No better proof of the good faith of the United States could have been given, than the vigor with which we have acted, and the expense incurred, in suppressing the enterprise meditated lately by Burr against Mexico. Although at first he proposed a separation of the western country, and on that ground received encouragement and aid from Yrujo, according to the usual spirit of his government towards us, yet he very early saw that the fidelity of the western country was not to be shaken, and turned himself wholly towards Mexico. And so popular is an enterprise on that country in this, that we had only to lie still, and he would have had followers enough to have been in the city of Mexico in six weeks. You have doubtless seen my several messages to Congress, which gave a faithful narrative of that conspiracy. Burr himself, after being disarmed by our endeavors of all his followers, escaped from the custody of the court of Mississippi, but was taken near Fort Stoddart, making his way to Mobile, by some country people, who brought him on as a prisoner to Richmond, where he is now under a course for trial. Hitherto we have believed our law to be, that suspicion on probable grounds was sufficient cause to commit a person for trial, allowing time to collect witnesses till the trial. But the judges here have decided, that conclusive evidence of guilt must be ready in the moment of arrest, or they will discharge the malefactor. If this is still insisted on, Burr will be discharged; because his crimes having been sown from Maine, through the whole line of the western waters, to New Orleans, we cannot bring the witnesses here under four months. The fact is, that the federalists make Burr's cause their own, and exert their whole influence to shield him from punishment, as they did the adherents of Miranda. And it is unfortunate that federalism is still predominent in our judiciary department, which is consequently in opposition to the legislative and executive branches, and is able to baffle their measures often.
Accept my friendly salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.
LETTER XLIII.—TO WILLIAM B. GILES, April 20, 1807
TO WILLIAM B. GILES.
Monticello, April 20, 1807.
Your favor of the 6th instant, on the subject of Burr's offences, was received only four days ago. That there should be anxiety and doubt in the public mind, in the present defective state of the proof, is not wonderful; and this has been sedulously encouraged by the tricks of the judges to force trials before it is possible to collect the evidence, dispersed through a line of two thousand miles from Maine to Orleans. The federalists, too, give all their aid, making Burr's cause their own, mortified only that he did not separate the union or overturn the government, and proving, that had he had a little dawn of success, they would have joined him to introduce his object, their favorite monarchy, as they would any other enemy, foreign or domestic, who could rid them of this hateful republic for any other government in exchange.
The first ground of complaint was the supine inattention of the administration to a treason stalking through the land in open day. The present one, that they have crushed it before it was ripe for execution, so that no overt acts can be produced. This last may be true; though I believe it is not. Our information having been chiefly by way of letter, we do not know of a certainty yet what will be proved. We have set on foot an inquiry through the whole of the country which has been the scene of these transactions, to be able to prove to the courts, if they will give time, or to the public by way of communication to Congress, what the real facts have been. For obtaining this, we are obliged to appeal to the patriotism of particular persons in different places, of whom we have requested to make the inquiry in their neighborhood, and on such information as shall be voluntarily offered. Aided by no process or facilities from the federal courts, but frowned on by their new-born zeal for the liberty of those whom we would not permit to overthrow the liberties of their country, we can expect no revealments from the accomplices of the chief offender. Of treasonable intentions, the judges have been obliged to confess there is probable appearance. What loop-hole they will find in the case, when it comes to trial, we cannot foresee. Eaton, Stoddart, Wilkinson, and two others whom I must not name, will satisfy the world, if not the judges, of Burr's guilt. And I do suppose the following overt acts will be proved. 1. The enlistment of men, in a regular way. 2. The regular mounting of guard round Blannerhassett's island, when they expected Governor Tiffin's men to be on them modo guerrino arraiati. 3. The rendezvous of Burr with his men at the mouth of Cumberland. 4. His letter to the acting Governor of Mississippi, holding up the prospect of civil war. 5. His capitulation, regularly signed with the aid of the Governor, as between two independent and hostile commanders.
But a moment's calculation will show that this evidence cannot be collected under four months, probably five, from the moment of deciding when and where the trial shall be. I desired Mr. Rodney expressly to inform the Chief Justice of this, inofficially. But Mr. Marshall says, 'More than five weeks have elapsed since the opinion of the Supreme Court has declared the necessity of proving the overt acts, if they exist. Why are they not proved.' In what terms of decency can we speak of this? As if an express could go to Natchez, or the mouth of Cumberland, and return in five weeks, to do which has never taken less than twelve. Again, 'If, in November or December last, a body of troops had been assembled on the Ohio, it is impossible to suppose the affidavits, establishing the fact, could not have been obtained by the last of March.' But I ask the Judge, where they should have been lodged? At Frankfort? at Cincinnati? at Nashville? St. Louis? Natchez? New Orleans? These were the probable places of apprehension and examination. It was not known at Washington till the 26th of March, that Burr would escape from the western tribunals, be retaken and brought to an eastern one: and in five days after (neither five months nor five weeks, as the Judge calculated) he says, it is 'impossible to suppose the affidavits could not have been obtained.' Where? At Richmond he certainly meant, or meant only to throw dust in the eyes of his audience. But all the principles of law are to be perverted which would bear on the favorite offenders, who endeavor to overturn this odious republic. 'I understand,' says the Judge, 'probable cause of guilt to be a case made out of proof furnishing good reason to believe,' &c. Speaking as a lawyer, he must mean legal proof, i.e. proof on oath, at least. But this is confounding probability and proof. We had always before understood that where there was reasonable ground to believe guilt, the offender must be put on his trial. That guilty intentions were probable, the Judge believed. And as to the overt acts, were not the bundle of letters of information in Mr. Rodney's hands, the letters and facts published in the local newspapers, Burr's flight, and the universal belief or rumor of his guilt, probable ground for presuming the facts of enlistment, military guard, rendezvous, threat of civil war, or capitulation, so as to put him on trial? Is there a candid man in the United States who does not believe some one, if not all, of these overt acts to have taken place?
If there ever had been an instance in this or the preceding administrations, of federal judges so applying principles of law as to condemn a federal or acquit a republican offender, I should have judged them in the present case with more charity. All this, however, will work well. The nation will judge both the offender and judges for themselves. If a member of the executive or legislature does wrong, the day is never far distant when the people will remove him. They will see then, and amend the error in our constitution, which makes any branch independent of the nation. They will see that one of the great co-ordinate branches of the government, setting itself in opposition to the other two, and to the common sense of the nation, proclaims impunity to that class of offenders which endeavors to overturn the constitution, and are themselves protected in it by the constitution itself: for impeachment is a farce which will not be tried again. If their protection of Burr produces this amendment, it will do more good than his condemnation would have done. Against Burr, personally, I never had one hostile sentiment. I never, indeed, thought him an honest, frank-dealing man, but considered him as a crooked gun, or other perverted machine, whose aim or shot you could never be sure of. Still, while he possessed the confidence of the nation, I thought it my duty to respect in him their confidence, and to treat him as if he deserved it: and if his punishment can be commuted now for an useful amendment of the constitution, I shall rejoice in it. My sheet being full, I perceive it is high time to offer you my friendly salutations, and assure you of my constant and affectionate esteem and respect.
LETTER XLIV.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 2, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 2, 1807.
While Burr's case is depending before the court, I will trouble you from time to time with what occurs to me. I observe that the case of Marbury v. Madison has been cited, and I think it material to stop at the threshold the citing that case as authority, and to have it denied to be law. 1. Because the judges, in the outset, disclaimed all cognizance of the case; although they then went on to say what would have been their opinion, had they had cognizance of it. This then was confessedly an extra-judicial opinion, and, as such, of no authority. 2. Because, had it been judicially pronounced, it would have been against law; for to a commission, a deed, a bond, delivery is essential to give validity. Until, therefore, the commission is delivered out of the hands of the executive and his agents, it is not his deed. He may withhold or cancel it at pleasure, as he might his private deed in the same situation. The constitution intended that the three great branches of the government should be co-ordinate, and independent of each other. As to acts, therefore, which are to be done by either, it has given no control to another branch. A judge, I presume, cannot sit on a bench without a commission, or a record of a commission: and the constitution having given to the judiciary branch no means of compelling the executive either to deliver a commission, or to make a record of it, shows it did not intend to give the judiciary that control over the executive, but that it should remain in the power of the latter to do it or not. Where different branches have to act in their respective lines, finally and without appeal, under any law, they may give to it different and opposite constructions. Thus in the case of William Smith, the House of Representatives determined he was a citizen, and in the case of William Duane (precisely the same in every material circumstance) the judges determined he was no citizen. In the cases of Callender and others, the judges determined the sedition act was valid under the constitution, and exercised their regular powers of sentencing them to fine and imprisonment. But the executive determined that the sedition act was a nullity under the constitution, and exercised his regular power of prohibiting the execution of the sentence, or rather of executing the real law, which protected the acts of the defendants. From these different constructions of the same act by different branches, less mischief arises, than from giving to any one of them a control over the others. The executive and Senate act on the construction, that until delivery from the executive department, a commission is in their possession, and within their rightful power; and in cases of commissions not revocable at will, where, after the Senate's approbation and the President's signing and sealing, new information of the unfitness of the person has come to hand before the delivery of the commission, new nominations have been made and approved, and new commissions have issued.
On this construction I have hitherto acted; on this I shall ever act, and maintain it with the powers of the government, against any control which may be attempted by the judges in subversion of the independence of the executive and Senate within their peculiar department. I presume, therefore, that in a case where our decision is by the constitution the supreme one, and that which can be carried into effect, it is the constitutionally authoritative one, and that that by the judges was coram non judice, and unauthoritative, because it cannot be carried into effect. I have long wished for a proper occasion to have the gratuitous opinion in Marbury v. Madison brought before the public, and denounced as not law: and I think the present a fortunate one, because it occupies such a place in the public attention. I should be glad, therefore, if, in noticing that case, you could take occasion to express the determination of the executive, that the doctrines of that case were given extra-judicially and against law, and that their reverse will be the rule of action with the executive. If this opinion should not be your own, I would wish it to be expressed merely as that of the executive. If it is your own also, you would of course give to the arguments such a developement, as a case, incidental only, might render proper.
I salute you with friendship and respect.
LETTER XLV.—TO ALBERT GALLATIN, June 3, 1807
THOMAS JEFFERSON TO ALBERT GALLATIN.
I gave you, some time ago, a project of a more equal tariff on wines, than that which now exists. But in that I yielded considerably to the faulty classification of them in our law. I have now formed one with attention, and according to the best information I possess, classing them more rigorously. I am persuaded, that were the duty on cheap wines put on the same ratio with the dear, it would wonderfully enlarge the field of those who use wine, to the expulsion of whiskey. The introduction of a very cheap wine (St. George) into my neighborhood, within two years past, has quadrupled in that time the number of those who keep wine, and will ere long increase them tenfold. This would be a great gain to the treasury, and to the sobriety of our country. I will here add my tariff, wherein you will be able to choose any rate of duty you please; and to decide whether it will not, on a fit occasion, be proper for legislative attention. Affectionate salutations.
LETTER XLVI.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 5, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 5, 1807.
Your favor of the 31st instant has been received, and I think it will be fortunate if any circumstance should produce a discharge of the present scanty grand jury, and a future summons of a fuller: though the same views of protecting the offender may again reduce the number to sixteen, in order to lessen the chance of getting twelve to concur. It is understood, that wherever Burr met with subjects who did not choose to embark in his projects, unless approved by their government, he asserted that he had that approbation. Most of them took his word for it, but it is said that with those who would not, the following stratagem was practised. A forged letter, purporting to be from General Dearborn, was made to express his approbation, and to say that I was absent at Monticello, but that there was no doubt that, on my return, my approbation of his enterprises would be given. This letter was spread open on his table, so as to invite the eye of whoever entered his room; and he contrived occasions of sending up into his room, those whom he wished to become witnesses of his acting under sanction. By this means, he avoided committing himself to any liability to prosecution for forgery, and gave another proof of being a great man in little things, while he is really small in great ones. I must add General Dearborn's declaration, that he never wrote a letter to Burr in his life, except that when here, once in a winter, he usually wrote him a billet of invitation to dine. The only object of sending you the enclosed letters is to possess you of the fact, that you may know how to pursue it, if any of your witnesses should know any thing of it. My intention in writing to you several times, has been to convey facts or observations occurring in the absence of the Attorney General, and not to make to the dreadful drudgery you are going through the unnecessary addition of writing me letters in answer, which I beg you to relieve yourself from, except when some necessity calls for it.
I salute you with friendship and respect.
LETTER XLVII.—TO DOCTOR HORATIO TURPIN, June 10, 1807
TO DOCTOR HORATIO TURPIN.
Washington, June 10, 1807.
Your favor of June the 1st has been duly received. To a mind like yours, capable in any question of abstracting it from its relation to yourself, I may safely hazard explanations, which I have generally avoided to others, on questions of appointment. Bringing into office no desires of making it subservient to the advancement of my own private interests, it has been no sacrifice, by postponing them, to strengthen the confidence of my fellow-citizens. But I have not felt equal indifference towards excluding merit from office, merely because it was related to me. However, I have thought it my duty so to do, that my constituents may be satisfied, that, in selecting persons for the management of their affairs, I am influenced by neither personal nor family interests, and especially, that the field of public office will not be perverted by me into a family property. On this subject, I had the benefit of useful lessons from my predecessors, had I needed them, marking what was to be imitated and what avoided. But, in truth, the nature of our government is lesson enough. Its energy depending mainly on the confidence of the people, in their Chief Magistrate, makes it his duty to spare nothing which can strengthen him with that confidence.
Accept assurances of my constant friendship and respect.
LETTER XLVIII.—TO JOHN NORVELL, June 11, 1807
TO JOHN NORVELL.
Washington, June 11, 1807.
Your letter of May the 9th has been duly received. The subjects it proposes would require time and space for even moderate developement. My occupations limit me to a very short notice of them. I think there does not exist a good elementary work on the organization of society into civil government: I mean a work which presents in one full and comprehensive view the system of principles on which such an organization should be founded, according to the rights of nature. For want of a single work of that character, I should recommend Locke on Government, Sidney, Priestley's Essay on the First Principles of Government, Chipman's Principles of Government, and the Federalist. Adding, perhaps, Beccaria on Crimes and Punishments, because of the demonstrative manner in which he has treated that branch of the subject. If your views of political inquiry go further, to the subjects of money and commerce, Smith's Wealth of Nations is the best book to be read, unless Say's Political Economy can be had, which treats the same subjects on the same principles, but in a shorter compass, and more lucid manner. But I believe this work has not been translated into our language.
History, in general, only informs us what bad government is. But as we have employed some of the best materials of the British constitution in the construction of our own government, a knowledge of British history becomes useful to the American politician. There is, however, no general history of that country which can be recommended. The elegant one of Hume seems intended to disguise and discredit the good principles of the government, and is so plausible and pleasing in its style and manner, as to instil its errors and heresies insensibly into the minds of unwary readers. Baxter has performed a good operation on it. He has taken the text of Hume as his ground-work, abridging it by the omission of some details of little interest, and wherever he has found him endeavoring to mislead, by either the suppression of a truth, or by giving it a false coloring, he has changed the text to what it should be, so that we may properly call it Hume's history republicanized. He has, moreover, continued the history (but indifferently) from where Hume left it, to the year 1800. The work is not popular in England, because it is republican; and but a few copies have ever reached America. It is a single quarto volume. Adding to this Ludlow's Memoirs, Mrs. Macaulay's and Belknap's histories, a sufficient view will be presented of the free principles of the English constitution.
To your request of my opinion of the manner in which a newspaper should be conducted, so as to be most useful, I should answer, 'by restraining it to true, facts and sound principles only.' Yet I fear such a paper would find few subscribers. It is a melancholy truth, that a suppression of the press could not more completely deprive the nation of its benefits, than is done by its abandoned prostitution to falsehood. Nothing can now be believed which is seen in a newspaper. Truth itself becomes suspicious by being put into that polluted vehicle. The real extent of this state of misinformation is known only to those who are in situations to confront facts within their knowledge with the lies of the day. I really look with commiseration over the great body of my fellow-citizens, who, reading newspapers, live and die in the belief, that they have known something of what has been passing in the world in their time; whereas the accounts they have read in newspapers are just as true a history of any other period of the world as of the present, except that the real names of the day are affixed to their fables. General facts may indeed be collected from them, such as that Europe is now at war, that Bonaparte has been a successful warrior, that he has subjected a great portion of Europe to his will, &c. &c.; but no details can be relied on. I will add, that the man who never looks into a newspaper is better informed than he who reads them; inasmuch as he who knows nothing is nearer to truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors. He who reads nothing will still learn the great facts, and the details are all false.
Perhaps an editor might begin a reformation in some such way as this. Divide his paper into four chapters, heading the 1st, Truths. 2nd, Probabilities. 3rd, Possibilities. 4th, Lies. The 1st chapter would be very short, as it would contain little more than authentic papers, and information from such sources, as the editor would be willing to risk his own reputation for their truth. The 2nd would contain what, from a mature consideration of all circumstances, his judgment should conclude to be probably true. This, however, should rather contain too little than too much. The 3rd and 4th should be professedly for those readers who would rather have lies for their money than the blank paper they would occupy.
Such an editor too, would have to set his face against the demoralizing practice of feeding the public mind habitually on slander, and the depravity of taste which this nauseous aliment induces. Defamation is becoming a necessary of life; insomuch, that a dish of tea in the morning or evening cannot be digested without this stimulant. Even those who do not believe these abominations, still read them with complaisance to their auditors, and instead of the abhorrence and indignation which should fill a virtuous mind, betray a secret pleasure in the possibility that some may believe them, though they do not themselves. It seems to escape them, that it is not he who prints, but he who pays for printing a slander, who is its real author.
These thoughts on the subjects of your letter are hazarded at your request. Repeated instances of the publication of what has not been intended for the public eye, and the malignity with which political enemies torture every sentence from me into meanings imagined by their own wickedness only, justify my expressing a solicitude, that this hasty communication may in nowise be permitted to find its way into the public papers. Not fearing these political bull-dogs, I yet avoided putting myself in the way of being baited by them, and do not wish to volunteer away that portion of tranquillity, which a firm execution of my duties will permit me to enjoy.
I tender you my salutations, and best wishes for your success.
LETTER XLIX.—TO WILLIAM SHORT, June 12, 1807
TO WILLIAM SHORT.
Washington, June 12, 1807.
The proposition in your letter of May the 16th, of adding an umpire to our discordant negotiators at Paris, struck me favorably on reading it, and reflection afterwards strengthened my first impressions. I made it therefore a subject of consultation with my coadjutors, as is our usage. For our government, although in theory subject to be directed by the unadvised will of the President, is, and from its origin has been, a very different thing in practice. The minor business in each department is done by the Head of the department, on consultation with the President alone. But all matters of importance or difficulty are submitted to all the Heads of departments composing the cabinet; sometimes by the President's consulting them separately and successively, as they happen to call on him; but in the greatest cases, by calling them together, discussing the subject maturely, and finally taking the vote, in which the President counts himself but as one. So that in all important cases the executive is, in fact, a directory, which certainly the President might control: but of this there was never an example either in the first or the present administration. I have heard, indeed, that my predecessor sometimes decided things against his council.
I adopted in the present case the mode of separate consultation. The opinion of each member, taken separately, was, that the addition of a third negotiator was not at this time advisable. For the present, therefore, the question must rest. Mr. Bowdoin, we know, is anxious to come home, and is detained only by the delicacy of not deserting his post. In the existing temper between him and his colleague, it would certainly be better that one of them should make an opening for re-composing the commission more harmoniously. I salute you with affection and respect.
LETTER L.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 12, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 12, 1807.
Your letter of the 9th is this moment received. Reserving the necessary right of the President of the United States to decide, independently of all other authority, what papers, coming to him as President, the public interests permit to be communicated, and to whom, I assure you of my readiness, under that restriction, voluntarily to furnish, on all occasions, whatever the purposes of justice may require. But the letter of General Wilkinson, of October the 21st, requested for the defence of Colonel Burr, with every other paper relating to the charges against him, which were in my possession when the Attorney General went on to Richmond in March, I then delivered to him; and I have always taken for granted he left the whole with you. If he did, and the bundle retains the order in which I had arranged it, you will readily find the letter desired, under the date of its receipt, which was November the 25th: but lest the Attorney General should not have left those papers with you, I this day write to him to forward this one by post. An uncertainty whether he is at Philadelphia, Wilmington, or New Castle, may produce delay in his receiving my letter, of which it is proper you should be apprized. But, as I do not recollect the whole contents of that letter, I must beg leave to devolve on you the exercise of that discretion which it would be my right and duty to exercise, by withholding the communication of any parts of the letter, which are not directly material for the purposes of justice.
With this application, which is specific, a prompt compliance is practicable. But when the request goes to 'copies of the orders issued in relation to Colonel Burr, to the officers at Orleans, Natchez, &c. by the Secretaries of the War and Navy departments,' it seems to cover a correspondence of many months, with such a variety of officers, civil and military, all over the United States, as would amount to the laying open the whole executive books. I have desired the Secretary of War to examine his official communications; and on a view of these, we may be able to judge what can and ought to be done towards a compliance with the request. If the defendant alleges that there was any particular order, which, as a cause, produced any particular act on his part, then he must know what this order was, can specify it, and a prompt answer can be given. If the object had been specified, we might then have had some guide for our conjectures, as to what part of the executive records might be useful to him: but, with a perfect willingness to do what is right, we are without the indications which may enable us to do it. If the researches of the Secretary at War should produce any thing proper for communication, and pertinent to any point we can conceive in the defence before the court, it shall be forwarded to you. I salute you with respect and esteem.
LETTER LI.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 17, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 17, 1807.
In answering your letter of the 9th, which desired a communication of one to me from General Wilkinson, specified by its date, I informed you in mine of the 12th that I had delivered it, with all other papers respecting the charges against Aaron Burr, to the Attorney General, when he went to Richmond; that I had supposed he had left them in your possession, but would immediately write to him, if he had not, to forward that particular letter without delay. I wrote to him accordingly on the same day, but having no answer, I know not whether he has forwarded the letter. I stated in the same letter, that I had desired the Secretary at War, to examine his office, in order to comply with your further request, to furnish copies of the orders which had been given respecting Aaron Burr and his property; and in a subsequent letter of the same day, I forwarded to you copies of two letters from the Secretary at War, which appeared to be within the description expressed in your letter. The order from the Secretary of the Navy, you said, you were in possession of. The receipt of these papers had, I presume, so far anticipated, and others this day forwarded will have substantially fulfilled, the object of a subpoena from the District Court of Richmond, requiring that those officers and myself should attend the Court in Richmond, with the letter of General Wilkinson, the answer to that letter, and the orders of the departments of War and the Navy, therein generally described. No answer to General Wilkinson's letter, other than a mere acknowledgment of its receipt, in a letter written for a different purpose, was ever written by myself or any other. To these communications of papers, I will add, that if the defendant supposes there are any facts within the knowledge of the Heads of departments, or of myself, which can be useful for his defence, from a desire of doing any thing our situation will permit in furtherance of justice, we shall be ready to give him the benefit of it, by way of deposition, through any persons whom the Court shall authorize to take our testimony at this place. I know, indeed, that this cannot be done but by consent of parties; and I therefore authorize you to give consent on the part of the United States. Mr. Burr's consent will be given of course, if he supposes the testimony useful.
As to our personal attendance at Richmond, I am persuaded the Court is sensible, that paramount duties to the nation at large control the obligation of compliance with their summons in this case; as they would, should we receive a similar one, to attend the trials of Blannerhassett and others, in the Mississippi territory, those instituted at St. Louis and other places on the western waters, or at any place, other than the seat of government. To comply with such calls would leave the nation without an executive branch, whose agency, nevertheless, is understood to be so constantly necessary, that it is the sole branch which the constitution requires to be always in function. It could not then mean that it should be withdrawn from its station by any co-ordinate authority.
With respect to papers, there is certainly a public and a private side to our offices. To the former belong grants of land, patents for inventions, certain commissions, proclamations, and other papers patent in their nature. To the other belong mere executive proceedings. All nations have found it necessary, that for the advantageous conduct of their affairs, some of these proceedings, at least, should remain known to their executive functionary only. He, of course, from the nature of the case, must be the sole judge of which of them the public interests will permit publication. Hence, under our constitution, in requests of papers, from the legislative to the executive branch, an exception is carefully expressed, as to those which he may deem the public welfare may require not to be disclosed; as you will see in the enclosed resolution of the House of Representatives, which produced the message of January 22nd, respecting this case. The respect mutually due between the constituted authorities, in their official intercourse, as well as sincere dispositions to do for every one what is just, will always insure from the executive, in exercising the duty of discrimination confided to him, the same candor and integrity to which the nation has in like manner trusted in the disposal of its judiciary authorities. Considering you as the organ for communicating these sentiments to the Court, I address them to you for that purpose, and salute you with esteem and respect.
LETTER LII.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 19,1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 19,1807.
Yours of the 17th was received last night. Three blank pardons had been (as I expect) made up and forwarded by the mail of yesterday, and I have desired three others to go by that of this evening. You ask what is to be done if Bollman finally rejects his pardon, and the Judge decides it to have no effect? Move to commit him immediately for treason or misdemeanor, as you think the evidence will support; let the court decide where he shall be sent for trial; and on application, I will have the marshal aided in his transportation, with the executive means. And we think it proper, further, that when Burr shall have been convicted of either treason or misdemeanor, you should immediately have committed all those persons against whom you should find evidence sufficient, whose agency has been so prominent as to mark them as proper objects of punishment, and especially where their boldness has betrayed an inveteracy of criminal disposition. As to obscure offenders and repenting ones, let them lie for consideration.
I enclose you the copy of a letter received last night, and giving singular information. I have inquired into the character of Graybell. He was an old revolutionary captain, is now a flour merchant in Baltimore, of the most respectable character, and whose word would be taken as implicitly as any man's for whatever he affirms. The letter-writer, also, is a man of entire respectability. I am well informed, that for more than a twelvemonth it has been believed in Baltimore, generally, that Burr was engaged in some criminal enterprise, and that Luther Martin knew all about it. We think you should immediately despatch a subpoena for Graybell; and while that is on the road, you will have time to consider in what form you will use his testimony; e.g. shall Luther Martin be summoned as a witness against Burr, and Graybell held ready to confront him? It may be doubted whether we could examine a witness to discredit our own witness. Besides, the lawyers say that they are privileged from being forced to breaches of confidence, and that no others are. Shall we move to commit Luther Martin, as particeps criminis with Burr? Graybell will fix upon him misprision of treason at least. And at any rate, his evidence will put down this unprincipled and impudent federal bull-dog, and add another proof that the most clamorous defenders of Burr are all his accomplices. It will explain why Luther Martin flew so hastily to the aid of 'his honorable friend,' abandoning his clients and their property during a session of a principal court in Maryland, now filled, as I am told, with the clamors and ruin of his clients. I believe we shall send on Latrobe as a witness. He will prove that Aaron Burr endeavored to get him to engage several thousand men, chiefly Irish emigrants, whom he had been in the habit of employing in the works he directs, under pretence of a canal opposite Louisville, or of the Washita, in which, had he succeeded, he could with that force alone have carried every thing before him, and would not have been where he now is. He knows, too, of certain meetings of Burr, Bollman, Yrujo, and one other whom we have never named yet, but have him not the less in our view.
I salute you with friendship and respect.
P. S. Will you send us half a dozen blank subpoenas?
Since writing the within I have had a conversation with Latrobe. He says it was five hundred men he was desired to engage. The pretexts were to work on the Ohio canal, and be paid in Washita lands. Your witnesses will some of them prove that Burr had no interest in the Ohio canal, and that consequently this was a mere pretext to cover the real object from the men themselves, and all others. Latrobe will set out in the stage of to-morrow evening, and be with you Monday evening. T. J.
LETTER LIII.—TO GOVERNOR SULLIVAN, June 19, 1807
TO GOVERNOR SULLIVAN.
Washington, June 19, 1807.
In acknowledging the receipt of your favor of the 3rd instant, I avail myself of the occasion it offers of tendering to yourself, to Mr. Lincoln, and to your State, my sincere congratulations on the late happy event of the election of a republican executive to preside over its councils. The harmony it has introduced between the legislative and executive branches, between the people and both of them, and between all and the General Government, are so many steps towards securing that union of action and effort in all its parts, without which no nation can be happy or safe. The just respect, with which all the States have ever looked to Massachusetts, could leave none of them without anxiety while she was in a state of alienation from her family and friends. Your opinion of the propriety and advantage of a more intimate correspondence between the executives of the several States, and that of the Union, as a central point, is precisely that which I have ever entertained; and on coming into office I felt the advantages which would result from that harmony. I had it even in contemplation, after the annual recommendation to Congress of those measures called for by the times, which the constitution had placed under their power, to make communications in like manner to the executives of the States, as to any parts of them to which their legislatures might be alone competent. For many are the exercises of power reserved to the States, wherein an uniformity of proceeding would be advantageous to all. Such are quarantines, health laws, regulations of the press, banking institutions, training militia, &c. &c. But you know what was the state of the several governments when I came into office. That a great proportion of them were federal, and would have been delighted with such opportunities of proclaiming their contempt, and of opposing republican men and measures. Opportunities so furnished and used by some of the State governments, would have produced an ill effect, and would have insured the failure of the object of uniform proceeding. If it could be ventured even now (Connecticut and Delaware being still hostile) it must be on some greater occasion than is likely to arise within my time. I look to it, therefore, as a course which will probably be to be left to the consideration of my successor.
I consider, with you, the federalists as completely vanquished, and never more to take the field under their own banners. They will now reserve themselves to profit by the schisms among republicans, and to earn favors from minorities, whom they will enable to triumph over their more numerous antagonists. So long as republican minorities barely accept their votes, no great harm will be done; because it will only place in power one shade of republicanism, instead of another. But when they purchase the votes of the federalists, by giving them a participation of office, trust, and power, it is a proof that anti-monarchism is not their strongest passion. I do not think that the republican minority in Pennsylvania has fallen into this heresy, nor that there are in your State materials of which a minority can be made who will fall into it.
With respect to the tour my friends to the north have proposed that I should make in that quarter, I have not made up a final opinion. The course of life which General Washington had run, civil and military, the services he had rendered, and the space he therefore occupied in the affections of his fellow-citizens, take from his examples the weight of precedents for others, because no others can arrogate to themselves the claims which he had on the public homage. To myself, therefore, it comes as a new question, to be viewed under all the phases it may present. I confess, that I am not reconciled to the idea of a chief magistrate parading himself through the several States as an object of public gaze, and in quest of an applause, which, to be valuable, should be purely voluntary. I had rather acquire silent good will by a faithful discharge of my duties, than owe expressions of it to my putting myself in the way of receiving them. Were I to make such a tour to Portsmouth or Portland, I must do it to Savannah, perhaps to Orleans and Frankfort. As I have never yet seen the time when the public business would have permitted me to be so long in a situation in which I could not carry it on, so I have no reason to expect that such a time will come while I remain in office. A journey to Boston or Portsmouth, after I shall be a private citizen, would much better harmonize with my feelings, as well as duties; and, founded in curiosity, would give no claims to an extension of it. I should see my friends, too, more at our mutual ease, and be left more exclusively to their society. However, I end as I began, by declaring I have made up no opinion on the subject, and that I reserve it as a question for future consideration and advice.
In the mean time, and at all times, I salute you with great respect and esteem,
LETTER LIV.—TO GEORGE HAY, June 20, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Washington, June 20, 1807.
Mr. Latrobe now comes on as a witness against Burr. His presence here is with great inconvenience dispensed with, as one hundred and fifty workmen require his constant directions on various public works of pressing importance. I hope you will permit him to come away as soon as possible. How far his testimony will be important as to the prisoner, I know not; but I am desirous that those meetings of Yrujo with Burr and his principal accomplices should come fully out, and judicially, as they will establish the just complaints we have against his nation.
I did not see till last night the opinion of the Judge on the subpoena duces tecum against the President. Considering the question there as coram non judice, I did not read his argument with much attention. Yet I saw readily enough, that, as is usual, where an opinion is to be supported, right or wrong, he dwells much on smaller objections, and passes over those which are solid. Laying down the position generally, that all persons owe obedience to subpoenas, he admits no exception unless it can be produced in his law books. But if the constitution enjoins on a particular officer to be always engaged in a particular set of duties imposed on him, does not this supersede the general law, subjecting him to minor duties inconsistent with these? The constitution enjoins his constant agency in the concerns of six millions of people. Is the law paramount to this, which calls on him on behalf of a single one? Let us apply the Judge's own doctrine to the case of himself and his brethren. The sheriff of Henrico summons him from the bench, to quell a riot somewhere in his county. The federal judge is, by the general law, a part of the posse of the State sheriff. Would the Judge abandon major duties to perform lesser ones? Again; the court of Orleans or Maine commands, by subpoenas, the attendance of all the judges of the Supreme Court. Would they abandon their posts as judges, and the interests of millions committed to them, to serve the purposes of a single individual? The leading principle of our constitution is the independence of the legislature, executive, and judiciary, of each other, and none are more jealous of this than the judiciary. But would the executive be independent of the judiciary, if he were subject to the commands of the latter, and to imprisonment for disobedience; if the several courts could bandy him from pillar to post, keep him constantly trudging from north to south, and east to west, and withdraw him entirely from his constitutional duties? The intention of the constitution, that each branch should be independent of the others, is further manifested by the means it has furnished to each, to protect itself from enterprises of force attempted on them by the others, and to none has it given more effectual or diversified means than to the executive. Again; because ministers can go into a court in London, as witnesses, without interruption to their executive duties, it is inferred that they would go to a court one thousand or one thousand five hundred miles off, and that ours are to be dragged from Maine to Orleans by every criminal who will swear that their testimony 'may be of use to him.' The Judge says, 'it is apparent that the President's duties, as chief magistrate, do not demand his whole time, and are not unremitting.' If he alludes to our annual retirement from the seat of government, during the sickly season, he should be told that such arrangements are made for carrying on the public business, at and between the several stations we take, that it goes on as unremittingly there, as if we were at the seat of government. I pass more hours in public business at Monticello than I do here, every day; and it is much more laborious, because all must be done in writing. Our stations being known, all communications come to them regularly, as to fixed points. It would be very different were we always on the road, or placed in the noisy and crowded taverns where courts are held. Mr. Rodney is expected here every hour, having been kept away by a sick child. I salute you with friendship and respect.
LETTER LV.—TO DOCTOR WISTAR, June 21, 1807
TO DOCTOR WISTAR.
Washington, June 21, 1807.
I have a grandson, the son of Mr. Randolph, now about fifteen years of age, in whose education I take a lively interest.
I am not a friend to placing young men in populous cities, because they acquire there habits and partialities which do not contribute to the happiness of their after life. But there are particular branches of science, which are not so advantageously taught any where else in the United States as in Philadelphia. The garden at the Woodlands for Botany, Mr. Peale's Museum for Natural History, your Medical School for Anatomy, and the able professors in all of them, give advantages not to be found elsewhere. We propose, therefore, to send him to Philadelphia to attend the schools of Botany, Natural History, Anatomy, and perhaps Surgery; but not of Medicine. And why not of Medicine, you will ask? Being led to the subject, I will avail myself of the occasion to express my opinions on that science, and the extent of my medical creed. But, to finish first with respect to my grandson, I will state the favor I ask of you, and which is the object of this letter.
This subject dismissed, I may now take up that which it led to, and further tax your patience with unlearned views of medicine; which, as in most cases, are, perhaps, the more confident in proportion as they are less enlightened.
We know, from what we see and feel, that the animal body is in its organs and functions subject to derangement, inducing pain, and tending to its destruction. In this disordered state, we observe nature providing for the re-establishment of order, by exciting some salutary evacuation of the morbific matter, or by some other operation which escapes our imperfect senses and researches. She brings on a crisis, by stools, vomiting, sweat, urine, expectoration, bleeding, &c, which, for the most part, ends in the restoration of healthy action. Experience has taught us also, that there are certain substances, by which, applied to the living body, internally or externally, we can at will produce these same evacuations, and thus do, in a short time, what nature would do but slowly, and do effectually, what perhaps she would not have strength to accomplish. Where, then, we have seen a disease, characterized by specific signs or phenomena, and relieved by a certain natural evacuation or process, whenever that disease recurs under the same appearances, we may reasonably count on producing a solution of it, by the use of such substances as we have found produce the same evacuation or movement. Thus, fulness of the stomach we can relieve by emetics; diseases of the bowels, by purgatives; inflammatory cases, by bleeding; intermittents, by the Peruvian bark; syphilis, by mercury; watchfulness, by opium; &c. So far, I bow to the utility of medicine. It goes to the well defined forms of disease, and happily, to those the most frequent. But the disorders of the animal body, and the symptoms indicating them, are as various as the elements of which the body is composed. The combinations, too, of these symptoms are so infinitely diversified, that many associations of them appear too rarely to establish a definite disease: and to an unknown disease, there cannot be a known remedy. Here, then, the judicious, the moral, the humane physician should stop. Having been so often a witness to the salutary efforts which nature makes to re-establish the disordered functions, he should rather trust to their action, than hazard the interruption of that, and a greater derangement of the system, by conjectural experiments on a machine so complicated and so unknown as the human body, and a subject so sacred as human life. Or, if the appearance of doing something be necessary to keep alive the hope and spirits of the patient, it should be of the most innocent character. One of the most successful physicians I have ever known, has assured me, that he used more bread pills, drops of colored water, and powders of hickory ashes, than of all other medicines put together. It was certainly a pious fraud. But the adventurous physician goes on, and substitutes presumption for knowledge. From the scanty field of what is known, he launches into the boundless region of what is unknown. He establishes for his guide some fanciful theory of corpuscular attraction, of chemical agency, of mechanical powers, of stimuli, of irritability accumulated or exhausted, of depletion by the lancet, and repletion by mercury, or some other ingenious dream, which lets him into all nature's secrets at short hand. On the principle which he thus assumes, he forms his table of nosology, arrays his diseases into families, and extends his curative treatment, by analogy, to all the cases he has thus arbitrarily marshaled together. I have lived myself to see the disciples of Hoffman, Boerhaave, Stahl, Cullen, Brown, succeed one another like the shifting figures of a magic-lanthern, and their fancies like the dresses of the annual doll-babies from Paris, becoming, from their novelty, the vogue of the day, and yielding to the next novelty their ephemeral favor. The patient, treated on the fashionable theory, sometimes gets well in spite of the medicine. The medicine therefore restored him, and the young doctor receives new courage to proceed in his bold experiments on the lives of his fellow creatures. I believe we may safely affirm, that the inexperienced and presumptuous band of medical tyros let loose upon the world, destroys more of human life in one year, than all the Robin-hoods, Cartouches, and Macheaths do in a century. It is in this part of medicine that I wish to see a reform, an abandonment of hypothesis for sober facts, the first degree of value set on clinical observation, and the lowest on visionary theories. I would wish the young practitioner, especially, to have deeply impressed on his mind the real limits of his art, and that when the state of his patient gets beyond these, his office is to be a watchful, but quiet spectator of the operations of nature, giving them fair play by a well regulated regimen, and by all the aid they can derive from the excitement of good spirits and hope in the patient. I have no doubt, that some diseases not yet understood may in time be transferred to the table of those known. But, were I a physician, I would rather leave the transfer to the slow hand of accident, than hasten it by guilty experiments on those who put their lives into my hands. The only sure foundations of medicine are, an intimate knowledge of the human body, and observation on the effects of medicinal substances on that. The anatomical and clinical schools, therefore, are those in which the young physician should be formed. If he enters with innocence that of the theory of medicine, it is scarcely possible he should come out untainted with error. His mind must be strong indeed, if, rising above juvenile credulity, it can maintain a wise infidelity against the authority of his instructers, and the bewitching delusions of their theories. You see that I estimate justly that portion of instruction, which our medical students derive from your labors; and, associating with it one of the chairs which my old and able friend, Doctor Rush, so honorably fills, I consider them as the two fundamental pillars of the edifice. Indeed, I have such an opinion of the talents of the professors in the other branches which constitute the school of medicine with you, as to hope and believe, that it is from this side of the Atlantic, that Europe, which has taught us so many other things, will at length be led into sound principles in this branch of science, the most important of all others, being that to which we commit the care of health and life.
I dare say, that by this time you are sufficiently sensible that old heads, as well as young, may sometimes be charged with ignorance and presumption. The natural course of the human mind is certainly from credulity to scepticism: and this is perhaps the most favorable apology I can make for venturing so far out of my depth, and to one, too, to whom the strong as well as the weak points of this science are so familiar. But having stumbled on the subject in my way, I wished to give a confession of my faith to a friend; and the rather, as I had perhaps, at times, to him as well as others, expressed my scepticism in medicine, without defining its extent or foundation. At any rate, it has permitted me, for a moment, to abstract myself from the dry and dreary waste of politics, into which I have been impressed by the times on which I happened, and to indulge in the rich fields of nature, where alone I should have served as a volunteer, if left to my natural inclinations and partialities.
I salute you at all times with affection and respect.
LETTER LVI.—TO MR. BOWDOIN, July 10, 1807
TO MR. BOWDOIN.
Washington, July 10, 1807.
I wrote you on the 10th of July, 1806; but supposing, from your not acknowledging the receipt of the letter, that it had miscarried, I sent a duplicate with my subsequent one of April the 2nd. These having gone by the Wasp, you will doubtless have received them. Since that, yours of May the 1st has come to hand. You will see by the despatches from the department of State, carried by the armed vessel the Revenge, into what a critical state our peace with Great Britain is suddenly brought, by their armed vessels in our waters. Four vessels of war (three of them two-deckers) closely blockade Norfolk at this instant. Of the authority under which this aggression is committed, their minister here is unapprized. You will see by the proclamation of July the 2nd, that (while we are not omitting such measures of force as are immediately necessary) we propose to give Great Britain an opportunity of disavowal and reparation, and to leave the question of war, non-intercourse, or other measures, uncommitted, to the legislature. This country has never been in such a state of excitement since the battle of Lexington. In this state of things, cordial friendship with France, and peace at least with Spain, become more interesting. You know the circumstances respecting this last power, which have rendered it ineligible that you should have proceeded heretofore to your destination. But this obstacle is now removed by their recall of Yrujo, and appointment of another minister, and, in the mean time, of a charge des affaires, who has been received. The way being now open for taking your station at Madrid, it is certainly our wish you should do so, and that this may be more agreeable to you than your return home, as is solicited in yours of May the 1st. It is with real unwillingness we should relinquish the benefit of your services. Nevertheless, if your mind is decidedly bent on that, we shall regret, but not oppose your return. The choice, therefore, remains with yourself. In the mean time, your place in the joint commission being vacated by either event, we shall take the measures rendered necessary by that. We have seen, with real grief, the misunderstanding which has taken place between yourself and General Armstrong. We are neither qualified nor disposed to form an opinion between you. We regret the pain which must have been felt by persons, both of whom hold so high a place in our esteem, and we have not been without fear that the public interest might suffer by it. It has seemed, however, that the state of Europe has been such as to admit little to be done, in matters so distant from them.
The present alarm has had the effect of suspending our foreign commerce. No merchant ventures to send out a single vessel; and I think it probable this will continue very much the case till we get an answer from England. Our crops are uncommonly plentiful. That of small grain is now secured south of this, and the harvest is advancing here.
Accept my salutations, and assurances of affectionate esteem and respect.
LETTER LVII.—TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE, July 14, 1807
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE.
Washington, July 14, 1807.
My Dear Friend,
I received last night your letters of February the 20th and April the 29th, and a vessel just sailing from Baltimore enables me hastily to acknowledge them; to assure you of the welcome with which I receive whatever comes from you, and the continuance of my affectionate esteem for yourself and family. I learn with much concern, indeed, the state of Madame de la Fayette's health. I hope I have the pleasure yet to come of learning its entire re-establishment. She is too young not to give great confidence to that hope.
Measuring happiness by the American scale, and sincerely wishing that of yourself and family, we had been anxious to see them established on this side of the great water. But I am not certain that any equivalent can be found for the loss of that species of society, to which our habits have been formed from infancy. Certainly had you been, as I wished, at the head of the government of Orleans, Burr would never have given me one moment's uneasiness. His conspiracy has been one of the most flagitious of which history will ever furnish an example. He meant to separate the western States from us, to add Mexico to them, place himself at their head, establish what he would deem an energetic government, and thus provide an example and an instrument for the subversion of our freedom. The man who could expect to effect this, with American materials, must be a fit subject for Bedlam. The seriousness of the crime, however, demands more serious punishment. Yet, although there is not a man in the United States who doubts his guilt, such are the jealous provisions of our laws in favor of the accused against the accuser, that I question if he is convicted. Out of forty-eight jurors to be summoned, he is to select the twelve who are to try him, and if there be any one who will not concur in finding him guilty, he is discharged of course. I am sorry to tell you that Bollman was Burr's right hand man in all his guilty schemes. On being brought to prison here, he communicated to Mr. Madison and myself the whole of the plans, always, however, apologetically for Burr as far as they would bear. But his subsequent tergiversations have proved him conspicuously base. I gave him a pardon, however, which covers him from every thing but infamy. I was the more astonished at his engaging in this business, from the peculiar motives he should have felt for fidelity. When I came into the government, I sought him out on account of the services he has rendered you, cherished him, offered him two different appointments of value, which, after keeping them long under consideration, he declined for commercial views, and would have given him any thing for which he was fit. Be assured he is unworthy of ever occupying again the care of any honest man. Nothing has ever so strongly proved the innate force of our form of government, as this conspiracy. Burr had probably engaged one thousand men to follow his fortunes, without letting them know his projects, otherwise than by assuring them the government approved of them. The moment a proclamation was issued, undeceiving them, he found himself left with about thirty desperadoes only. The people rose in mass wherever he was or was suspected to be, and by their own energy the thing was crushed in one instant, without its having been necessary to employ a man of the military but to take care of their respective stations. His first enterprise was to have been to seize New Orleans, which he supposed would powerfully bridle the upper country, and place him at the door of Mexico. It is with pleasure I inform you that not a single native Creole, and but one American of those settled there before we received the place, took any part with him. His partisans were the new emigrants from the United States and elsewhere, fugitives from justice or debt, and adventurers and speculators of all descriptions.
I enclose you a proclamation, which will show you the critical footing on which we stand, at present, with England. Never, since the battle of Lexington, have I seen this country in such a state of exasperation as at present. And even that did not produce such unanimity. The federalists themselves coalesce with us as to the object, although they will return to their old trade of condemning every step we take towards obtaining it. 'Reparation for the past, and security for the future,' is our motto. Whether these will be yielded freely, or will require resort to non-intercourse, or to war, is yet to be seen. We have actually near two thousand men in the field, covering the exposed parts of the coast, and cutting off supplies from the British vessels.
I am afraid I have been very unsuccessful in my endeavors to serve Madame de Tesse in her taste for planting. A box of seeds, &c. which I sent her in the close of 1805, was carried with the vessel into England, and discharged so late that I fear she lost their benefit, for that season. Another box, which I prepared in the autumn of 1806, has, I fear, been equally delayed from other accidents. However, I will persevere in my endeavors.
Present me respectfully to her, M. de Tesse, Madame de la Fayette, and your family, and accept my affectionate salutations, and assurances of constant esteem and respect.
LETTER LVIII.—TO JOHN PAGE, July 17, 1807
TO JOHN PAGE.
Washington, July 17, 1807.
My Dear Friend,
Yours of the 11th is received. In appointments to public offices of mere profit, I have ever considered faithful service in either our first or second revolution as giving preference of claim, and that appointments on that principle would gratify the public, and strengthen that confidence so necessary to enable the executive to direct the whole public force to the best, advantage of the nation. Of Mr. Boiling Robertson's talents and integrity I have long been apprized, and would gladly use them where talents and integrity are wanting. I had thought of him for the vacant place of secretary of the Orleans territory, but supposing the salary of two thousand dollars not more than he makes by his profession, and while remaining with his friends, I have, in despair, not proposed it to him. If he would accept it, I should name him instantly with the greatest satisfaction. Perhaps you could inform me on this point.
With respect to Major Gibbons, I do indeed recollect, that in some casual conversation, it was said that the most conspicuous accomplices of Burr were at home at his house; but it made so little impression on me, that neither the occasion nor the person is now recollected. On this subject, I have often expressed the principles on which I act, with a wish they might be understood by the federalists in office. I have never removed a man merely because he was a federalist: I have never wished them to give a vote at an election, but according to their own wishes. But as no government could discharge its duties to the best advantage of its citizens, if its agents were in a regular course of thwarting instead of executing all its measures, and were employing the patronage and influence of their offices against the government and its measures, I have only requested they would be quiet, and they should be safe: and if their conscience urges them to take an active and zealous part in opposition, it ought also to urge them to retire from a post which they could not conscientiously conduct with fidelity to the trust reposed in them; and on failure to retire, I have removed them; that is to say, those who maintained an active and zealous opposition to the government. Nothing which I have yet heard of Major Gibbons places him in danger from these principles.
I am much pleased with the ardor displayed by our countrymen on the late British outrage. It gives us the more confidence of support in the demand of reparation for the past, and security for the future, that is to say, an end of impressments. If motives of either justice or interest should produce this from Great Britain, it will save a war: but if they are refused, we shall have gained time for getting in our ships and property, and at least twenty thousand seamen now afloat on the ocean, and who may man two hundred and fifty privateers. The loss of these to us would be worth to Great Britain many victories of the Nile and Trafalgar. The mean time may also be importantly employed in preparations to enable us to give quick and deep blows.
Present to Mrs. Page, and receive yourself my affectionate and respectful salutations.
LETTER LIX.—TO WILLIAM DUANE, July 20, 1807
TO WILLIAM DUANE.
Washington, July 20, 1807.
Although I cannot always acknowledge the receipt of communications, yet I merit their continuance by making all the use of them of which they are susceptible. Some of your suggestions had occurred, and others will be considered. The time is coming when our friends must enable us to hear every thing, and expect us to say nothing; when we shall need all their confidence that every thing is doing which can be done, and when our greatest praise shall be, that we appear to be doing nothing. The law for detaching one hundred thousand militia, and the appropriation for it, and that for fortifications, enable us to do every thing for land service, as well as if Congress were here; and as to naval matters, their opinion is known. The course we have pursued, has gained for our merchants a precious interval to call in their property and our seamen, and the postponing the summons of Congress will aid in avoiding to give too quick an alarm to the adversary. They will be called, however, in good time. Although we demand of England what is merely of right, reparation for the past, security for the future, yet as their pride will possibly, nay probably, prevent their yielding them to the extent we shall require, my opinion is, that the public mind, which I believe is made up for war, should maintain itself at that point. They have often enough, God knows, given us cause of war before; but it has been on points which would not have united the nation. But now they have touched a chord which vibrates in every heart. Now then is the time to settle the old and the new.
I have often wished for an occasion of saying a word to you on the subject of the Emperor of Russia, of whose character and value to us, I suspect you are not apprized correctly. A more virtuous man, I believe, does not exist, nor one who is more enthusiastically devoted to better the condition of mankind. He will probably, one day, fall a victim to it, as a monarch of that principle does not suit a Russian noblesse. He is not of the very first order of understanding, but he is of a high one. He has taken a peculiar affection to this country and its government, of which he has given me public as well as personal proofs. Our nation being like his, habitually neutral, our interests as to neutral rights, and our sentiments, agree. And whenever conferences for peace shall take place, we are assured of a friend in him. In fact, although in questions of restitution he will be with England, in those of neutral rights he will be with Bonaparte and every other power in the world, except England: and I do presume that England will never have peace until she subscribes to a just code of marine law. I have gone into this subject, because I am confident that Russia (while her present monarch lives) is the most cordially friendly to us of any power on earth, will go furthest to serve us, and is most worthy of conciliation. And although the source of this information must be a matter of confidence with you, yet it is desirable that the sentiments should become those of the nation. I salute you with esteem and respect.
LETTER LX.—TO GEORGE HAY, August 20, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Monticello, August 20, 1807.
I received yesterday your favor of the 11th. An error of the post-office had occasioned the delay. Before an impartial jury Burr's conduct would convict himself, were not one word of testimony to be offered against him. But to what a state will our law be reduced by party feelings in those who administer it? Why do not Blannerhasset, Dayton, &c. demand private and comfortable lodgings? In a country where an equal application of law to every condition of man is fundamental, how could it be denied to them? How can it ever be denied to the most degraded malefactor? The enclosed letter of James Morrison, covering a copy of one from Alston to Blannerhasset, came to hand yesterday. I enclose them, because it is proper all these papers should be in one deposite, and because you should know the case and all its bearings, that you may understand whatever turns up in the cause. Whether the opinion of the letter-writer is sound, may be doubted. For however these, and other circumstances which have come to us, may induce us to believe that the bouncing letter he published, and the insolent one he wrote to me, were intended as blinds, yet they are not sufficient for legal conviction. Blannerhasset and his wife could possibly tell us enough. I commiserate the sufferings you have to go through in such a season, and salute you with great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXI.—TO GEORGE HAY, September 4, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Monticello, September 4, 1807.
Yours of the 1st came to hand yesterday. The event has been ——— that is to say, not only to clear Burr, but to prevent the evidence from ever going before the world. But this latter case must not take place. It is now, therefore, more than ever indispensable, that not a single witness be paid or permitted to depart, until his testimony has been committed to writing, either as delivered in court, or as taken by yourself in the presence of any of Burr's counsel, who may choose to attend to cross-examine. These whole proceedings will be laid before Congress, that they may decide, whether the defect has been in the evidence of guilt, or in the law, or in the application of the law, and that they may provide the proper remedy for the past and the future. I must pray you also to have an authentic copy of the record made out (without saying for what) and to send it to me: if the Judge's opinions make not a part of it, then I must ask a copy of them, either under his hand, if he delivers one signed, or duly proved by affidavit.
This criminal is preserved to become the rallying point of all the disaffected and the worthless of the United States, and to be the pivot on which all the intrigues and the conspiracies which foreign governments may wish to disturb us with, are to turn. If he is convicted of the misdemeanor, the Judge must in decency give us respite by some short confinement of him; but we must expect it to be very short. Be assured yourself, and communicate the same assurances to your colleagues, that your and their zeal and abilities have been displayed in this affair to my entire satisfaction and your own honor.
I salute you with great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXII.—TO GEORGE HAY, September 7, 1807
TO GEORGE HAY.
Monticello, September 7, 1807.
I received, late last night, your favor of the day before, and now re-enclose you the subpoena. As I do not believe that the district courts have a power of commanding the executive government to abandon superior duties and attend on them, at whatever distance, I am unwilling, by any notice of the subpoena, to set a precedent which might sanction a proceeding so preposterous. I enclose you, therefore, a letter, public and for the court, covering substantially all they ought to desire. If the papers which were enclosed in Wilkinson's letter may, in your judgment, be communicated without injury, you will be pleased to communicate them. I return you the original letter.
I am happy in having the benefit of Mr. Madison's counsel on this occasion, he happening to be now with me. We are both strongly of opinion, that the prosecution against Burr for misdemeanor should proceed at Richmond. If defeated, it will heap coals of fire on the head of the Judge: if successful, it will give time to see whether a prosecution for treason against him can be instituted in any, and what other court. But, we incline to think, it may be best to send Blannerhasset and Smith (Israel) to Kentucky, to be tried both for the treason and misdemeanor. The trial of Dayton for misdemeanor may as well go on at Richmond.
I salute you with great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXIII.—TO THE REV. MR. MILLAR, January 23, 1808
TO THE REV. MR. MILLAR,
Washington, January 23, 1808.
I have duly received your favor of the 18th, and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with. I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises. This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States. Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General Government. It must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority. But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe, a day of fasting and prayer. That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the constitution has directly precluded them from. It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion. And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation the less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed? I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines; nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them. Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline. Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the constitution has deposited it.
I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted. But I have ever believed, that the example of State executives led to the assumption of that authority by the General Government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be a right in a State government, was a violation of that right when assumed by another. Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.
I again express my satisfaction that you have been so good as to give me an opportunity of explaining myself in a private letter, in which I could give my reasons more in detail than might have been done in a public answer: and I pray you to accept the assurances of my high esteem and respect.
LETTER LXIV.—TO COLONEL MONROE, February 18, 1808
TO COLONEL MONROE.
Washington, February 18, 1808.
My Dear Sir,
You informed me that the instruments you had been so kind as to bring for me from England, would arrive at Richmond with your baggage, and you wished to know what was to be done with them there. I will ask the favor of you to deliver them to Mr. Jefferson, who will forward them to Monticello in the way I shall advise him. And I must intreat you to send me either a note of their amount, or the bills, that I may be enabled to reimburse you. There can be no pecuniary matter between us, against which this can be any set-off. But if, contrary to my recollection or knowledge, there were any thing, I pray that that may be left to be settled by itself. If I could have known the amount beforehand, I should have remitted it, and asked the advance only under the idea that it should be the same as ready money to you on your arrival. I must again, therefore, beseech you to let me know its amount.
I see with infinite grief a contest arising between yourself and another, who have been very dear to each other, and equally so to me. I sincerely pray that these dispositions may not be affected between you; with me I confidently trust they will not. For independently of the dictates of public duty, which prescribes neutrality to me, my sincere friendship for you both will insure its sacred observance. I suffer no one to converse with me on the subject. I already perceive my old friend Clinton estranging himself from me. No doubt lies are carried to him, as they will be to the other two candidates, under forms, which, however false he can scarcely question. Yet I have been equally careful as to him also, never to say a word on his subject. The object of the contest is a fair and honorable one, equally open to you all; and I have no doubt the personal conduct of all will be so chaste, as to offer no ground of dissatisfaction with each other. But your friends will not be as delicate. I know too well from experience the progress of political controversy, and the exacerbation of spirit into which it degenerates, not to fear for the continuance of your mutual esteem. One piquing thing said, draws on another, that a third, and always with increasing acrimony, until all restraint is thrown off, and it becomes difficult for yourselves to keep clear of the toils in which your friends will endeavor to interlace you, and to avoid the participation in their passions which they will endeavor to produce. A candid recollection of what you know of each other will be the true corrective. With respect to myself, I hope they will spare me. My longings for retirement are so strong, that I with difficulty encounter the daily drudgeries of my duty. But my wish for retirement itself is not stronger than that of carrying into it the affections of all my friends. I have ever viewed Mr. Madison and yourself as two principal pillars of my happiness. Were either to be withdrawn, I should consider it as among the greatest calamities which could assail my future peace of mind. I have great confidence that the candor and high understanding of both will guard me against this misfortune, the bare possibility of which has so far weighed on my mind, that I could not be easy without unburthening it.
Accept my respectful salutations for yourself and Mrs. Monroe, and be assured of my constant and sincere friendship.
LETTER LXV.—TO COLONEL MONROE, March 10, 1808
TO COLONEL MONROE.
Washington, March 10, 1808.
From your letter of the 27th ultimo, I perceive that painful impressions have been made on your mind during your late mission, of which I had never entertained a suspicion. I must, therefore, examine the grounds, because explanations between reasonable men can never but do good. 1. You consider the mission of Mr. Pinckney as an associate, to have been in some way injurious to you. Were I to take that measure on myself, I might say in its justification, that it has been the regular and habitual practice of the United States to do this, under every form in which their government has existed. I need not recapitulate the multiplied instances, because you will readily recollect them. I went as an adjunct to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, yourself as an adjunct first to Mr. Livingston, and then to Mr. Pinckney, and I really believe there has scarcely been a great occasion which has not produced an extraordinary mission. Still, however, it is well known, that I was strongly opposed to it in the case of which you complain. A committee of the Senate called on me with two resolutions of that body on the subject of impressment and spoliations by Great Britain, and requesting that I would demand satisfaction. After delivering the resolutions, the committee entered into free conversation, and observed, that although the Senate could not, in form, recommend any extraordinary mission, yet that as individuals, there was but one sentiment among them on the measure, and they pressed it. I was so much averse to it, and gave them so hard an answer, that they felt it, and spoke of it. But it did not end here. The members of the other House took up the subject, and set upon me individually, and these the best friends to you, as well as myself, and represented the responsibility which a failure to obtain redress would throw on us both, pursuing a conduct in opposition to the opinion of nearly every member of the legislature. I found it necessary, at length, to yield my own opinion, to the general sense of the national council, and it really seemed to produce a jubilee among them; not from any want of confidence in you, but from a belief in the effect which an extraordinary mission would have on the British mind, by demonstrating the degree of importance which this country attached to the rights which we considered as infracted.
2. You complain of the manner in which the treaty was received. But what was that manner? I cannot suppose you to have given a moment's credit to the stuff which was crowded in all sorts of forms into the public papers, or to the thousand speeches they put into my mouth, not a word of which I had ever uttered. I was not insensible at the time of the views to mischief, with which these lies were fabricated. But my confidence was firm, that neither yourself nor the British government, equally outraged by them, would believe me capable of making the editors of newspapers the confidants of my speeches or opinions. The fact was this. The treaty was communicated to us by Mr. Erskine on the day Congress was to rise. Two of the Senators inquired of me in the evening, whether it was my purpose to detain them on account of the treaty. My answer was, 'that it was not: that the treaty containing no provision against the impressment of our seamen, and being accompanied by a kind of protestation of the British ministers, which would leave that government free to consider it as a treaty or no treaty, according to their own convenience, I should not give them the trouble of deliberating on it.' This was substantially, and almost verbally, what I said whenever spoken to about it, and I never failed when the occasion would admit of it, to justify yourself and Mr. Pinckney, by expressing my conviction, that it was all that could be obtained from the British government; that you had told their commissioners that your government could not be pledged to ratify, because it was contrary to their instructions; of course, that it should be considered but as a projet; and in this light I stated it publicly in my message to Congress on the opening of the session. Not a single article of the treaty was ever made known beyond the members of the administration, nor would an article of it be known at this day, but for its publication in the newspapers, as communicated by somebody from beyond the water, as we have always understood. But as to myself, I can solemnly protest, as the most sacred of truths, that I never, one instant, lost sight of your reputation and favorable standing with your country, and never omitted to justify your failure to attain our wish, as one which was probably unattainable. Reviewing, therefore, this whole subject, I cannot doubt you will become sensible, that your impressions have been without just ground. I cannot, indeed, judge what falsehoods may have been written or told you; and that, under such forms as to command belief. But you will soon find, my dear Sir, that so inveterate is the rancor of party spirit among us, that nothing ought to be credited but what we hear with our own ears. If you are less on your guard than we are here, at this moment, the designs of the mischief-makers will not fail to be accomplished, and brethren and friends will be made strangers and enemies to each other, without ever having said or thought a thing amiss of each other. I presume that the most insidious falsehoods are daily carried to you, as they are brought to me, to engage us in the passions of our informers, and stated so positively and plausibly as to make even doubt a rudeness to the narrator; who, imposed on himself, has no other than the friendly view of putting us on our guard. My answer is, invariably, that my knowledge of your character is better testimony to me of a negative, than any affirmative which my informant did not hear from yourself with his own ears. In fact, when you shall have been a little longer among us, you will find that little is to be believed which interests the prevailing passions, and happens beyond the limits of our own senses. Let us not then, my dear friend, embark our happiness and our affections on the ocean of slander, of falsehood, and of malice, on which our credulous friends are floating. If you have been made to believe that I ever did, said, or thought a thing unfriendly to your fame and feelings, you do me injury as causeless as it is afflicting to me. In the present contest in which you are concerned, I feel no passion, I take no part, I express no sentiment. Whichever of my friends is called to the supreme cares of the nation, I know that they will be wisely and faithfully administered, and as far as my individual conduct can influence, they shall be cordially supported,
For myself I have nothing further to ask of the world, than to preserve in retirement so much of their esteem as I may have fairly earned, and to be permitted to pass in tranquillity, in the bosom of my family and friends, the days which yet remain for me. Having reached the harbor myself, I shall view with anxiety (but certainly not with a wish to be in their place) those who are still buffeting the storm, uncertain of their fate. Your voyage has so far been favorable, and that it may continue with entire prosperity, is the sincere prayer of that friendship which I have ever borne you, and of which I now assure you, with the tender of my high respect and affectionate salutations.