Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1824 - TO THOMAS JEFFERSON GROTJAN 1 - The Works, vol. 12 (Correspondence and Papers 1816-1826)
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1824 - TO THOMAS JEFFERSON GROTJAN 1 - 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 THOMAS JEFFERSON GROTJAN1
Monticello, Jan. 10, ’24
Your affectionate mother requests that I would address to you, as a namesake, something which might have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run. Few words are necessary, with good dispositions on your part. Adore God; reverence and cherish your parents; love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than life. Be just; be true; murmur not at the ways of Providence—and the life into which you have entered will be one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.
TO JOHN DAVIS
Monticello Jan. 18. 24
I thank you, Sir, for the copy you were so kind as to send me of the revd. Mr. Bancroft’s Unitarian sermons. I have read them with great satisfaction, and always rejoice in efforts to restore us to primitive Christianity, in all the simplicity in which it came from the lips of Jesus. Had it never been sophisticated by the subtleties of Commentators, nor paraphrased into meanings totally foreign to it’s character, it would at this day have been the religion of the whole civilized world. But the metaphysical abstractions of Athanasius, and the maniac ravings of Calvin, tinctured plentifully with the foggy dreams of Plato, have so loaded it with absurdities and incomprehensibilities, as to drive into infidelity men who had not time, patience, or opportunity to strip it of it’s meretricious trappings, and to see it in all it’s native simplicity and purity. I trust however that the same free exercise of private judgment which gave us our political reformation will extend it’s effects to that of religion, which the present volume is well calculated to encourage and promote.
Not wishing to give offence to those who differ from me in opinion, nor to be implicated in a theological controversy, I have to pray that this letter may not get into print, and to assure you of my great respect and good will.
TO GEORGE THACHER
Monticello Jan. 26. 24
—I have read with much satisfaction the Sermon of Mr. Pierpoint which you have been so kind as to send to me, and am much pleased with the spirit of brotherly forbearance in matters of religion which it breathes, and the sound distinction it inculcates between the things which belong to us to judge, and those which do not. If all Christian sects would rally to the Sermon on the mount, make that the central point of Union in religion, and the stamp of genuine Christianity, (since it gives us all the precepts of our duties to one another) why should we further ask, with the text of our sermon “What think ye of Christ?” And if one should answer “he is a member of the God-head,” another “he is a being of eternal pre-existence,” a third “he was a man divinely inspired,” a fourth “he was the Herald of truths reformatory of the religions of mankind in general, but more immediately of that of his own countrymen, impressing them with more sublime and more worthy ideas of the Supreme being, teaching them the doctrine of a future state of rewards and punishments, and inculcating the love of mankind, instead of the anti-social spirit with which the Jews viewed all other nations,” what right, or what interest has either of these respondents to claim pre-eminence for his dogma, and, usurping the judgment-seat of God, to condemn all the others to his wrath? In this case, I say with the wiser heathen deorum injuriæ, diis curæ.
You press me to consent to the publication of my sentiments and suppose they might have effect even on Sectarian bigotry. But have they not the Gospel? If they hear not that, and the charities it teacheth, neither will they be persuaded though one rose from the dead. Such is the malignity of religious antipathies that, altho’ the laws will no longer permit them, with Calvin, to burn those who are not exactly of their Creed, they raise the Hue & cry of Heresy against them, place them under the ban of public opinion, and shut them out from all the kind affections of society. I must pray permission therefore to continue in quiet during the short time remaining to me; and, at a time of life when the afflictions of the body weigh heavily enough, not to superadd those which corrode the spirit also, and might weaken it’s resignation to continuance in a joyless state of being which providence may yet destine. With these sentiments accept those of good will and respect to yourself.
TO JARED SPARKS
Monticello, February 4, 1824
—I duly received your favor of the 13th, and with it, the last number of the North American Review. This has anticipated the one I should receive in course, but have not yet received, under my subscription to the new series. The article on the African colonization of the people of color, to which you invite my attention, I have read with great consideration. It is, indeed, a fine one, and will do much good. I learn from it more, too, than I had before known, of the degree of success and promise of that colony.
In the disposition of these unfortunate people, there are two rational objects to be distinctly kept in view. First. The establishment of a colony on the coast of Africa, which may introduce among the aborigines the arts of cultivated life, and the blessings of civilization and science. By doing this, we may make to them some retribution for the long course of injuries we have been committing on their population. And considering that these blessings will descend to the “nati natorum, et qui nascentur ab illis,” we shall in the long run have rendered them perhaps more good than evil. To fulfil this object, the colony of Sierra Leone promises well, and that of Mesurado adds to our prospect of success. Under this view, the colonization society is to be considered as a missionary society, having in view, however, objects more humane, more justifiable, and less aggressive on the peace of other nations, than the others of that appellation.
The second object, and the most interesting to us, as coming home to our physical and moral characters, to our happiness and safety, is to provide an asylum to which we can, by degrees, send the whole of that population from among us, and establish them under our patronage and protection, as a separate, free and independent people, in some country and climate friendly to human life and happiness. That any place on the coast of Africa should answer the latter purpose, I have ever deemed entirely impossible. And without repeating the other arguments which have been urged by others, I will appeal to figures only, which admit no controversy. I shall speak in round numbers, not absolutely accurate, yet not so wide from truth as to vary the result materially. There are in the United States a million and a half of people of color in slavery. To send off the whole of these at once, nobody conceives to be practicable for us, or expedient for them. Let us take twenty-five years for its accomplishment, within which time they will be doubled. Their estimated value as property, in the first place, (for actual property has been lawfully vested in that form, and who can lawfully take it from the possessors?) at an average of two hundred dollars each, young and old, would amount to six hundred millions of dollars, which must be paid or lost by somebody. To this, add the cost of their transportation by land and sea to Mesurado, a year’s provision of food and clothing, implements of husbandry and of their trades, which will amount to three hundred millions more, making thirty-six millions of dollars a year for twenty-five years, with insurance of peace all that time, and it is impossible to look at the question a second time. I am aware that at the end of about sixteen years, a gradual detraction from this sum will commence, from the gradual diminution of breeders, and go on during the remaining nine years. Calculate this deduction, and it is still impossible to look at the enterprise a second time. I do not say this to induce an inference that the getting rid of them is forever impossible. For that is neither my opinion nor my hope. But only that it cannot be done in this way. There is, I think, a way in which it can be done; that is, by emancipating the after-born, leaving them, on due compensation, with their mothers, until their services are worth their maintenance, and then putting them to industrious occupations, until a proper age for deportation. This was the result of my reflections on the subject five and forty years ago, and I have never yet been able to conceive any other practicable plan. It was sketched in the Notes on Virginia, under the fourteenth query. The estimated value of the new-born infant is so low, (say twelve dollars and fifty cents,) that it would probably be yielded by the owner gratis, and would thus reduce the six hundred millions of dollars, the first head of expense, to thirty-seven millions and a half; leaving only the expense of nourishment while with the mother, and of transportation. And from what fund are these expenses to be furnished? Why not from that of the lands which have been ceded by the very States now needing this relief? And ceded on no consideration, for the most part, but that of the general good of the whole. These cessions already constitute one fourth of the States of the Union. It may be said that these lands have been sold; are now the property of the citizens composing those States; and the money long ago received and expended. But an equivalent of lands in the territories since acquired, may be appropriated to that object, or so much, at least, as may be sufficient; and the object, although more important to the slave States, is highly so to the others also, if they were serious in their arguments on the Missouri question. The slave States, too, if more interested, would also contribute more by their gratuitous liberation, thus taking on themselves alone the first and heaviest item of expense.
In the plan sketched in the Notes on Virginia, no particular place of asylum was specified; because it was thought possible, that in the revolutionary state of America, then commenced, events might open to us some one within practicable distance. This has now happened. St. Domingo has become independent, and with a population of that color only; and if the public papers are to be credited, their Chief offers to pay their passage, to receive them as free citizens, and to provide them employment. This leaves, then, for the general confederacy, no expense but of nurture with the mother a few years, and would call, of course, for a very moderate appropriation of the vacant lands. Suppose the whole annual increase to be of sixty thousand effective births, fifty vessels, of four hundred tons burthen each, constantly employed in that short run, would carry off the increase of every year, and the old stock would die off in the ordinary course of nature, lessening from the commencement until its final disappearance. In this way no violation of private right is proposed. Voluntary surrenders would probably come in as fast as the means to be provided for their care would be competent to it. Looking at my own State only, and I presume not to speak for the others, I verily believe that this surrender of property would not amount to more, annually, than half our present direct taxes, to be continued fully about twenty or twenty-five years, and then gradually diminishing for as many more until their final extinction; and even this half tax would not be paid in cash, but by the delivery of an object which they have never yet known or counted as part of their property; and those not possessing the object will be called on for nothing. I do not go into all the details of the burthens and benefits of this operation. And who could estimate its blessed effects? I leave this to those who live to see their accomplishment, and to enjoy a beatitude forbidden to my age. But I leave it with this admonition, to rise and be doing. A million and a half are within their control; but six millions, (which a majority of those now living will see them attain,) and one million of these fighting men, will say, “we will not go.”
I am aware that this subject involves some consitutional scruples. But a liberal construction, justified by the object, may go far, and an amendment of the constitution, the whole length necessary. The separation of infants from their mothers, too, would produce some scruples of humanity. But this would be straining at a gnat, and swallowing a camel.
I am much pleased to see that you have taken up the subject of the duty on imported books. I hope a crusade will be kept up against it, until those in power shall become sensible of this stain on our legislation, and shall wipe it from their code, and from the remembrance of man, if possible.
I salute you with assurances of high respect and esteem.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monto. Feb. 5. 24
—The inclosed letter is from a person entirely unknown to me. Yet it seems to expect a confidence which prudence cannot give to a stranger, and as he seems to write under your authority I take the liberty of confiding my answer to yourself directly & of returning his paper to you. I do not know that the publicn of the papers of the old Congress could be objected to, except such as might contain personalties of no consequence to history. But care should be taken that they should be impartially published and not all on one side. We have seen how false a face may be given to history by the garbling of documents. And even during the old Congress and in it’s body we had our whigs & tories. Mr. Wagner says that for the present he acknoleges no party, and supposes his continuance in office during 6 y. of my admn a proof of his fidelity and impartiality even while he was a party man. But every one knows that the clerks of the offices had been appd under federal heads1 and that I never medled with none of them. His conversion from vehemence to neutrality, having taken place only since his withdrawing from the Editorship of the Baltimore Federalist, the proofs of it have not yet reached our part of the country. Yet his word need not be doubted farther than as we all believe ourselves neutral. He is certainly capable of the task, and has the advge of being familiar with the arrangmt of the papers, yet not more so than the gentlemen now in that office & who have been longer in it than he was. On the whole my opinion is fable to the publicn when it can be fairly made but that it’s want is not so pressing but that it is better to let it wait till it can be so done as to give to history it’s true face.
I shall be among those most rejoiced at seeing La Fayette again. But I hope Congress is prepared to go thro’ with their compliment worthily. That they do not mean to invite him merely to dine, that provision will be made for his expences here, which you know he cannot afford, and that they will not send him back empty handed. This would place us under indelible disgrace in Europe. Some 3. or 4. good townships, in Missouri, or Louisiana or Alabama &c. should be in readiness for him, and may restore his family to the opulence which his virtues have lost to them. I suppose the time of the visit will be left to himself, as the death of Louis XVIII which has probably taken place or soon must do will produce a crisis in his own country from which he could not absent himself by a visit of compliment. Ever & affectly yours.
TO ROBERT J. GARNETT
Monticello, February 14, 1824
—I have to thank you for the copy of Colonel Taylor’s New Views of the Constitution, and shall read them with the satisfaction and edification which I have ever derived from whatever he has written. But I fear it is the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Those who formerly usurped the name of federalists, which, in fact, they never were, have now openly abandoned it, and are as openly marching by the road of construction, in a direct line to that consolidation which was always their real object. They, almost to a man, are in possession of one branch of the government, and appear to be very strong in yours. The three great questions of amendment now before you, will give the measure of their strength. I mean, 1st, the limitation of the term of the presidential service; 2d, the placing the choice of president effectually in the hands of the people; 3d, the giving to Congress the power of internal improvement, on condition that each State’s federal proportion of the monies so expended, shall be employed within the State. The friends of consolidation would rather take these powers by construction than accept them by direct investiture from the States. Yet, as to internal improvement particularly, there is probably not a State in the Union which would not grant the power on the condition proposed, or which would grant it without that.
The best general key for the solution of questions of power between our governments, is the fact that “every foreign and federal power is given to the federal government, and to the States every power purely domestic.” I recollect but one instance of control vested in the federal, over the State authorities in a matter purely domestic, which is that of metallic tenders. The federal is, in truth, our foreign government, which department alone is taken from the sovereignty of the separate States.
The real friends of the constitution in its federal form, if they wish it to be immortal, should be attentive, by amendments, to make it keep pace with the advance of the age in science and experience. Instead of this, the European governments have resisted reformation, until the people, seeing no other resource, undertake it themselves by force, their only weapon, and work it out through blood, desolation and long-continued anarchy. Here it will be by large fragments breaking off, and refusing reunion but on condition of amendment, or perhaps permanently. If I can see these three great amendments prevail, I shall consider it as a renewed extension of the term of our lease, shall live in more confidence, and die in more hope. And I do trust that the republican mass, which Colonel Taylor justly says is the real federal one, is still strong enough to carry these truly federo-republican amendments. With my prayers for the issue, accept my friendly and respectful salutations.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monto. Feb. 20. 24
—The multiplied sollicitns to interest myself with you for applicants for office have been uniformly refused by me. In a few cases only where facts have been within my knolege, I have not been able to refuse stating them as a witness, which I have made it a point to do so drily as that you might understand that I took no particular interest in the case. In a conversn with you however at the Oakhill some two or three years ago, I mentioned to you that there would be one single case, and but one in the whole world into which I should go with my whole heart and soul, and ask as if it were for myself. It was that whenever the Post office or Collector’s office at Richmd. either of them should become vacant, you would name Colo. B. Peyton to it, and preferably to the P. O. if both were to be vacant. The incumbents have for years been thought ready for their exit, and Foushee stated to be now at death’s door, yet I would not ask this were there a man in the world more capable, more diligent or more honest than Peyton, one of higher worth or more general favor or to whom I would give it myself in preference to him. He is all this, and I will be responsible that his nomination will not only be a general gratificn, but I believe a more general one than any other not only to the vicinage but to the legislature & to the state for he is very generally known having been a captain in the late war and since that a Commn merch. of uncommon esteem. To me it will be a supreme gratifn for I look on him with almost the eyes of a father. I know you will be most strongly sollicited for others, and those too of unexceptional merit and great interest. I will say boldly however for no one who will execute the office more faithfully & diligently or with more comity than Peyton.1 Grant me this, and as I never have, so I never will again put your friendship to the trial as for myself. I inform Peyton that I have written to you, and desire him at the moment of the occurrence to address a letter to yourself directly that no time may be lost by it’s passing thro’ me, for not a moment will be lost by others, and the earlier the notice to you, the sooner you may be able to preclude other importunities. I salute you with constant affection & respect.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello Mar. 27. 24
—I receive Mr. Livingston’s question through you with kindness and answer it without hesitation. He may be assured I have not a spark of unfriendly feeling towards him. In all the earlier scenes of life we thought and acted together. We differed in opinion afterwards on a single point. Each maintained his opinion, as he had a right, and acted on it as he ought. But why brood over a single difference, and forget all our previous harmonies? Difference of opinion was never, with me, a motive of separation from a friend. In the trying times of federalism, I never left a friend. Many left me, have since returned, and been received with open arms. Mr. Livingston would now be received at Monticello with as hearty a welcome as he would have been in 1800. The case with Mr. Adams was much stronger. Fortune had disjointed our first affections, and placed us in opposition in every point. This separated us for a while. But on the first intimation thro’ a friend, we re-embraced with cordiality, recalled our antient feelings and dispositions, and every thing was forgotten but our first sympathies. I bear ill-will to no human being.
Another item of your letter fills my heart with thankfulness. With the other competitor it is an imaginary want, a mere change of lounge, to fill up the vacancies of mind. Ever affectionately and respectfully yours.
TO THOMAS LEIPER
Monto. Apr. 3. 24
I am really done, my friend, with politics, notwithstanding the doubts you express in your favor of Mar. 16. There is a time for everything, for acting in this world, and for getting ready to leave it. The last is now come upon me. You, I hope, will hold out as long as you can, because what you do, I know will always be done for the good of our fellowmen. With respect to the European combins against the rights of man I join an honest Irishman of my nbhood in his 4th of July toast “the Holy alliance, to Hell the whole of them.”
In the Presidential election I am entirely passive. The pretended letter of mine to which you allude is a faithless travestie of what I really wrote. That was addressed to a friend, who had sollicited my thoughts on the subject. It expressed no preference of any and in terms which could give offence to none. He incautiously read the letter to a zealous partisan, who published it from memory and with perversions of terms adapted to his own wishes. I am truly sorry to see the foolish and wicked paragraph from a Richmond paper which you inclosed me. The frdly dispositions which have so long prevailed between Pensve & Virge and which have been so salutary to republican principles and govmt, are not I hope to be ruffled by a paper recently set up, and which if conducted in the spirit of that paragraph will as certainly be soon put down. These states happen at present to differ in the object of their choice. Both favorites are republican, both will administer the govmt honestly, which with the most wisdom each state has a right to hope for itself. But such a difference, between thinking and rational men should excite no more feeling than a difference of faces; and seeing as I do, the permanence of our union hanging on the harmony of Pennsva & Virge, I hope that will continue as long as our govmt continues to be a blessing to mankind. To yourself long life, long health & prosperity.
TO EDWARD LIVINGSTON
Monticello, April 4, 1824
—It was with great pleasure I learned that the good people of New Orleans had restored you again to the councils of our country. I did not doubt the aid it would bring to the remains of our old school in Congress, in which your early labors had been so useful. You will find, I suppose, on revisiting our maritime States, the names of things more changed than the things themselves; that though our old opponents have given up their appellation, they have not, in assuming ours, abandoned their views, and that they are as strong nearly as they ever were. These cares, however, are no longer mine. I resign myself cheerfully to the managers of the ship, and the more contentedly, as I am near the end of my voyage. I have learned to be less confident in the conclusions of human reason, and give more credit to the honesty of contrary opinions. The radical idea of the character of the constitution of our government, which I have adopted as a key in cases of doubtful construction, is, that the whole field of government is divided into two departments, domestic and foreign, (the States in their mutual relations being of the latter;) that the former department is reserved exclusively to the respective States within their own limits, and the latter assigned to a separate set of functionaries, constituting what may be called the foreign branch, which, instead of a federal basis, is established as a distinct government quoad hoc, acting as the domestic branch does on the citizens directly and coercively; that these departments have distinct directories, co-ordinate, and equally independent and supreme, each within its own sphere of action. Whenever a doubt arises to which of these branches a power belongs, I try it by this test. I recollect no case where a question simply between citizens of the same State, has been transferred to the foreign department, except that of inhibiting tenders but of metallic money, and ex post facto legislation. The causes of these singularities are well remembered.
I thank you for the copy of your speech on the question of national improvement, which I have read with great pleasure, and recognize in it those powers of reasoning and persuasion of which I had formerly seen from you so many proofs. Yet, in candor, I must say it has not removed, in my mind, all the difficulties of the question. And I should really be alarmed at a difference of opinion with you, and suspicious of my own, were it not that I have, as companions in sentiments, the Madisons, the Monroes, the Randolphs, the Macons, all good men and true, of primitive principles. In one sentiment of the speech I particularly concur. “If we have a doubt relative to any power, we ought not to exercise it.” When we consider the extensive and deep-seated opposition to this assumption, the conviction entertained by so many, that this deduction of powers by elaborate construction prostrates the rights reserved to the States, the difficulties with which it will rub along in the course of its exercise; that changes of majorities will be changing the system backwards and forwards, so that no undertaking under it will be safe; that there is not a State in the Union which would not give the power willingly, by way of amendment, with some little guard, perhaps, against abuse; I cannot but think it would be the wisest course to ask an express grant of the power. A government held together by the bands of reason only, requires much compromise of opinion; that things even salutary should not be crammed down the throats of dissenting brethren, especially when they may be put into a form to be willingly swallowed, and that a great deal of indulgence is necessary to strengthen habits of harmony and fraternity. In such a case, it seems to me it would be safer and wiser to ask an express grant of the power. This would render its exercise smooth and acceptable to all, and insure to it all the facilities which the States could contribute, to prevent that kind of abuse which all will fear, because all know it is so much practised in public bodies, I mean the bartering of votes. It would reconcile every one, if limited by the proviso, that the federal proportion of each State should be expended within the State. With this single security against partiality and corrupt bargaining, I suppose there is not a State, perhaps not a man in the Union, who would not consent to add this to the powers of the general government. But age has weaned me from questions of this kind. My delight is now in the passive occupation of reading; and it is with great reluctance I permit my mind ever to encounter subjects of difficult investigation. You have many years yet to come of vigorous activity, and I confidently trust they will be employed in cherishing every measure which may foster our brotherly union, and perpetuate a constitution of government destined to be the primitive and precious model of what is to change the condition of man over the globe. With this confidence, equally strong in your powers and purposes, I pray you to accept the assurance of my cordial esteem and respect.
TO JOHN HAMBDEN PLEASANTS
Monticello, April 19, 1824
—I received in due time your favor of the 12th, requesting my opinion on the proposition to call a convention for amending the constitution of the State. That this should not be perfect cannot be a subject of wonder, when it is considered that ours was not only the first of the American States, but the first nation in the world, at least within the records of history, which peaceably by its wise men, formed on free deliberation, a constitution of government for itself, and deposited it in writing, among their archives, always ready and open to the appeal of every citizen. The other States, who successively formed constitutions for themselves also, had the benefit of our outline, and have made on it, doubtless, successive improvements. One in the very outset, and which has been adopted in every subsequent constitution, was to lay its foundation in the authority of the nation. To our convention no special authority had been delegated by the people to form a permanent constitution, over which their successors in legislation should have no powers of alteration. They had been elected for the ordinary purposes of legislation only, and at a time when the establishment of a new government had not been proposed or contemplated. Although, therefore, they gave to this act the title of a constitution, yet it could be no more than an act of legislation, subject, as their other acts were, to alteration by their successors. It has been said, indeed, that the acquiescence of the people supplied the want of original power. But it is a dangerous lesson to say to them “whenever your functionaries exercise unlawful authority over you, if you do not go into actual resistance, it will be deemed acquiescence and confirmation.” How long had we acquiesced under usurpations of the British parliament? Had that confirmed them in right, and made our revolution a wrong? Besides, no authority has yet decided whether this resistance must be instantaneous; when the right to resist ceases, or whether it has yet ceased. Of the twenty-four States now organized, twenty-three have disapproved our doctrine and example, and have deemed the authority of their people a necessary foundation for a constitution.
Another defect which has been corrected by most of the States is, that the basis of our constitution is in opposition to the principle of equal political rights, refusing to all but freeholders any participation in the natural right of self-government. It is believed, for example, that a very great majority of the militia, on whom the burthen of military duty was imposed in the late war, were men unrepresented in the legislation which imposed this burthen on them. However nature may by mental or physical disqualifications have marked infants and the weaker sex for the protection, rather than the direction of government, yet among the men who either pay or fight for their country, no line of right can be drawn. The exclusion of a majority of our freemen from the right of representation is merely arbitrary, and an usurpation of the minority over the majority; for it is believed that the non-freeholders compose the majority of our free and adult male citizens.
And even among our citizens who participate in the representative privilege, the equality of political rights is entirely prostrated by our constitution. Upon which principle of right or reason can any one justify the giving to every citizen of Warwick as much weight in the government as to twenty-two equal citizens in Loudon, and similar inequalities among the other counties? If these fundamental principles are of no importance in actual government, then no principles are important, and it is as well to rely on the dispositions of an administration, good or evil, as on the provisions of a constitution.
I shall not enter into the details of smaller defects, although others there doubtless are, the reformation of some of which might very much lessen the expenses of government, improve its organization, and add to the wisdom and purity of its administration in all its parts; but these things I leave to others, not permitting myself to take sides in the political questions of the day. I willingly acquiesce in the institutions of my country, perfect or imperfect; and think it a duty to leave their modifications to those who are to live under them, and are to participate of the good or evil they may produce. The present generation has the same right of self-government which the past one has exercised for itself. And those in the full vigor of body and mind are more able to judge for themselves than those who are sinking under the wane of both. If the sense of our citizens on the question of a convention can be fairly and fully taken, its result will, I am sure, be wise and salutary; and far from arrogating the office of advice, no one will more passively acquiesce in it than myself. Retiring, therefore, to the tranquillity called for by increasing years and debility, I wish not to be understood as intermeddling in this question; and to my prayers for the general good, I have only to add assurances to yourself of my great esteem.
TO RICHARD RUSH
Monto. June 5. 24
—Taking for granted this will reach you while Mr. Gilmer is still in England, I take the liberty of putting a letter for him under the protection of your cover to ensure it’s safe receipt by him. Should it however by any accident loiter on the way until he should be on his return, I will request of you to open the letter to him and to take out and have delivered to majr. Cartwright one it covers addressed to him, and which otherwise I would have wished Mr. Gilmer to deliver personally.
Congress has just risen, having done nothing remarkable except the passing a tariff bill by squeezing majorities, very revolting to a great portion of the people of the states, among whom it is believed it would not have received a vote but of the manufacturers themselves. It is considered as a levy on the labor & efforts of the other classes of industry to support that of manufactures, and I wish it may not draw on our surplus & produce retaliatory impositions from other nations. Among the candidates for the presidency you will have seen by the newspapers that Genl. Jackson’s prospect was not without promise. A threatening cloud has very suddenly darkened his horizon. A letter has become public, written by him when Colo. Monroe first came into office, advising him to make up his administrn without regard to party. [No suspicion has been entertained of any indecision in his political principles, and this evidence of it threatens a revoln of opinion respecting him.]1 The solid republicanism of Pensylve, his principal support, is thrown into great fermentation by this apparent indifference to political principles. The thing is as yet too new to see in what it will result. A baseless and malicious attack on Mr. Crawford has produced from him so clear, so incontrovertible, and so temperate a justifcn of himself as to have added much to the strength of his interest. The question will ultimately be, as I suggested in a former letter to you, between Crawford and Adams, with this in favor of Crawford that altho’ many states have a different 1st favorite, he is the second with nearly all, and that if it goes into the legislature he will surely be elected. I am very much delighted to perceive a friendly disposn growing up between the people & govmt of the country where you are and ours. No two nations on earth have so many interests pleading for a cordial frdshp, and we have never had an executive which was not anxious to have cultivated it, if it could have been done with any regard to self-respect. Accept assurances of my great esteem and respectful considn.
TO MARTIN VAN BUREN
Monticello, June 29, 1824
—I have to thank you for Mr. Pickering’s elaborate philippic against Mr. Adams, Gerry, Smith, and myself; and I have delayed the acknowledgment until I could read it and make some observations on it.
I could not have believed, that for so many years, and to such a period of advanced age, he could have nourished passions so vehement and viperous. It appears, that for thirty years past, he has been industriously collecting materials for vituperating the characters he had marked for his hatred; some of whom, certainly, if enmities towards him had ever existed, had forgotten them all, or buried them in the grave with themselves. As to myself, there never had been anything personal between us, nothing but the general opposition of party sentiment; and our personal intercourse had been that of urbanity, as himself says. But it seems he has been all this time brooding over an enmity which I had never felt, and that with respect to myself, as well as others, he has been writing far and near, and in every direction, to get hold of original letters, where he could, copies, where he could not, certificates and journals, catching at every gossiping story he could hear of in any quarter, supplying by suspicions what he could find nowhere else, and then arguing on this motley farrago, as if established on gospel evidence. And while expressing his wonder, that “at the age of eighty-eight, the strong passions of Mr. Adams should not have cooled”; that on the contrary, “they had acquired the mastery of his soul,” (p. 100;) that “where these were enlisted, no reliance could be placed on his statements,” (p. 104;) the facility and little truth with which he could represent facts and occurrences, concerning persons who were the objects of his hatred, (p. 3;) that “he is capable of making the grossest misrepresentations, and, from detached facts, and often from bare suspicions, of drawing unwarrantable inferences, if suited to his purpose at the instant,” (p. 174;) while making such charges, I say, on Mr. Adams, instead of his “ecce homo,” (p. 100;) how justly might we say to him, “mutato nomine, de te fabula narratur.” For the assiduity and industry he has employed in his benevolent researches after matter of crimination against us, I refer to his pages 13, 14, 34, 36, 46, 71, 79, 90, bis. 92, 93, bis. 101, ter. 104, 116, 118, 141, 143, 146, 150, 151, 153, 168, 171, 172. That Mr. Adams’ strictures on him, written and printed, should have excited some notice on his part, was not perhaps to be wondered at. But the sufficiency of his motive for the large attack on me may be more questionable. He says, (p. 4) “of Mr. Jefferson I should have said nothing, but for his letter to Mr. Adams, of October the 12th, 1823.” Now the object of that letter was to soothe the feelings of a friend, wounded by a publication which I thought an “outrage on private confidence.” Not a word or allusion in it respecting Mr. Pickering, nor was it suspected that it would draw forth his pen in justification of this infidelity, which he has, however, undertaken in the course of his pamphlet, but more particularly in its conclusion.
He arraigns me on two grounds, my actions and my motives. The very actions, however, which he arraigns, have been such as the great majority of my fellow citizens have approved. The approbation of Mr. Pickering, and of those who thought with him, I had no right to expect. My motives he chooses to ascribe to hypocrisy, to ambition, and a passion for popularity. Of these the world must judge between us. It is no office of his or mine. To that tribunal I have ever submitted my actions and motives, without ransacking the Union for certificates, letters, journals, and gossiping tales, to justify myself and weary them. Nor shall I do this on the present occasion, but leave still to them these antiquated party diatribes, now newly revamped and paraded, as if they had not been already a thousand times repeated, refuted, and adjudged against him, by the nation itself. If no action is to be deemed virtuous for which malice can imagine a sinister motive, then there never was a virtuous action; no, not even in the life of our Saviour himself. But he has taught us to judge the tree by its fruit, and to leave motives to him who can alone see into them.
But whilst I leave to its fate the libel of Mr. Pickering, with the thousands of others like it, to which I have given no other answer than a steady course of similar action, there are two facts or fancies of his which I must set to rights. The one respects Mr. Adams, the other myself. He observes that my letter of October the 12th, 1823, acknowledges the receipt of one from Mr. Adams, of September the 18th, which, having been written a few days after Cunningham’s publication, he says was no doubt written to apologize to me for the pointed reproaches he had uttered against me in his confidential letters to Cunningham. And thus having “no doubt” of his conjecture, he considers it as proven, goes on to suppose the contents of the letter, (19, 22,) makes it place Mr. Adams at my feet suing for pardon, and continues to rant upon it, as an undoubted fact. Now, I do most solemnly declare, that so far from being a letter of apology, as Mr. Pickering so undoubtedly assumes, there was not a word or allusion in it respecting Cunningham’s publication.
The other allegation respecting myself, is equally false. In page 34, he quotes Doctor Stuart as having, twenty years ago, informed him that General Washington, “when he became a private citizen,” called me to account for expressions in a letter to Mazzei, requiring, in a tone of unusual severity, an explanation of that letter. He adds of himself, “in what manner the latter humbled himself and appeased the just resentment of Washington, will never be made known, as some time after his death the correspondence was not to be found, and a diary for an important period of his presidency was also missing.” The diary being of transactions during his presidency, the letter to Mazzei not known here until some time after he became a private citizen, and the pretended correspondence of course after that, I know not why this lost diary and supposed correspondence are brought together here, unless for insinuations worthy of the letter itself. The correspondence could not be found, indeed, because it had never existed. I do affirm that there never passed a word, written or verbal, directly or indirectly, between General Washington and myself on the subject of that letter. He would never have degraded himself so far as to take to himself the imputation in that letter on the “Samsons in combat.” The whole story is a fabrication, and I defy the framers of it, and all mankind, to produce a scrip of a pen between General Washington and myself on the subject, or any other evidence more worthy of credit than the suspicions, suppositions and presumptions of the two persons here quoting and quoted for it. With Doctor Stuart I had not much acquaintance. I supposed him to be an honest man, knew him to be a very weak one, and, like Mr. Pickering, very prone to antipathies, boiling with party passions, and under the dominion of these readily welcoming fancies for facts. But come the story from whomsoever it might, it is an unqualified falsehood.
This letter to Mazzei has been a precious theme of crimination for federal malice. It was a long letter of business, in which was inserted a single paragraph only of political information as to the state of our country. In this information there was not one word which would not then have been, or would not now be approved by every republican in the United States, looking back to those times, as you will see by a faithful copy now enclosed of the whole of what that letter said on the subject of the United States, or of its government. This paragraph, extracted and translated, got into a Paris paper at a time when the persons in power there were laboring under very general disfavor, and their friends were eager to catch even at straws to buoy them up. To them, therefore, I have always imputed the interpolation of an entire paragraph additional to mine, which makes me charge my own country with ingratitude and injustice to France. There was not a word in my letter respecting France, or any of the proceedings or relations between this country and that. Yet this interpolated paragraph has been the burthen of federal calumny, has been constantly quoted by them, made the subject of unceasing and virulent abuse, and is still quoted, as you see, by Mr. Pickering, page 33, as if it were genuine, and really written by me. And even Judge Marshall makes history descend from its dignity, and the ermine from its sanctity, to exaggerate, to record, and to sanction this forgery. In the very last note of his book, he says, “a letter from Mr. Jefferson to Mr. Mazzei, an Italian, was published in Florence, and re-published in the Moniteur, with very severe strictures on the conduct of the United States.” And instead of the letter itself, he copies what he says are the remarks of the editor, which are an exaggerated commentary on the fabricated paragraph itself, and silently leaves to his reader to make the ready inference that these were the sentiments of the letter. Proof is the duty of the affirmative side. A negative cannot be positively proved. But, in defect of impossible proof of what was not in the original letter, I have its press-copy still in my possession. It has been shown to several, and is open to any one who wishes to see it. I have presumed only, that the interpolation was done in Paris. But I never saw the letter in either its Italian or French dress, and it may have been done here, with the commentary handed down to posterity by the Judge. The genuine paragraph, re-translated through Italian and French into English, as it appeared here in a federal paper, besides the mutilated hue which these translations and retranslations of it produced generally, gave a mistranslation of a single word, which entirely perverted its meaning, and made it a pliant and fertile text of misrepresentation of my political principles. The original, speaking of an Anglican, monarchical and aristocratical party, which had sprung up since he had left us, states their object to be “to draw over us the substance, as they had already done the forms of the British Government.” Now the “forms” here meant, were the levees, birthdays, the pompous cavalcade to the state house on the meeting of Congress, the formal speech from the throne, the procession of Congress in a body to re-echo the speech in an answer, &c., &c. But the translator here, by substituting form in the singular number, for forms in the plural, made it mean the frame or organization of our government, or its form of legislative, executive and judiciary authorities, coördinate and independent; to which form it was to be inferred that I was an enemy. In this sense they always quoted it, and in this sense Mr. Pickering still quotes it, pages 34, 35, 38, and countenances the inference. Now General Washington perfectly understood what I meant by these forms, as they were frequent subjects of conversation between us. When, on my return from Europe, I joined the government in March, 1790, at New York, I was much astonished, indeed, at the mimicry I found established of royal forms and ceremonies, and more alarmed at the unexpected phenomenon, by the monarchical sentiments I heard expressed and openly maintained in every company, and among others by the high members of the government, executive and judiciary, (General Washington alone excepted,) and by a great part of the legislature, save only some members who had been of the old Congress, and a very few of recent introduction. I took occasion, at various times, of expressing to General Washington my disappointment at these symptoms of a change of principle, and that I thought them encouraged by the forms and ceremonies which I found prevailing, not at all in character with the simplicity of republican government, and looking as if wishfully to those of European courts. His general explanations to me were, that when he arrived at New York to enter on the executive administration of the new government, he observed to those who were to assist him, that placed as he was in an office entirely new to him, unacquainted with the forms and ceremonies of other governments, still less apprized of those which might be properly established here, and himself perfectly indifferent to all forms, he wished them to consider and prescribe what they should be; and the task was assigned particularly to General Knox, a man of parade, and to Colonel Humphreys, who had resided some time at a foreign court. They, he said, were the authors of the present regulations, and that others were proposed so highly strained that he absolutely rejected them. Attentive to the difference of opinion prevailing on this subject, when the term of his second election arrived, he called the Heads of departments together, observed to them the situation in which he had been at the commencement of the government, the advice he had taken and the course he had observed in compliance with it; that a proper occasion had now arrived of revising that course, of correcting it in any particulars not approved in experience; and he desired us to consult together, agree on any changes we should think for the better, and that he should willingly conform to what we should advise. We met at my office. Hamilton and myself agreed at once that there was too much ceremony for the character of our government, and particularly, that the parade of the installation at New York ought not to be copied on the present occasion, that the President should desire the Chief Justice to attend him at his chambers, that he should administer the oath of office to him in the presence of the higher officers of the government, and that the certificate of the fact should be delivered to the Secretary of State to be recorded. Randolph and Knox differed from us, the latter vehemently; they thought it not advisable to change any of the established forms, and we authorized Randolph to report our opinions to the President. As these opinions were divided, and no positive advice given as to any change, no change was made. Thus the forms which I had censured in my letter to Mazzei were perfectly understood by General Washington, and were those which he himself but barely tolerated. He had furnished me a proper occasion for proposing their reformation, and my opinion not prevailing, he knew I could not have meant any part of the censure for him.
Mr. Pickering quotes, too, (page 34) the expression in the letter, of “the men who were Samsons in the field and Solomons in the council, but who had had their heads shorn by the harlot England;” or, as expressed in their re-translation, “the men who were Solomons in council, and Samsons in combat, but whose hair had been cut off by the whore England.” Now this expression also was perfectly understood by General Washington. He knew that I meant it for the Cincinnati generally, and that from what had passed between us at the commencement of that institution, I could not mean to include him. When the first meeting was called for its establishment, I was a member of the Congress then sitting at Annapolis. General Washington wrote to me, asking my opinion on that proposition, and the course, if any, which I thought Congress would observe respecting it. I wrote him frankly my own disapprobation of it; that I found the members of Congress generally in the same sentiment; that I thought they would take no express notice of it, but that in all appointments of trust, honor, or profit, they would silently pass by all candidates of that order, and give an uniform preference to others. On his way to the first meeting in Philadelphia, which I think was in the spring of 1784, he called on me at Annapolis. It was a little after candle-light, and he sat with me till after midnight, conversing, almost exclusively, on that subject. While he was feelingly indulgent to the motives which might induce the officers to promote it, he concurred with me entirely in condemning it; and when I expressed an idea that if the hereditary quality were suppressed, the institution might perhaps be indulged during the lives of the officers now living, and who had actually served; “no,” he said, “not a fibre of it ought to be left, to be an eye-sore to the public, a ground of dissatisfaction, and a line of separation between them and their country;” and he left me with a determination to use all his influence for its entire suppression. On his return from the meeting he called on me again, and related to me the course the thing had taken. He said that from the beginning, he had used every endeavor to prevail on the officers to renounce the project altogether, urging the many considerations which would render it odious to their fellow citizens, and disreputable and injurious to themselves; that he had at length prevailed on most of the old officers to reject it, although with great and warm opposition from others, and especially the younger ones, among whom he named Colonel W. S. Smith as particularly intemperate. But that in this state of things, when he thought the question safe, and the meeting drawing to a close, Major L’Enfant arrived from France, with a bundle of eagles, for which he had been sent there, with letters from the French officers who had served in America, praying for admission into the order, and a solemn act of their king permitting them to wear its ensign. This, he said, changed the face of matters at once, produced an entire revolution of sentiment, and turned the torrent so strongly in an opposite direction that it could be no longer withstood; all he could then obtain was a suppression of the hereditary quality. He added, that it was the French applications, and respect for the approbation of the king, which saved the establishment in its modified and temporary form. Disapproving thus of the institution as much as I did, and conscious that I knew him to do so, he could never suppose that I meant to include him among the Samsons in the field, whose object was to draw over us the form, as they made the letter say, of the British government, and especially its aristocratic member, an hereditary house of lords. Add to this, that the letter saying “that two out of the three branches of legislature were against us,” was an obvious exception of him; it being well known that the majorities in the two branches of Senate and Representatives, were the very instruments which carried, in opposition to the old and real republicans, the measures which were the subjects of condemnation in this letter. General Washington then, understanding perfectly what and whom I meant to designate, in both phrases, and that they could not have any application or view to himself, could find in neither any cause of offence to himself; and therefore neither needed, nor ever asked any explanation of them from me. Had it even been otherwise, they must know very little of General Washington, who should believe to be within the laws of his character what Doctor Stuart is said to have imputed to him. Be this, however, as it may, the story is infamously false in every article of it. My last parting with General Washington was at the inauguration of Mr. Adams, in March, 1797, and was warmly affectionate; and I never had any reason to believe any change on his part, as there certainly was none on mine. But one session of Congress intervened between that and his death, the year following, in my passage to and from which, as it happened to be not convenient to call on him, I never had another opportunity; and as to the cessation of correspondence observed during that short interval, no particular circumstance occurred for epistolary communication, and both of us were too much oppressed with letter-writing, to trouble, either the other, with a letter about nothing.
The truth is, that the federalists, pretending to be the exclusive friends of General Washington, have ever done what they could to sink his character, by hanging theirs on it, and by representing as the enemy of republicans him, who of all men, is best entitled to the appellation of the father of that republic which they were endeavoring to subvert, and the republicans to maintain. They cannot deny, because the elections proclaimed the truth, that the great body of the nation approved the republican measures. General Washington was himself sincerely a friend to the republican principles of our constitution. His faith, perhaps, in its duration, might not have been as confident as mine; but he repeatedly declared to me, that he was determined it should have a fair chance for success, and that he would lose the last drop of his blood in its support, against any attempt which might be made to change it from its republican form. He made these declarations the oftener, because he knew my suspicions that Hamilton had other views, and he wished to quiet my jealousies on this subject. For Hamilton frankly avowed, that he considered the British constitution, with all the corruptions of its administration, as the most perfect model of government which had ever been devised by the wit of man; professing however, at the same time, that the spirit of this country was so fundamentally republican, that it would be visionary to think of introducing monarchy here, and that, therefore, it was the duty of its administrators to conduct it on the principles their constituents had elected.
General Washington, after the retirement of his first cabinet, and the composition of his second, entirely federal, and at the head of which was Mr. Pickering himself, had no opportunity of hearing both sides of any question. His measures, consequently, took more the hue of the party in whose hands he was. These measures were certainly not approved by the republicans; yet were they not imputed to him, but to the counsellors around him; and his prudence so far restrained their impassioned course and bias, that no act of strong mark, during the remainder of his administration, excited much dissatisfaction. He lived too short a time after and too much withdrawn from information, to correct the views into which he had been deluded; and the continued assiduities of the party drew him into the vortex of their intemperate career; separated him still farther from his real friends and excited him to actions and expressions of dissatisfaction, which grieved them, but could not loosen their affections from him. They would not suffer the temporary aberration to weigh against the immeasurable merits of his life; and although they tumbled his seducers from their places, they preserved his memory embalmed in their hearts, with undiminished love and devotion; and there it forever will remain embalmed in entire oblivion of every temporary thing which might cloud the glories of his splendid life. It is vain, then, for Mr. Pickering and his friends to endeavor to falsify his character, by representing him as an enemy to republicans and republican principles, and as exclusively the friend of those who were so; and had he lived longer, he would have returned to his ancient and unbiased opinions, would have replaced his confidence in those whom the people approved and supported, and would have seen that they were only restoring and acting on the principles of his own first administration.
I find, my dear Sir, that I have written you a very long letter, or rather a history. The civility of having sent me a copy of Mr. Pickering’s diatribe, would scarcely justify its address to you. I do not publish these things, because my rule of life has been never to harass the public with fendings and provings of personal slanders; and least of all would I descend into the arena of slander with such a champion as Mr. Pickering. I have ever trusted to the justice and consideration of my fellow citizens, and have no reason to repent it, or to change my course. At this time of life too, tranquillity is the summum bonum. But although I decline all newspaper controversy, yet when falsehoods have been advanced, within the knowledge of no one so much as myself, I have sometimes deposited a contradiction in the hands of a friend, which, if worth preservation, may, when I am no more, nor those whom I might offend, throw light on history, and recall that into the path of truth. And if of no other value, the present communication may amuse you with anecdotes not known to every one.
I had meant to have added some views on the amalgamation of parties, to which your favor of the 8th has some allusion; an amalgamation of name, but not of principle. Tories are tories still, by whatever name they may be called. But my letter is already too unmercifully long, and I close it here with assurances of my great esteem and respectful consideration.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello July 18. 24
—I have duly recd. your favor of the 12th inst. and concur in every sentimt you express on the subject of mine of the 2d. They were exactly what I should have said to you myself had our places been changed. My lre was meant only to convey the wishes of the party, and in few cases where circumstances have obliged me to communicate sollicitns have I ever suffered my own wishes to mingle with theirs. That of Peyton I except, which yet I would not have urged were it possible for you to appoint a better man, or one more solidly in the public esteem. In the case which was the subject of my lre of the 2d. the abilities are sfft. the temper & prudence questionable, and the standing in public opn defective. Yet this latter circumstance is always important, because it is not wisdom alone, but public confidce in that wisdom which can support an admn. Something however, less marked may occur to give him decent and comfortable maintenance.
I am sorry to hear that England is equivocal. My reliance was on the great interest she had in the indepdce of the Spanish colonies, and my belief that she might be trusted in followg whatever clue would lead to her interest. The Spanish agents will doubtless think it reasonable that we make our commitmt depend entirely on the concurrence of Engld. With that we are safe; without it we cannot protect them and they cannot reasonably expect us to sink ourselves uselessly & even injuriously for them by a Quixotic encounter of the whole world in arms. Were it Spain alone I should have no fear. But Russia is said to have 70. ships of the line. France approaching that number and what should we be in fronting such a force. It is not for the interest of Spanish America that our republic should be blotted out of the map, and to the rest of the world it would be an act of treason. I see both reason and justifcn in hanging our answers to them on the coopern of England & directing all their importunities to that govmt. We feel strongly for them, but our first care must be ourselves. I am sorry for the doubtfulness of your visit to our nbhood, and still more so for the ground of it. With my prayers that the last may be favorably relieved, accept the assurance of my affecte frdshp & great respect.
TO HENRY LEE
Monto. Aug. 10. 24
—I have duly received your favor of the 14th and with it the prospectus of a newspaper which it covered. If the style and spirit of that should be maintained in the paper itself it will be truly worthy of the public patronage. As to myself it is many years since I have ceased to read but a single paper. I am no longer therefore a general subscriber for any other. Yet to encourage the hopeful in the outset I have sometimes subscribed for the 1st year on the condition of being discontinued at the end of it, without further warning. I do the same now with pleasure for yours, and unwilling to have outstanding accounts which I am liable to forget, I now inclose the price of the tri-weekly paper. I am no believer in the amalgamation of parties, nor do I consider it as either desirable or useful for the public; but only that, like religious differences, a difference in politics should never be permitted to enter into social intercourse, or to disturb it’s friendships, its charities or justice. In that form they are censors of the conduct of each other, and useful watchmen for the public. Men by their constitutions are naturally divided into two parties. 1. Those who fear and distrust the people, and wish to draw all powers from them into the hands of the higher classes. 2ndly those who identify themselves with the people, have confidence in them, cherish and consider them as the most honest & safe, altho’ not the most wise depository of the public interests. In every country these two parties exist, and in every one where they are free to think, speak, and write, they will declare themselves. Call them therefore liberals and serviles, Jacobins and Ultras, whigs and tories, republicans and federalists, aristocrats and democrats or by whatever name you please, they are the same parties still and pursue the same object. The last appellation of aristocrats and democrats is the true one expressing the essence of all. A paper which shall be governed by the spirit of Mr. Madison’s celebrated report, of which you express in your prospectus so just and high an approbation, cannot be false to the rights of all classes. The grandfathers of the present generation of your family I knew well. They were friends and fellow-laborers with me in the same cause and principle. Their descendants cannot follow better guides. Accept the assurance of my best wishes & respectful consideration.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Monticello Sep. 3. 24
The mail my dear Friend, succeeding that which brought us the welcome news of your arrival on our shores, brought that of your being to proceed immediately to the North. I delayed therefore till you should turn Southwdly to meet you with my sincere congratulns on your safe passage, and restoration to those who love you more than any people on earth. Indeed I fear they will kill you with their kindness, so fatiguing and exhausting must be the ceremonies they force upon you. Be on your guard, against this, my dear Sir, and do not lose in the enthusiastic embraces of affection a life they are meant to cherish. I see you are to visit our Yorktown on the 19th of Oct. My spirit will be there, my body cannot. I am too much enfeebled by age for such a journey. I cannot walk further than my garden, with infirmities too which can only be nursed at home. I imagine you will be forced to visit Chas. T. and Savanna, for where is it they will not wish and ask your company if they can get it. Our little village of Charlottesville insists also on receiving you. They would have claimed you as their guest, were it possible I could have seen you the guest of any other than myself in the vicinage of Monto. I have reduced them therefore to the honor of your accepting from them a dinner, and that, thro’ me, they beseech you to come and accept. I suppose in fact that either going to or returning from the South, the line by Monto. & Montpellier will be little out of your way. Come then, my dear friend, suit the time to yourself, make your headquarters here from whence the ride to Charlottesville & it’s appendage our university will not be of an hour. Let me once more have the happiness of talking over with you your first labors here, those I witnessed in your own country, it’s past & present afflictions and future hopes. God bless and preserve you, and give me once more to see and embrace you.
TO SAMUEL KERCHIVAL
Monto. Sep. 5. 24
—I have duly received your favor of the 25th ult. requesting permission to publish my letters of July 12. and Sep. 5. 1816. But to this I cannot consent. They were committed to your honor and confidence under express injunxtions against their publication, and I am happy to learn that that confidence has not been misplaced. The reasons too, then opposed to it, have gained greater strength by increase of age and of aversion to be committed to political altercation and obloquy. Nor do I believe their publicn would have any weight. Our fellow citizens think too independantly for themselves to yield their opinions to any one. Another strong reason against it at present is the alarm which has been excited, and with great effect, lest too much innovation should be attempted. These letters would do harm by increasing that alarm. At a particular and pressing request I did venture in a letter to Mr. Pleasants some strictures on certain defects in our constitution, with permission to publish them. So far then my opinions are known. When the legislature shall be assembled, and the question approaching of calling a convention, I should have no objection to a discreet communication of these letters to thinking and friendly members, who would not hang me up as a scare-crow and enemy to a constitution on which many believe the good and happiness of their country depend. I believe on the contrary that they depend on amending that constn from time to time and keeping it always in harmony with the advance of habits and principles. But I respect their right of free opinion too much to urge an uneasy pressure on them. Time and advancing science will ripen us all in it’s course, and reconcile all to wholesome and necessary changes. I salute you with respectful consideration.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE
Monticello, October 9, 1824
I have duly received, my dear friend and General, your letter of the 1st from Philadelphia, giving us the welcome assurance that you will visit the neighborhood which, during the march of our enemy near it, was covered by your shield from his robberies and ravages. In passing the line of your former march you will experience pleasing recollections of the good you have done. My neighbors, too, of our academical village, who well remember their obligations to you, have expressed to you, in a letter from a committee appointed for that purpose, their hope that you will accept manifestations of their feelings, simple indeed, but as cordial as any you will have received. It will be an additional honor to the University of the State that you will have been its first guest. Gratify them, then, by this assurance to their committee, if it has not been done. But what recollections, dear friend, will this call up to you and me! What a history have we to run over from the evening that yourself, Meusnier, Bernau, and other patriots settled, in my house in Paris, the outlines of the constitution you wished! And to trace it through all the disastrous chapters of Robespierre, Barras, Bonaparte, and the Bourbons! These things, however, are for our meeting. You mention the return of Miss Wright to America, accompanied by her sister; but do not say what her stay is to be, nor what her course. Should it lead her to a visit of our University, which, in its architecture only, is as yet an object, herself and her companion will nowhere find a welcome more hearty than with Mrs. Randolph, and all the inhabitants of Monticello. This Athenæum of our country, in embryo, is as yet but promise; and not in a state to recall the recollections of Athens. But everything has its beginning, its growth, and end; and who knows with what future delicious morsels of philosophy, and by what future Miss Wright raked from its ruins, the world may, some day, be gratified and instructed? Your son George we shall be very happy indeed to see, and to renew in him the recollections of your very dear family; and the revolutionary merit of M. le Vasseur has that passport to the esteem of every American, and, to me, the additional one of having been your friend and co-operator, and he will, I hope, join you in making head-quarters with us at Monticello. But all these things à revoir; in the meantime we are impatient that your ceremonies at York should be over, and give you to the embraces of friendship.
P. S. Will you come by Mr. Madison’s, or let him or me know on what day he may meet you here, and join us in our greetings?
TO RICHARD RUSH
Monticello, October 13, 1824
—I must again beg the protection of your cover for a letter to Mr. Gilmer; although a little doubtful whether he may not have left you.
You will have seen by our papers the delirium into which our citizens are thrown by a visit from General La Fayette. He is making a triumphant progress through the States, from town to town, with acclamations of welcome, such as no crowned head ever received. It will have a good effect in favor of the General with the people in Europe, but probably a different one with their sovereigns. Its effect here, too, will be salutary as to ourselves, by rallying us together and strengthening the habit of considering our country as one and indivisible, and I hope we shall close it with something more solid for him than dinners and balls. The eclat of this visit has almost merged the Presidential question, on which nothing scarcely is said in our papers. That question will lie ultimately between Crawford and Adams; but, at the same time, the vote of the people will be so distracted by subordinate candidates, that possibly they may make no election, and let it go to the House of Representatives. There, it is thought, Crawford’s chance is best. We have nothing else interesting before the public. Of the two questions of the tariff and public improvements, the former, perhaps, is not yet at rest, and the latter will excite boisterous discussions. It happens that both these measures fall in with the western interests, and it is their secession from the agricultural States which gives such strength to the manufacturing and consolidating parties, on these two questions. The latter is the most dreaded, because thought to amount to a determination in the federal government to assume all powers non-enumerated as well as enumerated in the constitution, and by giving a loose to construction, make the text say whatever will relieve them from the bridle of the States. These are difficulties for your day; I shall give them the slip. Accept the assurance of my friendly attachment and great respect.
TO JOSEPH COOLIDGE1
Monticello, October 24, ’24
—I should not have delayed a single day the answer to your interesting and acceptable letter of the 13th inst. but that it found me suffering severely from an imposthume formed under the jaw, and closing it so effectually as to render the introduction of sustenance into the mouth impossible but in a fluid form, and that, latterly, sucked thro’ a tube. After 2 or 3 weeks of sufferance, and a total prostration of strength, I have been relieved by a discharge of the matter, and am now on the recovery; and I avail myself of the first moment of my ability to take up a pen to assure you that nothing could be more welcome to me than the visit proposed, or it’s object. During the stay you were so kind as to make with us, my opportunities were abundant of seeing and estimating the merit of your character; insomuch as to need no further enquiry from others. Nor did the family leave me uninformed of the attachment which seemed to be forming towards my grandaur. Ellen. I learnt it with pleasure; because I believed of yours, and knew of her extraordinary moral qualifications, I was satisfied no two minds could be formed, better compounded to make each other happy. I hold the same sentiment now that I receive the information from yourself, and assure you that no union could give to me greater satisfaction, if your wishes prove mutual, and your friends consenting. What provision for a competent subsistence for you, might exist or be practicable, was a consideration for both parties. I knew that the circumstances of her father, Governor Randolph, offered little prospect from his resources, prostrated as they have been by too much facility in engagements for others. Some suffering of the same kind myself, and of sensible amount, with debts of my own, remove to a distance anything I could do, and certainly should do, for you. My property is such that after a discharge of these incumbrances, a comfortable provision will remain for my unprovided grandchildren. This state of things on our part leaves us nothing to propose for the present put to submit the course to be pursued entirely to your own discretion, and the will of your friends, under the general assurance that whenever circumstances enable me to do anything, it will be directed by justice to the other members of my family, a special affection to this particularly valued granddaughter, and a cordial attachment to yourself. Your visit to Monticello and at the time of your own convenience will be truly welcome, and your stay whatever may suit yourself, under any views of friendship or connection. My gratification will be measured by the time of it’s continuance.
I ought sooner to have thanked you for the valuable work of Milisia, on Architecture: searching, as he does, for the resources and prototypes of our ideas of beauty in that fine art, he appears to have elicited them with more correctness than any other I have read: and his work, as a text book, furnishes excellent matter for a course of lectures on the subject, which I shall hope to have introduced into our institution. The letters of Mr. Gilmer are encouraging as to the time and style of opening it.
I expect in the course of the 1st. or 2d week of the approaching month to receive here the visit of my antient friend Genl La Fayette. The delirium which his visit has excited in the North invelopes him in the South also. The humble village of Charlottesville, or rather the county of Albemarle, of which it is the seat of justice, will exhibit it’s great affection, and unpretending means, in a dinner to be given the General in the buildings of the University, to which they have given accepted invitations to Mr. Madison also and myself as guests, and at which your presence, as my guest would give high pleasure to us all, and to none, I assure you, more cordially than to your sincerely attached friend.
TO CHARLES JARED INGERSOLL1
Monticello Oct 27. 24
—Your letter of the 21st found me in a commencement of convalescence after a severe illness of some weeks. I have given however to the pamphlet which accompanied it the best attention which my condition has permitted. The facts it has collected are valuable, encouraging to the American mind, and so far as they respect ourselves could give umbrage to none. But if a contrast with other nations were necessary or useful, it would have been more flattering had it come from a foreign hand. After the severe chastisement given by Mr. Walsh in his American Register, to English scribblers, which they well deserved and I was delighted to see, I hoped there would be an end of this intercrimination, and that both parties would prefer the course of courtesy and conciliation, and I think their considerate writers have since shewn that disposition, and that it would prevail if equally cultivated by us. Europe is doing us full justice; why then detract from her. It is true that the pamphlet, in winding up, disavows this intention, but in opposition to the fact of repeated sets made at England, and too frequent assumptions of superiority. It is true we have advantages, and great advantages over her in some of our institutions, and in some important conditions of our existence. But in so many as are assumed will be believed by ourselves only, and not by all among ourselves. It cannot be denied that we are a boasting nation. I repeat however that the work is highly consolatory to us, and that, with the indulgence of this single criticism, it merits all praise in its matter, style and composition. Mr. Short and Mr. Harris have truly informed you that I suffer to excess by an oppressive correspondence. The decays of age have so reduced the powers of life with me, that a greater affliction can scarcely be imposed on me than that of writing a letter. I feel indeed that I must withdraw from the labors of this duty, even if it loses me all my friends. My affections for them undergo no diminution, but the laws of the animal economy take from me this means of manifesting it. Be pleased to accept the assurance of my high respect and esteem.
TO THOMAS LEIPER
Monticello Dec. 6. 24
Be assured, dear Sir, that the reasons which put it out of my power to interfere in behalf of Mr. Taylor were such as yourself would pronounce insuperable had it been proper for me to have mentioned them. We shall be happy to receive your son & Daughter here whenever they will favor us with their visit. Richmond was not well chosen, as the place to shake off a fever & ague in the months of Aug. Sep. & Oct. till frost. All it’s inhabitants who can afford it leave it for the upper country during that season. If Miss Julia, instead of accompanying her brother to Lynchbg will stay with us till his return I should have strong confidence in his finding that she will have missed her fit. There never was an instance of fever & ague originating here, nor did I ever know our friends who have brot it from below, pass the 4th fit. Should the inveteracy of her case bid defiance to our air for awhile, she had still better stay with us till that of Richmd. becomes safe by frost and numerous fires, these as well as frost being correctives of the atmosphere. We have two stages a week going to Richmd. which will give her a passage to that place when ever she shall think herself well enough to venture to it; and in the meantime we shall be happy in having her as one of our family and in administering to her every care & comfort in our power. No one of your family must ever suppose themselves not at home when with me; and indeed I think it would be but fatherly to accompany your son yourself and give him the benefit of your lessons when visiting our warehouses. To me this addition to the visit would be most welcome and add to the pleasure with which I assure you of my constant frdshp & respect.
TO JAMES MONROE
Monticello Dec. 15. 24
—I have examined my letter of Jan. 13. 1803. as well as the indistinct copy given by the copying press permits. In some parts it is illegible. The publication of the whole of the 1st paragraph would merit very serious considn as respects myself. Written when party passions and contests were at their greatest height, and expressing freely to you, with whom I had no reserve, my opinion of the views of the other party, which were all but treasonable, they would kindle embers long seeming to be extinguished. And altho’ at that time the views stated were known to be true, and not doubted at this moment, yet promulgated now, they would seem very harsh, and renew personal enmities and hatreds which time seems to have quieted. Yet I am perfectly willing that such parts as would be useful to you, without committing me to new persecutions should be made publick. With this view I have revised the paragraph, suppressed passages which would be offensive, modified here and there an expression, and now inclose you the form in which I should consent to it’s publcn. Your letter by Mr. Ticknor & Mr. Webster has been duly recd. With the former I had had acquaintance and correspondence of long standing; and I am much gratified by the acquaintance made with the latter.1 He is likely to become of great weight in our govmt.
[1 ]From the Historical Magazine, xviii., 50.
[1 ]“Who appd federalists only and exclusively, that the whole mass of them were federal.”—T. J.
[1 ]As regards this appointment, Jefferson wrote Richard Rush:
Monto [Oct. 27, 24]