The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

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

To Thomas Leiper.
Monticello, January 1, 1814.

Dear Sir

I had hoped, when I retired from the business of the world, that I should have been permitted to pass the evening of life in tranquillity, undisturbed by the peltings and passions of which the public papers are the vehicles.  I see, however, that I have been dragged into the newspapers by the infidelity of one with whom I was formerly intimate, but who has abandoned the American principles out of which that intimacy grew, and become the bigoted partisan of England, and malcontent of his own government.  In a letter which he wrote to me, he earnestly besought me to avail our country of the good understanding which existed between the executive and myself, by recommending an offer of such terms to our enemy as might produce a peace, towards which he was confident that enemy was disposed.  In my answer, I stated the aggressions, the insults and injuries, which England had been heaping on us for years, our long forbearance in the hope she might be led by time and reflection to a sounder view of her own interests, and of their connection with justice to us, the repeated propositions for accommodation made by us and rejected by her, and at length her Prince Regent’s solemn proclamation to the world that he would never repeal the orders in council as to us, until France should have revoked her illegal decrees as to all the world, and her minister’s declaration to ours, that no admissible precaution against the impressment of our seamen, could be proposed :  that the unavoidable declaration of war which followed these was accompanied by advances for peace, on terms which no American could dispense with, made through various channels, and unnoticed and unanswered through any;  but that if he could suggest any other conditions which we ought to accept, and which had not been repeatedly offered and rejected, I was ready to be the channel of their conveyance to the government;  and, to show him that neither that attachment to Bonaparte nor French influence, which they allege eternally without believing it themselves, affected my mind, I threw in the two little sentences of the printed extract enclosed in your friendly favor of the 9th ultimo, and exactly these two little sentences, from a letter of two or three pages, he has thought proper to publish, naked, alone, and with my name, although other parts of the letter would have shown that I wished such limits only to the successes of Bonaparte, as should not prevent his completely closing Europe against British manufactures and commerce;  and thereby reducing her to just terms of peace with us.

Thus am I situated.  I receive letters from all quarters, some from known friends, some from those who write like friends, on various subjects.  What am I to do ?  Am I to button myself up in Jesuitical reserve, rudely declining any answer, or answering in terms so unmeaning as only to prove my distrust ?  Must I withdraw myself from all interchange of sentiment with the world ?  I cannot do this.  It is at war with my habits and temper.  I cannot act as if all men were unfaithful because some are so;  nor believe that all will betray me, because some do.  I had rather be the victim of occasional infidelities, than relinquish my general confidence in the honesty of man.

So far as to the breach of confidence which has brought me into the newspapers, with a view to embroil me with my friends, by a supposed separation in opinion and principle from them.  But it is impossible that there can be any difference of opinion among us on the two propositions contained in these two little sentences, when explained, as they were explained in the context from which they were insulated.  That Bonaparte is an unprincipled tyrant, who is deluging the continent of Europe with blood, there is not a human being, not even the wife of his bosom, who does not see ;  nor can there, I think, be a doubt as to the line we ought to wish drawn between his successes and those of Alexander.  Surely none of us wish to see Bonaparte conquer Russia, and lay thus at his feet the whole continent of Europe.  This done, England would be but a breakfast;  and, although I am free from the visionary fears which the votaries of England have affected to entertain, because I believe he cannot effect the conquest of Europe ;  yet put all Europe into his hands, and he might spare such a force, to be sent in British ships, as I would as leave not have to encounter, when I see how much trouble a handful of British soldiers in Canada has given us.  No.  It cannot be to our interest that all Europe should be reduced to a single monarchy.  The true line of interest for us, is, that Bonaparte should be able to effect the complete exclusion of England from the whole continent of Europe, in order, as the same letter said, “by this peaceable engine of constraint, to make her renounce her views of dominion over the ocean, of permitting no other nation to navigate it but with her license, and on tribute to her, and her aggressions on the persons of our citizens who may choose to exercise their right of passing over that element."  And this would be effected by Bonaparte’s succeeding so far as to close the Baltic against her.  This success I wished him the last year, this I wish him this year;  but were he again advanced to Moscow, I should again wish him such disasters as would prevent his reaching Petersburg.  And were the consequences even to be the longer continuance of our war, I would rather meet them than see the whole force of Europe wielded by a single hand.

I have gone into this explanation, my friend, because I know you will not carry my letter to the newspapers, and because I am willing to trust to your discretion the explaining me to our honest fellow laborers, and the bringing them to pause and reflect, if any of them have not sufficiently reflected on the extent of the success we ought to wish to Bonaparte, with a view to our own interests only;  and even were we not men, to whom nothing human should be indifferent.  But is our particular interest to make us insensible to all sentiments of morality ?  Is it then become criminal, the moral wish that the torrents of blood this man is shedding in Europe, the sufferings of so many human beings, good as ourselves, on whose necks he is trampling, the burnings of ancient cities, devastations of great countries, the destruction of law and order, and demoralization of the world, should be arrested, even if it should place our peace a little further distant ?  No.  You and I cannot differ in wishing that Russia, and Sweden, and Denmark, and Germany, and Spain, and Portugal, and Italy, and even England, may retain their independence.  And if we differ in our opinions about Towers and his four beasts and ten kingdoms, we differ as friends, indulging mutual errors, and doing justice to mutual sincerity and honesty.  In this spirit of sincere confidence and affection, I pray God to bless you here and hereafter.




To Dr. Walter Jones.
Monticello, January 2, 1814.

Dear Sir

Your favor of November the 25th reached this place December the 21st, having been near a month on the way.  How this could happen I know not, as we have two mails a week both from Fredericksburg and Richmond.  It found me just returned from a long journey and absence, during which so much business had accumulated, commanding the first attentions, that another week has been added to the delay.

I deplore, with you, the putrid state into which our newspapers have passed, and the malignity, the vulgarity, and mendacious spirit of those who write for them;  and I enclose you a recent sample, the production of a New England judge, as a proof of the abyss of degradation into which we are fallen.  These ordures are rapidly depraving the public taste, and lessening its relish for sound food.  As vehicles of information, and a curb on our functionaries, they have rendered themselves useless, by forfeiting all title to belief.  That this has, in a great degree, been produced by the violence and malignity of party spirit, I agree with you;  and I have read with great pleasure the paper you enclosed me on that subject, which I now return.  It is at the same time a perfect model of the style of discussion which candor and decency should observe, of the tone which renders difference of opinion even amiable, and a succinct, correct, and dispassionate history of the origin and progress of party among us.  It might be incorporated as it stands, and without changing a word, into the history of the present epoch, and would give to posterity a fairer view of the times than they will probably derive from other sources.  In reading it with great satisfaction, there was but a single passage where I wished a little more development of a very sound and catholic idea;  a single intercalation to rest it solidly on true bottom.  It is near the end of the first page, where you make a statement of genuine republican maxims ; saying, “that the people ought to possess as much political power as can possibly exist with the order and security of society."  Instead of this, I would say, “that the people, being the only safe depository of power, should exercise in person every function which their qualifications enable them to exercise, consistently with the order and security of society ;  that we now find them equal to the election of those who shall be invested with their executive and legislative powers, and to act themselves in the judiciary, as judges in questions of fact;  that the range of their powers ought to be enlarged,” &c.  This gives both the reason and exemplification of the maxim you express, “that they ought to possess as much political power,” &c.  I see nothing to correct either in your facts or principles.

You say that in taking General Washington on your shoulders, to bear him harmless through the federal coalition, you encounter a perilous topic.  I do not think so.  You have given the genuine history of the course of his mind through the trying scenes in which it was engaged, and of the seductions by which it was deceived, but not depraved.  I think I knew General Washington intimately and thoroughly;  and were I called on to delineate his character, it should be in terms like these.

His mind was great and powerful, without being of the very first order ;  his penetration strong, though not so acute as that of a Newton, Bacon, or Locke;  and as far as he saw, no judgment was ever sounder.  It was slow in operation, being little aided by invention or imagination, but sure in conclusion.  Hence the common remark of his officers, of the advantage he derived from councils of war, where hearing all suggestions, he selected whatever was best;  and certainly no general ever planned his battles more judiciously.  But if deranged during the course of the action, if any member of his plan was dislocated by sudden circumstances, he was slow in re-adjustment.  The consequence was, that he often failed in the field, and rarely against an enemy in station, as at Boston and York.  He was incapable of fear, meeting personal dangers with the calmest unconcern.  Perhaps the strongest feature in his character was prudence, never acting until every circumstance, every consideration, was maturely weighed;  refraining if he saw a doubt, but, when once decided, going through with his purpose, whatever obstacles opposed.  His integrity was most pure, his justice the most inflexible I have ever known, no motives of interest or consanguinity, of friendship or hatred, being able to bias his decision.  He was, indeed, in every sense of the words, a wise, a good, and a great man.  His temper was naturally irritable and high toned;  but reflection and resolution had obtained a firm and habitual ascendency over it.  If ever, however, it broke its bonds, he was most tremendous in his wrath.  In his expenses he was honorable, but exact ;  liberal in contributions to whatever promised utility;  but frowning and unyielding on all visionary projects, and all unworthy calls on his charity.  His heart was not warm in its affections ;  but he exactly calculated every man’s value, and gave him a solid esteem proportioned to it.  His person, you know, was fine, his stature exactly what one would wish, his deportment easy, erect and noble ;  the best horseman of his age, and the most graceful figure that could be seen on horseback.  Although in the circle of his friends, where he might be unreserved with safety, he took a free share in conversation, his colloquial talents were not above mediocrity, possessing neither copiousness of ideas, nor fluency of words.  In public, when called on for a sudden opinion, he was unready, short and embarrassed.  Yet he wrote readily, rather diffusely, in an easy and correct style.  This he had acquired by conversation with the world, for his education was merely reading, writing and common arithmetic, to which he added surveying at a later day.  His time was employed in action chiefly, reading little;  and that only in agriculture and English history.  His correspondence became necessarily extensive, and, with journalizing his agricultural proceedings, occupied most of his leisure hours within doors.  On the whole, his character was, in its mass, perfect, in nothing bad, in few points indifferent;  and it may truly be said, that never did nature and fortune combine more perfectly to make a man great, and to place him in the same constellation with whatever worthies have merited from man an everlasting remembrance.  For his was the singular destiny and merit, of leading the armies of his country successfully through an arduous war, for the establishment of its independence ;  of conducting its councils through the birth of a government, new in its forms and principles, until it had settled down into a quiet and orderly train ;  and of scrupulously obeying the laws through the whole of his career, civil and military, of which the history of the world furnishes no other example.

How, then, can it be perilous for you to take such a man on your shoulders ?  I am satisfied the great body of republicans think of him as I do.  We were, indeed, dissatisfied with him on his ratification of the British treaty.  But this was short lived.  We knew his honesty, the wiles with which he was encompassed, and that age had already begun to relax the firmness of his purposes ;  and I am convinced he is more deeply seated in the love and gratitude of the republicans, than in the Pharisaical homage of the federal monarchists.  For he was no monarchist from preference of his judgment.  The soundness of that gave him correct views of the rights of man, and his severe justice devoted him to them.  He has often declared to me that he considered our new Constitution as an experiment on the practicability of republican government, and with what dose of liberty man could be trusted for his own good ;  that he was determined the experiment should have a fair trial, and would lose the last drop of his blood in support of it.  And these declarations he repeated to me the oftener and more pointedly, because he knew my suspicions of Colonel Hamilton’s views, and probably had heard from him the same declarations which I had, to wit, “that the British constitution, with its unequal representation, corruption and other existing abuses, was the most perfect government which had ever been established on earth, and that a reformation of those abuses would make it an impracticable government."  I do believe that General Washington had not a firm confidence in the durability of our government.  He was naturally distrustful of men, and inclined to gloomy apprehensions ;  and I was ever persuaded that a belief that we must at length end in something like a British constitution, had some weight in his adoption of the ceremonies of levees, birthdays, pompous meetings with Congress, and other forms of the same character, calculated to prepare us gradually for a change which he believed possible, and to let it come on with as little shock as might be to the public mind.

These are my opinions of General Washington, which I would vouch at the judgment seat of God, having been formed on an acquaintance of thirty years.  I served with him in the Virginia legislature from 1769 to the Revolutionary war, and again, a short time in Congress, until he left us to take command of the army.  During the war and after it we corresponded occasionally, and in the four years of my continuance in the office of Secretary of State, our intercourse was daily, confidential and cordial.  After I retired from that office, great and malignant pains were taken by our federal monarchists, and not entirely without effect, to make him view me as a theorist, holding French principles of government, which would lead infallibly to licentiousness and anarchy.  And to this he listened the more easily, from my known disapprobation of the British treaty.  I never saw him afterwards, or these malignant insinuations should have been dissipated before his just judgment, as mists before the sun.  I felt on his death, with my countrymen, that “verily a great man hath fallen this day in Israel."

More time and recollection would enable me to add many other traits of his character;  but why add them to you who knew him well ?  And I cannot justify to myself a longer detention of your paper.

Vale, proprieque tuum, me esse tibi persuadeas.




To John Pintard, Recording Secretary of the New York Historical Society.
Monticello, January 9, 1814.

SIR

I have duly received your favor of December 22d, informing me that the New York Historical Society had been pleased to elect me an honorary member of that institution.  I am entirely sensible of the honor done me by this election, and I pray you to become the channel of my grateful acknowledgments to the society.  At this distance, and at my time of life, I cannot but be conscious how little it will be in my power to further their establishment, and that I should be but an unprofitable member, carrying into the institution indeed, my best wishes for its success, and a readiness to serve it on any occasion which should occur.  With these acknowledgments, be so good as to accept for the society, as well as for yourself, the assurances of my high respect and consideration.




To Samuel M. Burnside, Secretary of the American Antiquarian Society.
Monticello, January 9, 1814.

SIR

I have duly received your favor of the 13th of December, informing me of the institution of the American Antiquarian Society, and expressing its disposition to honor me with an admission into it, and the request of my co-operation in the advancement of its objects.  No one can be more sensible of the honor and the favor of these dispositions, and I pray you to have the goodness to testify to them all the gratitude I feel on receiving assurances of them.  There has been a time of life when I should have entered into their views with zeal, and with a hope of not being altogether unuseful.  But, now more than septuagenary, retired from the active scenes and business of life, I am sensible how little I can contribute to the advancement of the objects of their views ;  but I shall certainly, and with great pleasure, embrace any occasion which shall occur, of rendering them any services in my power.  With these assurances, be so good as to accept for them and for yourself, those of my high respect and consideration.




To Dr. Thomas Cooper.
Monticello, January 16, 1814.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of November 8th, if it was rightly dated, did not come to hand till December 13th, and being absent on a long journey, it has remained unanswered till now.  The copy of your introductory lecture was received and acknowledged in my letter of July 12, 1812, with which I sent you Tracy’s first volume on Logic.  Your Justinian came safely also, and I have been constantly meaning to acknowledge it, but I wished, at the same time, to say something more.  I possessed Theopilus’, Vinnius’ and Harris’ editions, but read over your notes and the addenda et corrigenda, and especially the parallels with the English law, with great satisfaction and edification.  Your edition will be very useful to our lawyers, some of whom will need the translation as well as the notes.  But what I had wanted to say to you on the subject, was that I much regret that instead of this work, useful as it may be, you had not bestowed the same time and research rather on a translation and notes on Bracton, a work which has never been performed for us, and which I have always considered as one of the greatest desiderata in the law.  The laws of England, in their progress from the earliest to the present times, may be likened to the road of a traveller, divided into distinct stages or resting places, at each of which a review is taken of the road passed over so far.  The first of these was Bracton’s De legibus Angliæ ;  the second, Coke’s Institutes ;  the third, the Abridgment of the law by Matthew Bacon ;  and the fourth, Blackstone’s Commentaries.  Doubtless there were others before Bracton which have not reached us.  Alfred, in the preface to his laws, says they were compiled from those of Ina, Offa, and Aethelbert, into which, or rather preceding them, the clergy have interpolated the 20th, 21st, 22d, 23d and 24th chapters of Exodus, so as to place A1úred’s preface to what was really his, awkwardly enough in the body of the work.  An interpolation the more glaring, as containing laws expressly contradicted by those of Alfred.  This pious fraud seems to have been first noted by Howard, in his Contumes Anglo Normandes (188), and the pious judges of England have had no inclination to question it ;  [of this disposition in these judges, I could give you a curious sample from a note in my common-place book, made while I was a student, but it is too long to be now copied.  Perhaps I may give it to you with some future letter.] This digest of Alfred of the laws of the Heptarchy into a single code, common to the whole kingdom, by him first reduced into one, was probably the birth of what is called the common law.  He has been styled, “ Magnus Juris Anlicani Conditor;” and his code, the Dom-Dec, or doom-book.  That which was made afterwards under Edward the Confessor, was but a restoration of Alfred’s, with some intervening alterations.  And this was the code which the English so often, under the Norman princes, petitioned to have restored to them.  But, all records previous to the Magna Charta having been early lost, Bracton’s is the first digest of the whole body of law which has come down to us entire.  What materials for it existed in his time we know not, except the unauthoritative collections of Lambard and Wilkins, and the treatise of Glanville, tempore H. 2.  Bracton’s is the more valuable, because being written a very few years after the Magna Charta, which commences what is called the statute law, it gives us the state of the common law in its ultimate form, and exactly at the point of division between the common and statute law.  It is a most able work, complete in its matter and luminous in its method.

2.  The statutes which introduced changes began now to be preserved ; applications of the law to new cases by the courts, began soon after to be reported in the year-books, these to be methodized and abridged by Fitzherbert, Broke, Rolle, and others ;  individuals continued the business of reporting ;  particular treatises were written by able men, and all these, by the time of Lord Coke, had formed so large a mass of matter as to call for a new digest, to bring it within reasonable compass.  This he undertook in his Institutes, harmonizing all the decisions and opinions which were reconcilable, and rejecting those not so.  This work is executed with so much learning and judgment, that I do not recollect that a single position in it has ever been judicially denied.  And although the work loses much of its value by its chaotic form, it may still be considered as the fundamental code of the English law.

3.  The same processes re-commencing of statutory changes, new divisions, multiplied reports, and special treatises, a new accumulation had formed, calling for new reduction, by the time of Matthew Bacon.  His work, therefore, although not pretending to the textual merit of Bracton’s, or Coke’s, was very acceptable.  His alphabetical arrangement, indeed, although better than Coke’s jumble, was far inferior to Bracton’s.  But it was a sound digest of the  materials existing on the several alphabetical heads under which he arranged them.  His work was not admitted as authority in Westminster Hall ;  yet it was the manual of every judge and lawyer, and, what better proves its worth, has been its daily growth in the general estimation.

4.  A succeeding interval of changes and additions of matter produced Blackstone’s Commentaries, the most lucid in arrangement which had yet been written, correct in its matter, classical in style, and rightfully taking its place by the side of the Justinian Institutes.  But, like them it was only an elementary book.  It did not present all the subjects of the law in all their details.  It still left it necessary to recur to the original works of which it was the summary.  The great mass of law books from which it was extracted, was still to be consulted on minute investigations.  It wanted, therefore, a species of merit which entered deeply into the value of those of Bracton, Coke and Bacon.  They had in effect swept the shelves of all the materials preceding them.  To give Blackstone, therefore, a full measure of value, another work is still wanting, to wit :  to incorporate with his principles a compend of the particular cases subsequent to Bacon, of which they are the essence.  This might be done by printing under his text a digest like Bacon’s continued to Blackstone’s time.  It would enlarge his work, and increase its value peculiarly to us, because just there we break off from the parent stem of the English law, unconcerned in any of its subsequent changes or decisions.

Of the four digests noted, the three last are possessed and understood by every one.  But the first, the fountain of them all, remains in its technical Latin, abounding in terms antiquated, obsolete, and unintelligible but to the most learned of the body of lawyers.  To give it to us then in English, with a glossary of its old terms, is a work for which I know nobody but yourself possessing the necessary learning and industry.  The latter part of it would be furnished to your hand from the glossaries of Wilkins, Lambard, Spelman, Somner in the X. Scriptores, the index of Coke and the law dictionaries.  Could not such an undertaking be conveniently associated with your new vocation of giving law lectures ?  I pray you to think of it.[1]  A further operation indeed, would still be desirable.  To take up the doctrines of Bracton, separatim et seriatim, to give their history through the periods of Lord Coke and Bacon, down to Blackstone, to show when and how some of them have become extinct, the successive alterations made in others, and their progress to the state in which Blackstone found them.  But this might be a separate work, left for your greater leisure or for some future pen.[2]

I have long had under contemplation, and been collecting materials for the plan of an university in Virginia which should comprehend all the sciences useful to us, and none others.  The general idea is suggested in the Notes on Virginia, Qu. 14. This would probably absorb the functions of William and Mary College, and transfer them to a healthier and more central position : perhaps to the neighborhood of this place.  The long and lingering decline of William and Mary, the death of its last president, its location and climate, force on us the wish for a new institution more convenient to our country generally, and better adapted to the present state of science.  I have been told there will be an effort in the present session of our legislature, to effect such an establishment.  I confess, however, that I have not great confidence that this will be done.  Should it happen, it would offer places worthy of you, and of which you are worthy.  It might produce, too, a bidder for the apparatus and library of Dr. Priestley, to which they might add mine on their own terms.  This consists of about seven or eight thousand volumes, the best chosen collection of its size probably in America, and containing a great mass of what is most rare and valuable, and especially of what relates to America.

You have given us, in your Emporium, Bollman’s medley on Political Economy.  It is the work of one who sees a little of everything, and the whole of nothing ;  and were it not f or your own notes on it, a sentence of which throws more just light on the subject than all his pages, we should regret the place it occupies of more useful matter.  The bringing our countrymen to a sound comparative estimate of the vast value of internal commerce, and the disproportionate importance of what is foreign, is the most salutary effort which can be made for the prosperity of these States, which are entirely misled from their true interests by the infection of English prejudices, and illicit attachments to English interests and connections.  I look to you for this effort.  It would furnish a valuable chapter for every Emporium ;  but I would rather see it also in the newspapers, which alone find access to every one.

Everything predicted by the enemies of banks, in the beginning, is now coming to pass.  We are to be ruined now by the deluge of bank paper, as we were formerly by the old Continental paper.  It is cruel that such revolutions in private fortunes should be at the mercy of avaricious adventurers, who, instead of employing their capital, if any they have, in manufactures, commerce, and other useful pursuits, make it an instrument to burden all the interchanges of property with their swindling profits, profits which are the price of no useful industry of theirs.  Prudent men must be on their guard in this game of Robin’s alives, and take care that the spark does not extinguish in their hands.  I am an enemy to all banks discounting bills or notes for anything but coin.  But our whole country is so fascinated by this Jack-lantern wealth, that they will not stop short of its total and fatal explosion.[3]

Have you seen the memorial to Congress on the subject of Oliver Evans’ patent rights? The memorialists have published in it a letter of mine containing some views on this difficult subject.  But I have opened it no further than to raise the questions belonging to it.  I wish we could have the benefit of your lights on these questions.  The abuse of the frivolous patents is likely to cause more inconvenience than is countervailed by those really useful.  We know not to what uses we may apply implements which have been in our hands before the birth of our government, and even the discovery of America.  The memorial is a thin pamphlet, printed by Robinson of Baltimore, a copy of which has been laid on the desk of every member of Congress.

You ask if it is a secret who wrote the commentary on Montesquieu ?  It must be a secret during the author’s life.  I may only say at present that it was written by a Frenchman, that the original MS. in French is now in my possession, that it was translated and edited by General Duane, and that I should rejoice to see it printed in its original tongue, if any one would undertake it.  No book can suffer more by translation, because of the severe correctness of the original in the choice of its terms.  I have taken measures for securing to the author his justly-earned fame, whenever his death or other circumstances may render it safe for him.  Like you, I do not agree with him in everything, and have had some correspondence with him on particular points.  But on the whole, it is a most valuable work, one which I think will form an epoch in the science of government, and which I wish to see in the hands of every American student, as the elementary and fundamental institute of that important branch of human science.[4]

I have never seen the answer of Governor Strong to the judges of Massachusetts, to which you allude, nor the Massachusetts reports in which it is contained.  But I am sure you join me in lamenting the general defection of lawyers and judges, from the free principles of government.  I am sure they do not derive this degenerate spirit from the father of our science, Lord Coke.  But it may be the reason why they cease to read him, and the source of what are now called “ Blackstone lawyers.”

Go on in all your good works, without regard to the eye “ of suspicion and distrust with which you may be viewed by some, ” and without being weary in well doing, and be assured that you are justly estimated by the impartial mass of our fellow citizens, and by none more than myself.



1 Bracton has at length been translated in English.

2 This has been done by Reeves, in his History of the Law.

3 This accordingly took place four year’s after.

4 The original has since been published in France, with the name of its author, M. de Tutt Tracy.





To Oliver Evans, Esq.
Monticello, January 16, 1814.

SIR

In August last I received a letter from Mr. Isaac McPherson of Baltimore, on the controversies subsisting between yourself and some persons in that quarter interested in mills.  These related to your patent rights for the elevators, conveyers, and hopper-boys;  and he requested any information I could give him on that subject.  Having been formerly a member of the patent board, as long as it existed, and bestowed in the execution of that trust much consideration on the questions belonging to it, I thought it an act of justice, and indeed of duty, to communicate such facts and principles as had occurred to me on the subject.  I therefore wrote the letter of August 13, which is the occasion of your favor to me of the 7th instant, just now received, but without the report of the case tried in the circuit court of Maryland, or your memorial to Congress, mentioned in the letter as accompanying it.  You request an answer to your letter, which my respect and esteem for you would of themselves have dictated;  but I am not certain that I distinguish the particular points to which you wish a specific answer.  You agree in the letter, that the chain of buckets and Archimedes’ screw are old inventions ;  that every one had, and still has, a right to use them and the hopper-boy, if that also existed previously, in the forms and constructions known before your patent;  and that, therefore, you have neither a grant nor claim, to the exclusive right of using elevators, conveyers, hopper-boys, or drills, but only of the improved elevator, the improved hopper-boy, &c.  In this, then, we are entirely agreed, and your right to your own improvements in the construction of these machines is explicitly recognized in my letter.  I think, however, that your letter claims something more, although it is not so explicitly defined as to convey to my mind the precise idea which you perhaps meant to express.  Your letter says that your patent is for your improvement in the manufacture of flour by the application of certain principles, and of such machinery as will carry those principles into operation, whether of the improved elevator, improved hopper-boy, or (without being confined to them) of any machinery known and free to the public.  I can conceive how a machine may improve the manufacture of flour;  but not how a principle abstracted from any machine can do it.  It must then be the machine, and the principle of that machine, which is secured to you by your patent.  Recurring now to the words of your definition, do they mean that, while all are free to use the old string of buckets, and Archimedes’ screw for the purposes to which they had been formerly applied, you alone have the exclusive right to apply them to the manufacture of flour ? that no one has a right to apply his old machines to all the purposes of which they are susceptible ? that every one, for instance, who can apply the hoe, the spade, or the axe to any purpose to which they have not been before applied, may have a patent for the exclusive right to that application ? and may exclude all others under penalties, from so using their hoe, spade, or axe ?  If this be the meaning, my opinion that the legislature never meant by the patent law to sweep away so extensively the rights of their constituents, to environ everything they touch with snares, is expressed in the letter of August 13, from which I have nothing to retract, nor aught to add but the observation that if a new application of our old machines be a ground of monopoly, the patent law will take from us much more good than it will give.  Perhaps it may mean another thing, that while every one has a right to the distinct and separate use of the buckets, the screw, the hopper-boy, in their old forms, the patent gives you the exclusive right to combine their uses on the same object.  But if we have a right to use three things separately, I see nothing in reason, or in the patent law, which forbids our using them all together.  A man has a right to use a saw, an axe, a plane, separately ;  may he not combine their uses on the same piece of wood ?  He has a right to use his knife to cut his meat, a fork to hold it;  may a patentee take from him the right to combine their use on the same subject ?  Such a law, instead of enlarging our conveniences, as was intended, would most fearfully abridge them, and crowd us by monopolies out of the use of the things we have.

I have no particular interest, however, in these questions, nor any inclination to be the advocate of either party; and I hope I shall be excused from it.  I shall acquiesce cheerfully in the decisions in your favor by those to whom the laws have confided them, without blaming the other party for being unwilling, when so new a branch of science has been recently engrafted on our jurisprudence, one with which its professors have till now had no call to make themselves acquainted, one bearing little analogy to their professional educations or pursuits.  That they should be unwilling, I say, to admit that one or two decisions, before inferior and local tribunals, before the questions shall have been repeatedly and maturely examined in all their bearings, before the cases shall have presented themselves in all their forms and attitudes, before a sanction by the greater part of the judges on the most solemn investigations, and before the industry and intelligence of many defendants may have excited to efforts for the vindication of the general rights of the citizen ;  that one or other of the precedents should forever foreclose the whole of a new subject.

To the publication of this answer with your letter, as you request, I have no objection.  I wish right to be done to all parties, and to yourself, particularly and personally, the just rewards of genius;  and I tender you the assurances of my great esteem and respect.




To Joseph C. Cabell, Esq.
Monticello, January 17, 1814.

Dear Sir,—In your last letter to me you expressed a desire to look into the question whether, by the laws of nature, one generation of men can, by any act of theirs, bind those which are to follow them ?  I say, by the laws of nature, there being between generation and generation, as between nation and nation, no other obligatory law; and you requested to see what I had said on the subject to Mr. Eppes.  I enclose, for your own perusal, therefore, three letters which I wrote to him on the course of our finances, which embrace the question before stated.  When I wrote the first, I had no thought of following it by a second.  I was led to that by his subsequent request, and after the second I was induced, in a third, to take up the subject of banks, by the communication of a proposition to be laid before Congress for the establishment of a new bank.  I mention this to explain the total absence of order in these letters as a whole.  I have said above that they are sent for your own perusal, not meaning to debar any use of the matter, but only that my name may in nowise be connected with it.  I am too desirous of tranquillity to bring such a nest of hornets on me as the fraternities of banking companies, and this infatuation of banks is a torrent which it would be a folly for me to get into the way of.  I see that it must take its course, until actual ruin shall awaken us from its delusions.  Until the gigantic banking propositions of this winter had made their appearance in the different legislatures, I had hoped that the evil might still be checked ; but I see now that it is desperate, and that we must fold our arms and go to the bottom with the ship, I had been in hopes that good old Virginia, not yet so far embarked as her northern sisters, would have set the example this winter, of beginning the process of cure, by passing a law that, after a certain time, suppose of six months, no bank bill of less than ten dollars should be permitted.  That after some other reasonable term, there should be none less than twenty dollars, and so on, until those only should be left in circulation whose size would be above the common transactions of any but merchants.  This would ensure to us an ordinary circulation of metallic money, and would reduce the quantum of paper within the bounds of moderate mischief.  And it is the only way in which the reduction can be made without a shock to private fortunes.  A sudden stoppage of this trash, either by law or its own worthlessness, would produce confusion and ruin.  Yet this will happen by its own extinction, if left to itself.  Whereas, by a salutary interposition of the legislature, it may be withdrawn insensibly and safely.  Such a mode of doing it, too, would give less alarm to the bankholders, the discreet part of whom must wish to see themselves secured by some circumscription.  It might be asked what we should do for change ?  The banks must provide it, first to pay off their five-dollar bills, next their ten-dollar bills and so on, and they ought to provide it to lessen the evils of their institution.  But I now give up all hope.  After producing the same revolutions in private fortunes as the old Continental paper did, it will die like that, adding a total incapacity to raise resources for the war.

Withdrawing myself within the shell of our own State, I have long contemplated a division of it into hundreds or wards, as the most fundamental measure for securing good government, and for instilling the principles and exercise of self-government into every fibre of every member of our commonwealth.  But the details are too long for a letter, and must be the subject of conversation, whenever I shall have the pleasure of seeing you.  It is for some of you young legislators to immortalize yourselves by laying this stone as the basis of our political edifice.

I must ask the favor of an early return of the enclosed papers, of which I have no copy.  Ever affectionately yours.




To R.M. Patterson, Secretary of the American Philosophical Society.
Monticello, January 20, 1814.

SIR

I have duly received your favor of the 7th, informing me that the American Philosophical Society, at their meeting of that day, had been pleased unanimously to elect me as President of the Society.  I receive with just sensibility this proof of their continued good will, and pray you to assure them of my gratitude for these favors, of my devotedness to their service, and the pleasure with which at all times I should in any way be made useful to them.

For yourself be pleased to accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.




To John Adams.
Monticello, January 24, 1814.

Dear Sir

I have great need of the indulgence so kindly extended to me in your favor of December 25, of permitting me to answer your friendly letters at my leisure.  My frequent and long absences from home are a first cause of tardiness in my correspondence, and a second the accumulation of business during my absence, some of which imperiously commands first attentions.  I am now in arrear to you for your letters of November 12, 14, 16, December 3, 19, 25.

* * * * * * * * *

You ask me if I have ever seen the work of J.W. Goethe’s Schriften ?  Never ;  nor did the question ever occur to me before, where get we the ten commandments ?  The book indeed gives them to us verbatim, but where did it get them ?  For itself tells us they were written by the finger of God on tables of stone, which were destroyed by Moses ;  it specifies those on the second set of tables in different form and substance, but still without saying how the others were recovered.  But the whole history of these books is so defective and doubtful, that it seems vain to attempt minute inquiry into it;  and such tricks have been played with their text, and with the texts of other books relating to them, that we have a right from that cause to entertain much doubt what parts of them are genuine.  In the New Testament there is internal evidence that parts of it have proceeded from an extraordinary man ;  and that other parts are of the fabric of very inferior minds.  It is as easy to separate those parts, as to pick out diamonds from dunghills.  The matter of the first was such as would be preserved in the memory of the hearers, and handed on by tradition for a long time;  the latter such stuff as might be gathered up, for imbedding it, anywhere, and at any time.  I have nothing of Vives, or Budæus, and little of Erasmus.  If the familiar histories of the Saints, the want of which they regret, would have given us the histories of those tricks which these writers acknowledge to have been practised, and of the lies they agree have been invented for the sake of religion, I join them in their regrets.  These would be the only parts of their histories worth reading.  It is not only the sacred volumes they have thus interpolated, gutted, and falsified, but the works of others relating to them, and even the laws of the land.  We have a curious instance of one of these pious frauds in the laws of Alfred.  He composed, you know, from the laws of the Heptarchy, a digest for the government of the United Kingdom, and in his preface to that work he tells us expressly the sources from which he drew it, to wit, the laws of Ina, of Offa and Aethelbert (not naming the Pentateuch).  But his pious interpolator, very awkwardly, premises to his work four chapters of Exodus (from the 20th to the 23d) as a part of the laws of the land;  so that Alfred’s preface is made to stand in the body of the work.  Our judges, too, have lent a ready hand to further these frauds, and have been willing to lay the yoke of their own opinions on the necks of others ;  to extend the coercions of municipal law to the dogmas of their religion, by declaring that these make a part of the law of the land.  In the Year-Book 34, H. 6, p. 38, in Quare impedit, where the question was how far the common law takes notice of the ecclesiastical law, Prisot, Chief Justice, in the course of his argument, says, "A tiels leis que ils de seint eglise ont, en ancien scripture, covient a nous a donner credence ;  car ces common luy sur quels touts manners leis sont fondes;  et auxy, sin, nous sumus obliges de canustre lour esy de saint eglise," &c. Finch begins the business of falsification by mistranslating and misstating the words of Prisot thus :  "to such laws of the church as have warrant in Holy Scripture our law giveth credence."  Citing the above case and the words of Prisot in the margin, in Finch’s law, B. 1, c. 3, here then we find ancien scripture, ancient writing, translated "holy scripture."  This, Wingate, in 1658, erects into a maxim of law in the very words of Finch, but citing Prisot and not Finch.  And Sheppard, tit. Religion, in 1675 laying it down in the same words of Finch, quotes the Year-Book, Finch and Wingate.  Then comes Sir Matthew Hale, in the case of the King v. Taylor, 1 Ventr. 293, 3 Keb. 607, and declares that "Christianity is part and parcel of the laws of England."  Citing nobody, and resting it, with his judgment against the witches, on his own authority, which indeed was sound and good in all cases into which no superstition or bigotry could enter.  Thus strengthened, the court in 1728, in the King v. Woolston, would not suffer it to be questioned whether to write against Christianity was punishable at common law, saying it had been so settled by Hale in Taylor’s case, 2 Stra. 834.  Wood, therefore, 409, without scruple, lays down as a principle, that all blaspheming and profaneness are offences at the common law, and cites Strange.  Blackstone, in 1763, repeats, in the words of Sir Matthew Hale, that "Christianity is part of the laws of England," citing Ventris and Strange, ubi supra.  And Lord Mansfield, in the case of the Chamberlain of London v. Evans, in 1767, qualifying somewhat the position, says that "the essential principles of revealed religion are part of the common law."  Thus we find this string of authorities all hanging by one another on a single hook, a mistranslation by Finch of the words of Prisot, or on nothing.  For all quote Prisot, or one another, or nobody.  Thus Finch misquotes Prisot;  Wingate also, but using Finch’s words;  Sheppard quotes Prisot, Finch and Wingate;  Hale cites nobody ;  the court in Woolston’s case cite Hale ;  Wood cites Woolston’s case ;  Blackstone that and Hale, and Lord Mansfield volunteers his own ipse dixit.  And who now can question but that the whole Bible and Testament are a part of the common law ?  And that Connecticut, in her blue laws, laying it down as a principle that the laws of God should be the laws of their land, except where their own contradicted them, did anything more than express, with a salvo, what the English judges had less cautiously declared without any restriction ?  And what, I dare say, our cunning Chief Justice would swear to, and find as many sophisms to twist it out of the general terms of our declarations of rights, and even the stricter text of the Virginia "act for the freedom of religion," as he did to twist Burr’s neck out of the halter of treason.  May we not say then with Him who was all candor and benevolence, "woe unto you, ye lawyers, for ye lade men with burdens grievous to bear."

I think with you, that Priestley, in his comparison of the doctrines of philosophy and revelation, did not do justice to the undertaking.  But he felt himself pressed by the hand of death.  Enfield has given us a more distinct account of the ethics of the ancient philosophers ;  but the great work of which Enfield’s is an abridgment, Brucker’s History of Philosophy, is the treasure which I would wish to possess, as a book of reference or of special research only, for who could read six volumes quarto, of one thousand pages each, closely printed, of modern Latin ?  Your account of D’Argens’ Æileus makes me wish for him also.  Æileus furnishes a fruitful text for a sensible and learned commentator.  The Abbé Batteaux, which I have, is a meagre thing.

You surprise me with the account you give of the strength of family distinction still existing in your State.  With us it is so totally extinguished, that not a spark of it is to be found but lurking in the hearts of some of our old tories ;  but all bigotries hang to one another, and this in the Eastern States hangs, as I suspect, to that of the priesthood.  Here youth, beauty, mind and manners, are more valued than a pedigree.

I do not remember the conversation between us which you mention in yours of November 15th, on your proposition to vest in Congress the exclusive power of establishing banks.  My opposition to it must have been grounded, not on taking the power from the States, but on leaving any vestige of it in existence, even in the hands of Congress ;  because it would only have been a change of the organ of abuse.  I have ever been the enemy of banks, not of those discounting for cash, but of those foisting their own paper into circulation, and thus banishing our cash.  My zeal against those institutions was so warm and open at the establishment of the Bank of the United States, that I was derided as a maniac by the tribe of bank-mongers, who were seeking to filch from the public their swindling and barren gains.  But the errors of that day cannot be recalled.  The evils they have engendered are now upon us, and the question is how we are to get out of them ?  Shall we build an altar to the old paper money of the Revolution, which ruined individuals but saved the republic, and burn on that all the bank charters, present and future, and their notes with them ?  For these are to ruin both republic and individuals.  This cannot be done.  The mania is too strong.  It has seized, by its delusions and corruptions, all the members of our governments, general, special and individual.  Our circulating paper of the last year was estimated at two hundred millions of dollars.  The new banks now petitioned for, to the several legislatures, are for about sixty millions additional capital, and of course one hundred and eighty millions of additional circulation, nearly doubling that of the last year, and raising the whole mass to near four hundred millions, or forty for one, of the wholesome amount of circulation for a population of eight millions circumstanced as we are, and you remember how rapidly our money went down after our forty for one establishment in the Revolution.  I doubt if the present trash can hold as long.  I think the three hundred and eighty millions must blow all up in the course of the present year, or certainly it will be consummated by the re-duplication to take place of course at the legislative meetings of the next winter.  Should not prudent men who possess stock in any moneyed institution, either draw and hoard the cash now while they can, or exchange it for canal stock, or such other as being bottomed on immovable property, will remain unhurt by the crush ?  I have been endeavoring to persuade a friend in our legislature to try and save this State from the general ruin by timely interference.  I propose to him, First, to prohibit instantly, all foreign paper.  Secondly, to give our banks six months to call in all their five-dollar bills (the lowest we allow);  another six months to call in their ten-dollar notes, and six months more to call in all below fifty dollars.  This would produce so gradual a diminution of medium, as not to shock contracts already made--would leave finally, bills of such size as would be called for only in transactions between merchant and merchant, and ensure a metallic circulation for those of the mass of citizens.  But it will not be done.  You might as well, with the sailors, whistle to the wind, as suggest precautions against having too much money.  We must bend then before the gale, and try to hold fast ourselves by some plank of the wreck.  God send us all a safe deliverance, and to yourself every other species and degree of happiness.


P.S.  I return your letter of November 15th, as it requests, and supposing that the late publication of the life of our good and really great Rittenhouse may not have reached you, I send a copy for your acceptance.  Even its episodes and digressions may add to the amusement it will furnish you.  But if the history of the world were written on the same scale, the whole world would not hold it.  Rittenhouse, as an astronomer, would stand on a line with any of his time, and as a mechanician, he certainly has not been equalled.  In this view he was truly great, but, placed alongside of Newton, every human character must appear diminutive, and none would have shrunk more feelingly from the painful parallel than the modest and amiable Rittenhouse, whose genius and merit are not the less for this exaggerated comparison of his over-zealous biographer.





To John Clarke.
Monticello, January 27, 1814.

SIR

Your favor of December 2d came to hand some time ago, and I perceive in it the proofs of a mind worthily occupied on the best interests of our common country.  To carry on our war with success, we want able officers, and a sufficient number of soldiers.  The former, time and trial can alone give us;  to procure the latter, we need only the tender of sufficient inducements and the assiduous pressure of them on the proper subjects.  The inducement of interest proposed by you, is undoubtedly the principal one on which any reliance can be placed, and the assiduous pressure of it on the proper subjects would probably be better secured by making it the interest and the duty of a given portion of the militia, rather than that of a mere recruiting officer.  Whether, however, it is the best mode, belongs to the decision of others;  but, satisfied that it is one of the good ones, I forwarded your letter to a member of the government, who will make it a subject of consideration by those with whom the authority rests.  Whether the late discomfiture of Bonaparte will have the effect of shortening or lengthening our war, is uncertain.  It is cruel that we should have been forced to wish any success to such a destroyer of the human race.  Yet while it was our interest and that of humanity that he should not subdue Russia, and thus lay all Europe at his feet, it was desirable to us that he should so far succeed as to close the Baltic to our enemy, and force him, by the pressure of internal distress, into a disposition to return to the paths of justice towards us.  If the French nation stand by Bonaparte, he may rally, rise again, and yet give Great Britain so much employment as to give time for a just settlement of our questions with her.  We must patiently wait the solution of this doubt by time.  Accept the assurances of my esteem and respect.




To Samuel Greenhow.
Monticello, January 31, 1814.

SIR

Your letter on the subject of the Bible Society arrived here while I was on a journey to Bedford, which occasioned a long absence.  from home.  Since my return, it has lain, with a mass of others accumulated during my absence, till I could answer them.  I presume the views of the society are confined to our own country, for with the religion of other countries my own forbids intermeddling.  I had not supposed there was a family in this State not possessing a Bible, and wishing without having the means to procure one.  When, in earlier life, I was intimate with every class, I think I never was in a house where that was the case.  However, circumstances may have changed, and the society, I presume, have evidence of the fact.  I therefore enclose you cheerfully, an order on Messrs.  Gibson & Jefferson for fifty dollars, for the purposes of the society, sincerely agreeing with you that there never was a more pure and sublime system of morality delivered to man than is to be found in the four evangelists.  Accept the assurance of my esteem and respect.




To Joseph C. Cabell.
Monticello, January 31, 1814.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 23d is received.  Say had come to hand safely.  But I regretted having asked the return of him;  for I did not find in him one new idea upon the subject I had been contemplating;  nothing more than a succinct, judicious digest of the tedious pages of Smith.

You ask my opinion on the question, whether the States can add any qualifications to those which the Constitution has prescribed for their members of Congress ?  It is a question I had never before reflected on ;  yet had taken up an off-hand opinion, agreeing with your first, that they could not ;  that to add new qualifications to those of the Constitution, would be as much an alteration as to detract from them.  And so I think the House of Representatives of Congress decided in some case ;  I believe that of a member from Baltimore.  But your letter having induced me to look into the Constitution, and to consider the question a little, I am again in your predicament, of doubting the correctness of my first opinion.  Had the Constitution been silent, nobody can doubt but that the right to prescribe all the qualifications and disqualifications of those they would send to represent them, would have belonged to the State.  So also the Constitution might have prescribed the whole, and excluded all others.  It seems to have preferred the middle way.  It has exercised the power in part, by declaring some disqualifications, to wit, those of not being twenty-five years of age, of not having been a citizen seven years, and of not being an inhabitant of the State at the time of election.  But it does not declare, itself, that the member shall not be a lunatic, a pauper, a convict of treason, of murder, of felony, or other infamous crime, or a non-resident of his district;  nor does it prohibit to the State the power of declaring these, or any other disqualifications which its particular circumstances may call for;  and these may be different in different States.  Of course, then, by the tenth amendment, the power is reserved to the State.  If, wherever the Constitution assumes a single power out of many which belong to the same subject, we should consider it as assuming the whole, it would vest the General Government with a mass of powers never contemplated.  On the contrary, the assumption of particular powers seems an exclusion of all not assumed.  This reasoning appears to me to be sound ;  but, on so recent a change of view, caution requires us not to be too confident, and that we admit this to be one of the doubtful questions on which honest men may differ with the purest motives ;  and the more readily, as we find we have differed from ourselves on it.

I have always thought that where the line of demarcation between the powers of the General and the State governments was doubtfully or indistinctly drawn, it would be prudent and praiseworthy in both parties, never to approach it but under the most urgent necessity.  Is the necessity now urgent, to declare that no non-resident of his district shall be eligible as a member of Congress ?  It seems to me that, in practice, the partialities of the people are a sufficient security against such an election;  and that if, in any instance, they should ever choose a non-resident, it must be one of such eminent merit and qualifications, as would make it a good, rather than an evil ;  and that, in any event, the examples will be so rare, as never to amount to a serious evil.  If the case then be neither clear nor urgent, would it not be better to let it lie undisturbed ?  Perhaps its decision may never be called for.  But if it be indispensable to establish this disqualification now, would it not look better to declare such others, at the same time, as may be proper ?  I frankly confide to yourself these opinions, or rather no-opinions, of mine ;  but would not wish to have them go any farther.  I want to be quiet;  and although some circumstances, now and then, excite me to notice them, I feel safe, and happier in leaving events to those whose turn it is to take care of them;  and, in general, to let it be understood that I meddle little or not at all with public affairs.  There are two subjects, indeed, which I shall claim a right to further as long as I breathe, the public education, and the sub-division of counties into wards.  I consider the continuance of republican government as absolutely hanging on these two hooks.  Of the first, you will, I am sure, be an advocate, as having already reflected on it, and of the last, when you shall have reflected.  Ever affectionately yours.




To Dr. Thomas Cooper.
Monticello, February 10, 1814.

Dear Sir

In my letter of January 16, I promised you a sample from my common-place book, of the pious disposition of the English judges, to connive at the frauds of the clergy, a disposition which has even rendered them faithful allies in practice.  When I was a student of the law, now half a century ago, after getting through Coke Littleton, whose matter cannot be abridged, I was in the habit of abridging and common-placing what I read meriting it, and of sometimes mixing my own reflections on the subject.  I now enclose you the extract from these entries which I promised.  They were written at a time of life when I was bold in the pursuit of knowledge, never fearing to follow truth and reason to whatever results they led, and bearding every authority which stood in their way.  This must be the apology, if you find the conclusions bolder than historical facts and principles will warrant.  Accept with them the assurances of my great esteem and respect.


Common-place Book.

873.  In Quare imp. in C. B. 34, H. 6, fo. 38, the def. Br. of Lincoln pleads that the church of the pl. became void by the death of the incumbent, that the pl. and J.S. each pretending a right, presented two several clerks ;  that the church being thus rendered litigious, he was not obliged, by the Ecclesiastical law to admit either, until an inquisition de jure patronatus, in the ecclesiastical court :  that, by the same law, this inquisition was to be at the suit of either claimant, and was not ex-officio to be instituted by the bishop, and at his proper costs ;  that neither party had desired such an inquisition ;  that six months passed whereon it belonged to him of right to present as on a lapse, which he had done.  The pl. demurred.  A question was, How far the Ecclesiastical law was to be respected in this matter by the common law court ? and Prisot C. 3, in the course of his argument uses this expression, “A tiels leis que ils de seint eglise ont en ancien scripture, covient a nous a donner credence, car ces common ley sur quel touts manners leis sont fondés:  et auxy, sin, nous sumus obligès de conustre nostre ley ;  et, sin, si poit apperer or à nous que liévesque ad fait comme un ordinary fera en tiel cas, adong nous devons ces adjuger bon autrement nemy,” &c.  It does not appear that judgment was given.  Y.B. ubi supra. S.C. Fitzh. abr. Qu. imp. 89. Bro. abr. Qu. imp. 12.  Finch mistakes this in the following manner :  “To such laws of the church as have warrant in Holy Scripture, our law giveth credence,” and cites the above case, and the words of Prisot on the margin.  Finch’s law, B. 1, ch. 3, published 1613.  Here we find “ancien scripture” (ancient writing] converted into “Holy Scripture,” whereas it can only mean the ancient written laws of the church.  It cannot mean the Scriptures, 1, because the “ancien scripture” must then be understood to mean the “Old Testament” or Bible, in opposition to the “New Testament,” and to the exclusion of that, which would be absurd and contrary to the wish of those who cite this passage to prove that the Scriptures, or Christianity, is a part of the common law.  2. Because Prisot says, “Ceo [est] common ley, sur quel touts manners leis sont fondés."  Now, it is true that the Ecclesiastical law, so far as admitted in England, derives its authority from the common law.  But it would not be true that the Scriptures so derive their authority.  3. The whole case and arguments show that the question was how far the Ecclesiastical law in general should be respected in a common law court.  And in Bro. abr. of this case, Littleton says, “Les juges del common ley prendra conusans quid est lax ecclesiæ, vel admiralitatis, et trujus modi."  4. Because the particular part of the Ecclesiastical law then in question, to wit, the right of the patron to present to his advowson, was not founded on the law of God, but subject to the modification of the lawgiver, and so could not introduce any such general position as Finch pretends.  Yet Wingate [in 1658] thinks proper to erect this false quotation into a maxim of the common law, expressing it in the very words of Finch, but citing Prisot, Wing. max. 3.  Next comes Sheppard [in 1675), who states it in the same words of Finch, and quotes the Year-Book, Finch and Wingate. 3 Shepp. abr. tit. Religion.  In the case of the King v. Taylor, Sir Matthew Hale lays it down in these words, “Christianity is parcel of the laws of England."  1 Ventr. 293, 3 Keb. 607.  But he quotes no authority, resting it on his own, which was good in all cases in which his mind received no bias from his bigotry, his superstitions, his visions about sorceries, demons, &c.  The power of these over him is exemplified in his hanging of the witches.  So strong was this doctrine become in 1728, by additions and repetitions from one another, that in the case of the King v. Woolston, the court would not suffer it to be debated, whether to write against Christianity was punishable in the temporal courts at common law, saying it had been so settled in Taylor’s case, ante, 2 Stra. 834;  therefore, Wood, in his Institute, lays it down that all blasphemy and profaneness are offences by the common law, and cites Strange ubi supra. Wood 409.  And Blackstone [about 1763) repeats, in the words of Sir Matthew Hale, that “Christianity is part of the laws of England,” citing Ventris and Strange ubi supra. 4 Blackst. 59.  Lord Mansfield qualifies it a little by saying that “the essential principles of revealed religion are part of the common law."  In the case of the Chamberlain of London v. Evans, 1767.  But he cites no authority, and leaves us at our peril to find out what, in the opinion of the judge, and according to the measure of his foot or his faith, are those essential principles of revealed religion obligatory on us as a part of the common law.

Thus we find this string of authorities, when examined to the beginning, all hanging on the same hook, a perverted expression of Prisot’s, or on one another, or nobody.  Thus Finch quotes Prisot ;  Wingate also ;  Sheppard quotes Prisot, Finch and Wingate ;  Hale cites nobody ;  the court in Woolston’s case cite Hale ;  Wood cites Woolston’s case ;  Blackstone that and Hale ;  and Lord Mansfield, like Hale, ventures it on his own authority.  In the earlier ages of the law, as in the year-books, for instance, we do not expect much recurrence to authorities by the judges, because in those days there were few or none such made public.  But in latter times we take no judge’s word for what the law is, further than he is warranted by the authorities he appeals to.  His decision may bind the unfortunate individual who happens to be the particular subject of it;  but it cannot alter the law.  Though the common law may be termed “Lex non Scripta,” yet the same Hale tells us “when I call those parts of our laws Leges non Scriptae, I do not mean as if those laws were only oral, or communicated from the former ages to the latter merely by word.  For all those laws have their several monuments in writing, whereby they are transferred from one age to another, and without which they would soon lose all kind of certainty.  They are for the most part extant in records of pleas, proceedings, and judgments, in books of reports and judicial decisions, in tractates of learned men’s arguments and opinions preserved from ancient times and still extant in writing."  Hale’s H. c. d. 22.  Authorities for what is common law may therefore be as well cited, as for any part of the Lex Scripta, and there is no better instance of the necessity of holding the judges and writers to a declaration of their authorities than the present ;  where we detect them endeavoring to make law where they found none, and to submit us at one stroke to a whole system, no particle of which has its foundation in the common law.  For we know that the common law is that system of law which was introduced by the Saxons on their settlement in England, and altered from time to time by proper legislative authority from that time to the date of Magna Charta, which terminates the period of the common law;  or Lex non Scripta, and commences that of the statute law, or Lex Scripta.  This settlement took place about the middle of the fifth century.  But Christianity was not introduced till the seventh century ; the conversion of the first Christian king of the Heptarchy having taken place about the year 598, and that of the last about 686.  Here, then, was a space of two hundred years, during which the common law was in existence, and Christianity no part of it.  If it ever was adopted, therefore, into the common law, it must have been between the introduction of Christianity and the date of the Magna Charta.  But of the laws of this period we have a tolerable collection by Lambard and Wilkins, probably not perfect, but neither very defective ;  and if any one chooses to build a doctrine on any law of that period, supposed to have been lost, it is incumbent on him to prove it to have existed, and what were its contents.  These were so far alterations of the common law, and became themselves a part of it.  But none of these adopt Christianity as a part of the common law.  If, therefore, from the settlement of the Saxons to the introduction of Christianity among them, that system of religion could not be a part of the common law, because they were not yet Christians, and if, having their laws from that period to the close of the common law, we are all able to find among them no such act of adoption, we may safely affirm (though contradicted by all the judges and writers on earth) that Christianity neither is, nor ever was a part of the common law.  Another cogent proof of this truth is drawn from the silence of certain writers on the common law.  Bracton gives us a very complete and scientific treatise of the whole body of the common law.  He wrote this about the close of the reign of Henry III., a very few years after the date of the Magna Charta.  We consider this book as the more valuable, as it was written about the time which divides the common and statute law, and therefore gives us the former in its ultimate state.  Bracton, too, was an ecclesiastic, and would certainly not have failed to inform us of the adoption of Christianity as a part of the common law, had any such adoption ever taken place.  But no word of his, which intimates anything like it, has ever been cited.  Fleta and Britton, who wrote in the succeeding reign (of Edward I.), are equally silent.  So also is Glanvil, an earlier writer than any of them, (viz.: temp. H. 2,) but his subject perhaps might not have led him to mention it.  Justice Fortescue Aland, who possessed more Saxon learning than all the judges and writers before mentioned put together, places this subject on more limited ground.  Speaking of the laws of the Saxon kings, he says, “the ten commandments were made part of their laws, and consequently were once part of the law of England ;  so that to break any of the ten commandments was then esteemed a breach of the common law, of England;  and why it is not so now, perhaps it may be difficult to give a good reason."  Preface to Fortescue Aland’s reports, xvii.  Had he proposed to state with more minuteness how much of the Scriptures had been made a part of the common law, he might have added that in the laws of Alfred, where he found the ten commandments, two or three other chapters of Exodus are copied almost verbatim.  But the adoption of a part proves rather a rejection of the rest, as municipal law.  We might as well say that the Newtonian system of philosophy is a part of the common law, as that the Christian religion is.  The truth is that Christianity and Newtonianism being reason and verity itself, in the opinion of all but infidels and Cartesians, they are protected under the wings of the common law from the dominion of other sects, but not erected into dominion over them.  An eminent Spanish physician affirmed that the lancet had slain more men than the sword.  Doctor Sangrado, on the contrary, affirmed that with plentiful bleedings, and draughts of warm water, every disease was to be cured.  The common law protects both opinions, but enacts neither into law.  See post, 879.

879.  Howard, in his Contumes Anglo-Normandes, 1. 87, notices the falsification of the laws of Alfred, by prefixing to them four chapters of the Jewish law, to wit :  the 20th, 21st, 22d and 23d chapters of Exodus, to which he might have added the 15th chapter of the Acts of the Apostles, v. 23, and precepts from other parts of the Scripture.  These he calls a hors d’oeuvre of some pious copyist.  This awkward monkish fabrication makes the preface to Alfred’s genuine laws stand in the body of the work, and the very words of Alfred himself prove the fraud;  for he declares, in that preface, that he has collected these laws from those of Ina, of Offa, Aethelbert and his ancestors, saying nothing of any of them being taken from the Scriptures.  It is still more certainly proved by the inconsistencies it occasions.  For example, the Jewish legislator, Exodus xxi. 12, 13, 14, (copied by the Pseudo Alfred §13,) makes murder, with the Jews, death.  But Alfred himself, Le. xxvi., punishes it by a fine only, called a Weregild, proportioned to the condition of the person killed.  It is remarkable that Hume (append. 1 to his History) examining this article of the laws of Alfred, without perceiving the fraud, puzzles himself with accounting for the inconsistency it had introduced.  To strike a pregnant woman so that she die, is death by Exodus xxi. 22, 23, and Pseud. Alfr. §18 ;  but by the laws of Alfred ix., pays a Weregild for both woman and child.  To smite out an eye, or a tooth, Exod. xxi. 24-27, Pseud. Alfr. §19, 20, if of a servant by his master, is freedom to the servant;  in every other case retaliation.  But by Alfr. Le. xl. a fixed indemnification is paid.  Theft of an ox, or a sheep, by the Jewish law, Exod. xxii. 1, was repaid five-fold for the ox and four-fold for the sheep;  by the Pseudograph §24, the ox double, the sheep four-fold;  but by Alfred Le. xvi., he who stole a cow and a calf was to repay the worth of the cow and forty shillings for the calf.  Goring by an ox was the death of the ox, and the flesh not to be eaten.  Exod. xxi. 28, Pseud. Alfr. §21 by Alfred Le. xxiv., the wounded person had the ox.  The Pseudograph makes municipal laws of the ten commandments, §1-10, regulates concubinage, §12, makes it death to strike or to curse father or mother, §14, 15, gives an eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, strife for strife, § 19;  sells the thief to repay his theft, §24;  obliges the fornicator to marry the woman he has lain with, § 29 ;  forbids interest on money, § 35 ;  makes the laws of bailment, § 28, very different from what Lord Holt delivers in Coggs v. Bernard, ante, 92, and what Sir William Jones tells us they were;  and punishes witchcraft with death, § 30, which Sir Matthew Hale, 1 H. P. C. B. 1, ch. 33, declares was not a felony before the Stat. 1 Jac. 12.  It was under that statute, and not this forgery, that he hung Rose Cullendar and Amy Duny, 16 Car. 2 (1662), on whose trial he declared “that there were such creatures as witches he made no doubt at all;  for first the Scripture had affirmed so much, secondly the wisdom of all nations had provided laws against such persons, and such hath been the judgment of this kingdom, as appears by that act of Parliament which hath provided punishment proportionable to the quality of the offence."  And we must certainly allow greater weight to this position that “it was no felony till James’ Statute” laid down deliberately in his H. P. C., a work which he wrote to be printed, finished, and transcribed for the press in his lifetime, than to the hasty scripture that “at common law witchcraft was punished with death as heresy, by writ de Heretico Comburendo” in his Methodical Summary of the P. C. p. 6, a work “not intended for the press, not fitted for it, and which he declared himself he had never read over since it was written;"  Pref. Unless we understand his meaning in that to be that witchcraft could not be punished at common law as witchcraft, but as heresy.  In either sense, however, it is a denial of this pretended law of Alfred.  Now, all men of reading know that these pretended laws of homicide, concubinage, theft, retaliation, compulsory marriage, usury, bailment, and others which might have been cited, from the Pseudograph, were never the laws of England, not even in Alfred’s time;  and of course that it is a forgery.  Yet palpable as it must be to every lawyer, the English judges have piously avoided lifting the veil under which it was shrouded.  In truth, the alliance between Church and State in England has ever made their judges accomplices in the frauds of the clergy;  and even bolder than they are.  For instead of being contented with these four surreptitious chapters of Exodus, they have taken the whole leap, and declared at once that the whole Bible and Testament in a lump, make a part of the common law;  ante, 873:  the first judicial declaration of which was by this same Sir Matthew Hale.  And thus they incorporate into the English code, laws made for the Jews alone, and the precepts of the Gospel, intended by their benevolent Author as obligatory only in foro conscientiae;  and they arm the whole with the coercions of municipal law.  In doing this, too, they have not even used the Connecticut caution of declaring, as is done in their blue laws, that the laws of God shall be the laws of their land, except where their own contradict them;  but they swallow the yea and nay together.  Finally, in answer to Fortescue Aland’s question why the ten commandments should not now be a part of the common law of England ? we may say they are not because they never were made so by legislative authority, the document which has imposed that doubt on him being a manifest forgery.




To Dr. John Manners.
Monticello, February 22, 1814.

SIR

The opinion which, in your letter of January 24, you are pleased to ask of me, on the comparative merits of the different methods of classification adopted by different writers on Natural History, is one which I could not have given satisfactorily, even at the earlier period at which the subject was more familiar; still less, after a life of continued occupation in civil concerns has so much withdrawn me from studies of that kind.  I can, therefore, answer but in a very general way.  And the text of this answer will be found in an observation in your letter, where, speaking of nosological systems, you say that disease has been found to be an unit.  Nature has, in truth, produced units only through all her works.  Classes, orders, genera, species, are not of her work.  Her creation is of individuals.  No two animals are exactly alike;  no two plants, nor even two leaves or blades of grass;  no two crystallizations.  And if we may venture from what is within the cognizance of such organs as ours, to conclude on that beyond their powers, we must believe that no two particles of matter are of exact resemblance.  This infinitude of units or individuals being far beyond the capacity of our memory, we are obliged, in aid of that, to distribute them into masses, throwing into each of these all the individuals which have a certain degree of resemblance ;  to subdivide these again into smaller groups, according to certain points of dissimilitude observable in them, and so on until we have formed what we call a system of classes, orders, genera and species.  In doing this, we fix arbitrarily on such characteristic resemblances and differences as seem to us most prominent and invariable in the several subjects, and most likely to take a strong hold in our memories.  Thus Ray formed one classification on such lines of division as struck him most favorably ;  Kleig adopted another ;  Brisson a third, and other naturalists other designations, till Linnaeus appeared.  Fortunately for science, he conceived in the three kingdoms of nature, modes of classification which obtained the approbation of the learned of all nations.  His system was accordingly adopted by all, and united all in a general language.  It offered the three great desiderata :  First, of aiding the memory to retain a knowledge of the productions of nature.  Secondly, of rallying all to the same names for the same objects, so that they could communicate understandingly on them.  And thirdly, of enabling them, when a subject was first presented, to trace it by its character up to the conventional name by which it was agreed to be called.  This classification was indeed liable to the imperfection of bringing into the same group individuals which, though resembling in the characteristics adopted by the author for his classification, yet have strong marks of dissimilitude in other respects.  But to this objection every mode of classification must be liable, because the plan of creation is inscrutable to our limited faculties.  Nature has not arranged her productions on a single and direct line.  They branch at every step, and in every direction, and he who attempts to reduce them into departments, is left to do it by the lines of his own fancy.  The objection of bringing together what are disparata in nature, lies against the classifications of Blumenbach and of Cuvier, as well as that of Linnaeus, and must forever lie against all.  Perhaps not in equal degree ;  on this I do not pronounce.  But neither is this so important a consideration as that of uniting all nations under one language in Natural History.  This had been happily effected by Linnaeus, and can scarcely be hoped for a second time.  Nothing indeed is so desperate as to make all mankind agree in giving up a language they possess, for one which they have to learn.  The attempt leads directly to the confusion of the tongues of Babel.  Disciples of Linnaeus, of Blumenbach, and of Cuvier, exclusively possessing their own nomenclatures, can no longer communicate intelligibly with one another.  However much, therefore, we are indebted to both these naturalists, and to Cuvier especially, for the valuable additions they have made to the sciences of nature, I cannot say they have rendered her a service in this attempt to innovate in the settled nomenclature of her productions ;  on the contrary, I think it will be a check on the progress of science, greater or less, in proportion as their schemes shall more or less prevail.  They would have rendered greater service by holding fast to the system on which we had once all agreed, and by inserting into that such new genera, orders, or even classes, as new discoveries should call for.  Their systems, too, and especially that of Blumenbach, are liable to the objection of giving too much into the province of anatomy.  It may be said, indeed, that anatomy is a part of natural history.  In the broad sense of the word, it certainly is.  In that sense, however, it would comprehend all the natural sciences, every created thing being a subject of natural history in extenso.  But in the subdivisions of general science, as has been observed in the particular one of natural history, it has been necessary to draw arbitrary lines, in order to accommodate our limited views.  According to these, as soon as the structure of any natural production is destroyed by art, it ceases to be a subject of natural history, and enters into the domain ascribed to chemistry, to pharmacy, to anatomy, &c, Linnæus’ method was liable to this objection so far as it required the aid of anatomical dissection, as of the heart, for instance, to ascertain the place of any animal, or of a chemical process for that of a mineral substance.  It would certainly be better to adopt as much as possible such exterior and visible characteristics as every traveller is competent to observe, to ascertain and to relate.  But with this objection, lying but in a small degree, Linnaeus’ method was received, understood, and conventionally settled among the learned, and was even getting into common use.  To disturb it then was unfortunate.  The new system attempted in botany, by Jussieu, in mineralogy, by Hauiy, are subjects of the same regret, and so also the no-system of Buffon, the great advocate of individualism in opposition to classification.  He would carry us back to the days and to the confusion of Aristotle and Pliny, give up the improvements of twenty centuries, and co-operate with the neologists in rendering the science of one generation useless to the next by perpetual changes of its language.  In botany, Wildenow and Persoon have incorporated into Linnaeus the new discovered plants.  I do not know whether any one has rendered us the same service as to his natural history.  It would be a very acceptable one.  The materials furnished by Humboldt, and those from New Holland particularly, require to be digested into the catholic system.  Among these the Ornithorhyncus mentioned by you, is an amusing example of the anomalies by which nature sports with our schemes of classification.  Although without mammae, naturalists are obliged to place it in the class of mammiferae;  and Blumenbach, particularly, arranges it in his order of Palmipeds and toothless genus, with the walrus and manatie.  In Linnaeus’ system, it might be inserted as a new genus between the anteater and manis, in the order of Bruta.  It seems, in truth, to have stronger relations with that class than any other in the construction of the heart, its red and warm blood, hairy integuments, in being quadruped and viviparous, and may we not say, in its tout ensemble, which Buffon makes his sole principle of arrangement ?  The mandible, as you observe, would draw it towards the birds, were not this characteristic overbalanced by the weightier ones before mentioned.  That of the Cloaca is equivocal, because although a character of birds, yet some mammalia, as the beaver and sloth, have the rectum and urinary passage terminating at a common opening.  Its ribs also, by their number and structure, are nearer those of the bird than of the mammalia.  It is possible that further opportunities of examination may discover the mammae.  Those of the Opossum are asserted, by the Chevalier d’Aboville, from his own observations on that animal, made while here with the French army, to be not discoverable until pregnancy, and to disappear as soon as the young are weaned.  The Duckbill has many additional particularities which liken it to other genera, and some entirely peculiar.  Its description and history need yet further information.

In what I have said on the method of classing, I have not at all meant to insinuate that that of Linnaeus is intrinsically preferable to those of Blumenbach and Cuvier.  I adhere to the Linnean because it is sufficient as a groundwork, admits of supplementary insertions as new productions are discovered, and mainly because it has got into so general use that it will not be easy to displace it, and still less to find another which shall have the same singular fortune of obtaining the general consent.  During the attempt we shall become unintelligible to one another, and science will be really retarded by efforts to advance it made by its most favorite sons.  I am not myself apt to be alarmed at innovations recommended by reason.  That dread belongs to those whose interests or prejudices shrink from the advance of truth and science.  My reluctance is to give up an universal language of which we are in possession, without an assurance of general consent to receive another.  And the higher the character of the authors recommending it, and the more excellent what they offer, the greater the danger of producing schism.

I should seem to need apology for these long remarks to you who are so much more recent in these studies, but I find it in your particular request and my own respect for it, and with that be pleased to accept the assurance of my esteem and consideration.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, February, 1814.

Dear Sir

I was nibbing my pen and brushing my faculties, to write a polite letter of thanks to Mr. Counsellor Barton, for his valuable memoirs of Dr. Rittenhouse, (though I could not account for his sending it to me,) when I received your favor of January 25th.  I now most cordially endorse my thanks over to you.  The book is in the modern American style, an able imitation of Marshall’s Washington though far more entertaining and instructive;  a Washington Mausoleum;  an Egyptian pyramid.  I shall never read it any more than Taylor’s Aristocracy.  Mrs. Adams reads it with great delight, and reads to me what she finds interesting, and that is indeed the whole book.  I have not time to hear it all.

Rittenhouse was a virtuous and amiable man, an exquisite mechanician, master of the astronomy known in his time ;  an expert mathematician, a patient calculator of numbers.  But we have had a Winthrop, an Andrew Oliver, a Willard, a Webber, his equals, and we have a Bowditch his superior in all these particulars, except the mechanism.  But you know Philadelphia is the heart, the censorium, the pineal gland of the United States.

In politics, Rittenhouse was a good, simple, ignorant, well-meaning, Franklinian democrat, totally ignorant of the world.  As an anchorite, an honest dupe of the French Revolution ;  a mere instrument of Jonathan Dickinson Sargent, Dr. Hutchinson, Genet, and Mifflin, I give him all the credit of his Planetarium.  The improvement of the Orrery to the Planetarium was an easy, natural thought, and nothing was wanting but calculations of orbits Distranus, and periods of revolutions ;  all of which were made to his hands long before he existed.  Patience, perseverance, and sleight of hand, is his undoubted merit and praise.  I had read Taylor in the Senate, till his style was so familiar to me that I had not read three pages, before I suspected the author.  I wrote a letter to him, and he candidly acknowledged that the six hundred and fifty pages were sent me with his consent.  I wait with impatience for the publication, and annunciation of the work.  Arator ought not to have been adulterated with politics, but his precept “Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost,” is of inestimable value in agriculture and horticulture.  Every weed, cob, husk, stalk, ought to be saved for manure.

Your researches in the laws of England establishing Christianity as the law of the land, and part of the common law, are curious and very important.  Questions without number will arise in this country.  Religious controversies, and ecclesiastical contests, are as common, and will be as sharp as any in civil politics, foreign and domestic.  In what sense, and to what extent the Bible is law, may give rise to as many doubts and quarrels as any of our civil, political, military, or maritime laws, and will intermix with them all, to irritate factions of every sort.  I dare not look beyond my nose into futurity.  Our money, our commerce, our religion, our National and State Constitutions, even our arts and sciences, are so many seed plots, of division, faction, sedition and rebellion.  Everything is transmuted into an instrument of electioneering.  Election is the grand Brahma, the immortal Lama, I had almost said, the Juggernaut;  for wives are almost ready to burn upon the pile, and children to be thrown under the wheel.  You will perceive, by these figures, that I have been looking into Oriental history, and Hindoo religion.  I have read voyages, and travels, and everything I could collect, and the last is Priestley’s “Comparison of the Institutions of Moses with those of the Hindoos, and other Ancient Nations,” a work of great labor, and not less haste.  I thank him for the labor, and forgive, though I lament the hurry.  You would be fatigued to read, and I, just recruiting from a little longer confinement and indisposition than I have had for thirty years, have not strength to write many observations.  But I have been disappointed in the principal points of my curiosity :

1st.  I am disappointed by finding that no just comparison can be made, because the original Shasta, and the original Vedams are not obtained, or if obtained, not yet translated into any European language.

2d.  In not finding such morsels of the sacred books as have been translated and published, which are more honorable to the original Hindoo religion than anything he has quoted.

3d.  In not finding a full development of the history of the doctrine of the Metempsychosis which originated—

4th.  In the history of the rebellion of innumerable hosts of angels in Heaven against the Supreme Being, who after some thousands of years of war, conquered them, and hurled them down to the regions of total darkness, where they have suffered a part of the punishment of their crime, and then were mercifully released from prison, permitted to ascend to earth, and migrate into all sorts of animals, reptiles, birds, beasts, and men, according to their rank and character, and even into vegetables, and minerals, there to serve on probation.  If they passed without reproach their several gradations, they were permitted to become cows and men.  If as men they behaved well, i.e., to the satisfaction of the priests, they were restored to their original rank and bliss in Heaven.

5th.  In not finding the Trinity of Pythagoras and Plato, their contempt of matter, flesh, and blood, their almost adoration of fire and water, their metempsychosis, and even the prohibition of beans, so evidently derived from India.

6th.  In not finding the prophecy of Enoch deduced from India, in which the fallen angels make such a figure.  But you are weary.  Priestley has proved the superiority of the Hebrews to the Hindoos, as they appear in the Gentoo laws, and institutes of Menu;  but the comparison remains to be made with the Shasta.

In his remarks on Mr. Dupuis, page 342 Priestley says :  “The History of the fallen angels is another circumstance, on which Mr. Dupuis lays much stress.  According to the Christians, he says, Vol. I, page 336, there was from the beginning a division among the angels;  some remaining faithful to the light, and others taking the part of darkness, &c.; but this supposed history is not found in the Scriptures.  It has only been inferred, from a wrong interpretation of one passage in the 2d epistle of Peter, and a corresponding one in that of Jude, as has been shown by judicious writers.  That there is such a person as the Devil, is not a part of my faith, nor that of many other Christians ;  nor am I sure that it was the belief of any of the Christian writers.  Neither do I believe the doctrine of demoniacal possessions, whether it was believed by the sacred writers or not ;  and yet my unbelief in these articles does not affect my faith in the great facts of which the Evangelists were eye and ear witnesses.  They might not be competent judges in the one case, though perfectly so with respect to the other."

I will ask Priestley, when I see him, do you believe those passages in Peter and Jude to be interpolations ?  If so, by whom made ?  And when ?  And where ?  And for what end ?  Was it to support, or found, the doctrine of the fall of man, original sin, the universal corruption, depravation and guilt of human nature and mankind ;  and the subsequent incarnation of God to make atonement and redemption ?  Or do you think that Peter and Jude believed the book of Enoch to have been written by the seventh from Adam, and one of the sacred canonical books of the Hebrew Prophets ?  Peter, 2d epistle, c.2d, v. 4th, says, “For if God spared not the angels that sinned but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness to be reserved unto Judgment."  Jude, v. 6th, says, “and the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitations, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness, unto the judgment of the great day."  Verse 14th, “And Enoch, also, the seventh from Adam, prophesied of these sayings, behold the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all,” &c.  Priestley says, “a wrong interpretation” has been given to these texts.  I wish he had favored us with his right interpretation of them.  In another place, page 326, Priestley says, “There is no circumstance of which Mr. Dupuis avails himself so much, or repeats so often, both with respect to the Jewish and Christian religions, as the history of the Fall of Man, in the book of Genesis."  I believe with him and have maintained in my writings, that this history is either an allegory, or founded on uncertain tradition, that it is an hypothesis to account for the origin of evil, adopted by Moses, which by no means accounts for the facts.

March 3d.  So far was written almost a month ago;  but sickness has prevented progress.  I had much more to say about this work.  I shall never be a disciple of Priestley.  He is as absurd, inconsistent, credulous and incomprehensible, as Athanasius.  Read his letter to the Jews in this volume.  Could a rational creature write it ?  Aye ! such rational creatures as Rochefoucauld, and Condorcet, and John Taylor, in politics, and Towers’ Jurieus, and French Prophets in Theology.  Priestley’s account of the philosophy and religion of India, appears to me to be such a work as a man of busy research would produce—who should undertake to describe Christianity from the sixth to the twelfth century, when a deluge of wonders overflowed the world ;  when miracles were performed and proclaimed from every convent, and monastery, hospital, churchyard, mountain, valley, cave and cupola.

There is a book which I wish I possessed.  It has never crossed the Atlantic.  It is entitled Acta Sanctorum, in forty-seven volumes in folio.  It contains the lives of the Saints.  It was compiled in the beginning of the sixteenth century by Bollandus, Henschenius and Papebrock.  What would I give to possess in one immense mass, one stupendous draught, all the legends, true, doubtful and false !

These Bollandists dared to discuss some of the facts, and hint that some of them were doubtful.  E.G. Papebrock doubted the antiquity of the Carmelites from Elias;  and whether the face of Jesus Christ was painted on the handkerchief of St. Veronique ;  and whether the prepuce of the Saviour of the world, which was shown in the church of Antwerp, could be proved to be genuine ?  For these bold scepticisms he was libelled in pamphlets, and denounced by the Pope, and the Inquisition in Spain.  The Inquisition condemned him ;  but the Pope not daring to acquit or condemn him, prohibited all writings pro and con.  But as the physicians cure one disease by exciting another, as a fever by a salivation, this Bull was produced by a new claim.  The brothers of the Order of Charity asserted a descent from Abraham, nine hundred years anterior to the Carmelites.

A philosopher who should write a description of Christianism from the Bollandistic Saints of the sixth and tenth century would probably produce a work tolerably parallel to Priestley’s upon the Hindoos.




To Gideon Granger, Esq.
Monticello, March 9, 1814.

Dear Sir

Your letter of February 22d came to hand on the 4th instant.  Nothing is so painful to me as appeals to my memory on the subject of past transactions.  From 1775 to 1809, my life was an unremitting course of public transactions, so numerous, so multifarious, and so diversified by places and persons, that, like the figures of a magic lantern, their succession was with a rapidity that scarcely gave time for fixed impressions.  Add to this the decay of memory consequent on advancing years, and it will not be deemed wonderful that I should be a stranger as it were even to my own transactions.  Of some indeed I retain recollections of the particular, as well as general circumstances ;  of others a strong impression of the general fact, with an oblivion of particulars ;  but of a great mass, not a trace either of general or particular remains in my mind.  I have duly pondered the facts stated in your letter, and for the refreshment of my memory have gone over the letters which passed between us while I was in the administration of the government, have examined my private notes, and such other papers as could assist me in the recovery of the facts, and shall now state them seriatim from your letter, and give the best account of them I am able to derive from the joint sources of memory and papers.

" I have been denounced as a Burrite ;  but you know that in 1800 I sent Erving from Boston to inform Virginia of the danger resulting from his intrigues."  I well remember Mr. Erving’s visit to this State about that time, and his suggestions of the designs meditated in the quarter you mention;  but as my duties on the occasion were to be merely passive, he of course, as I presume, addressed his communications more particularly to those who were free to use them.  I do not recollect his mentioning you;  but I find that in your letter to me of April 26, 1804, you state your agency on that occasion, so that I have no reason to doubt the fact.

" That in 1803-4, on my advice, you procured Erastus Granger to inform De Witt Clinton of the plan to elevate Burr in New York."  Here I do not recollect the particulars, but I have a general recollection that Colonel Burr’s conduct had already, at that date rendered his designs suspicious ;  that being for that reason laid aside by his constituents as Vice-president, and aiming to become the Governor of New York, it was thought advisable that the persons of influence in that State should be put on their guard ;  and Mr. Clinton being eminent, no one was more likely to receive intimations from us, nor any one more likely to be confided in for their communication than yourself.  I have no doubt therefore of the fact, and the less because in your letter to me of October 9, 1806, you remind me of it.

About the same period, that is, in the winter of 1803-04, another train of facts took place which, although not specifically stated in your letter, I think it but justice to yourself that I should state.  I mean the intrigues which were in agitation, and at the bottom of which we believed Colonel Burr to be;  to form a coalition of the five eastern States, with New York and New Jersey, under the new appellation of the seven eastern States ;  either to overawe the Union by the combination of their power and their will, or by threats of separating themselves from it.  Your intimacy with some of those in the secret gave you opportunities of searching into their proceedings, of which you made me daily and confidential reports.  This intimacy to which I had such useful recourse, at the time, rendered you an object of suspicion with many as being yourself a partisan of Colonel Burr, and engaged in the very combination which you were faithfully employed in defeating.  I never failed to justify you to all those who brought their suspicions to me, and to assure them of my knowledge of your fidelity.  Many were the individuals, then members of the legislature, who received these assurances from me, and whose apprehensions were thereby quieted.  This first project of Colonel Burr having vanished in smoke, he directed to the western country those views which are the subject of your next article.

" That in 1806, I communicated by the first mail after I had got knowledge of the fact, the supposed plans of Burr in his western expedition ;  upon which communication your council was first called together to take measures in relation to that subject."  Not exactly on that single communication;  on the 15th and 18th of September, I had received letters from Colonel George Morgan, and from a Mr. Nicholson of New York, suggesting in a general way the manoeuvres of Colonel Burr.  Similar information came to the Secretary of State from a Mr. Williams of New York.  The indications, however, were so vague that I only desired their increased attention to the subject, and further communications of what they should discover.  Your letter of October 16, conveying the communications of General Eaton to yourself and to Mr. Ely, gave a specific view of the objects of this new conspiracy, and corroborating our previous information.  I called the Cabinet together, on the a 22d of October, when specific measures were adopted for meeting the dangers threatened in the various points in which they might occur.  I say your letter of October 16 gave this information, because its date, with the circumstance of it being no longer on my files, induce me to infer it was that particular letter, which having been transferred to the bundle of the documents of that conspiracy, delivered to the Attorney General, is no longer in my possession.

Your mission of Mr. Pease on the route to New Orleans, at the time of that conspiracy, with powers to see that the mails were expected, and to dismiss at once every agent of the Post Office whose fidelity could be justly doubted, and to substitute others on the spot was a necessary measure, taken with my approbation;  and he executed the trusts to my satisfaction.  I do not know, however, that my subsequent appointment of him to the office of Surveyor General was influenced, as you suppose, by those services.  My motives in that appointment were my personal knowledge of his mathematical qualifications and satisfactory informations of the other parts of his character.

With respect to the dismission of the prosecutions for sedition in Connecticut, it is well known to have been a tenet of the republican portion of our fellow citizens, that the sedition law was contrary to the Constitution and therefore void.  On this ground I considered it as a nullity wherever I met it in the course of my duties ;  and on this ground I directed nolle prosequis in all the prosecutions which had been instituted under it, and as far as the public sentiment can be inferred from the occurrences of the day, we may say that this opinion had the sanction of the nation.  The prosecutions, therefore, which were afterwards instituted in Connecticut, of which two were against printers, two against preachers, and one against a judge, were too inconsistent with this principle to be permitted to go on.  We were bound to administer to others the same measure of law, not which they had meted to us, but we to ourselves, and to extend to all equally the protection of the same constitutional principles.  These prosecutions, too, were chiefly for charges against myself, and I had from the beginning laid it down as a rule to notice nothing of the kind.  I believed that the long course of services in which I had acted on the public stage, and under the eye of my fellow citizens, furnished better evidence to them of my character and principles, than the angry invectives of adverse partisans in whose eyes the very acts most approved by the majority were subjects of the greatest demerit and censure.  These prosecutions against them, therefore, were to be dismissed as a matter of duty.  But I wished it to be done with all possible respect to the worthy citizens who had advised them, and in such way as to spare their feelings which had been justly irritated by the intemperance of their adversaries.  As you were of that State and intimate with these characters, the business was confided to you, and you executed it to my perfect satisfaction.

These I think are all the particular facts on which you have asked my testimony, and I add with pleasure, and under a sense of duty, the declaration that the increase of rapidity in the movement of the mails which had been vainly attempted before, were readily undertaken by you on your entrance into office, and zealously and effectually carried into execution, and that the affairs of the office were conducted by you with ability and diligence, so long as I had opportunities of observing them.

With respect to the first article mentioned in your letter, in which I am neither concerned nor consulted, I will yet, as a friend, volunteer my advice.  I never knew anything of it, nor would ever listen to such gossiping trash.  Be assured, my dear Sir, that the dragging such a subject before the public will excite universal reprobation, and they will drown in their indignation all the solid justifications which they would otherwise have received and weighed with candor.  Consult your own experience, reflect on the similar cases which have happened within your own knowledge, and see if ever there was a single one in which such a mode of recrimination procured favor to him who used it.  You may give pain where perhaps you wish it, but be assured it will re-act on yourself with double though delayed effect, and that it will be one of those incidents of your life on which you will never reflect with satisfaction.  Be advised, then;  erase it even from your memory, and stand erect before the world on the high ground of your own merits, without stooping to what is unworthy either of your or their notice.  Remember that we often repent of what we have said, but never, never of that which we have not.  You may have time enough hereafter to mend your hold, if ever it can be mended by such matter as that.  Take time then, and do not commit your happiness and public estimation by too much precipitancy.  I am entirely uninformed of the state of things which you say exists, and which will oblige you to make a solemn appeal to the nation, in vindication of your character.  But whatever that be, I feel it a duty to bear testimony to the truth, and I have suggested with frankness other considerations occurring to myself, because I wish you well, and I add sincere assurances of my great respect and esteem.




To Horatio G. Spafford
Monticello, March 17, 1814.


Dear Sir,—I am an unpunctual correspondent at best.  While my affairs permit me to be within doors, I am too apt to take up a book and to forget the calls of the writing-table.  Besides this, I pass a considerable portion of my time at a possession so distant, and uncertain as to its mails, that my letters always await my return here.  This must apologize for my being so late in acknowledging your two favors of December 17th and January 28th, as also that of the Gazetteer, which came safely to hand.  I have read it with pleasure, and derived from it much information which I did not possess before.  I wish we had as full a statement as to all our States.  We should know ourselves better, our circumstances and resources, and the advantageous ground we stand on as a whole.  We are certainly much indebted to you for this fund of valuable information.  I join in your reprobation of our merchants, priests, and lawyers, for their adherence to England and monarchy, in preference to their own country and its Constitution.  But merchants have no country.  The mere spot they stand on does not constitute so strong an attachment as that from which they draw their gainsIn every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty.  He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own.  It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes.  With the lawyers it is a new thing.  They have, in the Mother country, been generally the firmest supporters of the free principles of their constitution.  But there too they have changed.  I ascribe much of this to the substitution of Blackstone for my Lord Coke, as an elementary work.  In truth, Blackstone and Hume have made tories of all England, and are making tories of those young Americans whose native feelings of independence do not place them above the wily sophistries of a Hume or a Blackstone.  These two books, but especially the former, have done more towards the suppression of the liberties of man, than all the million of men in arms of Bonaparte and the millions of human lives with the sacrifice of which he will stand loaded before the judgment seat of his Maker.  I fear nothing for our liberty from the assaults of force;  but I have seen and felt much, and fear more from English books, English prejudices, English manners, and the apes, the dupes, and designs among our professional crafts.  When I look around me for security against these seductions, I find it in the wide spread of our agricultural citizens, in their unsophisticated minds, their independence and their power, if called on, to crush the Humists of our cities, and to maintain the principles which severed us from England.  I see our safety in the extent of our confederacy, and in the probability that in the proportion of that the sound parts will always be sufficient to crush local poisons.  In this hope I rest, and tender you the assurance of my esteem and respect.




To Louis Hue Girardin.
Monticello, March 18, 1814.

Dear Sir

According to your request of the other day, I send you my formula and explanation of Lord Napier’s theorem, for the solution of right-angled spherical triangles.  With you I think it strange that the French mathematicians have not used or noticed this method more than they have done.  Montucla, in his account of Lord Napier’s inventions, expresses a like surprise at this fact, and does justice to the ingenuity, the elegance, and convenience of the theorem, which, by a single rule easily preserved in the memory, supplies the whole table of cases given in the books of spherical trigonometry.  Yet he does not state the rule, but refers for it to Wolf, “Cours de Mathematiques."  I have not the larger work of Wolf ;  and in the French translation of his abridgment, (by some member of the Congregation of St. Maur,) the branch of spherical trigonomtery is entirely omitted.  Potter, one of the English authors of Courses of Mathematics, has given the catholic proposition, as it is called, but in terms unintelligible, and leading to error, until, by repeated trials, we have ascertained the meaning of some of his equivocal expressions.  In Robert Simson’s Euclid we have the theorem with its demonstrations, but less aptly for the memory, divided into two rules, and these are extended as the original was, only to the cases of right-angled triangles.  Hutton, in his Course of Mathematics, declines giving the rules, as “too artificial to be applied by young computists."  But I do not think this.  It is true that when we use them, their demonstration is not always present to the mind ; but neither is this the case generally in using mathematical theorems, or in the various steps of an algebraical process.  We act on them, however, mechanically, and with confidence, as truths of which we have heretofore been satisfied by demonstration, although we do not at the moment retrace the processes which establish them.  Hutton, however, in his Mathematical Dictionary, under the terms “circular parts,” and “extremes,” has given us the rules and in all their extensions to oblique spherical, and to plane triangles.  I have endeavored to reduce them to a form best adapted to my own frail memory, by couching them in the fewest words possible, and such as cannot, I think, mislead, or be misunderstood.  My formula, with the explanation which may be necessary for your pupils, is as follows :

Lord Napier noted first the parts, or elements of a triangle, to wit, the sides and angles ;  and expunging from these the right angle, as if it were a non-existence, he considered the other five parts, to wit, the three sides, and two oblique angles, as arranged in a circle, and therefore called them the circular parts; but chose, (for simplifying the result,) instead of the hypothenuse and two oblique angles, themselves, to substitute their complements.  So that his five circular parts are the two legs themselves, and the complements of the hypothenuse and of the two oblique angles.  If the three of these, given and required, were all adjacent, he called it the case of conjunct parts, the middle element the MIDDLE PART, and the two others the EXTREMES disjunct from the middle or EXTREMES DISJUNCT.  He then laid down his catholic rule, to wit :

" The rectangle of the radius, and sine of the middle part, is equal to the rectangle of the tangents of the two EXTREMES CONJUNCT, and to that of the cosines of the two EXTREMES DISJUNCT."

And to aid our recollection in which case the tangents, and in which the cosines are to be used, preserving the original designations of the inventor, we may observe that the tangent belongs to the conjunct case, terms of sufficient affinity to be associated in the memory;  and the sine complement remains of course for the disjunct case;  and further, if you please, that the initials of radius and sine, which are to be used together, are alphabetical consecutives.

Lord Napier’s rule may also be used for the solution of oblique spherical triangles.  For this purpose a perpendicular must be let fall from an angle of the given triangle internally on the base, forming it into two right-angled triangles, one of which may contain two of the data.  Or, if this cannot be done, then letting it fall externally on the prolongation of the base, so as to form a right-angled triangle comprehending the oblique one, wherein two of the data will be common to both.  To secure two of the data from mutilation, this perpendicular must always be let fall from the end of a given side, and opposite to a given angle.

But there will remain.  yet two cases wherein Lord Napier’s rule cannot be used, to wit, where all the sides, or all the angles alone are given.  To meet these two cases, Lord Buchan and Dr. Minto devised an analogous rule.  They considered the sides themselves, and the supplements of the angles as circular parts in these cases ;  and, dropping a perpendicular from any angle from which it would fall internally on the opposite side, they assumed that angle, or that side, as the MIDDLE part, and the other angles, or other sides, as the OPPOSITE or EXTREME parts, disjunct in both cases.  Then “the rectangle under the tangents of half the sum, and half the difference of the segments of the MIDDLE part, is equal to the rectangle under the tangents of half the sums, and half the difference of the OPPOSITE PARTS."

And, since every plane triangle may be considered as described on the surface of a sphere of an infinite radius, these two rules may be applied to plane right-angled triangles, and through them to the oblique.  But as Lord Napier’s rule gives a direct solution only in the case of two sides, and an uncomprised angle, one, two, or three operations, with this combination of parts, may be necessary to get at that required.

You likewise requested for the use of your school, an explanation of a method of platting the courses of a survey, which I mentioned to you as of my own practice.  This is so obvious and simple, that as it occurred to myself, so I presume it has to others, although I have not seen it stated in any of the books.  For drawing parallel lines, I use the triangular rule, the hypothenusal side of which being applied to the side of a common straight rule, the triangle slides on that, as thus, always parallel to itself.  Instead of drawing meridians on his paper, let the pupil draw a parallel of latitude, or east and west line, and note in that a point for his first station, then applying to it his protractor, lay off the first course and distance in the usual way to ascertain his second station.  For the second course, lay the triangular rule to the east and west line, or first parallel, holding the straight or guide rule firmly against its hypothenusal side.  Then slide up the triangle (for a northerly course) to the point of his second station, and pressing it firmly there, lay the protractor to that, and mark off the second course, and distance as before, for the third station.  Then lay the triangle to the first parallel again, and sliding it as before to the point of the third station, there apply to it the protractor for the third course and distance, which gives the fourth station;  and so on.  Where a course is southwardly, lay the protractor, as before, to the northern edge of the triangle, but prick its reversed course, which reversed again in drawing, gives the true course.  When the station has got so far from the first parallel, as to be out of the reach of the parallel rule sliding on its hypothenuse, another parallel must be drawn by laying the edge, or longer leg of the triangle to the first parallel as before, applying the guide-rule to the end, or short leg, (instead of the hypothenuse,) as in the margin, and sliding the triangle up to the point for the new parallel.  I have found this, in practice, the quickest and most correct method of platting which I have ever tried, and the neatest also, because it disfigures the paper with the fewest unnecessary lines.

If these mathematical trifles can give any facilities to your pupils, they may in their hands become matters of use, as in mine they have been of amusement only.  Ever and respectfully yours.




To Monsieur Nicholas Gouin Dufief.
Monticello, April 19, 1814.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 6th instant is just received, and I shall with equal willingness and truth, state the degree of agency you had, respecting the copy of M. de Becourt’s book, which came to my hands.  That gentleman informed me, by letter, that he was about to publish a volume in French, “Sur la Creation du Monde, un Systeme d’Organisation Primitive,” which, its title promised to be, either a geological or astronomical work.  I subscribed, and, when published, he sent me a copy ;  and as you were my correspondent in the book line in Philadelphia, I took the liberty of desiring him to call on you for the price, which, he afterwards informed me, you were so kind as to pay him for me, being, I believe, two dollars.  But the sole copy which came to me was from himself directly, and, as far as I know, was never seen by you.

I am really mortified to be told that, in the United States of America, a fact like this can become a subject of inquiry, and of criminal inquiry too, as an offence against religion ;  that a question about the sale of a book can be carried before the civil magistrate.  Is this then our freedom of religion ? and are we to have a censor whose imprimatur shall say what books may be sold, and what we may buy ?  And who is thus to dogmatize religious opinions for our citizens ?  Whose foot is to be the measure to which ours are all to be cut or stretched ?  Is a priest to be our inquisitor, or shall a layman, simple as ourselves, set up his reason as the rule for what we are to read, and what we must believe ?  It is an insult to our citizens to question whether they are rational beings or not, and blasphemy against religion to suppose it cannot stand the test of truth and reason.  If M. de Becourt’s book be false in its facts, disprove them;  if false in its reasoning, refute it.  But, for God’s sake, let us freely hear both sides, if we choose.  I know little of its contents, having barely glanced over here and there a passage, and over the table of contents.  From this, the Newtonian philosophy seemed the chief object of attack, the issue of which might be trusted to the strength of the two combatants ;  Newton certainly not needing the auxiliary arm of the government, and still less the holy Author of our religion, as to what in it concerns Him.  I thought the work would be very innocent, and one which might be confided to the reason of any man;  not likely to be much read if let alone, but, if persecuted, it will be generally read.  Every man in the United States will think it a duty to buy a copy, in vindication of his right to buy, and to read what he pleases.  I have been just reading the new constitution of Spain.  One of its fundamental bases is expressed in these words :  “The Roman Catholic religion, the only true one, is, and always shall be, that of the Spanish nation.  The government protects it by wise and just laws, and prohibits the exercise of any other whatever."  Now I wish this presented to those who question what you may sell, or we may buy, with a request to strike out the words, “Roman Catholic,” and to insert the denomination of their own religion.  This would ascertain the code of dogmas which each wishes should domineer over the opinions of all others, and be taken, like the Spanish religion, under the “protection of wise and just laws."  It would show to what they wish to reduce the liberty for which one generation has sacrificed life and happiness.  It would present our boasted freedom of religion as a thing of theory only, and not of practice, as what would be a poor exchange for the theoretic thraldom, but practical freedom of Europe.  But it is impossible that the laws of Pennsylvania, which set us the first example of the wholesome and happy effects of religious freedom, can permit the inquisitorial functions to be proposed to their courts.  Under them you are surely safe.

At the date of yours of the 6th, you had not received mine of the 3d instant, asking a copy of an edition of Newton’s Principia, which I had seen advertised.  When the cost of that shall be known, it shall be added to the balance of $4.93, and incorporated with a larger remittance I have to make to Philadelphia.  Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.




To Chevalier Luis de Onis.
Monticello, April 28, 1814.

I thank you, Sir, for the copy of the new constitution of Spain which you have been so kind as to send me ; and I sincerely congratulate yourself and the Spanish nation on this great stride towards political happiness.  The invasion of Spain has been the most unprecedented and unprincipled of the transactions of modern times.  The crimes of its enemies, the licentiousness of its associates in defence, the exertions and sufferings of its inhabitants under slaughter and famine, and its consequent depopulation;  will mark indelibly the baneful ascendency of the tyrants of the sea and continent, and characterize with blood and wretchedness the age in which they have lived.  Yet these sufferings of Spain will be remunerated, her population restored and increased, under the auspices and protection of this new constitution; and the miseries of the present generation will be the price, and even the cheap price of the prosperity of endless generations to come.

There are parts of this constitution, however, in which you would expect of course that we should not concur.  One of these is the intolerance of all but the Catholic religion ;  and no security provided against the re-establishment of an Inquisition, the exclusive judge of Catholic opinions, and authorized to proscribe and punish those it shall deem anti-Catholic.  Secondly, the aristocracy, quater sublimata, of her legislators;  for the ultimate electors of these will themselves have been three times sifted from the mass of the people, and may choose from the nation at large persons never named by any of the electoral bodies.  But there is one provision which will immortalize its inventors.  It is that which, after a certain epoch, disfranchises every citizen who cannot read and write.  This is new, and is the fruitful germ of the improvement of everything good, and the correction of everything imperfect in the present constitution.  This will give you an enlightened people, and an energetic public opinion which will control and enchain the aristocratic spirit of the government.  On the whole I hail your country as now likely to resume and surpass its ancient splendor among nations.  This might perhaps have been better secured by a just confidence in the self-sufficient strength of the peninsula itself;  everything without its limits being its weakness not its force.  If the Mother country has not the magnanimity to part with the colonies in friendship, thereby making them, what they would certainly be, her natural and firmest allies, these will emancipate themselves, after exhausting her strength and resources in ineffectual efforts to hold them in subjection.  They will be rendered enemies of the Mother country, as England has rendered us by an unremitting course of insulting injuries and silly provocations.  I do not say this from the impulse of national interest, for I do not know that the United States would find an interest in the independence of neighbor nations, whose produce and commerce would rivalize ours.  It could only be that kind of interest which every human being has in the happiness and prosperity of every other.  But putting right and reason out of the question, I have no doubt that on calculations of interest alone, it is that of Spain to anticipate voluntary, and as a matter of grace, the independence of her colonies, which otherwise necessity will enforce.

* * * * * * * * * * *




To Joseph Delaplaine.
Monticello, May 3, 1814.

SIR

Your favors of April 16 and 19, on the subject of the portraits of Columbus and Americus Vespucius, were received on the 30th.  While I resided at Paris, knowing that these portraits and those of some other of the early American worthies were in the gallery of Medicis at Florence, I took measures for engaging a good artist to take and send me copies of them.  I considered it as even of some public concern that our country should not be without the portraits of its first discoverers.  These copies have already run the risks of transportations from Florence to Paris, to Philadelphia, to Washington, and lastly to this place, where they are at length safely deposited.  You request me “to forward them to you at Philadelphia for the purpose of having engravings taken from them for a work you propose to publish, and you pledge your honor that they shall be restored to me in perfect safety."  I have no doubt of the sincerity of your intentions in this pledge;  and that it would be complied with as far as it would be in your power.  But the injuries and accidents of their transportation to Philadelphia and back again are not within your control.  Besides the rubbing through a land carriage of six hundred miles, a carriage may overset in a river or creek, or be crushed with everything in it.  The frequency of such accidents to the stages renders all insurance against them impossible.  And were they to escape the perils of this journey, I should be liable to the same calls, and they to the same or greater hazards, from, all those in other parts of the continent who should propose to publish any work in which they might wish to employ engravings of the same characters.  From public, therefore, as well as private considerations, I think that these portraits ought not to be hazarded from their present deposit.  Like public records, I make them free to be copied, but, being as originals in this country, they should not be exposed to the accidents or injuries of travelling post.  While I regret, therefore, the necessity of declining to comply with your request, I freely and with pleasure offer to receive as a guest any artist whom you shall think proper to engage, and will make them welcome to take copies at their leisure for your use.  I wish them to be multiplied for safe preservation, and consider them as worthy a place in every collection.  Indeed I do not know how it happened that Mr. Peale did not think of copying them while they were in Philadelphia ;  and I think it not impossible that either the father or the son might now undertake the journey for the use of their museum.  On the ground of our personal esteem for them, they would be at home in my family.

When I received these portraits at Paris, Mr. Daniel Parker of Massachusetts happened to be there, and determined to procure for himself copies from the same originals at Florence;  and I think he did obtain them, and that I have heard of their being in the hands of some one in Boston.  If so, it might perhaps be easier to get some artist there to take and send you copies.  But be this as it may, you are perfectly welcome to the benefit of mine in the way I have mentioned.

The two original portraits of myself taken by Mr. Stuart, after which you enquire, are both in his possession at Boston.  One of them only is my property.  The President has a copy from that which Stuart considered as the best of the two;  but I believe it is at his seat in his State.

I thank you for the print of Dr. Rush.  He was one of my early and intimate friends, and among the best of men.  The engraving is excellent as is everything from the hand of Mr. Edwin.  Accept the assurance of my respect, and good wishes for the success of your work.




To John F. Watson.
Monticello, May 17, 1814.

SIR

I have long been a subscriber to the edition of the Edinburgh Review first published by Mr. Sargeant, and latterly by Eastburn, Kirk & Co., and already possess from No. 30 to 42 inclusive;  except that Nos. 31 and 37 never carne to hand.  These two and No. 29, I should be glad to receive, with all subsequently published, through the channel of Messrs. Fitzwhylson & Potter of Richmond, with whom I originally subscribed, and to whom it is more convenient to make payment by a standing order on my correspondent at Richmond.  I willingly also subscribe for the republication of the first twenty-eight numbers to be furnished me through the same channel, for the convenience of payment.  This work is certainly unrivalled in merit, and if continued by the same talents, information and principles which distinguish it in every department of science which it reviews, it will become a real Encyclopedia, justly taking its station in our libraries with the most valuable , depositories of human knowledge.  Of the Quarterly Review I have not seen many numbers.  As the antagonist of the other it appears to me a pigmy against a giant.  The precept “audi alteram partem,” on which it is republished here, should be sacred with the judge who is to decide between the contending claims of individual and individual.  It is well enough for the young who have yet opinions to make up in questions of principle in ethics or politics.  But to those who have gone through this process with industry, reflection, and singleness of heart, who have formed their conclusions and acted on them through life, to be reading over and over again what they have already read, considered and condemned, is ari idle waste of time.  It is not in the history of modern England or among the advocates of the principles or practices of her government, that the friend of freedom, or of political morality, is to seek instruction.  There has indeed been a period, during which both were to be found, not in her government, but in the band of worthies who so boldly and ably reclaimed the rights of the people, and wrested from their government theoretic acknowledgments of them.  This period began with the Stuarts, and continued but one reign after them.  Since that, the vital principle of the English constitution is corruption, its practices the natural results of that principle, and their consequences a pampered aristocracy, annihilation of the substantial middle class, a degraded populace, oppressive taxes, general pauperism, and national bankruptcy.  Those who long for these blessings here will find their generating principles well developed and advocated by the antagonist of the Edinburgh Review.  Still those who doubt should read them;  every man’s reason being his own rightful umpire.  This principle, with that of acquiescence in the will of the majority, will preserve us free and prosperous as long as they are sacredly observed.  Accept the assurances of my respect.