LETTER LXVI.—TO RICHARD M. JOHNSON, March 10, 1808
TO RICHARD M. JOHNSON.
Washington, March 10, 1808.
I am sure you can too justly estimate my occupations, to need an apology for this tardy acknowledgment of your favor of February the 27th. I cannot but be deeply sensible of the good opinion you are pleased to express of my conduct in the administration of our government. This approbation of my fellow-citizens is the richest reward I can receive. I am conscious of having always intended to do what was best for them: and never, for a single moment, to have listened to any personal interest of my own. It has been a source of great pain to me, to have met with so many among our opponents, who had not the liberality to distinguish between political and social opposition; who transferred at once to the person, the hatred they bore to his political opinions. I suppose, indeed, that in public life, a man whose political principles have any decided character, and who has energy enough to give them effect, must always expect to encounter political hostility from those of adverse principles. But I came to the government under circumstances calculated to generate peculiar acrimony. I found all its offices in the possession of a political sect, who wished to transform it ultimately into the shape of their darling model, the English government; and in the mean time, to familiarize the public mind to the change, by administering it on English principles, and in English forms. The elective interposition of the people had blown all their designs, and they found themselves and their fortresses of power and profit put in a moment into the hands of other trustees. Lamentations and invective were all that remained to them. This last was naturally directed against the agent selected to execute the multiplied reformations, which their heresies had rendered necessary. I became of course the butt of every thing which reason, ridicule, malice, and falsehood could supply. They have concentrated all their hatred on me, till they have really persuaded themselves, that I am the sole source of all their imaginary evils. I hope, therefore, that my retirement will abate some of their disaffection to the government of their country, and that my successor will enter on a calmer sea than I did. He will at least find the vessel of state in the hands of his friends, and not of his foes. Federalism is dead, without even the hope of a day of resurrection. The quondam leaders, indeed, retain their rancor and principles; but their followers are amalgamated with us in sentiment, if not in name. If our fellow-citizens, now solidly republican, will sacrifice favoritism towards men for the preservation of principle, we may hope that no divisions will again endanger a degeneracy in our government.
I pray you to accept my salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXVII.—TO LEVI LINCOLN, March 23, 1808
TO LEVI LINCOLN.
Washington, March 23, 1808.
Your letter on the subject of Mr. Lee came safely to hand. You know our principles render federalists in office safe, if they do not employ their influence in opposing the government, but only give their own vote according to their conscience. And this principle we act on as well with those put in office by others, as by ourselves.
We have received from your presses a very malevolent and incendiary denunciation of the administration, bottomed on absolute falsehood from beginning to end. The author would merit exemplary punishment for so flagitious a libel, were not the torment of his own abominable temper punishment sufficient for even as base a crime as this. The termination of Mr. Rose's mission, re infecta, put it in my power to communicate to Congress yesterday, every thing respecting our relations with England and France, which will effectually put down Mr. Pickering, and his worthy coadjutor Quincy. Their tempers are so much alike, and really their persons, as to induce a supposition that they are related. The embargo appears to be approved, even by the federalists of every quarter except yours. The alternative was between that and war, and, in fact, it is the last card we have to play, short of war. But if peace does not take place in Europe, and if France and England will not consent to withdraw the operation of their decrees and orders from us, when Congress shall meet in December, they will have to consider at what point of time the embargo, continued, becomes a greater evil than war. I am inclined to believe, we shall have this summer and autumn to prepare for the defence of our sea-port towns, and hope that in that time the works of defence will be completed, which have been provided for by the legislature. I think Congress will rise within three weeks. I salute you with great affection and respect.
LETTER LXVIII.—TO CHARLES PINCKNEY, March 30, 1808
TO CHARLES PINCKNEY.
Washington, March 30, 1808.
Your letter of the 8th was received on the 25th, and I proceed to state to you my views of the present state and prospect of foreign affairs, under the confidence that you will use them for your own government and opinions only, and by no means let them get out as from me. With France we are in no immediate danger of war. Her future views it is impossible to estimate. The immediate danger we are in of a rupture with England, is postponed for this year. This is effected by the embargo, as the question was simply between that and war. That may go on a certain time, perhaps through the year, without the loss of their property to our citizens, but only its remaining unemployed on their hands. A time would come, however, when war would be preferable to a continuance of the embargo. Of this Congress may have to decide at their next meeting. In the mean time, we have good information, that a negotiation for peace between France and England is commencing through the medium of Austria. The way for it has been smoothed by a determination expressed by France (through the Moniteur, which is their government paper), that herself and her allies will demand from Great Britain no renunciation of her maritime principles; nor will they renounce theirs. Nothing shall be said about them in the treaty, and both sides will be left in the next war to act on their own. No doubt the meaning of this is, that all the Continental powers of Europe will form themselves into an armed neutrality, to enforce their own principles. Should peace be made, we shall have safely rode out the storm in peace and prosperity. If we have any thing to fear, it will be after that. Nothing should be spared from this moment in putting our militia into the best condition possible, and procuring arms. I hope, that this summer, we shall get our whole sea-ports put into that state of defence, which Congress has thought proportioned to our circumstances and situation; that is to say, put hors d'insulte from a maritime attack, by a moderate squadron. If armies are combined with their fleets, then no resource can be provided, but to meet them in the field. We propose to raise seven regiments only for the present year, depending always on our militia for the operations of the first year of war. On any other plan, we should be obliged always to keep a large standing army. Congress will adjourn in about three weeks. I hope Captain McComb is going on well with your defensive works. We shall be able by mid-summer, to give you a sufficient number of gun-boats to protect Charleston from any vessels which can cross the bar; but the militia of the place must be depended on to fill up the complement of men necessary for action in the moment of an attack, as we shall man them, in ordinary, but with their navigating crew of eight or ten good seamen. I salute you with great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXIX.—TO DOCTOR LEIB, June 23, 1808
TO DOCTOR LEIB.
Washington, June 23, 1808.
I have duly received your favor covering a copy of the talk to the Tammany society, for which I thank you, and particularly for the favorable sentiments expressed towards myself. Certainly, nothing will so much sweeten the tranquillity and comfort of retirement, as the knowledge that I carry with me the good will and approbation of my republican fellow-citizens, and especially of the individuals in unison with whom I have so long acted. With respect to the federalists, I believe we think alike; for when speaking of them, we never mean to include a worthy portion of our fellow-citizens, who consider themselves as in duty bound to support the constituted authorities of every branch, and to reserve their opposition to the period of election. These having acquired the appellation of federalists, while a federal administration was in place, have not cared about throwing off their name, but, adhering to their principle, are the supporters of the present order of things. The other branch of the federalists, those who are so in principle as well as in name, disapprove of the republican principles and features of our constitution, and would, I believe, welcome any public calamity (war with England excepted) which might lessen the confidence of our country in those principles and forms. I have generally considered them rather as subjects for a madhouse. But they are now playing a game of the most mischievous tendency, without perhaps being themselves aware of it. They are endeavoring to convince England, that we suffer more by the embargo than they do, and that, if they will but hold out a while, we must abandon it. It is true, the time will come when we must abandon it. But if this is before the repeal of the orders of council, we must abandon it only for a state of war. The day is not distant, when that will be preferable to a longer continuance of the embargo. But we can never remove that, and let our vessels go out and be taken under these orders, without making reprisal. Yet this is the very state of things which these federal monarchists are endeavoring to bring about; and in this it is but too possible they may succeed. But the fact is, that if we have war with England, it will be solely produced by their manoeuvres. I think that in two or three months we shall know what will be the issue. I salute you with esteem and respect.
LETTER LXX.—TO ROBERT L. LIVINGSTON, October 15, 1808
TO ROBERT L. LIVINGSTON.
Washington, October 15, 1808.
Your letter of September the 22nd waited here for my return, and it is not till now that I have been able to acknowledge it. The explanation of his principles, given you by the French Emperor, in conversation, is correct as far as it goes. He does not wish us to go to war with England, knowing we have no ships to carry on that war. To submit to pay to England the tribute on our commerce which she demands by her orders of council, would be to aid her in the war against him, and would give him just ground to declare war with us. He concludes, therefore, as every rational man must, that the embargo, the only remaining alternative, was a wise measure. These are acknowledged principles, and should circumstances arise, which may offer advantage to our country in making them public, we shall avail ourselves of them. But as it is not usual nor agreeable to governments to bring their conversations before the public, I think it would be well to consider this on your part as confidential, leaving to the government to retain or make it public, as the general good may require. Had the Emperor gone further, and said that he condemned our vessels going voluntarily into his ports in breach of his municipal laws, we might have admitted it rigorously legal, though not friendly. But his condemnation of vessels taken on the high seas by his privateers, and carried involuntarily into his ports, is justifiable by no law, is piracy, and this is the wrong we complain of against him.
Supposing that you may be still at Clermont, from whence your letter is dated, I avail myself of this circumstance to request your presenting my friendly respects to Chancellor Livingston.
I salute you with esteem and respect.
LETTER LXXI.—TO DOCTOR JAMES BROWN, October 27, 1808
TO DOCTOR JAMES BROWN.
Washington, October 27, 1808.
You will wonder that your letter of June the 3rd should not be acknowledged till this date. I never received it till September the 12th, and coming soon after to this place, the accumulation of business I found here has prevented my taking it up till now. That you ever participated in any plan for a division of the Union, I never for one moment believed. I knew your Americanism too well. But as the enterprise against Mexico was of a very different character, I had supposed what I heard on that subject to be possible. You disavow it; that is enough for me, and I for ever dismiss the idea. I wish it were possible to extend my belief of innocence to a very different description of men in New Orleans; but I think there is sufficient evidence of there being there a set of foreign adventurers, and native malcontents, who would concur in any enterprise to separate that country from this. I did wish to see these people get what they deserved; and under the maxim of the law itself, that inter arma silent leges, that in an encampment expecting daily attack from a powerful enemy, self-preservation is paramount to all law, I expected that instead of invoking the forms of the law to cover traitors, all good citizens would have concurred in securing them. Should we have ever gained our Revolution, if we had bound our hands by manacles of the law, not only in the beginning, but in any part of the revolutionary conflict? There are extreme cases where the laws become inadequate even to their own preservation, and where the universal resource is a dictator, or martial law. Was New Orleans in that situation? Although we knew here that the force destined against it was suppressed on the Ohio, yet we supposed this unknown at New Orleans at the time that Burr's accomplices were calling in the aid of the law to enable them to perpetrate its suppression, and that it was reasonable, according to the state of information there, to act on the expectation of a daily attack. Of this you are the best judge.
Burr is in London, and is giving out to his friends that that government offers him two millions of dollars the moment he can raise an ensign of rebellion as big as an handkerchief. Some of his partisans will believe this, because they wish it. But those who know him best will not believe it the more because he says it. For myself, even in his most flattering periods of the conspiracy, I never entertained one moment's fear. My long and intimate knowledge of my countrymen satisfied and satisfies me, that, let there ever be occasion to display the banners of the law, and the world will see how few and pitiful are those who shall array themselves in opposition. I as little fear foreign invasion. I have indeed thought it a duty to be prepared to meet even the most powerful, that of a Bonaparte, for instance, by the only means competent, that of a classification of the militia, and placing the junior classes at the public disposal: but the lesson he receives in Spain extirpates all apprehensions from my mind. If, in a peninsula, the neck of which is adjacent to him, and at his command, where he can march any army without the possibility of interception or obstruction from any foreign power, he finds it necessary to begin with an army of three hundred thousand men, to subdue a nation of five millions, brutalized by ignorance, and enervated by long peace, and should find constant reinforcements of thousands after thousands necessary to effect at last a conquest as doubtful as deprecated, what numbers would be necessary against eight millions of free Americans, spread over such an extent of country as would wear him down by mere marching, by want of food, autumnal diseases, &c.? How would they be brought, and how reinforced, across an ocean of three thousand miles, in possession of a bitter enemy, whose peace, like the repose of a dog, is never more than momentary? And for what? For nothing but hard blows. If the Orleanese Creoles would but contemplate these truths, they would cling to the American Union, soul and body, as their first affection, and we should be as safe there as we are every where else. I have no doubt of their attachment to us in preference of the English.
I salute you with sincere friendship and respect.
LETTER LXXII.—TO LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR LINCOLN, November 13, 1808
TO LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR LINCOLN.
Washington, November 13, 1808.
I enclose you a petition from Nantucket, and refer it for your decision. Our opinion here is, that that place has been so deeply concerned in smuggling, that if it wants, it is because it has illegally sent away what it ought to have retained for its own consumption. Be so good as to bear in mind that I have asked the favor of you to see that your State encounters no real want, while, at the same time, where applications are made merely to cover fraud, no facilities towards that be furnished. I presume there can be no want in Massachusetts, as yet, as I am informed that Governor Sullivan's permits are openly bought and sold here and in Alexandria, and at other markets. The Congressional campaign is just opening: three alternatives alone are to be chosen from. 1. Embargo. 2. War. 3. Submission and tribute. And, wonderful to tell, the last will not want advocates. The real question, however, will lie between the two first, on which there is considerable division. As yet the first seems most to prevail; but opinions are by no means yet settled down. Perhaps the advocates of the second may, to a formal declaration of war, prefer general letters of mark and reprisal, because, on a repeal of their edicts by the belligerent, a revocation of the letters of mark restores peace without the delay, difficulties, and ceremonies of a treaty. On this occasion, I think it fair to leave to those who are to act on them, the decisions they prefer, being to be myself but a spectator. I should not feel justified in directing measures which those who are to execute them would disapprove. Our situation is truly difficult. We have been pressed by the belligerents to the very wall, and all further retreat is impracticable. I salute you with sincere friendship.
LETTER LXXIII.—TO THOMAS JEFFERSON RANDOLPH, November 24, 1808
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON RANDOLPH.
Washington, November 24, 1808.
My Dear Jefferson,
Your situation, thrown at such a distance from us and alone, cannot but give us all great anxieties for you. As much has been secured for you, by your particular position and the acquaintance to which you have been recommended, as could be done towards shielding you from the dangers which surround you. But thrown on a wide world, among entire strangers, without a friend or guardian to advise, so young, too, and with so little experience of mankind, your dangers are great, and still your safety must rest on yourself. A determination never to do what is wrong, prudence, and good humor, will go far towards securing to you the estimation of the world. When I recollect that at fourteen years of age, the whole care and direction of myself was thrown on myself entirely, without a relation or friend qualified to advise or guide me, and recollect the various sorts of bad company with which I associated from time to time, I am astonished I did not turn off with some of them, and become as worthless to society as they were. I had the good fortune to become acquainted very early with some characters of very high standing, and to feel the incessant wish that I could ever become what they were. Under temptations and difficulties, I would ask myself what would Dr. Small, Mr. Wythe, Peyton Randolph do in this situation? What course in it will insure me their approbation? I am certain that this mode of deciding on my conduct, tended more to its correctness than any reasoning powers I possessed. Knowing the even and dignified line they pursued, I could never doubt for a moment which of two courses would be in character for them. Whereas, seeking the same object through a process of moral reasoning, and with the jaundiced eye of youth, I should often have erred. From the circumstances of my position, I was often thrown into the society of horse-racers, card-players, fox-hunters, scientific and professional men, and of dignified men; and many a time have I asked myself, in the enthusiastic moment of the death of a fox, the victory of a favorite horse, the issue of a question eloquently argued at the bar, or in the great council of the nation, well, which of these kinds of reputation should I prefer? That of a horse-jockey? a fox-hunter? an orator? or the honest advocate of my country's rights? Be assured, my dear Jefferson, that these little returns into ourselves, this self-catechizing habit, is not trifling, nor useless, but leads to the prudent selection and steady pursuit of what is right.
I have mentioned good humor as one of the preservatives of our peace and tranquillity. It is among the most effectual, and its effect is so well imitated and aided, artificially, by politeness, that this also becomes an acquisition of first-rate value. In truth, politeness is artificial good humor, it covers the natural want of it, and ends by rendering habitual a substitute nearly equivalent to the real virtue. It is the practice of sacrificing to those whom we meet in society, all the little conveniences and preferences which will gratify them, and deprive us of nothing worth a moment's consideration; it is the giving a pleasing and flattering turn to our expressions, which will conciliate others, and make them pleased with us as well as themselves. How cheap a price for the good will of another! When this is in return for a rude thing said by another, it brings him to his senses, it mortifies and corrects him in the most salutary way, and places him at the feet of your good nature, in the eyes of the company. But in stating prudential rules for our government in society I must not omit the important one of never entering into dispute or argument with another. I never yet saw an instance of one of two disputants convincing the other by argument. I have seen many, of their getting warm, becoming rude, and shooting one another. Conviction is the effect of our own dispassionate reasoning, either in solitude, or weighing within ourselves, dispassionately, what we hear from others, standing uncommitted in argument ourselves. It was one of the rules, which, above all others, made Doctor Franklin the most amiable of men in society, 'never to contradict any body.' If he was urged to announce an opinion, he did it rather by asking questions, as if for information, or by suggesting doubts. When I hear another express an opinion which is not mine, I say to myself, he has a right to his opinion, as I to mine; why should I question it? His error does me no injury, and shall I become a Don Quixote, to bring all men by force of argument to one opinion? If a fact be misstated, it is probable he is gratified by a belief of it, and I have no right to deprive him of the gratification. If he wants information, he will ask it, and then I will give it in measured terms; but if he still believes his own story, and shows a desire to dispute the fact with me, I hear him, and say nothing. It is his affair, not mine, if he prefers error. There are two classes of disputants most frequently to be met with among us. The first is of young students, just entered the threshold of science, with a first view of its outlines, not yet filled up with the details and modifications which a further progress would bring to their knowledge. The other consists of the ill-tempered and rude men in society, who have taken up a passion for politics. (Good humor and politeness never introduce into mixed society a question on which they foresee there will be a difference of opinion.) From both of those classes of disputants, my dear Jefferson, keep aloof, as you would from the infected subjects of yellow fever or pestilence. Consider yourself, when with them, as among the patients of Bedlam, needing medical more than moral counsel. Be a listener only, keep within yourself, and endeavor to establish with yourself the habit of silence, especially on politics. In the fevered state of our country, no good can ever result from any attempt to set one of these fiery zealots to rights, either in fact or principle. They are determined as to the facts they will believe, and the opinions on which they will act. Get by them, therefore, as you would by an angry bull: it is not for a man of sense to dispute the road with such an animal. You will be more exposed than others to have these animals shaking their horns at you, because of the relation in which you stand with me. Full of political venom, and willing to see me and to hate me as a chief in the antagonist party, your presence will be to them what the vomit-grass is to the sick dog, a nostrum for producing ejaculation. Look upon them exactly with that eye, and pity them as objects to whom you can administer only occasional ease. My character is not within their power. It is in the hands of my fellow-citizens at large, and will be consigned to honor or infamy by the verdict of the republican mass of our country, according to what themselves will have seen, not what their enemies and mine shall have said. Never, therefore, consider these puppies in politics as requiring any notice from you, and always show, that you are not afraid to leave my character to the umpirage of public opinion. Look steadily to the pursuits which have carried you to Philadelphia, be very select in the society you attach yourself to, avoid taverns, drinkers, smokers, idlers, and dissipated persons generally; for it is with such that broils and contentions arise; and you will find your path more easy and tranquil. The limits of my paper warn me that it is time for me to close with my affectionate adieu.
P. S. Present me affectionately to Mr. Ogilvie, and in doing the same to Mr. Peale, tell him I am writing with his polygraph, and shall send him mine the first moment I have leisure enough to pack it. T. J.
LETTER LXXIV.—TO DOCTOR EUSTIS, January 14, 1809
TO DOCTOR EUSTIS.
Washington, January 14, 1809.
I have the pleasure to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of December the 24th, and of the resolutions of the republican citizens of Boston, of the 19th of that month. These are worthy of the ancient character of the sons of Massachusetts, and of the spirit of concord with her sister States, which, and which alone, carried us successfully through the revolutionary war, and finally placed us under that national government, which constitutes the safety of every part, by uniting for its protection the powers of the whole. The moment for exerting these united powers, to repel the injuries of the belligerents of Europe, seems likely to be pressed upon us. They have interdicted our commerce with nearly the whole world. They have declared it shall be carried on with such places, in such articles, and in such measure only, as they shall dictate; thus prostrating all the principles of right, which have hitherto protected it. After exhausting the cup of forbearance and conciliation to its dregs, we found it necessary, on behalf of that commerce, to take time to call it home into a state of safety, to put the towns and harbors which carry it on into a condition of defence, and to make further preparation for enforcing the redress of its wrongs, and restoring it to its rightful freedom. This required a certain measure of time, which, although not admitting specific limitation, must, from its avowed objects, have been obvious to all: and the progress actually made towards the accomplishment of these objects, proves it now to be near its term.
While thus endeavoring to secure, and preparing to vindicate that commerce, the absurd opinion has been propagated, that this temporary and necessary arrangement was to be a permanent system, and was intended for its destruction. The sentiments expressed in the paper you were so kind as to enclose me, show that those who have concurred in them, have judged with more candor the intentions of their government, and are sufficiently aware of the tendency of the excitements and misrepresentations which have been practised on this occasion. And such, I am persuaded, will be the disposition of the citizens of Massachusetts at large, whenever truth can reach them. Associated with her sister States in a common government, the fundamental principle of which is, that the will of the majority is to prevail, sensible, that in the present difficulty, that will has been governed by no local interests or jealousies, that to save permanent rights, temporary sacrifices were necessary, that these have fallen as impartially on all, as in a situation so peculiar they could be made to do, she will see, in the existing measures, a legitimate and honest exercise of the will and wisdom of the whole. And her citizens, faithful to themselves and their associates, will not, to avoid a transient pressure, yield to the seductions of enemies to their independence, foreign or domestic, and take a course equally subversive of their well-being, as of that of their brethren.
The approbation expressed by the republican citizens of the town of Boston, of the course pursued by the national government, is truly consoling to its members: and, encouraged by the declaration of the continuance of their confidence, and by the assurance of their support, they will continue to pursue the line of their high duties according to the best of their understandings, and with undeviating regard to the good of the whole. Permit me to avail myself of this occasion of tendering you personally the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXXV.—TO COLONEL MONROE, January 28, 1809
TO COLONEL MONROE.
Washington, January 28, 1809.
Your favor of the 18th was received in due time, and the answer has been delayed as well by a pressure of business, as by the expectation of your absence from Richmond.
The idea of sending a special mission to France or England is not entertained at all here. After so little attention to us from the former, and so insulting an answer from Canning, such a mark of respect as an extraordinary mission, would be a degradation against which all minds revolt here. The idea was hazarded in the House of Representatives a few days ago, by a member, and an approbation expressed by another, but rejected indignantly by every other person who spoke, and very generally in conversation by all others: and I am satisfied such a proposition would get no vote in the Senate. The course the legislature means to pursue, may be inferred from the act now passed for a meeting in May, and a proposition before them for repealing the embargo in June, and then resuming and maintaining by force our right of navigation. There will be considerable opposition to this last proposition, not only from the federalists, old and new, who oppose every thing, but from sound members of the majority. Yet it is believed it will obtain a good majority, and that it is the only proposition which can be devised that could obtain a majority of any kind. Final propositions, will, therefore, be soon despatched to both the belligerents through the resident ministers, so that their answers will be received before the meeting in May, and will decide what is to be done. This last trial for peace is not thought desperate. If, as is expected, Bonaparte should be successful in Spain, however every virtuous and liberal sentiment revolts at it, it may induce both powers to be more accommodating with us. England will see here the only asylum for her commerce and manufactures, worth more to her than her orders of council. And Bonaparte, having Spain at his feet, will look immediately to the Spanish colonies, and think our neutrality cheaply purchased by a repeal of the illegal parts of his decrees, with perhaps the Floridas thrown into the bargain. Should a change in the aspect of affairs in Europe produce this disposition in both powers, our peace and prosperity may be revived and long continue. Otherwise, we must again take the tented field, as we did in 1776 under more inauspicious circumstances.
There never has been a situation of the world before, in which such endeavors as we have made would not have secured our peace. It is probable there never will be such another. If we go to war now, I fear we may renounce for ever the hope of seeing an end of our national debt. If we can keep at peace eight years longer, our income, liberated from debt, will be adequate to any war, without new taxes or loans, and our position and increasing strength will put us hors d'insulte from any nation. I am now so near the moment of retiring, that I take no part in affairs beyond the expression of an opinion. I think it fair, that my successor should now originate those measures of which he will be charged with the execution and responsibility, and that it is my duty to clothe them with the forms of authority. Five weeks more will relieve me from a drudgery to which I am no longer equal, and restore me to a scene of tranquillity, amidst my family and friends, more congenial to my age and natural inclinations. In that situation, it will always be a pleasure to me to see you, and to repeat to you the assurances of my constant friendship and respect.
LETTER LXXVI.—TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH, February 7, 1809
TO THOMAS MANN RANDOLPH.
Washington, February 7, 1809.
I thought Congress had taken their ground firmly for continuing their embargo till June, and then war. But a sudden and unaccountable revolution of opinion took place the last week, chiefly among the New England and New York members, and in a kind of panic, they voted the 4th of March for removing the embargo, and by such a majority as gave all reason to believe, they would not agree either to war or non-intercourse. This, too, was after we had become satisfied, that the Essex Junto had found their expectation desperate, of inducing the people there to either separation or forcible opposition. The majority of Congress, however, has now rallied to the removing the embargo on the 4th of March, non-intercourse with France and Great Britain, trade every where else, and continuing war preparations. The further details are not yet settled, but I believe it is perfectly certain that the embargo will be taken off the 4th of March. Present my warmest affections to my dearest Martha, and the young ones, and accept the assurances of them to yourself.
LETTER LXXVII.—TO JOHN HOLLINS, February 19, 1809
TO JOHN HOLLINS.
Washington, February 19, 1809.
A little transaction of mine, as innocent an one as I ever entered into, and where an improper construction was never less expected, is making some noise, I observe, in your city. I beg leave to explain it to you, because I mean to ask your agency in it. The last year, the Agricultural Society of Paris, of which I am a member, having had a plough presented to them, which, on trial with a graduated instrument, did equal work with half the force of their best ploughs, they thought it would be a benefit to mankind to communicate it. They accordingly sent one to me, with a view to its being made known here, and they sent one to the Duke of Bedford also, who is one of their members, to be made use of for England, although the two nations were then at war. By the Mentor, now going to France, I have given permission to two individuals in Delaware and New York, to import two parcels of Merino sheep from France, which they have procured there, and to some gentlemen in Boston, to import a very valuable machine which spins cotton, wool, and flax equally. The last spring, the Society informed me they were cultivating the cotton of the Levant and other parts of the Mediterranean, and wished to try also that of our southern States. I immediately got a friend to have two tierces of seed forwarded to me. They were consigned to Messrs. Falls and Brown of Baltimore, and notice of it being given me, I immediately wrote to them to re-ship them to New York, to be sent by the Mentor. Their first object was to make a show of my letter, as something very criminal, and to carry the subject into the newspapers. I had, on a like request, some time ago (but before the embargo), from the President of the Board of Agriculture of London, of which I am also a member, to send them some of the genuine May wheat of Virginia, forwarded to them two or three barrels of it. General Washington, in his time, received from the same Society the seed of the perennial succory, which Arthur Young had carried over from France to England, and I have since received from a member of it the seed of the famous turnip of Sweden, now so well known here. I mention these things, to show the nature of the correspondence which is carried on between societies instituted for the benevolent purpose of communicating to all parts of the world whatever useful is discovered in any one of them. These societies are always in peace, however their nations may be at war. Like the republic of letters, they form a great fraternity spreading over the whole earth, and their correspondence is never interrupted by any civilized nation. Vaccination has been a late and remarkable instance of the liberal diffusion of a blessing newly discovered. It is really painful, it is mortifying, to be obliged to note these things, which are known to every one who knows any thing, and felt with approbation by every one who has any feeling. But we have a faction to whose hostile passions the torture even of right into wrong is a delicious gratification. Their malice I have long learned to disregard, their censure to deem praise. But I observe, that some republicans are not satisfied (even while we are receiving liberally from others) that this small return should be made. They will think more justly at another day: but, in the mean time, I wish to avoid offence. My prayer to you, therefore, is, that you will be so good, under the enclosed order, as to receive these two tierces of seed from Falls and Brown, and pay them their disbursements for freight, &c. which I will immediately remit you on knowing the amount. Of the seed, when received, be so good as to make manure for your garden. When rotted with a due mixture of stable manure or earth, it is the best in the world. I rely on your friendship to excuse this trouble, it being necessary I should not commit myself again to persons of whose honor, or the want of it, I know nothing.
Accept the assurances of my constant esteem and respect.
LETTER LXXVIII.—TO M. DUPONT DE NEMOURS, March 2, 1809
TO M. DUPONT DE NEMOURS.
Washington, March 2, 1809.
My last to you was of May the 2nd; since which I have received yours of May the 25th, June the 1st, July the 23rd, 24th, and September the 5th, and distributed the two pamphlets according to your desire. They are read with the delight which every thing from your pen gives.
After using every effort which could prevent or delay our being entangled in the war of Europe, that seems now our only resource. The edicts of the two belligerents, forbidding us to be seen on the ocean, we met by an embargo. This gave us time to call home our seamen, ships, and property, to levy men and put our sea-ports into a certain state of defence. We have now taken off the embargo, except as to France and England and their territories, because fifty millions of exports annually sacrificed, are the treble of what war would cost us; besides, that by war we should take something, and lose less than at present. But to give you a true description of the state of things here, I must refer you to Mr. Coles, the bearer of this, my secretary, a most worthy, intelligent, and well-informed young man, whom I recommend to your notice, and conversation on our affairs. His discretion and fidelity may be relied on. I expect he will find you with Spain at your feet, but England still afloat, and a barrier to the Spanish colonies. But all these concerns I am now leaving to be settled by my friend Mr. Madison. Within a few days I retire to my family, my books, and farms; and having gained the harbor myself, I shall look on my friends still buffeting the storm, with anxiety indeed, but not with envy. Never did a prisoner, released from his chains, feel such relief as I shall on shaking off the shackles of power. Nature intended me for the tranquil pursuits of science, by rendering them my supreme delight. But the enormities of the times in which I have lived, have forced me to take a part in resisting them, and to commit myself on the boisterous ocean of political passions. I thank God for the opportunity of retiring from them without censure, and carrying with me the most consoling proofs of public approbation. I leave every thing in the hands of men so able to take care of them, that if we are destined to meet misfortunes, it will be because no human wisdom could avert them. Should you return to the United States, perhaps your curiosity may lead you to visit the hermit of Monticello. He will receive you with affection and delight; hailing you in the mean time with his affectionate salutations, and assurances of constant esteem and respect.
P. S. If you return to us, bring a couple of pair of true-bred shepherd's dogs. You will add a valuable possession to a country now beginning to pay great attention to the raising sheep.
LETTER LXXIX.—TO THE PRESIDENT, March 17, 1809
TO THE PRESIDENT.
Monticello, March 17, 1809.
On opening my letters from France, in the moment of my departure from Washington, I found from their signatures that they were from literary characters, except one from Mr. Short, which mentioned in the outset that it was private, and that his public communications were in the letter to the Secretary of State, which I sent you. I find, however, on reading his letter to me (which I did not do till I got home) a passage of some length, proper to be communicated to you, and which I have therefore extracted.
I had a very fatiguing journey, having found the roads excessively bad, although I have seen them worse. The last three days I found it better to be on horseback, and travelled eight hours through as disagreeable a snow storm as I was ever in. Feeling no inconvenience from the expedition but fatigue, I have more confidence in my vis vitae than I had before entertained. The spring is remarkably backward. No oats sown, not much tobacco seed, and little done in the gardens. Wheat has suffered considerably. No vegetation visible yet but the red maple, weeping-willow, and lilac. Flour is said to be at eight dollars at Richmond, and all produce is hurrying down.
I feel great anxiety for the occurrences of the ensuing four or five months. If peace can be preserved, I hope and trust you will have a smooth administration. I know no government which would be so embarrassing in war as ours. This would proceed very much from the lying and licentious character of our papers; but much, also, from the wonderful credulity of the members of Congress in the floating lies of the day. And in this no experience seems to correct them. I have never seen a Congress during the last eight years, a great majority of which I would not implicitly have relied on in any question, could their minds have been purged of all errors of fact. The evil, too, increases greatly with the protraction of the session, and I apprehend, in case of war, their session would have a tendency to become permanent. It is much, therefore, to be desired that war may be avoided, if circumstances will admit. Nor in the present maniac state of Europe, should I estimate the point of honor by the ordinary scale. I believe we shall, on the contrary, have credit with the world, for having made the avoidance of being engaged in the present unexampled war, our first object. War, however, may become a less losing business than unresisted depredation. With every wish that events may be propitious to your administration, I salute you with sincere affection and every sympathy of the heart.
LETTER LXXX.—TO THE INHABITANTS OF ALBEMARLE COUNTY, April 3, 1809
TO THE INHABITANTS OF ALBEMARLE COUNTY, IN VIRGINIA,
Returning to the scenes of my birth and early life, to the society of those with whom I was raised, and who have been ever dear to me, I receive, fellow-citizens and neighbors, with inexpressible pleasure, the cordial welcome you are so good as to give me. Long absent on duties which the history of a wonderful era made incumbent on those called to them, the pomp, the turmoil, the bustle, and splendor of office, have drawn but deeper sighs for the tranquil and irresponsible occupations of private life, for the enjoyment of an affectionate intercourse with you, my neighbors and friends, and the endearments of family love, which nature has given us all, as the sweetener of every hour. For these I gladly lay down the distressing burthen of power, and seek, with my fellow-citizens, repose and safety under the watchful cares, the labors, and perplexities of younger and abler minds. The anxieties you express to administer to my happiness, do, of themselves, confer that happiness; and the measure will be complete, if my endeavors to fulfil my duties in the several public stations to which I have been called, have obtained for me the approbation of my country. The part which I have acted on the theatre of public life, has been before them; and to their sentence I submit it: but the testimony of my native county, of the individuals who have known me in private life, to my conduct in its various duties and relations, is the more grateful, as proceeding from eye-witnesses and observers, from triers of the vicinage. Of you, then, my neighbors, I may ask, in the face of the world, 'Whose ox have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I oppressed, or of whose hand have I received a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith?' On your verdict I rest with conscious security. Your wishes for my happiness are received with just sensibility, and I offer sincere prayers for your own welfare and prosperity.
April 3, 1809.
LETTER LXXXI.—TO WILSON C. NICHOLAS, June 13, 1809
TO WILSON C. NICHOLAS.
Monticello, June 13, 1809.
I did not know till Mr. Patterson called on us, a few days ago, that you had passed on to Washington. I had recently observed in the debates of Congress, a matter introduced, on which I wished to give explanations more fully in conversation, which I will now do by abridgment in writing. Mr. Randolph has proposed an inquiry into certain prosecutions at common law in Connecticut, for libels on the government, and not only himself, but others have stated them with such affected caution, and such hints at the same time, as to leave on every mind the impression that they had been instituted either by my direction, or with my acquiescence, at least. This has not been denied by my friends, because probably the fact is unknown to them. I shall state it for their satisfaction, and leave it to be disposed of as they think best.
I had observed in a newspaper (some years ago, I do not recollect the time exactly), some dark hints of a prosecution in Connecticut, but so obscurely hinted, that I paid little attention to it. Some considerable time after, it was again mentioned, so that I understood that some prosecution was going on in the federal court there, for calumnies uttered from the pulpit against me by a clergyman. I immediately wrote to Mr. Granger, who, I think, was in Connecticut at the time, stating that I had laid it down as a law to myself, to take no notice of the thousand calumnies issued against me, but to trust my character to my own conduct, and the good sense and candor of my fellow-citizens; that I had found no reason to be dissatisfied with that course, and I was unwilling it should be broke through by others as to any matter concerning me; and I therefore requested him to desire the district attorney to dismiss the prosecution. Some time after this, 1 heard of subpoenas being served on General Lee, David M. Randolph, and others, as witnesses to attend the trial. I then, for the first time, conjectured the subject of the libel. I immediately wrote to Mr. Granger, to require an immediate dismission of the prosecution. The answer of Mr. Huntington, the district attorney, was, that these subpoenas had been issued by the defendant without his knowledge, that it had been his intention to dismiss all the prosecutions at the first meeting of the court, and to accompany it with an avowal of his opinion, that they could not be maintained, because the federal court had no jurisdiction over libels. This was accordingly done. I did not till then know that there were other prosecutions of the same nature, nor do I now know what were their subjects. But all went off together; and I afterwards saw, in the hands of Mr. Granger, a letter written by the clergyman, disavowing any personal ill will towards me, and solemnly declaring he had never uttered the words charged. I think Mr. Granger either showed me, or said there were affidavits of at least half a dozen respectable men who were present at the sermon, and swore no such expressions were uttered, and as many equally respectable who swore the contrary. But the clergyman expressed his gratification at the dismission of the prosecution. I write all this from memory, and after too long an interval of time to be certain of the exactness of all the details; but I am sure there is no variation material, and Mr. Granger, correcting small lapses of memory, can confirm every thing substantial. Certain it is, that the prosecutions had been instituted, and had made considerable progress, without my knowledge; that they were disapproved by me as soon as known, and directed to be discontinued. The attorney did it on the same ground on which I had acted myself in the cases of Duane, Callender, and others; to wit, that the sedition law was unconstitutional and null, and that my obligation to execute what was law, involved that of not suffering rights secured by valid laws, to be prostrated by what was no law. I always understood that these prosecutions had been invited, if not instituted, by Judge Edwards, and the marshal, being republican, had summoned a grand jury partly or wholly republican: but that Mr. Huntington declared from the beginning against the jurisdiction of the court, and had determined to enter nolle-prosequis before he received my directions.
I trouble you with another subject. The law making my letters post free, goes to those to me only, not those from me. The bill had got to its passage before this was observed (and first I believe by Mr. Dana), and the house under too much pressure of business near the close of the session to bring in another bill. As the privilege of freedom was given to the letters from as well as to both my predecessors, I suppose no reason exists for making a distinction. And in so extensive a correspondence as I am subject to, and still considerably on public matters, it would be a sensible convenience to myself, as well as those who have occasion to receive letters from me. It happens, too, as I was told at the time (for I have never looked into it myself), that it was done by two distinct acts on both the former occasions. Mr. Eppes, I think, mentioned this to me. I know from the Post Master General, that Mr. Adams franks all his letters. I state this matter to you as being my representative, which must apologize for the trouble of it. We have been seasonable since you left us. Yesterday evening and this morning we have had refreshing showers, which will close and confirm the business of planting. Affectionately yours,
LETTER LXXXII.—TO THE PRESIDENT, August 17, 1809
TO THE PRESIDENT.
Monticello, August 17, 1809.
I never doubted the chicanery of the Anglomen, on whatsoever measures you should take in consequence of the disavowal of Erskine; yet I am satisfied that both the proclamations have been sound. The first has been sanctioned by universal approbation; and although it was not literally the case foreseen by the legislature, yet it was a proper extension of their provision to a case similar, though not the same. It proved to the whole world our desire of accommodation, and must have satisfied every candid federalist on that head. It was not only proper on the well-grounded confidence that the arrangement would be honestly executed, but ought to have taken place even had the perfidy of England been foreseen. Their dirty gain is richly remunerated to us by our placing them so shamefully in the wrong, and by the union it must produce among ourselves. The last proclamation admits of quibbles, of which advantage will doubtless be endeavored to be taken, by those to whom gain is their god, and their country nothing. But it is soundly defensible. The British minister assured us, that the orders of council would be revoked before the 10th of June. The executive, trusting in that assurance, declared by proclamation that the revocation was to take place, and that on that event the law was to be suspended. But the event did not take place, and the consequence, of course, could not follow. This view is derived from the former non-intercourse law only, having never read the latter one. I had doubted whether Congress must not be called; but that arose from another doubt, whether their second law had not changed the ground, so as to require their agency to give operation to the law. Should Bonaparte have the wisdom to correct his injustice towards us, I consider war with England as inevitable. Our ships will go to France and its dependencies, and they will take them. This will be war on their part, and leaves no alternative but reprisal. I have no doubt you will think it safe to act on this hypothesis, and with energy. The moment that open war shall be apprehended from them, we should take possession of Baton Rouge. If we do not, they will, and New Orleans becomes irrecoverable, and the western country blockaded during the war. It would be justifiable towards Spain on this ground, and equally so on that of title to West Florida, and reprisal extended to East Florida. Whatever turn our present difficulty may take, I look upon all cordial conciliation with England as desperate during the life of the present King. I hope and doubt not that Erskine will justify himself. My confidence is founded in a belief of his integrity, and in the ——— of Canning. I consider the present as the most shameless ministry which ever disgraced England. Copenhagen will immortalize their infamy. In general their administrations are so changeable, and they are obliged to descend to such tricks to keep themselves in place, that nothing like honor or morality can ever be counted on in transactions with them. I salute you with all possible affection.
LETTER LXXXIII.—TO DOCTOR BARTON, September 21, 1809
TO DOCTOR BARTON.
Monticello, September 21, 1809.
I received last night your favor of the 14th, and would with all possible pleasure have communicated to you any part or the whole of the Indian vocabularies which I had collected, but an irreparable misfortune has deprived me of them. I have now been thirty years availing myself of every possible opportunity of procuring Indian vocabularies to the same set of words: my opportunities were probably better than will ever occur again to any person having the same desire. I had collected about fifty, and had digested most of them in collateral columns, and meant to have printed them the last year of my stay in Washington. But not having yet digested Captain Lewis's collection, nor having leisure then to do it, I put it off till I should return home. The whole, as well digest as originals, were packed in a trunk of stationery, and sent round by water with about thirty other packages of my effects, from Washington, and while ascending James river, this package, on account of its weight and presumed precious contents, was singled out and stolen. The thief, being disappointed on opening it, threw into the river all its contents, of which he thought he could make no use. Among these were the whole of the vocabularies. Some leaves floated ashore, and were found in the mud; but these were very few, and so defaced by the mud and water, that no general use can ever be made of them. On the receipt of your letter I turned to them, and was very happy to find, that the only morsel of an original vocabulary among them, was Captain Lewis's of the Pani language, of which you say you have not one word. I therefore enclose it to you as it is, and a little fragment of some other, which I see is in his hand-writing, but no indication remains on it of what language it is. It is a specimen of the condition of the little which was recovered. I am the more concerned at this accident, as of the two hundred and fifty words of my vocabularies, and the one hundred and thirty words of the great Russian vocabularies of the languages of the other quarters of the globe, seventy-three were common to both, and would have furnished materials for a comparison, from which something might have resulted. Although I believe no general use can ever be made of the wrecks of my loss, yet I will ask the return of the Pani vocabulary when you are done with it. Perhaps I may make another attempt to collect, although I am too old to expect to make much progress in it.
I learn, with pleasure, your acquisition of the pamphlet on the astronomy of the ancient Mexicans. If it be ancient and genuine, or modern and rational, it will be of real value. It is one of the most interesting countries of our hemisphere, and merits every attention.
I am thankful for your kind offer of sending the original Spanish for my perusal. But I think it a pity to trust it to the accidents of the post, and whenever you publish the translation, I shall be satisfied to read that which shall be given by your translator, who is, I am sure, a greater adept in the language than I am.
Accept the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
LETTER LXXXIV.—TO DON VALENTINE DE FORONDA, October 4, 1809
TO DON VALENTINE DE FORONDA.
Monticello, October 4, 1809.
Your favor of August the 26th came to hand in the succeeding month, and have now to thank you for the pamphlet it contained. I have read it with pleasure, and find the constitution proposed would probably be as free as is consistent with hereditary institutions. It has one feature which I like much; that which provides that when the three co-ordinate branches differ in their construction of the constitution, the opinion of two branches shall overrule the third. Our constitution has not sufficiently solved this difficulty.
Among the multitude of characters with which public office leads us to official intercourse, we cannot fail to observe many, whose personal worth marks them as objects of particular esteem, whom we would wish to select for our society in private life. I avail myself gladly of the present occasion, of assuring you that I was peculiarly impressed with your merit and talents, and that I have ever entertained for them a particular respect. To those whose views are single and direct, it is a great comfort to have to do business with frank and honorable minds. And here give me leave to make an avowal, for which, in my present retirement, there can be no motive but a regard for truth. Your predecessor, soured on a question of etiquette against the administration of this country, wished to impute wrong to them in all their actions, even where he did not believe it himself. In this spirit, he wished it to be believed that we were in unjustifiable co-operation in Miranda's expedition. I solemnly, and on my personal truth and honor, declare to you, that this was entirely without foundation, and that there was neither co-operation nor connivance on our part. He informed us he was about to attempt the liberation of his native country from bondage, and intimated a hope of our aid, or connivance at least. He was at once informed, that, although we had great cause of complaint against Spain, and even of war, yet whenever we should think proper to act as her enemy, it should be openly and above board, and that our hostility should never be exercised by such petty means. We had no suspicion that he expected to engage men here, but merely to purchase military stores. Against this there was no law, nor consequently any authority for us to interpose obstacles. On the other hand, we deemed it improper to betray his voluntary communication to the agents of Spain. Although his measures were many days in preparation at New York, we never had the least intimation or suspicion of his engaging men in his enterprise, until he was gone; and I presume the secrecy of his proceedings kept them equally unknown to the Marquis Yrujo at Philadelphia, and the Spanish Consul at New York, since neither of them gave us any information of the enlistment of men, until it was too late for any measures taken at Washington to prevent their departure. The officer in the Customs, who participated in this transaction with Miranda, we immediately removed, and should have had him and others further punished, had it not been for the protection given them by private citizens at New York, in opposition to the government, who, by their impudent falsehoods and calumnies, were able to overbear the minds of the jurors. Be assured, Sir, that no motive could induce me, at this time, to make this declaration so gratuitously, were it not founded in sacred truth: and I will add further, that I never did, or countenanced, in public life, a single act inconsistent with the strictest good faith; having never believed there was one code of morality for a public, and another for a private man.
I receive, with great pleasure, the testimonies of personal esteem which breathe through your letter; and I pray you to accept those equally sincere with which I now salute you.
LETTER LXXXV.—TO ALBERT GALLATIN, October 11, 1809
TO ALBERT GALLATIN.
Monticello, October 11, 1809.
I do not know whether the request of Monsieur Moussier, explained in the enclosed letter, is grantable or not. But my partialities in favor of whatever may promote either the useful or liberal arts, induce me to place it under your consideration, to do in it whatever is right, neither more nor less. I would then ask you to favor me with three lines, in such form as I may forward him by way of answer.
I have reflected much and painfully on the change of dispositions which has taken place among the members of the cabinet, since the new arrangement, as you stated to me in the moment of our separation. It would be, indeed, a great public calamity, were it to fix you in the purpose which you seemed to think possible. I consider the fortunes of our republic as depending, in an eminent degree, on the extinguishment of the public debt before we engage in any war: because, that done, we shall have revenue enough to improve our country in peace, and defend it in war, without recurring either to new taxes or loans. But if the debt should once more be swelled to a formidable size, its entire discharge will be despaired of, and we shall be committed to the English career of debt, corruption, and rottenness, closing with revolution. The discharge of the debt, therefore, is vital to the destinies of our government, and it hangs on Mr. Madison and yourself alone. We shall never see another President and Secretary of the Treasury making all other objects subordinate to this. Were either of you to be lost to the public, that great hope is lost. I had always cherished the idea that you would fix on that object the measure of your fame, and of the gratitude which our country will owe you. Nor can I yield up this prospect to the secondary considerations which assail your tranquillity. For sure I am, they never can produce any other serious effect. Your value is too justly estimated by our fellow-citizens at large, as well as their functionaries, to admit any remissness in their support of you. My opinion always was, that none of us ever occupied stronger ground in the esteem of Congress than yourself, and I am satisfied there is no one who does not feel your aid to be still as important for the future, as it has been for the past. You have nothing, therefore, to apprehend in the dispositions of Congress, and still less of the President, who, above all men, is the most interested and affectionately disposed to support you. I hope, then, you will abandon entirely the idea you expressed to me, and that you will consider the eight years to come as essential to your political career. I should certainly consider any earlier day of your retirement, as the most inauspicious day our new government has ever seen. In addition to the common interest in this question, I feel particularly for myself the considerations of gratitude which I personally owe you for your valuable aid during my administration of the public affairs, a just sense of the large portion of the public approbation which was earned by your labors, and belongs to you, and the sincere friendship and attachment which grew out of our joint exertions to promote the common good; and of which I pray you now to accept the most cordial and respectful assurances.
LETTER LXXXVI.—TO CAESAR A. RODNEY, February 10, 1810
TO CAESAR A. RODNEY.
Monticello, February 10, 1810.
My Dear Sir,
I have to thank you for your favor of the 31st ultimo, which is just now received. It has been peculiarly unfortunate for us, personally, that the portion in the history of mankind, at which we were called to take a share in the direction of their affairs, was such an one as history has never before presented. At any other period, the even-handed justice we have observed towards all nations, the efforts we have made to merit their esteem by every act which candor or liberality could exercise, would have preserved our peace, and secured the unqualified confidence of all other nations in our faith and probity. But the hurricane which is now blasting the world, physical and moral, has prostrated all the mounds of reason as well as right. All those calculations which, at any other period, would have been deemed honorable, of the existence of a moral sense in man, individually or associated, of the connection which the laws of nature have established between his duties and his interests, of a regard for honest fame and the esteem of our follow-men, have been a matter of reproach on us, as evidences of imbecility. As if it could be a folly for an honest man to suppose that others could be honest also, when it is their interest to be so. And when is this state of things to end? The death of Bonaparte would, to be sure, remove the first and chiefest apostle of the desolation of men and morals, and might withdraw the scourge of the land. But what is to restore order and safety on the ocean? The death of George III? Not at all. He is only stupid; and his ministers, however weak and profligate in morals, are ephemeral. But his nation is permanent, and it is that which is the tyrant of the ocean. The principle that force is right, is become the principle of the nation itself. They would not permit an honest minister, were accident to bring such an one into power, to relax their system of lawless piracy. These were the difficulties when I was with you. I know they are not lessened, and I pity you.
It is a blessing, however, that our people are reasonable; that they are kept so well informed of the state of things as to judge for themselves, to see the true sources of their difficulties, and to maintain their confidence undiminished in the wisdom and integrity of their functionaries. Macte virtute therefore. Continue to go straight forward, pursuing always that which is right, as the only clue which can lead us out of the labyrinth. Let nothing be spared of either reason or passion, to preserve the public confidence entire, as the only rock of our safety. In times of peace the people look most to their representatives; but in war, to the executive solely. It is visible that their confidence is even now veering in that direction; that they are looking to the executive to give the proper direction to their affairs, with a confidence as auspicious as it is well founded.
I avail myself of this, the first occasion of writing to you, to express all the depth of my affection for you; the sense I entertain of your faithful co-operation in my late labors, and the debt I owe for the valuable aids I received from you. Though separated from my fellow-laborers in place and pursuit, my affections are with you all, and I offer daily prayers that ye love one another, as I love you. God bless you.
LETTER LXXXVII.*—TO SAMUEL KERCHEVAL, February 19,1810
TO SAMUEL KERCHEVAL.
Monticello, February 19,1810.
[* This letter is endorsed, 'not sent.']
Yours of the 7th instant has been duly received, with the pamphlet enclosed, for which I return you my thanks. Nothing can be more exactly and seriously true than what is there stated; that but a short time elapsed after the death of the great reformer of the Jewish religion, before his principles were departed from by those who professed to be his special servants, and perverted into an engine for enslaving mankind, and aggrandizing their oppressors in Church and State; that the purest system of morals ever before preached to man, has been adulterated and sophisticated by artificial constructions, into a mere contrivance to filch wealth and power to themselves; that rational men not being able to swallow their impious heresies, in order to force them down their throats, they raise the hue and cry of infidelity, while themselves are the greatest obstacles to the advancement of the real doctrines of Jesus, and do in fact constitute the real Anti-Christ.
You expect that your book will have some effect on the prejudices which the society of Friends entertain against the present and late administrations. In this I think you will be disappointed. The Friends are men, formed with the same passions, and swayed by the same natural principles and prejudices as others. In cases where the passions are neutral, men will display their respect for the religious professions of their sect. But where their passions are enlisted, these professions are no obstacle. You observe very truly, that both the late and present administration conducted the government on principles professed by the Friends. Our efforts to preserve peace, our measures as to the Indians, as to slavery, as to religious freedom, were all in consonance with their professions. Yet I never expected we should get a vote from them, and in this I was neither deceived nor disappointed. There is no riddle in this, to those who do not suffer themselves to be duped by the professions of religious sectaries. The theory of American Quakerism is a very obvious one. The mother society is in England. Its members are English by birth and residence, devoted to their own country, as good citizens ought to be. The Quakers of these States are colonies or filiations from the mother society, to whom that society sends its yearly lessons. On these the filiated societies model their opinions, their conduct, their passions, and attachments. A Quaker is, essentially an Englishman, in whatever part of the earth he is born or lives. The outrages of Great Britain on our navigation and commerce have kept us in perpetual bickerings with her. The Quakers here have taken side against their own government; not on their profession of peace, for they saw that peace was our object also; but from devotion to the views of the mother society. In 1797 and 8, when an administration sought war with France, the Quakers were the most clamorous for war. Their principle of peace, as a secondary one, yielded to the primary one of adherence to the Friends in England, and what was patriotism in the original became treason in the copy. On that occasion, they obliged their good old leader, Mr. Pemberton, to erase his name from a petition to Congress, against war, which had been delivered to a Representative of Pennsylvania, a member of the late and present administration. He accordingly permitted the old gentleman to erase his name. You must not, therefore, expect that your book will have any more effect on the society of Friends here, than on the English merchants settled among us. I apply this to the Friends in general, not universally. I know individuals among them as good patriots as we have.
I thank you for the kind wishes and sentiments towards myself, expressed in your letter, and sincerely wish to yourself the blessings of health and happiness.
LETTER LXXXVIII.—TO GENERAL KOSCIUSKO, February 26, 1810
TO GENERAL KOSCIUSKO.
Monticello, February 26, 1810.
My Dear General and Friend,
I have rarely written to you; never but by safe conveyances; and avoiding every thing political, lest coming from one in the station I then held, it might be imputed injuriously to our country, or perhaps even excite jealousy of you. Hence my letters were necessarily dry. Retired now from public concerns, totally unconnected with them, and avoiding all curiosity about what is done or intended, what I say is from myself only, the workings of my own mind, imputable to nobody else.
The anxieties which I know you have felt, on seeing exposed to the justlings of a warring world, a country to which, in early life, you devoted your sword and services when oppressed by foreign dominion, were worthy of your philanthropy and disinterested attachment to the freedom and happiness of man. Although we have not made all the provisions which might be necessary for a war in the field of Europe, yet we have not been inattentive to such as would be necessary here. From the moment that the affair of the Chesapeake rendered the prospect of war imminent, every faculty was exerted to be prepared for it, and I think I may venture to solace you with the assurance, that we are, in a good degree, prepared. Military stores for many campaigns are on hand, all the necessary articles (sulphur excepted), and the art of preparing them among ourselves, abundantly; arms in our magazines for more men than will ever be required in the field, and forty thousand new stand yearly added, of our own fabrication, superior to any we have ever seen from Europe; heavy artillery much beyond our need; an increasing stock of field-pieces, several founderies casting one every other day each; a military school of about fifty students, which has been in operation a dozen years; and the manufacture of men constantly going on, and adding forty thousand young soldiers to our force every year that the war is deferred: at all our sea-port towns of the least consequence we have erected works of defence, and assigned them gunboats, carrying one or two heavy pieces, either eighteen, twenty-four, or thirty-two pounders, sufficient in the smallest harbors to repel the predatory attacks of privateers or single armed ships, and proportioned in the larger harbors to such more serious attacks as they may probably be exposed to. All these were nearly completed, and their gunboats in readiness, when I retired from the government. The works of New York and New Orleans alone, being on a much larger scale, are not yet completed. The former will be finished this summer, mounting four hundred and thirty-eight guns, and, with the aid of from fifty to one hundred gunboats, will be adequate to the resistance of any fleet which will ever be trusted across the Atlantic. The works for New Orleans are less advanced. These are our preparations. They are very different from what you will be told by newspapers, and travellers, even Americans. But it is not to them the government communicates the public condition. Ask one of them if he knows the exact state of any particular harbor, and you will find probably that he does not know even that of the one he comes from. You will ask, perhaps, where are the proofs of these preparations for one who cannot go and see them. I answer, in the acts of Congress, authorizing such preparations, and in your knowledge of me, that, if authorized, they would be executed.
Two measures have not been adopted which I pressed on Congress repeatedly at their meetings. The one, to settle the whole ungranted territory of Orleans, by donations of land to able bodied young men, to be engaged and carried there at the public expense, who would constitute a force always ready on the spot to defend New Orleans. The other was, to class the militia according to the years of their birth, and make all those from twenty to twenty-five liable to be trained and called into service at a moment's warning. This would have given us a force of three hundred thousand young men, prepared, by proper training, for service in any part of the United States; while those who had passed through that period would remain at home, liable to be used in their own or adjacent States. These two measures would have completed what I deemed necessary for the entire security of our country. They would have given me, on my retirement from the government of the nation, the consolatory reflection, that having found, when I was called to it, not a single sea-port town in a condition to repel a levy of contribution by a single privateer or pirate, I had left every harbor so prepared by works and gun-boats, as to be in a reasonable state of security against any probable attack; the territory of Orleans acquired, and planted with an internal force sufficient for its protection; and the whole territory of the United States organized by such a classification of its male force, as would give it the benefit of all its young population for active service, and that of a middle and advanced age for stationary defence. But these measures will, I hope, be completed by my successor, who, to the purest principles of republican patriotism, adds a wisdom and foresight second to no man on earth.
So much as to my country. Now a word as to myself. I am retired to Monticello, where, in the bosom of my family, and surrounded by my books, I enjoy a repose to which I have been long a stranger. My mornings are devoted to correspondence. From breakfast to dinner, I am in my shops, my garden, or on horseback among my farms; from dinner to dark, I give to society and recreation with my neighbors and friends; and from candle-light to early bed-time, I read. My health is perfect; and my strength considerably reinforced by the activity of the course I pursue; perhaps it is as great as usually falls to the lot of near sixty-seven years of age. I talk of ploughs and harrows, seeding and harvesting, with my neighbors, and of politics too, if they choose, with as little reserve as the rest of my fellow-citizens, and feel, at length, the blessing of being free to say and do what I please, without being responsible for it to any mortal. A part of my occupation, and by no means the least pleasing, is the direction of the studies of such young men as ask it. They place themselves in the neighboring village, and have the use of my library and counsel, and make a part of my society. In advising the course of their reading, I endeavor to keep their attention fixed on the main objects of all science, the freedom and happiness of man. So that coming to bear a share in the councils and government of their country, they will keep ever in view the sole objects of all legitimate government.
Instead of the unalloyed happiness of retiring unembarrassed and independent, to the enjoyment of my estate, which is ample for my limited views, I have to pass such a length of time in a thraldom of mind never before known to me. Except, for this, my happiness would have been perfect. That yours may never know disturbance, and that you may enjoy as many years of life, health, and ease as yourself shall wish, is the sincere prayer of your constant and affectionate friend.
LETTER LXXXIX.—TO DOCTOR JONES, March 5, 1810
TO DOCTOR JONES.
Monticello, March 5, 1810.
I received duly your favor of the 19th ultimo, and I salute you with all antient and recent recollections of friendship. I have learned, with real sorrow, that circumstances have risen among our executive counsellors, which have rendered foes those who once were friends. To themselves it will be a source of infinite pain and vexation, and therefore chiefly I lament it, for I have a sincere esteem for both parties. To the President it will be really inconvenient: but to the nation I do not know that it can do serious injury, unless we were to believe the newspapers, which pretend that Mr. Gallatin will go out. That indeed would be a day of mourning for the United States: but I hope that the position of both gentlemen may be made so easy as to give no cause for either to withdraw. The ordinary business of every day is done by consultation between the President and the Head of the department alone to which it belongs. For measures of importance or difficulty, a consultation is held with the Heads of departments, either assembled, or by taking their opinions separately in conversation or in writing. The latter is most strictly in the spirit of the constitution. Because the President, on weighing the advice of all, is left free to make up an opinion for himself. In this way they are not brought together, and it is not necessarily known to any what opinion the others have given. This was General Washington's practice for the first two or three years of his administration, till the affairs of France and England threatened to embroil us, and rendered consideration and discussion desirable. In these discussions, Hamilton and myself were daily pitted in the cabinet like two cocks. We were then but four in number, and, according to the majority, which of course was three to one, the President decided. The pain was for Hamilton and myself, but the public experienced no inconvenience. I practised this last method, because the harmony was so cordial among us all, that we never failed, by a contribution of mutual views of the subject, to form an opinion acceptable to the whole. I think there never was one instance to the contrary, in any case of consequence. Yet this does, in fact, transform the executive into a directory, and I hold the other method to be more constitutional. It is better calculated, too, to prevent collision and irritation, and to cure it, or at least suppress its effects when it has already taken place. It is the obvious and sufficient remedy in the present case, and will doubtless be resorted to.
Our difficulties are indeed great, if we consider ourselves alone. But when viewed in comparison with those of Europe, they are the joys of Paradise. In the eternal revolution of ages, the destinies have placed our portion of existence amidst such scenes of tumult and outrage, as no other period, within our knowledge, had presented. Every government but one on the continent of Europe, demolished, a conqueror roaming over the earth with havoc and destruction, a pirate spreading misery and ruin over the face of the ocean. Indeed, my friend, ours is a bed of roses. And the system of government which shall keep us afloat amidst this wreck of the world, will be immortalized in history. We have, to be sure, our petty squabbles and heart-burnings, and we have something of the blue devils at times, as to these raw heads and bloody bones who are eating up other nations. But happily for us, the Mammoth cannot swim, nor the Leviathan move on dry land: and if we will keep out of their way, they cannot get at us. If, indeed, we choose to place ourselves within the scope of their tether, a gripe of the paw, or flounce of the tail, may be our fortune. Our business certainly was to be still. But a part of our nation chose to declare against this, in such a way as to control the wisdom of the government. I yielded with others, to avoid a greater evil. But from that moment, I have seen no system which could keep us entirely aloof from these agents of destruction. If there be any, I am certain that you, my friends, now charged with the care of us all, will see and pursue it. I give myself, therefore, no trouble with thinking or puzzling about it. Being confident in my watchmen, I sleep soundly. God bless you all, and send you a safe deliverance.
LETTER XC.—TO GOVERNOR LANGDON, March 5, 1810
TO GOVERNOR LANGDON.
Monticello, March 5, 1810.
Your letter, my dear friend, of the 18th ultimo, comes like the refreshing dews of the evening on a thirsty soil. It recalls antient as well as recent recollections, very dear to my heart. For five and thirty years we have walked together through a land of tribulations. Yet these have passed away, and so I trust will those of the present day. The toryism with which we struggled in '77, differed but in name from the federalism of '99, with which we struggled also; and the Anglicism, of 1808, against which we are now struggling, is but the same thing still, in another form. It is a longing for a King, and an English King, rather than any other. This is the true source of their sorrows and wailings.
The fear that Bonaparte will come over to us and conquer us also, is too chimerical to be genuine. Supposing him to have finished Spain and Portugal, he has yet England and Russia to subdue. The maxim of war was never sounder than in this case, not to leave an enemy in the rear; and especially where an insurrectionary flame is known to be under the embers, merely smothered, and ready to burst at every point. These two subdued (and surely the Anglomen will not think the conquest of England alone a short work), ancient Greece and Macedonia, the cradle of Alexander, his prototype, and Constantinople, the seat of empire for the world, would glitter more in his eye than our bleak mountains and rugged forests. Egypt, too, and the golden apples of Mauritania, have for more than half a century fixed the longing eyes of France; and with Syria, you know, he has an old affront to wipe out. Then come 'Pontus and Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia,' the fine countries on the Euphrates and Tigris, the Oxus and Indus, and all beyond the Hyphasis, which bounded the glories of his Macedonian rival; with the invitations of his new British subjects on the banks of the Ganges, whom, after receiving under his protection the mother country, he cannot refuse to visit. When all this is done and settled, and nothing of the old world remains unsubdued, he may turn to the new one. But will he attack us first, from whom he will get but hard knocks, and no money? Or will he first lay hold of the gold and silver of Mexico and Peru, and the diamonds of Brazil? A republican Emperor, from his affection to republics, independent of motives of expediency, must grant to ours the Cyclops' boon of being the last devoured. While all this is doing, we are to suppose the chapter of accidents read out, and that nothing can happen to cut short or disturb his enterprises.
But the Anglomen, it seems, have found out a much safer dependence, than all these chances of death or disappointment. That is, that we should first let England plunder us, as she has been doing for years, for fear Bonaparte should do it; and then ally ourselves with her, and enter into the war. A conqueror, whose career England could not arrest when aided by Russia, Austria, Prussia, Sweden, Spain, and Portugal, she is now to destroy, with all these on his side, by the aid of the United States alone. This, indeed, is making us a mighty people. And what is to be our security, that when embarked for her in the war, she will not make a separate peace, and leave us in the lurch? Her good faith! The faith of a nation of merchants! The Punica fides of modern Carthage! Of the friend and protectress of Copenhagen! Of the nation who never admitted a chapter of morality into her political code! And is now boldly avowing, that whatever power can make hers, is hers of right. Money, and not morality, is the principle of commerce and commercial nations. But, in addition to this, the nature of the English government forbids, of itself, reliance on her engagements; and it is well known she has been the least faithful to her alliances of any nation of Europe, since the period of her history wherein she has been distinguished for her commerce and corruption, that is to say, under the houses of Stuart and Brunswick. To Portugal alone she has steadily adhered, because, by her Methuin treaty, she had made it a colony, and one of the most valuable to her. It may be asked, what, in the nature of her government, unfits England for the observation of moral duties? In the first place, her King is a cipher; his only function being to name the oligarchy which is to govern her. The parliament is, by corruption, the mere instrument of the will of the administration. The real power and property in the government is in the great aristocratical families of the nation. The nest of office being too small for all of them to cuddle into at once, the contest is eternal, which shall crowd the other out. For this purpose they are divided into two parties, the Ins and the Outs, so equal in weight, that a small matter turns the balance. To keep themselves in, when they are in, every stratagem must be practised, every artifice used, which may flatter the pride, the passions, or power of the nation. Justice, honor, faith, must yield to the necessity of keeping themselves in place. The question, whether a measure is moral, is never asked; but whether it will nourish the avarice of their merchants, or the piratical spirit of their navy, or produce any other effect which may strengthen them in their places. As to engagements, however positive, entered into by the predecessors of the Ins, why, they were their enemies; they did every thing which was wrong; and to reverse every thing they did, must, therefore, be right. This is the true character of the English government in practice, however different its theory; and it presents the singular phenomenon of a nation, the individuals of which are as faithful to their private engagements and duties, as honorable, as worthy, as those of any nation on earth, and whose government is yet the most unprincipled at this day known. In an absolute government there can be no such equiponderant parties. The despot is the government. His power, suppressing all opposition, maintains his ministers firm in their places. What he has contracted, therefore, through them, he has the power to observe with good faith; and he identifies his own honor and faith with that of his nation.
When I observed, however, that the King of England was a cipher, I did not mean to confine the observation to the mere individual now on that throne. The practice of Kings marrying only into the families of Kings, has been that of Europe for some centuries. Now, take any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a sty, a stable, or a state-room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let every thing bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations they become all body, and no mind: and this, too, by a law of nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant practice of changing the characters and propensities of the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising Kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries. While in Europe, I often amused myself with contemplating the characters of the then reigning sovereigns of Europe. Louis the XVI. was a fool, of my own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for him at his trial. The King of Spain was a fool, and of Naples the same. They passed their lives in hunting, and despatched two couriers a week, one thousand miles, to let each other know what game they had killed the preceding days. The King of Sardinia was a fool. All these were Bourbons. The Queen of Portugal, a Braganza, was an idiot by nature. And so was the King of Denmark. Their sons, as regents, exercised the powers of government. The King of Prussia, successor to the great Frederick, was a mere hog in body as well as in mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, were really crazy, and George of England you know was in a straight waistcoat. There remained, then, none but old Catherine, who had been too lately picked up to have lost her common sense. In this state Bonaparte found Europe; and it was this state of its rulers which lost it with scarce a struggle. These animals had become without mind and powerless; and so will every hereditary monarch be after a few generations. Alexander, the grandson of Catherine, is as yet an exception. He is able to hold his own. But he is only of the third generation. His race is not yet worn out. And so endeth the book of Kings, from all of whom the Lord deliver us and have you, my friend, and all such good men and true, in his holy keeping.
LETTER XCI.—TO GENERAL DEARBORN, July 16,1810
TO GENERAL DEARBORN.
Monticello, July 16,1810.
Dear General and Friend,
Your favor of May the 31st was duly received, and I join in congratulations with you on the resurrection of republican principles in Massachusetts and New Hampshire, and the hope that the professors of these principles will not again easily be driven off their ground. The federalists, during their short-lived ascendancy, have, nevertheless, by forcing us from the embargo, inflicted a wound on our interests which can never be cured, and on our affections which will require time to cicatrize. I ascribe all this to one pseudo-republican, Story. He came on (in place of Crowningshield, I believe) and staid only a few days; long enough, however, to get complete hold of Bacon, who giving in to his representations, became panic-struck, and communicated his panic to his colleagues, and they to a majority of the sound members of Congress. They believed in the alternative of repeal or civil war, and produced the fatal measure of repeal. This is the immediate parent of all our present evils, and has reduced us to a low standing in the eyes of the world. I should think that even the federalists themselves must now be made, by their feelings, sensible of their error. The wealth which the embargo brought home safely, has now been thrown back into the laps of our enemies; and our navigation completely crushed, and by the unwise and unpatriotic conduct of those engaged in it. Should the orders prove genuine, which are said to have been given against our fisheries, they, too, are gone: and if not true as yet, they will be true on the first breeze of success which England shall feel: for it has now been some years, that I am perfectly satisfied her intentions have been to claim the ocean as her conquest, and prohibit any vessel from navigating it, but on such a tribute as may enable her to keep up such a standing navy as will maintain her dominion over it. She has hauled in, or let herself out, been bold or hesitating, according to occurrences, but has in no situation done any thing which might amount to an acknowledged relinquishment of her intentions. I have ever been anxious to avoid a war with England, unless forced by a situation more losing than war itself. But I did believe we could coerce her to justice by peaceable means, and the embargo, evaded as it was, proved it would have coerced her, had it been honestly executed. The proof she exhibited on that occasion, that she can exercise such an influence in this country, as to control the will of its government and three fourths of its people, and oblige the three fourths to submit to one fourth, is to me the most mortifying circumstance which has occurred since the establishment of our government. The only prospect I see of lessening that influence, is in her own conduct, and not from any thing in our power. Radically hostile to our navigation and commerce, and fearing its rivalry, she will completely crush it, and force us to resort to agriculture, not aware that we shall resort to manufactures also, and render her conquests over our navigation and commerce useless, at least, if not injurious to herself in the end, and perhaps salutary to us, as removing out of our way the chief causes and provocations to war.