up a speck of war to us. Its possession by Great Britain would indeed be a great calamity to us. Could we induce her to join us in guaranteeing its independence against all the world, except Spain, it would be nearly as valuable to us as if it were our own. But should she take it, I would not immediately go to war for it; because the first war on other accounts will give it to us; or the island will give itself to us, when able to do so. While no duty, therefore, calls on us to take part in the present war of Europe, and a golden harvest offers itself in reward for doing nothing, peace and neutrality seem to be our duty and interest. We may gratify ourselves, indeed, with a neutrality as partial to Spain as would be justifiable without giving cause of war to her adversary; we might and ought to avail ourselves of the happy occasion of procuring and cementing a cordial reconciliation with her, by giving assurance of every friendly office which neutrality admits, and especially, against all apprehension of our intermeddling in the quarrel with her colonies. And I expect daily and confidently to hear of a spark kindled in France, which will employ her at home, and relieve Spain from all further apprehensions of danger.
That England is playing false with Spain cannot be doubted. Her government is looking one way and rowing another. It is curious to look back a little on past events. During the ascendancy of Bonaparte, the word among the herd of kings, was sauve qui peut. Each shifted for himself, and left his brethren to squander and do the same as they could. After the battle of Waterloo, and the military possession of France, they rallied and combined in common cause, to maintain each other against any similar and future danger. And in this alliance, Louis, now avowedly, and George, secretly but solidly, were of the contracting parties; and there can be no doubt that the allies are bound by treaty to aid England with their armies, should insurrection take place among her people. The coquetry she is now playing off between her people and her allies is perfectly understood by the latter, and accordingly gives no apprehensions to France, to whom it is all explained. The diplomatic correspondence she is now displaying, these double papers fabricated merely for exhibition, in which she makes herself talk of morals and principle, as if her qualms of conscience would not permit her to go all lengths with her Holy Allies, are all to gull her own people. It is a theatrical farce, in which the five powers are the actors, England the Tartuffe, and her people the dupes. Playing thus so dextrously into each others’ hands, and their own persons seeming secured, they are now looking to their privileged orders. These faithful auxiliaries, or accomplices, must be saved. This war is evidently that of the general body of the aristocracy, in which England is also acting her part. “Save but the Nobles and there shall be no war,” says she, masking her measures at the same time under the form of friendship and mediation, and hypocritically, while a party, offering herself as a judge, to betray those whom she is not permitted openly to oppose. A fraudulent neutrality, if neutrality at all, is all Spain will get from her. And Spain, probably, perceives this, and willingly winks at it rather than have her weight thrown openly into the other scale.
But I am going beyond my text, and sinning against the adage of carrying coals to Newcastle. In hazarding to you my crude and uninformed notions of things beyond my cognizance, only be so good as to remember that it is at your request, and with as little confidence on my part as profit on yours. You will do what is right, leaving the people of Europe to act their follies and crimes among themselves, while we pursue in good faith the paths of peace and prosperity. To your judgment we are willingly resigned, with sincere assurances of affectionate esteem and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monto. June 13. 23
—I communicated to you a former part of a correspondence between Judge Johnson of Charleston and myself, chiefly on the practice of caucusing opns which is that of the Supreme court of the US. but on some other matters also, particularly his history of parties. In a late letter he asks me to give him my idea of the precise principles & views of the Republicans in their opposn to the Feds when that opposn was highest, also my opn of the line dividing the jurisdn of the general & state govmts, mention a dispute between Genl. W.’s frds & Mr. Hamilton as to the authorship of their Valedictory, and expresses his concurrce with me on the subject of seriatim opns. This last being of primary importance I inclose you a copy of my answer to the judge, because if you think of it as I do, I suppose your connection with Judge Todd & your antient intimacy with Judge Duvel might give you an opening to say something to them on the subject. If Johnson could be backed by them in the practice, the others would be obliged to follow suit and this dangerous engine of consolidn would feel a proper restraint by their being compelled to explain publicly the grounds of their opinions. What I have stated as [to] the Valedictory, is accdg to my recollection; if you find any error it shall be corrected in another letter. When you shall have read the inclosed be so good as to return it, as I have no other copy.
The literary board have advanced 40,000 D. and will retain the balance for us as requested until the end of the year, and the building is going on rapidly. Ever & affectly. yours.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, June 23, 1823
—I have been lately visited by a Mr. Miralla, a native of Buenos Ayres, but resident in Cuba for the last seven or eight years; a person of intelligence, of much information, and frankly communicative. I believe, indeed, he is known to you. I availed myself of the opportunity of learning what was the state of public sentiment in Cuba as to their future course. He says they should be satisfied to remain as they are; but all are sensible that that cannot be; that whenever circumstances shall render a separation from Spain necessary, a perfect independance would be their choice, provided they could see a certainty of protection; but that, without that prospect, they would be divided in opinion between an incorporation with Mexico, and with the United States.—Columbia being too remote for prompt support. The considerations in favor of Mexico are that the Havana would be the emporium for all the produce of that immense and wealthy country, and of course, the medium of all its commerce; that having no ports on its eastern coast, Cuba would become the depot of its naval stores and strength, and, in effect, would, in a great measure, have the sinews of the government in its hands. That in favor of the United States is the fact that three-fourths of the exportations from Havana come to the United States, that they are a settled government, the power which can most promptly succor them, rising to an eminence promising future security; and of which they would make a member of the sovereignty, while as to England, they would be only a colony, subordinated to her interest, and that there is not a man in the island who would not resist her to the bitterest extremity. Of this last sentiment I had not the least idea at the date of my late letters to you. I had supposed an English interest there quite as strong as that of the United States, and therefore, that, to avoid war, and keep the island open to our own commerce, it would be best to join that power in mutually guaranteeing its independence. But if there is no danger of its falling into the possession of England, I must retract an opinion founded on an error of fact. We are surely under no obligation to give her, gratis, an interest which she has not; and the whole inhabitants being averse to her, and the climate mortal to strangers, its continued military occupation by her would be impracticable. It is better then to lie still in readiness to receive that interesting incorporation when solicited by herself. For, certainly, her addition to our confederacy is exactly what is wanting to round our power as a nation to the point of its utmost interest.
I have thought it my duty to acknowledge my error on this occasion, and to repeat a truth before acknowledged, that, retired as I am, I know too little of the affairs of the world to form opinions of them worthy of any attention; and I resign myself with reason, and perfect confidence to the care and guidance of those to whom the helm is committed. With this assurance, accept that of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN
Monticello, August 2, 1823
—A recent illness, from which I am just recovering, obliges me to borrow the pen of a granddaughter to acknowledge the receipt of your welcome favor, of June 29, from New York. I read it with great satisfaction. Occasional views, to be relied on, of the complicated affairs of Europe are like a good observation at sea, which tells one where they are, after wandering through the newspapers till they are bewildered. I keep my eye on the cortes as my index, and judge of everything by their position and proceedings. I do not readily despair of Spain. Their former example proved them, and the cause is the same, their constitutional cortes and king. At any rate I despair not of Europe. The advance of mind which has taken place everywhere cannot retrograde, and the advantages of representative government exhibited in England and America, and recently in other countries, will procure its establishment everywhere in a more or less perfect form; and this will insure the amelioration of the condition of the world. It will cost years of blood, and be well worth them.
Here you will not immediately see into our political condition which you once understood so well. It is not exactly what it seems to be. You will be told that parties are now all amalgamated; the wolf now dwells with the lamb, and the leopard lies down with the kid. It is true that Federalism has changed its name and hidden itself among us. Since the Hartford Convention it is deemed even by themselves a name of reproach. In some degree, too, they have varied their object. To monarchize this nation they see is impossible; the next best thing in their view is to consolidate it into one government as a premier pas to monarchy. The party is now as strong as it ever has been since 1800.; and, though mixed with us, are to be known by their rallying together on every question of power in a general government. The judges, as before, are at their head, and are their entering wedge. Young men are more easily seduced into this principle than the old one of monarchy. But you will soon see into this disguise. Your visit to this place would indeed be a day of jubilee: but your age and distance forbid the hope. Be this as it will, I shall love you forever, and rejoice in your rejoicing, and sympathize in your evils. God bless you and have you ever in his holy keeping.
TO SAMUEL H. SMITH
Monticello Aug. 2. 23
—I agree with you in all the definitions of your favor of July 22. of the qualificns necessary for the chair of the US. and I add another. He ought to be disposed rigorously to maintain the line of power marked by the constitution between the two co-ordinate governments, each sovereign & independent in it’s department, the states as to everything relating to themselves and their state, the General government as to everything relating to things or persons out of a particular state. The one may be strictly called the Domestic branch of government which is sectional but sovereign, the other the foreign branch of government co-ordinate with the other domestic & equally sovereign on it’s own side of the line. The federalists, baffled in their schemes to monarchise us, have given up their name, which the Hartford Convention had made odious, and have taken shelter among us and under our name. But they have not only changed the point of attack. On every question of the usurpation of State powers by the Foreign or Genl govmt, the same men rally together, force the line of demarcation and consolidate the government. The judges are at their head as heretofore, and are their entering wedge. The true old republicans stand to the line, and will I hope die on it if necessary. Let our next president be aware of this new party principle and firm in maintaining the constitutional line of demarcation. But agreeing in your principles, I am not sufficiently acquainted with the numerous candidates to apply them personally. With one I have had a long acquaintance, but little intimate because little in political unison. With another a short but more favorable acquaintance because always in unison. With others merely a personal recognition. Thus unqualified to judge, I am equally indisposed in my state of retirement, at my age and last stage of debility. I ought not to quit the port in which I am quietly moored to commit myself again to the stormy ocean of political or party contest, to kindle new enmities, and lose old friends. No, my dear sir, tranquility is the summum bonum of old age, and there is a time when it is a duty to leave the government of the world to the existing generation, and to repose one’s self under their protecting hand. That time is come with me, and I welcome it. A recent illness from which I am just recovered obliges me to borrow the pen of a granddaughter to say these things to you, to assure you of my continued esteem and respect, and to request you to recall me to the friendly recollections of Mrs. Smith.1
TO GEORGE HAY
Monticello Aug. 17. 23
—I recd. yesterday your favor of the 11th. It referred to something said to be inclosed, without saying what, and, in fact nothing was inclosed. But the preceding mail had brot me the Nat. Intell. of the 7th & 9th in which was a very able discussion on the mode of electing our President signed Phocion. This I suspect is what your letter refers to. If I am right in this conjecture, I have no hesitation in saying that I have ever considered the constitutional mode of election ultimately by the legislature voting by states as the most dangerous blot in our constn, and one which some unlucky chance will some day hit, and give us a pope & anti-pope. I looked therefore with anxiety to the amendment proposed by Colo. Taylor at the last session of Congress, which I thought would be a good substitute, if on an equal division of the electors after a 2d appeal to them the ultimate decision between the two highest had been given by it to the legislature voting per capita. But the states are now so numerous that I despair of ever seeing another amdmt to the constn, altho the innovns of time will certainly call and now already call for some, and especially the smaller states are so numerous as to render desperate every hope of obtaining a sufficient proportion of them in favor of Phocion’s proposition. Another general convention can alone relieve us. What then is the best palliative of the evil in the mean time? Another short question points to the answer. Would we rather the choice should be made by the legislature voting in Congress by states, or in Caucus per capita? The remedy is indeed bad, but the disease worse!
But I have long since withdrawn from attention to political affairs. Age & debility render me unequal and disinclined to them, and two crippled wrists to the use of the pen. Peace with all the world and a quiet descent thro’ the remainder of my time are now so necessary to my happiness that I am unwilling by the expression of any opinion before the public to rekindle antient animosities, covered under their ashes indeed but not extinguished. Yet altho’ weaned from politics, I am not so from the love of my friends, and to yourself particularly I can give assurance with truth of my constant, and cordial affection & respect.
TO WILLIAM BRANCH GILES
Monticello Aug. 29. 23
—On receipt of your former letter of May 31. I communicated it to my gr. son Jefferson Randolph. On considn of the subject he was induced to think that the vindicn of Mr. W. C. N.’s character, if it needed it at all would be particularly incumbent on his brother Mr. Norborne Nicholas and would in his be in more competent hands. He therefore communicated the lre to him, and referred to him to act on it, as he should think best. Your last letter of July 29 came to my hands on the 21st inst. only. Jefferson was then absent on a journey so that I did not see him till the evening of the 27th when I communicated to him this letter also. He observed to me that having referred the whole matter to Mr. N. Nicholas he was unwilling to meddle with it at all. I therefore went on the 28th (yesterday) to Charlsvl. at the hour prescribed & found there Mr. Pollard with his counsel Mr. Dyer, but no magistrates. I had written my answers to your interrogatories & shewed them to the gentlemen, asking of Mr. Pollard if (as no magistrates attended) he would suffer them to be read by consent. He said he should do whatever his counsel advised. I then asked his counsel, who answered that they could consent to nothing, at the same time acknoleging that the answers were such as every man would give who knew anything of Colo. Nicholas. We parted therefore re infecta. Reflecting however, on my return home, I became sensible that you must have depended either on Jef. Randolph or myself for procuring magistrates and was mortified that, on their refusing consent, it did not occur to me on the instant, to go out and hunt up a couple of magistrates. I therefore returned to Charlesvl early this morning, found Mr. Pollard still there, went out & procured the attendce of 2 magistrates, and the deposn was taken, and is in the letter I now enclose for the clerk of your court. That you may know what it is I return you your interrogatories with the answers I gave to them & those of the other party with the answers to them also which I scribbled on my knee. These were copied verbatim into the deposn without a word more or less: this will explain to you why the deposition has been taken this day instead of yesterday and with every wish which friendship can inspire for your happy issue out of this entanglement, I give assurances of my constant and unchangeable affection & respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello, August 30, 1823
—I received the enclosed letters from the President with a request, that after perusal I would forward them to you for perusal by yourself also, and to be returned then to him.
You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickering’s fourth of July observations on the Declaration of Independence. If his principles and prejudices, personal and political, gave us no reason to doubt whether he had truly quoted the information he alleges to have received from Mr. Adams, I should then say, that in some of the particulars, Mr. Adams’ memory has led him into unquestionable error. At the age of eighty-eight, and forty-seven years after the transactions of Independence, this is not wonderful. Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on the small advantage of that difference only, venture to oppose my memory to his, were it not supported by written notes, taken by myself at the moment and on the spot. He says, “the committee of five, to wit, Dr. Franklin, Sherman, Livingston, and ourselves, met, discussed the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the draught; that we, as a sub-committee, met, and after the urgencies of each on the other, I consented to undertake the task; that the draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested a single alteration.” Now these details are quite incorrect. The committee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, requesting their corrections, because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit, before presenting it to the committee; and you have seen the original paper now in my hands, with the corrections of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams interlined in their own hand writings. Their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered, to Congress. This personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he has misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickering’s observations, and Mr. Adams’ in addition, “that it contained no new ideas, that it is a common-place compilation, its sentiments hacknied in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis’ pamphlet,” may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge. Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke’s treatise on government. Otis’ pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before. Had Mr. Adams been so restrained, Congress would have lost the benefit of his bold and impressive advocations of the rights of Revolution. For no man’s confident and fervid addresses, more than Mr. Adams’, encouraged and supported us through the difficulties surrounding us, which, like the ceaseless action of gravity weighed on us by night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we may ask what of these elevated thoughts was new, or can be affirmed never before to have entered the conceptions of man?
Whether, also, the sentiments of Independence, and the reasons for declaring it, which make so great a portion of the instrument, had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before the 4th of July, ’76, or this dictum also of Mr. Adams be another slip of memory, let history say. This, however, I will say for Mr. Adams, that he supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. As to myself, I thought it a duty to be, on that occasion, a passive auditor of the opinions of others, more impartial judges than I could be, of its merits or demerits. During the debate I was sitting by Doctor Franklin, and he observed that I was writhing a little under the acrimonious criticisms on some of its parts; and it was on that occasion, that by way of comfort, he told me the story of John Thompson, the hatter, and his new sign.
Timothy thinks the instrument the better for having a fourth of it expunged. He would have thought it still better, had the other three-fourths gone out also, all but the single sentiment (the only one he approves), which recommends friendship to his dear England, whenever she is willing to be at peace with us. His insinuations are, that although “the high tone of the instrument was in unison with the warm feelings of the times, this sentiment of habitual friendship to England should never be forgotten, and that the duties it enjoins should especially be borne in mind on every celebration of this anniversary.” In other words, that the Declaration, as being a libel on the government of England, composed in times of passion, should now be buried in utter oblivion, to spare the feelings of our English friends and Angloman fellow-citizens. But it is not to wound them that we wish to keep it in mind; but to cherish the principles of the instrument in the bosoms of our own citizens: and it is a heavenly comfort to see that these principles are yet so strongly felt, as to render a circumstance so trifling as this little lapse of memory of Mr. Adams, worthy of being solemnly announced and supported at an anniversary assemblage of the nation on its birthday. In opposition, however, to Mr. Pickering, I pray God that these principles may be eternal, and close the prayer with my affectionate wishes for yourself of long life, health and happiness.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, September 4, 1823
—Your letter of August the 15th was received in due time, and with the welcome of everything which comes from you. With its opinions on the difficulties of revolutions from despotism to freedom, I very much concur. The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it. Habituated from their infancy to passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests, they are not qualified when called on to think and provide for themselves; and their inexperience, their ignorance and bigotry make them instruments often, in the hands of the Bonapartes and Iturbides, to defeat their own rights and purposes. This is the present situation of Europe and Spanish America. But it is not desperate. The light which has been shed on mankind by the art of printing, has eminently changed the condition of the world. As yet, that light has dawned on the middling classes only of the men in Europe. The kings and the rabble, of equal ignorance, have not yet received its rays; but it continues to spread, and while printing is preserved, it can no more recede than the sun return on his course. A first attempt to recover the right of self-government may fail, so may a second, a third, &c. But as a younger and more instructed race comes on, the sentiment becomes more and more intuitive, and a fourth, a fifth, or some subsequent one of the ever renewed attempts will ultimately succeed. In France, the first effort was defeated by Robespierre, the second by Bonaparte, the third by Louis XVIII. and his holy allies: another is yet to come, and all Europe, Russia excepted, has caught the spirit; and all will attain representative government, more or less perfect. This is now well understood to be a necessary check on kings, whom they will probably think it more prudent to chain and tame, than to exterminate. To attain all this, however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of blood, and years of desolation. For what inheritance so valuable, can man leave to his posterity? The spirit of the Spaniard, and his deadly and eternal hatred to a Frenchman, give me much confidence that he will never submit, but finally defeat this atrocious violation of the laws of God and man, under which he is suffering; and the wisdom and firmness of the Cortes, afford reasonable hope, that that nation will settle down in a temperate representative government, with an executive properly subordinated to that. Portugal, Italy, Prussia, Germany, Greece, will follow suit. You and I shall look down from another world on these glorious achievements to man, which will add to the joys even of heaven.
I observe your toast of Mr. Jay on the 4th of July, wherein you say that the omission of his signature to the Declaration of Independence was by accident. Our impressions as to this fact being different, I shall be glad to have mine corrected, if wrong. Jay, you know, had been in constant opposition to our laboring majority. Our estimate at the time was, that he, Dickinson and Johnson of Maryland, by their ingenuity, perseverance and partiality to our English connection, had constantly kept us a year behind where we ought to have been in our preparations and proceedings. From about the date of the Virginia instructions of May the 15th, 1776, to declare Independence, Mr. Jay absented himself from Congress, and never came there again until December, 1778. Of course, he had no part in the discussions or decision of that question. The instructions to their Delegates by the Convention of New York, then sitting, to sign the Declaration, were presented to Congress on the 15th of July only, and on that day the journals show the absence of Mr. Jay, by a letter received from him, as they had done as early as the 29th of May by another letter. And I think he had been omitted by the convention on a new election of Delegates, when they changed their instructions. Of this last fact, however, having no evidence but an ancient impression, I shall not affirm it. But whether so or not, no agency of accident appears in the case. This error of fact, however, whether yours or mine, is of little consequence to the public. But truth being as cheap as error, it is as well to rectify it for our own satisfaction.
I have had a fever of about three weeks, during the last and preceding month, from which I am entirely recovered except as to strength.
TO JOHN ADAMS
Monticello, October 12, 1823
—I do not write with the ease which your letter of September the 18th supposes. Crippled wrists and fingers make writing slow and laborious. But while writing to you, I lose the sense of these things in the recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made happiness out of everything. I forget for a while the hoary winter of age, when we can think of nothing but how to keep ourselves warm, and how to get rid of our heavy hours until the friendly hand of death shall rid us of all at once. Against this tedium vitæ, however, I am fortunately mounted on a hobby, which, indeed, I should have better managed some thirty or forty years ago; but whose easy amble is still sufficient to give exercise and amusement to an octogenary rider. This is the establishment of a University, on a scale more comprehensive, and in a country more healthy and central than our old William and Mary, which these obstacles have long kept in a state of languor and inefficiency. But the tardiness with which such works proceed, may render it doubtful whether I shall live to see it go into action.
Putting aside these things, however, for the present, I write this letter as due to a friendship coeval with our government, and now attempted to be poisoned, when too late in life to be replaced by new affections. I had for sometime observed in the public papers, dark hints and mysterious inuendoes of a correspondence of yours with a friend, to whom you had opened your bosom without reserve, and which was to be made public by that friend or his representative. And now it is said to be actually published. It has not yet reached us, but extracts have been given, and such as seemed most likely to draw a curtain of separation between you and myself. Were there no other motive than that of indignation against the author of this outrage on private confidence, whose shaft seems to have been aimed at yourself more particularly, this would make it the duty of every honorable mind to disappoint that aim, by opposing to its impression a seven-fold shield of apathy and insensibility. With me, however, no such armor is needed. The circumstances of the times in which we have happened to live, and the partiality of our friends at a particular period, placed us in a state of apparent opposition, which some might suppose to be personal also; and there might not be wanting those who wished to make it so, by filling our ears with malignant falsehoods, by dressing up hideous phantoms of their own creation, presenting them to you under my name, to me under yours, and endeavoring to instil into our minds things concerning each other the most destitute of truth. And if there had been, at any time, a moment when we were off our guard, and in a temper to let the whispers of these people make us forget what we had known of each other for so many years, and years of so much trial, yet all men who have attended to the workings of the human mind, who have seen the false colors under which passion sometimes dresses the actions and motives of others, have seen also those passions subsiding with time and reflection, dissipating like mists before the rising sun, and restoring to us the sight of all things in their true shape and colors. It would be strange indeed, if, at our years, we were to go back an age to hunt up imaginary or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affections so sweetening to the evening of our lives. Be assured, my dear Sir, that I am incapable of receiving the slightest impression from the effort now made to plant thorns on the pillow of age, worth and wisdom, and to sow tares between friends who have been such for near half a century. Beseeching you then, not to suffer your mind to be disquieted by this wicked attempt to poison its peace, and praying you to throw it by among the things which have never happened, I add sincere assurances of my unabated and constant attachment, friendship and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello Oct. 18. 23
—I return you Mr. Coxe’s letter which has cost me much time at two or three different attempts to decypher it. Had I such a correspondent I should certainly admonish him that if he would not so far respect my time as to write to me legibly, I should so far respect it myself as not to waste it in decomposing and recomposing his hieroglyphics.
The jarrings between the friends of Hamilton and Pickering will be of advantage to the cause of truth. It will denudate the monarchism of the former and justify our opposition to him, and the malignity of the latter which nullifies his testimony in all cases which his passion can discolor. God bless you, and preserve you many years.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, Oct. 19. 23
—I forward you the inclosed letter on the same ground on which it is addressed to me, and not that Duane has any moral claims on us. His defection from the republican ranks, his transition to the Federalists, and giving triumph, in an important state, to wrong over right, have dissolved, of his own seeking, his connection with us. Yet the energy of his press, when our cause was laboring, and all but lost, under the overwhelming weight of it’s powerful adversaries, it’s unquestionable effect in the revolution produced in the public mind, which arrested the rapid march of our government towards monarchy, overweigh in fact the demerit of his desertion, when we had become too strong to suffer from it sensibly. He is in truth the victim of passions which his principles were not strong enough to controul. Altho therefore we are not bound to clothe him with the best robe, to put a ring on his finger, and to kill the fatted calf for him, yet neither should we leave him to eat husks with the swine. His advocate may look too high when he talks of the Post office; but if some more secondary birth should be vacant (as Depy collector, Inspector, Nav. officer) something which would feed and cover him decently, I am persuaded it would be a gratification to the old republicans, who do not feel that all he has done is cancelled by one false step. As to any particular demerits towards yourself, without recollecting them, I am sure you were above their infliction, & the more so as he was then fighting openly in the ranks of the enemy. But all this is left to your own feelings and reflection, being written only “ut valeat quantum valere potest.” Dios guarde a Vm muchos anos.1
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello, October 24, 1823
—The question presented by the letters you have sent me, is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of Independence. That made us a nation, this sets our compass and points the course which we are to steer through the ocean of time opening on us. And never could we embark on it under circumstances more auspicious. Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe. Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs. America, North, and South, has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and peculiarly her own. She should therefore have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe. While the last is laboring to become the domicil of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom. One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this pursuit; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it. By acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the bands, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free government, and emancipate a continent at one stroke, which might otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty, Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on earth; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world. With her then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship; and nothing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause. Not that I would purchase even her amity at the price of taking part in her wars. But the war in which the present proposition might engage us, should that be its consequence, is not her war, but ours. Its object is to introduce and establish the American system, of keeping out of our land all foreign powers, of never permitting those of Europe to intermeddle with the affairs of our nations. It is to maintain our own principle, not to depart from it. And if, to facilitate this, we can effect a division in the body of the European powers, and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely we should do it. But I am clearly of Mr. Canning’s opinion, that it will prevent instead of provoking war. With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of our two continents, all Europe combined would not undertake such a war. For how would they propose to get at either enemy without superior fleets? Nor is the occasion to be slighted which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so flagitiously begun by Bonaparte, and now continued by the equally lawless Alliance, calling itself Holy.
But we have first to ask ourselves a question. Do we wish to acquire to our own confederacy any one or more of the Spanish provinces? I candidly confess, that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States. The control which, with Florida Point, this island would give us over the Gulf of Mexico, and the countries and isthmus bordering on it, as well as all those whose waters flow into it, would fill up the measure of our political well-being. Yet, as I am sensible that this can never be obtained, even with her own consent, but by war; and its independence, which is our second interest, (and especially its independence of England,) can be secured without it, I have no hesitation in abandoning my first wish to future chances, and accepting its independence, with peace and the friendship of England, rather than its association, at the expense of war and her enmity.
I could honestly, therefore, join in the declaration proposed, that we aim not at the acquisition of any of those possessions, that we will not stand in the way of any amicable arrangement between them and the mother country; but that we will oppose, with all our means, the forcible interposition of any other power, as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other form or pretext, and most especially, their transfer to any power by conquest, cession, or acquisition in any other way. I should think it, therefore, advisable, that the Executive should encourage the British government to a continuance in the dispositions expressed in these letters, by an assurance of his concurrence with them as far as his authority goes; and that as it may lead to war, the declaration of which requires an act of Congress, the case shall be laid before them for consideration at their first meeting, and under the reasonable aspect in which it is seen by himself.
I have been so long weaned from political subjects, and have so long ceased to take any interest in them, that I am sensible I am not qualified to offer opinions on them worthy of any attention. But the question now proposed involves consequences so lasting, and effects so decisive of our future destinies, as to rekindle all the interest I have heretofore felt on such occasions, and to induce me to the hazard of opinions, which will prove only my wish to contribute still my mite towards anything which may be useful to our country. And praying you to accept it at only what it is worth, I add the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Monticello, November 4, 1823
My Dear Friend,
—Two dislocated wrists and crippled fingers have rendered writing so slow and laborious, as to oblige me to withdraw from nearly all correspondence; not however, from yours, while I can make a stroke with a pen. We have gone through too many trying scenes together, to forget the sympathies and affections they nourished.
Your trials have indeed been long and severe. When they will end, is yet unknown, but where they will end, cannot be doubted. Alliances, Holy or Hellish, may be formed, and retard the epoch of deliverance, may swell the rivers of blood which are yet to flow, but their own will close the scene, and leave to mankind the right of self-government. I trust that Spain will prove, that a nation cannot be conquered which determines not to be so, and that her success will be the turning of the tide of liberty, no more to be arrested by human efforts. Whether the state of society in Europe can bear a republican government, I doubted, you know, when with you, and I do now. A hereditary chief, strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions, and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses, will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive. But the only security of all is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.
We are all, for example, in agitation even in our peaceful country. For in peace as well as in war, the mind must be kept in motion. Who is to be the next President, is the topic here of every conversation. My opinion on that subject is what I expressed to you in my last letter. The question will be ultimately reduced to the northernmost and southern-most candidate. The former will get every federal vote in the Union, and many republicans; the latter, all of those denominated of the old school; for you are not to believe that these two parties are amalgamated, that the lion and the lamb are lying down together. The Hartford Convention, the victory of Orleans, the peace of Ghent, prostrated the name of federalism. Its votaries abandoned it through shame and mortification; and now call themselves republicans. But the name alone is changed, the principles are the same. For in truth, the parties of Whig and Tory, are those of nature. They exist in all countries, whether called by these names, or by those of Aristocrats and Democrats, Coté Droite and Coté Gauche, Ultras and Radicals, Serviles and Liberals. The sickly, weakly, timid man, fears the people, and is a tory by nature. The healthy, strong and bold, cherishes them, and is formed a whig by nature. On the eclipse of federalism with us, although not its extinction, its leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing a geographical division of parties, which might insure them the next President. The people of the north went blindfold into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up. To that is now succeeding a distinction, which, like that of republican and federal, or whig and tory, being equally intermixed through every state, threatens none of those geographical schisms which go immediately to a separation. The line of division now, is the preservation of State rights as reserved in the constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into a consolidated government. The tories are for strengthening the executive and general Government; the whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy. And although this division excites, as yet, no warmth, yet it exists, is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.
I thank you much for the two books you were so kind as to send me by Mr. Gallatin. Miss Wright had before favored me with the first edition of her American work; but her Few days in Athens, was entirely new, and has been a treat to me of the highest order. The manner and matter of the dialogue is strictly ancient; and the principles of the sects are beautifully and candidly explained and contrasted; and the scenery and portraiture of the interlocutors are of higher finish than anything in that line left us by the ancients; and like Ossian, if not ancient, it is equal to the best morsels of antiquity. I augur, from this instance, that Herculaneum is likely to furnish better specimens of modern than of ancient genius; and may we not hope more from the same pen?
After much sickness and the accident of a broken and disabled arm, I am again in tolerable health, but extremely debilitated, so as to be scarcely able to walk into my garden. The hebetude of age, too, and extinguishment of interest in the things around me, are weaning me from them and dispose me with cheerfulness to resign them to the existing generation, satisfied that the daily advance of science will enable them to administer the commonwealth with increased wisdom. You have still many valuable years to give to your country, and with my prayers that they may be years of health and happiness, and especially that they may see the establishment of the principles of government which you have cherished through life, accept the assurance of my affectionate and constant friendship and respect.
TO JAMES MADISON
Monticello Nov. 15. 23
—I return your letter to the President & that of Mr. Rush to you with thanks for the communication. The1 matters which Mr. Rush states as under considn with the British govmt are verily interesting. But that about the navigation of the St. Lawrence & Misspi. I would rather they would let alone. The navign. of the former, since the N. Y. canal, is of too little interest to be cared about, that of the latter too serious on account of the inlet it would give to British smuggling and British tampering with the Indians. It would be an entering wedge to incalculable mischief, a powerful agent towds. separating the states.
I send you the rough draught of the letter I propose to write to F. Gilmer for your considn. and correction and salute you affectly.
TO JOHN FRY
Monticello Dec 2d 23
You have sent me, dear Sir, a noble animal, legitimated by superior force as a monarch of the Forest; and he has incurred the death which his brother legitimates have so much more merited; like them, in death, he becomes food for a nobler race, he for man, they for worms that will revel on them, but he dies innocent, and with death all his fears and pains are at an end; they die loaded with maledictions, and liable to a sentence and sufferings which we will leave to the justice of heaven to award.
In plain english we shall feast heartily on him, and thank you heartily as the giver of the feast.
With Assurances of friendly esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM CARVER
Monticello, Dec. 4. 23
I thank you, Sir, for the inedited letter of Thos Paine which you have been so kind as to send me. I recognise in it the strong pen and dauntless mind of Common Sense, which, among the numerous pamphlets written on the same occasion, so preeminently united us in our revolutionary opposition.
I return the two numbers of the periodical paper, as they appear to make part of a regular file. The language of these is too harsh, more caluclated to irritate than to convince or to persuade. A devoted friend myself to freedom of religious enquiry and opinion, I am pleased to see others exercise the right without reproach or censure; and I respect their conclusions, however different from my own. It is their own reason, not mine, nor that of any other, which has been given them by their creator for the investigation of truth, and of the evidences even of those truths which are presented to us as revealed by himself. Fanaticism, it is true, is not sparing of her invectives against those who refuse blindly to follow her dictates in abandonment of their own reason. For the use of this reason, however, every one is responsible to the God who has planted it in his breast, as a light for his guidance, and that, by which alone he will be judged. Yet why retort invectives? It is better always to set a good example than to follow a bad one.
I received, in due time, the letter you mention of Jan. 27. and did not answer it, because the pain of writing has obliged me, for sometime, to withdraw from all correspondence not of moral and indespensable obligation. The duty of returning the inclosed papers furnishes the present occasion of tendering you my friendly and respectful salutations.
TO THOMAS COOPER
Monto Dec. 11. 23
—I duly recd your favor of the 23d ult. as also the 2 pamphlets you were so kind as to send me. That on the tariff I observed was soon reprinted in Ritchie’s Enquirer. I was only sorry he did not postpone it to the meeting of Congress when it would have got into the hands of all the members and could not fail to have great effect, perhaps a decisive one. It is really an extraordinary proposition that the Agricultural, mercantile & navigating classes should be taxed to maintain that of manufactures. That the doctrine of materialism was that of Jesus himself was a new idea to me. Yet it is proved unquestionably. We all know it was that of some of the early Fathers. I hope the physiological part will follow. In spite of the prevailing fanaticism reason will make it’s way. I confess that it’s reign is at present appalling. General education is the true remedy, and that most happily is now generally encouraged. The story you mention as gotten up by your opponents of my having advised the trustees of our University to turn you out as a Professor is quite in their stile of barefaced mendacity. They find it so easy to obliterate the reason of mankind that they think they may enterprize safely on his memory also. For it was the winter before the last only that our annual report to the legislature, printed in the newspapers stated the precise ground on which we relinquished your engagement with our Central College. And, if my memory does not deceive me it was on your own proposition that the time of our getting into operation being postponed indefinitely, it was important to you not to lose an opportunity of fixing yourself permanently. And that they should father on me too the motive for this dismission, than whom no man living cherishes a higher estimation of your worth, talents, & information. But so the world goes. Man is fed with fables thro’ life, leaves it in the belief he has known something of what has been passing, when in truth he has known nothing but what has passed under his own eye. And who are the great deceivers? Those who solemnly pretend to be the depositories of the sacred truths of God himself. I will not believe that the liberality of the state to which you are rendering services in science which no other man in the union is qualified to render it, will suffer you to be in danger from a set of conjurors. I note what you say of Mr. Finch; but the moment of our commencement is as indefinite as it ever was. Affectionately & respectfully yours.
TO GENERAL ANDREW JACKSON
Monto Dec. 18. 23
—The apology in your letter of the 8th inst for not calling on me in your passage thro’ our nbhood was quite unnecessary. The motions of a traveller are always controuled by so many imperious circumstances that wishes and courtesies must yield to their sway. It was reported among us, on I know not what authority, that you would be in Charlsvl on the 1st inst, on your way to Congress. I went there to have the pleasure of paying you my respects, but after staying some hours, met with a person lately from Staunton who assured me you had passed that place & gone on by the way of Winchester. I comforted myself then with the French adage that what is delayed is not therefore lost; and certainly in your passages to & from Washington should your travelling convenience ever permit a deviation to Monto. I shall receive you with distinguished welcome. Perhaps our University which you visited in it’s unfinished state when finished & furnished with it’s scientific popln, may tempt you to make a little stay with us. This will probably be by the close of the ensuing year, when it may appear to you worthy of encouraging the youth of your quarter as well as others to seek there the finishing complement of their education. I flatter myself it will assume a standing secondary to nothing in our country. If I live to see this I shall sing with cheerfulness the song of old Simeon’s nunc dimittis Domine.
I recall with pleasure the remembrance of our joint labors while in Senate together in times of great trial and of hard battling. Battles indeed of words, not of blood, as those you have since fought so much for your own glory & that of your country; with the assurance that my attamts continue undiminished, accept that of my great respect & considn.
[1 ]Jefferson also sent a copy of this letter to Monroe, with the following explanation:
Monto. Mar. 29. 23
—In answering a letter from Mr. Short I indulged myself in some off hand speculns on the present lowering state of Europe, random enough to be sure, yet on revising them I thot I would hazard a copy to you on the bare possibility that out of them, as we sometimes do from dreams, you might pick up some hint worth improving by your own reflection. At any rate the whole reverie will lose to you only the few minutes required for it’s perusal, and therefore I hazard it with the assurance of my constant affectn & respect.
[1 ]Of this letter, Jefferson later wrote to Smith:
Monto Dec. 19. 23
Do not for the world, my dear Sir, suffer my letter of Aug. 2. to get before the public, nor to go out of your own hands or to be copied. I am always averse to the publication of my letters because I wish to be at rest, retired & unnoticed. But most especially this letter. I never meant to meddle in a Presidential election, and in a letter to a person in N. Y. written after the date of the one to you I declared that I would take no part in the ensuing one and permitted him to publish the letter. A thousand improprieties, indelicacies & considns of friendship strongly felt by myself, forbid it. I am glad you did not name to me those to whom you had thought to give a copy, because not knowing who they are my unwillingness cannot be felt by any as proceeding from a want of personal confidence, but truly from the motives above stated. I hope the choice will fall on some real republican, who will continue the admn on the express principles of the constn unadulterated by constructions reducing it to a blank to be filled with what every one pleases and what never was intended. With this I shall be contented. Accept for yourself & Mrs. Smith the assurances of my affectionate esteem & respect.
[1 ]Jefferson later wrote to Monroe:
Monto. July 2. 24
—I received a few days ago a pamphlet on the subject of America, England and the Holy alliance, and read it with unusual interest and concurrence of opn. It furnished a simple and satisfy key for the solution of all the riddles of British conduct & policy. While considering and conjecturing who could be its author, I happened to cast my eye on the few words of superscription, and thõt the handwriting not unknown to me. I turned to my letters of correspdce. and found it’s tally which left me no longer at a loss to whom my thanks should be addressed, and to return these thanks is the object of this letter. In Nov. last I received a letter from some friend of yours who chose to be anonymous, suggesting that your situation might be bettered and the government advantaged by availing itself of your services in some line. I immediately wrote to a friend whose situation enabled him to attend to this. I have received no answer but hope it is kept in view. I am long since withdrawn from the political world, think little, read less, and know all but nothing of what is going on; but I have not forgotten the past nor those who were fellow-laborers in the gloomy hours of federal ascendancy when the spirit of republicanism was beaten down, its votaries arraigned as criminals, and such threats denounced as posterity would never believe. My means of service are slender; but such as they are, if you can make them useful to you in any sollicitn. they shall be sincerely employed. In the mean time, I assure you my continued frdshp & respect.
[1 ]“to wit. 1. Our commercial intercourse embracing navign of St. Lawrence & Missipi.