The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

editor H.A. Washington
New York :  H.W. Derby

To Robert R. Livingston, Esq.
Washington, January 3, 1808.

Dear Sir

Your favor of December 20th has been received.  The copy of the late volume of Agricultural Proceedings is not yet at hand, but will probably come safe.  I had formerly received the preceding volumes from your kindness, as you supposed.  Writings on this subject are peculiarly pleasing to me, for, as they tell us, we are sprung from the earth, so to that we naturally return.  It is now among my most fervent longings to be on my farm, which, with a garden and fruitery, will constitute my principal occupation in retirement.  I have lately received the proceedings of the Agricultural Society of Paris.  They are proceeding with enthusiasm and understanding.  I have been surprised to find that the rotation of crops and substitution of some profitable growth preparatory for grain, instead of the useless and expensive, fallow, is yet only dawning among them.  The society has lately re-published Oliver de Serres’ Theatre d’Agriculture, in 2 vols. 4to, although written in the reign of * * *.  It is the finest body of agriculture extant, and especially as improved by voluminous notes, which bring its process to the present day.  I lately received from Colonel Few in New York, a bottle of the oil of Beni, believed to be a sesamum.  I did not believe there existed so perfect a substitute for olive oil.  Like that of Florence, it has no taste, and is perhaps rather more limpid.  A bushel of seed yields three gallons of oil;  and Governor Milledge, of Georgia, says the plant will grow wherever the Palmi Christi will.  It is worth your attention, and you can probably get seed from Colonel Few.  We are in hourly expectation of Mr. Rose here, in the hope of seeing what turn our differences with that nation are to take.  As yet all is doubtful.  Accept my friendly salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.

To Doctor Benjamin Rush.
Washington, January 3, 1808.

Dear Sir

Dr. Waterhouse has been appointed to the Marine Hospital of Boston, as you wished. It was a just, though small return for his merit, in introducing the vaccination earlier than we should have had it.  His appointment there makes some noise there and here, being unacceptable to some;  but I believe that schismatic divisions in the medical fraternity are at the bottom of it.  My usage is to make the best appointment my information and judgment enable me to do, and then fold myself up in the mantle of conscience, and abide unmoved the peltings of the storm.  And oh ! for the day when I shall be withdrawn from it;  when I shall have leisure to enjoy my family, my friends, my farm and books !

In the ensuing autumn, I shall be sending on to Philadelphia a grandson of about fifteen years of age, to whom I shall ask your friendly attentions.  Without that bright fancy which captivates, I am in hopes he possesses sound judgment and much observation;  and, what I value more than all things, good humor.  For thus I estimate the qualities of the mind:  1, good humor;  2, integrity;  3, industry;  4, science.  The preference of the first to the second quality may not at first be acquiesced in;  but certainly we had all rather associate with a good-humored, light-principled man, than with an ill-tempered rigorist in morality.

We are here in hourly expectation of seeing Mr. Rose, and of knowing what turn his mission is to give to our present differences. The embargo is salutary. It postpones war, gives time and the benefits of events which that may produce;  particularly that of peace in Europe, which will postpone the causes of difference to the next war.  I salute you with great affection and respect.

To John Taylor, Esq.
Washington, January 6, 1808.

Dear Sir

Your ingenious friend, Mr. Martin, formerly made for me a drill of very fine construction.  I am now very desirous of sending one of them to the Agricultural Society of Paris, with whom I am in correspondence, and who are sending me a plough supposed to be of the best construction ever known.  On trial with their best ploughs, by a dynamometer, it is drawn by from one-half to two-thirds of the force requisite to their best former ploughs.  Will you be so good as to get Mr. Martin to make me one of his best drills, sparing no pains to make the workmanship worthy of the object, to pack it in a box, and contrive it for me to Fredericksburg.  The cost shall be remitted him as soon as known.  I see by the agricultural transactions of the Paris Society, they are cultivating the Jerusalem artichoke for feeding their animals.  They make 10,000 lb. to the acre, which they say is three times as much as they generally make of the potato.  The African Negroes brought over to Georgia a seed which they called beni, and the botanists sesamum.  I lately received a bottle of the oil, which was eaten with salad by various companies.  All agree it is equal to the olive oil.  A bushel of seed yields three gallons of oil.  I propose to cultivate it for my own use at least.  The embargo keeping at home our vessels, cargoes and seamen, saves us the necessity of making their capture the cause of immediate war;  for, if going to England, France had determined to take them, if to any other place, England was to take them.  Till they return to some sense of moral duty, therefore, we keep within ourselves.  This gives time.  Time may produce peace in Europe;  peace in Europe removes all causes of difference, till another European war;  and by that time our debt may be paid, our revenues clear, and our strength increased.

I salute you with great friendship and respect.

To [Secretary of Treasury] Albert Gallatin.
January 7, 1808.

I think with you that the establishment of posts of delivery at Green Bay and Chicago, would only furnish pretexts for not entering at Mackinac;  and that a new post at the falls of St. Mary’s, requiring a military post to be established there, would not quit cost, nor is this a time to be multiplying small establishments.

The collector should have his eye on the schooner Friends on her return, and though proof may be difficult, harass them with a prosecution.

I see nothing in the case of the Swedish captain which can produce doubt.  The law is plain that a foreign vessel may go with the load she had on board and no more.  The exception as to vessels under the President’s direction, can only be meant to embrace governmental cases, such as advice vessels, such as permitting foreign seamen to be shipped to their own country.

With respect to the Four Brothers, I know not what can be done, unless the amendatory law would authorize the collector to detain on circumstances of strong suspicion, until he can refer the case here, and give a power to detain finally on such grounds.

Have you thought of the Indian drawback ?  The Indians can be kept in order only by commerce or war.  The former is the cheapest.  Unless we can induce individuals to employ their capital in that trade, it will require an enormous sum of capital from the public treasury, and it will be badly managed.  A drawback for four or five years is the cheapest way of getting that business off our hands. Affectionate salutations.

To Robert Smith.
January 7, 1808.

Proceeding as we are to an extensive construction of gunboats, there are many circumstances to be considered and agreed on, viz.:

1. How many shall we build ? for the debate lately published proves clearly it was not expected we should build the whole number proposed.

2. Of what size, and how many of each size ?

3. What weight of metal shall each size carry ? shall carronades be added ?

4. Is it not best, as they will not be seasoned, to leave them unsealed awhile ?

5. Where shall they be built, and when required to be in readiness ?

6. As a small proportion only will be kept afloat, in time of peace, the safe and convenient depositories for those laid up should be inquired into and agreed on, and sheds erected under which they may be covered from the sun and rain.

7. To economize the navy funds of the ensuing year, we should determine how many of the boats now in service ought to be kept in each, and for how many we will depend on the seaport in case of attack.

The first of these subjects may require a general consultation, and perhaps the seventh also.  The others are matters of detail which may be determined on between you and myself.  I shall be ready to consult with you on them at your convenience.  Affectionate salutations.

To the Secretary of War. (Henry Dearborn.)
Washington, January 8, 1808.

Dear Sir

Your letter of December 29th brings to my mind a subject which never has presented itself but with great pain, that of your withdrawing from the administration, before I withdraw myself.  It would have been to me the greatest of consolations to have gone through my term with the same coadjutors, and to have shared with them the merit, or demerit, of whatever good or evil we may have done.  The integrity, attention, skill, and economy with which you have conducted your department, have given me the most complete and unqualified satisfaction, and this testimony I bear to it with all the sincerity of truth and friendship;  and should a war come on, there is no person in the United States to whose management and care I could commit it with equal confidence.  That you as well as myself, and all our brethren, have maligners, who from ill-temper, or disappointment, seek opportunities of venting their angry passions against us, is well known, and too well understood by our constituents to be regarded.  No man who can succeed you will have fewer, nor will any one enjoy a more extensive confidence through the nation.  Finding that I could not retain you to the end of my term, I had wished to protract your stay, till I could with propriety devolve on another the naming of your successor.  But this probably could not be done till about the time of our separation in July.  Your continuance however, till after the end of the session, will relieve me from the necessity of any nomination during the session, and will leave me only a chasm of two or three months over which I must hobble as well as I can.  My greatest difficulty will arise from the carrying on the system of defensive works we propose to erect.  That these should have been fairly under way, and in a course of execution, under your direction, would have peculiarly relieved me;  because we concur so exactly in the scale on which they are to be executed.  Unacquainted with the details myself, I fear that when you are gone, aided only by your chief clerk, I shall be assailed with schemes of improvement and alterations which I shall be embarassed to pronounce on, or withstand, and incur augmentations of expense, which I shall not know how to control.  I speak of the interval between the close of this session, when you propose to retire, and the commencement of our usual recess in July. Because during that recess, we are in the habit of leaving things to the chief clerks;  and, by the end of it, my successor may be pretty well known, and prevailed on to name yours.  However, I am so much relieved by your ekeing out your continuance to the end of the session, that I feel myself bound to consult your inclinations then, and to take on myself the difficulties of the short period then ensuing.  In public or in private, and in all situations, I shall retain for you the most cordial esteem, and satisfactory recollections of the harmony and friendship with which we have run our race together;  and I pray you now to accept sincere assurances of it, and of my great respect and attachment.

To Messrs. Maese, Leybert and Dickerson, of the American Philosophical Society.
Washington, January 9, 1808.


I duly received your favor of the 1st instant, informing me that at an election of officers of the American Philosophical Society, held at their hall on that day, they were pleased unanimously to elect me as their President for the ensuing year.  I repeat, with great sensibility, my thanks to the Society for these continued proofs of their good will, and my constant regret that distance and other duties deny me the pleasure of performing at their meetings the functions assigned to me, and of enjoying an intercourse with them which of all others would be the most gratifying to me.  Thus circumstanced I can only renew assurances of my devotion to the objects of the Institution, and that I shall avail myself with peculiar pleasure of every occasion which may occur of promoting them, and of being useful to the Society.

I beg leave through you, Gentlemen, to present them the homage of my dutiful respects, and that you will accept yourselves, the assurances of my high consideration and esteem.

To Albert Gallatin.
January 10, 1808.

I find Bastrop’s case less difficult than I had expected.  My view of it is this :  The Governor of Louisiana being desirous of introducing the culture of wheat into that province, engages Bastrop as an agent for carrying that object into effect.  He agrees to lay off twelve leagues square on the Washita and Bayou land, as a settlement for the culture of wheat, to which Bastrop is to bring five hundred families, each of which families is to have four hundred arpens of the land;  the residue of the twelve leagues square, we may understand, was to be Bastrop’s premium.  The government was to bear the expenses of bringing these emigrants from New Madrid, and was to allow them rations for six months,—Bastrop undertaking to provide the rations, and the government paying a real and a half for each.

Bastrop binds himself to settle the five hundred families in three years, and the Governor especially declares that if within that time the major part of the establishment shall not have been made good, the twelve leagues square, destined for Bastrop’s settlers, shall be occupied by the families first presenting themselves for that purpose.  Bastrop brings on some settlers,—how many does not appear, and the Intendant, from a want of funds, suspends further proceeding in the settlement until the King’s decision. [His decision of what ?  Doubtless whether the settlement shall proceed on these terms, and the funds be furnished by the King ? or shall be abandoned?]  He promises Bastrop, at the same time, that the former limitation of three years shall be extended to two years, after the course of the contract shall have again commenced to be executed, and the determination of the King shall be made known to Bastrop.  Here, then, is a complete suspension of the undertaking until the King’s decision, and his silence from that time till, and when, he ceded the province, must be considered as an abandonment of the project.

There are several circumstances in this case offering ground for question, whether Bastrop is entitled to, any surplus of the lands.  But this will be an investigation for the Attorney General.  But the uttermost he can claim is a surplus proportioned to the number of families he settled, that is to say, a quota of land bearing such a proportion to the number of families he settled, (deducting four hundred arpens for each of them,) as one hundred and forty-four square leagues bear to the whole number of five hundred families.  The important fact therefore to be settled, is the number of families he established there before the suspension.

The Marquis du Maison Rouge (under whom Mr. Clarke claims) was to have thirty square leagues on the Washita, for settling thirty families, none of them to be Americans.  The lands were located and appropriated under the terms and conditions stipulated and contracted for by the said Marquis.  What these were we are not told.  The grantee must prove his grant by producing it.  That will prove what the conditions were, and then he must prove these conditions performed.

Livingston’s argument does not establish the fact that the lands between the staked line and the river, (if they belonged to the Jesuits,) were conveyed to Gravier.

It is impossible to consider the indulgence to the Apelousas as anything more than a voluntary permission from the government to use the timber on the ungranted lands, until they should be granted to others.  It could never be intended to keep that country forever unsettled, as appears by expressly reserving the right of soil.  But I think we should continue the permission until we sell the lands.

These opinions are, of course, not to be considered as decisions, (for that is not my province,) but as general ideas of the rights of the United States, to be kept in view on the settlement.

The appropriation of the lots in New Orleans must certainly be suspended, until we get the supplementary information promised.  Affectionate salutations.

To William Wirt, Esq.
Washington, January 10, 1808.

Dear Sir

I pray you that this letter may be sacredly secret, because it meddles in a line wherein I should myself think it wrong to intermeddle, were it not that it looks to a period when I shall be out of office, but others might think it wrong notwithstanding that circumstance.  I suspected, from your desire to go into the army, that you disliked your profession, notwithstanding that your prospects in it were inferior to none in the State.  Still I know that no profession is open to stronger antipathies than that of the law.  The object of this letter, then, is to propose to you to come into Congress.  That is the great commanding theatre of this nation, and the threshold to whatever department of office a man is qualified to enter.  With your reputation, talents, and correct views, used with the necessary prudence, you will at once be placed at the head of the republican body in the House of Representatives;  and after obtaining the standing which a little time will ensure you, you may look, at your own will, into the military, the judiciary, diplomatic, or other civil departments, with a certainty of being in either whatever you please.  And in the present state of what may be called the eminent talents of our country, you may be assured of being engaged through life in the most honorable employments.  If you come in at the next election, you will begin your course with a new administration.  That administration will be opposed by a faction, small in numbers, but governed by no principle but the most envenomed malignity.  They will endeavor to batter down the executive before it will have time, by its purity and correctness, to build up a confidence with the people, founded on experiment.  By supporting them you will lay for yourself a broad foundation in the public confidence, and indeed you will become the Colossus of the republican government of your country.  I will not say that public life is the line for making a fortune.  But it furnishes a decent and honorable support, and places one’s children on good grounds for public favor.  The family of a beloved father will stand with the public on the most favorable ground of competition.  Had General Washington left children, what would have been denied to them ?

Perhaps I ought to apologize for the frankness of this communication.  It proceeds from an ardent zeal to see this government (the idol of my soul) continue in good hands, and from a sincere desire to see you whatever you wish to be.  To this apology I shall only add my friendly salutations, and assurances of sincere esteem and respect.

To Robert Smith.
January 14, 1808.

I return you Chauncey’s letter.  I am sorry to see the seamen working for rations only, and that we cannot allow even them.  And further, indeed, that we shall be under the necessity of discharging a number of those we have.  This is so serious a question that I propose to call a consultation on it a day or two hence.  Our sixty-four gunboats and ketches may certainly be reduced to ten seamen each, at least I have at various times had the opinions of nearly all our naval captains, that from eight to ten men are sufficient to keep a gunboat clean and in order, to navigate her in harbor, and to look out of it.  This would give us a reduction of about four hundred men. But even this will not bring it within the estimate.  However, what is to be done, is the question on which I shall propose a consultation.  I send you a letter of a Mr. Walton, of Baltimore, for perusal, merely as it suggests ideas worth looking at.  I confess, I think our naval militia plan, both as to name and structure, better for us than the English plan of seafencibles.

I ought to be in possession of a former letter from the same person, but not finding it among my papers, am induced to ask whether I sent it to you ?  Affectionate salutations.

To Robert Smith
January 15, 1808.

To the letter from Mr. Davy, of the committee of the chamber of commerce, of Philadelphia, (which I now return you,) I think you may say in answer, that you had communicated it to the President, and were authorized to say that the Government of the United States have no present views of forming new harbors for the reception of their vessels of war:  that under the authority, and with the means, lately given by the Legislature to the executive, it is intended to furnish means of defence, by land and water, to the several harbors of the United States, in proportion to their importance and local circumstances :  that all the points to be defended are not yet definitively decided on;  but that in reviewing them, the harbor proposed by the chamber of commerce, to be formed near Lewistown, will be considered, and will have a just participation in the provisions for protection, in the first place according to its present circumstances, and hereafter according to any new importance which shall have been given it by being made a place of greater resort for merchant vessels.  Affectionate salutations.

To Mr. J. Dorsey.
Washington, January 21, 1808.


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your favor of December 20th, and am much pleased to find our progress in manufactures to be so great.  That of cotton is peculiarly interesting, because we raise the raw material in such abundance, and because it may, to a great degree, supply our deficiencies both in wool and linen.  A former application on behalf of Messrs. Binney & Robertson, was delivered to the Secretary of State, who will engage General Armstrong to aid such measures as they may take in Paris for obtaining permission to draw supplies of antimony from thence.

It will give me real pleasure to see some good system of measures and weights introduced and combined with the decimal arithmetic.  It is a great and difficult question whether to venture only on a half reformation, which by presenting fewer innovations, may be more easily adopted, or, as the French have tried with success, make a radical reform.  Your plan presents as few innovations as any I have seen;  but I think your foot should refer to the pendulum, by saying, for instance, that the foot shall be a measure which shall be to the second pendulum as 1 to 3,267;  or rather as 1 to the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds in latitude 45°.  This offers a standard in every place, because it can everywhere be found.  The rod you propose is only to be found in Philadelphia.  You say in your letter that "if the decimal mode obtain in the division of the pound, the Troy and it, as regards the Troy grain, would be the same."  I do not understand this;  because the Avoirdupois pound containing 7,000 Troy grains, I do not see how any decimal subdivision of the pound could coincide with the Troy grain.  However, I shall be very glad to see adopted whatever measure is most promising.  I salute you with esteem and respect.

To the Rev. Samuel Millar.
Washington, January 23, 1808.


I have duly received your favor of the 18th, and am thankful to you for having written it, because it is more agreeable to prevent than to refuse what I do not think myself authorized to comply with.  I consider the government of the United States as interdicted by the Constitution from intermeddling with religious institutions, their doctrines, discipline, or exercises.  This results not only from the provision that no law shall be made respecting the establishment or free exercise of religion, but from that also which reserves to the States the powers not delegated to the United States.  Certainly, no power to prescribe any religious exercise, or to assume authority in religious discipline, has been delegated to the General Government.  It must then rest with the States, as far as it can be in any human authority.  But it is only proposed that I should recommend, not prescribe a day of fasting and prayer.  That is, that I should indirectly assume to the United States an authority over religious exercises, which the Constitution has directly precluded them from.  It must be meant, too, that this recommendation is to carry some authority, and to be sanctioned by some penalty on those who disregard it; not indeed of fine and imprisonment, but of some degree of proscription, perhaps in public opinion.  And does the change in the nature of the penalty make the recommendation less a law of conduct for those to whom it is directed ?  I do not believe it is for the interest of religion to invite the civil magistrate to direct its exercises, its discipline, or its doctrines;  nor of the religious societies, that the General Government should be invested with the power of effecting any uniformity of time or matter among them.  Fasting and prayer are religious exercises; the enjoining them an act of discipline.  Every religious society has a right to determine for itself the times for these exercises, and the objects proper for them, according to their own particular tenets; and this right can never be safer than in their own hands, where the Constitution has deposited it.

I am aware that the practice of my predecessors may be quoted.  But I have ever believed, that the example of State executives led to the assumption that authority by the General Government, without due examination, which would have discovered that what might be a right in a State government, was a violation of that right when assumed by another.  Be this as it may, every one must act according to the dictates of his own reason, and mine tells me that civil powers alone have been given to the President of the United States, and no authority to direct the religious exercises of his constituents.

I again express my satisfaction that you have been so good as to give me an opportunity of explaining myself in a private letter, in which I could give my reasons more in detail than might have been done in a public answer;  and I pray you to accept the assurances of my high esteem and respect.

To Joel Barlow.
January 24, 1808.

Thomas Jefferson returns thanks to Mr. Barlow for the copy of the Columbiad he has been so kind as to send him; the eye discovers at once the excellence of the mechanical execution of the work, and he is persuaded that the mental part will be found to have merited it.  He will not do it the injustice of giving it such a reading as his situation here would admit, of a few minutes at a time, and at intervals of many days.  He will reserve it for that retirement after which he is panting, and not now very distant, where he may enjoy it in full concert with its kindred scenes, amidst those rural delights which join in chorus with the poet, and give to his song all its magic effect.  He salutes Mr. Barlow with friendship and respect.

To His Excellency Governor [of New York] Daniel D. Tomkins.
Washington, January 26, 1808.


I take the liberty of enclosing to you the copy of an application which I have received from a portion of the citizens of the State of New York, residing on the river St. Lawrence and Lake Ontario, setting forth their very defenceless situation for the want of arms, and praying to be furnished from the magazines of the United States.  Similar applications from other parts of our frontier in every direction have sufficiently shown that did the laws permit such a disposition of the arms of the United States, their magazines would be completely exhausted, and nothing would remain for actual war.  But it is only when troops take the field, that the arms of the United States can be delivered to them.  For the ordinary safety of the citizens of the several States, whether against dangers within or without, their reliance must be on the means to be provided by their respective States.  Under these circumstances I have thought it my duty to transmit to you the representation received, not doubting that you will have done for the safety of our fellow citizens, on a part of our frontier so interesting and so much exposed, what their situation requires, and the means under your control may permit.

Should our present differences be amicably settled, it will be a question for consideration whether we should not establish a strong post on the St. Lawrence, as near our northern boundary as a good position can be found.  To do this at present would only produce a greater accumulation of hostile force in that quarter.  I pray you to accept the assurances of my high respect and esteem.

To Jacob J. Brown, Esq.
Washington, January 27, 1808.


The representation of the county of Jefferson, in New York, of which you are chairman, stating their want of arms, and asking a supply, has been duly received and considered.  I learn with great concern that a portion of our frontier so interesting, so important, and so exposed, should be so entirely unprovided with common fire-arms.  I did not suppose any part of the United States so destitute of what is considered as among the first necessaries of a farm-house.  This circumstance gives me the more concern as the laws of the United States, do not permit their arms to be delivered from the magazines but to troops actually taking the field;  and, indeed, were the inhabitants on the whole of our frontier, of so many thousands of miles, to be furnished from our magazines, little would be left in them for actual war.  For the ordinary safety of the citizens of the several States, whether against dangers from within or without, reliance has been placed either on the domestic means of the individuals, or on those provided by the respective States.  What those means are in the State of New York, I am not informed;  but I have transmitted your representation to Governor Tomkins, with an earnest recommendation of it to his attention;  and I have no doubt that his solicitude for the welfare and safety of a portion so eminently exposed of those under his immediate care, will ensure to you whatever his authority and his means will permit.

That an attack should be made on you by your neighbors, while the state of peace continues, cannot be supposed; nor is it certain that that condition of things will be interrupted.  Should, however, war take place, if first declared by us, your safety will of course have been previously provided for :  if by the other party, it cannot be before the measures now in preparation will be in readiness to secure you.  Should our present differences be amicably settled, a new post on the St. Lawrence, as near our northern boundary as a good position can be found, will be worthy of consideration.  At present it would only produce a greater accumulation of hostile force in your neighborhood, and if we should have war, it would soon become unimportant.

On the whole, while I am in hopes that your State will provide by the loan of arms, for your immediate safety and confidence, you may be assured that such measures shall be in readiness, and in reach, on the part of the General Government, as aided by your own efforts, will effectually secure you from the dangers you apprehend.

I cannot conclude without expressing to you the satisfaction with which I have received the patriotic assurance of your best services, should they be needed in your country’s cause.  They are worthy of the citizens of a free country, who know and properly estimate the value of self-government, and are the more acceptable as from a quarter where they will be most important.

I beg leave to assure yourself, and through you the committee, of my great consideration and respect.

To Jacob J. Brown.
Washington, January 27, 1808.


The substance of the enclosed letter, so far as is necessary for the satisfaction of our fellow citizens, should be communicated to them.  But the letter itself should not be published, nor be permitted to be copied.  Because the source from which it comes will occasion every word of it to be weighed by your neighbors on the opposite shore, and every inference to be drawn of which it is susceptible.  To aid their information as to our views, would give them an advantage to our own prejudice.  I salute you with respect.

To Edward Tiffin.
January 30, 1808.

Thomas Jefferson returns the enclosed to Mr. Tiffin with his thanks for the communication.  He cannot foresee what shape Burr’s machinations will take next.  If we have war with Spain, he will become a Spanish General.  If with England, he will go to Canada and be employed there.  Internal convulsion may be attempted if no game more hopeful offers.  But it will be a difficult one, and the more so as having once failed.

To William M’Intosh.
Washington, January 30, 1808.


I received some days ago your letter of December 15th, covering a copy of the resolutions of the French inhabitants of Vincennes of September 18th, in answer to the address of Governor Harrison, who had, in the month of October, forwarded me a copy of the same.  In his letter enclosing it he assured me that his address to them on the subject of our differences with England was merely monitory, putting them on their guard against insinuations from any agents of that country, who might find their way among them, and containing no expression, which if truly explained to them, should have conveyed the least doubt of his confidence in their fidelity to the United States.  I had hoped, therefore, that the uneasiness expressed in their resolutions had been done away by subsequent explanations, as I have no reason to believe any such distrust existed in the Governor’s mind.  I can assure them that he never expressed such a sentiment in any of his communications to me, but that whenever he has had occasion to speak of them, it has been in terms of entire approbation and attachment.  In my own mind certainly no doubts of their fidelity have ever been excited or existed.  Having been the Governor of Virginia when Vincennes and the other French settlements of that quarter surrendered to the arms of that State, twenty-eight years ago, I have had a particular knowledge of their character as long perhaps as I any person in the United States, and in the various relations in which I have been placed with them by the several offices I have since held, that knowledge has been kept up.  And to their great honor I can say that I have ever considered them as sober, honest, and orderly citizens, submissive to the laws, and faithful to the nation of which they are a part.  And should occasion arise of proving their fidelity in the cause of their country, I count on their aid with as perfect assurance as on that of any other part of the United States.  In return for this confidence, and as an additional proof on their part that it is not misplaced, I ask of them a return to a perfect good understanding with their Governor, and to that respect for those in authority over them, which has hitherto so honorably marked their character.  As to myself they may be assured that my confidence in them is undiminished, and that nothing will be wanting on the part of the General Government to secure them in the full participation of all the rights civil and religious which are enjoyed by their fellow citizens in the Union at large.

I beg leave through you to salute them, as well as yourself, with affection and respect.

To Governor [of Indiana Territory] William H. Harrison.
Washington, January 30, 1808.

Dear Sir

I duly received your letter of October 10th, covering the resolutions of the French inhabitants of Vincennes, and had hoped that their uneasiness under your supposed want of confidence in them had subsided.  But a letter lately received from their chairman, covering another copy of the same resolutions, induces me to answer them, in order to quiet all further uneasiness.  I enclose you my answer, open for your perusal, and will thank you to seal and deliver it.  I have expressed to them the opinion I have long entertained of the ancient Canadian French, on a long course of information, and as it is favorable to them, I trust it will be soothing, and restore those good dispositions which will ease the execution of your duties, and tend to produce that union which the present crisis calls for.

Russia and Portugal have cut off all intercourse with England; their ambassadors re-called, and war follows of course.  Our difficulties with her are great, nor can it yet be seen how they will terminate.

Accept my salutations, and assurances of great respect and esteem.

To [Secretary of Treasury] Albert Gallatin.
February 8, 1808.

In questions like the present, important neither in principle nor amount, I think the collectors should decide for themselves, and especially as they, and they only, are the legally competent judges;  for I believe the law makes them the judges of the security.  If the indulgence proposed be within the intentions of the law, they can grant it; if it be not, we cannot.  But it is the practice in all cases for the officer who is charged with the taking security, to be indulgent in a hard case, as where the person is a stranger, could he not take hypothecations of their vessels ? although the law may not specially authorize this, yet the collector can take it as counter security for himself , and he can assign it to the government.  Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
February 10, 1808.

It would certainly be very desirable that our citizens should be able to draw home their property from beyond sea, and it is possible that Mr. Parish’s proposition might be instrumental to that.  But it would be too bold an extension of the views of the Legislature in the portion of discretion they have given us.  They could not mean to give us so extensive a power of dispensation as would result from the duty of giving special licenses to merchants, and such a power, guided by no Legislative regulations, would be liable to great abuse, and greater complaints of it.  I see, therefore, neither justification nor safety in leaving the ground we have taken of confining the discretionary power given us to the public correspondence and public interests.  If the drawing this mass of specie here could be any way connected with any direct public operation, the danger of the precedent would be guarded against;  but as it is presented to us, I think it inadmissible.  Affectionate salutations.

To Robert Smith.
February 14, 1808.

I believe we must employ some of our gunboats to aid in the execution of the embargo law.  Some British ships in the Delaware, one of them loaded with fifteen hundred barrels of flour for Jamaica, another armed as a letter of marque, openly mean to go out by force.  The last is too strong for the revenue cutters.  Mr. Brice also, of Baltimore, asks armed assistance.  I see nothing at present to prevent our sparing a couple of gunboats from New York to go into the Delaware, and a couple from Norfolk to come up to the head of the Bay.  Will this interfere with more important duties ?  Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
February 14, 1808.

I have written to Mr. Smith, proposing to order a couple of gunboats from New York into the Delaware, and two from Norfolk to the head of the bay.  I hope the passage of naval stores into Canada will be prevented.  I enclose for your information the account of a silver mine to fill your treasury.  Affectionate salutations.

To Daniel Salmon.
Washington, February 15, 1808.


I have duly received your letter of the 8th instant, on the subject of the stone in your possession, supposed meteoric.  Its descent from the atmosphere presents so much difficulty as to require careful examination.  But I do not know that the most effectual examination could be made by the members of the National Legislature, to whom you have thought of exhibiting it.  Some fragments of these stones have been already handed about among them.  But those most highly qualified for acting in their stations, are not necessarily supposed most familiar with subjects of natural history;  and such of them as have that familiarity, are not in situations here to make the investigation.  I should think that an inquiry by some one of our scientific societies, as the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia for example, would be most likely to be directed with such caution and knowledge of the subject, as would inspire a general confidence.  We certainly are not to deny whatever we cannot account for.  A thousand phenomena present themselves daily which we cannot explain, but where facts are suggested, bearing no analogy with the laws of nature as yet known to us, their verity needs proofs proportioned to their difficulty.  A cautious mind will weigh well the opposition of the phenomenon to everything hitherto observed, the strength of the testimony by which it is supported, and the errors and misconceptions to which even our senses are liable.  It may be very difficult to explain bow the stone you possess came into the position in which it was found.  But is it easier to explain bow it got into the clouds from whence it is supposed to have fallen ?  The actual fact however is the thing to be established, and this I hope will be done by those whose situations and qualifications enable them to do it.  I salute you with respect.

To Anthony G. Bettay.
Washington, February 18, 1808.


I have duly received your letter of January 27th.  With respect to the silver mine on the river Platte, 1,700 miles from St. Louis, I will observe that in the present state of things between us and Spain, we could not propose to make an establishment at that distance from all support.  It is interesting, however, that the knowledge of its position should be preserved, which can be done either by confiding it to the government, who will certainly never make use of it without an honorable compensation for the discovery to yourself or your representatives, or by placing it wherever you think it safest.

I should be glad of a copy of any sketch or account you may have made of the river Platte, of the passage from its head across the mountains, and of the river Cashecatungo, which you suppose to run into the Pacific.  This would probably be among the first exploring journeys we undertake after a settlement with Spain, as we wish to become acquainted with all the advantageous water connections across our continent.

I shall be very glad to receive some seed of the silk nettle which you describe, with a view to have it raised, and its uses tried.  I have not been able to find that any of your delegates here has received it. If you would be so good as to send me a small packet of it by post, it will come safely, and I will immediately commit it to a person who will try it with the utmost care.  I salute you with respect.

To Colonel James Monroe.
Washington, February 18, 1808.

My Dear Sir

You informed me that the instruments you had been so kind as to bring for me from England, would arrive at Richmond with your baggage, and you wished to know what was to be done with them there.  I will ask the favor of you to deliver them to Mr. Jefferson, who will forward them to Monticello in the way I shall advise him.  And I must entreat you to send me either a note of their amount, or the bills, that I may be enabled to reimburse you.  There can be no pecuniary matter between us, against which this can be any set-off.  But if, contrary to my recollection or knowledge, there were anything, I pray that that may be left to be settled by itself.  If I could have known the amount beforehand, I should have remitted it, and asked the advance only under the idea that it should be the same as ready money to you on your arrival.  I must again, therefore, beseech you to let me know its amount.

I see with infinite grief a contest arising between yourself and another, who have been very dear to each other, and equally so to me.  I sincerely pray that these dispositions may not be affected between you;  with me I confidently trust they will not.  For independently of the dictates of public duty, which prescribes neutrality to me, my sincere friendship for you both will ensure its sacred observance.  I suffer no one to converse with me on the subject.  I already perceive my old friend Clinton, estranging himself from me.  No doubt lies are carried to him, as they will be to the other two candidates, under forms which, however false, he can scarcely question.  Yet I have been equally careful as to him also, never to say a word on this subject.  The object of the contest is a fair and honorable one, equally open to you all;  and I have no doubt the personal conduct of all will be so chaste, as to offer no ground of dissatisfaction with each other.  But your friends will not be as delicate.  I know too well from experience the progress of political controversy, and the exacerbation of spirit into which it degenerates, not to fear for the continuance of your mutual esteem.  One piquing thing said draws on another, that a third, and always with increasing acrimony, until all restraint is thrown off, and it becomes difficult for yourselves to keep clear of the toils in which your friends will endeavor to interlace you, and to avoid the participation in their passions which they will endeavor to produce.  A candid recollection of what you know of each other will be the true corrective.  With respect to myself, I hope they will spare me.  My longings for retirement are so strong, that I with difficulty encounter the daily drudgeries of my duty.  But my wish for retirement itself is not stronger than that of carrying into it the affections of all my friends.  I have ever viewed Mr. Madison and yourself as two principal pillars of my happiness.  Were either to be withdrawn, I should consider it as among the greatest calamities which could assail my future peace of mind.  I have great confidence that the candor and high understanding of both will guard me against this misfortune, the bare possibility of which has so far weighed on my mind, that I could not be easy without unburdening it.

Accept my respectful salutations for yourself and Mrs. Monroe, and be assured of, my constant and sincere friendship.

To Joseph Bringhurst.
Washington, February 24, 1808.


I have to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 16th.  It gave me the first information of the death of our distinguished fellow citizen, John Dickinson.  A more estimable man, or truer patriot, could not have left us.  Among the first of the advocates for the rights of his country when assailed by Great Britain, he continued to the last the orthodox advocate of the true principles of our new government, an his name will be consecrated in history as one of the great worthies of the revolution.  We ought to be grateful for having been permitted to retain the benefit of his counsel to so good an old age;  still, the moment of losing it, whenever it arrives, must be a moment of deep-felt regret.  For himself, perhaps, a longer period of life was less important, alloyed as the feeble enjoyments of that age are with so much pain.  But to his country every addition to his moments was interesting.  A junior companion of his labors in the early part of our revolution, it has been a great comfort to me to. have retained his friendship to the last moment of his life.

Sincerely condoling with his friends on this affecting loss, I beg leave to tender my salutations to yourself, and assurances of my friendly respects.

To the Speaker of the House of Representatives. (Joseph B. Varnum.)
Washington, February 27, 1808.

Dear Sir

I enclose you a copy of Armstrong’s letter, covering the papers sent to Congress.  The date was blank, as in the copy;  the letter was so immaterial that I had really forgotten it altogether when I spoke with you last night.  I feel myself much indebted to you for having given me this private opportunity of showing that I have kept back nothing material.  That the federalists and a few others should by their vote make such a charge on me, is never unexpected.  But how can any join in it who call themselves friends ?  The President sends papers to the House, which he thinks the public interest requires they should see.  They immediately pass a vote, implying irresistibly their belief that he is capable of having kept back other papers which the same interest requires they should see.  They pretend to no direct proof of this.  It must, then, be founded in presumption;  and on what act of my life or of my administration is such a presumption founded ?  What interest can I have in leading the Legislature to act on false grounds ?  My wish is certainly to take that course with the public affairs which the body of the Legislature would prefer.  It is said, indeed, that such a vote is to satisfy the federalists and their partisans.  But were I to send twenty letters, they would say, "You have kept back the twenty-first;  send us that."  If I sent one hundred, they would say, "There were one hundred and one;"  and how could I prove the negative ?  Their malice can be cured by no conduct;  it ought, therefore, to be disregarded, instead of countenancing their amputations by the sanction of a vote.  Indeed I should consider such a vote as a charge, in the face of the nation, calling for a serious and public defence of myself.  I send you a copy, that you may retain it, and make such use of it among our friends as your prudence and friendship will deem best.

I salute you with great affection and respect.

To Albert Gallatin.
February 28, 1808.

There is no source from whence our fair commerce derives so much vexation, or our country so much danger of war, as from forged papers and fraudulent voyages.  Nothing should, in my opinion, be spared, either of trouble or expense on our part, to aid all nations in detecting and punishing them.  I would, therefore, certainly direct Mr. Gelston to furnish Heinecher with every proof in his power, and to assure him that it shall be done on all occasions.  Would it not be well to give this assurance to all the foreign consuls ?  It would at least show the world that this government does not countenance those frauds;  and should not instructions be given to all the collectors to furnish all proofs in their power on demand ?  The three Englishmen will, I presume, be punished by the laws of Holland, either as spies, or prisoners of war.  If their laws will not take hold of our scoundrel, Gardner, of the Jane, perhaps that government would put him on board a vessel, under the order of our consul, to be brought and punished here for the forgery of papers.  Would it not be well to put a summary statement of this case, and of our orders on the occasion, into Smith’s paper ?  Would it be amiss even to send it to Congress by message, with a recommendation to provide punishments against this practice? Affectionate salutations.

To [Secretary of the Treasury] Albert Gallatin.
Washington, March 2, 1808.

On considering the papers which James Brown sent us, containing a statement of the parcels of property in and adjacent to New Orleans, to which the United States claims, we thought it safest to await the report of the commissioners, with their list of the property.  The papers received yesterday by express from New Orleans, and now enclosed to you, give us a list of the property, and grounds of claim from the common council of the city.  Having thus the statement, as it were, from both parties, suppose we may consider the list as complete.  It would therefore be only losing a year to wait for the report of the commissioners, and especially as the property is suffering.  What shall we do ?  There are two questions,—first, which of these parcels do really belong to the United States ?  Second, how shall they be disposed of ?  On the first question, I presume Congress will not decide themselves, but either leave it to the present commissioners, or appoint others of higher standing and abilities, at least for the future, which is of too much value, and too much involved in prejudices there, to be safely trusted to the present commissioners.  On the second question, perhaps Congress might now desire the Executive, so soon as the titles are decided, to state to them the parcels which should be kept for the government use, and then give to the city such as they need, and dispose of the rest as they see best.

Will you favor me with your ideas what is best to be done ?  Affectionate salutations.

To his Excellency Governor [of Massachusetts] James Sullivan.
Washington, March 3, 1808.

Dear Sir

Your favor of February 8th, covering the resolutions of the Legislature of Massachusetts, was received in due time.  It is a circumstance of great satisfaction that the proceedings of the government are approved by the respectable Legislature of Massachusetts, and especially the late important measure of the embargo.  The hearty concurrence of the States in that measure, will have a great effect in Europe.  I derive great personal consolation from the assurances in your friendly letter, that the electors of Massachusetts would still have viewed me with favor as a candidate for a third presidential term.  But the duty of retirement is so strongly impressed on my mind, that it is impossible for me to think of that.  If I can carry into retirement the good will of my fellow-citizens, nothing else will be wanting to my happiness.

Your letter of February 7th, with a recommendation for Salem, and that of the 8th recalling it, were both received.  I dare say you have found that the solicitations for office are the most painful incidents to which an executive magistrate is exposed.  The ordinary affairs of a nation offer little difficulty to a person of any experience;  but the gift of office is the dreadful burden which oppresses him.  A person who wishes to make it an engine of self-elevation, may do wonders with it;  but to one who wishes to use it conscientiously for the public good, without regard to the ties of blood or friendship, it creates enmities without numbers, many open, but more secret, and saps the happiness and peace of his life.

I pray you to accept my friendly salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.

To Colonel James Monroe.
Washington, March 10, 1808.

Dear Sir

* * * * * * * * * * *

From your letter of the 27th ultimo, I perceive that painful impressions have been made on your mind during your late mission, of which I had never entertained a suspicion.  I must, therefore, examine the grounds, because explanations between reasonable men can never but do good.  1. You consider the mission of Mr. Pinckney as an associate, to have been in some way injurious to you.  Were I to take that measure on myself, I might say in its justification, that it has been the regular and habitual practice of the United States to do this, under every form in which their government has existed.  I need not recapitulate the multiplied instances, because you will readily recollect them.  I went as an adjunct to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, yourself as an adjunct first to Mr. Livingston, and then to Mr. Pinckney, and I really believe there has scarcely been a great occasion which has not produced an extraordinary mission.  Still, however, it is well known that I was strongly opposed to it in the case of which you complain.  A committee of the Senate called on me with two resolutions of that body, on the subject of impressment and spoliations by Great Britain, and requesting that I would demand satisfaction.  After delivering the resolutions, the committee entered into free conversation, and observed, that although the Senate could not, in form, recommend any extraordinary mission, yet that as individuals, there was but one sentiment among them on the measure, and they pressed it.  I was so much averse to it, and gave them so hard an answer, that they felt it, and spoke, of it.  But it did not end here.  The members of the other House took up the subject, and set upon me individually, and these the best friends to you, as well as myself, and represented the responsibility which a failure to obtain redress would throw on us both, pursuing a conduct in opposition to the opinion of nearly every member of the Legislature.  I found it necessary, at length, to yield my own opinion to the general use of the national council, and it really seemed to produce a jubilee among them; not from any want of confidence in you, but from a belief in the effect which an extraordinary mission would have on the British mind, by demonstrating the degree of importance which this country attached to the rights which we considered as infracted.

2. You complain of the manner in which the treaty was received.  But what was that manner ?  I cannot suppose you to have given a moment’s credit to the stuff which was crowded in all sorts of forms into the public papers, or to the thousand speeches they put into my mouth, not a word of which I had ever uttered I was not insensible at the time of the views to mischief, with which these lies were fabricated.  But my confidence was firm, that neither yourself nor the British government, equally outraged by them, would believe me capable of making the editors of newspapers the confidants of my speeches or opinions.  The fact was this.  The treaty was communicated to us by Mr. Erskine on the day Congress was to rise.  Two of the Senators inquired of me in the evening, whether it was my purpose to detain them on account of the treaty.  My answer was, "that it was not :  that the treaty containing no provision against the impressment of our seamen, and being accompanied by a kind of protestation of the British ministers, which would leave that government free to consider it as a treaty or no treaty, according to their own convenience, I should not give them the trouble of deliberating on it."  This was, substantially, and almost verbally, what I said whenever spoken to about it, and I never failed when the occasion would admit of it, to justify yourself and Mr. Pinckney, by expressing my conviction, that it was all that could be obtained from the British government;  that you had told their commissioners that your government could not be pledged to ratify, because it was contrary to their instructions;  of course, that it should be considered but as a project;  and in this light I stated it publicly in my message to Congress on the opening of the session.  Not a single article of the treaty was ever made known beyond the members of the administration, nor would an article of it be known at this day, but for its publication in the newspapers, as communicated by somebody from beyond the water, as we have always understood.  But as to myself, I can solemnly protest, as the most sacred of truths, that I never, one instant, lost sight of your reputation and favorable standing with your country, and never omitted to justify your failure to attain our wish, as one which was probably unattainable.  Reviewing therefore, this whole subject, I cannot doubt you will become sensible, that your impressions have been without just ground.  I cannot, indeed, judge what falsehoods may have been written or told you;  and that, under such forms as to command belief.  But you will soon find, my dear Sir, that so inveterate is the rancor of party spirit among us, that nothing ought to be credited but what we hear with our own ears.  If you are less on your guard than we are here, at this moment, the designs of the mischief-makers will not fail to be accomplished, and brethren and friends will be made strangers and enemies to each other, without ever having said or thought a thing amiss of each other.  I presume that the most insidious falsehoods are daily carried to you, as they are brought to me, to engage us in the passions of our informers, and stated so positively and plausibly as to make even doubt a rudeness to the narrator, who, imposed on himself, has no other than the friendly view of putting us on our guard.  My answer is, invariably, that my knowledge of your character is better testimony to me of a negative, than any affirmative which my informant did not hear from yourself with his own ears.  In fact, when you shall have been a little longer among us, you will find that little is to be believed which interests the prevailing passions, and happens beyond the limits of our own senses.  Let us not then, my dear friend, embark our happiness and our affections on the ocean of slander, of falsehood and of malice, on which our credulous friends are floating.  If you have been made to believe that I ever did, said, or thought a thing unfriendly to your fame and feelings, you do me injury as causeless as it is afflicting to me.  In the present contest in which you are concerned, I feel no passion I take no part, I express no sentiment.  Whichever of my friends is called to the supreme cares of the nation, I know that they will be wisely and faithfully administered, and as far as my individual conduct can influence, they shall be cordially supported For myself I have nothing further to ask of the world, than to preserve in retirement so much of their esteem as I may have fairly earned, and to be permitted to pass in tranquillity, in the bosom of my family and friends, the days which yet remain for me.  Having reached the harbor myself, I shall view with anxiety (but certainly not with a wish to be in their place) those who, are still buffeting the storm, uncertain of their fate.  Your voyage has so far been favorable, and that it may continue with entire prosperity, is the sincere prayer of that friendship which I have ever borne you, and of which I now assure you with the tender of my high respect and affectionate salutations.

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 meantime, 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 everything 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.

To James Madison.
Washington, March 11, 1808.

I suppose we must despatch another packet by the 1st of April at farthest.  I take it to be an universal opinion that war will become preferable to a continuance of the embargo after a certain time.  Should we not then avail ourselves of the intervening period to procure a retraction of the obnoxious decrees peaceably, if possible ?  An opening is given us by both parties, sufficient to form a basis for such a proposition.

I wish you to consider, therefore, the following course of proceedings to wit :

To instruct our ministers at Paris and London, by the next packet, to propose immediately to both those powers a declaration on both sides that these decrees and orders shall no longer be extended to vessels of the United States, in which case we shall remain faithfully neutral;  but, without assuming the air of menace, to let them both perceive that if they do not withdraw these orders and decrees, there will arrive a time when our interests will render war preferable to a continuance of the embargo;  that when that time arrives, if one has withdrawn and the other not, we must declare war against that other;  if neither shall have withdrawn, we must take our choice of enemies between them.  This it will certainly be our duty to have ascertained by the time Congress shall meet in the fall or beginning of winter; so that taking off the embargo, they may decide whether war must be declared, and against whom.  Affectionate salutations.

To Governor [of Virginia] William H. Cabell.
Washington, March 13, 1808.

Dear Sir

I received last night your favor of the 10th.  There can certainly be no present objection to the forwarding the letters therein mentioned, according to their address.

We have nothing new of importance, except that at the last reading of an amendatory bill a few days ago, the House of Representatives were surprised into the insertion of an insidious clause permitting any merchant having property abroad, on proving it to the executive, to send a ship for it.  We are already overwhelmed with applications, and there is real danger that the great object of the embargo in keeping our ships and seamen out of harm’s way, will be defeated; and every vessel and seaman sent out under this pretext, and placed in the prize of the belligerent tyrants.  I salute you with friendship and respect.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, March 17, 1808.

I think it will be impossible to form general rules for carrying into execution the seventh section of the law of March 12th, without a fuller view of the number and nature of the cases which are to come under it.  I have waited in expectation the applications would multiply so as to give one a general view, but I have received but about half a dozen.  But, indeed, nothing short of a knowledge of all the cases can enable us to provide for them.  I have been wishing, therefore, to converse with you on this proposition;  to wit, to direct the collectors to advertise in their respective ports, that all persons desiring the benefit of that law, must immediately deliver to him a statement of the place where they have property, its amount, whether cash or goods, and what kind of goods, and in whose hands, on oath, but without exhibiting other proofs till further called on.  These particulars may be stated in a tabular view;  for cash we might authorize vessels to go immediately, but for goods rules must be framed on a view of all circumstances.

With respect to the constitution of the act, there are cases in the books where the word "may" has been adjudged equivalent to "shall," but the term "is authorized," unless followed by "and required," was, I think, never so considered.  On the contrary, I believe it is the very term which Congress always use toward the executive when they mean to give a power to him, and leave the use of it to his discretion.

It is the very phrase on which there is now a difference in the House of Representatives, on the bill for raising 6,000 regulars, which says "there shall be raised," and some desire it to say "the President is authorized to raise," leaving him the power with a discretion to use it or not.  It is to be observed also that the one construction puts it in the power of individuals to defeat the embargo in a great measure, while the other leaves a power to combine a due regard to the object of the law with the interests of individuals.  I like your idea of proportioning the tonnage of the vessel to the value (in some degree) of the property, but its bulk must also be taken into consideration.  On the whole, I should be for giving prompt permission to bring home money, because one vessel will bring for all those who have cash at the same port;  but the bringing property in other forms, will require a fuller view and digest of rules.  Affectionate salutations.

TO Wilson Cary Nicholas, Esq.
Washington, March 20, 1808.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 18th is duly received.  Be assured that I value no act of friendship so highly as the communicating facts to me, which I am not in the way of knowing otherwise, and could not therefore otherwise guard against.  I have had too many proofs of your friendship not to be sensible of the kindness of these communications, and to receive them with peculiar obligation.  The receipt of Mr. Rose’s answer has furnished the happiest occasion for me to present to Congress a complete view of the ground on which we stand with the two principal belligerents, and, with respect to France, to lay before them, for the public, every communication received from that government since the last session, including those heretofore sent, in order that they also may be published, and let our constituents see whether these papers gave just ground for the falsehoods which have been so impudently advanced.  We shall hope to see you today. Affectionate salutations.

To Doctor Caspar Wistar.
Washington, March 20, 1808.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 12th is received.  Congress, I think, will rise in about three weeks,—say about the 11th of April, and I shall leave this five or six days after, on a visit of some length to Monticello. This illy accords with your journey to the westward in May;  but can you not separate your excursion to this place from the western journey ?  Between Philadelphia and this place is but two days, and the roads are already fine.  I would propose, therefore, that you should come a few days before Congress rises so as to satisfy that article of your curiosity.  The bones are spread in a large room, where you can work at your leisure, undisturbed by any mortal, from morning till night, taking your breakfast and dinner with us.  It is a precious collection, consisting of upwards of three hundred bones, few of them of the large kinds which are already possessed.  There are four pieces of the head, one very clear, and distinctly presenting the whole face of the animal.  The height of his forehead is most remarkable.  In this figure, the indenture at the eye gives a prominence of six inches to the forehead.  There are four jaw-bones tolerably entire, with several teeth in them, and some fragments;  three tusks like elephants;  one ditto totally different, the largest probably ever seen, being now from nine to ten feet long, though broken off at both ends;  some ribs;  an abundance of teeth studded, and also of those of the striated or ribbed kind;  a fore-leg complete;  and then about two hundred small bones, chiefly of the foot.  This is probably the most valuable part of the collection, for General Clarke, aware that we had specimens of the larger bones, has gathered up everything of the small kind.  There is one horn of a colossal animal.  The bones which came do not correspond exactly with General Clarke’s description;  probably there were some omissions of his packers.  Having sent my books to Monticello, I have nothing here to assist you but the Encyclopedie Methodique.  I hope you will make this a separate excursion;  and come before Congress rises, whenever it best suits you.  I salute you with friendship and respect.

To the Democratic Citizens of the County of Adams, Pennsylvania.
Washington, March 20, 1808.

I see with pleasure, fellow-citizens, in your address of February 15th, a sound recurrence to the first principles on which our government is founded;  an examination by that test of the rights we possess, and the wrongs we have suffered;  a just line drawn between a wholesome attention to the conduct of rulers, and a too ready censure of that conduct on every unfounded rumor;  between the love of peace, and the determination to meet war, when its evils shall be less intolerable than the wrongs it is meant to correct.  With so just a view of principles and circumstances, your approbation of my conduct, under the difficulties which have beset us on every side, is doubly valued by me, and offers high encouragement to a perseverance in my best endeavors for the preservation of your peace, so long as it shall be consistent with the preservation of your rights.  When this ceases to be practicable, I feel entire confidence in the arduous exertions which you pledge in support of the measures which may be called for by the exigencies of the times, and in the known energies and enterprise of our countrymen in whatsoever direction they are pointed.  If these energies are embodied by an union of will, and by a confidence in those who direct it, our nation, so favored in its situation, has nothing to fear from any quarter.  To that union of effort may our citizens ever rally, minorities falling cordially, on the decision of a question, into the ranks of the majority, and bearing always in mind that a nation ceases to be republican only when the will of the majority ceases to be the law.  I thank you, fellow-citizens, for the solicitude you kindly express for my future welfare.  A retirement from the exercise of my present charge is equally for your good and my own happiness.  Gratitude for a p St favors, and affectionate concern for the liberty and prosperity of my fellow-citizens, will cease but with life to animate my breast.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, March 23, 1808.

It is a maxim of our municipal law, and, I believe,  of universal law, that he who permits the end, permits of course the means, without which the end cannot be effected.  The law permitting rum, molasses, and sugar, to be imported from countries which have not packages for them, would be construed in the most rigorous courts to permit them to be carried.  They would consider the restriction to ballast and provisions as a restriction to necessaries, and merely equivalent to a declaration that they shall carry out nothing for sale.

This is certainly one object of the law, and-the second is to import the property;  and to these objects all constructions of it should be directed.  I have no doubt, therefore, that Messrs.  Low and Wallace, and others, should be allowed to carry out the necessary and sufficient packages.  But a right to take  care that the law is not evaded, allows us to prescribe  that kind of package which can be best guarded against fraud.  Boxes ready made could not, perhaps, be so easily probed, to discover if they contained nothing for exportation.  Casks filled. with water can be easily sounded from the bunghole. if you think, therefore, that one kind of package is safer than another, it may be prescribed; for that nothing for sale shall be exported is as much the object of the law, as that their property shall be imported.  Reasonable attention is due to each object.  Affectionate salutations.

To Monsieur le Vavasseur.
Washington, March 23, 1808.


I am sensible of the extraordinary ingenuity and merit of the work which you offer to the acquisition of our government.  It would certainly be an ornament to any country.  But with such an immense extent of country before us, wanting common improvement to render it productive, the United States have not thought the moment as yet arrived when it would be wise in them to divert their funds to objects less pressing;  no law has yet authorized acquisitions of this character.  The idea of rendering the Greek and Latin languages living, has certainly some captivating points.  The experiment has, I believe, been tried in Europe as to the Latin language, but with what degree of success I am not precisely informed.  I suppose it very possible to reform. the language of the modern Greeks to the ancient standard, and that this may one day take place.  But in our infant country objects more urgent force themselves on our attention, and call for the aid of all our means.  These peculiarities of our situation deprive us of the advantage of availing our country of propositions which, in a more advanced stage of improvement, might be entitled to consideration.

Permit me to tender my salutations, and assurances of respect.

To Levi Lincoln.
Washington, March 23, 1808.

Dear Sir

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, everything respecting our relations with England and France, which will effectually put down Mr. Pickering, and his worthy coadjutor Mr. 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 seaport 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.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, March 26, 1808.

Mr. Madison happening to call on me just now, I consulted him on the subject of Hoffman’s letter.  We both think that it would be neither just nor expedient that the supplies necessary to the existence of the Indians should be cut off from them; and that if no construction of the embargo law will permit the passage of their commerce, and if that law could, and did intend to control the treaty, (the last of which is hardly to be believed,) then an amendment should be asked of Congress.  I have no copy of the law by me, and indeed am too unwell for very close exercise of the mind.  Affectionate salutations.

To Charles Pinckney.
Washington, March 30, 1808.

Dear Sir

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 meantime, 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 anything to fear, it will be after that.  Nothing should be spared from this moment in putting our militia in the best condition possible, and procuring arms.  I hope, that this summer, we shall get our whole seaports 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 getting on well with your defensive works.  We shall be able by mid-summer, to give you a sufficient number of gunboats to protect Charleston from any vessel 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.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, March 31, 1808.

If, on considering the doubts I shall suggest, you shall still think your draught of a supplementary embargo law sufficient, in its present form, I shall be satisfied it is so, for I have but one hour in the morning in which I am capable of thinking, and that is too much crowded with business to give me time to think.

1. Is not the first paragraph against the Constitution, which says no preference shall be given to the ports of one State over those of another ?  You might put down those parts as ports of entry, if that could be made to do.

2. Could not your second paragraph be made to answer by making it say that no clearance shall be furnished to any vessel laden with provisions or lumber, to go from one port to another of the United States, without special permission, etc.  In that case we might lay down rules for the necessary removal of provisions and lumber, inland, which should give no trouble to the citizens, but refuse licenses for all coasting transportation of those articles but on such applications from a Governor as may ensure us against any exportation but for the consumption of his State.  Portsmouth, Boston, Charleston, and Savannah, are the only ports which cannot be supplied inland.  I should like to prohibit collections, also, made evidently for clandestine importation.

3. I would rather strike out the words "in conformity with treaty" in order to avoid any express recognition at this day of that article of the British treaty.  It has been so flagrantly abused as to excite the Indians to war against us, that I should have no hesitation in declaring it null, as soon as we see means of supplying the Indians ourselves.

I should have no objections to extend the exception to the Indian furs purchased by our traders and sent into Canada.  Affectionate salutes.

To Robert Smith.
Washington, April 1, 1808.

I approve of your letter to Commodore Murray entirely, and in order to settle what shall be our course for the summer (now that we are tolerably clear, that no rupture with England is likely to take place during the summer), I propose, the first day that I can be well enough, for a couple of hours to ask a meeting of our colleagues to determine these questions.

Shall the proclamation be renewed or suffered to  expire ?

Shall the harbors of ordinary British resort (say New York, Lynhaven, and Charleston) be furnished with their full quota of gunboats, with their navigating crews ?

Shall the residue of the 170 gunboats be distributed among the other ports, with their navigating crews, or I be laid up or left on their stocks ?

Shall the frigates and Wasp be unmanned ?

Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 2, 1808.


On the amendments to the embargo law, I am perfectly satisfied with whatever you have concluded on after consideration of the subject.  My view was only to suggest for your consideration not having at all made myself acquainted with the details of that law.  I therefore return you your bill, and wish it to be proposed.  I will this day nominate Elmer.  The delegates of North Carolina expect daily to receive information on the subject of a Marshal.  Is the Register’s office at New Orleans vacant ?  Claiborne says it is, and strongly recommends Robertson the Secretary.  He will be found one of the most valuable men we have brought into the public service for integrity, talents and amiability.  Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 8, 1808.

I suppose that Favre can carry his necessary provisions from New Orleans across the lake in a periagua or some other vessel, which may come under the exception of vessels under the immediate direction of the President, and that being an agent of the United States for the transmission of public intelligence, such a license is perfectly legitimate.  If this were a matter of doubt, its solution would be to be sought in the intention of the Legislature, which was to keep our seamen and property from capture, and to starve the offending nations.  But Favre is our own agent, and we may as well remit provisions to him as money to our foreign agents.  It appears to me to be so clearly out of the scope of the prohibitions of the embargo law, and within its exceptions, that I should be for allowing him to take out his provisions for his family, under the superintendence of the Collector.  Affectionate salutations.

To John Jacob Astor.
Washington, April 13, 1808.


I have regretted the delay of this answer to your letter of February 27th, but it has proceeded from circumstances which did not depend on me.  I learn with great satisfaction the disposition of our merchants to form into companies for undertaking the Indian trade within our own territories.  I have been taught to believe it an advantageous one for the individual adventurers, an I consider it as highly desirable to have that trade centered in the hands of our own citizens.  The field is immense, and would occupy a vast extent of capital by different companies engaging in different districts.  All beyond the Mississippi is ours exclusively, and it will be in our power to give our own traders great advantages over their foreign competitors on this side the Mississippi.  You may be assured that in order to get the whole of this business passed into the hands of our own citizens, and to oust foreign traders, who so much abuse their privilege by endeavoring to excite the Indians to war on us, every reasonable patronage and facility in the power of the Executive will be afforded.  I salute you with respect.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 14, 1808.

I should think Mr. Woodside’s application to send provisions for the family of our consul at Madeira, admissible on the same ground as that lately to Favre, were the necessity as evident, but, I suppose it can hardly be doubted that England will procure. provisions for that island, and there is danger of one precedent in our relaxations begetting another till we may get out of the limits of the law and its object.

The application for the establishment of a packet on Lake Champlain cannot be admitted.  Such an establishment is by no means within the description of those which we have proposed to license; it would give too great a facility to evade the law, and the builder is in no worse situation than the any others in who began their vessels before the embargo law, and who will not be permitted to use them till that is repeated.  Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 19, 1808.

Dear Sir

Sincerely sympathizing in your distress, which much experience in the same school has taught me to estimate, I could not have been induced to intrude on it by anything short of the urgency of the case stated by Penniman on Lake Champlain.  Messrs.  Robinson and Witherall tell me the whole of the business will be over early in May, when the fall of the water renders the rapids impassable for rafts.  They think vessels of any kind desired, can be had on the Lake at a moment’s warning, and guns of 6 lbs. ball, there also, mounted on them by procurement of the collector, and that the governor would order any assistance of militia on being written to.  Believing it important to crush every example of forcible opposition to the law, I propose to ask the other gentlemen to a consultation immediately, and for their and my guide have to request any ideas on the subject which you can hastily give me on paper, for which I would not have troubled you, but from a confidence that your knowledge of the character and means possessed by the collector there, and of the local circumstances to be attended to, may enable us to decide on what will be most proper and effectual.  I salute you with affection.

P.S. Return me Penniman’s letter if you please, to lay before the gentlemen.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 19, 1808.

We have concluded as follows :

1st.  That a letter from your department to the collector on Lake Champlain, shall instruct him to equip and arm what vessels he can and may think necessary, and luggage as many persons on board them as may be necessary, and can be engaged voluntarily by force of arms, or otherwise, to enforce the law.

2d. the Secretary of State writes to the Marshal, if the opposition to the law is too powerful for the collector, to raise his posse, (which, as a peace officer, he is fully authorized to do on any forcible breach of the peace,) and to aid in suppressing the insurrection or combination.

3d. The Secretary at War desires the Governor, if the posse is inadequate, to publish a proclamation with which he is furnished, and to call on the militia.  He is further, by a private letter, requested to repair to the place, and lend the aid of his counsel and authority according to exigencies.

We have further determined to build two gunboats at Skanesborough.  Affectionate salutations.

P.S. General Dearborn has Penniman’s letter to copy for the Governor.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 22, 1808.

Did I lend you the Pennsylvania act permitting our Western road to pass through that State ?  If I did, or if you have a copy of it, I shall be very glad to see it.  Mr. Hodge gave me notice yesterday that there would be legal opposition to that road’s passing in any other direction than through Washington, their construction being, that if in fact a good road can be got by Washington, the law obliges me to direct it through that;  and they have got a survey made on which they affirm the fact to be that a good road may be had.  I know my determination was not to yield to the example of a State’s prescribing the direction of the road;  and I understood the law as leaving the route ultimately to me.  If I have misconstrued the law, I shall be sorry for the money spent on a misconstruction, but that loss will be a lesser evil to the United States than a single example of yielding to a State the direction of a road made at the national expense and for national purposes. if you have not the law, I must write by this day’s post to Mr. Moore, to suspend all further Proceedings till we can see whether we are really at liberty to pursue the route we have proposed, or must adopt another which shall not enter the State of Pennsylvania.

Affectionate salutations.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 23, 1808.

My ideas on the questions relative to the active letter of Marque stated in your letter of yesterday, are as follows :

1st.  Letters of Marque have been considered, ever since the decisions of 1703, to be of a mixed character, but that the commercial character predominates;  and as a commercial vessel of private property we have in some cases since the proclamation of July, considered them as not included in its restrictions.

2d.  The law of 1794, June 5th, certainly exempts the enlistment of foreigners in this country on board the vessels of their sovereign, from the penalties of that law, and leaves the subject merely under the law of nations.  By that law the right of enlistment in a neutral country, given to both belligerents if they can devise equal advantage from it, is no breach of neutrality, but otherwise becomes questionable.  We may, justly, I think, permit a vessel of either nation to supply its desertions by new engagements;  but we should be cautious as to permitting them to increase their number, to carry away more than they brought in.

3d. It is difficult to draw a line between the two cases where the collector should consult the government, and where the district attorney.  Where a case is political, rather than legal, or where it a-rises even on a law whose object is rather political than municipal, the government should be consulted;  and where the district attorney is the proper resort, still it should be on consultation by the collector, and not by the party interested.  Affectionate salutations.

To the Secretary of State (James Madison).
Washington, April 23, 1808.

Notes on the British claims in the Mississippi territory.

1803, March 3d, act of Congress gave to March 31, 1804, to exhibit their claims on grants.

1804, March 27, act of Congress gave to November 30, 1804, and allowed transcripts instead of originals, etc.

1805, March 2d, act of Congress gave to December 1, 1805, to file their grants.  And in fact to Jan. 1, 1807, time when the sale might begin.

1807, December 15, the British claimants memorialize again.

On no one of the acts did the British claimant take any step towards specifying his claim or its location, but remained inactive till the time was expired, and then remonstrated to his government that we had not given them time sufficient.  And on the last of 1805, instead of having come forward with his claims, ready to avail himself of the third term which was then to be asked, and which was granted nominally to December 1, 1805, but in effect to January 1, 1807, he stays at home inactive, and on the 15th of December, 1807, again gives in a memorial that we have not given time enough, but still takes no step to inform us what and where his claim is.

Although these titles may have been confirmed by treaty, yet they could not thereby be intended to be withdrawn from the jurisdiction or conditions on which lands are held even by citizens.  It is evident that these claimants are speculators, whose object is to make what profit they can out of the patronage of the government, but to make no sacrifice of themselves either of money or trouble.  They are entitled, therefore, to no further notice from either government.  However, Mr. Erskine may be informed verbally, that as the day of commencing sales of lands there is now put off to January 1, 1809, if any of these claimants will, before that day, file their claim, with its precise location, the executive is authorized to suspend the sale of any particular parcels, and will as to that, till the proper authority can decide on the title, but that the settlement of that country in general, is too pressing to be delayed one day by claims under the circumstances of these.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, April 23, 1808.

The leading object of the enclosed application from the owners of the Topaz, is to send witnesses and documents to save the property of the ship and cargo seized.  But as the Topaz would be insufficient to bring home the whole property if cleared, the permission of sending a vessel may be on the ordinary ground of bringing home the property.  But do the restrictions of the embargo laws (for I have them not) inhibit the passing from port to port as proposed in the enclosed ?  And do they admit, (in case the Topaz and her cargo are condemned,) that the vessel sent out should bring home other property to cover the expenses of the ineffectual voyage ?  On these questions I must ask your opinion, as General Smith will call on me tomorrow.  The questions had been brought to me originally by Mr. Taylor, because he happened to, come at a moment when you were confined.  Affectionate salutes.

To Caesar A. Rodney.
Washington, April 24, 1808.

Thomas Jefferson returns the enclosed to Mr. Rodney, with thanks for the communication.  It is very evident that our embargo, added to the exclusions from the Continent, will be most heavily felt in England and Ireland.  Liverpool is remonstrating, and endeavoring to get the other posts into motion.  Yet the bill confirming the orders of council is ordered to a third reading, which shows it will pass.  Congress has just passed an additional embargo law, on which if we act as boldly as I am disposed to do, we can make it effectual.  I think the material parts of the enclosed should be published.  It will show our people that while the embargo gives us double rations, it is starving our enemies.  This six months’ session has worn me down to a state of almost total incapacity for business.  Congress will certainly rise to-morrow night, and I shall leave this for Monticello on the 5th of May, to be here again on the 8th of June.  I salute you with constant affection and respect.

To Colonel William A. Washington.
Washington, April 24, 1808.

Dear Sir

So uncertain has been the situation of our affairs with England, and yet so much bearing would they have on those with the Indians, that I have delayed answering your favor of October 5th until I could see a little way before me.  At present I think a continuance of our peace till the next meeting of Congress (November) probable.  I have now. addressed a message to the Indians in the northwest, in I which I inform them of our differences with England, and of the uncertainty how they will issue.  Assure them of the continuance of our friendship, and advise them in any event to remain quiet at home, taking no part in our quarrel, and declaring unequivocally that if any nation takes up the hatchet against us, we will drive them from the land of their fathers, and never more permit their return.  With respect to the prophet, I really believe the opinion you formed of his views is correct.  But we have heard so many different stories since, that we are awaiting some information which we expect to receive before we make up a definitive o inion.  This much, however, we determine;  and he might know that if we  become dissatisfied that his views are friendly, we shall extend to him all the patronage and good offices in our power, and shall establish a store in his new settlement; and particularly if we find him endeavoring to reform the morality of the Indians, and encourage them in industry and peace, we shall do what we can to render his influence as extensive as possible.  I had been in hopes that a change in the British ministry, would have produced a revocation of the orders of council, which called for our embargo, and an European peace, so as to have removed all danger of our being dragged into the war.  But our advices to the 14th of March show they still retained a good majority in Parliament.  Should they continue in office, our peace will continue uncertain.  Accept my salutations, and assurances of great esteem and respect.

To the Secretary of the Treasury (Albert Gallatin).
Washington, April 30, 1808.

Case of the Fleusburg.

Our laws permit a foreigner to hold any property in our country, except lands.  A foreigner may contract for a ship to be built for him, so that she will be his from the time of laying the keel;  or he may contract so as that she wall be his only when launched, or when rigged, etc.  The act of delivery to him or his agents fixes, in that case, the moment when she becomes his property.  If the Fleusburg was delivered to the agent of the Danish merchant, by such an act of delivery as by our laws will transfer personal property, before the 22d of December, she was then Danish property.  The statement says that a bill of building and sale, dated December 10th, proved her to be then Danish property.  If the collector shall find that she was actually Danish property before December 22d, I should think her entitled as a foreign vessel.  I suppose she did not take out an American register.  This would be corroborative proof that, though built in America, she was not meant to be, nor ever became, an American bottom;  for I presume the register is what completes the American bottom.  The matter of fact should be proved to the collector.

Rhode Island Packets.

The pretension that the navigation from Newport to New York is entirely a navigation of rivers, bays, and sounds, would take from language all kind of certainty.  There is not one point of the coast of Rhode Island, from which a perpendicular line does not lead into the main ocean.  A very small proportion of these would lead across Block Island.  But to say that Block Island covers the whole coast from Martha’s Vineyard to Long Island, so as to make it a Sound, is too gross for any one who casts his eyes on the maps.  The difference of regulation, too, between bay-craft and coasting vessels, since the act of April 25th, is very inconsiderable.

To General Henry Dearborn.
Washington, April 29, 1808.

Thomas Jefferson will thank General Dearborn to consider the enclosed.  The writer appears to have that sincere enthusiasm for his undertaking which will ensure success.  The education of the common people around Detroit is a most desirable object, and the proposition of extending their views to the teaching the Indian boys and girls to read and write, agriculture and mechanic trades to the former, spinning and weaving to the latter, may perhaps be acceded to by us advantageously for the Indians, and the bounties paid for them be an aid to the other objects of the institution.  Affectionate salutations.

To the Secretary of State (James Madison).
Washington, April 30, 1808.

Notes on such parts of Fronda’s letter of April 26th, 1808, as are worth answering :—

I.  I know of no recent orders to Governor Claiborne as to the navigation of the Mississippi, Uberville, and Pontchartrain;  he should specify them, but he may be told that no order has ever been given contrary to the rights of Spain.  These rights are, 1st, a treaty right that "the ships of Spain coming directly from Spain or her colonies, loaded only with the produce or manufactures of Spain or her colonies, shall be admitted during the space of twelve years in the ports of New Orleans, and in all other legal ports of entry within the ceded territory, in the same manner as the ships of the United States, etc. 2d. A right of innocent passage from the mouth of the Mississippi to 31° of latitude, exactly commensurate with our right of innocent passage up the rivers of Florida to 31° of latitude.

II.  In answer to his question whether we consider Mobile among the ports of the United States, he may be told that so long as we consider the question whether the Perdido is not the eastern boundary of Louisiana, as continuing in a train of amicable proceedings for adjustment, so long that part only of the river Mobile, which is above 31° of latitude, will be considered among the ports of the United States, withholding the exercise of jurisdiction on our part within the disputed territory, on the general principle of letting things remain in status quo pendente lite.  There is nothing else in this letter worth answering.

To William Lyman, Esq.
Washington, April 30, 1808.


Your favor of the 11th of July came to hand  a little before the meeting of Congress, and soon after I received the apparatus for stylographic writing, which you were so kind as to send me, for which I pray you to receive my particular thanks.

The invention is certainly very ingenious, and while it compares advantageously with all others in other circumstances, it has an unrivalled preference as being so much more profitable.  I had never heard of the invention till your letter announced it, for these novelties reach us very late, which renders your attentions on the occasion more acceptable, and more entitled to the acknowledgments which I now tender.  The decrees and orders of the belligerent nations having amounted nearly to declarations that they would take our vessels wherever found, Congress thought it best in the first instance to break off all intercourse with them.  They adjourned on Monday last, having passed an act authorizing me to suspend the embargo whenever the belligerents should revoke their decrees or orders as to us. The embargo must continue, therefore, till they meet again in November, unless the measures of the belligerents should change.  When they meet again, if these decrees and orders still continue, the question which they will have to decide will be, whether a continuance of the embargo or war will be preferable.  In the meantime great advances are making in the establishment of manufactures.  Those of cotton will, I think, be so far proceeded on, that we shall never again have to recur to the importation of cotton goods for our own use.  I tender you my salutations, and the assurances of my great respect.

To General John Armstrong.
Washington, May 2, 1808.

Dear General

A safe conveyance offering by a special messenger to Paris, I avail myself of it to bring up my arrears to my foreign correspondents.  I give them the protection of your cover, but to save the trouble of your attention to their distribution, I give them an inner cover to Mr. Harden, whose attentions heretofore have encouraged me to ask this favor of him.  But should he not be with you, I must pray you to open my packages to him, and have them distributed, as it is of importance that some of them should be delivered without delay.  I shall say nothing to you on the subject of our foreign relations, because you will get what is official on that subject from Mr. Madison.

During the present paroxysm of the insanity of Europe, we have thought it wisest to break off all intercourse with her.  We shall, in the course of this year, have all our seaports, of any note, put into a state of defence against naval attacks.  Against great land armies we cannot attempt it but by equal armies.  For these we must depend on a classified Militia, which will give us the service of the class from twenty to twenty-six, in the nature of conscripts, composing a body of about 250,000, to be specially trained.  This measure, attempted at a former session, was passed at the last, and might, I think, have been carried by a small majority.  But considering that great innovations should not be forced on a slender majority, and seeing that the general opinion is sensibly rallying to it, it was thought better to let it lie over to the next session, when, I trust, it will be passed.  Another measure has now twice failed, which I have warmly urged, the immediate settlement by donation of lands, of such a body of militia in the territories of Orleans and Mississippi, as will be adequate to the defence of New Orleans.  We are raising some regulars in addition to our present force, for garrisoning our seaports, and forming a nucleus for the militia to gather to.  There will be no question who is to be my successor.  Of this be assured, whatever may be said by newspapers and private correspondences.  Local considerations have been silenced by those dictated by the continued difficulties of the times.  One word of friendly request: be more frequent and full in your communications with us.  I salute you with great friendship and respect.

To General Thaddeus Kosciusko.
Washington, May 2, 1808.

My Very Dear General

A safe conveyance offering by a special messenger to Paris, Mr. Barnes          has requested me to avail you of it, by sending a remittance of a thousand dollars, for which a draught is under cover.  I shall not write to you on the subject of our foreign relations, because of the dangers by sea and the dangers by land.  During the present paroxysm of the insanity of Europe, we have thought it wisest to break off all intercourse with her.  We shall, in the course of this year, have all our seaports of any note put into a state of defence against naval attacks.  Against great land armies we cannot attempt it but by equal armies.  For these we must depend on a classified militia, which will give us the service of the class from twenty to twenty-six, in the nature of conscripts, composing a body of about 250,000, to be specially trained.  This measure, attempted at a former session, was passed at the last, and might, I think, have been carried by a small majority;  but considering that great innovations should not be forced on slender majorities, and seeing that the public opinion is sensibly rallying to it, it was thought better to let it lie over to the next session, when I trust it will be passed.  Another measure has now twice failed, which I have warmly urged, the immediate settlement by donation of lands of such a body of militia in the territories of Orleans and Mississippi, as will be adequate to the defence of New Orleans.  We are raising some regulars in addition to our present force, for garrisoning our seaports, and forming a nucleus for the militia to gather to.  There will be no question who, is to be my successor.  Of this be assured, whatever may be said by newspapers and private correspondences;  local considerations have been silenced by those dictated by the continued difficulties of the times.  I salute you with sincere and constant friendship and great respect.

To Robert Smith.
Washington, May 3, 1808.

I enclose you a petition from a woman (Mary Barnett) who complains that her son of thirteen years of age, is detained against her will in the naval military service.  Having never before received an application of the kind in that department, I know not what are the rules there.  But in the land service we have had many cases of enlistments of infants, and there the law is considered to be, and our practice in conformity, as follows :  An infant is considered as incapable of binding himself by enlistment, and may at any time be reclaimed by a parent, guardian, next friend, or may quit of his own accord, on complaint from a parent, etc.  We direct the officer to inquire into the fact of infancy, and if he believes him under age he discharges him.  If he believes him of full age, we advise the parent, etc., that he may take out a Habeas Corpus, and have the fact tried before an impartial judge :  if enlisted with the consent of the parent, etc., it must be by indentures as prescribed by law for an apprentice or servant, this being the only mode of obligation in which the law will compel specific execution.  In case of a verbal or a common written subscription of engagement, even with consent of the parent, damages only can be recovered for withdrawing from, it.  I presume the rules in the Navy Department must be the same, as we must conform ourselves to the law in all departments.  I directed the woman to call on me again to-morrow.  Will you be so good as to enable me to give her an answer ?  Affectionate salutations.

To Governor Daniel D. Tompkins.
Washington, May 4, 1808.


I duly received your favor of April 18th, covering an act of the legislature of New York, appropriating $100,000 to aid and expedite the defence of the city and port of New York, and $20,000 to aid in, and contribute to, the defence of the northern and western frontiers, and expressing a desire to receive an opinion on the application of those sums.

In carrying into execution the provisions of Congress, at their last session, for fortifying our ports and harbors, we shall distribute the means put into our hands on a just view of the relative importance of the places, combined with their degree of exposure, and capability of defence, and in such way as to require a moderate permanent force of regulars, relying much, in case of sudden attack, on the aid of the militia.  Among the objects of our care, New York stands foremost in the points of importance and exposure;  and, if permitted, we shall provide such defences for it as, in our opinion, will render it secure against attacks by sea.  The particulars of what is proposed to be done can be made known to you by Colonel Williams;  as it is probable these may not comprehend everything which the anxieties of the citizens. might think of service in their defence, I suggest for your consideration, the idea of applying the fund appropriated to this object, by your legislature, to such supplementary provisions as in your judgment might be necessary to render ours adequate to fulfil the views and confidence of your citizens. Of this however, you are the best judge.  But I cannot omit to urge that no time should be lost in deciding on so much of the plan proposed by the Secretary of War, as depends on a cession from the State authorities.

It appears to me that it would be well to have a post on the Saint Lawrence, as near our line as a commanding position could be found, that it might afford some cover for our most advanced inhabitants.  But if a rupture takes place now, such a post would too soon lose all its value, to be worth building at this time.  It is only in the event of a solid accommodation with Great Britain, and their retaining their present possessions, that it Aught become worthy of attention.  I do not know that the $20,000 appropriated by the State of New York, "to aid in, and contribute to, the defence of the northern and western frontiers," could be better applied than as supplementary to our provisions in this quarter also.  We cannot, for instance, deliver out our arms to the militia, until called into the field.  Yet it would be a great security had every militia man on these frontiers a good musket in his hands.  However, here again your Excellency is the best judge, and I have hazarded these ideas as to the application of the appropriations, only on the wish you expressed that I would do it, and on my own desire to interchange ideas with, frankness, and without reserve with those charged, in common with myself, with the public interests.  I beg leave to tender you the assurances of my high esteem and respect.

To the Prince Regent of Portugal.
Washington, May 5, 1808.

Great and Good Friend

Having learnt the safe arrival of your Royal Highness at the city of Rio Janeiro, I perform with pleasure the duty of offering you my sincere congratulations- by Mr. Hill, a respected citizen of the United States, who is specially charged with the delivery of this letter.

I trust that this event will be as propitious to the prosperity of your faithful subjects as to the happiness of your Royal Highness, in which the United States of America have ever taken a lively interest.  Inhabitants, now of the same land, of that great continent which the genius of Columbus has given to the world, the United States feel sensibly that they stand in new and closer relations with your Royal Highness, and that the motives which heretofore nourished the friendly relations which have so happily prevailed, have acquired increased strength on the transfer of your residence to their own shores.  They see in prospect, a system of intercourse between the different regions of this hemisphere of which the peace and happiness of mankind may be the essential principle.  To this principle your long-tried adherence, for the benefit of those you governed, in the midst of warring powers, is a pledge to the new world that its peace, its free and friendly intercourse, will be your chief concern.  On the part of the United States I assure you, that these which have hitherto been their ruling objects, will be most particularly cultivated with your Royal Highness and your subjects at Brazil, and they hope that that country so favored by the gifts of nature, now advanced to a station under your immediate auspices, will find, in the interchange of mutual wants and supplies, the true aliment of an unchanging friendship with the United States of America.

I pray to God, great and good friend, that in your new abode you may enjoy health, happiness, and the affections of your people, and that He will always have you in His safe and holy keeping.

Done at Washington, etc.

To the Governors of New Orleans, Georgia, South Carolina, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Washington, May 6, 1808.


The evasions of the preceding embargo laws went so far towards defeating their objects, and chiefly by vessels clearing out coast-wise, that Congress, by their act of April 25th, authorized the absolute detention of all vessels bound coast-wise with cargoes exciting suspicions of an intention to evade those laws.  There being few towns on our seacoast which cannot be supplied with flour from their interior country, shipments of flour become generally suspicious and proper subjects of detention.  Charleston is one of the few places on our seaboard which need supplies of flour by sea for its own consumption.  That it may not suffer by the cautions we are obliged to use, I request of your Excellency, whenever you deem it necessary that your present or any future stock should be enlarged, to take the trouble of giving your certificate in favor of any merchant in whom you have confidence, directed to the collector of any port, usually exporting flour, from which he may choose to bring it, for any quantity which you may deem necessary for consumption beyond your interior supplies, enclosing to the Secretary of the Treasury at the same time a duplicate of the certificate as a check on the falsification of your signature.  In this way we may secure a supply of the real wants of our citizens, and at the same time prevent those wants from being made a cover for the crimes against their country which unprincipled adventurers are in the habit of committing.  I trust, too, that your Excellency will find an apology for the trouble I propose to give you, in that desire which you must feel in common with all our worthy citizens, that inconveniences encountered cheerfully by them for the interests of their country, shall not be turned merely to unlawful profits of the most worthless part of society.  I salute your Excellency with assurances of my high respect and consideration.

To Albert Gallatin.
Washington, May 6, 1808.

In the outset of the business of detentions, I think it impossible to form precise rules.  After a number of cases shall have arisen they may probably be thrown into groups and subjected to rules.  The great leading object of the Legislature was, and ours in execution of it ought to be, to give complete effect to the embargo laws.  They have bidden agriculture, commerce, navigation, to bow before that object, to be nothing when in competition with that.  Finding all their endeavors at general rules to be evaded, they finally gave us the power of detention as the panacea, and I am clear we ought to use it freely that we may, by a fair experiment, know the power of this great weapon, the embargo.  Therefore, to propositions to carry flour into the Chesapeake, the Delaware, the Hudson, and other exporting places, we should say boldly it is not wanted there for consumption, and the carrying it there is too suspicious to be permitted.  In consequence of the letters to the Governors of the flour-importing States, we may also say boldly that there being no application from the Governor is a proof it is not wanting in those States, and therefore must not be carried.  As to shuffling of cotton, tobacco, flax seed, etc., from one port to another, it may be some trifling advantage to individuals to change their property out of one form into another, but it is not of a farthing’s benefit to the nation at large, and risks their great object in the embargo.  The want of these at a particular place should be very notorious to the collector and others, to take off suspicion of illicit intentions.  Dry goods of Europe, coal, bricks, etc., are articles entirely without suspicion.  I hazard these things for your consideration, and I send you a copy of the letter to the Governors, which may be communicated in form to the collectors to strengthen the ground of suspicion.  You will be so good as to decide these cases yours elf, without forwarding them to me.  Whenever you are clear either way, so decide;  where you are doubtful, consider me as voting for detention, being satisfied that individuals ought to yield their private interests to this great public object.

To the Secretary of War, (Henry Dearborn). Monticello, May 12, 1808.

Dear Sir

My journey and two days’ detention on the road by high waters, gave me time to reflect on our canal at New Orleans, on which I will therefore hazard some thoughts.

I think it has been said that the Mississippi, at low water, is many feet lower opposite New Orleans than Lake Pontchartrain.  But the fact is impossible, being in contradiction to the laws of nature;  two beds of dead water connected with the same ocean, in vicinity to one another, must each be in the level of that ocean, and consequently of one another.  Although Pontchartrain receives the Amite and some other small streams, they probably do little more than supply its evaporation.  No doubt, however, that the lake must receive the small ebb and flow of the sea.  The Mississippi, on the contrary, even at its lowest tide, always flows downwards to and beyond its mouth;  it must, then, at New Orleans, be one, two, or three feet higher than the sea, and consequently than Pontchartrain.

If a simple canal were cut from that of Carondelet to the Mississippi without lock or gate, there would be two risks. 1. That in high water of the Mississippi the current would be too strong for a gunboat to ascend or descend.  This might perhaps be remedied by the, draught of horses. 2. The force of Correspondence55 such a current, (unless the whole canal were lined with brick or masonry,) might convert the canal into a bay, one of an unknown size, and involve New Orleans in it.

On the whole, I suspect our plan is pretty obvious :  suppose we want six feet water;  make a canal of that depth below the lowest ebb of Pontchartrain from the lake to where the lock is to be placed then bring a canal from the river to the lock, the depth of which shall be six feet below the lowest water of the Mississippi ever known;  at the back there will be a descent suppose of one, two or three feet, or any other number.  The lock remedies that.  If the lock were near the lake it would lessen the work by giving nearly the whole length to the shallowest canal, and it would probably be in a more tranquil and safe situation.  But it might be inconvenient, perhaps unsafe, to the sides of the Mississippi canal, to permit such a depth of water as would be in it, through its whole length, at the time of the high water of that river.  Of the best position 9 therefore, of the lock, the superintendent must judge on the spot, as he must indeed of the correctness of all the preceding conjectures, formed without a knowledge of the localities.  They are hazarded merely to give us some fixed notions of the nature of the enterprise, and are submitted to your consideration.  I salute you with affectionate respect.

To the Secretary of the Treasury (Albert Gallatin).
Monticello, May 15, 1808.

Dear Sir

I received yesterday the enclosed letter from a Mr. Wood, of New York.  I should suppose the fruits of Europe stood nearly on the ground of the dry goods of Europe, not tempting evasion by exorbitant prices, nor defeating the object of the embargo in any important degree, even if a deviation should take place.  I send it to yourself for decision and answer, in order that there may be an uniformity in the decisions.  I am really glad to find the collector so cautious, and hope others will be equally so, and I place immense value in the experiment being fully made, how far an embargo may be an effectual weapon in future as well as on this occasion.  I salute you with affection and respect.

P.S. Will you send me sixteen copies of my letters to the Governors of Orleans, Georgia, etc., which I think you proposed to have printed ?  I will enclose it to the other governors with explanations.

To the Secretary of the Treasury (Albert Gallatin).
Monticello, May 17, 1808.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 16th came to hand last night.  As the lead mines do not press in point of time, I would rather they should be the subject of a conversation on my return. It is not merely a question about the terms we have to consider, but the expediency of working them.  As to the Savannah revenue cutter, I approve of the proposition in your letter, or whatever else you may think proper to be done.  The regular traders to New Orleans may be admitted to go as usual, the characters of the owners being known to be safe, and provisions and lumber being excepted.  Cotton, perhaps, may be permitted to be brought back on the consideration that its price in Europe is not likely to be such as that the adventurers may afford to pay all the, forfeitures.  I presume Mr. Price’s, application, which I enclose you, will fall under this general permission.  Will you be so good as to have the proper answer given him?  If we change our rule of tonnage for Mr. Murray’s purpose, the next application will be for such a rate of tonnage as will allow them to bring back their. property in the form of hay.  General Dearborn has occasion to send a vessel to Passamaquoddy with cannon for the batteries, and perhaps provision for the troops, and has asked me to send him a blank license.  But as these licenses are not signed by me, I refer him to you for the necessary arrangements.

I shall sincerely lament Cuba’s falling into any hands but those of its present owners.  Spanish America is at present in the best hands for us, and "Chi sta bene, non si muove" should be our motto.  I salute you with affection.

To the Secretary of State (James Madison).
Monticello, May 19, 1808.

Dear Sir

I now return you the papers reserved  from the last post.  Our regular answer to Mr. Livingston may well be, that the Attorney General having given an official opinion that the right to the batture is in the United States, and the matter being now referred to Congress, it is our duty to keep the grounds clear of any adversary possession, until the Legislature shall decide on it.  I have carefully read Mr. Livingston’s printed memoir.  He has shaken my opinion as to the line within the road having been intended as a line of boundary instead of its being a line of admeasurement only.  But he establishes another fact by the testimony of Fendeau, very fatal to his claim;  to wit, that the high-water mark, "batture, ou viennent battre les eaux lorsqu elles sont dans leurs plus grandes croissants," is the universal boundary of private grants on the river.

Your observations on his allegations that Gravier’s grant must be under the Spanish law, because after the cession of the province by France to Spain, though before delivery of possession, are conclusive.  To which may be added, that Louis XIV. having established the Constumes de Paris as the law of Louisiana, this was not changed by the mere act of transfer;  on the contrary, the laws of France continued and continues to be the law of the land, except where specially altered by some subsequent edict of Spain or act of Congress.  He has not in the least shaken the doctrine that the bed of the river, and all the atterrissements or banks which arise on it by the depositions of the river, are the property of the King by a peculiarity in the law of France;  so that nothing quoted from those of Spain or the.  Roman law is of authority on that point.  Affectionate salutations.

To the Secretary of the Treasury (Albert Gallatin). Monticello, May 20, 1808.

Dear Sir

I return you the papers of Fanning, Lesdernier, and Sacket.  With respect to Fanning’s case, the true key for the construction of everything doubtful in a law, is the intention of the law-makers.  This is most safely gathered from the words, but may be sought also in extraneous circumstances, provided they do not contradict the express words of the law.  We certainly know. that the Legislature meant that vessels might go out to bring home property, but not to commence a new career of commerce.  The bringing home the property being the main object, if it be in an impracticable form, it expects the intention of the law to let it be commuted into a practicable form;  and so from an inconvenient to a convenient form.  To prevent any abuse of this accommodation, by entering into a new operation  of commerce with it, the discretionary permission is left to the President.  I think the conversion of the sandal wood into a more portable form in this case, is fulfilling the object of the law, and that it is immaterial whether that be done in the Friendly Islands, where the wood now is, or wherever by the way it can be better done. Consequently, that permission may be granted.  I hope you will spare no pains or expense to bring the rascals of Passamaquoddy to justice, and if more force be necessary, agree on the subject with General Dearborn or Mr. Smith, as to any aid they can spare, and let it go without waiting to consult me.  Let the successor to Sacket also be commissioned without waiting for my opinion, which will be yours.  Should a pardon be granted to Russell, I generally but not invariably require a recommendation from the judges.  I shall be ready to consider any propositions you may make for mitigating the embargo law of April 25th, but so only as not to defeat the object of the law.  I shall be ready to make a distinction between provisions, timber, naval stores, and such things, as by the exaggerated prices they have got to in foreign markets, would enable infactors to pay all forfeitures and still make great profit, and cotton and such other articles as have not got to such prices.  I am for going substantially to the object of the law, and no further;  perhaps a little more earnestly because it is the first expedient, and it is of great importance to know its full effect.          I salute you with constant affection and respect.

To the Secretary of War (Henry Dearborn). Monticello, May 20, 1808.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 14th came to hand yesterday.  I do not see that we can avoid agreeing to estimates made by worthy men of our own choice for the sites of fortifications, or that we could leave an important place undefended because too much is asked for the site.  And therefore, we must pay what the sites at Boston have been valued at.  At the same time I do not know on what principles of reasoning it is that good men think the public ought to pay more for a thing than they would themselves if they wanted it.  I salute you with affection and respect.

To General Benjamin Smith.
Monticello, May 20, 1808.


I return you my thanks for the communication by your letter of April 19th, of the resolutions of the Grand jury of Brunswick, approving of the embargo.  Could the alternative of war or the embargo have been presented to the whole nation, as it occurred to their representatives, there could have been but the one opinion that it was better to take the chance of one year by the embargo, within which the orders and decrees producing it may be repealed, or peace take place in Europe, which may secure peace to us.  How long the continuance of the embargo may be preferable to war, is a question we shall have to meet, if the decrees and orders and war continue.  I am sorry that in some places, chiefly on our northern frontier, a disposition even to oppose the law by force has been manifested.  In no country on earth is this so impracticable as in one where every man feels a vital interest in maintaining the authority of the laws, and instantly engages in it as in his own personal cause.  Accordingly, we have experienced this spontaneous aid of our good citizens in the neighborhoods where there has been occasion, as I am persuaded we ever shall on such occasions.  Through the body of our country generally our citizens appear heartily to approve and support the embargo.  I am also to thank you for the communication of the Wilmington proceedings, and I add my salutations and assurances of great respect.

To the Secretary of State (James Madison).
Monticello, May 24, 1808.

Dear Sir

* * * * * * * * * * *

What has been already said on the subject of Casa Calvo, Yrujo, Miranda, is sufficient, and that these should be seriously brought up again argues extreme weakness in Cavallos, or a plan to keep things unsettled with us.  But I think it would not be amiss to take him down from his high airs as to the right of the sovereign to hinder the upper inhabitants from the use of the Mobile, by observing, 1st, that we claim to be the sovereign, although we give time for discussion.  But 2d, that the upper inhabitants of a navigable water have always a right of innocent passage along it.  I think Cavallos will not probably be the minister when the letter arrives at Madrid, and that an eye to that circumstance may perhaps have some proper influence on the style of the letter, in which, if meant for himself, his hyperbolic airs might merit less respect.  I think too that the truth as to Pike’s mission might be so simply stated as to need no argument to show that (even during the suspension of our claims to the eastern border of the Rio Norte) his getting on it was mere error, which ought to have called for the setting him right, instead of forcing him through the interior country. [Sullivan’s letter.]  His view of things for some time past has been entirely distempered.

Cathcart’s, Ridgeley’s, Navour’s, Degen’s, Appleton’s, Lee’s, and Baker’s letters, are all returned.  I salute you with great affection and respect.

To General Dearborn
Monticello, May 25, 1808.

Dear Sir

There is a ubject on which I wished to speak with you before I left Washington;  but an apt occasion did not occur.  It is that of your continuance in office.  Perhaps it is as well to submit my thoughts to you by letter.  The present summer is too important in point of preparation, to leave your department unfilled, for any time, as I once thought might be done;  and it would be with extreme reluctance that, so near the time of my own retirement, I should proceed to name any high officer, especially one who must be of the intimate councils of my successor, and who ought of course to be in his unreserved confidence.  1 think too it would make an honorable close of your term as well as mine, to leave our country in a state of substantial defence, which we found quite unprepared for it.  Indeed, it would for me be a joyful annunciation to the next meeting of Congress, that the operations of defence are all complete.  I know that New York must be an exception; but perhaps even that may be closed before the 4th of March, when you and I might both make our bow with approbation and satisfaction.  Nor should I suppose that under present circumstances, anything interesting in your future office could make it important for you to repair to its immediate occupation.  In February my successor will be declared, and may then, without reserve, say whom he would wish me to nominate to the Senate in your place.  I submit these circumstances to your consideration, and wishing in all things to consult your interests, your fame and feelings, it will give me sincere joy to learn that you will "watch with me to the end."  I salute you with great affection and respect.

To Mr. Leiper.
Monticello, May 25, 1808.

Dear Sir

I received your favor of April 22d a little before I was to leave Washington, much engaged with despatching the business rendered necessary by the acts of Congress just risen, and preparatory to a short visit to this place.  Here again I have been engrossed with some attentions to my own affairs, after a long absence, added to the public business which presses on me here as at Washington.  I mention these things to apologize for the long delay of an answer to the address of the Democratic republicans of Philadelphia, enclosed in your letter, and which has remained longer unanswered than I wished.  I have been happy in my journey through the country to this place, to find the people unanimous in their preference of the embargo to war, and the great sacrifice they make, rendered a cheerful one from d sense of its necessity.

Whether the pressure on the throne from the suffering people of England, and of their Islands, the conviction of the dishonorable as well as dishonest character of their orders of council, the strength of their parliamentary opposition, and remarkable weakness of the defence of their ministry, will produce a repeal of these orders and cessation of our embargo, is yet to be seen.  To nobody will a repeal be so welcome as to myself.  Give us peace till our revenues are liberated from debt, and then, if war be necessary, it can be carried on without a new tax or loan, and during peace we may chequer our whole country with canals, roads, etc.  This is the object to which all our endeavors should be directed.  I salute you with great friendship and respect.

To the Secretary of the Treasury (Albert Gallatin).
Monticello, May 27, 1808.

Dear Sir

I received yesterday yours of the 23d, and now return you Woolsey’s and Astor’s letters.  I send you one also which I have received from a Mr. Thorne, on the evasions of the embargo on Lake Champlain.  The conduct of some of our officers there, and of some excellent citizens, has been very meritorious, and I will thank you to express any degree of approbation you think proper, in my name, for Captain Mayo.  Woolsey appears also to deserve assurances of approbation.  If you think Thorne’s suggestion of some militia at Point au Fer necessary and proper, be so good as to consult General Dearborn, who will give any order you and he approve.  With respect to the coasting trade, my wish is only to carry into full effect the intentions of the embargo laws.  I do not wish a single citizen in any of the States to be deprived of a meal of bread, but I set down the exercise of commerce, merely for profit, as nothing when it carries with it the danger of defeating the objects of the embargo.  I have more faith, too, in the Governors.  I cannot think that any one of them would wink at abuses of that law.  Still, I like your circular of the 20th, and the idea there brought forward of confining the shipment to so small a proportion of the bond as may correspond with the exaggeration of price and foreign markets, and thus restrain the adventurer from gaining more than he would lose by dishonesty.  Flour, by the latest accounts, I have observed, sold at about eight times its cost here, while the legal penalties are but about three prices—by restraining them to an eighth they will be balanced.  But as prices rise must not our rules be varied ?  Had the practicability of this mode of restraint occurred before the recurrence to the Governors, I should have preferred it, because it is free from the objection of favoritism to which the Governors will be exposed, and if you find it work well in practice, we may find means to have the other course discontinued.  Our course should be to sacrifice everything to secure the effect of the law, and nothing beyond that.

I enclose you an application of Neilson & Son, to which you will please to have given whatever answer is conformable to general rules.  The petition of Gardner and others, masters of the Rhode Island packet ships, which I enclose you, does not specify the particular act required from us for their relief.  If it be to declare that the open sea in front of their coast is a bay or a river, the matter of fact, as well as the law, renders that impossible, I really think it desirable to relieve their case, in any way which is lawful, because it is one, which though embraced by the words of the law, is not within its object.  You mention that a principal method of evading the embargo is by loading secretly and going off without clearance.  The naval department must aid us against this.  As I shall leave this for Washington in about ten or twelve days, I now desire the postoffice there to send no letters to this place after receiving this notice.  All further matters relative to the embargo will therefore be answered verbally as soon as they could by letter.  I salute you with great affection and respect.