The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

editor H.A. Washington
New York :  H.W. Derby
1861

To Henry Middleton, Esq.
Monticello, January 8, 1813.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of November 25th was a month on its passage to me.  I received with great pleasure this mark of your recollection, heightened by the assurance that the part I have acted in public life has met your approbation.  Having seen the people of all other nations bowed down to the earth under the wars and prodigalities of their rulers, I have cherished their opposites, peace, economy, and riddance of public debt, believing that these were the high road to public as well as to private prosperity and happiness.  And, certainly, there never before has been a state of the world in which such forbearances as we have exercised would not have preserved our peace.  Nothing but the total prostration of all moral principle could have produced the enormities which have forced us at length into the war.  On one hand, a ruthless tyrant, drenching Europe in blood to obtain through future time the character of the destroyer of mankind;  on the other, a nation of buccaneers, urged by sordid avarice, and embarked in the flagitious enterprise of seizing to itself the maritime resources and rights of all other nations, have left no means of peace to reason and moderation.  And yet there are beings among us who think we ought still to have acquiesced.  As if while full war was waging on one side, we could lose by making some reprisal on the other.  The paper you were so kind as to enclose me is a proof you are not of this sentiment ;  it expresses our grievances with energy and brevity, as well as the feelings they ought to excite.  And I see with pleasure another proof that South Carolina is ever true to the principles of free government.  Indeed, it seems to me that in proportion as commercial avarice and corruption advance on us from the north and east, the principles of free government are to retire to the agricultural States of the south and west, as their last asylum and bulwark.  With honesty and self-government for her portion, agriculture may abandon contentedly to others the fruits of commerce and corruption.  Accept, I pray you, the assurances of my great esteem and respect.




To James Ronaldson.
Monticello, January 12, 1813.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of November 2d arrived a little before I set out on a journey on which I was absent between five and six weeks.  I have still therefore to return you my thanks for the seeds accompanying it, which shall be duly taken care of, and a communication made to others of such as shall prove valuable.  I have been long endeavoring to procure the Cork tree from Europe, but without success.  A plant which I brought with me from Paris died after languishing some time, and of several parcels of acorns received from a correspondent at Marseilles, not one has ever vegetated.  I shall continue my endeavors, although disheartened by the nonchalance of our Southern fellow citizens, with whom alone they can thrive.  It is now twenty-five years since I sent them two shipments (about 500 plants) of the Olive tree of Aix, the finest Olives in the world.  If any of them still exist, it is merely as a curiosity in their gardens;  not a single orchard of them has been planted.  I sent them also the celebrated species of Sainfoin,* from Malta, which yields good crops without a drop of rain through the season.  It was lost.  The upland rice which I procured fresh from Africa and sent them, has been preserved and spread in the upper parts of Georgia, and I believe in Kentucky.  But we must acknowledge their services in furnishing us an abundance of cotton, a substitute for silk, flax and hemp.  The ease with which it is spun will occasion it to supplant the two last, and its cleanliness the first.  Household manufacture is taking deep root with us.  I have a carding machine, two spinning machines, and looms with the flying shuttle in full operation for clothing my own family ;  and I verily believe that by the next winter this State will not need a yard of imported coarse or middling clothing.  I think we have already a sheep for every inhabitant, which will suffice for clothing, and one-third more, which a single year will add, will furnish blanketing.  With respect to marine hospitals, which are one of the subjects of your letter, I presume you know that such establishments have been made by the general government in the several States, that a portion of seaman’s wages is drawn for their support, and the government furnishes what is deficient.  Mr. Gallatin is attentive to them, and they will grow with our growth.  You doubt whether we ought to permit the exportation of grain to our enemies ;  but Great Britain, with her own agricultural support, and those she can command by her access into every sea, cannot be starved by withholding our supplies.  And if she is to be fed at all events, why may we not have the benefit of it as well as others ?  I would not, indeed, feed her armies landed on our territory, because the difficulty of inland subsistence is what will prevent their ever penetrating far into the country, and will confine them to the sea coast.  But this would be my only exception.  And as to feeding her armies in the peninsula, she is fighting our battles there, as Bonaparte is on the Baltic.  He is shutting out her manufactures from that sea, and so far assisting us in her reduction to extremity.  But if she does not keep him out of the peninsular, if he gets full command of that, instead of the greatest and surest of all our markets, as that has uniformly been, we shall be excluded from it, or so much shackled by his tyranny and ignorant caprices, that it will become for us what France now is.  Besides, if we could by starving the English armies, oblige hem to withdraw from the peninsular, it would be to send them here ;  and I think we had better feed them there for pay, than feed and fight them here for nothing.  A truth, too, not to be lost sight of is, that no country can pay war taxes if you suppress all their resources.  To keep the war popular, we must keep open the markets.  As long as good prices can be had, the people will support the war cheerfully.  If you should have an opportunity of conveying to Mr. Heriot my thanks for his book, you will oblige me by doing it.  Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.


* Called Sulla.




To John Melish.
Monticello, January 13, 1813.

Dear Sir,—I received duly your favor of December the 15th, and with it the copies of your map and travels, for which be pleased to accept my thanks.  The book I have read with extreme satisfaction and information.  As to the Western States, particularly, it has greatly edified me;  for of the actual condition of that interesting portion of our country, I had not an adequate idea.  I feel myself now as familiar with it as with the condition of the maritime States.  I had no conception that manufactures had made such progress there, and particularly of the number of carding and spinning machine dispersed through the whole country.  We are but beginning here to have them in our private families.  Small spinning jennies of from half a dozen to twenty pindles, will soon, however, make their way into the humblest cottages, as well as the richest houses ;  and nothing is more certain, than that the coarse and middling clothing for our families, will forever hereafter continue to be made within ourselves.  I have hitherto myself depended entirely on foreign manufactures;  but I have now thirty-five spindles agoing, a hand carding machine, and looms with the flying shuttle, for the supply of my own farms, which will never be relinquished in my time.  The continuance of the war will fix the habit generally, and out of the evils of impressment and of the orders of council a great blessing for us will grow.  I have not formerly been an advocate for great manufactories.  I doubted whether our labor, employed in agriculture, and aided by the spontaneous energies of the earth, would not procure us more than we could make ourselves of other necessaries.  But other considerations entering into the question, have settled my doubts.

The candor with which you have viewed the manners and condition of our citizens, is so unlike the narrow prejudices of the French and English travellers preceding you, who, considering each the manners and habits of their own people as the only orthodox, have viewed everything differing from that test as boorish and barbarous, that your work will be read here extensively, and operate great good.

Amidst this mass of approbation which is given to every other part of the work, there is a single sentiment which I cannot help wishing to bring to what I think the correct one ;  and, on a point so interesting, I value your opinion too highly not to ambition its concurrence with my own.  Stating in volume one, page sixty-three, he principle of difference between the two great political parties here, you conclude it to be, “whether the controlling power shall be vested in this or that set of men.”  That each party endeavors to get into the administration of the government, and exclude the other from power, is true, and may be stated as a motive of action :  but this is only secondary ;  the primary motive being a real and radical difference of political principle.  I sincerely wish our differences were but personally who should govern, and that the principles of our constitution were those of both parties.  Unfortunately, it is otherwise;  and the question of preference between monarchy and republicanism, which has so long divided mankind elsewhere, threatens a permanent division here.

Among that section of our citizens called federalists, there are three shades of opinion.  Distinguishing between the leaders and people who compose it, the leaders consider the English constitution as a model of perfection, some, with a correction of its vices, others, with all its corruptions and abuses.  This last was Alexander Hamilton’s opinion, which others, as well as myself, have often heard him declare, and that a correction of what are called its vices, would render the English an impracticable government.  This government they wished to have established here, and only accepted and held fast, at first, to the present constitution, as a stepping-stone to the final establishment of their favorite model.  This party has therefore always clung to England as their prototype, and great auxiliary in promoting and effecting this change.  A weighty MINORITY, however, of these leaders, considering the voluntary conversion of our government into a monarchy as too distant, if not desperate, wish to break off from our Union its eastern fragment, as being, in truth, the hot-bed of American monarchism, with a view to a commencement of their favorite government, from whence the other States may gangrene by degrees, and the whole be thus brought finally to the desired point.  For Massachusetts, the prime mover in this enterprise, is the last State in the Union to mean a final separation, as being of all the most dependent on the others.  Not raising bread for the sustenance of her own inhabitants, not having a stick of timber for the construction of vessels, her principal occupation, nor an article to export in them, where would she be, excluded from the ports of the other States, and thrown into dependence on England, her direct, and natural, but now insidious rival ?  At the head of this MINORITY is what is called the Essex Junto of Massachusetts.  But the MAJORITY of these leaders do not aim at separation.  In this, they adhere to the known principle of General Hamilton, never, under any views, to break the Union.  Anglomany, monarchy, and separation, then, are the principles of the Essex federalists.  Anglomany and monarchy, those of the Hamiltonians, and Anglomany alone, that of the portion among the people who call themselves federalists.  These last are as good republicans as the brethren whom they oppose, and differ from them only in their devotion to England and hatred of France which they have imbibed from their leaders.  The moment that these leaders should avowedly propose a separation of the Union, or the establishment of regal government, their popular adherents would quit them to a man, and join the republican standard;  and the partisans of this change, even in Massachusetts, would thus find themselves an army of officers without a soldier.

The party called republican is steadily for the support of the present constitution.  They obtained at its commencement, all the amendments to it they desired.  These reconciled them to it perfectly, and if they have any ulterior view, it is only, perhaps, to popularize it further, by shortening the Senatorial term, and devising a process for the responsibility of judges, more practicable than that of impeachment.  They esteem the people of England and France equally, and equally detest the governing powers of both.

This I verily believe, after an intimacy of forty years with the public councils and characters, is a true statement of the grounds on which they are at present divided, and that it is not merely an ambition for power.  An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.  And considering as the only offices of power those conferred by the people directly, that is to say, the executive and legislative functions of the General and State governments, the common refusal of these, and multiplied resignations, are proofs sufficient that power is not alluring to pure minds, and is not, with them, the primary principle of contest.  This is my belief of it ;  it is that on which I have acted ;  and had it been a mere contest who should be permitted to administer the government according to its genuine republican principles, there has never been a moment of my life in which I should have relinquished for it the enjoyments of my family, my farm, my friends and books.

You expected to discover the difference of our party principles in General Washington’s valedictory;  and my inaugural address.  Not at all.  General Washington did not harbor one principle of federalism.  He was neither an Angloman, a monarchist, nor a separatist.  He sincerely wished the people to have as much self-government as they were competent to exercise themselves.  The only point on which he and I ever differed in opinion, was, that I had more confidence than he had in the natural integrity and discretion of the people, and in the safety and extent to which they might trust themselves with a control over their government.  He has asseverated to me a thousand times his determination that the existing government should have a fair trial, and that in support of it he would spend the last drop of his blood.  He did this the more repeatedly, because he knew General Hamilton’s political bias, and my apprehensions from it.  It is a mere calumny, therefore, in the monarchists, to associate General Washington with their principles.  But that may have happened in this case which has been often seen in ordinary cases, that, by oft repeating an untruth, men come to believe it themselves.  It is a mere artifice in this party to bolster themselves up on the revered name of that first of our worthies.  If I have dwelt longer on this subject than was necessary, it proves the estimation in which I hold your ultimate opinions, and my desire of placing the subject truly before them.  In so doing, I am certain I risk no use of the communication which may draw me into contention before the public.  Tranquillity is the summum bonum of a Septagenaire.

To return to the merits of your work :  I consider it as so lively a picture of the real state of our country, that if I can possibly obtain opportunities of conveyance, I propose to send a copy to a friend in France, and another to one in Italy, who, I know, will translate and circulate it as an antidote to the misrepresentations of former travellers.  But whatever effect my profession of political faith may have on your general opinion, a part of my object will be obtained, if it satisfies you as to the principles of my own action, and of the high respect and consideration with which I tender you my salutations.




To Colonel William Duane.
Monticello, January 22, 1813.

Dear Sir,—I do not know how the publication of the Review turned out in point of profit, whether gainfully or not.  I know it ought to have been a book of great sale.  I gave a copy to a student of William and Mary college, and recommended it to Bishop Madison, then President of the college, who was so pleased with it that he established it as a school-book, and as the young gentleman informed me, every copy which could be had was immediately bought up, and there was a considerable demand for more.  You probably know best whether new calls for it have been made.  President Madison was a good whig. * * * * * Your experiment on that work will enable you to decide whether you ought to undertake another, not of greater but of equal merit.  I have received from France a MS. work on Political Economy, written by De Tutt Tracy, the most conspicuous writer of the present day in the metaphysical line.  He has written a work entitled Ideology, which has given him a high reputation in France.  He considers that as having laid a solid foundation for the present volume on Political Economy, and will follow it by one on Moral Duties.  The present volume is a work of great ability.  It may be considered as a review of the principles of the Economists, of Smith and of Say, or rather an elementary book on the same subject.  As Smith had corrected some principles of the Economists, and Say some of Smith’s, so Tracy has done as to the whole.  He has, in my opinion, corrected fundamental errors in all of them, and by simplifying principles, has brought the subject within a narrow compass.  I think the volume would be of about the size of the Review of Montesquieu.  Although he puts his name to the work, he is afraid to publish it in France, lest its freedom should bring him into trouble.  If translated and published here, he could disavow it, if necessary.  In order to enable you to form a better judgment of the work, I will subjoin a list of the chapters or heads, and if you think proper to undertake the translation and publication, I will send the work itself.  You will certainly find it one of the very first order.  It begins with * * * * * * * *

Our war on the land has commenced most inauspiciously.  I fear we are to expect reverses until we can find out who are qualified for command, and until these can learn their profession.  The proof of a general, to know whether he will stand fire, costs a more serious price than that of a cannon ;  these proofs have already cost us thousands of good men, and deplorable degradation of reputation, and as yet have elicited but a few negative and a few positive characters.  But we must persevere till we recover the rank we are entitled to.

Accept the assurances of my continued esteem and respect.




To Dr. Robert Morrell.
Monticello, February 5, 1813.

SIR

The book which you were so kind as to take charge of at Paris for me, is safely received, and I thank you for your care of it, and more particularly for the indulgent sentiments you are so kind as to express towards myself.  I am happy at all times to hear of the welfare of my literary friends in that country ;  they have had a hard time of it since I left them.  I know nothing which can so severely try the heart and spirit of man, and especially of the man of science, as the necessity of a passive acquiescence under the abominations of an unprincipled tyrant who is deluging the earth with blood to acquire for himself the reputation of a Cartouche or a Robin Hood.  The petty larcenies of the Blackbeards and Buccaneers of the ocean, the more immediately exercised on us, are dirty and grovelling things addressed to our contempt, while the horrors excited by the Scelerat of France are beyond all human execrations.  With my thanks for your kind attentions, be pleased to accept the assurance of my respect.




To General Theodorus Bailey.
Monticello, February 6, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favor of January 25th is received, and I have to renew my thanks to you for the map accompanying it.  These proofs of friendly remembrance give additional interest to the subjects which convey them.  The scenes, too, which compose the map, are become highly interesting.  Our first entrance on them has been peculiarly inauspicious.  Our men are good, but force without conduct is easily baffled.  The Creator has not thought proper to mark those in the forehead who are of stuff to make good generals.  We are first, therefore, to seek them blindfold, and then let them learn the trade at the expense of great losses.  But our turn of success will come by-and-bye, and we must submit to the previous misfortunes which are to be the price of it.  I think with you on the subject of privateers.  Our ships of force will undoubtedly be blockaded by the enemy, and we shall have no means of annoying them at sea but by small, swift-sailing vessels ;  these will be better managed and more multiplied in the hands of individuals than of the government.  In short, they are our true and only weapon in a war against Great Britain, when once Canada and Nova Scotia shall have been rescued from them.  The opposition to them in Congress is merely partial.  It is a part of the navy fever, and proceeds from the desire of securing men for the public ships by suppressing all other employments from them.  But I do not apprehend that this ill-judged principle is that of a majority of Congress.  I hope, on the contrary, they will spare no encouragement to that kind of enterprise.  Our public ships, to be sure, have done wonders.  They have saved our military reputation sacrificed on the shores of Canada;  but in point of real injury and depredation on the enemy, our privateers without question have been most effectual.  Both species of force have their peculiar value.  I salute you with assurances of friendship and respect.




To the President of the United States (James Madison).
Monticello, February 8, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 27th ultimo has been duly received.  You have had a long holiday from my intrusions.  In truth I have had nothing to write about, and your time should not be consumed by letters about nothing.  The enclosed paper, however, makes it a duty to give you the trouble of reading it.  You know the handwriting and the faith due to it.  Our intimacy with the writer leaves no doubt about his facts, and in his letter to me he pledges himself for their fidelity.  He says the narrative was written at the request of a young friend in Virginia, and a copy made for my perusal, on the presumption it would be interesting to me.  Whether the word “Confidential” at the head of the paper was meant only for his young friend or for myself also, nothing in his letter indicates.  I must, therefore, govern myself by considerations of discretion and of duty combined.  Discretion dictates that I ought not so to use the paper as to compromit my friend;  an effect which would be as fatal to my peace as it might be to his person.  But duty tells me that the public interest is so deeply concerned in your perfect knowledge of the characters employed in its high stations, that nothing should be withheld which can give you useful information.  On these grounds I commit it to yourself and the Secretary of War, to whose functions it relates more immediately.  It may have effect on your future designation of those to whom particular enterprises are to be committed, and this is the object of the communication.  If you should think it necessary that the minds of the other members of the Cabinet should be equally apprised of its contents, although not immediately respecting their departments, the same considerations, and an entire confidence in them personally, would dictate its communication to them also.  But beyond this no sense of duty calls on me for its disclosure, and fidelity to my friend strongly forbids it.  The paper presents such a picture of indecision in purpose, inattention to preparation, and imprudence of demeanor, as to fix a total incompetence for military direction.  How greatly we were deceived in this character, as is generally the case in appointments not on our own knowledge.  I remember when we appointed him we rejoiced in the acquisition of an officer of so much understanding and integrity, as we imputed to him ;  and placed him as near the head of the army as the commands then at our disposal admitted.  Perhaps, still, you may possess information giving a different aspect to this case, of which I sincerely wish it may be susceptible.  I will ask the return of the paper when no longer useful to you.

The accession to your Cabinet meets general approbation.  This is chiefly at present given to the character most known, but will be equally so to the other when better known.  I think you could not have made better appointments.

The autumn and winter have been most unfriendly to the wheat in red lands, by continued cold and alternate frosts and thaws.  The late snow of about ten inches now disappearing, has relieved it.  That grain is got to $2 at Richmond.  This is the true barometer of the popularity of the war.  Ever affectionately yours.




To General John Armstrong.
Monticello, February 8, 1813.

Dear General

I have long ago in my heart congratulated our country on your call to the place you now occupy.  But with yourself personally it is no subject of congratulation.  The happiness of the domestic fireside is the first boon of heaven ;  and it is well it is so, since it is that which is the lot of the mass of mankind.  The duties of office are a corvée which must be undertaken on far other considerations than those of personal happiness.  But whether this be a subject of congratulation or of condolence, it furnishes the occasion of recalling myself to your recollection, and of renewing the assurances of my friendship and respect.  Whatever you do in office, I know will be honestly and ably done, and although we who do not see the whole ground may sometimes impute error, it will be because we, not you, are in the wrong ;  or because your views are defeated by the wickedness or incompetence of those you are obliged to trust with their execution.  An instance of this is the immediate cause of the present letter.  I have enclosed a paper to the President, with a request to communicate it to you, and if he thinks it should be known to your associates of the Cabinet, although not immediately respecting their departments, he will communicate it to them also.  That it should go no further is rendered an obligation on me by considerations personal to a young friend whom I love and value, and by the confidence which has induced him to commit himself to me.  I hope, therefore, it will never be known that such a narrative has been written, and much less by whom written, and to whom addressed.  It is unfortunate that heaven has not set its stamp on the forehead of those whom it has qualified for military achievement.  That it has left us to draw for them in a lottery of so many blanks to a prize, and where the blank is to be manifested only by the public misfortunes.  If nature had planted the fænum in cornu on the front of treachery, of cowardice, of imbecility, the unfortunate debut we have made on the theatre of war would not have sunk our spirits at home, and our character abroad.  I hope you will be ready to act on the first breaking of the ice, as otherwise we may despair of wresting Canada from our enemies.  Their starving manufactories can furnish men for its defence much faster than we can enlist them for its assault.

Accept my prayers for success in all your undertakings, and the assurance of my affectionate esteem and respect.




To Dr. Benjamin Rush.
Monticello, March 6, 1813.

Dear Sir

I received some time ago a letter signed “James Carver,” proposing that myself, and my friends in this quarter, should subscribe and forward a sum of money towards the expenses of his voyage to London, and maintenance there while going through a course of education in their Veterinary school, with a view to his returning to America, and practising the art in Philadelphia.  The name, person and character of the writer, were equally unknown to me, and unauthenticated, but as self-declared in the letter.  I supposed him an Englishman, from the style in which he spoke of “His Majesty,” and because an American, without offence to the laws, could not now be going, nor be sent by private individuals to England.  The scheme did not appear to me either the shortest or surest way of going to work to accomplish the object.  Because, if the Veterinary institution there be of the celebrity he described, it must already have produced subjects prepared for entering into practice, and disposed to come to a good position, claiming nothing till they should enter into function, or not more than their passage.  I did not receive the letter until the day had elapsed on which the vessel was to depart wherein he had taken his passage, and his desire that the answer should go through you, is my only authority for troubling you with this, addressed to you, whom I know, love, and revere, and not to him, who, for any evidence I have but from himself, may be a zealous son of science, or an adventurer wanting money to carry him to London.  I know nothing of the Veterinary institution of London, yet have no doubt it merits the high character he ascribes to it.  It is a nation which possesses many learned men.  I know well the Veterinary school of Paris, of long standing, and saw many of its publications during my residence there.  They were classically written, announced a want of nothing but certainty as to their facts, which granted, the hypotheses were learned and plausible.  The coach-horses of the rich of Paris were availed of the institution;  but the farmers even of the neighborhood could not afford to call a Veterinary doctor to their plough-horses in the country, or to send them to a livery stable to be attended in the city.  On the whole, I was not a convert to the utility of the Institution.  You know I am so to that of medicine, even in human complaints, but in a limited degree.  That there are certain diseases of the human body, so distinctly pronounced by well-articulated symptoms, and recurring so often, as not to be mistaken, wherein experience has proved that certain substances applied, will restore order, I cannot doubt.  Such are Kinkina in Intermittents, Mercury in Syphilis, Castor Oil in Dysentery, &c.  And so far I go with the physicians.  But there are also a great mass of indistinct diseases, presenting themselves under no form clearly characterized, nor exactly recognized as having occurred before, and to which of course the application of no particular substance can be known to have been made, nor its effect on the case experienced.  These may be called unknown cases, and they may in time be lessened by the progress of observation and experiment.  Observing that there are in the construction of the animal system some means provided unknown to us, which have a tendency to restore order, when disturbed by accident, called by physicians the vis medicatrix naturæ, I think it safer to trust to this power in the unknown cases, than to uncertain conjectures built on the ever-changing hypothetical systems of medicine.  Now, in the Veterinary department all are unknown cases.  Man can tell his physician the seat of his pain, its nature, history, and sometimes its cause, and can follow his directions for the curative process—but the poor dumb horse cannot signify where his pain is, what it is, or when or whence it came, and resists all process for its cure.  If in the case of man, then, the benefit of medical interference in such cases admits of question, what must it be in that of the horse ?  And to what narrow limits is the real importance of the Veterinary art reduced ?  When a boy, I knew a Doctor Seymour, neighbor to our famous botanist Clayton, who imagined he could cure the diseases of his tobacco plants ;  he bled some, administered lotions to others, sprinkled powders on a third class, and so on—they only withered and perished the faster.  I am sensible of the presumption of hazarding an opinion to you on a subject whereon you are so much better qualified for decision, both by reading and experience.  But our opinions are not voluntary.  Every man’s own reason must be his oracle.  And I only express mine to explain why I did not comply with Mr. Carver’s request;  and to give you a further proof that there are no bounds to my confidence in your indulgence in matters of opinion.

Mr. Adams and myself are in habitual correspondence.  I owe him a letter at this time, and shall pay the debt as soon as I have something to write about :  for with the commonplace topic of politics we do not meddle.  Where there are so many others on which we agree, why should we introduce the only one on which we differ.  Besides the pleasure which our naval successes have given to every honest patriot, his must be peculiar, because a navy has always been his hobby-horse.  A little further time will show whether his ideas have been premature, and whether the little we can oppose on that element to the omnipotence of our enemy there, would lessen the losses of the war, or contribute to shorten its duration, the legitimate object of every measure.  On the land, indeed, we have been most unfortunate;  so wretched a succession of generals never before destroyed the fairest expectations of a nation, counting on the bravery of its citizens, which has proved itself on all these trials.  Our first object must now be the vindication of our character in the field;  after that, peace with the liberum mare, personal inviolability there, and ouster from this continent of the incendiaries of savages.  God send us these good things, and to you health and life here, till you wish to awake to it in another state of being.




To Monsieur de Lomerie.
Monticello, April 3, 1813.

SIR

Your letter of the 26th has been received, as had been that of the 5th.  The preceding ones had been complied with by applications verbal and written to the members of the government, to which I could expect no specific answers, their whole time being due to the public, and employed on their concerns.  Had it been my good fortune to preserve at the age of seventy, all the activity of body and mind which I enjoyed in earlier life, I should have employed it now, as then, in incessant labors to serve those to whom I could be useful.  But the torpor of age is weighing heavily on me.  The writing table is become my aversion, and its drudgeries beyond my remaining powers.  I have retired, then, of necessity, from all correspondence not indispensably called for by some special duty, and I hope that this necessity will excuse me with you from further interference in obtaining your passage to France, which requires solicitations and exertions beyond what I am able to encounter.  I request this the more freely, because I am sure of finding, in your candor and consideration, an acquiescence in the reasonableness of my desire to indulge the feeble remains of life in that state of ease and tranquillity which my condition, physical and moral, require.  Accept, then, with my adieux, my best wishes for a safe and happy return to your native country and the assurances of my respect.




To Thomas Paine M’Matron.
Monticello, April 3, 1813.

SIR

Your favor of March 24th is received, and nothing could have been so pleasing to me as to have been able to comply with the request therein made, feeling especial motives to become useful to any person connected with Mr. M’Matron.  But I shall state to you the circumstances which control my will, and rest on your candor their just estimate.  When I retired from the government four years ago, it was extremely my wish to withdraw myself from all concern with public affairs, and to enjoy with my fellow citizens the protection of government, under the auspices and direction of those to whom it was so worthily committed.  Solicitations from my friends, however, to aid them in their applications for office, drew from me an unwary compliance, till at length these became so numerous as to occupy a great portion of my time in writing letters to the President and heads of departments, and although these were attended to by them with great indulgence, yet I was sensible they could not fail of being very embarrassing.  They kept me, at the same time, standing forever in the attitude of a suppliant before them, daily asking favors as humiliating and afflicting to my own mind, as they were unreasonable from their multitude.  I was long sensible of the necessity of putting an end to these unceasing importunities, when a change in the heads of the two departments to which they were chiefly addressed, presented me an opportunity.  I came to a resolution, therefore, on that change, never to make another application.  I have adhered to it strictly, and find that on its rigid observance, my own happiness and the friendship of the government too much depend, for me to swerve from it in future.  On consideration of these circumstances, I hope you will be sensible how much they import, both to the government and myself ;  and that you do me the justice to be assured of the reluctance with which I decline an opportunity of being useful to one so nearly connected with Mr. M’Matron, and that with the assurance of my regrets, you will accept that of my best wishes for your success, and of my great respect.




To Colonel William Duane.
Monticello, April 4, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favor of February 14th has been duly received, and the MS. of the commentary on Montesquieu is also safe at hand.  I now forward to you the work of Tracy, which you will find a valuable supplement and corrective to those we already possess on political economy.  It is a little unlucky that its outset is of a metaphysical character, which may damp the ardor of perusal in some readers.  He has been led to this by a desire to embody this work, as well as a future one he is preparing on morals, with his former treatise on Ideology.  By-the-bye, it is merely to this work that Bonaparte alludes in his answer to his Council of State, published not long since, in which he scouts “the dark and metaphysical doctrine of Ideology, which, diving into first causes, founds on this basis a legislation of the people, &c.”  If, indeed, this answer be not a forgery, for everything is now forged, even to the fat of our beef and mutton :  yet the speech is not unlike him, and affords scope for an excellent parody.  I wish you may succeed in getting the commentary on Montesquieu reviewed by the Edinburgh Reviewers.  I should expect from them an able and favorable analysis of it.  I sent a copy of it to a friend in England, in the hope he would communicate it to them ;  not, however, expressing that hope, lest the source of it should have been made known.  But the book will make its way, and will become a standard work.  A copy which I sent to France was under translation by one of the ablest men of that country.

It is true that I am tired of practical politics, and happier while reading the history of ancient than of modern times.  The total banishment of all moral principle from the code which governs the intercourse of nations, the melancholy reflection that after the mean, wicked and cowardly cunning of the cabinets of the age of Machiavelli had given place to the integrity and good faith which dignified the succeeding one of a Chatham and Turgot, that this is to be swept away again by the daring profligacy and avowed destitution of all moral principle of a Cartouche and a Blackbeard, sickens my soul unto death.  I turn from the contemplation with loathing, and take refuge in the histories of other times, where, if they also furnish their Tarquins, their Catilines and Caligulas, their stories are handed to us under the brand of a Livy, a Sallust and a Tacitus, and we are comforted with the reflection that the condemnation of all succeeding generations has confirmed the censures of the historian, and consigned their memories to everlasting infamy, a solace we cannot have with the Georges and Napoleons but by anticipation.

In surveying the scenes of which we make a part, I confess that three frigates taken by our gallant little navy, do not balance in my mind three armies lost by the treachery, cowardice, or incapacity of those to whom they were intrusted.  I see that our men are good, and only want generals.  We may yet hope, however, that the talents which always exist among men will show themselves with opportunity, and that it will be found that this age also can produce able and honest defenders of their country, at what further expense, however, of blood and treasure, is yet to be seen.  Perhaps this Russian mediation may cut short the history of the present war, and leave to us the laurels of the sea, while our enemies are bedecked with those of the land.  This would be the reverse of what has been expected, and perhaps of what was to be wished.

I have never seen the work on Political Economy, of which you speak.  Say and Tracy contain the sum of that science as far as it has been soundly traced, in my judgment.  And it is a pity that Say’s work should not, as well as Tracy’s, be made known to our countrymen by a good translation.  It would supplant Smith’s book altogether, because shorter, clearer and sounder.

Accept my friendly salutations and assurances of continued esteem and respect.




To the President of the United States (James Madison).
Monticello, May 21, 1813.

Dear Sir

The enclosed letter from Whit was unquestionably intended for you.  The subject, the address, both of title and place, prove it, and the mistake of the name only shows the writer to be a very uninquisitive statesman.  Dr. Waterhouse’s letter, too, was intended for your eye, and although the immediate object fails by previous appointment, yet he seems to entertain further wishes.  I enclose, too, the newspapers he refers to, as some of their matter may have escaped your notice, and the traitorous designs fostered in Massachusetts, and explained in them, call for attention.

We have never seen so unpromising a crop of wheat as that now growing.  The winter killed an unusual proportion of it, and the fly is destroying the remainder.  We may estimate the latter loss at one-third at present, and fast increasing from the effect of the extraordinary drought.  With such a prospect before us, the blockade is acting severely on our past labors.  It caught nearly the whole wheat of the middle and upper country in the hands of the farmers and millers, whose interior situation had prevented their getting it to an earlier market.  From this neighborhood very little had been sold.  When we cast our eyes on the map, and see the extent of country from New York to North Carolina inclusive, whose produce is raised on the waters of the Chesapeake, (for Albemarle sound is, by the canal of Norfolk, become a water of the Chesapeake,) and consider its productiveness, in comparison with the rest of the Atlantic States, probably a full half, and that all this can be shut up by two or three ships of the line lying at the mouth of the bay, we see that an injury so vast to ourselves and so cheap to our enemy, must forever be resorted to by them, and constantly maintained.  To defend all the shores of those waters in detail is impossible.  But is there not a single point where they may be all defended by means to which the magnitude of the object gives a title ?  I mean at the mouth of the Chesapeake.  Not by ships of the line, or frigates;  for I know that with our present enemy we cannot contend in that way.  But would not a sufficient number of gunboats of small draught, stationed in Lynhaven river, render it unsafe for ships of war either to ascend the Chesapeake or to lie at its mouth ?  I am not unaware of the effect of the ridicule cast on this instrument of defence by those who wished for engines of offence.  But resort is had to ridicule only when reason is against us.  I know, too, the prejudices of the gentlemen of the navy, and that these are very natural.  No one has been more gratified than myself by the brilliant achievements of our little navy.  They have deeply wounded the pride of our enemy, and been balm to ours, humiliated on the land, where our real strength was felt to lie.  But divesting ourselves of the enthusiasm these brave actions have justly excited, it is impossible not to see that all these vessels must be taken and added to the already overwhelming force of our enemy;  that even while we keep them, they contribute nothing to our defence, and that so far as we are to be defended by anything on the water, it must be by such vessels as can assail under advantageous circumstances, and under adverse ones withdraw from the reach of the enemy.  These, in shoaly waters, are the humble, the ridiculed, but the formidable gunboats.  I acknowledge that in the case which produces these reflections, the station of Lynhaven river would not be safe against land attacks on the boats, and that a retreat for them is necessary in this event.  With a view to this there was a survey made by Colonel Tatham, which was lodged either in the War or Navy Office, showing the depth and length of a canal which would give them a retreat from Lynhaven river into the eastern branch of Elizabeth river.  I think the distance is not over six or eight miles, perhaps not so much, through a country entirely flat, and little above the level of the sea.  A cut of ten yards wide and four yards deep, requiring the removal of forty cubic yards of earth for every yard in length of the canal, at twenty cents the cubic yard, would cost about $15,000 a mile.  But even doubling this to cover all errors of estimate, although in a country offering the cheapest kind of labor, it would be nothing compared with the extent and productions of the country it is to protect.  It would, for so great a country, bear no proportion to what has been expended, and justly expended by the Union, to defend the single spot of New York.

While such a channel of retreat secures effectually the safety of the gunboats, it insures also their aid for the defence of Norfolk, if attacked from the sea.  And the Norfolk canal gives them a further passage into Albemarle sound, if necessary for their safety, or in aid of the flotilla of that sound, or to receive the aid of that flotilla either at Norfolk or in Lynhaven river.  For such a flotilla there also will doubtless be thought necessary, that being the only outlet now, as during the last war, for the waters of the Chesapeake.  Colonel Monroe, I think, is personally intimate with the face of all that country, and no one, I am certain, is more able or more disposed than the present Secretary of the Navy, to place himself above the navy prejudices, and do justice to the aptitude of these humble and economical vessels to the shallow waters of the South.  On the bold Northern shores they would be of less account, and the larger vessels will of course be more employed there.  Were they stationed with us, they would rather attract danger than ward it off.  The only service they can render us would be to come in a body when the occasion offers, of overwhelming a weaker force of the enemy occupying our bay, to oblige them to keep their force in a body, leaving the mass of our coast open.

Although it is probable there may not be an idea here which has not been maturely weighed by your self, and with a much broader view of the whole field, yet I have frankly hazarded them, because possibly some of the facts or ideas may have escaped in the multiplicity of the objects engaging your notice, and because in every event they will cost you but the trouble of reading.  The importance of keeping open a water which covers wholly or considerably five of the most productive States, containing three-fifths of the population of the Atlantic portion of our Union, and of preserving their resources for the support of the war, as far as the state of war and the means of the confederacy will admit; and especially if it can be done for less than is contributed by the Union for more than one single city, will justify our anxieties to have it effected.  And should my views of the subject be even wrong, I am sure they will find their apology with you in the purity of the motives of personal and public regard which induce a suggestion of them.  In all cases I am satisfied you are doing what is for the best, as far as the means put into your hands will enable you, and this thought quiets me under every occurrence, and under every occurrence I am sincerely, affectionately and respectfully yours.




To John Adams.
Monticello, May 27, 1813.

Another of our friends of seventy-six is gone, my dear Sir, another of the co-signers of the Independence of our country.  And a better man than Rush could not have left us, more benevolent, more learned, of finer genius, or more honest.  We too must go ;  and that ere long.  I believe we are under half a dozen at present ;  I mean the signers of the Declaration.  Yourself, Gerry, Carroll, and myself, are all I know to be living.  I am the only one south of the Potomac.  Is Robert Treat Payne, or Floyd living ?  It is long since I heard of them, and yet I do not recollect to have heard of their deaths.

Moreton’s deduction of the origin of our Indians from the fugitive Trojans, stated in your letter of January the 26th, and his manner of accounting for the sprinkling of their Latin with Greek, is really amusing.  Adair makes them talk Hebrew.  Reinold Foster derives them from the soldiers sent by Kouli Khan to conquer Japan.  Brerewood, from the Tartars, as well as our bears, wolves, foxes, &c., which, he says, “must of necessity fetch their beginning from Noah’s ark, which rested, after the deluge in Asia, seeing they could not proceed by the course of nature, as the imperfect sort of living creatures do, from putrefaction.”  Bernard Romans is of opinion that God created an original man and woman in this part of the globe.  Doctor Barton thinks they are not specifically different from the Persians;  but taking afterwards a broader range, he thinks, “that in all the vast countries of America, there is but one language, nay, that it may be proven, or rendered highly probable, that all the languages of the earth bear some affinity together.”  This reduces it to a question of definition, in which every one is free to use his own :  to wit, what constitutes identity, or difference in two things, in the common acceptation of sameness ?  All languages may be called the same, as being all made up of the same primitive sounds, expressed by the letters of the different alphabets.  But, in this sense, all things on earth are the same as consisting of matter.  This gives up the useful distribution into genera and species, which we form, arbitrarily indeed, for the relief of our imperfect memories.  To aid the question, from whence our Indian tribes descended, some have gone into their religion, their morals, their manners, customs, habits, and physical forms.  By such helps it may be learnedly proved, that our trees and plants of every kind are descended from those of Europe ;  because, like them, they have no locomotion, they draw nourishment from the earth, they clothe themselves with leaves in spring, of which they divest themselves in autumn for the sleep of winter, &c.  Our animals too must be descended from those of Europe, because our wolves eat lambs, our deer are gregarious, our ants hoard, &c.  But, when for convenience we distribute languages, according to common understanding, into classes originally different, as we choose to consider them, as the Hebrew, the Greek, the Celtic, the Gothic ;  and these again into genera, or families, as the Icelandic, German, Swedish, Danish, English, and these last into species, or dialects, as English, Scotch, Irish, we then ascribe other meanings to the terms “same” and “different.”  In some one of these senses, Barton, and Adair, and Foster, and Brerewood, and Moreton, may be right, every one according to his own definition of what constitutes “identity.”  Romans, indeed, takes a higher stand and supposes a separate creation.  On the same unscriptural ground, he had but to mount one step higher, to suppose no creation at all, but that all things have existed without beginning in time, as they now exist, and may forever exist, producing and reproducing in a circle, without end.  This would very summarily dispose of Mr. Moreton’s learning, and show that the question of Indian origin, like many others, pushed to a certain height must receive the same answer, “Ignoro.”

You ask if the usage of hunting in circles has ever been known among any of our tribes of Indians ?  It has been practised by them all;  and is to this day, by those still remote from the settlements of the whites.  But their numbers not enabling them, like Genghis Khan’s seven hundred thousand, to form themselves into circles of one hundred miles diameter, they make their circle by firing the leaves fallen on the ground, which gradually forcing the animals to a centre, they there slaughter them with arrows, darts, and other missiles.  This is called fire hunting, and has been practised in this State within my time, by the white inhabitants.  This is the most probable cause of the origin and extension of the vast prairies in the western country, where the grass having been of extraordinary luxuriance, has made a conflagration sufficient to kill even the old as well as the young timber.

I sincerely congratulate you on the successes of our little navy;  which must be more gratifying to you than to most men, as having been the early and constant advocate of wooden walls.  If I have differed with you on this ground, it was not on the principle, but the time ;  supposing that we cannot build or maintain a navy, which will not immediately fall into the same gulf which has swallowed not only the minor navies, but even those of the great second rate powers of the sea.  Whenever these can be resuscitated, and brought so near to a balance with England that we can turn the scale, then is my epoch for aiming at a navy.  In the meantime, one competent to keep the Barbary States in order, is necessary ;  these being the only smaller powers disposed to quarrel with us.  But I respect too much the weighty opinions of others, to be unyielding on this point, and acquiesce with the prayer “quod felix faustumque sit;”  adding ever a sincere one for your health and happiness.




To Madame la Baronne de Staël-Holstein. (Germaine Necker)
United States of America, May 28, 1813.

I received with great pleasure, my dear Madam and friend, your letter of November the 10th, from Stockholm, and am sincerely gratified by the occasion it gives me of expressing to you the sentiments of high respect and esteem which I entertain for you.  It recalls to my remembrance a happy portion of my life, passed in your native city;  then the seat of the most amiable and polished society of the world, and of which yourself and your venerable father were such distinguished members.  But of what scenes has it since been the theatre, and with what havoc has it overspread the earth !  Robespierre met the fate, and his memory the execration, he so justly merited.  The rich were his victims, and perished by thousands.  It is by millions that Bonaparte destroys the poor, and he is eulogized and deified by the sycophants even of science.  These merit more than the mere oblivion to which they will be consigned;  and the day will come when a just posterity will give to their hero the only pre-eminence he has earned, that of having been the greatest of the destroyers of the human race.  What year of his military life has not consigned a million of human beings to death, to poverty and wretchedness !  What field in Europe may not raise a monument of the murders, the burnings, the desolations, the famines and miseries it has witnessed from him !  And all this to acquire a reputation, which Cartouche attained with less injury to mankind, of being fearless of God or man.

To complete and universalize the desolation of the globe, it has been the will of Providence to raise up, at the same time, a tyrant as unprincipled and as overwhelming, for the ocean.  Not, in the poor maniac George, but in his government and nation.  Bonaparte will die, and his tyrannies with him.  But a nation never dies.  The English government, and its piratical principles and practices, have no fixed term of duration.  Europe feels, and is writhing under the scorpion whips of Bonaparte.  We are assailed by those of England.  The one continent thus placed under the grip of England, and the other of Bonaparte, each has to grapple with the enemy immediately pressing on itself.  We must extinguish the fire kindled in our own house, and leave to our friends beyond the water that which is consuming theirs.  It was not till England had taken one thousand of our ships, and impressed into her service more than six thousand of our citizens;  till she had declared, by the proclamation of her Prince Regent, that she would not repeal her aggressive orders as to us, until Bonaparte should have repealed his as to all nations;  till her minister, in formal conference with ours, declared, that no proposition for protecting our seamen from being impressed, under color of taking their own, was practicable or admissible;  that, the door to justice and to all amicable arrangement being closed, and negotiation become both desperate and dishonorable, we concluded that the war she had for years been waging against us, might as well become a war on both sides.  She takes fewer vessels from us since the declaration of war than before, because they venture more cautiously ;  and we now make full reprisals where before we made none.  England is, in principle, the enemy of all maritime nations, as Bonaparte is of the continental;  and I place in the same line of insult to the human understanding, the pretension of conquering the ocean, to establish continental rights, as that of conquering the continent, to restore maritime rights.  No, my dear Madam;  the object of England is the permanent dominion of the ocean, and the monopoly of the trade of the world.  To secure this, she must keep a larger fleet than her own resources will maintain.  The resources of other nations, then, must be impressed to supply the deficiency of her own.  This is sufficiently developed and evidenced by her successive strides towards the usurpation of the sea.  Mark them, from her first war after William Pitt, the little, came into her administration.  She first forbade to neutrals all trade with her enemies in time of war, which they had not in time of peace.  This deprived them of their trade from port to port of the same nation.  Then she forbade them to trade from the port of one nation to that of any other at war with her, although a right fully exercised in time of peace.  Next, instead of taking vessels only entering a blockaded port, she took them over the whole ocean, if destined to that port, although ignorant of the blockade, and without intention to violate it.  Then she took them returning from that port, as if infected by previous infraction of blockade.  Then came her paper blockades, by which she might shut up the whole world without sending a ship to sea, except to take all those sailing on it, as they must, of course, be bound to some port.  And these were followed by her orders of council, forbidding every nation to go to the port of any other, without coming first to some port of Great Britain, there paying a tribute to her, regulated by the cargo, and taking from her a license to proceed to the port of destination ;  which operation the vessel was to repeat with the return cargo on its way home.  According to these orders, we could not send a vessel from St. Mary’s to St. Augustine distant six hours’ sail on our own coast, without crossing the Atlantic four times, twice with the outward cargo, and twice with the inward.  She found this too daring and outrageous for a single step, retracted as to certain articles of commerce, but left it in force as to others which constitute important branches of our exports.  And finally, that her views may no longer rest on inference, in a recent debate her minister declared in open parliament, that the object of the present war is a monopoly of commerce.

In some of these atrocities, France kept pace with her fully in speculative wrong, which her impotence only shortened in practical execution.  This was called retaliation by both ;  each charging the other with the initiation of the outrage.  As if two combatants might retaliate on an innocent bystander, the blows they received from each other.  To make war on both would have been ridiculous.  In order, therefore, to single out an enemy, we offered to both, that if either would revoke its hostile decrees, and the other should refuse, we would interdict all intercourse whatever with that other ;  which would be war of course, as being an avowed departure from neutrality.  France accepted the offer, and revoked her decrees as to us.  England not only refused, but declared by a solemn proclamation of her Prince Regent, that she would not revoke her orders even as to us, until those of France should be annulled as to the whole world.  We thereon declared war, and with abundant additional cause.

In the meantime, an examination before parliament of the ruinous effects of these orders on her own manufacturers, exposing them to the nation and to the world, their Prince issued a palinodial proclamation, suspending the orders on certain conditions, but claiming to renew them at pleasure, as a matter of right.  Even this might have prevented the war, if done and known here before its declaration.  But the sword being once drawn, the expense of arming incurred, and hostilities in full course, it would have been unwise to discontinue them, until effectual provision should be agreed to by England, for protecting our citizens on the high seas from impressment by her naval commanders, through error, voluntary or involuntary;  the fact being notorious, that these officers, entering our ships at sea under pretext of searching for their seamen, (which they have no right to do by the law or usage of nations, which they neither do, nor ever did, as to any other nation but ours, and which no nation ever before pretended to do in any case,) entering our ships, I say, under pretext of searching for and taking out their seamen, they took ours, native as well as naturalized, knowing them to be ours, merely because they wanted them ;  insomuch, that no American could safely cross the ocean, or venture to pass by sea from one to another of our own ports.  It is not long since they impressed at sea two nephews of General Washington, returning from Europe, and put them, as common seamen, under the ordinary discipline of their ships of war.  There are certainly other wrongs to be settled between England and us ;  but of a minor character, and such as a proper spirit of conciliation on both sides would not permit to continue them at war.  The sword, however, can never again be sheathed, until the personal safety of an American on the ocean, among the most important and most vital of the rights we possess, is completely provided for.

As soon as we heard of her partial repeal of her orders of council, we offered instantly to suspend hostilities by an armistice, if she would suspend her impressments, and meet us in arrangements for securing our citizens against them.  She refused to do it, because impracticable by any arrangement, as she pretends ;  but, in truth, because a body of sixty to eighty thousand of the finest seamen in the world, which we possess, is too great a resource for manning her exaggerated navy, to be relinquished, as long as she can keep it open.  Peace is in her hand, whenever she will renounce the practice of aggression on the persons of our citizens.  If she thinks it worth eternal war, eternal war we must have.  She alleges that the sameness of language, of manners, of appearance, renders it impossible to distinguish us from her subjects.  But because we speak English, and look like them, are we to be punished ?  Are free and independent men to be submitted to their bondage ?

England has misrepresented to all Europe this ground of the war.  She has called it a new pretension, set up since the repeal of her orders of council.  She knows there has never been a moment of suspension of our reclamation against it, from General Washington’s time inclusive, to the present day ;  and that it is distinctly stated in our declaration of war, as one of its principal causes.  She has pretended we have entered into the war to establish the principle of “free bottoms, free goods,” or to protect her seamen against her own rights over them.  We contend for neither of these.  She pretends we are partial to France ;  that we have observed a fraudulent and unfaithful neutrality between her and her enemy.  She knows this to be false, and that if there has been any inequality in our proceedings towards the belligerents, it has been in her favor.  Her ministers are in possession of full proofs of this.  Our accepting at once, and sincerely, the mediation of the virtuous Alexander, their greatest friend, and the most aggravated enemy of Bonaparte, sufficiently proves whether we have partialities on the side of her enemy.  I sincerely pray that this mediation may produce a just peace.  It will prove that the immortal character, which has first stopped by war the career of the destroyer of mankind, is the friend of peace, of justice, of human happiness, and the patron of unoffending and injured nations.  He is too honest and impartial to countenance propositions of peace derogatory to the freedom of the seas.

Shall I apologize to you, my dear Madam, for this long political letter ?  But yours justifies the subject, and my feelings must plead for the unreserved expression of them ;  and they have been the less reserved, as being from a private citizen, retired from all connection with the government of his country, and whose ideas, expressed without communication with any one, are neither known, nor imputable to them.

The dangers of the sea are now so great, and the possibilities of interception by sea and land such, that I shall subscribe no name to this letter.  You will know from whom it comes, by its reference to the date of time and place of yours, as well as by its subject in answer to that.  This omission must not lessen in your view the assurances of my great esteem, of my sincere sympathies for the share which you bear in the afflictions of your country, and the deprivation to which a lawless will has subjected you.  In return, you enjoy the dignified satisfaction of having met them, rather than be yoked with the abject, to his car;  and that, in withdrawing from oppression, you have followed the virtuous example of a father whose name will ever be dear to your country and to mankind.  With my prayers that you may be restored to it, that you may see it re-established in that temperate portion of liberty which does not infer either anarchy or licentiousness, in that high degree of prosperity which would be the consequence of such a government, in that, in short, which the constitution of 1789 would have insured it, if wisdom could have stayed at that point the fervid but imprudent zeal of men, who did not know the character of their own country men, and that you may long live in health and happiness under it, and leave to the world a well-educated and virtuous representative and descendant of your honored father, is the ardent prayer of the sincere and respectful friend who writes this letter.




To Colonel James Monroe.
Monticello, May 30, 1813.

Dear Sir

I thank you for the communication of the President’s Message, which has not yet reached us through the public papers.  It is an interesting document, always looked for with anxiety, and the late one is equally able as interesting.  I hope Congress will act in conformity with it, in all its parts.  The unwarrantable ideas often expressed in the newspapers, and by persons who ought to know better, that I intermeddle in the Executive councils, and the indecent expressions, sometimes, of a hope that Mr. Madison will pursue the principles of my administration, expressions so disrespectful to his known abilities and dispositions, have rendered it improper in me to hazard suggestions to him, on occasions even where ideas might occur to me, that might accidentally escape him.  This reserve has been strengthened, too, by a consciousness that my views must be very imperfect;  from the want of a correct knowledge of the whole ground.

I lately, however, hazarded to him a suggestion on the defence of the Chesapeake, because, although decided on provisionally with the Secretaries of War and the Navy formerly, yet as it was proposed only in the case of war, which did not actually arise, and not relating to his department, might not then have been communicated to him.  Of this fact my memory did not ascertain me.  I will now hazard another suggestion to yourself, which indeed grows out of that one :  it is, the policy of keeping our frigates together in a body, in some place where they can be defended against a superior naval force, and from whence, nevertheless, they can easily sally forth on the shortest warning.  This would oblige the enemy to take stations, or to cruise only in masses equal at least, each of them, to our whole force;  and of course they could be acting only in two or three spots at a time, and the whole of our coast, except the two or three portions where they might be present, would be open to exportation and importation.  I think all that part of the United States over which the waters of the Chesapeake spread themselves, was blockaded in the early season by a single ship.  This would keep our frigates in entire safety, as they would go out only occasionally to oppress a blockading force known to be weaker than themselves, and thus make them a real protection to our whole commerce.  And it seems to me that this would be a more essential service, than that of going out by ones, or twos, in search of adventures, which contribute little to the protection of our commerce, and not at all to the defence of our coast, or the shores of our inland waters.  A defence of these by militia is most harassing to them.  The applications from Maryland, which I have seen in the papers, and those from Virginia, which I suspect, merely because I see such masses of the militia called off from their farms, must be embarrassing to the Executive, not only from a knowledge of the incompetency of such a mode of defence, but from the exhausture of funds which ought to be husbanded for the effectual operations of a long war.  I fear, too, it will render the militia discontented, perhaps clamorous for an end of the war on any terms.  I am happy to see that it is entirely popular as yet, and that no symptom of flinching from it appears among the people, as far as I can judge from the public papers, or from my own observation, limited to the few counties adjacent to the two branches of James river.  I have such confidence that what I suggest has been already maturely discussed in the Cabinet, and that for wise and sufficient reasons the present mode of employing the frigates is the best, that I hesitate about sending this even after having written.  Yet in that case it will only have given you the trouble of reading it.  You will bury it in your own breast, as non-avenue, and see in it only an unnecessary zeal on my part, and a proof of the unlimited confidence of yours ever and affectionately.




To John Adams.
Monticello, June 15, 1813.

Dear Sir,—I wrote you a letter on the 27th of May, which probably would reach you about the 3d instant, and on the 9th I received yours of the 29th of May.  Of Lindsay’s Memoirs I had never before heard, and scarcely indeed of himself.  It could not, therefore, but be unexpected, that two letters of mine should have anything to do with his life.  The name of his editor was new to me, and certainly presents itself for the first time under unfavorable circumstances.  Religion, I suppose, is the scope of his book;  and that a writer on that subject should usher himself to the world in the very act of the grossest abuse of confidence, by publishing private letters which passed between two friends, with no views to their ever being made public, is an instance of inconsistency as well as of infidelity, of which I would rather be the victim than the author.

By your kind quotation of the dates of my two letters, I have been enabled to turn to them.  They had completely vanished from my memory.  The last is on the subject of religion, and by its publication will gratify the priesthood with new occasion of repeating their comminations against me.  They wish it to be believed that he can have no religion who advocates its freedom.  This was not the doctrine of Priestley;  and I honored him for the example of liberality he set to his order.  The first letter is political.  It recalls to our recollection the gloomy transactions of the times, the doctrines they witnessed, and the sensibilities they excited.  It was a confidential communication of reflections on these from one friend to another, deposited in his bosom, and never meant to trouble the public mind.  Whether the character of the times is justly portrayed or not, posterity will decide.  But on one feature of them they can never decide, the sensations excited in free yet firm minds by the terrorism of the day.  None can conceive who did not witness them, and they were felt by one party only.  This letter exhibits their side of the medal.  The federalists, no doubt, have presented the other in their private correspondences as well as open action.  If these correspondences should ever be laid open to the public eye, they will probably be found not models of comity towards their adversaries.  The readers of my letter should be cautioned not to confine its view to this country alone.  England and its ala mists were equally under consideration.  Still less must they consider it as looking personally towards you.  You happen, indeed, to be quoted, because you happen d to express more pithily than had been done by themselves, one of the mottoes of the party.  This was in your answer to the address of the young men of Philadelphia.  One of the questions, you know, on which our parties took different sides, was on the improvability of the human mind in science, in ethics, in government, &c.  Those who advocated reformation of institutions, pari passu with the progress of science, maintained that no definite limits could be assigned to that progress.  The enemies of reform, on the other hand, denied improvement, and advocated steady adherence to the principles, practices and institutions of our fathers, which they represented as the consummation of wisdom, and acme of excellence, beyond which the human mind could never advance.  Although in the passage of your answer alluded to, you expressly disclaim the wish to influence the freedom of inquiry, you predict that that will produce nothing more worthy of transmission to posterity than the principles, institutions and systems of education received from their ancestors.  I do not consider this as your deliberate opinion.  You possess, yourself, too much science, not to see how much is still ahead of you, unexplained and unexplored.  Your own consciousness must place you as far before our ancestors as in the rear of our posterity.  I consider it as an expression lent to the prejudices of your friends;  and although I happened to cite it from you, the whole letter shows I had them only in view.  In truth, my dear Sir, we were far from considering you as the author of all the measures we blamed.  They were placed under the protection of your name, but we were satisfied they wanted much of your approbation.  We ascribed them to their real authors, the Pickerings, the Wolcotts, the Tracys, the Sedgwicks, et id genus omne, with whom we supposed you in a state of duresse.  I well remember a conversation with you in the morning of the day on which you nominated to the Senate a substitute for Pickering, in which you expressed a just impatience under “the legacy of secretaries which General Washington had left you,” and whom you seemed, therefore, to consider as under public protection.  Many other incidents showed how differently you would have acted with less impassioned advisers ;  and subsequent events have proved that your minds were not together.  You would do me great injustice, therefore, by taking to yourself what was intended for men who were then your secret, as they are now your open enemies.  Should you write on the subject, as you propose, I am sure we shall see you place yourself farther from them than from us.

As to myself, I shall take no part in any discussions.  I leave others to judge of what I have done, and to give me exactly that place which they shall think I have occupied.  Marshall has written libels on one side ;  others, I suppose, will be written on the other side;  and the world will sift both and separate the truth as well as they can.  I should see with reluctance the passions of that day rekindled in this, while so many of the actors are living, and all are too near the scene not to participate in sympathies with them.  About facts you and I cannot differ;  because truth is our mutual guide.  And if any opinions you may express should be different from mine, I shall receive them with the liberality and indulgence which I ask for my own, and still cherish with warmth the sentiments of affectionate respect, of which I can with so much truth tender you the assurance.




To William Short.
Monticello, June 18, 1813.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 2d is received, and a copy of Higgenbotham’s mortgage is now enclosed.  The journey to Bedford which I proposed in my last, my engagements here have obliged me to postpone till after harvest, which is now approaching;  it is the most unpromising one I have seen.  We have been some days in expectation of seeing M. Correa.  If he is on the road, he has had some days of our very hottest weather.  My thermometer has been for two days at 92 and 92½ degrees, the last being the maximum ever seen here.  Although we usually have the hottest day of the year in June, yet it is soon interrupted by cooler weather.  In July the heat, though not so great, is more continuous and steady.

On the duration of the war I think there is uncertainty.  Ever since the rupture of the treaty of Amiens, the object of Great Britain has visibly been the permanent conquest of the ocean, and levying a tribute on every vessel she permits to sail on it, as the Barbary powers do on the Mediterranean, which they call their sea.  She must be conscious she cannot from her own resources maintain the exaggerated fleet she now has, and which is necessary to maintain her conquest;  she must, therefore, levy the deficiency of duties of transit on other nations.  If she should get another ministry with sense enough to abandon this senseless scheme, the war with us ought to be short, because there is no material cause now existing but impressment ;  and there our only difference is how to establish a mode of discrimination between our citizens which she does not claim, and hers which it is neither our wish nor interest ever to employ.  The seamen which our navigation raises had better be of our own.  If this be all she aims at, it may be settled at Saint Petersburg.  My principle has ever been that war should not suspend either exports or imports.  If the piracies of France and England, however, are to be adopted as the law of nations, or should become their practice, it will oblige us to manufacture at home all the material comforts.

This may furnish a reason to check imports until necessary manufactures are established among us.  This offers the advantage, too, of placing the consumer of our produce near the producer, but I should disapprove of the prohibition of exports even to the enemy themselves, except indeed refreshments and water to their cruisers on our coast, in order to oblige them to intermit their cruises to go elsewhere for these supplies.  The idea of starving them as to bread, is a very idle one.  It is dictated by passion, not by reason.  If the war is lengthened we shall take Canada, which will relieve us from Indians, and Halifax, which will put an end to their occupation of the American seas, because every vessel must then go to England to repair every accident.  To retain these would become objects of first importance to us, and of great importance to Europe, as the means of curtailing the British marine.  But at present, being merely in posse, they should not be an impediment to peace.  We have a great and a just claim of indemnifications against them for the thousand ships they have taken piratically, and six thousand seamen impressed.  Whether we can, on this score, successfully insist on curtailing their American possessions, by the meridian of Lake Huron, so as to cut them off from the Indians bordering on us, would be matter for conversation and experiment at the treaty of pacification.  I sometimes allow my mind to wander thus into the political field, but rarely, and with reluctance.  It is my desire as well as my duty to leave to the vigor of younger minds to settle concerns which are no longer mine, but must long be theirs.  Affectionately adieu.




To the President of the United States (James Madison).
Monticello, June 15, 1813.

Your kind answer of the 16th entirely satisfies my doubts as to the employment of the navy, if kept within striking distance of our coast;  and shows how erroneous views are apt to be with those who have not all in view.  Yet as I know from experience that profitable suggestions sometimes come from lookers on, they may be usefully tolerated, provided they do not pretend to the right of an answer.  They would cost very dear indeed were they to occupy the time of a high officer in writing when he should be acting.  I intended no such trouble to you, my dear Sir, and were you to suppose I expected it, I must cease to offer a thought on our public affairs.  Although my entire confidence in their direction prevents my reflecting on them but accidentally, yet sometimes facts, and sometimes ideas occur, which I hazard as worth the trouble of reading but not of answering.  Of this kind was my suggestion of the facts which I recollected as to the defence of the Chesapeake, and of what had been contemplated at the time between the Secretaries of War and the Navy and myself.  If our views were sound, the object might be effected in one year, even of war, and at an expense which is nothing compared to the population and productions it would cover.  We are here laboring under the most extreme drought ever remembered at this season.  We have had but one rain to lay the dust in two months.  That was a good one, but was three weeks ago.  Corn is but a few inches high and dying.  Oats will not yield their seed.  Of wheat, the hard winter and fly leave us about two-thirds of an ordinary crop.  So that in the lotteries of human life you see that even farming is but gambling.  We have had three days of excessive heat.  The thermometer on the 16th was at 92 degrees, on the 17th 92½ degrees, and yesterday at 93 degrees.  It had never before exceeded 92½ at this place;  at least within the periods of my observations.  Ever and affectionately yours.




To Colonel James Monroe.
Monticello, June 18, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favors of the 7th and 16th are received, and I now return you the memoir enclosed in the former.  I am much gratified by its communication, because, as the plan appeared in the newspapers soon after the new Secretary of War came into office, we had given him the credit of it.  Every line of it is replete with wisdom;  and we might lament that our tardy enlistments prevented its execution, were we not to reflect that these proceeded from the happiness of our people at home.  It is more a subject of joy that we have so few of the desperate characters which compose modern regular armies.  But it proves more forcibly the necessity of obliging every citizen to be a soldier;  this was the case with the Greeks and Romans, and must be that of every free State.  Where there is no oppression there will be no pauper hirelings.  We must train and classify the whole of our male citizens, and make military instruction.  a regular part of collegiate education.  We can never be safe till this is done.

I have been persuaded, ab initio, that what we are to do in Canada must be done quickly;  because our enemy, with a little time, can empty pickpockets upon us faster than we can enlist honest men to oppose them.  If we fail in this acquisition, Hull is the cause of it.  Pike, in his situation, would have swept their posts to Montreal, because his army would have grown as it went along.  I fear the reinforcements arrived at Quebec will be at Montreal before General Dearborn, and if so, the game is up.  If the marching of the militia into an enemy’s country be once ceded as unconstitutional (which I hope it never will be), then will their force, as now strengthened, bid us permanent defiance.  Could we acquire that country, we might perhaps insist successfully at St. Petersburg on retaining all westward of the meridian of Lake Huron, or of Ontario, or of Montreal, according to the pulse of the place, as an indemnification for the past and security for the future.  To cut them off from the Indians even west of the Huron would be a great future security.

Your kind answer of the 16th entirely satisfies my doubts as to the employment of a navy, if kept within striking distance of our coast, and shows how erroneous views are apt to be with those who have not all in view.  Yet, as I know by experience that profitable suggestions sometimes come from lookers on, they may be usefully tolerated, provided they do not pretend to the right of an answer.  They would cost very dear, indeed, were they to occupy the time of a high officer in writing when he should be acting. * * * * * * * *




To Matthew Carr.
Monticello, June 19, 1813.

SIR

I thank you for the copy of Mr. Clarke’s sketches of the naval history of the United States, which you have been so kind as to send me.  It is a convenient repository of cases of that class, and has brought to my recollection a number of individual cases of the Revolutionary war which had escaped me.  I received, also, one of Mr. Clarke’s circulars, asking supplementary communications for a second edition.  But these things are so much out of the reach of my inland situation, that I am the least able of all men to contribute anything to his desire.  I will indulge myself, therefore, in two or three observations, of which you will make what use you may think they merit.  1. Bushnel’s Turtle is mentioned slightly.  Would the description of the machine be too much for the sale of the work ?  It may be found very minutely given in the American Philosophical transactions.  It was excellently contrived, and might perhaps, by improvement be brought into real use.  I do not know the difference between this and Mr. Fulton’s submarine boat.  But an effectual machine of that kind is not beyond the laws of nature ;  and whatever is within these, is not to be despaired of.  It would be to the United States the consummation of their safety.  2. The account of the loss of the Philadelphia, does not give a fair impression of the transaction.  The proofs may be seen among the records of the Navy Office.  After this loss, Captain Bainbridge had a character to redeem.  He has done it most honorably, and no one is more gratified by it than myself.  But still the transaction ought to be correctly stated.  3. But why omit all mention of the scandalous campaigns of Commodore Morris ?  A two years’ command of an effective squadron, with discretionary instructions, wasted in sailing from port to port of the Mediterranean, and a single half day before the port of the enemy against which he was sent.  All this can be seen in the proceedings of the court on which he was dismissed;  and it is due to the honorable truths with which the book abounds, to publish those which are not so.  A fair and honest narrative of the bad, is a voucher for the truth of the good.  In this way the old Congress set an example to the world, for which the world amply repaid them, by giving unlimited credit to whatever was stamped with the name of Charles Thompson.  It is known that this was never put to an untruth but once, and that where Congress was misled by the credulity of their General (Sullivan).  The first misfortune of the Revolutionary war, induced a motion to suppress or garble the account of it.  It was rejected with indignation.  The whole truth was given in all its details, and there never was another attempt in that body to disguise it.  These observations are meant for the good of the work, and for the honor of those whom it means to honor.  Accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.




To the President of the United States (James Madison).
Monticello, June 21, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 6th has been received, and I will beg leave to add a few supplementary observations on the subject of my former letter.  I am not a judge of the best forms which may be given to the gunboat;  and indeed I suppose they should be of various forms, suited to the various circumstances to which they would be applied.  Among these, no doubt, Commodore Barney’s would find their place.  While the largest and more expensive are fitted for moving from one seaport to another, coast-wise, to aid in a particular emergency, those of smaller draught and expense suit shallower waters ;  and of these shallow and cheap forms must be those for Lynhaven river.  Commodore Preble, in his lifetime, undertook to build such in the best manner for two or three thousand dollars.  Colonel Monroe, to whose knowledge of the face of the country I had referred, approves, in a letter to me, of such a plan of defence as was suggested, adding to it a fort on the middle grounds ;  but thinks the work too great to be executed during a war.  Such a fort, certainly, could not be built during a war, in the face of an enemy.  Its practicability at anytime has been doubted, and although a good auxiliary, is not a necessary member of this scheme of defence.  But the canal of retreat is really a small work, of a few months’ execution;  the laborers would be protected by the military guard on the spot, and many of these would assist in the execution, for fatigue, rations, and pay.  The exact magnitude of the work I would not affirm;  nor do I think we should trust for it to Tatham’s survey;  still less would I call in Latrobe, who would immediately contemplate a canal of Languedoc.  I would sooner trust such a man as Thomas Monroe to take the level, measure the distances, and estimate the expense.  And if the plan were all matured the ensuing winter, and laborers engaged at the proper season, it might be executed in time to mitigate the blockade of the next summer.  On recurring to an actual survey of that part of the country, made in the beginning of the Revolutionary war, under the orders of the Governor and Council, by Mr. Andrews I think, a copy of which I took with great care, instead of the half a dozen miles I had conjectured in my former letter, the canal would seem to be of not half that length.  I send you a copy of that part of the map, which may be useful to you on other occasions, and is more to be depended on for minutia, probably, than any other existing.  I have marked on that the conjectured route of the canal, to wit, from the bridge on Lynhaven river to King’s landing, on the eastern branch.  The exact draught of water into Lynhaven river you have in the Navy Office.  I think it is over four feet.

When we consider the population and productions of the Chesapeake country;  extending from the Genissee to the Saura towns and Albemarle Sound, its safety and commerce seem entitled even to greater efforts, if greater could secure them.  That a defence at the entrance of the bay can be made mainly effective, that it will cost less in money, harass the militia less, place the inhabitants on its interior waters freer from alarm and depredation, and render provisions and water more difficult to the enemy, is so possible as to render thorough inquiry certainly expedient.  Some of the larger gunboats;  or vessels better uniting swiftness with force; would also be necessary to scour the interior, and cut off any pickaroons which might venture up the bay or rivers.  The loss on James river alone, this year is estimated at two hundred thousand barrels of flour, now on hand, for which the half price is not to be expected.  This then is a million of dollars levied on a single water of the Chesapeake, and to be levied every year during the war.  If a concentration of its defence at the entrance of the Chesapeake should be found inadequate, then we must of necessity submit to the expenses of detailed defence, to the harassment of the militia, the burnings of towns and houses, depredations of farms, and the hard trial of the spirit of the Middle States, the most zealous supporters of the war, and, therefore, the peculiar objects of the vindictive efforts of the enemy.  Those north of the Hudson need nothing, because treated by the enemy as neutrals.  All their war is concentrated on the Delaware and Chesapeake ;  and these, therefore, stand in principal need of the shield of the Union.  The Delaware can be defended more easily.  But I should not think one hundred gunboats (costing less than one frigate) an over-proportioned allotment to the Chesapeake country against the over-proportioned hostilities pointed at it.

I am too sensible of the partial and defective state of my information, to be over-confident, or pertinacious, in the opinion I have formed.  A thorough examination of the ground will settle it.  We may suggest, perhaps it is a duty to do it.  But you alone are qualified for decision, by the whole view which you can command;  and so confident am I in the intentions, as well as wisdom, of the government, that I shall always be satisfied that what is not done, either cannot, or ought not to be done.  While I trust that no difficulties will dishearten us, I am anxious to lessen the trial as much as possible.  Heaven preserve you under yours, and help you through all its perplexities and perversities.




To John Wayles Eppes.
Monticello, June 24, 1813.

Dear Sir,—This letter will be on politics only.  For although I do not often permit myself to think on that subject, it sometimes obtrudes itself, and suggests ideas which I am tempted to pursue.  Some of these relating to the business of finance, I will hazard to you, as being at the head of that committee, but intended for yourself individually, or such as you trust, but certainly not for a mixed committee.

It is a wise rule and should be fundamental in a government disposed to cherish its credit, and at the same time to restrain the use of it within the limits of its faculties, “never to borrow a dollar without laying a tax in the same instant for paying the interest annually, and the principal within a given term;  and to consider that tax as pledged to the creditors on the public faith.”  On such a pledge as this, sacredly observed, a government may always command, on a reasonable interest, all the lendable money of their citizens, while the necessity of an equivalent tax is a salutary warning to them and their constituents against oppressions, bankruptcy, and its inevitable consequence, revolution.  But the term of redemption must be moderate, and at any rate within the limits of their rightful powers.  But what limits, it will be asked, does this prescribe to their powers ?  What is to hinder them from creating a perpetual debt ?  The laws of nature, I answer.  The earth belongs to the living, not to the dead.  The will and the power of man expire with his life, by nature's law.  Some societies give it an artificial continuance, for the encouragement of industry; some refuse it, as our aboriginal neighbors, whom we call barbarians.  The generations of men may be considered as bodies or corporations.  Each generation has the usufruct of the earth during the period of its continuance.  When it ceases to exist, the usufruct passes on to the succeeding generation, free and unincumbered, and so on, successively, from one generation to another forever.  We may consider each generation as a distinct nation, with a right, by the will of its majority, to bind themselves, but none to bind the succeeding generation, more than the inhabitants of another country.  Or the case may be likened to the ordinary one of a tenant for life, who may hypothecate the land for his debts, during the continuance of his usufruct; but at his death, the reversioner (who is also for life only) receives it exonerated from all burthen.  The period of a generation, or the term of its life, is determined by the laws of mortality, which, varying a little only in different climates, offer a general average, to be found by observation.  I turn, for instance, to Buffon's tables, of twenty-three thousand nine hundred and ninety-four deaths, and the ages at which they happened, and I find that of the numbers of all ages living at one moment, half will be dead in twenty-four years and eight months.  But (leaving out minors, who have not the power of self-government) of the adults (of twenty-one years of age) living at one moment, a majority of whom act for the society, one half will be dead in eighteen years and eight months.  At nineteen years then from the date of a contract, the majority of the contractors are dead, and their contract with them.  Let this general theory be applied to a particular case.  Suppose the annual births of the State of New York to be twenty-three thousand nine hundred and ninety-four, the whole number of its inhabitants, according to Buffon, will be six hundred and seventeen thousand seven hundred and three, of all ages.  Of these there would constantly be two hundred and sixty-nine thousand two hundred and eighty-six minors, and three hundred and forty-eight thousand four hundred and seventeen adults, of which last, one hundred and seventy-four thousand two hundred and nine will be a majority.  Suppose that majority, on the first day of the year 1794, had borrowed a sum of money equal to the fee-simple value of the State, and to have consumed it in eating, drinking and making merry in their day; or, if you please, in quarrelling and fighting with their unoffending neighbors.  Within eighteen years and eight months, one half of the adult citizens were dead.  Till then, being the majority, they might rightfully levy the interest of their debt annually on themselves and their fellow-revellers, or fellow-champions.  But at that period, say at this moment, a new majority have come into place, in their own right, and not under the rights, the conditions, or laws of their predecessors.  Are they bound to acknowledge the debt, to consider the preceding generation as having had a right to eat up the whole soil of their country, in the course of a life, to alienate it from them, (for it would be an alienation to the creditors,) and would they think themselves either legally or morally bound to give up their country and emigrate to another for subsistence ?  Every one will say no;  that the soil is the gift of God to the living, as much as it had been to the deceased generation; and that the laws of nature impose no obligation on them to pay this debt.  And although, like some other natural rights, this has not yet entered into any declaration of rights, it is no less a law, and ought to be acted on by honest governments.  It is, at the same time, a salutary curb on the spirit of war and indebtment, which, since the modern theory of the perpetuation of debt, has drenched the earth with blood, and crushed its inhabitants under burthens ever accumulating.  Had this principle been declared in the British bill of rights, England would have been placed under the happy disability of waging eternal war, and of contracting her thousand millions of public debt.  In seeking, then, for an ultimate term for the redemption of our debts, let us rally to this principle, and provide for their payment within the term of nineteen years at the farthest.  Our government has not, as yet, begun to act on the rule of loans and taxation going hand in hand.  Had any loan taken place in my time, I should have strongly urged a redeeming tax.  For the loan which has been made since the last session of Congress, we should now set the example of appropriating some particular tax, sufficient to pay the interest annually, and the principal within a fixed term, less than nineteen years.  And I hope yourself and your committee will render the immortal service of introducing this practice.  Not that it is expected that Congress should formally declare such a principle.  They wisely enough avoid deciding on abstract questions.  But they may be induced to keep themselves within its limits.

I am sorry to see our loans begin at so exorbitant an interest. And yet, even at that you will soon be at the bottom of the loan-bag.  We are an agricultural nation.  Such an one employs its sparings in the purchase or improvement of land or stocks.  The lendable money among them is chiefly that of orphans and wards in the hands of executors and guardians, and that which the farmer lays by till he has enough for the purchase in view.  In such a nation there is one and one only resource for loans, sufficient to carry them through the expense of war; and that will always be sufficient, and in the power of an honest government, punctual in the preservation of its faith. The fund I mean, is the mass of circulating coin.  Every one knows, that although not literally, it is nearly true, that every paper dollar emitted banishes a silver one from the circulation.  A nation, therefore, making its purchases and payments with bills fitted for circulation, thrusts an equal sum of coin out of circulation.  This is equivalent to borrowing that sum, and yet the vendor receiving payment in a medium as effectual as coin for his purchases or payments, has no claim to interest.  And so the nation may continue to issue its bills as far as its wants require, and the limits of the circulation will admit.  Those limits are understood to extend with us at present, to two hundred millions of dollars, a greater sum than would be necessary for any war.  But this, the only resource which the government could command with certainty, the States have unfortunately fooled away, nay corruptly alienated to swindlers and shavers, under the cover of private banks.  Say, too, as an additional evil, that the disposal funds of individuals, to this great amount, have thus been withdrawn from improvement and useful enterprise, and employed in the useless, usurious and demoralizing practices of bank directors and their accomplices.  In the war of 1755, our State availed itself of this fund by issuing a paper money, bottomed on a specific tax for its redemption, and, to insure its credit, bearing an interest of five per cent.  Within a very short time, not a bill of this emission was to be found in circulation.  It was locked up in the chests of executors, guardians, widows, farmers, &c.  We then issued bills bottomed on a redeeming tax, but bearing no interest.  These were readily received, and never depreciated a single farthing.  In the revolutionary war, the old Congress and the States issued bills without interest, and without tax.  They occupied the channels of circulation very freely, till those channels were overflowed by an excess beyond all the calls of circulation.  But although we have so improvidently suffered the field of circulating medium to be filched from us by private individuals, yet I think we may recover it in part, and even in the whole, if the States will co-operate with us.  If treasury bills are emitted on a tax appropriated for their redemption in fifteen years, and (to insure preference in the first moments of competition) bearing an interest of six per cent. there is no one who would not take them in preference to the bank paper now afloat, on a principle of patriotism as well as interest;  and they would be withdrawn from circulation into private hoards to a considerable amount.  Their credit once established, others might be emitted, bottomed also on a tax, but not bearing interest; and if ever their credit faltered, open public loans, on which these bills alone should be received as specie. These, operating as a sinking fund, would reduce the quantity in circulation, so as to maintain that in an equilibrium with specie.  It is not easy to estimate the obstacles which, in the beginning, we should encounter in ousting the banks from their possession of the circulation; but a steady and judicious alternation of emissions and loans, would reduce them in time.  But while this is going on, another measure should be pressed, to recover ultimately our right to the circulation.  The States should be applied to, to transfer the right of issuing circulating paper to Congress exclusively, in perpetuum, if possible, but during the war at least, with a saving of charter rights.  I believe that every State west and South of Connecticut river, except Delaware, would immediately do it;  and the others would follow in time.  Congress would, of course, begin by obliging unchartered banks to wind up their affairs within a short time, and the others as their charters expired, forbidding the subsequent circulation of their paper.  This they would supply with their own, bottomed, every emission, on an adequate tax, and bearing or not bearing interest, as the state of the public pulse should indicate.  Even in the non-complying States, these bills would make their way, and supplant the unfunded paper of their banks, by their solidity, by the universality of their currency, and by their receivability for customs and taxes.  It would be in their power, too, to curtail those banks to the amount of their actual specie, by gathering up their paper, and running it constantly on them.  The national paper might thus take place even in the non-complying States.  In this way, I am not without a hope, that this great, this sole resource for loans in an agricultural country, might yet be recovered for the use of the nation during war; and, if obtained in perpetuum, it would always be sufficient to carry us through any war;  provided, that in the interval between war and war, all the outstanding paper should be called in, coin be permitted to flow in again, and to hold the field of circulation until another war should require its yielding place again to the national medium.

But it will be asked, are we to have no banks ?  Are merchants and others to be deprived of the resource of short accommodations, found so convenient?  I answer, let us have banks;  but let them be such as are alone to be found in any country on earth, except Great Britain.  There is not a bank of discount on the continent of Europe, (at least there was not one when I was there,) which offers anything but cash in exchange for discounted bills.  No one has a natural right to the trade of a money lender, but he who has the money to lend.  Let those then among us, who have a monied capital, and who prefer employing it in loans rather than otherwise, set up banks, and give cash or national bills for the notes they discount.  Perhaps, to encourage them, a larger interest than is legal in the other cases might be allowed them, on the condition of their lending for short periods only.  It is from Great Britain we copy the idea of giving paper in exchange for discounted bills; and while we have derived from that country some good principles of government and legislation, we unfortunately run into the most servile imitation of all her practices, ruinous as they prove to her, and with the gulph yawning before us into which these very practices are precipitating her.  The unlimited emission of bank paper has banished all her specie, and is now, by a depreciation acknowledged by her own statesmen, carrying her rapidly to bankruptcy, as it did France, as it did us, and will do us again, and every country permitting paper to be circulated, other than that by public authority, rigorously limited to the just measure for circulation.  Private fortunes, in the present state of our circulation, are at the mercy of those self-created money lenders, and are prostrated by the floods of nominal money with which their avarice deluges us.  He who lent his money to the public or to an individual, before the institution of the United States Bank, twenty years ago, when wheat was well sold at a dollar the bushel, and receives now his nominal sum when it sells at two dollars, is cheated of half his fortune; and by whom?  By the banks, which, since that, have thrown into circulation ten dollars of their nominal money where was one at that time.

Reflect, if you please, on these ideas, and use them or not as they appear to merit.  They comfort me in the belief, that they point out a resource ample enough, without overwhelming war taxes, for the expense of the war, and possibly still recoverable; and that they hold up to all future time a resource within ourselves, ever at the command of government, and competent to any wars into which we may be forced.  Nor is it a slight object to equalize taxes through peace and war.

I was in Bedford a fortnight in the month of May, and did not know that Francis and his cousin Baker were within 10. miles of me at Lynchburg.  I learnt it by letters from themselves after I had returned home.  I shall go there early in August and hope their master will permit them to pass their Saturdays & Sundays with me. Ever affectionately yours.




To John Adams.
Monticello, June 27, 1813.

A woodcutter, having come onto heavily wooded Ida,
looked all around, doubtful at first where he should begin his task.
'What first shall I gather ?’ he said, gazing up at the thousands of trees.


And I too, my dear Sir, like the wood-cutter of Ida, should doubt where to begin, were I to enter the forest of opinions, discussions, and contentions which have occurred in our day.  I should say with Theocritus, ——(Greek inserted here)——.  But I shall not do it.  The summum bonum with me is now truly epicurian, ease of body and tranquillity of mind ;  and to these I wish to consign my remaining days.  Men have differed in opinion, and been divided into parties by these opinions, from the first origin of societies, and in all governments where they have been permitted freely to think and to speak.  The same political parties which now agitate the United States, have existed through all time.  Whether the power of the people or that of the ——(Greek inserted here)——should prevail, were questions which kept the States of Greece and Rome in eternal convulsions, as they now schismatize every people whose minds and mouths are not shut up by the gag of a despot.  And in fact, the terms of whig and tory belong to natural as well as to civil history.  They denote the temper and constitution of mind of different individuals.  To come to our own country, and to the times when you and I became first acquainted, we well remember the violent parties which agitated the old Congress, and their bitter contests.  There you and I were together, and the Jays, and the Dickinsons, and other anti-independents, were arrayed against us.  They cherished the monarchy of England, and we the rights of our countrymen.  When our present government was in the mew, passing from Confederation to Union, how bitter was the schism between the Feds and Antis !  Here you and I were together again.  For although, for a moment, separated by the Atlantic from the scene of action, I favored the opinion that nine States should confirm the constitution, in order to secure it, and the others hold off until certain amendments, deemed favorable to freedom, should be made.  I rallied in the first instant to the wiser proposition of Massachusetts, that all should confirm, and then all instruct their delegates to urge those amendments.  The amendments were made, and all were reconciled to the government.  But as soon as it was put into motion, the line of division was again drawn.  We broke into two parties, each wishing to give the government a different direction ;  the one to strengthen the most popular branch, the other the more permanent branches, and to extend their permanence.  Here you and I separated for the first time, and as we had been longer than most others on the public theatre, and our names therefore were more familiar to our countrymen, the party which considered you as thinking with them, placed your name at their head;  the other, for the same reason, selected mine.  But neither decency nor inclination permitted us to become the advocates of ourselves, or to take part personally in the violent contests which followed.  We suffered ourselves, as you so well expressed it, to be passive subjects of public discussion.  And these discussions, whether relating to men, measures or opinions, were conducted by the parties with an animosity, a bitterness and an indecency which had never been exceeded.  All the resources of reason and of wrath were exhausted by each party in support of its own, and to prostrate the adversary opinions ;  one was upbraided, with receiving the anti-federalists, the other the old tories and refugees, into their bosom.  Of this acrimony, the public papers of the day exhibit ample testimony, in the debates of Congress, of State Legislatures, of stump-orators, in addresses;  answers, and newspaper essays ;  and to these, without question, may be added the private correspondences of individuals ;  and the less guarded in these, because not meant for the public eye, not restrained by the respect due to that, but poured forth from the overflowings of the heart into the bosom of a friend, as a momentary easement of our feelings.  In this way, and in answers to addresses, you and I could indulge ourselves.  We have probably done it, sometimes with warmth, often with prejudice, but always, as we believed, adhering to truth.  I have not examined my letters of that day.  I have no stomach to revive the memory of its feelings.  But one of these letters, it seems, has got before the public, by accident and infidelity, by the death of one friend to whom it was written, and of his friend to whom it had been communicated, and by the malice and treachery of a third person, of whom I had never before heard, merely to make mischief, and in the same satanic spirit in which the same enemy had intercepted and published, in 1776, your letter animadverting on Dickinson’s character.  How it happened that I quoted you in my letter to Doctor Priestley, and for whom, and not for yourself, the strictures were meant, has been explained to you in my letter of the 15th, which had been committed to the post eight days before I received yours of the 10th, 11th, and 14th.  That gave you the reference which these asked to the particular answer alluded to in the one to Priestley.  The renewal of these old discussions, my friend, would be equally useless and irksome.  To the volumes then written on these subjects, human ingenuity can add nothing new, and the rather, as lapse of time has obliterated many of the facts.  And shall you and I, my dear Sir, at our age, like Priam of old, gird on the “arma, diu desueta, trementibus ævo humeris ?”  Shall we, at our age, become the Athletæ of party, and exhibit ourselves as gladiators in the arena of the newspapers ?  Nothing in the universe could induce me to it.  My mind has been long fixed to bow to the judgment of the world, who will judge by my acts, and will never take counsel from me as to what that judgment shall be.  If your objects and opinions have been misunderstood, if the measures and principles of others have been wrongfully imputed to you, as I believe they have been, that you should leave an explanation of them, would be an act of justice to yourself.  I will add, that it has been hoped that you would leave such explanations as would place every saddle on its right horse, and replace on the shoulders of others the burdens they shifted on yours.

But all this, my friend, is offered, merely for your consideration and judgment, without presuming to anticipate what you alone are qualified to decide for yourself.  I mean to express my own purpose only, and the reflections which have led to it.  To me, then, it appears, that there have been differences of opinion and party differences, from the first establishment of governments to the present day, and on the same question which now divides our own country;  that these will continue through all future time;  that every one takes his side in favor of the many, or of the few, according to his constitution, and the circumstances in which he is placed;  that opinions, which are equally honest on both sides;  should not affect personal esteem or social intercourse;  that as we judge between the Claudii and the Gracchi, the Wentworths and the Hampdens of past ages, so of those among us whose names may happen to be remembered for awhile, the next generations will judge, favorably or unfavorably, according to the complexion of individual minds, and the side they shall themselves have taken ;  that nothing new can be added by you or me to what has been said by others, and will be said in every age in support of the conflicting opinions on government ;  and that wisdom and duty dictate an humble resignation to the verdict of our future peers.  In doing this myself, I shall certainly not suffer moot questions to affect the sentiments of sincere friendship and respect, consecrated to you by so long a course of time, and of which I now repeat sincere assurances.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, June 28, 1813.

Dear Sir

I know not what, unless it were the prophet of Tippecanoe, had turned my curiosity to inquiries after the metaphysical science of the Indians, their ecclesiastical establishments, and theological theories ;  but your letter, written with all the accuracy, perspicuity, and elegance of your youth and middle age, as it has given me great satisfaction, deserves my best thanks.

It has given me satisfaction, because, while it has furnished me with information where all the knowledge is to be obtained that books afford, it has convinced me that I shall never know much more of the subject than I do now.  As I have never aimed at making my collection of books upon this subject, I have none of those you abridged in so concise a manner.  Lafitan, Adair, and De Bry, were known to me only by name.

The various ingenuity which has been displayed in inventions of hypothesis, to account for the original population of America, and the immensity of learning profusely expended to support them, have appeared to me for a longer time than I can precisely recollect, what the physicians call the Literæ nihil Sanantes.  Whether serpents’ teeth were sown here and sprang up men ;  whether men and women dropped from the clouds upon.  this Atlantic Island;  whether the Almighty created them here, or whether they emigrated from Europe, are questions of no moment to the present or future happiness of man.  Neither agriculture, commerce, manufactures, fisheries, science, literature, taste, religion, morals, nor any other good will be promoted, or any evil, averted, by any discoveries that can be made in answer to these questions.

The opinions of the Indians and their usages, as they are represented in your obliging letter of the 11th of June, appear to me to resemble the Platonizing Philo, or the Philonizing Plato, more than the genuine system of Indianism.

The philosophy both of Philo and Plato are at least as absurd.  It is indeed less intelligible.

Plato borrowed his doctrines from Oriental and Egyptian philosophers, for he had travelled both in India and Egypt.

The Oriental philosophy, imitated and adopted, in part, if not the whole, by Plato and Philo, was

1.  One God the good.

2.  The ideas, the thoughts, the reason, the intellect, the logos, the ratio of God.

3.  Matter, the universe, the production of the logos, or contemplations of God.  This matter was the source of evil.

Perhaps the three powers of Plato, Philo, the Egyptians, and Indians, cannot be distinctly made out, from your account of the Indians, but—

1.  The great spirit, the good, who is worshipped by the kings, sachems, and all the great men, in their solemn festivals, as the Author, the Parent of good.

2.  The Devil, or the source of evil.  They are not metaphysicians enough as yet to suppose it, or at least to call it matter, like the wiscains of Antiquity, and like Frederick the Great, who has written a very silly essay on the origin of evil, in which he ascribes it all to matter, as if this was an original discovery of his own.

The watchmaker has in his head an idea of the system of a watch before he makes it.  The mechanician of the universe had a complete idea of the universe before he made it;  and this idea, this logos, was almighty, or at least powerful enough to produce the world, but it must be made of matter which was eternal;  for creation out of nothing was impossible.  And matter was unmanageable.  It would not, and could not be fashioned into any system, without a large mixture of evil in it;  for matter was essentially evil.

The Indians are not metaphysicians enough to have discovered this idea, this logos, this intermediate power between good and evil, God and matter.  But of the two powers, the good and the evil, they seem to have a full conviction;  and what son or daughter of Adam and Eve has not ?

This logos of Plato seems to resemble, if it was not the prototype of, the Ratio and its Progress of Manilious, the astrologer ;  of the Progress of the Mind of Condorcet, and the Age of Reason of Tom Payne.

I could make a system too.  The seven hundred thousand soldiers of Zingis, when the whole, or any part of them went to battle, they sent up a howl, which resembled nothing that human imagination has conceived, unless it be the supposition that all the devils in hell were let loose at once to set up an infernal scream, which terrified their enemies;  and never failed to obtain them victory.  The Indian yell resembles this;  and, therefore, America was peopled from Asia.

Another system.  The armies of Zingis, sometimes two or three or four hundred thousand of them, surrounded a province in a circle, and marched towards the centre, driving all the wild beasts before them, lions, tigers, wolves, bears, and every living thing, terrifying them with their howls and yells, their drums, trumpets, etc., till they terrified and tamed enough of them to victual the whole army.  Therefore, the Scotch Highlanders, who practice the same thing in miniature, are emigrants from Asia.  Therefore, the American Indians, who, for anything I know, practice the same custom, are emigrants from Asia or Scotland.

I am weary of contemplating nations from the lowest and most beastly degradations of human life, to the highest refinement of civilization.  I am weary of Philosophers, Theologians, Politicians, and Historians.  They are an immense mass of absurdities, vices, and lies.  Montesquieu had sense enough to say in jest, that all our knowledge might be comprehended in twelve pages in duodecimo, and I believe him in earnest.  I could express my faith in shorter terms.  He who loves the workman and his work, and does what he can to preserve and improve it, shall be accepted of him.

I have also felt an interest in the Indians, and a commiseration for them from my childhood.  Aaron Pomham, the priest, and Moses Pomham, the king of the Punkapang and Neponset tribes, were frequent visitors at my father’s house, at least seventy years ago.  I have a distinct remembrance of their forms and figures.  They were very aged, and the tallest and stoutest Indians I have ever seen.  The titles of king and priest, and the names of Moses and Aaron, were given them no doubt by our Massachusetts divines and statesmen.  There was a numerous family in this town, whose wigwam was within a mile of this house.  This family were frequently at my father’s house, and I, in my boyish rambles, used to call at their wigwam, where I never failed to be treated with whortleberries, blackberries, strawberries or apples, plums, peaches, etc., for they had planted a variety of fruit trees about them.  But the girls went out to service, and the boys to sea, till not a soul is left.  We scarcely see an Indian in a year.  I remember the time when Indian murder, scalpings, depredations and conflagrations, were as frequent on the Eastern and Northern frontier of Massachusetts, as they are now in Indiana, and spread as much terror.  But since the conquest of Canada, all has ceased;  and I believe with you that another conquest of Canada will quiet the Indians forever, and be as great a blessing to them as to us.

The instance of Aaron Pomham made me suspect that there was an order of priesthood among them.  But, according to your account, the worship of the good spirit was performed by the kings, sachems, and warriors, as among the ancient Germans, whose highest rank of nobility were priests.  The worship of the evil spirit, ——[Greek text]——

We have war now in earnest.  I lament the contumacious spirit that appears about me.  But I lament the cause that has given too much apology for it;  the total neglect and absolute refusal of all maritime protection and defence.  Money, mariners, and soldiers, would be at the public service, if only a few frigates had been ordered to be built.  Without this, our Union will be a brittle china vase, a house of ice, or a palace of glass.

I am, Sir, with an affectionate respect, yours.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
quincy, June 28, 1813.

Dear Sir

It is very true that the denunciations of the priesthood are fulminated against every advocate for a complete freedom of religion.  Comminations, I believe, would be plenteously pronounced by even the most liberal of them, against Atheism, Deism, against every man who disbelieved or doubted the resurrection of Jesus, or the miracles of the New Testament.  Priestley himself would denounce the man who should deny the Apocalypse, or the Prophecies of Daniel.  Priestley and Lindsay both have denounced as idolaters and blasphemers all the Trinitarians, and even the Arians.

Poor weak man, when will thy perfection arrive ?  Thy perfectability I shall not deny;  for a greater character than Priestley or Godwin has said, “Be ye perfect,” &c.  For my part I can not deal damnation round the land on all I judge the foes of God and man.  But I did not intend to say a word on this subject in this letter.  As much of it as you please hereafter, but let me return to politics.

With some difficulty I have hunted up, or down, the “address of the young men of the city of Philadelphia, the district of Southwark, and the Northern Liberties,” and the answer.

The addresses say, “Actuated by the SAME PRINCIPLES on which our forefathers achieved their independence, the recent attempts of a foreign power to derogate from the dignity and rights of our country, awaken our liveliest sensibility, and our strongest indignation.”  Huzza my brave boys !  Could Thomas Jefferson or John Adams hear those words with insensibility, and without emotion ?  These boys afterwards add, “We regard our liberty and independence as the richest portion given us by our ancestors.”  And who were those ancestors ?  Among them were Thomas Jefferson and John Adams.  And I very coolly believe that no two men among those ancestors did more towards it than those two.  Could either hear this like statues ?  If, one hundred years hence, your letters and mine should see the light, I hope the reader will hunt up this address, and read it all ;  and remember that we were then engaged, or on the point of engaging, in a war with France.  I shall not repeat the answer till we come to the paragraph upon which you criticised to Dr. Priestley, though every word of it is true, and I now rejoice to see it recorded, and though I had wholly forgotten it.

The paragraph is, “Science and morals are the great pillars on which this country has been raised to its present population, opulence and prosperity, and these alone can advance, support, and preserve it.  Without wishing to damp the ardor of curiosity, or influence the freedom of inquiry, I will hazard a prediction that, after the most industrious and impartial researches, the longest liver of you all will find no principles, institutions, or systems of education more fit, IN GENERAL, to be transmitted to your posterity than those you have received from your ancestors.”

Now, compare the paragraph in the answer with the paragraph in the address, as both are quoted above, and see if we can find the extent and the limits of the meaning of both.

Who composed that army of fine young fellows that was then before my eyes ?  There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anabaptists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists, Horse Protestants and House Protestants, Deists and Atheists ; and “Protestans qui ne croyent rien.”  Very few however of several of these species.  Nevertheless, all educated in the GENERAL PRINCIPLES of Christianity;  and the general principles of English and American liberty.

Could my answer be understood by any candid reader or hearer, to recommend to all the others the general principles, institutions, or systems of education of the Roman Catholics ?  Or those of the Quakers ?  Or those of the Presbyterians ?  Or those of the Menonists ?  Or those of the Methodists ?  Or those of the Moravians ?  Or those of the Universalists ?  Or those of the Philosophers ?  No.

The GENERAL PRINCIPLES on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young gentlemen could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my answer.

And what were these GENERAL PRINCIPLES ?  I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united;  and the GENERAL PRINCIPLES of English and American liberty, in which all these young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her independence.

Now I will avow that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God ;  and that those principles of liberty are as unalterable as human nature, and our terrestrial mundane system.  I could therefore safely say, consistently with all my then and present information, that I believed they would never make discoveries in contradiction to these GENERAL PRINCIPLES.

In favor of these GENERAL PRINCIPLES philosophy, religion and government, I would fill sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke ;  not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.

I might have flattered myself that my sentiments were sufficiently known to have protected me against suspicions of narrow thoughts, contracted sentiments, bigoted, enthusiastic, or superstitious principles, civil, political, philosophical, or ecclesiastical.  The first sentence of the preface to my defence of the constitution, volume 1st, printed in 1787, is in these words :  “The arts and sciences, in general, during the three or four last centuries, have had a regular course of progressive improvement.  The inventions in mechanic arts, the discoveries in natural philosophy, navigation, and commerce, and the advancement of civilization and humanity, have occasioned changes in the condition of the world and the human character, which would have astonished the most refined nations of antiquity,” &c.  I will quote no farther;  but request you to read again that whole page, and then say whether the writer of it could be suspected of recommending to youth “to look backward instead of forward” for instruction and improvement.

This letter is already too long.  In my next I shall consider the Terrorism of the day.  Meantime I am, as ever, your friend.




To Dr. John L.E.W. Shecut.
Monticello, June 29, 1813.

SIR

I am very sensible of the honor done me by the Antiquarian Society of Charleston, in the Rule for the organization of their Society, which you have been so good as to communicate, and I pray you to do me the favor of presenting to them my thanks.  Age, and my inland and retired situation, make it scarcely probable that I shall be able to render them any services.  But, should any occasion occur wherein I can be useful to them, I shall receive their commands with pleasure, and execute them with fidelity.  While the promotion of the arts and sciences is interesting to every nation, and at all times, it becomes peculiarly so to ours, at this time, when the total demoralization of the governments of Europe, has rendered it safest, by cherishing internal resources, to lessen the occasions of intercourse with them.  The works of our aboriginal inhabitants have been so perishable, that much of them must have disappeared already.  The antiquarian researches, therefore, of the Society, cannot be too soon, or too assiduously directed, to the collecting and preserving what still remain.

Permit me to place here my particular thankfulness for the kind sentiments of personal regard which you have been pleased to express.

I have been in the constant hope of seeing the second volume of your excellent botanical work.  Its alphabetical form and popular style, its attention to the properties and uses of plants, as well as to their descriptions, are well calculated to encourage and instruct our citizens in botanical inquiries.

I avail myself of this occasion, of enclosing you a little of the fruit of a Capsicum I have just received from the province of Texas, where it is indigenous and perennial, and is used as freely as salt by the inhabitants.  It is new to me.  It differs from your Capsicum Minimum, in being perennial and probably hardier ;  perhaps, too, in its size, which would claim the term of Minutissimum.  This stimulant being found salutary in a visceral complaint known on the seacoast, the introduction of a hardier variety may be of value.  Accept the assurance of my great respect and consideration.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, June 30, 1813.

Dear Sir,— * * * * * * *

But to return, for the present, to “The sensations excited in free, yet firm minds by the Terrorism of the day.”  You say none can conceive them who did not witness them;  and they were felt by one party only.

Upon this subject I despair of making myself understood by posterity, by the present age, and even by you.  To collect and arrange the documents illustrative of it, would require as many lives as those of a cat.  You never felt the terrorism of Shay’s Rebellion in Massachusetts.  I believe you never felt the terrorism of Gallatin’s insurrection in Pennsylvania.  You certainly never realized the terrorism of Tries’s most outrageous riot and rescue, as I call it.  Treason rebellion—as the world, and great judges, and two juries pronounce it.

You certainly never felt the terrorism excited by Genet in 1793, when ten thousand people in the streets of Philadelphia, day after day, threatened to drag Washington out of his house, and effect a revolution in the government, or compel it to declare war in favor of the French Revolution, and against England.  The coolest and the firmest minds, even among the Quakers in Philadelphia, have given their opinions to me, that nothing but the yellow fever, which removed Dr. Hutchinson and Jonathan Dickenson Sargent from this world, could have saved the United States from a total revolution of government.  I have no doubt you were fast asleep in philosophical tranquillity when ten thousand people, and perhaps many more, were parading the streets of Philadelphia, on the evening of my Fast Day.  When even Governor Mifflin himself, thought it his duty to order a patrol of horse and foot, to preserve the peace;  when Market Street was as full as men could stand by one another, and even before my door;  when some of my domestics, in frenzy, determined to sacrifice their lives in my defence;  when all were ready to make a desperate sally among the multitude, and others were with difficulty and danger dragged back by the others ;  when I myself judged it prudent and necessary to order chests of arms from the War Office, to be brought through by lanes and back doors;  determined to defend my house at the expense of my life, and the lives of the few, very few, domestics and friends within it.  What think you of terrorism, Mr. Jefferson ?  Shall I investigate the causes, the motives, the incentives to these terrorisms ?  Shall I remind you of Philip Freneau, of Lloyd, of Ned Church ?  Of Peter Markoe, of Andrew Brown, of Duane ?  Of Callender, of Tom Paine, of Greenleaf, of Cheatham, of Tennison at New York, of Benjamin Austin at Boston ?

But above all, shall I request you to collect circular letters from members of Congress in the Middle and Southern States to their constituents ?  I would give all I am worth for a complete collection of all those circular letters.  Please to recollect Edward Livingston’s motions and speeches, and those of his associates, in the case of Jonathan Robbins.  The real terrors of both parties have always been, and now are, the fear that they shall lose the elections, and consequently the loaves and fishes;  and that their antagonists will obtain them.  Both parties have excited artificial terrors, and if I were summoned as a witness to say, upon oath, which party had excited, Machiavellialy, the most terror, and which had really felt the most, I could not give a more sincere answer than in the vulgar style, put them in a bag and shake them, and then see which comes out first.

Where is the terrorism now, my friend ?  There is now more real terrorism in New England than there ever was in Virginia.  The terror of a civil war, à La Vendée, a division of the States, &c., &c., &c.  How shall we conjure down this damnable rivalry between Virginia and Massachusetts ?  Virginia had recourse to Pennsylvania and New York.  Massachusetts has now recourse to New York.  They have almost got New Jersey and Maryland, and they are aiming at Pennsylvania.  And all this in the midst of a war with England, when all Europe is in flames.

I will give you a hint or two more on the subject of terrorism.  When John Randolph in the House, and Stephens Thompson Mason in the Senate, were treating me with the utmost contempt ;  when Ned Livingston was threatening me with impeachment for the murder of Jonathan Robbins, the native of Danvers in Connecticut;  when I had certain information, that the daily language in an Insurance Office in Boston was, even from the mouth of Charles Jarvis, “We must go to Philadelphia and drag that John Adams from his chair;”  I thank God that terror never yet seized on my mind.  But I have had more excitements to it, from 1761 to this day, than any other man.  Name the other if you can.  I have been disgraced and degraded, and I have a right to complain.  But as I always expected it, I have always submitted to it;  perhaps often with too much tameness.  The amount of all the speeches of John Randolph in the House, for two or three years is, that himself and myself are the only two honest and consistent men in the United States.  Himself eternally in opposition to government, and myself as constantly in favor of it.  He is now in correspondence with his friend Quincy.  What will come of it, let Virginia and Massachusetts judge.  In my next you may find something upon correspondences ;  Whig and Tory ;  Federal and Democratic ;  Virginian and Novanglain ;  English and French ;  Jacobinic and Despotic, &c.

Meantime I am as ever, your friend.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July, 1813.

Dear Sir

Correspondences !  The letters of Bernard and Hutchinson, and Oliver and Paxton, &c., were detected and exposed before the Revolution.  There are, I doubt not, thousands of letters now in being, (but still concealed from their party,) to their friends, which will, one day, see the light.  I have wondered for more than thirty years, that so few have appeared; and have constantly expected that a Tory History of the rise and progress of the Revolution would appear; and wished it.  I would give more for it than for Marshall, Gordon, Ramsay, and all the rest.  Private letters of all parties will be found analogous to the newspapers, pamphlets;  and historians of the times.  Gordon’s and Marshall’s histories were written to make money;  and fashioned and finished to sell high in the London market.  I should expect to find more truth in a history written by Hutchinson, Oliver, or Sewel;  and I doubt not, such histories will one day appear.  Marshall’s is a Mausolæum, 100 feet square at the base, and 200 feet high.  It will be as durable as the monuments of the Washington benevolent societies.  Your character in history may easily be foreseen.  Your administration will be quoted by philosophers as a model of profound wisdom;  by politicians, as weak, superficial, and shortsighted.  Mine, like Pope’s woman, will have no character at all.  The impious idolatry to Washington destroyed all character.  His legacy of ministers was not the worst part of the tragedy;  though by his own express confession to me, and by Pickering’s confession to the world in his letters to Sullivan, two of them, at least, were fastened upon him by necessity, because he could get no other.  The truth is, Hamilton’s influence over him was so well known, that no man fit for the office of State or War would accept either.  He was driven to the necessity of appointing such as would accept;  and this necessity was, in my opinion, the real cause of his retirement from office;  for you may depend upon it, that retirement was not voluntary.

My friend, you and I have passed our lives in serious times.  I know not whether we have ever seen any moments more serious than the present.  The Northern States are now retaliating upon the Southern States their conduct from 1797 to 1800.  It is a mortification to me to see what servile mimics they are.  Their newspapers, pamphlets, hand-bills, and their legislative proceedings, are copied from the examples set them, especially by Virginia and Kentucky.  I know not which party has the most unblushing front, the most lying tongue, or the most impudent and insolent, not to say the most seditious and rebellious pen.

If you desire explanation on any of the points in this letter, you shall have them.  This correspondence, I hope, will be concealed as long as Hutchinson’s and Oliver’s ;  but I should have no personal objection to the publication of it in the National Intelligencer.  I am, and shall be for life, your friend.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 9, 1813.

Lord !  Lord !  What can I do with so much Greek ?  When I was of your age, young man, i.e., seven, or eight, or nine years ago, I felt a kind of pang of affection for one of the flames of my youth, and again paid my addresses to Isocrates, and Dionysius of Hallicarnassensis, &c., &c.  I collected all my Lexicons and Grammars, and sat down to ——(Greek inserted here)—— &c.  In this way I amused myself for some time;  but I found, that if I looked a word to-day, in less than a week I had to look it again.  It was to little better purpose than writing letters on a pail of water.

Whenever I sit down to write to you, I am precisely in the situation of the wood-cutter on Mount Ida.  I cannot see wood for trees.  So many subjects crowd upon me, that I know not with which to begin.  But I will begin, at random, with Belsham ;  who is, as I have no doubt, a man of merit.  He had no malice against you, nor any thought of doing mischief ;  nor has he done any, though he has been imprudent.  The truth is, the dissenters of all denominations in England, and especially the Unitarians, are cowed, as we used to say at college.  They are ridiculed, insulted, persecuted.  They can scarcely hold their heads above water.  They catch at straws and shadows to avoid drowning.  Priestley sent your letter to Lindsay, and Belsham printed it from the same motive, i.e., to derive some countenance from the name of Jefferson.  Nor has it done harm here.  Priestley says to Lindsay “You see he is almost one of us, and he hopes will soon be altogether such as we are.”  Even in our New England, I have heard a high federal divine say, your letters had increased his respect for you.

“The same political parties which now agitate the United States, have existed through all time;”  precisely.  And this is precisely the complaint in the preface to the first volume of my defence.  While all other sciences have advanced, that of government is at a stand ;  little better understood ;  little better practised now, than three or four thousand years ago.  What is the reason ?  I say, parties and factions will not suffer, or permit improvements to be made.  As soon as one man hints at an improvement, his rival opposes it.  No sooner has one party discovered or invented an amelioration of the condition of man, or the order of society, than the opposite party belies it, misconstrues, misrepresents it, ridicules it, insults it, and persecutes it.  Records are destroyed.  Histories are annihilated, or interpolated, or prohibited :  sometimes by popes, sometimes by emperors, sometimes by aristocratical, and sometimes by democratical assemblies, and sometimes by mobs.

Aristotle wrote the history of eighteen hundred republics which existed before his time.  Cicero wrote two volumes of discourses on government, which, perhaps, were worth all the rest of his works.  The works of Livy and Tacitus, &c., that are lost, would be more interesting than all that remain.  Fifty gospels have been destroyed, and where are St. Luke’s world of books that have been written ?  If you ask my opinion who has committed all the havoc, I will answer you candidly,—Ecclesiastical and Imperial despotism has done it, to conceal their frauds.

Why are the histories of all nations, more ancient than the Christian era, lost ?  Who destroyed the Alexandrian library ?  I believe that Christian priests, Jewish rabbis, Grecian sages, and emperors, had as great a hand in it as Turks and Mahometans.

Democrats, Rebels and Jacobins, when they possessed a momentary power, have shown a disposition both to destroy and forge records as vandalical as priests and despots.  Such has been and such is the world we live in.

I recollect, near some thirty years ago, to have said carelessly to you that I wished I could find time and means to write something upon aristocracy.  You seized upon the idea, and encouraged me to do it with all that friendly warmth that is natural and habitual to you.  I soon began, and have been writing upon that subject ever since.  I have been so unfortunate as never to be able to make myself understood.

Your “——(Greek inserted here)——” are the most difficult animals to manage of anything in the whole theory and practice of government.  They will not suffer themselves to be governed.  They not only exert all their own subtlety, industry and courage, but they employ the commonalty to knock to pieces every plan and model that the most honest architects in legislation can invent to keep them within bounds.  Both patricians and plebeians are as furious as the workmen in England, to demolish labor-saving machinery.

But who are these “——(Greek inserted here)——”?  Who shall judge ?  Who shall select these choice spirits from the rest of the congregation ?  Themselves ?  We must first find out and determine who themselves are.  Shall the congregation choose ?  Ask Xenophon ;  perhaps hereafter I may quote you Greek.  Too much in a hurry at present, English must suffice.  Xenophon says that the ecclesia always choose the worst men they can find, because none others will do their dirty work.  This wicked motive is worse than birth or wealth.  Here I want to quote Greek again.  But the day before I received your letter of June 27th, I gave the book to George Washington Adams, going to the academy at Hingham.  The title is ——(Greek inserted here)——, a collection of moral sentences from all the most ancient Greek poets.  In one of the oldest of them, I read in Greek, that I cannot repeat, a couplet, the sense of which was :  “Nobility in men is worth as much as it is in horses, asses, or rams ;  but the meanest blooded puppy in the world, if he gets a little money, is as good a man as the best of them.”  Yet birth and wealth together have prevailed over virtue and talents in all ages.  The many will acknowledge no other “——(Greek inserted here)——.”

Your experience of this truth will not much differ from that of your best friend.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 13, 1813.

Dear Sir

Let me allude to one circumstance more in one of your letters to me, before I touch upon the subject of religion in your letters to Priestley.

The first time that you and I differed in opinion on any material question, was after your arrival from Europe, and that point was the French Revolution.

You were well persuaded in your own mind, that the nation would succeed in establishing a free republican government.  I was as well persuaded in mine, that a project of such a government over five and twenty millions of people, when four and twenty millions and five hundred thousand of them could neither read nor write, was as unnatural, irrational and impracticable as it would be over the elephants, lions, tigers, panthers, wolves and bears in the royal menagerie at Versailles.  Napoleon has lately invented a word which perfectly expresses my opinion, at that time and ever since.  He calls the project Ideology;  and John Randolph, though he was, fourteen years ago, as wild an enthusiast for equality and fraternity as any of them, appears to be now a regenerated proselyte to Napoleon’s opinion and mine , that it was all madness.

The Greeks, in their allegorical style, said that the two ladies, ——(Greek inserted here)—— and ——(Greek inserted here)—— always in a quarrel, disturbed every neighborhood with their brawls.  It is a fine observation of yours, that “Whig and Tory belong to natural history.”  Inequalities of mind and body are so established by God Almighty, in His constitution of human nature, that no art or policy can ever plane them down to a level.  I have never read reasoning more absurd, sophistry more gross, in proof of the Athanasian creed, or Transubstantiation, than the subtle labors of Helvetius and Rousseau, to demonstrate the natural equality of mankind.  Jus cuique, the golden rule, do as you would be done by, is all the equality that can be supported or defended by reason, or reconciled to common sense.

It is very true, as you justly observe, I can say nothing new on this or any other subject of government.  But when Lafayette harangued you and me and John Quincy Adams, through a whole evening in your hotel in the Cul de Sac, at Paris, and developed the plans then in operation to reform France, though I was as silent as you were, I then thought I could say something new to him.

In plain truth, I was astonished at the grossness of his ignorance of government and history, as I had been for years before, at that of Turgot, Rochefoucauld, Condorcet and Franklin.  This gross Ideology of them all, first suggested to me the thought and the inclination which I afterwards hinted to you in London, of writing something upon aristocracy.  I was restrained for years, by many fearful considerations.  Who, and what was I ?  A man of no name or consideration in Europe.  The manual exercise of writing was painful and distressing to me, almost like a blow on the elbow or knee.  My style was habitually negligent, unstudied, unpolished ;  I should make enemies of all the French patriots, the Dutch patriots, the English republicans, dissenters, reformers, call them what you will;  and what came nearer home to my bosom than all the rest, I knew I should give offence to many if not all of my best friends in America, and very probably destroy all the little popularity I ever had, in a country where popularity had more omnipotence than the British Parliament assumed.  Where should I get the necessary books ?  What printer or bookseller would undertake to print such hazardous writings ?

But when the French assembly of notables met, and I saw that Turgot’s “government in one centre, and that centre the nation,” a sentence as mysterious or as contradictory as the Athanasian creed, was about to take place, and when I saw that Shay’s rebellion was about breaking out in Massachusetts, and when I saw that even my obscure name was often quoted in France as an advocate for simple democracy, which I saw that the sympathies in America had caught the French flame, I was determined to wash my own hands as clean as I could of all this foulness.  I had then strong forebodings that I was sacrificing all the honors and emoluments of this life, and so it has happened, but not in so great a degree as I apprehended.

In truth, my defence of the constitutions and “discourses on Davila,” laid the foundation for that immense unpopularity which fell, like the tower of Siloam, upon me.  Your steady defence of democratical principles, and your invariable favorable opinion of the French revolution, laid the foundation of your unbounded popularity.

Sic transit gloria mundi !  Now I will forfeit my life, if you can find one sentence in my defence of the constitutions, or the discourses on Davila, which, by a fair construction, can favor the introduction of hereditary monarchy or aristocracy into America.

They were all written to support and strengthen the constitutions of the United States.

The wood-cutter on Ida, though he was puzzled to find a tree to chop at first, I presume knew how to leave off when he was weary.  But I never know when to cease when I begin to write to you.




To Dr. Samuel Brown.
Monticello, July 14, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your favors of May 25th and June 13th have been duly received, as also the first supply of Capsicum, and the second o the same article with other seeds.  I shall set great store by the Capsicum, if it is hardy enough for our climate, the species we have heretofore tried being too tender.  The Galvance too, will be particularly attended to, as it appears very different from what we cultivate by that name.  I have so many grandchildren and others who might be endangered by the poison plant, that I think the risk overbalances the curiosity of trying it.  The most elegant thing of that kind known is a preparation of the Jamestown weed, Datura-Stramonium, invented by the French in the time of Robespierre.  Every man of firmness carried it constantly in his pocket to anticipate the guillotine.  It brings on the sleep of death as quietly as fatigue does the ordinary sleep, without the least struggle or motion.  Condorcet, who had recourse to it, was found lifeless on his bed a few minutes after his landlady had left him there, and even the slipper which she had observed half suspended on his foot, was not shaken off.  It seems far preferable to the Venesection of the Romans, the Hemlock of the Greeks, and the Opium of the Turks.  I have never been able to learn what the preparation is, other than a strong concentration of its lethiferous principle.  Could such a medicament be restrained to self-administration, it ought not to be kept secret.  There are ills in life as desperate as intolerable, to which it would be the rational relief, e.g., the inveterate cancer.  As a relief from tyranny indeed, for which the Romans recurred to it in the times of the emperors, it has been a wonder to me that they did not consider a poignard in the breast of the tyrant as a better remedy.

I am sorry to learn that a banditti from our country are taking part in the domestic contests of the country adjoining you;  and the more so as from the known laxity of execution in our laws, they cannot be punished, although the law has provided punishment.  It will give a wrongful hue to a rightful act of taking possession of Mobile, and will be imputed to the national authority as Meranda’s enterprise was, because not punished by it.  I fear, too, that the Spaniards are too heavily oppressed by ignorance and superstition for self-government, and whether a change from foreign to domestic despotism will be to their advantage remains to be seen.

We have been unfortunate in our first military essays by land.  Our men are good, but our generals unqualified.  Every failure we have incurred has been the fault of the general, the men evincing courage in every instance.  At sea we have rescued our character;  but the chief fruit of our victories there is to prove to those who have fleets, that the English are not invincible at sea, as Alexander has proved that Bonaparte is not invincible by land.  How much to be lamented that the world cannot unite and destroy these two land and sea monsters !  The one drenching the earth with human gore, the other ravaging the ocean with lawless piracies and plunder.  Bonaparte will die, and the nations of Europe will recover their independence with, I hope, better governments.  But the English government never dies, because their king is no part of it, he is a mere formality, and the real government is the aristocracy of the country, for their House of Commons is of that class.  Their aim is to claim the dominion of the ocean by conquest, and to make every vessel navigating it pay a tribute to the support of the fleet necessary to maintain that dominion, to which their own resources are inadequate.  I see no means of terminating their maritime dominion and tyranny but in their own bankruptcy, which I hope is approaching.  But I turn from these painful contemplations to the more pleasing one of my constant friendship and respect for you.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 15, 1813.

Never mind it, my dear Sir, if I write four letters to your one, your one is worth more than my four.

It is true that I can say, and have said, nothing new on the subject of government.  Yet I did say in my defence and in my discourses on Davila, though in an uncouth style, what was new to Locke, to Harrington, to Milton, to Hume, to Montesquieu, to Rousseau, to Turgot, to Condorcet, to Rochefoucauld, to Price, to Franklin, and to yourself ;  and at that time to almost all Europe and America.  I can prove all this by indisputable authorities and documents.

Writings on government had been not only neglected, but discountenanced and discouraged throughout all Europe, from the restoration of Charles the Second in England, till the French revolution commenced.

The English commonwealth, the fate of Charles the First, and the military despotism of Cromwell, had sickened mankind with disquisitions on government to such a degree, that there was scarcely a man in Europe who had looked into the subject.

David Hume had made himself so fashionable with the aid of the court and clergy, Atheist, as they called him, and by his elegant lies against the republicans and gaudy daubings of the courtiers, that he had nearly laughed into contempt Rapin, Sydney, and even Locke.  It was ridiculous and even criminal in almost all Europe to speak of constitutions, or writers upon the principles or the fabrics of them.

In this state of things my poor, unprotected, unpatronized books appeared;  and met with a fate not quite so cruel as I had anticipated.  They were at last, however, overborne by misrepresentations, and will perish in obscurity, though they have been translated into German as well as French.  The three emperors of Europe, the Prince Regents, and all the ruling powers, would no more countenance or tolerate such writings, than the Pope, the emperor of Haiti, Ben Austin, or Tom Paine.

The nations of Europe appeared to me, when I was among them, from the beginning of 1778, to 1785, i.e. to the commencement of the troubles in France, to be advancing by slow but sure steps towards an amelioration of the condition of man in religion and government, in liberty, equality, fraternity, knowledge, civilization and humanity.

The French Revolution I dreaded, because I was sure it would not only arrest the progress of improvement, but give it a retrograde course, for at least a century, if not many centuries.  The French patriots appeared to me like young scholars from a college, or sailors flushed with recent pay or prize money, mounted on wild horses, lashing and spurring till they would kill the horses, and break their own necks.

Let me now ask you very seriously, my friend, where are now, in 1813, the perfection and the perfectability of human nature ?  Where is now the progress of the human mind ?  Where is the amelioration of society ?  Where the augmentations of human comforts ?  Where the diminutions of human pains and miseries ?  I know not whether the last day of Dr. Young can exhibit to a mind unstaid by philosophy and religion [for I hold there can be no philosophy without religion], more terrors than the present state of the world.  When, where, and how is the present chaos to be arranged into order ?  There is not, there cannot be, a greater abuse of words than to call the writings of Callender, Paine, Austin and Lowell, or, the speeches of Ned Livingston and John Randolph, public discussions.  The ravings and rantings of Bedlam merit the character as well;  and yet Joel Barlow was about to record Tom Paine as the great author of the American Revolution !  If he was, I desire that my name may be blotted out forever from its records.

You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.

I shall come to the subject of religion by-and-bye.  Your friend.

I have been looking for some time for a space in my good husband’s letters to add the regards of an old friend, which are still cherished and preserved through all the changes and vicissitudes which have taken place since we first became acquainted, and will, I trust, remain as long as

A. ADAMS.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 16, 1813.

Dear Sir

Your letters to Priestley have increased my grief, if that were possible, for the loss of Rush.  Had he lived, I would have stimulated him to insist on your promise to him, to write him on the subject of religion.  Your plan I admire.

In your letter to Priestley of March a 21st, 1801, dated at Washington, you call “The Christian Philosophy, the most sublime and benevolent, but the most perverted system that ever shone upon man.”  That it is the most sublime and benevolent, I agree.  But whether it has been more perverted than that of Moses, of Confucius, of Zoroaster, of Sanchoniathan, of Numa, of Mahomet, of the Druids, of the Hindoos, &c., &c., I cannot as yet determine, because I am not sufficiently acquainted with these systems, or the history of their effects, to form a decisive opinion of the result of the comparison.

In your letter dated Washington, April 9, 1803, you say, “In consequence of some conversations with Dr. Rush, in the years 1798-99, I had promised some day to write to him a letter, giving him my view of the Christian system.  I have reflected often on it since, and even sketched the outline in my own mind.  I should first take a general view of the moral doctrines of the most remarkable of the ancient philosophers, of whose ethics we have sufficient information to make an estimate ;  say of Pythagoras, Epicurus, Epictetus, Socrates, Cicero, Seneca, Antonius.  I should do justice to the branches of morality they have treated well, but point out the importance of those in which they are deficient.  I should then take a view of the Deism and Ethics of the Jews, and show in what a degraded state they were, and the necessity they presented of a reformation.  I should proceed to a view of the life, character, and doctrines of Jesus, who, sensible of the incorrectness of their ideas of the Deity, and of morality, endeavored to bring them to the principles of a pure Deism, and juster notions of the attributes of God—to reform their moral doctrines to the standard of reason, justice, and philanthropy, and to inculcate the belief of a future state.  This view would purposely omit the question of his Divinity, and even of his inspiration.  To do him justice, it would be necessary to remark the disadvantages his doctrines have to encounter, not having been committed to writing by himself, but by the most unlettered of men, by memory, long after they had heard them from him, when much was forgotten, much misunderstood, and presented in very paradoxical shapes;  yet such are the fragments remaining, as to show a master workman, and that his system of morality was the most benevolent and sublime, probably, that has been ever taught, and more perfect than those of any of the ancient philosophers.  His character and doctrines have received still greater injury from those who pretend to be his special disciples, and who have disfigured and sophisticated his actions and precepts from views of personal interest, so as to induce the unthinking part of mankind to throw off the whole system in disgust, and to pass sentence, as an impostor, on the most innocent, the most benevolent, the most eloquent and sublime character that has ever been exhibited to man.  This is the outline ! ”

“Sancte Socrate ! ora pro nobis!”—Erasmus.

Priestley in his letter to Lindsay, enclosing a copy of your letter to him, says, “He is generally considered an unbeliever ;  if so, however, he cannot be far from us, and I hope in the way to be not only almost, but altogether what we are.  He now attends public worship very regularly, and his moral conduct was never impeached.”

Now, I see not but you are as good a Christian as Priestley and Lindsay.  Piety and morality were the end and object of the Christian system, according to them, and according to you.  They believed in the resurrection of Jesus, in his miracles, and in his inspiration ;  but what inspiration ?  Not all that is recorded in the New Testament, nor the Old.  They have not yet told us how much they believe, or how much they doubt or disbelieve.  They have not told us how, much allegory, how much parable, they find, nor how they explain them all, in the Old Testament or the New.

John Quincy Adams has written for years to his two sons, boys of ten and twelve, a series of letters, in which he pursues a plan more extensive than yours ;  but agreeing in most of the essential points.  I wish these letters could be preserved in the bosoms of his boys, but women and priests will get them and I expect, if he makes a peace, he will be obliged to retire like a Jay, to study prophecies to the end of his life.  I have more to say on this subject of religion.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 18, 1813.

Dear Sir

I have more to say on religion.  For more than sixty years I have been attentive to this great subject.  Controversies between Calvinists and Arminians, Trinitarians and Unitarians, Deists and Christians, Atheists and both, have attracted my attention, whenever the singular life I have led would admit, to all these questions.  The history of this little village of Quincy, if it were worth recording, would explain to you how this happened.  I think I can now say I have read away bigotry, if not enthusiasm.  What does Priestley mean by an unbeliever, when he applies it to you ?  How much did he “unbelieve” himself ?  Gibbon had him right, when he determined his creed “scanty.”  We are to understand, no doubt, that he believed the resurrection of Jesus ;  some of his miracles ;  his inspiration, but in what degree ?  He did not believe in the inspiration of the writings that contain his history, yet he believed in the Apocalyptic beast, and he believed as much as he pleased in the writings of Daniel and John.  This great, excellent, and extraordinary man, whom I sincerely loved, esteemed, and respected, was really a phenomenon ;  a comet in the system, like Voltaire, Bolingbroke, and Hume.  Had Bolingbroke or Voltaire taken him in hand, what would they have made of him and his creed.

I do not believe you have read much of Priestley’s “corruptions of Christianity,” his history of early opinions of Jesus Christ, his predestination, his no-soul system, or his controversy with Horsley.

I have been a diligent student for many years in books whose titles you have never seen.  In Priestley’s and Lindsay’s writings ;  in Farmer, in Cappe, in Tucker’s or Edwards’ searches ;  Light of Nature pursued;  in Edwards and Hopkins, and lately in Ezra Styles Ely ;  his reverend and learned panegyrists, and his elegant and spirited opponents.  I am not wholly uninformed of the controversies in Germany, and the learned researches of universities and professors, in which the sanctity of the Bible and the inspiration of its authors are taken for granted, or waived, or admitted, or not denied.  I have also read Condorcet’s Progress of the Human Mind.

Now, what is all this to you ?  No more, than if I should tell you that I read Dr. Clark, and Dr. Waterland, and Emlyn, and Leland’s view or review of the Deistical writers more than fifty years ago;  which is a literal truth.  I blame you not for reading Euclid and Newton, Thucydides and Theocritus;  for I believe you will find as much entertainment and instruction in them, as I have found in my theological and ecclesiastical instructors ;  or even as I have found in a profound investigation of the life, writings, and doctrines of Erasmus, whose disciples were Milton, Harrington, Selden, St. John, the Chief Justice, father of Bolingbroke, and others;  the choicest spirits of their age ;  or in Le Harpe’s history of the philosophy of the eighteenth century, or in Van der Kemp’s vast map of the causes of the revolutionary spirit in the same and preceding centuries.  These things are to me, at present, the marbles and nine-pins of old age ;  I will not say the beads and prayer-books.

I agree with you, as far as you go, most cordially, and I think solidly.  How much farther I go, how much more I believe than you, I may explain in a future letter.  Thus much I will say at present, I have found so many difficulties, that I am not astonished at your stopping where you are ;  and so far from sentencing you to perdition, I hope soon to meet you in another country.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, July 22, 1813.

Dear Sir

Dr. Priestley, in a letter to Mr. Lindsay, Northumberland, November 4, 1803, says :

“ As you were pleased with my comparison of Socrates and Jesus, I have begun to carry the same comparison to all the heathen moralists, and I have all the books that I want for the purpose except Simplicius and Arrian on Epictetus, and them I hope to get from a library in Philadelphia;  lest, however, I should fail there, I wish you or Mr. Belsham would procure and send them from London.  While I am capable of anything I cannot be idle, and I do not know that I can do anything better.  This, too, is an undertaking that Mr. Jefferson recommends to me.”

In another letter, dated Northumberland, January 16th, 1804., Dr. Priestley says to Mr. Lindsay :

“ I have now finished and transcribed for the press, my comparison of the Grecian philosophers with those of revelation, and with more ease and more to my own satisfaction than I expected.  They who liked my pamphlet entitled, ‘Socrates and Jesus compared,’ will not, I flatter myself, dislike this work.  It has the same object and completes the scheme.  It has increased my own sense of the unspeakable value of revelation, and must, I think, that of every person who will give due attention to the subject.”

I have now given you all that relates to yourself in Priestley’s letters.

This was possibly, and not improbably, the last letter this great, this learned, indefatigable, most excellent and extraordinary man ever wrote, for on the 4th of February, 1804, he was released from his labors and sufferings.  Peace, rest, joy and glory to his soul !  For I believe he had one, and one of the greatest.

I regret, oh how I lament that he did not live to publish this work !  It must exist in manuscript.  Cooper must know something of it.  Can you learn from him where it is, and get it printed ?

I hope you will still perform your promise to Doctor Rush.

If Priestley had lived, I should certainly have corresponded with him.  His friend Cooper, who, unfortunately for him and me and you, had as fatal an influence over him as Hamilton had over Washington, and whose rash hot head led Priestley into all his misfortunes and most his errors in conduct, could not have prevented explanations between Priestley and me.

I should propose to him a thousand, a million questions.  And no man was more capable or better disposed to answer them candidly than Dr. Priestley.

Scarcely anything that has happened to me in my curious life, has made a deeper impression upon me than that such a learned, ingenious, scientific and talented madcap as Cooper, could have influence enough to make Priestley my enemy.

I will not yet communicate to you more than a specimen of the questions I would have asked Priestley.

One is, Learned and scientific, Sir !—You have written largely about matter and spirit, and have concluded there is no human soul.  Will you please to inform me what matter is ? and what spirit is ?  Unless we know the meaning of words, we cannot reason in or about words.

I shall never send you all my questions that I would put to Priestley, because they are innumerable;  but I may hereafter send you two or three.

I am, in perfect charity, your old friend.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, August 9, 1813.

I believe I told you in my last that I had given you all in Lindsay’s memorial that interested you, but I was mistaken.  In Priestley’s letter to Lindsay December 19th., 1803, I find this paragraph :

“ With the work I am now composing, I go on much faster and better than I expected, so that in two or three months, if, my health continues as it now is, I hope to have it ready for the press, though I shall hardly proceed to print it till we have dispatched the notes.

“ It is upon the same plan with that of Socrates and Jesus compared, considering all the more distinguished of the Grecian sects of philosophy, till the establishment of Christianity in the Roman empire.  If you liked that pamphlet, I flatter myself you will like this.

“ I hope it is calculated to show, in a peculiarly striking light, the great advantage of revelation, and that it will make an impression on candid unbelievers if they will read.

“ But I find few that will trouble themselves to read anything on the subject, which, considering the great magnitude and interesting nature of the subject, is a proof of a very improper state of mind, unworthy of a rational being.”

I send you this extract for several reasons.  First, because you set him upon this work.  Secondly, because I wish you to endeavor to bring it to light and get it printed.  Thirdly, because I wish it may stimulate you to pursue your own plan which you promised to Dr. Rush.

I have not seen any work which expressly compares the morality of the Old Testament with that of the New, in all their branches, nor either with that of the ancient philosophers.  Comparisons with the Chinese, the East Indians, the Africans, the West Indians, &c., would be more difficult;  with more ancient nations impossible.  The documents are destroyed.