This letter will be handed you by Mr. Ticknor, a young gentleman of Boston, of great erudition, indefatigable industry, and preparation for a life of distinction, in his own country. He passed a few days with me here, brought high recommendations from Mr. Adams and others, and appeared in every respect to merit them. He is well worthy of those attentions which you so kindly bestow on our countrymen, and for those he may receive I shall join him in acknowledging personal obligations.
I salute you with assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
P.S. February 26. My letter had not yet been sealed, when I received news of our peace. I am glad of it, and especially that we closed our war with the eclat of the action at New Orleans. But I consider it as an armistice only, because no security is provided against the impressment of our seamen. While this is unsettled we are in hostility of mind with England, although actual deeds of arms may be suspended by a truce. If she thinks the exercise of this outrage is worth eternal war, eternal war it must be, or extermination of the one or the other party. The first act of impressment she commits on an American, will be answered by reprisal, or by a declaration of war here; and the interval must be merely a state of preparation for it. In this we have much to do, in further fortifying our seaport towns, providing military stores, classing and disciplining our militia, arranging our financial, system, and above all, pushing our domestic manufactures, which have taken such root as never again can be shaken. Once more, God bless you. T.J.
LETTER CXXII.*—TO MR. WENDOVER, March 13, 1815
TO MR. WENDOVER.
Monticello, March 13, 1815.
[* This is endorsed;' not sent.']
Your favor of January the 30th was received after long delay on the road, and I have to thank you for the volume of Discourses which you have been so kind as to send me. I have gone over them with great satisfaction, and concur with the able preacher in his estimate of the character of the belligerents in our late war, and lawfulness of defensive war. I consider the war, with him, as 'made on good advice,' that is, for just causes, and its dispensation as providential, inasmuch, as it has exercised our patriotism and submission to order, has planted and invigorated among us arts of urgent necessity, has manifested the strong and the weak parts of our republican institutions, and the excellence of a representative democracy compared with the misrule of Kings, has rallied the opinions of mankind to the natural rights of expatriation, and of a common property in the ocean, and raised us to that grade in the scale of nations which the bravery and liberality of our citizen soldiers, by land and by sea, the wisdom of our institutions and their observance of justice, entitled us to in the eyes of the world. All this Mr. McLeod has well proved, and from those sources of argument particularly which belong to his profession. On one question only I differ from him, and it is that which constitutes the subject of his first discourse, the right of discussing public affairs in the pulpit. I add the last words, because I admit the right in general conversation and in writing; in which last form it has been exercised in the valuable book you have now favored me with.
The mass of human concerns, moral and physical, is so vast, the field of knowledge requisite for man to conduct them to the best advantage is so extensive, that no human being can acquire the whole himself, and much less in that degree necessary for the instruction of others. It has of necessity, then, been distributed into different departments, each of which, singly, may give occupation enough to the whole time and attention of a single individual. Thus we have teachers of Languages, teachers of Mathematics, of Natural Philosophy, of Chemistry, of Medicine, of Law, of History, of Government, &c. Religion, too, is a separate department, and happens to be the only one deemed requisite for all men, however high or low. Collections of men associate together, under the name of congregations, and employ a religious teacher of the particular sect of opinions of which they happen to be, and contribute to make up a stipend as a compensation for the trouble of delivering them, at such periods as they agree on, lessons in the religion they profess. If they want instruction in other sciences or arts, they apply to other instructers; and this is generally the business of early life. But I suppose there is not an instance of a single congregation which has employed their preacher for the mixt purpose of lecturing them from the pulpit, in Chemistry, in Medicine, in Law, in the science and principles of Government, or in any thing but Religion exclusively. Whenever, therefore, preachers, instead of a lesson in religion, put them off with a discourse on the Copernican system, on chemical affinities, on the construction of government, or the characters or conduct of those administering it, it is a breach of contract, depriving their audience of the kind of service for which they are salaried, and giving them, instead it, what they did not want, or if wanted, would rather seek from better sources in that particular art or science. In choosing our pastor we look to his religious qualifications, without inquiring into his physical or political dogmas, with which we mean to have nothing to do. I am aware that arguments may be found, which may twist a thread of politics into the cord of religious duties. So may they for every other branch of human art or science. Thus, for example, it is a religious duty to obey the laws of our country: the teacher of religion, therefore, must instruct us in those laws, that we may know how to obey them. It is a religious duty to assist our sick neighbors: the preacher must, therefore, teach us medicine, that we may do it understandingly. It is a religious duty to preserve our own health: our religious teacher, then, must tell us what dishes are wholesome, and give us recipes in cookery, that we may learn how to prepare them. And so ingenuity, by generalizing more and more, may amalgamate all the branches of science into any one of them, and the physician who is paid to visit the sick, may give a sermon instead of medicine; and the merchant to whom money is sent for a hat, may send a handkerchief instead of it. But not withstanding this possible confusion of all sciences into one, common sense draws lines between them sufficiently distinct for the general purposes of life, and no one is at a loss to understand that a recipe in medicine or cookery, or a demonstration in geometry, is not a lesson in religion. I do not deny that a congregation may, if they please, agree with their preacher that he shall instruct them in Medicine also, or Law, or Politics. Then, lectures in these, from the pulpit, become not only a matter of right, but of duty also. But this must be with the consent of every individual; because the association being voluntary, the mere majority has no right to apply the contributions of the minority to purposes unspecified in the agreement of the congregation. I agree, too, that on all other occasions the preacher has the right, equally with every other citizen, to express his sentiments, in speaking or writing, on the subjects of Medicine, Law, Politics, he, his leisure time being his own, and his congregation not obliged to listen to his conversation, or to read his writings; and no one would have regretted more than myself, had any scruple as to this right, withheld from us the valuable discourses which have led to the expression of an opinion as to the true limits of the right. I feel my portion of indebtment to the reverend author, for the distinguished learning, the logic, and the eloquence, with which he had proved that religion, as well as reason, confirms the soundness of those principles on which our government has been founded and its rights asserted.
These are my views of this question. They are in opposition to those of the highly respected and able preacher, and are therefore the more doubtingly offered. Difference of opinion leads to inquiry, and inquiry to truth; and that, I am sure, is the ultimate and sincere object of us both. We both value too much the freedom of opinion sanctioned by our constitution, not to cherish its exercise even where in opposition to ourselves.
Unaccustomed to reserve or mystery in the expression of my opinions, I have opened myself frankly on a question suggested by your letter and present. And although I have not the honor of your acquaintance, this mark of attention, and still more the sentiments of esteem so kindly expressed in your letter, are entitled to a confidence that observations not intended for the public will not be ushered to their notice, as has happened to me sometimes. Tranquillity, at my age, is the balm of life. While I know I am safe in the honor and charity of a McLeod, I do not wish to be cast forth to the Marats, the Dantons, and the Robespierres of the priesthood: I mean the Parishes, the Osgoods, and the Gardiners of Massachusetts.
I pray you to accept the assurances of my esteem and respect.
LETTER CXXIII.—TO CAESAR A. RODNEY, March 16, 1815
TO CAESAR A. RODNEY.
Monticello, March 16, 1815.
My Dear Friend and Ancient Colleague,
Your letter of February the 19th has been received with very sincere pleasure. It recalls to memory the sociability, the friendship, and the harmony of action which united personal happiness with public duties, during the portion of our lives in which we acted together. Indeed, the affectionate harmony of our cabinet is among the sweetest of my recollections. I have just received a letter of friendship from General Dearborn. He writes me that he is now retiring from every species of public occupation, to pass the remainder of life as a private citizen; and he promises me a visit in the course of the summer. As you hold out a hope of the same gratification, if chance or purpose could time your visits together, it would make a real jubilee. But come as you will, or as you can, it will always be joy enough to me. Only you must give me a month's notice; because I go three or four times a year to a possession ninety miles southwestward, and am absent a month at a time, and the mortification would be indelible of losing such a visit by a mistimed absence. You will find me in habitual good health, great contentedness, enfeebled in body, impaired in memory, but without decay in my friendships.
Great, indeed, have been the revolutions in the world, since you and I have had any thing to do with it. To me they have been like the howlings of the winter storm over the battlements, while warm in my bed. The unprincipled tyrant of the land is fallen, his power reduced to its original nothingness, his person only not yet in the mad-house, where it ought always to have been. His equally unprincipled competitor, the tyrant of the ocean, in the mad-house indeed, in person, but his power still stalking over the deep. 'Quem deus vult perdere, prius dementat.' The madness is acknowledged; the perdition of course impending. Are we to be the instruments? A friendly, a just, and a reasonable conduct on their part, might make us the main pillar of their prosperity and existence. But their deep-rooted hatred to us seems to be the means which Providence permits to lead them to their final catastrophe. 'Nullam enim in terris gentem esse, nullum infestiorem populum, nomini Romano, said the General who erased Capua from the list of powers. What nourishment and support would not England receive from an hundred millions of industrious descendants, whom some of her people now born will live to see here. What their energies are, she has lately tried. And what has she not to fear from an hundred millions of such men, if she continues her maniac course of hatred and hostility to them. I hope in God she will change. There is not a nation on the globe with whom I have more earnestly wished a friendly intercourse on equal conditions. On no other would I hold out the hand of friendship to any. I know that their creatures represent me as personally an enemy to England. But fools only can believe this, or those who think me a fool. I am an enemy to her insults and injuries. I am an enemy to the flagitious principles of her administration, and to those which govern her conduct towards other nations. But would she give to morality some place in her political code, and especially would she exercise decency, and at least neutral passions towards us, there is not, I repeat it, a people on earth with whom I would sacrifice so much to be in friendship. They can do us, as enemies, more harm than any other nation; and in peace and in war, they have more means of disturbing us internally. Their merchants established among us, the bonds by which our own are chained to their feet, and the banking combinations interwoven with the whole, have shown the extent of their control, even during a war with her. They are the workers of all the embarrassments our finances have experienced during the war. Declaring themselves bankrupt, they have been able still to chain the government to a dependence on them; and had the war continued, they would have reduced us to the inability to command a single dollar. They dared to proclaim that they would not pay their own paper obligations, yet our government could not venture to avail themselves of this opportunity of sweeping their paper from the circulation, and substituting their own notes bottomed on specific taxes for redemption, which every one would have eagerly taken and trusted, rather than the baseless trash of bankrupt companies; our government, I say, have still been overawed from a contest with them, and have even countenanced and strengthened their influence, by proposing new establishments, with authority to swindle yet greater sums from our citizens. This is the British influence to which I am an enemy, and which we must subject to our government, or it will subject us to that of Britain.
Come and gratify, by seeing you once more, a friend, who assures you with sincerity of his constant and affectionate attachment and respect.
LETTER CXXIV.—TO GENERAL DEARBORN, March 17, 1815
TO GENERAL DEARBORN.
Monticello, March 17, 1815.
My Dear General, Friend, and Ancient Colleague,
I have received your favor of February the 27th, with very great pleasure, and sincerely reciprocate congratulations on the late events. Peace was indeed desirable; yet it would not have been as welcome without the successes of New Orleans. These last have established truths too important not to be valued; that the people of Louisiana are sincerely attached to the Union; that their city can be defended; that the western States make its defence their peculiar concern; that the militia are brave; that their deadly aim countervails the manoeuvring skill of their enemy; that we have officers of natural genius now starting forward from the mass; and that, putting together all our conflicts, we can beat the British, by sea and by land, with equal numbers. All this being now proved, I am glad of the pacification of Ghent, and shall still be more so, if, by a reasonable arrangement against impressment, they will make it truly a treaty of peace, and not a mere truce, as we must all consider it, until the principle of the war is settled. Nor, among the incidents of the war, will we forget your services. After the disasters produced by the treason or the cowardice, or both, of Hull, and the follies of some others, your capture of York and Fort George first turned the tide of success in our favor; and the subsequent campaigns sufficiently wiped away the disgraces of the first. If it were justifiable to look to your own happiness only, your resolution to retire from all public business could not but be approved. But you are too young to ask a discharge as yet, and the public counsels too much needing the wisdom of our ablest citizens, to relinquish their claim on you. And surely none needs your aid more than your own State. Oh, Massachusetts! how have I lamented the degradation of your apostacy! Massachusetts, with whom I went with pride in 1776, whose vote was my vote on every public question, and whose principles were then the standard of whatever was free or fearless. But then she was under the counsels of the two Adamses; while Strong, her present leader, was promoting petitions for submission to British power and British usurpation. While under her present counsels, she must be contented to be nothing; as having a vote, indeed, to be counted, but not respected. But should the State once more buckle on her republican harness, we shall receive her again as a sister, and recollect her wanderings among the crimes only of the parricide party, which would have basely sold what their fathers so bravely won from the same enemy. Let us look forward, then, to the act of repentance, which, by dismissing her venal traitors, shall be the signal of return to the bosom and to the principles of her brethren; and if her late humiliation can just give her modesty enough to suppose that her southern brethren are somewhat on a par with her in wisdom, in information, in patriotism, in bravery, and even in honesty, although not in psalm-singing, she will more justly estimate her own relative momentum in the Union. With her ancient principles, she would really be great, if she did not think herself the whole. I should be pleased to hear that you go into her councils, and assist in bringing her back to those principles, and to a sober satisfaction with her proportionable share in the direction of our affairs.
Be so good as to lay my homage at the feet of Mrs. Dearborn, and to be assured that I am ever and affectionately yours.
LETTER CXXV.—TO THE PRESIDENT, March 23,1815
TO THE PRESIDENT.
Monticello, March 23,1815.
I duly received your favor of the 12th, and with it the pamphlet on the causes and conduct of the war, which I now return. I have read it with great pleasure, but with irresistible desire that it should be published. The reasons in favor of this are strong, and those against it are so easily gotten over, that there appears to me no balance between them. 1. We need it in Europe. They have totally mistaken our character. Accustomed to rise at a feather themselves, and to be always fighting, they will see in our conduct, fairly stated, that acquiescence under wrong, to a certain degree, is wisdom, and not pusillanimity; and that peace and happiness are preferable to that false honor, which, by eternal wars, keeps their people in eternal labor, want, and wretchedness. 2. It is necessary for the people of England, who have been deceived as to the causes and conduct of the war, and do not entertain a doubt, that it was entirely wanton and wicked on our part, and under the order of Bonaparte. By rectifying their ideas, it will tend to that conciliation which is absolutely necessary to the peace and prosperity of both nations. 3. It is necessary for our own people, who, although they have known the details as they went along, yet have been so plied with false facts and false views by; the federalists, that some impression has been left that all has not been right. It may be said that it will be thought unfriendly. But truths necessary for our own character, must not be suppressed out of tenderness to its calumniators. Although written, generally, with great moderation, there may be some things in the pamphlet which may perhaps irritate. The characterizing every act, for example, by its appropriate epithet, is not necessary to show its deformity to an intelligent reader. The naked narrative will present it truly to his mind, and the more strongly, from its moderation, as he will perceive that no exaggeration is aimed at. Rubbing down these roughnesses (and they are neither many nor prominent), and preserving the original date, might, I think, remove all the offensiveness, and give more effect to the publication. Indeed, I think that a soothing postscript, addressed to the interests, the prospects, and the sober reason of both nations, would make it acceptable to both. The trifling, expense of reprinting it ought not to be considered a moment. Mr. Gallatin could have it translated into French, and suffer it to get abroad in Europe without either avowal or disavowal. But it would be useful to print some copies of an appendix, containing all the documents referred to, to be preserved in libraries, and to facilitate to the present and future writers of history, the acquisition of the materials which test the truths it contains.
I sincerely congratulate you on the peace, and more especially on the eclat with which the war was closed. The affair of New Orleans was fraught with useful lessons to ourselves, our enemies, and our friends, and will powerfully influence our future relations with the nations of Europe. It will show them we mean to take no part in their wars, and count no odds when engaged in our own. I presume, that, having spared to the pride of England her formal acknowledgment of the atrocity of impressment in an article of the treaty, she will concur in a convention for relinquishing it. Without this, she must understand that the present is but a truce, determinable on the first act of impressment of an American citizen, committed by any officer of hers. Would it not be better that this convention should be a separate act, unconnected with any treaty of commerce, and made an indispensable preliminary to all other treaty? If blended with a treaty of commerce, she will make it the price of injurious concessions. Indeed, we are infinitely better without such treaties with any nation. We cannot too distinctly detach ourselves from the European system, which is essentially belligerent, nor too sedulously cultivate an American system, essentially pacific. But if we go into commercial treaties at all, they should be with all, at the same time, with whom we have important commercial relations. France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Denmark, Sweden, Russia, all should proceed pari passu. Our ministers marching in phalanx on the same line, and intercommunicating freely, each will be supported by the weight of the whole mass, and the facility with which the other nations will agree to equal terms of intercourse, will discountenance the selfish higglings of England, or justify our rejection of them. Perhaps with all of them it would be best to have but the single article gentis amicissimae, leaving every thing else to the usages and courtesies of civilized nations. But all these things will occur to yourself, with their counter considerations.
Mr. Smith wrote to me on the transportation of the library, and particularly, that it is submitted to your direction. He mentioned also, that Dougherty would be engaged to superintend it. No one will more carefully and faithfully execute all those duties which would belong to a wagon-master. But it requires a character acquainted with books, to receive the library. I am now employing as many hours of every day as my strength will permit, in arranging the books, and putting every one in its place on the shelves, corresponding with its order in the catalogue, and shall have them numbered correspondently. This operation will employ me a considerable time yet. Then I should wish a competent agent to attend, and, with the catalogue in his hand, see that every book is on the shelves, and have their lids nailed on, one by one, as he proceeds. This would take such a person about two days; after which, Dougherty's business would be the mere mechanical removal, at convenience. I enclose you a letter from Mr. Milligan, offering his service, which would not cost more than eight or ten days' reasonable compensation. This is necessary for my safety, and your satisfaction, as a just caution for the public. You know there are persons, both in and out of the public councils, who will seize every occasion of imputation on either of us, the more difficult to be repelled in this case, in which a negative could not be proved. If you approve of it, therefore, as soon as I am through the review, I will give notice to Mr. Milligan, or any other person whom you will name, to come on immediately. Indeed it would be well worth while to add to his duty, that of covering the books with a little paper (the good bindings at least), and filling the vacancies of the presses with paper-parings, to be brought from Washington. This would add little more to the time, as he could carry on both operations at once.
Accept the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect,
LETTER CXXVI.—TO JOHN ADAMS, June 10,1815
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, June 10,1815.
It is long since we have exchanged a letter, and yet what volumes might have been written on the occurrences even of the last three months. In the first place, peace, God bless it! has returned, to put us all again into a course of lawful and laudable pursuits: a new trial of the Bourbons has proved to the world their incompetence to the functions of the station they have occupied: and the recall of the usurper has clothed him with the semblance of a legitimate autocrat. If adversity should have taught him wisdom, of which I have little expectation, he may yet render some service to mankind, by teaching the ancient dynasties that they can be changed for misrule, and by wearing down the maritime power of England to limitable and safe dimensions. But it is not possible he should love us; and of that our commerce had sufficient proofs during his power. Our military achievements, indeed, which he is capable of estimating, may in some degree moderate the effect of his aversions; and he may perhaps fancy that we are to become the natural enemies of England, as England herself has so steadily endeavored to make us, and as some of our own over-zealous patriots would be willing to proclaim; and in this view, he may admit a cold toleration of some intercourse and commerce between the two nations. He has certainly had time to see the folly of turning the industry of France from the cultures for which nature has so highly endowed her, to those of sugar, cotton, tobacco, and others, which the same creative power has given to other climates: and, on the whole, if he can conquer the passions of his tyrannical soul, if he has understanding enough to pursue from motives of interest, what no moral motives lead him to, the tranquil happiness and prosperity of his country, rather than a ravenous thirst for human blood, his return may become of more advantage than injury to us. And if again some great man could arise in England, who could see and correct the follies of his nation in their conduct as to us, and by exercising justice and comity towards ours, bring both into a state of temperate and useful friendship, it is possible we might thus attain the place we ought to occupy between these two nations, without being degraded to the condition of mere partisans of either.
A little time will now inform us, whether France, within its proper limits, is big enough for its ruler, on the one hand, and whether, on the other, the allied powers are either wicked or foolish enough to attempt the forcing on the French, a ruler and government which they refuse; whether they will risk their own thrones to re-establish that of the Bourbons. If this is attempted, and the European world again committed to war, will the jealousy of England at the commerce which neutrality will give us, induce her again to add us to the number of her enemies, rather than see us prosper in the pursuit of peace and industry? And have our commercial citizens merited from their country its encountering another war to protect their gambling enterprises? That the persons of our citizens shall be safe in freely traversing the ocean, that the transportation of our own produce, in our own vessels, to the markets of our choice, and the return to us of the articles we want for our own use, shall be unmolested, I hold to be fundamental, and that the gauntlet must be for ever hurled at him who questions it. But whether we shall engage in every war of Europe, to protect the mere agency of our merchants and shipowners in carrying on the commerce of other nations, even were those merchants and ship-owners to take the side of their country in the contest, instead of that of the enemy, is a question of deep and serious consideration, with which, however, you and I shall have nothing to do; so we will leave it to those whom it will concern.
I thank you for making known to me Mr. Ticknor and Mr. Gray. They are fine young men, indeed, and if Massachusetts can raise a few more such, it is probable she would be better counselled as to social rights and social duties. Mr. Ticknor is, particularly, the best bibliograph I have met with, and very kindly and opportunely offered me the means of reprocuring some part of the literary treasures which I have ceded to Congress, to replace the devastations of British Vandalism at Washington. I cannot live without books. But fewer will suffice, where amusement, and not use, is the only future object. I am about sending him a catalogue, to which less than his critical knowledge of books would hardly be adequate.
Present my high respects to Mrs. Adams, and accept yourself the assurances of my affectionate attachment.
LETTER CXXVII.—TO MR. LEIPER, June 12, 1815
TO MR. LEIPER.
Monticello, June 12, 1815.
A journey soon after the receipt of your favor of April the 17th and an absence from home of some continuance, have prevented my earlier acknowledgment of it. In that came safely my letter of January the 2nd, 1814. In our principles of government we differ not at all; nor in the general object and tenor of political measures. We concur in considering the government of England as totally without morality, insolent beyond bearing, inflated with vanity and ambition, aiming at the exclusive dominion of the sea, lost in corruption, of deep-rooted hatred towards us, hostile to liberty wherever it endeavors to show its head, and the eternal disturber of the peace of the world. In our estimate of Bonaparte, I suspect we differ. I view him as a political engine only, and a very wicked one; you, I believe, as both political and religious, and obeying, as an instrument, an unseen hand. I still deprecate his becoming sole lord of the continent of Europe, which he would have been, had he reached in triumph the gates of Petersburg. The establishment in our day of another Roman. empire, spreading vassalage and depravity over the face of the globe, is not, I hope, within the purposes of Heaven. Nor does the return of Bonaparte give me pleasure unmixed; I see in his expulsion of the Bourbons, a valuable lesson to the world, as showing that its ancient dynasties may be changed for their misrule. Should the allied powers presume to dictate a ruler and government to France, and follow the example he had set of parcelling and usurping to themselves their neighbor nations, I hope he will give them another lesson in vindication of the rights of independence and self-government, which himself had heretofore so much abused, and that in this contest he will wear down the maritime power of England to limitable and safe dimensions. So far, good. It cannot be denied, on the other hand, that his successful perversion of the force (committed to him for vindicating the rights and liberties of his country) to usurp its government, and to enchain it under an hereditary despotism, is of baneful effect in encouraging future usurpations, and deterring those under oppression from rising to redress themselves. His restless spirit leaves no hope of peace to the world; and his hatred of us is only a little less than that he bears to England, and England to us. Our form of government is odious to him, as a standing contrast between republican and despotic rule; and as much from that hatred, as from ignorance in political economy, he had excluded intercourse between us and his people, by prohibiting the only articles they wanted from us, that is, cotton and tobacco. Whether the war we have had with England, the achievements of that war, and the hope that we may become his instruments and partisans against that enemy, may induce him, in future, to tolerate our commercial intercourse with his people, is still to be seen. For my part, I wish that all nations may recover and retain their independence; that those which are overgrown may not advance beyond safe measures of power, that a salutary balance may be ever maintained among nations, and that our peace, commerce, and friendship may be sought and cultivated by all. It is our business to manufacture for ourselves whatever we can, to keep all markets open for what we can spare or want; and the less we have to do with the amities or enmities of Europe, the better. Not in our day, but at no distant one, we may shake a rod over the heads of all, which may make the stoutest of them tremble. But I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power, the greater it will be.
The federal misrepresentation of my sentiments, which occasioned my former letter to you, was gross enough; but that and all others are exceeded by the impudence and falsehood of the printed extract you sent me from Ralph's paper. That a continuance of the embargo for two months longer would have prevented our war; that the non-importation law which succeeded it was a wise and powerful measure, I have constantly maintained. My friendship for Mr. Madison, my confidence in his wisdom and virtue, and my approbation of all his measures, and especially of his taking up at length the gauntlet against England, is known to all with whom I have ever conversed or corresponded on these measures. The word federal, or its synonyme &c., may therefore be written under every word of Mr. Ralph's paragraph. I have ransacked my memory to recollect any incident which might have given countenance to any particle of it, but I find none. For if you will except the bringing into power and importance those who were enemies to himself as well as to the principles of republican government, I do not recollect a single measure of the President which I have not approved. Of those under him, and of some very near him, there have been many acts of which we have all disapproved, and he more than we. We have at times dissented from the measures, and lamented the dilatoriness of Congress. I recollect an instance the first winter of the war, when, from sloth of proceedings, an embargo was permitted to run through the winter, while the enemy could not cruise, nor consequently restrain the exportation of our whole produce, and was taken off in the spring, as soon as they could resume their stations. But this procrastination is unavoidable. How can expedition be expected from a body which we have saddled with an hundred lawyers, whose trade is talking? But lies, to sow divisions among us, are so stale an artifice of the federal prints, and are so well understood, that they need neither contradiction nor explanation. As to myself, my confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the administration is so entire, that I scarcely notice what is passing, and have almost ceased to read newspapers. Mine remain in our post-office a week or ten days, sometimes, unasked for. I find more amusement in studies to which I was always more attached, and from which I was dragged by the events of the times in which I have happened to live.
I rejoice exceedingly that our war with England was single-handed. In that of the Revolution, we had France, Spain, and Holland on our side, and the credit of its success was given to them. On the late occasion, unprepared and unexpecting war, we were compelled to declare it, and to receive the attack of England, just issuing from a general war, fully armed, and freed from all other enemies, and have not only made her sick of it, but glad to prevent, by a peace, the capture of her adjacent possessions, which one or two campaigns more would infallibly have made ours. She has found that we can do her more injury than any other enemy on earth, and henceforward will better estimate the value of our peace. But whether her government has power, in opposition to the aristocracy of her navy, to restrain their piracies within the limits of national rights, may well be doubted. I pray, therefore, for peace, as best for all the world, best for us, and best for me, who have already lived to see three wars, and now pant for nothing more than to be permitted to depart in peace. That you also, who have longer to live, may continue to enjoy this blessing with health and prosperity, through as long a life as you desire, is the prayer of yours affectionately.
P. S. June the 14th. Before I had sent my letter to the post-office, I received the new treaty of the allied powers, declaring that the French nation shall not have Bonaparte, and shall have Louis XVIII for their ruler. They are all then as great rascals, as Bonaparte himself. While he was in the wrong, I wished him exactly as much success as would answer our purposes, and no more. Now that they are wrong and he in the right, he shall have all my prayers for success, and that he may dethrone every man of them.
LETTER CXXVIII.—TO JOHN ADAMS, August 10,1815
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, August 10,1815.
The simultaneous movements in our correspondence have been remarkable on several occasions. It would seem as if the state of the air, or state of the times, or some other unknown cause, produced a sympathetic effect on our mutual recollections. I had sat down to answer your letters of June the 19th, 20th, and 22nds with pen, ink, and paper, before me, when I received from our mail that of July the 30th. You ask information on the subject of Camus. All I recollect of him is, that he was one of the deputies sent to arrest Dumourier at the head of his army, who were, however, themselves arrested by Dumourier, and long detained as prisoners. I presume, therefore, he was a Jacobin. You will find his character in the most excellent revolutionary history of Toulongeon. I believe also, he may be the same person who has given us a translation of Aristotle's Natural History, from the Greek into French. Of his report to the National Institute on the subject of the Bollandists, your letter gives me the first information. I had supposed them defunct with the society of Jesuits, of which they were: and that their works, although above ground, were, from their bulk and insignificance, as effectually entombed on their shelves, as if in the graves of their authors. Fifty-two volumes in folio, of the acta sanctorum, in dog-Latin, would be a formidable enterprise to the most laborious German. I expect, with you, they are the most enormous mass of lies, frauds, hypocrisy, and imposture, that ever was heaped together on this globe. By what chemical process M. Camus supposed that an extract of truth could be obtained from such a farrago of falsehood, I must leave to the chemists and moralists of the age to divine.
On the subject of the history of the American Revolution you ask who shall write it? Who can write it? And who will ever be able to write it? Nobody; except merely its external facts; all its councils, designs, and discussions having been conducted by Congress with closed doors, and no member, as far as I know, having even made notes of them. These, which are the life and soul of history, must for ever be unknown. Botta, as you observe, has put his own speculations and reasonings into the mouths of persons whom he names, but who, you and I know, never made such speeches. In this he has followed the example of the ancients, who made their great men deliver long speeches, all of them in the same style, and in that of the author himself. The work is nevertheless a good one, more judicious, more chaste, more classical, and more true, than the party diatribe of Marshall. Its greatest fault is in having taken too much from him. I possessed the work, and often recurred to considerable portions of it, although I never read it through. But a very judicious and well informed neighbor of mine went through it with great attention, and spoke very highly of it. I have said that no member of the old Congress, as far as I knew, made notes of the discussions. I did not knew of the speeches you mention of Dickinson and Witherspoon But on the questions of Independence, and on the two articles of Confederation respecting taxes and voting, I took minutes of the heads of the arguments. On the first, I threw all into one mass, without ascribing to the speakers their respective arguments; pretty much in the manner of Hume's summary digests of the reasonings in parliament for and against a measure. On the last, I stated the heads of arguments used by each speaker. But the whole of my notes on the question of Independence does not occupy more than five pages, such as of this letter: and on the other questions, two such sheets. They have never been communicated to any one. Do you know that there exists in manuscript the ablest work of this kind ever yet executed, of the debates of the constitutional convention of Philadelphia in 1788? The whole of every thing said and done there was taken down by Mr. Madison, with a labor and exactness beyond comprehension.
I presume that our correspondence has been observed at the post-offices, and thus has attracted notice. Would you believe, that a printer has had the effrontery to propose to me the letting him publish it? These people think they have a right to every thing, however secret or sacred. I had not before heard of the Boston pamphlet with Priestley's Letters and mine.
At length Bonaparte has got on the right side of a question. From the time of his entering the legislative hall to his retreat to Elba, no man has execrated him more than myself. I will not except even the members of the Essex Junto; although for very different reasons; I, because he was warring against the liberty of his own country, and independence of others; they, because he was the enemy of England, the Pope, and the Inquisition. But at length, and as far as we can judge, he seems to have become the choice of his nation. At least, he is defending the cause of his nation, and that of all mankind, the rights of every people to independence and self-government. He and the allies have now changed sides. They are parcelling out among themselves Poland, Belgium, Saxony, Italy, dictating a ruler and government to France, and looking askance at our republic, the splendid libel on their governments, and he is fighting for the principles of national independence, of which his whole life hitherto has been a continued violation. He has promised a free government to his own country, and to respect the rights of others; and although his former conduct inspires little confidence in his promises, yet we had better take the chance of his word for doing right, than the certainty of the wrong which his adversaries are doing and avowing. If they succeed, ours is only the boon of the Cyclops to Ulysses, of being the last devoured.
Present me affectionately and respectfully to Mrs. Adams, and Heaven give you both as much more of life as you wish, and bless it with health and happiness.
P. S. August the 11th. I had finished my letter yesterday, and this morning receive the news of Bonaparte's second abdication. Very well. For him personally, I have no feeling but reprobation. The representatives of the nation have deposed him. They have taken the allies at their word, that they had no object in the war but his removal. The nation is now free to give itself a good government, either with or without a Bourbon; and France unsubdued, will still be a bridle on the enterprises of the combined powers, and a bulwark to others. T.J.
LETTER CXXIX.—TO DABNEY CARR, January 19, 1816
TO DABNEY CARR.
Monticello, January 19, 1816.
At the date of your letter of December the 1st, I was in Bedford, and since my return, so many letters, accumulated during my absence, having been pressing for answers, that this is the first moment I have been able to attend to the subject of yours. While Mr. Girardin was in this neighborhood writing his continuation of Burke's History, I had suggested to him a proper notice of the establishment of the committee of correspondence here in 1773, and of Mr. Carr, your father, who introduced it. He has doubtless done this, and his work is now in the press. My books, journals of the times, &c. being all gone, I have nothing now but an impaired memory to resort to for the more particular statement you wish. But I give it with the more confidence, as I find that I remember old things better than new. The transaction took place in the session of Assembly of March 1773. Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Frank Lee, your father, and myself, met by agreement, one evening, about the close of the session, at the Raleigh Tavern, to consult on the measures which the circumstances of the times seemed to call for. We agreed, in result, that concert in the operations of the several Colonies was indispensable; and that to produce this, some channel of correspondence between them must be opened: that, therefore, we would propose to our House the appointment of a committee of correspondence, which should be authorized and instructed to write to the Speakers of the House of Representatives of the several Colonies, recommending the appointment of similar committees on their part, who, by a communication of sentiment on the transactions threatening us all, might promote a harmony of action salutary to all. This was the substance, not pretending to remember words. We proposed the resolution, and your father was agreed on to make the motion. He did it the next day, March the 12th, with great ability, reconciling all to it, not only by the reasonings, but by the temper and moderation with which it was developed. It was adopted by a very general vote. Peyton Randolph, some of us who proposed it, and who else I do not remember, were appointed of the committee. We immediately despatched letters by expresses, to the Speakers of all the other Assemblies. I remember that Mr. Carr and myself, returning home together, and conversing on the subject by the way, concurred in the conclusion, that that measure must inevitably beget the meeting of a Congress of Deputies from all the Colonies, for the purpose of uniting all in the same principles and measures for the maintenance of our rights. My memory cannot deceive me, when I affirm that we did it in consequence of no such proposition from any other Colony. No doubt, the resolution itself, and the journals of the day, will show that ours was original, and not merely responsive to one from any other quarter. Yet, I am certain I remember also, that a similar proposition, and nearly cotemporary, was made by Massachusetts, and that our northern messenger passed theirs on the road. This, too, may be settled by recurrence to the records of Massachusetts. The proposition was generally acceded to by the other Colonies, and the first effect, as expected, was the meeting of a Congress at New York the ensuing year. The committee of correspondence appointed by Massachusetts, as quoted by you from Marshall, under the date of 1770, must have been for a special purpose, and functus officio before the date of 1773, or Massachusetts herself would not then have proposed another. Records should be examined to settle this accurately. I well remember the pleasure expressed in the countenance and conversation of the members generally, on this debut of Mr. Carr, and the hopes they conceived as well from the talents as the patriotism it manifested. But he died within two months after, and in him we lost a powerful fellow-laborer. His character was of a high order. A spotless integrity, sound judgment, handsome imagination, enriched by education and reading, quick and clear in his conceptions, of correct and ready elocution, impressing every hearer with the sincerity of the heart from which it flowed. His firmness was inflexible in whatever he thought was right: but when no moral principle stood in the way, never had man more of the milk of human kindness, of indulgence, of softness, of pleasantry in conversation and conduct. The number of his friends, and the warmth of their affection, were proofs of his worth, and of their estimate of it. To give to those now living, an idea of the affliction produced by his death in the minds of all who knew him, I liken it to that lately felt by themselves on the death of his eldest son, Peter Carr, so like him in all his endowments and moral qualities, and whose recollection can never recur without a deep-drawn sigh from the bosom of any one who knew him. You mention that I showed you an inscription I had proposed for the tomb-stone of your father. Did I leave it in your hands to be copied? I ask the question, not that I have any such recollection, but that I find it no longer in the place of its deposite, and think I never took it out but on that occasion. Ever and affectionately yours.
LETTER CXXX.—TO JOHN ADAMS, April 8, 1816
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, April 8, 1816.
I have to acknowledge your two favors of February the 16th and March the 2nd, and to join sincerely in the sentiment of Mrs. Adams, and regret that distance separates us so widely. An hour of conversation would be worth a volume of letters. But we must take things as they come.
You ask, if I would agree to live my seventy or rather seventy-three years over again? To which I say, yea. I think with you that it is a good world on the whole; that it has been framed on a principle of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt out to us. There are, indeed, (who might say nay) gloomy and hypochondriac minds, inhabitants of diseased bodies, disgusted with the present, and despairing of the future; always counting that the worst will happen, because it may happen. To these I say, how much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened! My temperament is sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the head, leaving Fear astern. My hopes, indeed, sometimes fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the gloomy. There are, I acknowledge, even in the happiest life, some terrible convulsions, heavy set-offs against the opposite page of the account. I have often wondered for what good end the sensations of grief could be intended. All our other passions, within proper bounds, have an useful object. And the perfection of the moral character is, not in a stoical apathy, so hypocritically vaunted, and so untruly too, because impossible, but in a just equilibrium of all the passions. I wish the pathologists then would tell us what is the use of grief in the economy, and of what good it is the cause, proximate or remote.
Did I know Baron Grimm while at Paris? Yes, most intimately. He was the pleasantest and most conversable member of the diplomatic corps while I was there; a man of good fancy, acuteness, irony, cunning, and egoism. No heart, not much of any science, yet enough of every one to speak its language: his forte was Belles-lettres, painting, and sculpture. In these he was the oracle of the society, and as such, was the Empress Catharine's private correspondent and factor, in all things not diplomatic. It was through him I got her permission for poor Ledyard to go to Kamschatka, and cross over thence to the western coast of America, in order to penetrate across our continent in the opposite direction to that afterwards adopted for Lewis and Clarke: which permission she withdrew after he had got within two hundred miles of Kamschatka, had him seized, brought back, and set down in Poland. Although I never heard Grimm express the opinion directly, yet I always supposed him to be of the school of Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach; the first of whom committed his system of atheism to writing in 'Le Bon Sens,' and the last in his 'Systeme de la Nature? It was a numerous school in the Catholic countries, while the infidelity of the Protestant took generally the form of theism. The former always insisted that it was a mere question of definition between them, the hypostasis of which on both sides, was 'Nature,' or 'the Universe': that both agreed in the order of the existing system, but the one supposed it from eternity, the other as having begun in time. And when the atheist descanted on the unceasing motion and circulation of matter through the animal, vegetable, and mineral kingdoms, never resting, never annihilated, always changing form, and under all forms gifted with the power of reproduction; the theist pointing 'to the heavens above, and to the earth beneath, and to the waters under the earth,' asked, if these did not proclaim a first cause, possessing intelligence and power; power in the production, and intelligence in the design, and constant preservation of the system; urged the palpable existence of final causes; that the eye was made to see, and the ear to hear, and not that we see because we have eyes, and hear because we have ears; an answer obvious to the senses, as that of walking across the room, was to the philosopher demonstrating the non-existence of motion. It was in D'Holbach's conventicles that Rousseau imagined all the machinations against him were contrived and he left, in his Confessions, the most biting anecdotes of Grimm. These appeared after I left France; but I have heard that poor Grimm was so much afflicted by them, that he kept his bed several weeks. I have never seen the Memoirs of Grimm. Their volume has kept them out of our market.
I have been lately amusing myself with Levi's book, in answer to Dr. Priestley. It is a curious and tough work. His style is inelegant and incorrect, harsh and petulant to his adversary, and his reasoning flimsy enough. Some of his doctrines were new to me, particularly that of his two resurrections: the first, a particular one of all the dead, in body as well as soul, who are to live over again, the Jews in a state of perfect obedience to God, the other nations in a state of corporeal punishment for the sufferings they have inflicted on the Jews. And he explains this resurrection of bodies to be only of the original stamen of Leibnitz, or the human calus in semine masculino, considering that as a mathematical point, insusceptible of separation or division. The second resurrection, a general one of souls and bodies, eternally to enjoy divine glory in the presence of the Supreme Being. He alleges that the Jews alone preserve the doctrine of the unity of God. Yet their God would be deemed a very indifferent man with us: and it was to correct their anamorphosis of the Deity, that Jesus preached, as well as to establish the doctrine of a future state. However, Levi insists, that that was taught in the Old Testament, and even by Moses himself and the prophets. He agrees that an anointed prince was prophesied and promised: but denies that the character and history of Jesus had any analogy with that of the person promised. He must be fearfully embarrassing to the Hierophants of fabricated Christianity; because it is their own armor in which he clothes himself for the attack. For example, he takes passages of scripture from their context (which would give them a very different meaning), strings them together, and makes them point towards what object he pleases; he interprets them figuratively, typically, analogically, hyperbolically; he calls in the aid of emendation, transposition, ellipsis, metonymy, and every other figure of rhetoric; the name of one man is taken for another, one place for another, days and weeks for months and years; and finally he avails himself of all his advantage over his adversaries by his superior knowledge of the Hebrew, speaking in the very language of the divine communication, while they can only fumble on with conflicting and disputed translations. Such is this war of giants. And how can such pigmies as you and I decide between them? For myself, I confess, that my head is not formed tantas componere lites. And as you began yours of March the 2nd, with a declaration, that you were about to write me the most frivolous letter I had ever read, so I will close mine by saying, I have written you a full match for it, and by adding my affectionate respects to Mrs. Adams, and the assurance of my constant attachment and consideration for yourself.
LETTER CXXXI.—TO JOHN TAYLOR, May 28,1816
TO JOHN TAYLOR.
Monticello, May 28,1816.
On my return from a long journey and considerable absence from home, I found here the copy of your 'Enquiry into the Principles of our Government,' which you had been so kind as to send me; and for which I pray you to accept my thanks. The difficulties of getting new works in our situation, inland and without a single bookstore, are such as had prevented my obtaining a copy before; and letters which had accumulated during my absence, and were calling for answers, have not yet permitted me to give to the whole a thorough reading: yet certain that you and I could not think differently on the fundamentals of rightful government, I was impatient, and availed myself of the intervals of repose from the writing-table, to obtain a cursory idea of the body of the work.
I see in it much matter for profound reflection; much which should confirm our adhesion, in practice, to the good principles of our constitution, and fix our attention on what is yet to be made good. The sixth section on the good moral principles of our government, I found so interesting and replete with sound principles, as to postpone my letter-writing to its thorough perusal and consideration. Besides much other good matter, it settles unanswerably the right of instructing representatives, and their duty to obey. The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated. I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life. You have successfully and completely pulverized Mr. Adams's system of orders, and his opening the mantle of republicanism to every government of laws, whether consistent or not with natural right. Indeed, it must be acknowledged, that the term republic is of very vague application in every language. Witness the self-styled republics of Holland, Switzerland, Genoa, Venice, Poland. Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say, that, purely and simply, it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority: and that every other government is more or less republican, in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of the direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population. I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township. The first shade from this pure element, which, like that of pure vital air, cannot sustain life of itself, would be where the powers of the government, being divided, should be exercised each by representatives chosen by the citizens either pro hac vice, or for such short terms as should render secure the duty of expressing the will of their constituents. This I should consider as the nearest approach to a pure republic, which is practicable on a large scale of country or population. And we have examples of it in some of our State constitutions, which, if not poisoned by priestcraft, would prove its excellence over all mixtures with other elements; and, with only equal doses of poison, would still be the best. Other shades of republicanism may be found in other forms of government, where the executive, judiciary, and legislative functions, and the different branches of the latter, are chosen by the people more or less directly, for longer terms of years, or for life, or made hereditary; or where there are mixtures of authorities, some dependent on, and others independent of the peopje. The further the departure from direct and constant control by the citizens, the less has the government of the ingredient of republicanism; evidently none where the authorities are hereditary, as in France, Venice, &c. or self-chosen, as in Holland; and little, where for life, in proportion as the life continues in being after the act of election.
The purest republican feature in the government of our own State, is the House of Representatives. The Senate is equally so the first year, less the second, and so on. The Executive still less, because not chosen by the people directly. The Judiciary seriously anti-republican, because for life; and the national arm wielded, as you observe, by military leaders, irresponsible but to themselves. Add to this the vicious constitution of our county courts (to whom the justice, the executive administration, the taxation, police, the military appointments of the county, and nearly all our daily concerns are confided), self-appointed, self-continued, holding their authorities for life, and with an impossibility of breaking in on the perpetual succession of any faction once possessed of the bench. They are, in truth, the executive, the judiciary, and the military of their respective counties, and the sum of the counties makes the State. And add, also, that one half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil, and not for the men inhabiting it; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent.
What constitutes a State? Not high-raised battlements, or lahor'd mound, Thick wall, or moated gate; Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crown'd; No: men, high-minded men; Men, who their duties know; But know their rights; and, knowing, dare maintain. These constitute a State.'
In the General Government, the House of Representatives is mainly republican; the Senate scarcely so at all, as not elected by the people directly, and so long secured even against those who do elect them; the Executive more republican than the Senate, from its shorter term, its election by the people, in practice (for they vote for A only on an assurance that he will vote for B), and because, in practice, also, a principle of rotation seems to be in a course of establishment; the judiciary independent of the nation, their coercion by impeachment being found nugatory.
If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism (and I confess I know no other measure), it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interest require. And this I ascribe, not to any want of republican dispositions in those who formed these constitutions, but to a submission of true principle to European authorities, to speculators on government, whose fears of the people have been inspired by the populace of their own great cities, and were unjustly entertained against the independent, the happy, and therefore orderly citizens of the United States. Much I apprehend that the golden moment is past for reforming these heresies. The functionaries of public power rarely strengthen in their dispositions to abridge it, and an unorganized call for timely amendment is not likely to prevail against an organized opposition to it. We are always told that things are going on well; why change them? 'Chi sta bene, non si muova,' says the Italian, 'Let him who stands well, stand still.' This is true; and I verily believe they would go on well with us under an absolute monarch, while our present character remains, of order, industry, and love of peace, and restrained, as he would be, by the proper spirit of the people. But it is while it remains such, we should provide against the consequences of its deterioration. And let us rest in the hope that it will yet be done, and spare ourselves the pain of evils which may never happen.
On this view of the import of the term republic, instead of saying, as has been said, 'that it may mean any thing or nothing,' we may say with truth and meaning, that governments are more or less republican, as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition: and believing, as I do, that the mass of the citizens is the safest depository of their own rights, and especially, that the evils flowing from the duperies of the people, are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents, I am a friend to that composition of government which has in it the most of this ingredient. And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
LETTER CXXXII.—TO FRANCIS W. GILMER, June 7,1816
TO FRANCIS W. GILMER.
Monticello, June 7,1816.
I received a few-days ago from Mr. Dupont the enclosed manuscript, with permission to read it, and a request, when read, to forward it to you, in expectation that you would translate it. It is well worthy of publication for the instruction of our citizens, being profound, sound, and short. Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their powers: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him: every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him: and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes. There is a work of the first order of merit now in the press at Washington, by Destutt Tracy, on the subject of political economy, which he brings into the compass of three hundred pages, octavo. In a preliminary discourse on the origin of the right of property, he coincides much with the principles of the present manuscript; but is more developed, more demonstrative. He promises a future work on morals, in which I lament to see, that he will adopt the principles of Hobbes, or humiliation to human nature; that the sense of justice and injustice is not derived from our natural organization, but founded on convention only. I lament this the more, as he is unquestionably the ablest writer living, on abstract subjects. Assuming the fact, that the earth has been created in time, and consequently the dogma of final causes, we yield, of course, to this short syllogism. Man was created for social intercourse; but social intercourse cannot be maintained without a sense of justice; then man must have been created with a sense of justice. There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well known state of society of our Indians ought, before now, to have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they suppose it to have commenced in the patriarchal or monarchical form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family; and not yet submitted to the authority of positive laws, or of any acknowledged magistrate. Every man, with them, is perfectly free to follow his own inclinations. But if, in doing this, he violates the rights of another, if the case be slight, he is punished by the disesteem of his society, or, as we say, by public opinion; if serious, he is tomahawked as a dangerous enemy. Their leaders conduct them by the influence of their character only; and they follow, or not, as they please, him of whose character for wisdom or war they have the highest opinion. Hence the origin of the parties among them adhering to different leaders, and governed by their advice, not by their command. The Cherokees, the only tribe I know to be contemplating the establishment of regular laws, magistrates, and government, propose a government of representatives, elected from every town. But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man. This, the only instance of actual fact within our knowledge, will be then a beginning by republican, and not by patriarchal or monarchical government, as speculative writers have generally conjectured.
We have to join in mutual congratulations on the appointment of our friend Correa, to be Minister or Envoy of Portugal, here. This, I hope, will give him to us, for life. Nor will it at all interfere with his botanical rambles or journeys. The government of Portugal is so peaceable and inoffensive, that it has never any altercations with its friends. If their minister abroad writes them once a quarter that all is well, they desire no more. I learn (though not from Correa himself) that he thinks of paying us a visit as soon as he is through his course of lectures. Not to lose this happiness again by my absence, I have informed him I shall set out for Poplar Forest the 20th instant, and be back the first week of July. I wish you and he could concert your movements so as to meet here, and that you would make this your headquarters. It is a good central point from which to visit your connections; and you know our practice of placing our guests at their ease, by showing them we are so ourselves, and that we follow our necessary vocations, instead of fatiguing them by hanging unremittingly on their shoulders.
I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.
LETTER CXXXIII.*—TO BENJAMIN AUSTIN, January 9, 1816
TO BENJAMIN AUSTIN.
Monticello, January 9, 1816.
[* This letter was accidentally misplaced, and is now inserted out of its regular order.]
I acknowledge with pleasure your letter of the 9th of December last.
Your opinions on the events which have taken place in France, are entirely just, so far as these events are yet developed. But we have reason to suppose, that they have not reached their ultimate termination. There is still an awful void between the present, and what is to be the last chapter of that history; and I fear it is to be filled with abominations, as frightful as those which have already disgraced it. That nation is too high-minded, has too much innate force, intelligence, and elasticity, to remain quiet under its present compression. Samson will arise in his strength, and probably will ere long burst asunder the cords and the webs of the Philistines. But what are to be the scenes of havoc and horror, and how widely they may spread between the brethren of one family, our ignorance of the interior feuds and antipathies of the country places beyond our view. Whatever may be the convulsions, we cannot but indulge the pleasing hope, they will end in the permanent establishment of a representative government; a government in which the will of the people will be an effective ingredient. This important element has taken root in the European mind, and will have its growth. Their rulers, sensible of this, are already offering this modification of their governments, under the plausible pretence that it is a voluntary concession on their part. Had Bonaparte used his legitimate power honestly, for the establishment and support of a free government, France would now have been in prosperity and rest, and her example operating for the benefit of mankind, every nation in Europe would eventually have founded a government over which the will of the people would have had a powerful control. His improper conduct, however, has checked the salutary progress of principle; but the object is fixed in the eye of nations, and they will press to its accomplishment, and to the general amelioration of the condition of man. What a germ have the freemen of the United States planted, and how faithfully should they cherish the parent tree at home. Chagrin and mortification are the punishments our enemies receive.
You tell me I am quoted by those who wish to continue our dependence on England for manufactures. There was a time when I might have been so quoted with more candor. But within the thirty years which have since elapsed, how are circumstances changed! We were then in peace; our independent place among nations was acknowledged. A commerce which offered the raw material, in exchange for the same material after receiving the last touch of industry, was worthy of welcome to all nations. It was expected, that those especially to whom manufacturing industry was important, would cherish the friendship of such customers by every favor, and particularly cultivate their peace by every act of justice and friendship. Under this prospect, the question seemed legitimate, whether, with such an immensity of unimproved land, courting the hand of husbandry, the industry of agriculture, or that of manufactures, would add most to the national wealth. And the doubt on the utility of the American manufactures was entertained on this consideration, chiefly, that to the labor of the husbandman a vast addition is made by the spontaneous energies of the earth on which it is employed. For one grain of wheat committed to the earth, she renders twenty, thirty, and even fifty fold; whereas to the labor of the manufacturer nothing is added. Pounds of flax, in his hands, on the contrary, yield but penny weights of lace. This exchange, too, laborious as it might seem, what a field did it promise for the occupation of the ocean; what a nursery for that class of citizens who were to exercise and maintain our equal rights on that element! This was the state of things in 1785, when the Notes on Virginia were first published; when, the ocean being open to all nations, and their common right in it acknowledged and exercised under regulations sanctioned by the assent and usage of all, it was thought that the doubt might claim some consideration.
But who, in 1785, could foresee the rapid depravity which was to render the close of that century a disgrace to the history of man? Who could have imagined that the two most distinguished in the rank of nations, for science and civilization, would have suddenly descended from that honorable eminence, and setting at defiance all those moral laws established by the Author of Nature between nation and nation, as between man and man, would cover earth and sea with robberies and piracies, merely because strong enough to do it with temporal impunity, and that under this disbandment of nations from social order, we should have been despoiled of a thousand ships, and have thousands of our citizens reduced to Algerine slavery. Yet all this has taken place. The British interdicted to our vessels all harbors of the globe, without having first proceeded to some one of hers, there paid a tribute proportioned to the cargo, and obtained her license to proceed to the port of destination. The French declared them to be lawful prize if they had touched at the port, or been visited by a ship of the enemy nation. Thus were we completely excluded from the ocean. Compare this state of things with that of '85, and say whether an opinion founded in the circumstances of that day, can be fairly applied to those of the present. We have experienced, what we did not then believe, that there exist both profligacy and power enough to exclude us from the field of interchange with other nations. That to be independent for the comforts of life, we must fabricate them ourselves. We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturalist. The former question is suppressed, or rather assumes a new form. The grand inquiry now is, Shall we make our own comforts, or go without them at the will of a foreign nation? He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufacture, must be for reducing us either to dependence on that foreign nation, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of these. Experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort; and if those who quote me as of a different opinion, will keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign, where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price, it will not be our fault if we do not soon have a supply at home equal to our demand, and wrest that weapon of distress from the hand which has so long wantonly wielded it. If it shall be proposed to go beyond our own supply, the question of '85 will then recur, Will our surplus labor be then more beneficially employed, in the culture of the earth, or in the fabrications of art? We have time yet for consideration, before that question will press upon us; and the axiom to be applied will depend on the circumstances which shall then exist. For in so complicated a science as political economy, no one axiom can be laid down as wise and expedient for all times and circumstances. Inattention to this is what has called for this explanation, which reflection would have rendered unnecessary with the candid, while nothing will do it with those who use the former opinion only as a stalking-horse to cover their disloyal propensities to keep us in eternal vassalage to a foreign and unfriendly people.
I salute you with assurances of great respect and esteem.
LETTER CXXXIV.—TO WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD, June 20, 1816
TO WILLIAM H. CRAWFORD.
Monticello, June 20, 1816.
I am about to sin against all discretion, and knowingly, by adding to the drudgery of your letter-reading, this acknowledgment of the receipt of your favor of May the 31st, with the papers it covered. I cannot, however, deny myself the gratification of expressing the satisfaction I have received, not only from the general statement of affairs at Paris, in yours of December the 12th, 1814, (as a matter of history which I had not before received,) but most especially and superlatively, from the perusal of your letter of the 8th of the same month to Mr. Fisk, on the subject of drawbacks. This most heterogeneous principle was transplanted into ours from the British system, by a man whose mind was really powerful, but chained by native partialities to every thing English; who had formed exaggerated ideas of the superior perfection of the English constitution, the superior wisdom of their government, and sincerely believed it for the good of this country to make them their model in every thing; without considering that what might be wise and good for a nation essentially commercial, and entangled in complicated intercourse with numerous and powerful neighbors, might not be so for one essentially agricultural, and insulated by nature from the abusive governments of the old world.
The exercise, by our own citizens, of so much commerce as may suffice to exchange our superfluities for our wants, may be advantageous for the whole. But it does not follow, that, with a territory so boundless, it is the interest of the whole to become a mere city of London, to carry on the business of one half the world at the expense of eternal war with the other half. The agricultural capacities of our country constitute its distinguishing feature; and the adapting our policy and pursuits to that, is more likely to make us a numerous and happy people, than the mimicry of an Amsterdam, a Hamburgh, or a city of London. Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of its association, and to say to all individuals, that, if they contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles, and involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms. We may exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with disease. Such is the situation of our country. We have most abundant resources of happiness within ourselves, which we may enjoy in peace and safety, without permitting a few citizens, infected with the mania of rambling and gambling, to bring danger on the great mass engaged in innocent and safe pursuits at home. In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose: 1. licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many; or, 2. restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, 'Let us separate.' I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture. I know that every nation in Europe would join in sincere amity with the latter, and hold the former at arm's length, by jealousies, prohibitions, restrictions, vexations, and war. No earthly consideration could induce my consent to contract such a debt as England has by her wars for commerce, to reduce our citizens by taxes to such wretchedness, as that laboring sixteen of the twenty-four hours, they are still unable to afford themselves bread, or barely to earn as much oatmeal or potatoes as will keep soul and body together. And all this to feed the avidity of a few millionary merchants, and to keep up one thousand ships of war for the protection of their commercial speculations. I returned from Europe after our government had got under way, and had adopted from the British code the law of drawbacks. I early saw its effects in the jealousies and vexations of Britain; and that, retaining it, we must become, like her, an essentially warring nation, and meet, in the end, the catastrophe impending over her. No one can doubt that this alone produced the orders of council, the depredations which preceded, and the war which followed them. Had we carried but our own produce, and brought back but our own wants, no nation would have troubled us. Our commercial dashers, then, have already cost us so many thousand lives, so many millions of dollars, more than their persons and all their commerce were worth. When war was declared, and especially after Massachusetts, who had produced it, took side with the enemy waging it, I pressed on some confidential friends in Congress to avail us of the happy opportunity of repealing the drawback; and I do rejoice to find that you are in that sentiment. You are young, and may be in the way of bringing it into effect. Perhaps time, even yet, and change of tone (for there are symptoms of that in Massachusetts), may not have obliterated altogether the sense of our late feelings and sufferings; may not have induced oblivion of the friends we have lost, the depredations and conflagrations we have suffered, and the debts we have incurred, and to have to labor for through the lives of the present generation. The earlier the repeal is proposed, the more it will be befriended by all these recollections and considerations. This is one of three great measures necessary to insure us permanent prosperity. This preserves our peace. A second should enable us to meet any war, by adopting the report of the war department, for placing the force of the nation at effectual command: and a third should insure resources of money by the suppression of all paper circulation during peace, and licensing that of the nation alone during war. The metallic medium of which we should be possessed at the commencement of a war, would be a sufficient fund for all the loans we should need through its continuance; and if the national bills issued, be bottomed (as is indispensable) on pledges of specific taxes for their redemption within certain and moderate epochs, and be of proper denominations for circulation, no interest on them would be necessary or just, because they would answer to every one the purposes of the metallic money withdrawn and replaced by them. But possibly these may be the dreams of an old man, or that the occasions of realizing them may have passed away without return. A government regulating itself by what is wise and just for the many, uninfluenced by the local and selfish views of the few who direct their affairs, has not been seen, perhaps, on earth. Or if it existed, for a moment, at the birth of ours, it would not be easy to fix the term of its continuance. Still, I believe it does exist here in a greater degree than any where else; and for its growth and continuance, as well as for your personal health and happiness, I offer sincere prayers, with the homage of my respect and esteem.