I thank you for the copy of the American Speaker which you have been so kind as to send me. It is a judicious selection of what has been excellently spoken on both sides of the Atlantic; and according to your request, I willingly add some suggestions, should another edition be called for. To the speeches of Lord Chatham might be added his reply to Horace Walpole, on the Seamens bill, in the House of Commons, in 1740, one of the severest which history has recorded. Indeed, the subsequent speeches in order, to which that reply gave rise, being few, short and pithy, well merit insertion in such a collection as this. They are in the twelfth volume of Chandlers Debates of the House of Commons. But the finest thing, in my opinion, which the English language has produced, is the defence of Eugene Aram, spoken by himself at the bar of the York assizes, in 1759, on a charge of murder, and to be found in the Annual Register of that date, or a little after. It had been upwards of fifty years since I had read it, when the receipt of your letter induced me to look up a MS. copy I had preserved, and on re-perusal at this age and distance of time, it loses nothing of its high station in my mind for classical style, close logic, and strong representation. I send you this copy which was taken for me by a school-boy, replete with errors of punctuation, of orthography, and sometimes substitutions of one word for another. It would be better to recur to the Annual Register itself for correctness, where also I think are stated the circumstances and issue of the case. To these I would add the short, the nervous, the unanswerable speech of Carnot, in 1803, on the proposition to declare Bonaparte consul for life. This creed of republicanism should be well translated, and placed in the hands and heart of every friend to the rights of self-government. I consider these speeches of Aram and Carnot, and that of Logan, inserted in your collection, as worthily standing in a line with those of Scipio and Hannibal in Livy, and of Cato and Caesar in Sallust. On examining the Indian speeches in my possession, I find none which are not already in your collection, except that my copy of Cornplanters has much in it which yours has not. But observing that the omissions relate to special subjects only, I presume they are made purposely and indeed properly.
I must add more particular thanks for the kind expressions of your letter towards myself. These testimonies of approbation from my fellow citizens, offered too when the lapse of time may have cooled and matured their opinions, are an ample reward for such services as I have been able to render them, and are peculiarly gratifying in a state of retirement and reflection. I pray you to accept the assurance of my respect.
The copy of your Second Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses, with the letter accompanying it, was received just as I was setting out on a journey to this place, two or three days distant from Monticello. I brought it with me and read it With great satisfaction, and With the more as it contained exactly my own creed on the foundation of morality in man. It is really curious that on a question so fundamental, such a variety of opinions should have prevailed among men, and those, too, of the most exemplary virtue and first order of understanding. It shows how necessary was the care of the Creator in making the moral principle so much a part of our constitution as that no errors of reasoning or of speculation might lead us astray from its observance in practice. Of all the theories on this question, the most whimsical seems to have been that of Wollaston, who considers truth as the foundation of morality. The thief who steals your guinea does wrong only inasmuch as he acts a lie in using your guinea as if it were his own. Truth is certainly a branch of morality, and a very important one to society. But presented as its foundation, it is as if a tree taken up by the roots, had its stem reversed in the air, and one of its branches planted in the ground. Some have made the love of God the foundation of morality. This, too, is but a branch of our moral duties, which are generally divided into duties to God and duties to man. If we did a good act merely from the love of God and a belief that it is pleasing to Him, whence arises the morality of the Atheist ? It is idle to say, as some do, that no such being exists. We have the same evidence of the fact as of most of those we act on, to wit : their own affirmations, and their reasonings in support of them. I have observed, indeed, generally, that while in Protestant countries the defections from the Platonic Christianity of the priests is to Deism, in Catholic countries they are to Atheism. Diderot, DAlembert, DHolbach, Condorcet, are known to have been among the most virtuous of men. Their virtue, then, must have had some other foundation than the love of God.
The ----(Greek inserted here)---- of others is founded in a different faculty, that of taste, which is not even a branch of morality. We have indeed an innate sense of what we call beautiful, but that is exercised chiefly on subjects addressed to the fancy, whether through the eye in visible forms, as landscape, animal figure, dress, drapery, architecture, the composition of colors, &c., or to the imagination directly, as imagery, style, or measure in prose or poetry, or whatever else constitutes the domain of criticism or taste, a faculty entirely distinct from the moral one. Self-interest, or rather self-love, or egoism, has been more plausibly substituted as the basis of morality. But I consider our relations with others as constituting the boundaries of morality. With ourselves we stand on the ground of identity, not of relation, which last, requiring two subjects, excludes selflove confined to a single one. To ourselves, in strict language, we can owe no duties, obligation requiring also two parties. Self-love, therefore, is no part of morality. Indeed it is exactly its counterpart. It is the sole antagonist of virtue, leading us constantly by our propensities to self-gratification in violation of our moral duties to others. Accordingly, it is against this enemy that are erected the batteries of moralists and religionists, as the only obstacle to the practice of morality. Take from man his selfish propensities, and he can have nothing to seduce him from the practice of virtue. Or subdue those propensities by education, instruction or restraint, and virtue remains without a competitor. Egoism, in a broader sense, has been thus presented as the source of moral action. It has been said that we feed the hungry, clothe the naked, bind up the wounds of the man beaten by thieves, pour oil and wine into them, set him on our own beast and bring him to the inn, because we receive ourselves pleasure from these acts. So Helvetius, one of the best men on earth, and the most ingenious advocate of this principle, after defining "interest" to mean not merely that which is pecuniary, but whatever may procure us pleasure or withdraw us from pain, [de lesprit 2, 1,] says, [ib. 2, 2,] "the humane man is he to whom the sight of misfortune is insupportable, and who to rescue himself from this spectacle, is forced to succor the unfortunate object." This indeed is true. But it is one step short of the ultimate question. These good acts give us pleasure, but how happens it that they give us pleasure ? Because nature hath implanted in our breasts a love of others, a sense of duty to them, a moral instinct, in short, which prompts us irresistibly to feel and to succor their distresses; and protests against the language of Helvetius, [ib. 2, 5,] "what other motive than self-interest could determine a man to generous actions ? It is as impossible for him to love what is good for the sake of good, as to love evil for the sake of evil." The Creator would indeed have been a bungling artist, had he intended man for a social animal, without planting in him social dispositions. It is true they are not planted in every man, because there is no rule without exceptions; but it is false reasoning which converts exceptions into the general rule. Some men are born without the organs of sight, or of hearing, or without hands. Yet it would be wrong to say that man is born without these faculties, and sight, hearing, and hands may with truth enter into the general definition of man. The want or imperfection of the moral sense in some men, like the want or imperfection of the senses of sight and hearing in others, is no proof that it is a general characteristic of the species. When it is wanting, we endeavor to supply the defect by education; by appeals to reason and calculation, by presenting to the being so unhappily conformed, other motives to do good and to eschew evil, such as the love, or the hatred, or rejection of those among whom he lives, and whose society is necessary to his happiness and even existence; demonstrations by sound calculation that honesty promotes interest in the long run ; the rewards and penalties established by the laws; and ultimately the prospects of a future state of retribution for the evil as well as the good done while here. These are the correctives which are supplied by education, and which exercise the functions of the moralist, the preacher, and legislator; and they lead into a course of correct action all those whose disparity is not too profound to be eradicated. Some have argued against the existence of a moral sense, by saying that if nature had given us such a sense, impelling us to virtuous actions, and warning us against those which are vicious, then nature would also have designated, by some particular ear-marks, the two sets of actions which are, in themselves, the one virtuous and the other vicious. Whereas, we find, in fact, that the same actions are deemed virtuous in one country and vicious in another. The answer is, that. nature has constituted utility to man, the standard and test of virtue. Men living in different countries, under different circumstances, different habits and regimens, may have different utilities; the same act, therefore, may be useful, and consequently virtuous in one country which is injurious and vicious in another differently circumstanced. I sincerely, then, believe with you in the general existence of a moral instinct. I think it the brightest gem with which the human character is studded, and the want of it as more degrading than the most hideous of the bodily deformities. I am happy in reviewing the roll of associates in this principle which you present in your second letter, some of which I had not before met with. To these might be added Lord Kaims, one of the ablest of our advocates, who goes so far as to say, in his Principles of Natural Religion, that a man owes no duty to which he is not urged by some impulsive feeling. This is correct, if referred to the standard of general feeling in the given rase, and not to the feeling of a single individual. Perhaps I may misquote him, it being fifty years since I read his book.
The leisure and solitude of my situation here has led me to the indiscretion of taxing you with a long letter on a subject whereon nothing new can be offered you. I will indulge myself no farther than to repeat the assurances of my continued esteem and respect.
Since mine of January the 24th, yours of March the 14th has been received. It was not acknowledged in the short one of May the 18th, by Mr. Rives, the only object of that having been to enable one of our most promising young men to have the advantage of making his bow to you. I learned with great regret the serious illness, mentioned in your letter ; and I hope Mr. Rives will be able to tell me you are entirely restored. But our machines have now been running seventy or eighty years, and we must expect that, worn as they are, here a pivot, there a wheel, now a pinion, next a spring, will be giving way; and however we may tinker them up for a while, all will at length surcease motion. Our watches, with works of brass and steel, wear out within that period. Shall you and I last to see the course the seven-fold wonders of the times will take ? The Attila of the age dethroned, the ruthless destroyer of ten millions of the human race, whose thirst for blood appeared unquenchable, the great oppressor of the rights and liberties of the world, shut up within the circle of a little island of the Mediterranean, and dwindled to the condition of an humble and degraded pensioner on the bounty of those he had most injured. How miserably, how meanly, has he closed his inflated career ! What a sample of the bathos will his history present ! He should have perished on the swords of his enemies, under the walls of Paris.
"Leon piagato a morte
Sente mancar la vita,
Guarda la sua ferita,
Ne savilisce ancor.
Cosi fra lire estrema
Rugge, minaccia, e freme,
Che fa tremar morendo
Tal volts il cacciator."Metast. Adriano.
But Bonaparte was a lion in the field only. In civil life, a cold-blooded, calculating, unprincipled usurper, without a virtue ; no statesman, knowing nothing of commerce, political economy, or civil government, and supplying ignorance by bold presumption. I had supposed him a great man until his entrance into the Assembly des cinq cens, eighteen Brumaire (an 8). From that date, however, I set him down as a great scoundrel only. To the wonders of his rise and fall, we may add that of a Czar of Muscovy, dictating, in Paris, laws and limits to all the successors of the Caesars, and holding even the balance in which the fortunes of this new world are suspended. I own, that while I rejoice, for the good of mankind, in the deliverance of Europe from the havoc which would never have ceased while Bonaparte should have lived in power, I see with anxiety the tyrant of the ocean remaining in vigor, and even participating in the merit of crushing his brother tyrant. While the world is thus turned up side down, on which of its sides are we ? All the strong reasons, indeed, place us on the side of peace ; the interests of the continent, their friendly dispositions, and even the interests of England. Her passions alone are opposed to it. Peace would seem now to be an easy work, the causes of the war being removed. Her orders of council will no doubt be taken care of by the allied powers, and, war ceasing, her impressment of our seamen ceases of course. But I fear there is foundation for the design intimated in the public papers, of demanding a cession of our right in the fisheries. What will Massachusetts say to this ? I mean her majority, which must be considered as speaking through the organs it has appointed itself, as the index of its will. She chose to sacrifice the liberties of our seafaring citizens, in which we were all interested, and with them her obligations to the co-States, rather than war with England. Will she now sacrifice the fisheries to the same partialities ? This question is interesting to her alone; for to the Middle, the Southern and Western States, they are of no direct concern ; of no more than the culture of tobacco, rice and cotton; to Massachusetts. I am really at a loss to conjecture what our refractory sister will say on this occasion. I know what, as a citizen of the Union, I would say to her. "Take this question ad referendum. It concerns you alone. If you would rather give up the fisheries than war with England, we give them up. If you had rather fight for them, we will defend your interests to the last drop of our blood, choosing rather to set a good example than follow a bad one." And I hope she will determine to fight for them. With this, however, you and I shall have nothing to do ; ours being truly the case wherein "non tali auxilio nec defensoribus istis tempus eget." Quitting this subject, therefore, I will turn over another leaf.
I am just returned from one of my long absences, having been at my other home for five weeks past. Having more leisure there than here for reading, I amused myself with reading seriously Platos Republic. I am wrong, however, in calling it amusement, for it was the heaviest task-work I ever went through. I had occasionally before taken up some of his other works, but scarcely ever had patience to go through a whole dialogue. While wading through the whimsies, the puerilities and unintelligible jargon of this work, I laid it down often to ask myself how it could have been, that the world should have so long consented to give reputation to such nonsense as this ? How the soi-disant Christian world, indeed, should have done it, is a piece of historical curiosity. But how could the Roman good sense do it ? And particularly, how could Cicero bestow such eulogies on Plato ? Although Cicero did not wield the dense logic of Demosthenes, yet he was able, learned, laborious, practised in the business of the world, and honest. He could not be the dupe of mere style, of which he was himself the first master in the world. With the moderns, I think, it is rather a matter of fashion and authority. Education is chiefly in the hands of persons who, from their profession, have an interest in the reputation and the dreams of Plato. They give the tone while at school, and few in their after years have occasion to revise their college opinions. But fashion and authority apart, and bringing Plato to the test of reason, take from him his sophisms, futilities and incomprehensibilities, and what remains ? In truth, he is one of the race of genuine sophists, who has escaped the oblivion of his brethren, first, by the elegance of his diction, but chiefly, by the adoption and incorporation of his whimsies into the body of artificial Christianity. His foggy mind is forever presenting the semblances of objects which, half seen through a mist, can be defined neither in form nor dimensions. Yet this, which should have consigned him to early oblivion, really procured him immortality of fame and reverence. The Christian priesthood, finding the doctrines of Christ levelled to every understanding, and too plain to need explanation, saw in the mysticism of Plato materials with which they might build up an artificial system, which might, from its indistinctness, admit everlasting controversy, give employment for their order, and introduce it to profit, power and preeminence. The doctrines which flowed from the lips of Jesus himself are within the comprehension of a child ; but thousands of volumes have not yet explained the Platonisms engrafted on them ; and for this obvious reason, that nonsense can never be explained. Their purposes, however, are answered. Plato is canonized ; and it is now deemed as impious to question his merits as those of an Apostle of Jesus. He is peculiarly appealed to as an advocate of the immortality of the soul ; and yet I will venture to say, that were there no better arguments than his in proof of it, not a man in the world would believe it. It is fortunate for us, that Platonic republicanism has not obtained the same favor as Platonic Christianity; or we should now have been all living, men, women and children, pell mell together, like beasts of the field or forest. Yet "Plato is a great philosopher," said La Fontaine. But, says Fontenelle, "do you find his ideas very clear ?" "Oh no ! he is of an obscurity impenetrable." "Do you not find him full of contradictions ?" "Certainly," replied La Fontaine, "he is but a sophist." Yet immediately after, he exclaims again, "Oh, Plato was a great philosopher." Socrates had reason, indeed, to complain of the misrepresentations of Plato; for in truth, his dialogues are libels on Socrates.
But why am I dosing you with these antediluvian topics ? Because I am glad to have some one to whom they are familiar, and who will not receive them as if dropped from the moon. Our post-revolutionary youth are born under happier stars than you and I were. They acquire all learning in their mothers womb, and bring it into the world ready made. The information of books is no longer necessary; and all knowledge which is not innate, is in contempt, or neglect at least. Every folly must run its round ; and so, I suppose, must that of self-learning and self-sufficiency; of rejecting the knowledge acquired in past ages, and starting on the new ground of intuition. When sobered by experience, I hope our successors will turn their attention to the advantages of education. I mean of education on the broad scale, and not that of the petty academies, as they call themselves, which are starting up in every neighborhood, and where one or two men, possessing Latin and sometimes Greek, a knowledge of the globes, and the first six books of Euclid, imagine and communicate this as the sum of science. They commit their pupils to the theatre of the world, with just taste enough of learning to be alienated from industrious pursuits, and not enough to do service in the ranks of science. We have some exceptions, indeed. I presented one to you lately, and we have some others. But the terms I use are general truths. I hope the necessity will, at length, be seen of establishing institutions here, as in Europe, where every branch of science; useful at this day, may be taught in its highest degree. Have you ever turned your thoughts to the plan of such an institution ? I mean to a specification of the particular sciences of real use in human affairs, and how they might be so grouped as to require so many professors only as might bring them within the views of a just but enlightened economy ? I should be happy in a communication of your ideas on this problem, either loose or digested. But to avoid my being run away with by another subject, and adding to the length and ennui of the present letter, I will here present to Mrs. Adams and yourself, the assurance of my constant and sincere friendship and respect.
I received this morning your favor of the 5th, and as I can never let a sheet of yours rest, I sit down immediately to acknowledge it.
Whenever Mr. Reeves, of whom I have heard nothing, shall arrive, he shall receive all the cordial civilities in my power.
I am sometimes afraid that my "machine" will not "surcease motion" soon enough; for I dread nothing so much as "dying at top," and expiring like Dean Swift, "a driveler and a show;" or like Sam Adams, a grief and distress to his family, a weeping helpless object of compassion for years.
I am bold to say, that neither you nor I will live to see the course which the "wonders of the times" will take. Many years, and perhaps centuries must pass, before the current will acquire a settled direction. If the Christian religion, as I understand it, or as you understand it, should maintain its ground, as I believe it will, yet Platonic, Pythagonic, Hindoo, Cabalistical Christianity, which is Catholic Christianity, and which has prevailed for 1,500 years, has received a mortal wound of which the monster must finally die ; yet so strong is his constitution, that he may endure for centuries before he expires.
Government has never been much studied by mankind, but their attention has been drawn to it in the latter part of the last century, and the beginning of this, more than at any former period ; and the vast variety of experiments that have been made of constitutions in America, in France, in Holland, in Geneva, in Switzerland, and even in Spain and South America, can never be forgotten. They will be catastrophes noted. The result, in time, will be improvements ; and I have no doubt that the horrors we have experienced for the last forty years, will ultimately terminate in the advancement of civil and religious liberty, and ameliorations in the condition of mankind; for I am a believer in the probable improvability and improvement, the ameliorability and amelioration in human affairs ; though I never could understand the doctrine of the perfectibility of the human mind. This has always appeared to me like the philosophy, or theology of the Gentoos, viz., that a Brahman, by certain studies, for a certain time pursued, and by certain ceremonies, a certain number of times repeated, becomes omniscient and almighty.
Our hopes, however, of sudden tranquillity, ought not to be too sanguine. Fanaticism and superstition will still be selfish, subtle, intriguing, and at times furious. Despotism will still struggle for domination ; monarchy will still study to rival nobility in popularity ; aristocracy will continue to envy all above it, and despise and oppress all below it ; democracy will envy all, contend with all, endeavor to pull down all ; and when by chance it happens to get the upper hand for a short time, it will be revengeful, bloody, and cruel. These and other elements of fanaticism and anarchy, will yet, for a long time, continue a fermentation, which will excite alarms and require vigilance.
Napoleon is a military fanatic like Achilles, Alexander, Caesar, Mahomet, Zingis, Kouli, Charles XII., &c. The maxim and principle of all of them was the same : "Jura negat sibi lata, nihil non arrogat armis."
But is it strict to call him an usurper ? Was not his elevation to the empire of France as legitimate and authentic a national act as that of William the III., or the House of Hanover to the throne of the three kingdoms ? or as the election of Washington to the command of our army, or to the chair of the States ?
Human nature, in no form of it, ever could bear prosperity. That peculiar tribe of men called conquerors, more remarkably than any other, have been swelled with vanity by any series of victories.
Napoleon won so many mighty battles in such quick succession, and for so long a time, that it was no wonder his brain became completely intoxicated, and his enterprises rash, extravagant, and mad.
Though France is humbled, Britain is not. Though Bonaparte is banished, a greater tyrant and miser usurper still domineers. John Bull is quite as unfeeling, as unprincipled, more powerful, has shed more blood, than Bonaparte. John, by his money, his intrigues, and arms, by exciting coalition after coalition against him, made him what he was, and, at last, what he is. How shall the tyrant of tyrants be brought low ? Aye ! theres the rub ! I still think Bonaparte great, at least as any of the conquerors. The wonders "of his rise and fall," may be seen in the life of King Theodore, or Pascal Paoli, or Mazionetti, or Jack Cade, or Wat Tyler, or Rienzi, or Dionicus. The only difference is that between miniatures and full-length pictures. The schoolmaster at Corinth was a greater man than the tyrant of Syracuse, upon the principle that he who conquers himself is greater than he who takes a city. Though the ferocious roar of the wounded lion may terrify the hunter with the possibility of another dangerous leap, Bonaparte was shot dead at once by France. He could no longer roar or struggle, growl or paw; he could only gasp the death. I wish that France may not still regret him. But these are speculations in the clouds. I agree with you that the milk of human kindness in the Bourbons, is safer for mankind than the fierce ambition of Napoleon.
The Autocrator appears in an imposing light. Fifty years ago, English writers held up terrible consequences from "thawing out the monstrous northern snake." If Cossacks, and Tartars, and Goths, and Vandals, and Huns, and Riparians, should get a taste of European sweets, what may happen ? Could Wellingtons or Bonapartes resist them ?
The greatest trait of sagacity that Alexander has yet exhibited to the world, is his courtship of the United States. But whether this is a mature, well-digested policy, or only a transient gleam of thought, still remains to be explained and proved by time.
The refractory sister will not give up the fisheries. Not a man here dares to hint at so base a thought.
I am very glad you have seriously read Plato ; and still more rejoiced to find that your reflections upon him so perfectly harmonize with mine. Some thirty years ago I took upon me the severe task of going through all his works. With the help of two Latin translations, and one English and one French translation, and comparing some of the most remarkable passages with the Greek; I labored through the tedious toil. My disappointment was very great, my astonishment was greater, and my disgust shocking. Two things only did I learn from him. 1. That Franklins ideas of exempting husbandmen and mariners, &c., from the depredations of war, was borrowed from him. 2. That sneezing is a cure for the hickups. Accordingly, I have cured myself, and all my friends, of that provoking disorder, for thirty years, with a pinch of snuff.
Some parts of some of his dialogues are entertaining like the writings of Rousseau, but his Laws and his Republic, from which I expected most, disappointed me most.
I could scarcely exclude the suspicion that he intended the latter as a bitter satire upon all republican government, as Xenophon undoubtedly designed, by his essay on democracy, to ridicule that species of republic. In a letter to the learned and ingenious Mr. Taylor, of Hazlewood, I suggested to him the project of writing a novel, in which the hero should be sent upon his travels through Platos republic and all his adventures, with his observations on the principles and opinions, the arts and sciences, the manners, customs, and habits of the citizens, should be recorded. Nothing can be conceived more destructive of human happiness ; more infallibly contrived to transform men and women into brutes, Yahoos, or demons, than a community of wives and property. Yet in what are the writings of Rousseau and Helvetius, wiser than those of Plato ? The man who first fenced a tobacco yard, and said this is mine, ought instantly to have been put to death, says Rousseau. The man who first pronounced the barbarous word Dieu, ought to have been immediately destroyed, says Diderot. In short, philosophers, ancient and modern, appear to me as mad as Hindoos, Mahometans, and Christians. No doubt they would all think me mad, and, for anything I know, this globe may be the Bedlam, Le Bicatre of the universe. After all, as long as property exists, it will accumulate in individuals and families. As long as marriage exists, knowledge, property, and influence will accumulate in families. Your and our equal partition of intestate estates, instead of preventing, will, in time, augment the evil, if it is one.
The French revolutionists saw this, and were so far consistent. When they burned pedigrees and genealogical trees, they annihilated, as far as they could, marriages, knowing that marriage, among a thousand other things, was an infallible source of aristocracy. I repeat it, so sure as the idea and existence of property is admitted and established in society, accumulations of it will be made ; the snow-ball will grow as it rolls.
Cicero was educated in the Groves of Academus, where the name and memory of Plato were idolized to such a degree, that if he had wholly renounced the prejudices of his education, his reputation would have been lessened, if not injured and ruined. In his two volumes of Discourses on Government, we may presume that he fully examined Platos laws and republic, as well as Aristotles writings on government. But these have been carefully destroyed, not improbably with the general consent of philosophers, politicians and priests. The loss is as much to be regretted as that of any production of antiquity.
Nothing seizes the attention of the staring animal so surely as paradox, riddle, mystery, invention, discovery, wonder, temerity. Plato and his disciples, from the fourth-century Christians to Rousseau and Tom Paine, have been fully sensible of this weakness in mankind, and have too successfully grounded upon it their pretensions to fame.
I might, indeed, have mentioned Bolingbroke, Hume, Gibbon, Voltaire, Turgot, Helvetius, Diderot, Condorcet, Buffon, and fifty others, all a little cracked. Be to their faults a little blind, to their virtues ever kind.
Education ! Oh Education ! The greatest grief of my heart, and the greatest affliction of my life ! To my mortification I must confess that I have never closely thought, or very deliberately reflected upon the subject which never occurs to me now without producing a deep sigh, a heavy groan, and sometimes tears.
My cruel destiny separated me from my children, almost continually from their birth to their manhood. I was compelled to leave them to the ordinary routine of reading, writing and Latin school, academy and college. John, alone, was much with me, and he but occasionally. If I venture to give you any thoughts at all, they must be very crude. I have turned over Locke, Milton, Condillac, Rousseau, and even Miss Edgeworth, as a bird flies through the air. The Preceptor I have thought a good book.
Grammar, rhetoric, logic, ethics, mathematics, cannot be neglected. Classics, in spite of our friend Rush, I must think indispensable. Natural history, mechanics and experimental philosophy, chemistry, &c., at least their rudiments, cannot be forgotten. Geography, astronomy, and even history and chronology, (although I am myself afflicted with a kind of Pyrrhonism in the two latter,) I presume cannot be omitted. Theology I would leave to Ray, Derham, Nicuentent, and Paley, rather than to Luther, Zinzindorf, Swedenborg, Wesley or Whitefield, or Thomas Aquinas or Wollebius. Metaphysics I would leave in the clouds with the materialists and spiritualists, with Leibnitz, Berkley, Priestley and Edwards, and I might add Hume and Reed, or if permitted to be read, it should be with romances and novels. What shall I say of music, drawing, fencing, dancing and gymnastic exercises ? What of languages, oriental and occidental ? Of French, Italian, German or Russian ? of Sanscrit or Chinese ?
The task you have prescribed to me of grouping these sciences or arts under professors, within the views of an enlightened economy, is far beyond my forces. Loose indeed, and indigested, must be all the hints I can note. Might grammar, rhetoric, logic, and ethics, be under one professor ? Might mathematics, mechanics, natural philosophy, be under another ? Geography and astronomy under a third ? Laws and government, history and chronology, under a fourth ? Classics might require a fifth.
Condillacs Course of Study has excellent parts. Among many systems of mathematics, English, French and American, there is none preferable to Besouts Course. La Harpes Course of Literature is very valuable.
But I am ashamed to add any more to the broken innuendos, except assurances of my continued friendship.
Within a few days only, I have received the letter which you did me the honor to write on the 22d of July, 1812 ; a delay which I presume must be ascribed to the interruption of the intercourse of the world by the wars which have lately desolated it by sea and land. Still involved ourselves with a nation possessing almost exclusively the ocean which separates us, I fear the one I have now the honor of addressing you may experience equal delay. I receive with much gratification the diploma of the Agronomic Society of Bavaria, conferring on me the distinction of being honorary member of their society. For this mark of their good will, I pray you to be the channel of communicating to them my respectful thanks. Age and distance will add their obstacles to the services I shall ardently wish to render the society. Yet sincerely devoted to this art, the basis of the subsistence, the comforts and the happiness of man, and sensible of the general interest which all nations have in communicating freely to each other discoveries of new and useful processes and implements in it, I shall with zeal at all times meet the wishes of the society, and especially rejoice in every opportunity which their commands may present of being useful to them. With the homage of my respects to them, be pleased to accept for yourself the assurances of my particular and high consideration.
I have been laying under contribution my memory, my private papers, the printed records, gazettes and pamphlets in my possession, to answer the inquiries of your letter of July 27, and I will give you the result as correctly as I can. I kept no copy of the paper I sent you on a former occasion on the same subject, nor do I retain an exact recollection of its contents. But if in that I stated the question on the loan office to have been in 1762, I did it with too slight attention to the date, although not to the fact. I have examined the journals of the House of Burgesses, of 1760-1-2, in my possession, and find no trace of the proceeding in them. By those of 1764, I find that the famous address to the king, and memorials to the Houses of Lords and Commons, on the proposal of the Stamp Act, were of that date; and I know that Mr. Henry was not a member of the legislature when they were passed. I know also, because I was present, that Robinson, (who died in May, 1766,) was in the chair on the question of the loan office. Mr. Henry, then, must have come in between these two epochs, and consequently in 1765. Of this year I have no journals to refresh my memory. The first session was in May, and his first remarkable exhibition there was on the motion for the establishment of an office for lending money on mortgages of real property. I find in Royles Virginia Gazette of the 17th of that month, this proposition for the loan office brought forward, its advantages detailed, and the plan explained ; and it seems to have been done by a borrowing member, from the feeling with which the motives are expressed; and to have been preparatory to the intended motion. This was probably made immediately after that date, and certainly before the 30th, which was the date of Mr. Henrys famous resolutions. I had been intimate with Mr. Henry since the winter of 1759-60, and felt an interest in what concerned him, and I can never forget a particular exclamation of his in the debate in which he electrified his hearers. It had been urged that from certain unhappy circumstances of the colony, men of substantial property had contracted debts, which, if exacted suddenly, must ruin them and their families, but, with a little indulgence of time, might be paid with ease. "What, Sir !" exclaimed Mr. Henry, in animadverting on this, "is it proposed then to reclaim the spendthrift from his dissipation and extravagance, by filling his pockets with money !" These expressions are indelibly impressed on my memory. He laid open with so much energy the spirit of favoritism on which the proposition was founded, and the abuses to which it would lead, that it was crushed in its birth. Abortive motions are not always entered on the journals, or rather, they are rarely entered. It is the modern introduction of yeas and nays which has given the means of placing a rejected motion on the journals; and it is likely that the speaker, who, as treasurer, was to be the loan officer, and had the direction of the journals, would choose to omit an entry of the motion in this case. This accounts sufficiently for the absence of any trace of the motion in the journals. There was no suspicion then, (as far, at least, as I know,) that Robinson had used the public money in private loans to his friends, and that the secret object of this scheme was to transfer those debtors to the public, and thus clear his accounts. I have diligently examined the names of the members on the journals of 1764, to see if any were still living to whose memory we might recur on this subject, but I find not a single one now remaining in life.
Of the parsons cause I remember nothing remarkable. I was at school with Mr. Maury during the years 1758 and 1759, and often heard them inveigh against the iniquity of the act of 1758, called the two-penny act. In 1763, when that cause was decided in Hanover, I was a law-student in Williamsburg, and remember only that it was a subject of much conversation, and of great paper-controversy, in which Camm, and Colonel Bland, were the principal champions.
The disputed election in which Mr. Henry made himself remarkable, must have been that of Dandridge and Littlepage, in 1764, of which, however, I recollect no particulars, although I was still a student in Williamsburg, and paid attention to what was passing in the legislature.
I proceed now to the resolution of 1765. The copies you enclose me, and that inserted by Judge Marshall in his history, and copied verbatim by Burke, are really embarrassing by their differences. 1. That of the four resolutions taken from the records of the House, is the genuine copy of what they passed, as amended by themselves, cannot be doubted. 2. That the copy which Mr. Henry left sealed up, is a true copy of these four resolutions, as reported by the committee, there is no reason to doubt. 3. That Judge Marshalls version of three of these resolutions, (for he has omitted one altogether,) is from an unauthentic source is sufficiently proved by their great variation from the record in diction, although equivalent in sentiment. But what are we to say of Mr. Henrys fifth, and Mr. Marshalls two last, which we may call the sixth and seventh resolutions ? The fifth has clearly nothing to justify the debate and proceedings which one of them produced. But the sixth is of that character, and perfectly tallies with the idea impressed on my mind, of that which was expunged. Judge Marshall tells us that two were disagreed to by the House, which may be true. I do not indeed recollect it, but I have no recollection to the contrary. My hypothesis, then, is this, that the two disagreed to were the fifth and seventh. The fifth, because merely tautologous of the third and fourth, and the seventh, because leading to individual persecution, for which no mind was then prepared. And that the sixth was the one passed by the House, by a majority of a single vote, and expunged from the journals the next day. I was standing at the door of communication between the House and lobby during the debates and vote, and well remember, that after the numbers on the division were told, and declared from the chair, Peyton Randolph (then Attorney General) came out at the door where I was standing, and exclaimed, "By God, I would have given one hundred guineas for a single vote !" For one vote would have divided the House, and Robinson was in the chair, who he knew would have negatived the resolution. Mr. Henry left town that evening, or the next morning; and Colonel Peter Randolph, then a member of the Council, came to the House of Burgesses about ten oclock of the forenoon, and sat at the clerks table till the House-bell rang, thumbing over the volumes of journals to find a precedent of expunging a vote of the House, which he said had taken place while he was a member or clerk of the House. I do not recollect which. I stood by him at the end of the table a considerable part of the time, looking on as he turned over the leaves, but I do not recollect whether he found the erasure. In the meantime, some of the timid members, who had voted for the strongest resolution, had become alarmed, and as soon as the House met, a motion was made, and carried, to expunge it from the journals. And here I will observe, that Burkes statement with his opponents, is entirely erroneous. I suppose the original journal was among those destroyed by the British, or its obliterated face might be appealed to. It is a pity this investigation was not made a few years sooner, when some of the members of the day were still living. I think inquiry should be made of Judge Marshall for the source from which he derived his copy of the resolutions. This might throw light on the sixth and seventh, which I verily believe, and especially the sixth, to be genuine in substance. On the whole, I suppose the four resolutions which are on the record, were passed and retained by the House ; that the sixth is that which was passed by a single vote and expunged, and the fifth and seventh, the two which Judge Marshall says were disagreed to. That Mr. Henrys copy, then, should not have stated all this, is the remaining difficulty. This copy he probably sealed up long after the transaction, for it was long afterwards that these resolutions, instead of the address and memorials of the preceding year, were looked back to as the commencement of legislative opposition. His own judgment may, at a later date, have approved of the rejection of the sixth and seventh, although not of the fifth, and he may have left and sealed up a copy, in his own handwriting, as approved by his ultimate judgment. This, to be sure, is conjecture, and may rightfully be rejected by any one to whom a more plausible solution may occur ; and there I must leave it. The address of 1764 was drawn by Peyton Randolph. Who drew the memorial to the Lords I do not recollect, but Mr. Wythe drew that to the Commons. It was done with so much freedom, that, as he has told me himself, his colleagues of the committee shrank from it as bearing the aspect of treason, and smoothed its features to its present form. He was, indeed, one of the very few, (for I can barely speak of them in the plural number,) of either character, who, from the commencement of the contest, hung our connection with Great Britain on its true hook, that of a common king. His unassuming character, however, made him appear as a follower, while his sound judgment kept him in a line with the freest spirit. By these resolutions, Mr. Henry took the lead out of the hands of those who had heretofore guided the proceedings of the House, that is to say, of Pendleton, Wythe, Bland, Randolph, Nicholas. These were honest and able men, had begun the opposition on the same grounds, but with a moderation more adapted to their age and experience. Subsequent events favored the bolder spirits of Henry, the Lees, Pages, Mason, &c., with whom I went in all points. Sensible, however, of the importance of unanimity among our constituents, although we often wished to have gone faster, we slackened our pace, that our less ardent colleagues might keep up with us; and they, on their part, differing nothing from us in principle, quickened their gait somewhat beyond that which their prudence might of itself have advised, and thus consolidated the phalanx which breasted the power of Britain. By this harmony of the bold with the cautious, we advanced with our constituents in undivided mass, and with fewer examples of separation than, perhaps, existed in any other part of the Union.
I do not remember the topics of Mr. Henrys argument, but those of his opposers were that the same sentiments had been expressed in the address and memorials of the preceding session, to which an answer was expected and not yet received. I well remember the cry of treason, the pause of Mr. Henry at the name of George the III., and the presence of mind with which he closed his sentence, and baffled the charge vociferated. I do not think he took the position in the middle of the floor which you mention. On the contrary, I think I recollect him standing in the very place which he continued afterwards habitually to occupy in the House.
The censure of Mr. E. Randolph on Mr. Henry in the case of Philips, was without foundation. I remember the case, and took my part in it. Philips was a mere robber, who availing himself of the troubles of the times, collected a banditti, retired to the Dismal Swamp, and from thence sallied forth, plundering and maltreating the neighboring inhabitants, and covering himself, without authority, under the name of a British subject. Mr. Henry, then Governor, communicated the case to me. We both thought the best proceeding would be by bill of attainder, unless he delivered himself up for trial within a given time. Philips was afterwards taken; and Mr. Randolph being Attorney General, and apprehending he would plead that he was a British subject, taken in arms, in support of his lawful sovereign, and as a prisoner of war entitled to the protection of the law of nations, he thought the safest proceeding would be to indict him at common law as a felon and robber. Against this I believe Philips urged the same plea : he was overruled and found guilty.
I recollect nothing of a doubt on the re-eligibility of Mr. Henry to the government when his term expired in 1779, nor can I conceive on what ground such a doubt could have been entertained, unless perhaps that his first election in June, 1776, having been before we were nationally declared independent, some might suppose it should not be reckoned as one of the three constitutional elections.
Of the projects for appointing a Dictator there are said to have been two. I know nothing of either but by hearsay. The first was in Williamsburg in December, 1776. The Assembly had the month before appointed Mr. Wythe, Mr. Pendleton, George Mason, Thomas L. Lee, and myself, to revise the whole body of laws, and adapt them to our new form of government. I left the House early in December to prepare to join the Committee at Fredericksburg, the place of our first meeting. What passed, therefore, in the House in December, I know not, and have not the journals of that session to look into. The second proposition was in June, 1781, at the Staunton session of the legislature. No trace of this last motion is entered on the journals of that date, which I have examined. This is a further proof that the silence of the journals is no evidence against the fact of an abortive motion. Among the names of the members found on the journal of the Staunton session, are John Taylor of Caroline, General Andrew Moore, and General Edward Stevens of Culpeper, now living. It would be well to ask information from each of them, that their errors of memory, or of feeling, may be corrected by collation.
You ask if I would have any objection to be quoted as to the fact of rescinding the last of Mr. Henrys resolutions. None at all as to that fact, or its having been passed by a majority of one vote only ; the scene being as present to my mind as that in which I am now writing. But I do not affirm, although I believe it was the sixth resolution.
It is truly unfortunate that those engaged in public affairs so rarely make notes of transactions passing within their knowledge. Hence history becomes fable instead of fact. The great outlines may be true, but the incidents and coloring are according to the faith or fancy of the writer. Had Judge Marshall taken half your pains in sifting and scrutinizing facts, he would not have given to the world, as true history, a false copy of a record under his eye. Burke again has copied him, and being a second writer on the spot, doubles the credit of the copy. When writers are so indifferent as to the correctness of facts, the verification of which lies at their elbow, by what measure shall we estimate their relation of things distant, or of those given to us through the obliquities of their own vision ? Our records, it is true, in the case under contemplation, were destroyed by the malice and vandalism of the British military, perhaps of their government, under whose orders they committed so much useless mischief. But printed copies remained, as your examination has proved. Those which were apocryphal, then, ought not to have been hazarded without examination. Should you be able to ascertain the genuineness of the sixth and seventh resolutions, I would ask a line of information, to rectify or to confirm my own impressions respecting them. Ever affectionately yours.
In my letter of January 16th, I mentioned to you that it had long been in contemplation to get an university established in this State, in which all the branches of science useful to us, and at this day, should be taught in their highest degree, and that this institution should be incorporated with the College and funds of William and Mary. But what are the sciences useful to us, and at this day thought useful to anybody ? A glance over Bacons arbor scientiae will show the foundation for this question and how many of his ramifications of science are now lopped off as nugatory. To be prepared for this new establishment, I have taken some pains to ascertain those branches which men of sense, as well as of science, deem worthy of cultivation. To the statements which I have obtained from other sources, I should highly value an addition of one from yourself. You know our country, its pursuits, its faculties, its relations with others, its means of establishing and maintaining an institution of general science, and the spirit of economy with which it requires that these should be administered. Will you then so far contribute to our views as to consider this subject, to make a statement of the branches of science which you think worthy of being taught, as I have before said, at this day, and in this country ? But to accommodate them to our economy, it will be necessary further to distribute them into groups, each group comprehending as many branches as one industrious professor may competently teach, and, as much as may be, a duly associated family, or class, of kindred sciences. The object of this is to bring the whole circle of useful science under the direction of the smallest number of professors possible, and that our means may be so frugally employed as to effect the greatest possible good. We are about to make an effort for the introduction of this institution.
On the subject of patent rights, on which something has passed between us before, you may have noted that the patent board, while it existed, had proposed to reduce their decisions to a system of rules as fast as the cases presented should furnish materials. They had done but little when the business was turned over to the courts of justice, on whom the same duty has now devolved. A rule has occurred to me, which I think would reach many of our cases, and go far towards securing the citizen against the vexation of frivolous patents. It is to consider the invention of any new mechanical power, or of any new combination of the mechanical powers already known, as entitled to an exclusive grant ; but that the purchaser of the right to use the invention should be free to apply it to every purpose of which it is susceptible. For instance, the combination of machinery for threshing wheat, should be applicable to the threshing of rye, oats, beans, &c. The spinning machine to everything of which it may be found capable; the chain of buckets, of which we have been possessed thousands of years, we should be free to use for raising water, ore, grains, meals, or anything else we can make it raise. These rights appear sufficiently distinct, and the distinction sound enough, to be adopted by the judges, to whom it could not be better suggested than through the medium of the Emporium, should any future paper of that furnish place for the hint.
Since the change of government in France, I am in hopes the author of the Review of Montesquieu will consent to be named, and perhaps may publish there his original work; not that their press is free, but that the present government will be restrained by public opinion, whereas the late military despotism respected that of the army only. I salute you with friendship and respect.
To Joseph Delaplaine.
Monticello, August 28, 1814.
Your letter of the 17th is received. I have not the book of Munoz containing the print of Columbus. That work came out after I left Europe, and we have not the same facility of acquiring new continental publications here as there. I have no doubt that entire credit is to be given to the account of the print rendered by him in the extract from his work which you have sent me ; and as you say that several have attempted translations of it, each differing from the other, and none satisfactory to yourself, I will add to your stock my understanding of it, that by a collation of the several translations, the authors meaning may be the better elicited.
Translation. "This first volume presents at the beginning the portrait of the discoverer, designed and engraved with care. Among many paintings and prints which are falsely sold as his likenesses, I have seen one only which can be such, and it is that which is preserved in the house of the most excellent Duke of Berwick and Lina, a descendant of our hero; a figure of the natural size, painted, as would seem, in the last century, by an indifferent copyist, in which, nevertheless, appear some catches from the hand of Antonio del Rincon, a celebrated painter of the Catholic kings. The description given by Fernando Colon, of the countenance of his father, has served to render the likeness more resembling, and to correct the faults which are observable in some of the features either imperfectly seized by the artist, or disfigured by the injuries of time."
Paraphrase explanatory of the above. Columbus was employed by Ferdinand and Isabella, on his voyage of discovery in 1492. Debry tells us that "before his departure, his portrait was taken by order of the king and queen," and most probably by Rincon, their first painter. Rincon died in 1500, and Columbus in 1506 Fernando, his son, an ecclesiastic, wrote the life of his father in 1530, and describes in that his fathers countenance. An indifferent hand in the 17th century, copied Rincons painting, which copy is preserved in the house of the Duke of Berwick. In 1793, when a print of Columbus was wanting for the history of Munoz, the artist from this copy, injured as it was by time, but still exhibiting some catches of Rincons style and from the verbal description of the countenance of Columbus in the history by his son, has been enabled to correct the faults of the copy, whether those of the copyist or proceeding from the injuries of time, and thus to furnish the best likeness.
The Spanish text admits this construction, and well-known dates and historical facts verify it.
I have taken from the second volume of Debry a rough model of the leaf on which is the print he has given of Columbus and his preface. It gives the exact size and outline of the print which, with a part of the preface, is on the first page of the leaf, and the rest on the second. I have extracted from it what related to the print, which you will perceive could not be cut out without a great mutilation of the book. This would not be regarded as to its cost, which was twelve guineas for the three volumes in Amsterdam, but that it seems to be the only copy of the work in the United States, and I know from experience the difficulty, if not impossibility, of getting another. I had orders lodged with several eminent booksellers in the principal book-marts of Europe, to wit : London, Paris, Amsterdam, Frankfort, Madrid, several years before this copy was obtained at the accidental sale of an old library in Amsterdam, on the death of its proprietor.
We have, then, three likenesses of Columbus, from which a choice is to be made.
1. The print in Munozs work, from a copy of Rincons original, taken in the 17th century by an indifferent hand, with conjectural alterations suggested by the verbal description of the younger Columbus of the countenance of his father.
2. The miniature of Debry, from a copy taken in the sixteenth century from the portrait made by order of the king and queen, probably that of Rincon.
3. The copy in my possession of the size of life, taken for me from the original, which is in the gallery of Florence. I say from an original, because it is well known that in collections of any note, and that of Florence is the first in the world, no copy is ever admitted; and an original existing in Genoa would readily be obtained for a royal collection in Florence. Vasari, in his lives of the painters, names this portrait in his catalogue of the paintings in that gallery, but does not say by whom it was made. It has the aspect of a man of thirty-five, still smooth-faced and in the vigor of life, which would place its date about 1477, fifteen years earlier than that of Rincon. Accordingly, in the miniature of Debry, the face appears more furrowed by time. On the whole, I should have no hesitation at giving this the preference over the conjectural one of Munoz, and the miniature of Debry.
The book from which I cut the print of Vespucius which I sent you, has the following title and date : "Elogio dAmerigo Vespucci che ha riportato il premio dalla nobile accademia Etrusca de Cortona nel dè 15 dOttobre dell Anno 1788, del P. Stanislao Canovai della scuole prie publico professore di fisica. Matematica in Firenze 1788, nella stamp di Pietro Allegrini." This print is unquestionably from the same original in the gallery of Florence from which my copy was also taken. The portrait is named in the catalogue of Vasari, and mentioned also by Bandini, in his life of Americus Vespucius; but neither gives its history. Both tell us there was a portrait of Vespucius taken by Domenico, and a fine head of him by Da Vinci, which, however, are lost, so that it would seem that this of Florence is the only one existing.
With this offering of what occurs to me on the subject of these prints, accept the assurance of my respect.
To Dr. Thomas Cooper.
Monticello, September 10, 1814.
Dear Sir,I regret much that I was so late in consulting you on the subject of the academy we wish to establish here. The progress of that business has obliged me to prepare an address to the President of the Board of Trustees,a plan for its organization. I send you a copy of it with a broad margin, that, if your answer to mine of August 25th be not on the way, you may be so good as to write your suggestions either in the margin or on a separate paper. We shall still be able to avail ourselves of them by way of amendments.
Your letter of August 17th is received. Mr. Ogilvie left us four days ago, on a tour of health, which is to terminate at New York, from whence he will take his passage to Britain to receive livery and seisin of his new dignities and fortunes. I am in the daily hope of seeing M. Corrica, and the more anxious as I must in two or three weeks commence a journey of long absence from home.
A comparison of the conditions of Great Britain and the United States, which is the subject of your letter of August 17th, would be an interesting theme indeed. To discuss it minutely and demonstratively would be far beyond the limits of a letter. I will give you, therefore, in brief only, the result of my reflections on the subject. I agree with you in your facts, and in many of your reflections. My conclusion is without doubt, as I am sure yours will be, when the appeal to your sound judgment is seriously made. The population of England is composed of three descriptions of persons (for those of minor note are too inconsiderable to affect a general estimate). These are, 1. The aristocracy, comprehending the nobility, the wealthy commoners, the high grades of priesthood, and the officers of government. 2. The laboring class. 3. The eleemosynary class, or paupers, who are about one-fifth of the whole. The aristocracy, which have the laws and government in their hands, have so managed them as to reduce the third description below the means of supporting life, even by labor; and to force the second, whether employed in agriculture or the arts, to the maximum of labor which the construction of the human body can endure, and to the minimum of food, and of the meanest kind, which will preserve it in life, and in strength sufficient to perform its functions. To obtain food enough, and clothing, not only their whole strength must be unremittingly exerted, but the utmost dexterity also which they can acquire ; and those of great dexterity only can keep their ground, while those of less must sink into the class of paupers. Nor is it manual dexterity alone, but the acutest resources of the mind also which are impressed into this struggle for life; and such as have means a little above the rest, as the master-workmen, for instance, must strengthen themselves by acquiring as much of the philosophy of their trade as will enable them to compete with their rivals, and keep themselves above ground. Hence the industry and manual dexterity of their journeymen and day-laborers, and the science of their master-workmen, keep them in the foremost ranks of competition with those of other nations ; and the less dexterous individuals, falling into the eleemosynary ranks, furnish materials for armies and navies to def end their country, exercise piracy on the ocean, and carry conflagration, plunder and devastation, on the shores of all those who endeavor to withstand their aggressions. A society thus constituted possesses certainly the means of defence. But what does it defend? The pauperism of the lowest class, the abject oppression of the laboring, and the luxury, the riot, the domination and the vicious happiness of the aristocracy. In their hands, the paupers are used as tools to maintain their own wretchedness, and to keep down the laboring portion by shooting them whenever the desperation produced by the cravings of their stomachs drives them into riots. Such is the happiness of scientific England; now let us see the American side of the medal.
And, first, we have no paupers, the old and crippled among us, who possess nothing and have no families to take care of them, being too few to merit notice as a separate section of society, or to affect a general estimate. The great mass of our population is of laborers ; our rich, who can live without labor, either manual or professional, being few, and of moderate wealth. Most of the laboring class possess property, cultivate their own lands, have families, and from the demand for their labor are enabled to exact from the rich and the competent such prices as enable them to be fed abundantly, clothed above mere decency, to labor moderately and raise their families. They are not driven to the ultimate resources of dexterity and skill, because their wares will sell although not quite so nice as those of England. The wealthy, on the other hand, and those at their ease, know nothing of what the Europeans call luxury. They have only somewhat more of the comforts and decencies of life than those who furnish them. Can any condition of society be more desirable than this ? Nor in the class of laborers do I mean to withhold from the comparison that portion whose color has condemned them, in certain parts of our Union, to a subjection to the will of others. Even these are better fed in these States, warmer clothed, and labor less than the journeymen or day-laborers of England. They have the comfort, too, of numerous families, in the midst of whom they live without want, or fear of it; a solace which few of the laborers of England possess. They are subject, it is true, to bodily coercion; but are not the hundreds of thousands of British soldiers and seamen subject to the same, without seeing, at the end of their career, when age and accident shall have rendered them unequal to labor, the certainty, which the other has, that he will never want ? And has not the British seaman, as much as the African, been reduced to this bondage by force, in flagrant violation of his own consent, and of his natural right in his own person ? and with the laborers of England generally, does not the moral coercion of want subject their will as despotically to that of their employer, as the physical constraint does the soldier, the seaman, or the slave ? But do not mistake me. I am not advocating slavery. I am not justifying the wrongs we have committed on a foreign people, by the example of another nation committing equal wrongs on their own subjects. On the contrary, there is nothing I would not sacrifice to a practicable plan of abolishing every vestige of this moral and political depravity. But I am at present comparing the condition and degree of suffering to which oppression has reduced the man of one color, with the condition and degree of suffering to which oppression has reduced the man of another color; equally condemning both. Now let us compute by numbers the sum of happiness of the two countries. In England, happiness is the lot of the aristocracy only ; and the proportion they bear to the laborers and paupers, you know better than I do. Were I to guess that they are four in every hundred, then the happiness of the nation would be to its misery as one in twenty-five. In the United States it is as eight millions to zero, or as all to none. But it is said they possess the means of defence, and that we do not. How so ? Are we not men ? Yes ; but our men are so happy at home that they will not hire themselves to be shot at for a shilling a day. Hence we can have no standing armies for defence, because we have no paupers to furnish the materials. The Greeks and Romans had no standing armies, yet they defended themselves. The Greeks by their laws, and the, Romans by the spirit of their people, took care to put into the hands of their rulers no such engine of oppression as a standing army. Their system was to make every man a soldier, and oblige him to repair to the standard of his country whenever that was reared. This made them invincible; and the same remedy will make us so. In the beginning of our government we were willing to introduce the least coercion possible on the will of the citizen. Hence a system of military duty was established too indulgent to his indolence. This is the first opportunity we have had of trying it, and it has completely failed; an issue foreseen by many, and for which remedies have been proposed. That of classing the militia according to age, and allotting each age to the particular kind of service to which it was competent, was proposed to Congress in 1805, and subsequently; and, on the last trial was lost, I believe, by a single vote only. Had it prevailed, what has now happened would not have happened. Instead of burning our Capitol, we should have possessed theirs in Montreal and Quebec. We must now adopt it, and all will be safe. We had in the United States in 1805, in round numbers of free, able-bodied men,
120,000 of the ages of 18 to 21 inclusive.
200,000 of the ages of 22 to 26
200,000 of the ages of 27 to 35
200,000 of the ages of 35 to 45"
In all, 720,000 of the ages of 18 to 45
With this force properly classed, organized, trained, armed and subject to tours of a year of military duty, we have no more to fear for the defence of our country than those who have the resources of despotism and pauperism.
But, you will say, we have been devastated in the meantime. True, some of our public buildings have been burnt, and some scores of individuals on the tide-water have lost their movable property and their houses. I pity them, and execrate the barbarians who delight in unavailing mischief. But these individuals have their lands and their hands left. They are not paupers, they have still better means of subsistence than 24/25 of the people of England. Again, the English have burnt our Capitol and Presidents house by means of their force. We can burn their St. James and St. Pauls by means of our money, offered to their own incendiaries, of whom there are thousands in London who would do it rather than starve. But it is against the laws of civilized warfare to employ secret incendiaries. Is it not equally so to destroy the works of art by armed incendiaries? Bonaparte, possessed at times of almost every capital of Europe, with all his despotism and power, injured no monument of art. If a nation, breaking through all the restraints of civilized character, uses its means of destruction (power, for example) without distinction of objects, may we not use our means (our money and their pauperism) to retaliate their barbarous ravages ? Are we obliged to use for resistance exactly the weapons chosen by them for aggression ? When they destroyed Copenhagen by superior force, against all the laws of God and man, would it have been unjustifiable for the Danes to have destroyed their ships by torpedoes ? Clearly not ; and they and we should now be justifiable in the conflagration of St. James and St. Pauls. And if we do not carry it into execution, it is because we think it more moral and more honorable to set a good example, than follow a bad one.
So much for the happiness of the people of England, and the morality of their government, in comparison with the happiness and the morality of America. Let us pass to another subject.
The crisis, then, of the abuses of banking is arrived. The banks have pronounced their own sentence of death. Between two and three hundred millions of dollars of their promissory notes are in the hands of the people, for solid produce and property sold, and they formally declare they will not pay them. This is an act of bankruptcy of course, and will be so pronounced by any court before which it shall be brought. But cui bono ? The law can only uncover their insolvency, by opening to its suitors their empty vaults. Thus by the dupery of our citizens, and tame acquiescence of our legislators, the nation is plundered of two or three hundred millions of dollars, treble the amount of debt contracted in the Revolutionary war, and which, instead of redeeming our liberty, has been expended on sumptuous houses, carriages, and dinners. A fearful tax ! if equalized on all; but overwhelming and convulsive by its partial fall. The crush will be tremendous; very different from that brought on by our paper money. That rose and fell so gradually that it kept all on their guard, and affected severely only early or long-winded contracts. Here the contract of yesterday crushes in an instant the one or the other party. The banks stopping payment suddenly, all their mercantile and city debtors do the same ; and all, in short, except those in the country, who, possessing property, will be good in the end. But this resource will not enable them to pay a cent on the dollar. From the establishment of the United States Bank, to this day, I have preached against this system, but have been sensible no cure could be hoped but in the catastrophe now happening. The remedy was to let banks drop gradation at the expiration of their charters, and for the State governments to relinquish the power of establishing others. This would not, as it should not, have given the power of establishing them to Congress. But Congress could then have issued treasury notes payable within a fixed period, and founded on a specific tax, the proceeds of which, as they came in, should be exchangeable for the notes of that particular emission only. This depended, it is true, on the will of the State legislatures, and would have brought on us the phalanx of paper interest. But that interest is now defunct. Their gossamer castles are dissolved, and they can no longer impede and overawe the salutary measures of the government. Their paper was received on a belief that it was cash on demand. Themselves have declared it was nothing, and such scenes are now to take place as will open the eyes of credulity and of insanity itself, to the dangers of a paper medium abandoned to the discretion of avarice and of swindlers. It is impossible not to deplore our past follies, and their present consequences, but let them at least be warnings against like follies in future. The banks have discontinued themselves. We are now without any medium; and necessity, as well as patriotism and confidence, will make us all eager to receive treasury notes, if founded on specific taxes. Congress may now borrow of the public, and without interest, all the money they may want, to the amount of a competent circulation, by merely issuing their own promissory notes, of proper denominations for the larger purposes of circulation, but not for the small. Leave that door open for the entrance of metallic money. And, to give readier credit to their bills, without obliging themselves to give cash for them on demand, let their collectors be instructed to do so, when they have cash ; thus, in some measure, performing the functions of a bank, as to their own notes. Providence seems, indeed, by a special dispensation, to have put down for us, without a struggle, that very paper enemy which the interest of our citizens long since required ourselves to put down, at whatever risk. The work is done. The moment is pregnant with futurity, and if not seized at once by Congress, I know not on what shoal our bark is next to be stranded. The State legislatures should be immediately urged to relinquish the right of establishing banks of discount. Most of them will comply, on patriotic principles, under the convictions of the moment ; and the non-complying may be crowded into concurrence by legitimate devices. Vale, et me, ut amaris, ama.
I learn from the newspapers that the vandalism of our enemy has triumphed at Washington over science as well as the arts, by the destruction of the public library with the noble edifice in which it was deposited. Of this transaction, as of that of Copenhagen, the world will entertain but one sentiment. They will see a nation suddenly withdrawn from a great war, full armed and full handed, taking advantage of another whom they had recently forced into it, unarmed, and unprepared, to indulge themselves in acts of barbarism which do not belong to a civilized age. When Van Ghent destroyed their shipping at Chatham, and De Ruyter rode triumphantly up the Thames, he might in like manner, by the acknowledgment of their own historians, have forced all their ships up to London bridge, and there have burnt them, the Tower, and city, had these examples been then set. London, when thus menaced, was near a thousand years old, Washington is but in its teens.
I presume it will be among the early objects of Congress to re-commence their collection. This will be difficult while the war continues, and intercourse with Europe is attended with so much risk. You know my collection, its condition and extent. I have been fifty years making it, and have spared no pains, opportunity or expense, to make it what it is. While residing in Paris, I devoted every afternoon I was disengaged, for a summer or two, in examining all the principal bookstores, turning over every book with my own hand, and putting by everything which related to America, and indeed whatever was rare and valuable in every science. Besides this, I had standing orders during the whole time I was in Europe, on its principal book-marts, particularly Amsterdam, Frankfort, Madrid and London, for such works relating to America as could not be found in Paris. So that in that department particularly, such a collection was made as probably can never again be effected, because it is hardly probable that the same opportunities, the same time, industry, perseverance and expense, with some knowledge of the bibliography of the subject, would again happen to be in concurrence. During the same period, and after my return to America, I was led to procure, also, whatever related to the duties of those in the high concerns of the nation. So that the collection, which I suppose is of between nine and ten thousand volumes, while it includes what is chiefly valuable in science and literature generally, extends more particularly to whatever belongs to the American statesman. In the diplomatic and parliamentary branches, it is particularly full. It is long since I have been sensible it ought not to continue private property, and had provided that at my death, Congress should have the refusal of it at their own price. But the loss they have now incurred, makes the present the proper moment for their accommodation, without regard to the small remnant of time and the barren use of my enjoying it. I ask of your friendship, therefore, to make for me the tender of it to the library committee of Congress, not knowing myself of whom the committee consists. I enclose you the catalogue, which will enable them to judge of its contents. Nearly the whole are well bound, abundance of them elegantly, and of the choicest editions existing. They may be valued by persons named by themselves, and the payment made convenient to the public. It may be, for instance, in such annual instalments as the law of Congress has left at their disposal, or in stock of any of their late loans, or of any loan they may institute at this session, so as to spare the present calls of our country, and await its days of peace and prosperity. They may enter, nevertheless, into immediate use of it, as eighteen or twenty wagons would place it in Washington in a single trip of a fortnight. I should be willing indeed, to retain a few of the books, to amuse the time I have yet to pass, which might be valued with the rest, but not included in the sum of valuation until they should be restored at my death, which I would carefully provide for, so that the whole library as it stands in the catalogue at this moment should be theirs without any garbling. Those I should like to retain would be chiefly classical and mathematical. Some few in other branches, and particularly one of the five encyclopedias in the catalogue. But this, if not acceptable, would not be urged. I must add, that I have not revised the library since I came home to live, so that it is probable some of the books may be missing, except in the chapters of Law and Divinity, which have been revised and stand exactly as in the catalogue. The return of the catalogue will of course be needed, whether the tender be accepted or not. I do not know that it contains any branch of science which Congress would wish to exclude from their collection; there is, in fact, no subject to which a member of Congress may not have occasion to refer. But such a wish would not correspond with my views of preventing its dismemberment. My desire is either to place it in their hands entire, or to preserve it so here. I am engaged in making an alphabetical index of the authors names, to be annexed to the catalogue, which I will forward to you as soon as completed. Any agreement you shall be so good as to take the trouble of entering into with the committee, I hereby confirm. Accept the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
It is very long since I troubled you with a letter, which has proceeded from discretion and not want of inclination, because I have really had nothing to write which ought to have occupied your time. But in the late events at Washington I have felt so much for you that I cannot withhold the expression of my sympathies. For although every reasonable man must be sensible that all you can do is to order, that execution must depend on others, and failures be imputed to them alone, yet I know that when such failures happen, they afflict even those who have done everything they could to prevent them. Had General Washington himself been now at the head of our affairs, the same event would probably have happened. We all remember the disgraces which befell us in his time in a trifling war with one or two petty tribes of Indians, in which two armies were cut off by not half their numbers. Every one knew, and I personally knew, because I was then of his council, that no blame was imputable to him, and that his officers alone were the cause of the disasters. They must now do the same justice. I am happy to turn to a countervailing event, and to congratulate you on the destruction of a second hostile fleet on the lakes by McDonough ; of which, however, we have not the details. While our enemies cannot but feel shame for their barbarous achievements at Washington, they will be stung to the soul by these repeated victories over them on that element on which they wish the world to think them invincible. We have dissipated that error. They must now feel a conviction themselves that we can beat them gun to gun, ship to ship and fleet to fleet, and that their early successes on the land have been either purchased from traitors, or obtained from raw men entrusted of necessity with commands for which no experience had qualified them, and that every day is adding that experience to unquestioned bravery.
I am afraid the failure of our banks will occasion embarrassment for awhile, although it restores to us a fund which ought never to have been surrendered by the nation, and which now, prudently used, will carry us through all the fiscal difficulties of the war. At the request of Mr. Eppes, who was chairman of the committee of finance at the preceding session, I had written him some long letters on this subject. Colonel Monroe asked the reading of them some time ago, and I now send him another, written to a member of our legislature, who requested my ideas on the recent bank events. They are too long for your reading, but Colonel Monroe can, in a few sentences, state to you their outline.
Learning by the papers the loss of the library of Congress, I have sent my catalogue to S.H. Smith, to make to their library committee the offer of my collection, now of about nine or ten thousand volumes, which may be delivered to them instantly, on a valuation by persons of their own naming, and be paid for in any way, and at any term they please; in stock, for example, of any loan they have unissued, or of any one they may institute at this session; or in such annual instalments as are at the disposal of the committee. I believe you are acquainted with the condition of the books, should they wish to be ascertained of this. I have long been sensible that my library would be an interesting possession for the public, and the loss Congress has recently sustained, and the difficulty of replacing it, while our intercourse with Europe is so obstructed, renders this the proper moment for placing it at their service. Accept assurances of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
I duly received your letter of August 20th, and thank you for it, because I believe it was written with kind intentions, and a personal concern for my future happiness. Whether the particular revelation which you suppose to have been made to yourself were real or imaginary, your reason alone is the competent judge. For dispute as long as we will on religious tenets, our reason at last must ultimately decide, as it is the only oracle which God has given us to determine between what really comes from him and the phantasms of a disordered or deluded imagination. When he means to make a personal revelation, he carries conviction of its authenticity to the reason he has bestowed as the umpire of truth. You believe you have been favored with such a special communication. Your reason, not mine, is to judge of this; and if it shall be his pleasure to favor me with a like admonition, I shall obey it with the same fidelity with which I would obey his known will in all cases. Hitherto I have been under the guidance of that portion of reason which he has thought proper to deal out to me. I have followed it faithfully in all important cases, to such a degree at least as leaves me without uneasiness ; and if on minor occasions I have erred from its dictates, I have trust in him who made us what we are, and know it was not his plan to make us always unerring. He has formed us moral agents. Not that, in the perfection of his state, he can feel pain or pleasure in anything we may do ; he is far above our power ; but that we may promote the happiness of those with whom he has placed us in society, by acting honestly towards all, benevolently to those who fall within our way, respecting sacredly their rights, bodily and mental, and cherishing especially their freedom of conscience, as we value our own. I must ever believe that religion substantially good which produces an honest life, and we have been authorized by one whom you and I equally respect, to judge of the tree by its fruit. Our particular principles of religion are a subject of accountability to our God alone. I inquire after no mans, and trouble none with mine, nor is it given to us in this life to know whether yours or mine, our friends or our foes, are exactly the right. Nay, we have heard it said that there is not a Quaker or a Baptist, a Presbyterian or an Episcopalian, a Catholic or a Protestant in heaven ; that, on entering that gate, we leave those badges of schism behind, and find ourselves united in those principles only in which God has united us all. Let us not be uneasy then about the different roads we may pursue, as believing them the shortest, to that our last abode; but, following the guidance of a good conscience, let us be happy in the hope that by these different paths we shall all meet in the end. And that you and I may there meet and embrace, is my earnest prayer. And with this assurance I salute you with brotherly esteem and respect.
In my letter of the 23d, an important fact escaped me which, lest it should not occur to you, I will mention. The moneys arising from the sales of the glebe lands in the several counties, have generally, I believe, and under the sanction of the legislature, been deposited in some of the banks. So also the funds of the literary society. These debts, although parceled among the counties, yet the counties constitute the State, and their representatives the legislature, united into one whole. It is right then that owing $300,000 to the banks, they should stay so much of that sum in their own hands as will secure what the banks owe to their constituents as divided into counties. Perhaps the loss of these funds would be the most lasting of the evils proceeding from the insolvency of the banks. Ever yours with great esteem and respect.
Your several favors of September 15th, 21st, 22d, came all together by our last mail. I have given to that of the 15th a single reading only, because the handwriting (not your own) is microscopic and difficult, and because I shall have an opportunity of studying it in the Portfolio in print. According to your request I return it for that publication, where it will do a great deal of good. It will give our young men some idea of what constitutes a well-educated man ; that Caesar and Virgil, and a few books of Euclid, do not really contain the sum of all human knowledge, nor give to a man figure in the ranks of science. Your letter will be a valuable source of consultation for us in our collegiate courses, when, and if ever, we advance to that stage of our establishment.
I agree with yours of the 22d, that a professorship of Theology should have no place in our institution. But we cannot always do what is absolutely best. Those with whom we act, entertaining different views, have the power and the right of carrying them into practice. Truth advances, and error recedes step by step only; and to do to our fellow men the most good in our power, we must lead where we can, follow where we cannot, and still go with them, watching always the favorable moment for helping them to another step. Perhaps I should concur with you also in excluding the theory (not the practice) of medicine. This is the charlatanerie of the body, as the other is of the mind. For classical learning I have ever been a zealous advocate; and in this, as in his theory of bleeding and mercury, I was ever opposed to my friend Rush, whom I greatly loved; but who has done much harm, in the sincerest persuasion that he was preserving life and happiness to all around him. I have not, however, carried so far as you do my ideas of the importance of a hypercritical knowledge of the Latin and Greek languages. I have believed it sufficient to possess a substantial understanding of their authors.
In the exclusion of Anatomy and Botany from the eleventh grade of education, which is that of the man of independent fortune, we separate in opinion. In my view, no knowledge can be more satisfactory to a man than that of his own frame, its parts, their functions and actions. And Botany I rank with the most valuable sciences, whether we consider its subjects as furnishing the principal subsistence of life to man and beast, delicious varieties for our tables, refreshments from our orchards, the adornments of our flower-borders, shade and perfume of our groves, materials for our buildings, or medicaments for our bodies. To the gentleman it is certainly more interesting than Mineralogy (which I by no means, however, undervalue), and is more at hand for his amusement ; and to a country family it constitutes a great portion of their social entertainment. No country gentleman should be without what amuses every step he takes into his fields.
I am sorry to learn the fate of your Emporium. It was adding fast to our useful knowledge. Our artists particularly, and our statesmen, will have cause to regret it. But my hope is that its suspension will be temporary only; and that as soon as we get over the crisis of our disordered circulation, your publishers will resume it among their first enterprises. Accept my thanks for the benefit of your ideas to our scheme of education, and the assurance of my constant esteem and respect.
I thank you for the information of your letter of the 10th. It gives, at length, a fixed character to our prospects. The war, undertaken on both sides, to settle the questions of impressment, and the orders of council, now that these are done away by events, is declared by Great Britain to have changed its object, and to have become a war of conquest, to be waged until she conquers from us our fisheries, the province of Maine, the lakes, States and territories north of the Ohio, and the navigation of the Mississippi ; in other words, till she reduces us to unconditional submission. On our part, then, we ought to propose, as a counterchange of object, the establishment of the meridian of the mouth of the Sorel northwardly, as the western boundary of all her possessions. Two measures will enable us to effect it, and without these, we cannot even defend ourselves. 1. To organize the militia into classes, assigning to each class the duties for which it is fitted, (which, had it been done when proposed, years ago, would have prevented all our misfortunes,) abolishing by a declaratory law the doubts which abstract scruples in some, and cowardice and treachery in others, have conjured up about passing imaginary lines, and limiting, at the same time, their services to the contiguous provinces of the enemy. The 2d is the ways and means. You have seen my ideas on this subject, and I shall add nothing but a rectification of what either I have ill expressed, or you have misapprehended. If I have used any expression restraining the emissions of treasury notes to a sufficient medium, as your letter seems to imply, I have done it inadvertently, and under the impression then possessing me, that the war would be very short. A sufficient medium would not, on the principles of any writer, exceed thirty millions of dollars ; and on those of some, not ten millions. Our experience has proved it may be run up to two or three hundred millions, without more than doubling what would be the prices of things under a sufficient medium, or say a metallic one, which would always keep itself at the sufficient point ; and, if they rise to this term, and the descent from it be gradual, it would not produce sensible revolutions in private fortunes. I shall be able to explain my views more definitely by the use of numbers. Suppose we require, to carry on the war, an annual loan of twenty millions, then I propose that, in the first year, you shall lay a tax of two millions, and emit twenty millions of treasury notes, of a size proper for circulation, and bearing no interest, to the redemption of which the proceeds of that tax shall be inviolably pledged and applied, by recalling annually their amount of the identical bills funded on them. The second year lay another tax of two millions, and emit twenty millions more. The third year the same, and so on, until you have reached the maximum of taxes which ought to be imposed. Let me suppose this maximum to be one dollar a head, or ten millions of dollars, merely as an exemplification more familiar than would be the algebraical symbols z or y. You would reach this in five years. The sixth year, then, still emit twenty millions of treasury notes, and continue all the taxes two years longer. The seventh year twenty millions more, and continue the whole taxes another two years ; and so on. Observe, that although you emit ten millions of dollars a year, you call in ten millions, and, consequently, add but ten millions annually to the circulation. It would be in thirty years, then, prima facie, that you would reach the present circulation of three hundred millions, or the ultimate term to which we might adventure. But observe, also, that in that time we shall have become thirty millions of people, to whom three hundred millions of dollars would be no more than one hundred millions to us now ; which sum would probably not have raised prices more than fifty per cent. on what may be deemed the standard, or metallic prices. This increased population and consumption, while it would be increasing the proceeds of the redemption tax, and lessening the balance annually thrown into circulation, would also absorb, without saturation, more of the surplus medium, and enable us to push the same process to a much higher term, to one which we might safely call indefinite, because extending so far beyond the limits, either in time or expense, of any supportable war. All we should have to do would be, when the war should be ended, to leave the gradual extinction of these notes to the operation of the taxes pledged for their redemption ; not to suffer a dollar of paper to be emitted either by public or private authority, but let the metallic medium flow back into the channels of circulation, and occupy them until another war should oblige us to recur, for its support, to the same resource, and the same process, on the circulating medium.
The citizens of a country like ours will never have unemployed capital. Too many enterprises are open, offering high profits, to permit them to lend their capitals on a regular and moderate interest. They are too enterprising and sanguine themselves not to believe they can do better with it. I never did believe you could have gone beyond a first or a second loan, not from a want of confidence in the public faith, which is perfectly sound, but from a want of disposable funds in individuals. The circulating fund is the only one we can ever command with certainty. It is sufficient for all our wants; and the impossibility of even defending the country without its aid as a borrowing fund, renders it indispensable that the nation should take and keep it in their own hands, as their exclusive resource.
I have trespassed on your time so far: for explanation only. I will do it no further than by adding the assurances of my affectionate and respectful attachment.
Year ... Emissions ... Taxes and ... Bal. in circulation
...................... Redemptions ...... at end of year.
1815 ... 20 millions ... 2 millions ......... 18 millions
1816 ... 20 ..."..... ... 4 ...."... .......... 34 ...."...
1817 ... 20 ..."..... ... 6 ...."... .......... 48 ...."...
1818 ... 20 ..."..... ... 8 ...."... .......... 60 ...."...
1819 ... 20 ..."..... ...10 ...."... .......... 70 ...."...
1820 ... 20 ..."..... ...10 ...."... .......... 80 ...."...
1821 ... 20 ..."..... ...10 ...."... .......... 90 ...."...
Suppose the war to terminate here, to wit, at the end of seven years, the reduction will proceed as follows :
Year ... Taxes and ... Balance in circulation
........ Redemptions... at end of year.
1822 ... 10 millions ... 80 millions
1823 ... 10 ....".... ... 70 ..."...
1824 ... 10 ....".... ... 60 ..."...
1825 ... 10 ....".... ... 50 ..."...
1826 ... 10 ....".... ... 40 ..."...
1827 ... 10 ....".... ... 30 ..."...
1828 ... 10 ....".... ... 20 ..."...
1829 ... 10 ....".... ... 10 ..."...
1830 ... 10 ...."..... ... 0 ..."...
This is a tabular statement of the amount of emission, taxes, redemptions, and balances left in circulation every year, on the plan above sketched.
Your letter of the 10th has been duly received. The objects of our contest being thus entirely changed by England, we must prepare for interminable war. To this end we should put our house in order, by providing men and money to indefinite extent. The former may be done by classing our militia, and assigning each class to the description of duties for which it is fit. It is nonsense to talk of regulars. They are not to be had among a people so easy and happy at home as ours. We might as well rely on calling down an army of angels from heaven. I trust it is now seen that the refusal to class the militia, when proposed years ago, is the real source of all our misfortunes in this war. The other great and indispensable object is to enter on such a system of finance, as can be permanently pursued to any length of time whatever. Let us be allured by no projects of banks, public or private, or ephemeral expedients, which, enabling us to gasp and flounder a little longer, only increase, by protracting the agonies of death.
Perceiving, in a letter from the President, that either I had ill expressed my ideas on a particular part of this subject, in the letters I sent you, or he had misapprehended them, I wrote him yesterday an explanation ; and as you have thought the other letters worth a perusal, and a communication to the Secretary of the Treasury, I enclose you a copy of this, lest I should be misunderstood by others also. Only be so good as to return me the whole when done with, as I have no other copies.
Since writing the letter now enclosed, I have seen the report of the committee of finance, proposing taxes to the amount of twenty millions. This is a dashing proposition. But, if Congress pass it, I shall consider it sufficient evidence that their constituents generally can pay the tax. No man has greater confidence than I have, in the spirit of the people, to a rational extent. Whatever they can, they will. But, without either market or medium, I know not how it is to be done. All markets abroad, and all at home, are shut to us; so that we have been feeding our horses on wheat. Before the day of collection, bank-notes will be but as oak leaves ; and of specie, there is not within all the United States, one-half of the proposed amount of the taxes. I had thought myself as bold as was safe in contemplating, as possible, an annual taxation of ten millions, as a fund for emissions of treasury notes; and, when further emissions should be necessary, that it would be better to enlarge the time, than the tax for redemption. Our position, with respect to our enemy, and our markets, distinguishes us from all other nations; inasmuch, as a state of war, with us, annihilates in an instant all our surplus produce, that on which we depended for many comforts of life. This renders peculiarly expedient the throwing a part of the burdens of war on times of peace and commerce. Still, however, my hope is that others see resources, which, in my abstraction from the world, are unseen by me; that there will be both market and medium to meet these taxes, and that there are circumstances which render it wiser to levy twenty millions at once on the people, than to obtain the same sum on a tenth of the tax.
I enclose you a letter from Colonel James Lewis, now of Tennessee, who wishes to be appointed Indian agent, and I do it lest he should have relied solely on this channel of communication. You know him better than I do, as he was long your agent. I have always believed him an honest man, and very good-humored and accommodating. Of his other qualifications for the office, you are the best judge. Believe me to be ever affectionately yours.
I have heretofore confided to you my wishes to retire from the chair of the Philosophical Society, which, however, under the influence of your recommendations, I have hitherto deferred. I have never, however, ceased from the purpose, and from everything I can observe or learn at this distance, I suppose that a new choice can now be made with as much harmony as may be expected at any future time. I send therefore, by this mail, my resignation, with such entreaties to be omitted at the ensuing election as I must hope will be yielded to, for in truth I cannot be easy in holding, as a sinecure, an honor so justly due to the talents and services of others. I pray your friendly assistance in assuring the society of the sentiments of affectionate respect and gratitude with which I retire from the high and honorable relation in which I have stood with them, and that you will believe me to be ever and affectionately yours.
I solicited, on a former occasion, permission from the American Philosophical Society, to retire from the honor of their chair, under a consciousness that distance as well as other circumstances, denied me the power of executing the duties of the station, and that those on whom they devolved were best entitled to the honors they confer. It was the pleasure of the society at that time, that I should remain in their service, and they have continued since to renew the same marks of their partiality. Of these I have been ever duly sensible, and now beg leave to return my thanks for them with humble gratitude. Still, I have never ceased, nor can I cease to feel that I am holding honors without yielding requital, and justly belonging to others. As the period of election is now therefore approaching, I take the occasion of begging to be withdrawn from the attention of the society at their ensuing choice, and to be permitted now to resign the office of president into their hands, which I hereby do. I shall consider myself sufficiently honored in remaining a private member of their body, and shall ever avail myself with zeal of every occasion which may occur, of being useful to them, retaining indelibly a profound sense of their past favors.
I avail myself of the channel through which the last notification of the pleasure of the society was conveyed to me, to make this communication, and with the greater satisfaction, as it gratifies me with the occasion of assuring you personally of my high respect for yourself, and of the interest I shall ever take in learning that your worth and talents secure to you the successes they merit.
Yours of October 28th came to hand on the 15th instant only. The settlement of your boundary with Colonel Monroe, is protracted by circumstances which seem foreign to it. One would hardly have expected that the hostile expedition to Washington could have had any connection with an operation one hundred miles distant. Yet preventing his attendance, nothing could be done. I am satisfied there is no unwillingness on his part, but on the contrary a desire to have it settled ; and therefore, if he should think it indispensable to be present at the investigation, as is possible, the very first time he comes here I will press him to give a day to the decision, without regarding Mr. Carters absence. Such an occasion must certainly offer soon after the fourth of March, when Congress rises of necessity, and be assured I will not lose one possible moment in effecting it.
Although withdrawn from all anxious attention to political concerns, yet I will state my impressions as to the present war, because your letter leads to the subject. The essential grounds of the war were, 1st, the orders of council ; and 2d, the impressment of our citizens; (for I put out of sight from the love of peace the multiplied insults on our government and aggressions on our commerce, with which our pouch, like the Indians, had long been filled to the mouth.) What immediately produced the declaration was, 1st, the proclamation of the Prince Regent that he would never repeal the orders of council as to us, until Bonaparte should have revoked his decrees as to all other nations as well as ours ; and 2d, the declaration of his minister to ours that no arrangement whatever could be devised, admissible in lieu of impressment. It was certainly a misfortune that they did not know themselves at the date of this silly and insolent proclamation, that within one month they would repeal the orders, and that we, at the date of our declaration, could not know of the repeal which was then going on one thousand leagues distant. Their determinations, as declared by themselves, could alone guide us, and they shut the door on all further negotiation, throwing down to us the gauntlet of war or submission as the only alternatives. We cannot blame the government for choosing that of war, because certainly the great majority of the nation thought it ought to be chosen, not that they were to gain by it in dollars and cents ; all men know that war is a losing game to both parties. But they know also that if they do not resist encroachment at some point, all will be taken from them, and that more would then be lost even in dollars and cents by submission than resistance. It is the case of giving a part to save the whole, a limb to save life. It is the melancholy law of human societies to be compelled sometimes to choose a great evil in order to ward off a greater ; to deter their neighbors from rapine by making it cost them more than honest gains. The enemy are accordingly now disgorging what they had so ravenously swallowed. The orders of council had taken from us near one thousand vessels. Our list of captures from them is now one thousand three hundred, and, just become sensible that it is small and not large ships which gall them most, we shall probably add one thousand prizes a year to their past losses. Again, supposing that, according to the confession of their own minister in Parliament, the Americans they had impressed were something short of two thousand, the war against us alone cannot cost them less than twenty millions of dollars a year, so that each American impressed has already cost them ten thousand dollars, and every year will add five thousand dollars more to his price. We, I suppose, expend more; but had we adopted the other alternative of submission, no mortal can tell what the cost would have been. I consider the war then as entirely justifiable on our part, although I am still sensible it is a deplorable misfortune to us. It has arrested the course of the most remarkable tide of prosperity any nation ever experienced, and has closed such prospects of future improvement as were never before in the view of any people. Farewell all hopes of extinguishing public debt ! farewell all visions of applying surpluses of revenue to the improvements of peace rather than the ravages of war. Our enemy has indeed the consolation of Satan on removing our first parents from Paradise : from a peaceable and agricultural nation, he makes us a military and manufacturing one. We shall indeed survive the conflict. Breeders enough will remain to carry on population. We shall retain our country, and rapid advances in the art of war will soon enable us to beat our enemy, and probably drive him from the continent. We have men enough, and I am in hopes the present session of Congress will provide the means of commanding their services. But I wish I could see them get into a better train of finance. Their banking projects are like dosing dropsy with more water. If anything could revolt our citizens against the war, it would be the extravagance with which they are about to be taxed. It is strange indeed that at this day, and in a country where English proceedings are so familiar, the principles and advantages of funding should be neglected, and expedients resorted to. Their new bank, if not abortive at its birth, will not last through one campaign ; and the taxes proposed cannot be paid. How can a people who cannot get fifty cents a bushel for their wheat, while they pay twelve dollars a bushel for their salt, pay five times the amount of taxes they ever paid before ? Yet that will be the case in all the States south of the Potomac. Our resources are competent to the maintenance of the war if duly economized and skilfully employed in the way of anticipation. However, we must suffer, I suppose, from our ignorance in funding, as we did from that of fighting, until necessity teaches us both; and, fortunately, our stamina are so vigorous as to rise superior to great mismanagement. This year I think we shall have learnt how to call forth our force, and by the next I hope our funds, and even if the state of Europe should not by that time give the enemy employment enough nearer home, we shall leave him nothing to fight for here. These are my views of the war. They embrace a great deal of sufferance, trying privations, and no benefit but that of teaching our enemy that he is never to gain by wanton injuries on us. To me this state of things brings a sacrifice of all tranquillity and comfort through the residue of life. For although the debility of age disables me from the services and sufferings of the field, yet, by the total annihilation in value of the produce which was to give me subsistence and independence, I shall be like Tantalus, up to the shoulders in water, yet dying with thirst. We can make indeed enough to eat, drink and clothe ourselves; but nothing for our salt, iron, groceries and taxes, which must be paid in money. For what can we raise for the market ? Wheat ? we can only give it to our horses, as we have been doing ever since harvest. Tobacco ? it is not worth the pipe it is smoked in. Some say whiskey ; but all mankind must become drunkards to consume it. But although we feel, we shall not flinch. We must consider now, as in the Revolutionary war, that although the evils of resistance are great, those of submission would be greater. We must meet, therefore, the former as the casualties of tempests and earthquakes, and like them necessarily resulting from the constitution of the world. Your situation, my dear friend, is much better. For, although I do not know with certainty the nature of your investments, yet I presume they are not in banks, insurance companies, or any other of those gossamer castles. If in ground-rents, they are solid; if in stock of the United States, they are equally so. I once thought that in the event of a war we should be obliged to suspend paying the interest of the public debt. But a dozen years more of experience and observation on our people and government, have satisfied me it will never be done. The sense of the necessity of public credit is so universal and so deeply rooted, that no other necessity will prevail against it ; and I am glad to see that while the former eight millions are steadfastly applied to the sinking of the old debt, the Senate have lately insisted on a sinking fund for the new. This is the dawn of that improvement in the management of our finances which I look to for salvation; and I trust that the light will continue to advance, and point out their way to our legislators. They will soon see that instead of taxes for the whole years expenses, which the people cannot pay, a tax to the amount of the interest and a reasonable portion of the principal will command the whole sum, and throw a part of the burdens of war on times of peace and prosperity. A sacred payment of interest is the only way to make the most of their resources, and a sense of that renders your income from our funds more certain than mine from lands. Some apprehend danger from the defection of Massachusetts. It is a disagreeable circumstance, but not a dangerous one. If they become neutral, we are sufficient for one enemy without them, and in fact we get no aid from them now. If their administration determines to join the enemy, their force will be annihilated by equality of division among themselves. Their federalists will then call in the English army, the republicans ours, and it will only be a transfer of the scene of war from Canada to Massachusetts; and we can get ten men to go to Massachusetts for one who will go to Canada. Every one, too, must know that we can at any moment make peace with England at the expense of the navigation and fisheries of Massachusetts. But it will not come to this. Their own people will put down these factionists as soon as they see the real object of their opposition; and of this Vermont, New Hampshire, and even Connecticut itself, furnish proofs.
You intimate a possibility of your return to France, now that Bonaparte is put down. I do not wonder at it; France, freed from that monster, must again become the most agreeable country on earth. It would be the second choice of all whose ties of family and fortune give a preference to some other one, and the first of all not under those ties. Yet I doubt if the tranquillity of France is entirely settled. If her Pretorian bands are not furnished with employment on her external enemies, I fear they will recall the old, or set up some new cause.
God bless you and preserve you in bodily health. Tranquillity of mind depends much on ourselves, and greatly on due reflection "how much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened." Affectionately adieu.
I thank you for your favor of the map of the sine qua non, enclosed in your letter of November 12th. It was an excellent idea; and if, with the documents distributed by Congress, copies of these had been sent to be posted up in every street, on every town-house and court-house, it would have painted to the eyes of those who cannot read without reflecting, that reconquest is the ultimate object of Britain. The first step towards this is to set a limit to their expansion by taking from them that noble country which the foresight of their fathers provided for their multiplying and needy offspring ; to be followed up by the compression, land-board and seaboard, of that omnipotence which the English fancy themselves now to possess. A vain and foolish imagination ! Instead of fearing and endeavoring to crush our prosperity, had they cultivated it in friendship, it might have become a bulwark instead of a breaker to them. There has never been an administration in this country which would not gladly have met them more than half way on the road to an equal, a just and solid connection of friendship and intercourse. And as to repressing our growth, they might as well attempt to repress the waves of the ocean.
Your American Atlas is a useful undertaking for those who will live to see and to use it. To me every mail, in the departure of some contemporary, brings warning to be in readiness myself also, and to cease from new engagements. It is a warning of no alarm. When faculty after faculty is retiring from us, and all the avenues to cheerful sensation closing, sight failing now, hearing next, then memory, debility of body, trepitude of mind, nothing remaining but a sickly vegetation, with scarcely the relief of a little locomotion, the last cannot be but a coup de grace.
You propose to me the preparation of a new edition of the Notes on Virginia. I formerly entertained the idea, and from time to time noted some new matter, which I thought I would arrange at leisure for a posthumous edition. But I now begin to see that it is impracticable for me. Nearly forty years of additional experience in the affairs of mankind would lead me into dilatations ending I know not where. That experience indeed has not altered a single principle. But it has furnished matter of abundant development. Every moment, too, which I have to spare from my daily exercise and affairs is engrossed by a correspondence, the result of the extensive relations which my course of life has necessarily occasioned. And now the act of writing itself is becoming slow, laborious and irksome. I consider, therefore, the idea of preparing a new copy of that work as no more to be entertained. The work itself indeed is nothing more than the measure of a shadow, never stationary, but lengthening as the sun advances, and to be taken anew from hour to hour. It must remain, therefore, for some other hand to sketch its appearance at another epoch, to furnish another element for calculating the course and motion of this member of our federal system. For this, every day is adding new matter and strange matter. That of reducing, by impulse instead of attraction, a sister planet into its orbit, will be as new in our political as in the planetary system. The operation, however, will be painful rather than difficult. The sound part of our wandering star will probably, by its own internal energies, keep the unsound within its course; or if a foreign power is called in, we shall have to meet it but so much the nearer, and with a more overwhelming force. It will probably shorten the war. For I think it probable that the sine qua non was designedly put into an impossible form to give time for the development of their plots and concerts with the factionists of Boston, and that they are holding off to see the issue, not of the Congress of Vienna, but that of Hartford. This will begin a new chapter in our history, and with a wish that you may live in health to see its easy close, I tender you the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
Yours of the 9th has been duly received, and I thank you for the recipe for imitating purrolani, which I shall certainly try on my cisterns the ensuing summer. The making them impermeable to water is of great consequence to me. That one chemical subject may follow another, I enclose you two morsels of ore found in this neighborhood, and supposed to be of antimony. I am not certain, but I believe both are from the same piece, and although the very spot where that was found is not known, yet it is known to be within a certain space not too large to be minutely examined, if the material be worth it. This you can have ascertained in Philadelphia, where it is best known to the artists how great a desideratum antimony is with them.
You will have seen that I resigned the chair of the American Philosophical Society, not awaiting your further information as to the settlement of the general opinion on a successor without schism. I did it because the term of election was too near to admit further delay.
On the subject which entered incidentally into our conversation while you were here, when I came to reflect maturely, I concluded to be silent. To do wrong is a melancholy resource, even where retaliation renders it indispensably necessary. It is better to suffer much from the scalpings, the conflagrations, the rapes and rapine of savages, than to countenance and strengthen such barbarisms by retortion. I have ever deemed it more honorable and more profitable too, to set a good example than to follow a bad one. The good opinion of mankind, like the lever of Archimedes, with the given fulcrum, moves the world. I therefore have never proposed or mentioned the subject to any one.
I have received a letter from Mr. Say, in which he expresses a thought of removing to this country, having discontinued the manufactory in which he was engaged; and he asks information from me of the prices of land, labor, produce, &c., in the neighborhood of Charlottesville, on which he has cast his eye. Its neighborhood has certainly the advantages of good soil, fine climate, navigation to market, and rational and republican society. It would be a good enough position too for the re-establishment of his cotton works, on a moderate scale, and combined with the small plan of agriculture to which he seems solely to look. But when called on to name prices, what is to be said ? We have no fixed prices now. Our dropsical medium is long since divested of the quality of a medium of value; nor can I find any other. In most countries a fixed quantity of wheat is perhaps the best permanent standard. But here the blockade of our whole coast, preventing all access to a market, has depressed the price of that, and exalted that of other things, in opposite directions, and, combined with the effects of the paper deluge, leaves really no common measure of values to be resorted to. This paper, too, received now without confidence, and for momentary purposes only, may, in a moment, be worth nothing. I shall think further on the subject, and give to Mr. Say the best information in my power. To myself such an addition to our rural society would be inestimable ; and I can readily conceive that it may be for the benefit of his children and their descendants to remove to a country where, for enterprise and talents, so many avenues are open to fortune and fame. But whether, at his time of life, and with habits formed f or the state of society in France, a change for one so entirely different will be for his personal happiness, you can better judge than myself.
Mr. Say will be surprised to find, that forty years after the development of sound financial principles by Adam Smith and the Economists, and a dozen years after he has given them to us in a corrected, dense and lucid form, there should be so much ignorance of them in our country; that instead of funding issues of paper on the hypothecation of specific redeeming taxes, (the only method of anticipating, in a time of war, the resources of times of peace, tested by the experience of nations,) we are trusting to tricks of jugglers on the cards, to the illusions of banking schemes for the resources of the war, and for the cure of colic to inflations of more wind. The wise proposition of the Secretary of War, too, for filling our ranks with regulars, and putting our militia into an effective form, seems to be laid aside. I fear, therefore, that, if the war continues, it will require another year of sufferance for men and money to lead our legislators into such a military and financial regimen as may carry us through a war of any length. But my hope is in peace. The negotiators at Ghent are agreed now on every point save one, the demand and cession of a portion of Maine. This, it is well known, cannot be yielded by us, nor deemed by them an object for continuing a war so expensive, so injurious to their commerce and manufactures, and so odious in the eyes of the world. But it is a thread to hold by until they can hear the result, not of the Congress of Vienna, but of Hartford. When they shall know, as they will know, that nothing will be done there, they will let go their hold, and complete the peace of the world, by agreeing to the status ante bellum. Indemnity for the past, and security for the future, which was our motto at the beginning of this war, must be adjourned to another, when, disarmed and bankrupt, our enemy shall be less able to insult and plunder the world with impunity. This will be after my time. One war, such as that of our Revolution, is enough for one life. Mine has been too much prolonged to make me the witness of a second, and I hope for a coup de grace before a third shall come upon us. If, indeed, Europe has matters to settle which may reduce this hostis humani generis to a state of peace and moral order, I shall see that with pleasure, and then sing, with old Simeon, nunc dimittas Domine. For yourself, cura ut valeas, et me, ut amaris, ama.