Dear Sir,In my letter of the 2d instant, I stated, according to your request, what occurred to me on the subjects of Defence and Education; and I will now proceed to do the same on the remaining subject of yours of March 22d, the construction of a general map of the State. For this the legislature directs there shall be,
I. A topographical survey of each county.
II. A general survey of the outlines of the State, and its leading features of rivers and mountains.
III. An astronomical survey for the correction and collection of the others, and
IV. A mineralogical survey.
I. Although the topographical survey of each county is referred to its court in the first instance, yet such a control is given to the Executive as places it effectively under his direction ; that this control must be freely and generally exercised, I have no doubt. Nobody expects that the justices of the peace in every county are so familiar with the astronomical and geometrical principles to be employed in the execution of this work, as to be competent to decide what candidate possesses them in the highest degree, or in any degree ; and indeed I think it would be reasonable, considering how much the other affairs of the State must engross of the time of the Governor and Council, for them to make it a pre-requisite for every candidate to undergo an examination by the mathematical professor of William and Mary College, or some other professional character, and to ask for a special and confidential report of the grade of qualification of each candidate examined. If one, completely qualified, can be found for every half dozen counties, it will be as much, perhaps, as can be expected.
Their office will be to survey the Rivers, Roads, and Mountains.
1. A proper division of the surveys of the Rivers between them and the general surveyor, might be to ascribe to the latter so much as is navigable, and to the former the parts not navigable, but yet sufficient for working machinery, which the law requires. On these they should note confluences, other natural and remarkable objects, towns, mills or other machines, ferries, bridges, crossings of roads, passages through mountains, mines, quarries, &c.
2. In surveying the Roads, the same objects should be noted, and every permanent stream crossing them, and these streams should be laid down according to the best information they can obtain, to their confluence with the main stream.
3. The Mountains, others than those ascribed to the general surveyor, should be laid down by their names and bases, which last will be generally designated by the circumscription of water-courses and roads on both sides, without a special survey around them. Their gaps are also required to be noted.
4. On the Boundaries, the same objects should be noted. Where a boundary falls within the operations of the general surveyor, its survey by them should be dispensed with, and where it is common to two counties, it might be ascribed wholly to one, or divided between the surveyors respectively. All these surveys should be delineated on the same scale, which the law directs, I believe, (for I have omitted to bring the copy of it with me to this place,) if it has not fixed the scale. I think about half an inch to the mile would be a convenient one, because it would generally bring the map of a county within the compass of a sheet of paper. And here I would suggest what would be a great desideratum for the public, to wit, that a single sheet map of each county separately, on a scale of half an inch to the mile, be engraved and struck off. There are few housekeepers who would not wish to possess a map of their own county, many would purchase those of their circumjacent counties, and many would take one of every county, and form them into an atlas, so that I question if as many copies of each particular map would not be sold as of the general one. But these should not be made until they receive the astronomical corrections, without which they can never be brought together and joined into larger maps, at the will of the purchaser.
Their instrument should be a Circumferenter, with cross spirit levels on its face, a graduated rim, and a double index, the one fixed, the other movable, with a nonius on it. The needle should never be depended on for an angle.
II. The General Survey divides itself into two distinct operations ; the one on the tide-waters, the other above them.
On the tide-waters the State will have little to do. Some time before the war, Congress authorized the Executive to have an accurate survey made of the whole sea-coast of the United States, comprehending, as well as I remember, the principal bays and harbors. A Mr. Hassler, a mathematician of the first order from Geneva, was engaged in the execution, and was sent to England to procure proper instruments. He has lately returned with such a set as never before crossed the Atlantic, and is scarcely possessed by any nation on the continent of Europe. We shall be furnished, then, by the General Government, with a better survey than we can make, of our sea-coast, Chesapeake Bay, probably the Potomac, to the Navy Yard at Washington, and possibly of James river to Norfolk, and York river to Yorktown. I am not, however, able to say that these, or what other, are the precise limits of their intentions. The Secretary of the Treasury would probably inform us. Above these limits, whatever they are, the surveys and soundings will belong to the present undertaking of the State; and if Mr. Hassler has time, before he commences his general work, to execute this for us, with the use of the instruments of the United States, it is impossible we can put it into any train of execution equally good; and any compensation he may require, will be less than it would cost to purchase instruments of our own, and have the work imperfectly done by a less able hand. If we are to do it ourselves, I acknowledge myself too little familiar with the methods of surveying a coast and taking soundings, to offer anything on the subject approved by practice. I will pass on, therefore, to the general survey of the Rivers above the tide-waters, the Mountains, and the external Boundaries.
I. Rivers.I have already proposed that the general survey shall comprehend these from the tidewaters as far as they are navigable only, and here we shall find one-half of the work already done, and as ably as we may expect to do it. In the great controversy between the Lords Baltimore and Fairfax, between whose territories the Potomac, from its mouth to its source, was the chartered boundary, the question was which branch, from Harpers ferry upwards, was to be considered as the Potomac ? Two able mathematicians, therefore, were brought over from England at the expense of the parties, and under the sanction of the sentence pronounced between them, to survey the two branches, and ascertain which was to be considered as the main stream. Lord Fairfax took advantage of their being here to get a correct survey by them of his whole territory, which was bounded by the Potomac, the Rappahanoc, as was believed, in the most accurate manner. Their survey was doubtless filed and recorded in Lord Fairfaxs office, and I presume it still exists among his land papers. He furnished a copy of that survey to Colonel Fry and my father; who entered it, on a reduced scale, into their map, as far as latitudes and admeasurements accurately horizontal could produce exactness, I expect this survey is to be relied on. But it is lawful to doubt whether its longitudes may not need verification ; because at that day the corrections had not been made in the lunar tables, which have since introduced the method of ascertaining the longitude by the lunar distances; and that by Jupiters satellites was impracticable in ambulatory survey. The most we can count on is, that they may have employed some sufficient means to ascertain the longitude of the first source of the Potomac, the meridian of which was to be Lord Baltimores boundary. The longitudes, therefore, should be verified and corrected, if necessary, and this will belong to the Astronomical survey.
The other rivers only, then, from their tide-waters up as far as navigable, remain for this operator, and on them the same objects should be noted as proposed in the county surveys ; and, in addition, their breadth at remarkable parts, such as the confluence of other streams, falls, and ferries, the soundings of their main channels, bars, rapids, and principal sluices through their falls, their current at various places, and, if it can be done without more cost than advantage, their fall between certain stations.
II. Mountains.I suppose the law contemplates, in the general survey, only the principal continued ridges, and such insulated mountains as being correctly ascertained in their position, and visible from many and distant places, may, by their bearings, be useful correctives for all the surveys, and especially for those of the counties. Of the continued ridges, the Alleghany, North Mountain, and Blue Ridge, are principal ; ridges of partial lengths may be left to designation in the county surveys. Of insulated mountains, there are the Peaks of Otter, in Bedford, which I believe may be seen from about twenty counties; Willis Mountains, in Buckingham, which from their detached situation, and so far below all other mountains, may be seen over a great space of country; Peterss Mountain, in Albemarle, which, from its eminence above all others of the southwest ridge, may be seen to a great distance, probably to Willis Mountain, and with that and the Peaks of Otter, furnishes a very extensive triangle; and doubtless there are many unknown to me, which, being truly located, offer valuable indications and correctives for the county surveys. For example, the sharp peak of Otter being precisely fixed in position by its longitude and latitude, a simple observation of latitude taken at any place from which that peak is visible, and an observation of the angle it makes with the meridian of the place, furnish a right-angled spherical triangle, of which the portion of meridian intercepted between the latitudes of the place and peak, will be on one side. With this and the given angles, the other side, constituting the difference of longitude, may be calculated, and thus by a correct position of these commanding points, that of every place from which any one of them is visible, may, by observations of latitude and bearing, be ascertained in longitude also. If two such objects be visible from the same place, it will afford, by another triangle, a double correction.
The gaps in the continued ridges, ascribed to the general surveyor, are required by the law to be noted ; and so also are their heights. This must certainly be understood with some limitation, as the height of every knob in these ridges could never be desired. Probably the law contemplated only the eminent mountains in each ridge, such as would be conspicuous objects of observation to the country at great distances, and would offer the same advantages as the insulated mountains. Such eminences in the Blue Ridge will be more extensively useful than those of the more western ridges. The height of gaps also, over which roads pass, were probably in view.
But how are these heights to be taken, and from what base ? I suppose from the plain on which they stand. But it is difficult to ascertain the precise horizontal line of that plain, or to say where the ascent above the general face of the country begins. Where there is a river or other considerable stream, or extensive meadow plains near the foot of a mountain, which is much the case in the valleys dividing the western ridges, I suppose that may be fairly considered in the level of its base, in the intendment of the law. Where there is no such term of commencement, the surveyor must judge, as well as he can from his view, what point is in the general level of the adjacent country. How are these heights to be taken, and with what instrument ? Where a good base can be found, the geometrical admeasurement is the most satisfactory. For this, a theodolite must be provided of the most perfect construction, by Ramsden-Troughton if possible; and for horizontal angles it will be the better of two telescopes. But such bases are rarely to be found. When none such, the height may still be measured geometrically, by ascending or descending the mountain with the theodolite; measuring its face from station to station, noting its inclination between these stations, and the hypothenusal difference of that inclination, as indicated on the vertical arc of the theodolite. The sum of the perpendiculars corresponding with the hypothenusal measures, is the height of the mountain. But a barometrical admeasurement is preferable to this; since the late improvements in the theory, they are to be depended on nearly as much as the geometrical, and are much more convenient and expeditious. The barometer should have a sliding nonius, and a thermometer annexed, with a screw at the bottom to force up the column of mercury solidly. Without this precaution they cannot be transported at all; and even with it, they are in danger from every severe jolt. They go more safely on a baggage-horse than in a carriage. The heights should be measured on both sides, to show the rise of the country at every ridge.
Observations of longitude and latitude should be taken by the surveyor at all confluences of considerable streams, and on all mottntains of which he measures the heights, whether insulated or in ridges; for this purpose, he should be furnished with a good Hadleys circle of Bordas construction, with three limbs of nonius indexes ; if not to be had, a sextant of brass, and of the best construction, may do, and a chronometer ; to these is to be added a Gunters chain, with some appendix for plumbing the chain.
III. The External Boundaries of the State, to wit : Northern, Eastern, Southern and Western. The Northern boundary consists of, 1st, the Potomac; 2d, a meridian from its source to Mason and Dixons line ; 3d, a continuation of that line to the meridian of the northwestern corner of Pennsylvania, and 4th, of that meridian to its intersection with the Ohio. 1st. The Potomac is supposed, as before mentioned, to be surveyed to our hand. 2d. The meridian, from its source to Mason and Dixons line, was, I believe, surveyed by them when they run the dividing line between Lord Baltimore and Penn. I presume it can be had from either Annapolis or Philadelphia, and I think there is a copy of it, which I got from Dr. Smith, in an atlas of the library of Congress. Nothing better can be done by us. 3d. The continuation of Mason and Dixons line and the meridian from its termination to the Ohio, was done by Mr. Rittenhouse and others, and copies of their work are doubtless in our offices as well as in those of Pennsylvania. What has been done by Rittenhouse can be better done by no one.
The Eastern boundary being the sea-coast, we have before presumed will be surveyed by the general government.
The Southern boundary. This has been extended and marked in different parts in the chartered latitude of 36° 31' by three different sets of Commissioners. The eastern part by Dr. Byrd and other commissioners from Virginia and North Carolina : the middle by Fry and Jefferson from Virginia, and Churton and others from North Carolina; and the western by Dr. Walker and Daniel Smith, now of Tennessee. Whether Byrds survey now exists, I do not know. His journal is still in possession of some one of the Westover family, and it would be well to seek for it, in order to judge of that portion of the line. Fry and Jeffersons journal was burnt in the Shadwell house about fifty years ago, with all the materials of their map. Walker and Smiths survey is probably in our offices ; there is a copy of it in the atlas before mentioned; but that survey was made on the spur of a particular occasion, and with a view to a particular object only. During the Revolutionary war, we were informed that a treaty of peace was on the carpet in Europe, on the principle of uti possidetis; and we despatched those gentlemen immediately to ascertain the intersection of our Southern boundary with the Mississippi, and ordered Colonel Clarke to erect a hasty fort on the first bluff above the line, which was done as an act of possession. The intermediate line, between that and the termination of Fry and Jeffersons line, was provisionary only and not made with any particular care. That, then, requires to be re-surveyed as far as the Cumberland mountain. But the eastern and middle surveys will only need, I suppose, to have their longitudes rectified by the astronomical surveyor.
The Western boundary, consisting of the Ohio, Big Sandy and Cumberland mountain, having been established while I was out of the country, I have never had occasion to inquire whether they were actually surveyed, and with what degree of accuracy. But this fact being well known to yourself particularly, and to others who have been constantly present in the State, you will be more competent to decide what is to be done in that quarter. I presume, indeed, that this boundary will constitute the principal and most difficult part of the operations of the General Surveyor.
The injunctions of the act to note the magnetic variations merit diligent attention. The law of those variations is not yet sufficiently known to satisfy us that sensible changes do not sometimes take place at small intervals of time and place. To render these observations of the variations easy, and to encourage their frequency, a copy of a table of amplitudes should be furnished to every surveyor, by which, wherever he has a good eastern horizon, he may, in a few seconds, at sunrise, ascertain the variation. This table is to be found in the book called the "Mariners Compass Rectified;" but more exactly in the "Connaissance des Tems" for 1778 and 1788, all of which are in the library of Congress. It may perhaps be found in other books more easily procured, and will need to be extracted only from 36½° to 40° degrees of latitude.
III. The Astronomical Survey. This is the most important of all the operations; it is from this alone we are to expect real truth. Measures and rhumbs taken on the spherical surface of the earth, cannot be represented on a plane surface of paper without astronomical corrections; and, paradoxical as it may seem, it is nevertheless true, that we cannot know the relative position of two pieces on the earth, but by interrogating the sun, moon, and stars. The observer must, therefore, correctly fix, in longitude and latitude, all remarkable points from distance to distance. Those to be selected of preference are the confluences, rapids, falls and ferries of water-courses, summits of mountains, towns, court-houses, and angles of counties, and where these points are more than a third or half a degree distant, they should be supplied by observations of other points, such as mills, bridges, passes through mountains, &c., for in our latitudes, half a degree makes a difference of three-eighths of a mile in the length of the degree of longitude. These points first laid down, the intermediate delineations to be transferred from the particular surveys to the general map, are adapted to them by contractions or dilatations. The observer will need a best Hadleys circle of Brodas construction, by Troughton, if possible, (for they are since Ramsdens time,) and a best chronometer.
Very possibly an equatorial may be needed. This instrument set to the observed latitude, gives the meridian of the place. In the lunar observations at sea this element cannot be had, and in Europe by Land, these observations are not resorted to for longitudes, because at their numerous fixed observations they are prepared for the better method of Jupiters satellites. But here, where our geography is still to be fixed by a portable apparatus only, we are obliged to resort, as at sea, to the lunar observations, with the advantage, however, of a fixed meridian. And although the use of a meridian in these observations is a novelty yet, placed under new circumstances, we must countervail their advantages by whatever new resources they offer. It is obvious that the observed distance of the moon from the meridian of the place, and her calculated distance from that of Greenwich at the same instant, give the difference of meridians, without dependence on any measure of time ; by addition of the observations, if the moon be between the two meridians, by subtraction if east or west of both ; the association, therefore, of this instrument with the circular one, by introducing another element, another process and another instrument, furnishes a test of the observations with the Hadley, adds to their certainty, and, by its corroborations, dispenses with that multiplication of observations which is necessary with the Hadley when used alone. This idea, however, is suggested by theory only; and it must be left to the judgment of the observer who will be employed, whether it would be practicable and useful. To him, when known, I shall be glad to give further explanations. The cost of the equatorial is about the same with that of the circle, when of equal workmanship.
Both the surveyor and astronomer should journalize their proceedings daily, and send copies of their journals monthly to the Executive, as well to prevent loss by accident, as to make known their progress.
IV. Mineralogical Survey.I have never known in the United States but one eminent mineralogist, who could have been engaged on hire. This was a Mr. Goudon from France, who came over to Philadelphia six or seven years ago. Being zealously devoted to the science, he proposed to explore the new field which this country offered ; but being scanty in means, as I understood, he meant to give lectures in the winter which might enable him to pass the summer in mineralogical rambles. It is long since I have heard his name mentioned, and therefore do not know whether he is still at Philadelphia, or even among the living. The literary gentlemen of that place can give the information, or perhaps point out some other equal to the undertaking.
I believe I have now, Sir, gone over all the subjects of your letter,which I have done with less reserve to multiply the chances of offering here and there something which might be useful. Its greatest merit, however, will be that of evidencing my respect for your commands, and of adding to the proofs of my great consideration and esteem.
I received, my dear friend, your letter covering the Constitution for your Equinoctial republics, just as I was setting out for this place. I brought it with me, and have read it with great satisfaction. I suppose it well formed for those for whom it was intended, and the excellence of every government is its adaptation to the state of those to be governed by it. For us it would not do. Distinguishing between the structure of the government and the moral principles on which you prescribe its administration, with the latter we concur cordially, with the former we should not. We of the United States, you know, are constitutionally and conscientiously democrats. We consider society as one of the natural wants with which man has been created; that he has been endowed with faculties and qualities to effect its satisfaction by concurrence of others having the same want; that when, by the exercise of these faculties, he has procured a state of society, it is one of his acquisitions which he has a right to regulate and control, jointly indeed with all those who have concurred in the procurement, whom he cannot exclude from its use or direction more than they him. We think experience has proved it safer, for the mass of individuals composing the society, to reserve to themselves personally the exercise of all rightful powers to which they are competent, and to delegate those to which they are not competent to deputies named, and removable for unfaithful conduct, by themselves immediately. Hence, with us, the people (by which is meant the mass of individuals composing the society) being competent to judge of the facts occurring in ordinary life, they have retained the functions of judges of facts, under the name of jurors; but being unqualified for the management of affairs requiring intelligence above the common level, yet competent judges of human character, they chose, for their management, representatives, some by themselves immediately, others by electors chosen by themselves. Thus our President is chosen by ourselves, directly in practice, for we vote for A as elector only on the condition he will vote for B, our representatives by ourselves immediately, our Senate and judges of law through electors chosen by ourselves. And we believe that this proximate choice and power of removal is the best security which experience has sanctioned for ensuring an honest conduct in the functionaries of society. Your three or four alembications have indeed a seducing appearance. We should conceive, prima facie, that the last extract would be the pure alcohol of the substance, three or four times rectified. But in proportion as they are more and more sublimated, they are also farther and farther removed from the control of the society; and the human character, we believe, requires in general constant and immediate control, to prevent its being biased from right by the seductions of self-love. Your process produces, therefore, a structure of government from which the fundamental principle of ours is excluded. You first set down as zeros all individuals not having lands, which are the greater number in every society of long standing. Those holding lands are permitted to manage in person the small affairs of their commune or corporation, and to elect a deputy for the canton; in which election, too, every ones vote is to be an unit, a plurality, or a fraction, in proportion to his landed possessions. The assemblies of cantons, then, elect for the districts; those of districts for circles; and those of circles for the national assemblies. Some of these highest councils, too, are in a considerable degree self-elected, the regency partially, the judiciary entirely, and some are for life. Whenever, therefore, an esprit de corps, or of party, gets possession of them, which experience shows to be inevitable, there are no means of breaking it up, for they will never elect but those of their own spirit. Juries are allowed in criminal cases only. I acknowledge myself strong in affection to our own form, yet both of us act and think from the same motive, we both consider the people as our children, and love them with parental affection. But you love them as infants whom you are afraid to trust without nurses ; and I as adults whom I freely leave to self-government. And you are right in the case referred to you; my criticism being built on a state of society not under your contemplation. It is, in fact, like a critic on Homer by the laws of the Drama.
But when we come to the moral principles on which the government is to be administered, w e come to what is proper for all conditions of society. I meet you there in all the benevolence and rectitude of your native character; and I love myself always most where I concur most with you. Liberty, truth, probity, honor, are declared to be the four cardinal principles of your society. I believe with you that morality, compassion, generosity, are innate elements of the human constitution ; that there exists a right independent of force; that a right to property is founded in our natural wants, in the means with which we are endowed to satisfy these wants, and the right to what we acquire by those means without violating the similar rights of other sensible beings ; that no one has a right to obstruct another, exercising his faculties innocently for the relief of sensibilities made a part of his nature; that justice is the fundamental law of society; that the majority, oppressing an individual, is guilty of a crime, abuses its strength, and by acting on the law of the strongest, breaks up the foundations of society; that action by the citizens in person, in affairs within their reach and competence, and in all others by representatives, chosen immediately, and removable by themselves, constitutes the essence of a republic ; that all governments are more or less republican in proportion as this principle enters more or less into their composition ; and that a government by representation is capable of extension over a greater surface of country than one of any other form. These, my friend, are the essentials in which you and I agree ; however, in our zeal for their maintenance, we may be perplexed and divaricate, as to the structure of society most likely to secure them.
In the Constitution of Spain, as proposed by the late Cortes, there was a principle entirely new to me, and not noticed in yours, that no person, born after that day, should ever acquire the rights of citizenship until he could read and write. It is impossible sufficiently to estimate the wisdom of this provision. Of all those which have been thought of for securing fidelity in the administration of the government, constant ralliance to the principles of the Constitution, and progressive amendments with the progressive advances of the human mind, or changes in human affairs, it is the most effectual. Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day. Although I do not, with some enthusiasts, believe that the human condition will ever advance to such a state of perfection as that there shall no longer be pain or vice in the world, yet I believe it susceptible of much improvement, and most of all, in matters of government and religion ; and that the diffusion of knowledge among the people is to be the instrument by which it is to be effected. The Constitution of the Cortes had defects enough; but when I saw in it this amendatory provision, I was satisfied all would come right in time, under its salutary operation. No people have more need of a similar provision than those for whom you have felt so much interest. No mortal wishes them more success than I do. But if what I have heard of the ignorance and bigotry of the mass be true, I doubt their capacity to understand and to support a free government; and fear that their emancipation from the foreign tyranny of Spain, will result in a military despotism at home. Palacios may be great ; others may be great ; but it is the multitude which possesses force ; and wisdom must yield to that. For such a condition of society, the Constitution you have devised is probably the best imaginable. It is certainly calculated to solicit the best talents ; although perhaps not well guarded against the egoism of its functionaries. But that egoism will be light in comparison with the pressure of a military despot, and his army of Janissaries. Like Solon to the Athenians, you have given to your Columbians, not the best possible government, but the best they can bear. By-the-bye, I wish you had called them the Columibian republics, to distinguish them from our American republics. Theirs would be the most honorable name, and they best entitled to it ; for Columbus discovered their continent, but never saw ours.
To them liberty and happiness ; to you the need of wisdom and goodness in teaching them how to attain them, with the affectionate respect and friendship of,
Your favor of March 24th was handed to me just as I was setting out on a journey of time and distance, which will explain the date of this both as to time and place. The Syllabus, which is the subject of your letter, was addressed to a friend to whom I had promised a more detailed view. But finding I should never have time for that, I sent him what I thought should be the outlines of such a work ; the same subject entering sometimes into the correspondence between Mr. Adams and myself, I sent him a copy of it. The friend to whom it had been first addressed, dying soon after, I asked from his family the return of the original, as a confidential communication, which they kindly sent me. So that no copy of it, but that in the possession of Mr. Adams, now exists out of my own hands. I have used this caution lest it should get out in connection with my name ; and I was unwilling to draw on myself a swarm of insects, whose buzz is more disquieting than their bite. As an abstract thing, and without any intimation from what quarter derived, I can have no objection to its being committed to the consideration of the world. I believe it may even do good by producing discussion, and finally a true view of the merits of this great Reformer. Pursuing the same ideas after writing the Syllabus, I made, for my own satisfaction, an extract from the Evangelists of his morals, selecting those only whose style and spirit roved them genuine, and His own ; and they are as distinguishable from the matter in which they are imbedded as diamonds in dunghills. A more precious morsel in ethics was never seen. It was too hastily done, however, being the work of one or two evenings only, while I lived at Washington, overwhelmed with other business, and it is my intention to go over it again at more leisure. This shall be the work of the ensuing winter. I gave it the title of "The Philosophy of Jesus Extracted from the Text of the Evangelists." To this Syllabus and Extract, if a history of His life can be added, written with the same view of the subject, the world will see, after the fogs shall be dispelled, in which for fourteen centuries He has been enveloped by jugglers to make money of Him, when the genuine character shall be exhibited, which they have dressed up in the rags of an impostor, the world, I say, will at length see the immortal merit of this first of human sages. I rejoice that you think of undertaking this work. It is one I have long wished to see written of the scale of a Laertius or a Nepos. Nor can it be a work of labor, or of volume, for His journeyings from Judea to Samaria, and Samaria to Galilee, do not cover much country ; and the incidents of His life require little research. They are all at hand, and need only to be put into human dress ; noticing such only as are within the physical laws of nature, and offending none by a denial or even a mention of what is not. If the Syllabus and Extract (which is short) either in substance, or at large, are worth a place under the same cover with your biography, they are at your service. I ask one only condition, that no possibility shall be admitted of my name being even intimated with the publication. If done in England, as you seem to contemplate, there will be the less likelihood of my being thought of. I shall be much gratified to learn that you pursue your intention of writing the life of Jesus, and pray you to accept the assurances of my great respect and esteem.
Dear Sir,Your favor of March 29th was received, just as I was setting out for this place. I brought it with me to be answered hence. Since you are so kind as to interest yourself for Captain Lewis papers, I will give you a full statement of them.
1. Ten or twelve such pocket volumes, morocco bound, as that you describe, in which, in his own handwriting, he had journalized all occurrences, day by day, as he travelled. They were small 8vos, and opened at the end for more convenient writing. Every one had been put into a separate tin case, cemented to prevent injury from wet, but on his return the cases, I presume, had been taken from them, as he delivered me the books uncased. There were in them the figures of some animals, drawn with the pen while on his journey. The gentleman who published his travels must have had these MS. volumes, and perhaps now has them, or can give some account of them.
2. Descriptions of animals and plants. I do not recollect whether there was such a book or collection of papers, distinct from his journal, although I am inclined to think there was one : because his travels as published, do not contain all the new animals of which he had either descriptions or specimens. Mr. Peale, I think, must know something of this, as he drew figures of some of the animals for engraving, and some were actually engraved. Perhaps Conrad, his bookseller, who was to have published the work, can give an account of these.
3. Vocabularies. I had myself made a collection of about forty vocabularies of the Indians on this side of the Mississippi, and Captain Lewis was instructed to take those of every tribe beyond, which he possibly could. The intention was to publish the whole, and leave the world to search for affinities between these and the languages of Europe and Asia. He was furnished with a number of printed vocabularies of the same words and form I had used, with blank spaces for the Indian words. He was very attentive to this instruction, never missing an opportunity of taking a vocabulary. After his return, he asked me if I should have any objection to the printing his separately, as mine were not yet arranged as I intended. I assured him I had not the least; and I am certain he contemplated their publication. But whether he had put the papers out of his own hand or not, I do not know. I imagine he had not; and it is probable that Doctor Barton, who was particularly curious on this subject, and published on it occasionally, would willingly receive and take care of these papers after Captain Lewis death, and that they are now among his papers.
4. His observations of longitude and latitude. He was instructed to send these to the War Office, that measures might be taken to have the calculations made. Whether he delivered them to the War Office, or to Dr. Patterson, I do not know, but I think he communicated with Dr. Patterson concerning them. These are all important, because although, having with him the nautical almanacs, he could and did calculate some of his latitudes, yet the longitudes were taken merely from estimates by the log-line, time, and course. So that it is only as latitudes that his map may be considered as tolerably correct ; not as to its longitudes.
5. His Map. This was drawn on sheets of paper, not put together, but so marked that they could be joined together with the utmost accuracy ; not as one great square map, but ramifying with the courses of the rivers. The scale was very large, and the sheets numerous, but in perfect preservation. This was to await publication, until corrected by the calculations of longitude and latitude. I examined these sheets myself minutely, as spread on a floor, and the originals must be in existence, as the map published with his travels must have been taken from them.
These constitute the whole. They are the property of the government, the fruits of the expedition undertaken at such expense of money, and risk of valuable lives. They contain exactly the whole of the information which it was our object to obtain, for the benefit of our own country and of the world. But we were willing to give to Lewis and Clarke whatever pecuniary benefits might be derived from the publication, and therefore left the papers in their hands, taking for granted that their interests would produce a speedy publication, which would be better if done under their direction. But the death of Captain Lewis, the distance and occupations of General Clarke, and the bankruptcy of their bookseller, have retarded the publication, and rendered it necessary that the government should attend to the reclamation and security of the papers ; their recovery is now become an imperious duty. Their safest deposit, as fast as they can be collected, will be the Philosophical Society, who no doubt will be so kind as to receive and preserve them, subject to the orders of government; and their publication once effected in any way, the originals will probably be left in the same deposit. As soon as I can learn their present situation, I will lay the matter before the government to take such order as they think proper. As to any claims of individuals to these papers, it is to be observed that, as being the property of the public, we are certain neither Lewis nor Clarke would undertake to convey away the right to them, had they been capable of intending it. Yet no interest of that kind is meant to be disturbed, if the individual can give satisfactory assurance that he will promptly and properly publish them ; otherwise they must be restored to the government, and the claimant left to settle with those on whom he has any claim. My interference will, I trust, be excused, not only from the portion which every citizen has in whatever is public, but from the peculiar part I have had in the design and execution of this expedition.
To you, my friend, apology is due for involving you in the trouble of this inquiry. It must be found in the interest you take in whatever belongs to science; and in your own kind offers to me of aid in this research. Be assured always of my affectionate friendship and respect.
Dear Sir,Yours of April 8th has long since been received. J. "Would you agree to live your eighty years over again ?"
J. "Would you agree to live your eighty years over again forever ?"
A. I once heard our acquaintance, Chew, of Philadelphia, say, "he should like to go back to twenty-five, to all eternity;" but I own my soul would start and shrink back on itself at the prospect of an endless succession of Boules de Savon, almost as much as at the certainty of annihilation. For what is human life ? I can speak only for one. I have had more comfort than distress, more pleasure than pain ten to one, nay, if you please, an hundred to one. A pretty large dose, however, of distress and pain. But after all, what is human life ? A vapor, a fog, a dew, a cloud, a blossom, a flower, a rose, a blade of grass, a glass bubble, a tale told by an idiot, a Boule de Savon, vanity of vanities, an eternal succession of which would terrify me almost as much as annihilation.
J. "Would you prefer to live over again, rather than accept the offer of a better life in a future state ?" A. Certainly not. J. "Would you live again rather than change for the worse in a future state, for the sake of trying something new ?" A. Certainly yes.
J. "Would you live over again once or forever rather than run the risk of annihilation, or of a better or a worse state at or after death ?"
A. Most certainly I would not.
J. "How valiant you are !" A. Aye, at this moment, and at all other moments of my life that I can recollect ; but who can tell what will become of his bravery when his flesh and his heart shall fail him ? Bolingbroke said "his philosophy was not sufficient to support him in his last hours." DAlembert said : "Happy are they who have courage, but I have none." Voltaire, the greatest genius of them all, behaved like the greatest coward of them all at his death, as he had like the wisest fool of them all in his lifetime. Hume awkwardly affected to sport away all sober thoughts. Who can answer for his last feelings and reflections, especially as the priests are in possession of the custom of making them the greatest engines of their craft. Procul est prophani !
J. "How shall we, how can we estimate the real value of human life ?"
A. I know not ; I cannot weigh sensations and reflections, pleasures and pains, hopes and fears, in money-scales. But I can tell you how I have heard it estimated by philosophers. One of my old friends and clients, a mandamus counsellor against his will, a man of letters and virtues, without one vice that I ever knew or suspected, except garrulity, William Vassall, asserted to me, and strenuously maintained, that "pleasure is no compensation for pain." "An hundred years of the keenest delights of human life could not atone for one hour of bilious colic that he had felt." The sublimity of this philosophy my dull genius could not reach. I was willing to state a fair account between pleasure and pain, and give credit for the balance, which I found very great in my favor.
Another philosopher, who, as we say, believed nothing, ridiculed the notion of a future state. One of the company asked, "Why are you an enemy to a future state ? Are you weary of life ? Do you detest existence ?" "Weary of life ? Detest existence ?" said the philosopher. "No ! I love life so well, and am so attached to existence, that to be sure of immortality, I would consent to be pitched about with forks by the devils, among flames of fire and brimstone, to all eternity."
I find no resources in my courage for this exalted philosophy. I had rather be blotted out.
Il faut trancher cet mot ! What is there in life to attach us to it but the hope of a future and a better ? It is a cracker, a rocket, a fire-work at best.
I admire your navigation, and should like to sail with you, either in your bark, or in my own alongside of yours. Hope with her gay ensigns displayed at the prow, fear with her hobgoblins behind the stern. Hope springs eternal, and hope is all that endures. Take away hope and what remains ? What pleasure, I mean ? Take away fear, and what pain remains ? Ninety-nine one-hundredths of the pleasures and pains of life are nothing but hopes and fears.
All nations known in history or in travels, have hoped, believed and expected a future and a better state. The Maker of the universe, the cause of all things, whether we call it fate, or chance, or GOD, has inspired this hope. If it is a fraud, we shall never know it. We shall never resent the imposition, be grateful for the illusion, nor grieve for the disappointment. We shall be no more. Credit Grimm, Diderot, Buffon, La Lande, Condorcet, DHolbach, Frederick, Catharine; non ego. Arrogant as it may be, I shall take the liberty to pronounce them all Idiologians. Yet I would not persecute a hair of their heads. The world is wide enough for them and me.
Suppose the cause of the universe should reveal to all mankind at once a certainty that they must all die within a century, and that death is an eternal extinction of all living powers, of all sensation and reflection. What would be the effect ? Would there be one man, woman or child existing on this globe, twenty years hence ? Would not every human being be a Madame Deffand, Voltaires "Aveugle clairvoyante," all her lifetime regretting her existence, bewailing that she had ever been born, grieving that she had ever been dragged, without her consent, into being ? Who would bear the gout, the stone, the colic, for the sake of a Boule de Savon, when a pistol, a cord, a pond, or a phial of laudanum was at hand ? What would men say to their Maker ? Would they thank Him ? No ; they would reproach Him ; they would curse Him to His face. Voila !
A sillier letter than my last. For a wonder, I have filled a sheet, and a greater wonder, I have read fifteen volumes of Grimm. Digito comesse labellum. I hope to write you more upon this and other topics of your letter. I have read also a History of the Jesuits, in four volumes. Can you tell me the author, or anything of this work ?
Dear Sir,Neither eyes, fingers nor paper held out to despatch all the trifles I wished to write in my last letter.
In your favor of April 8th you "wonder for what good end the sensations of grief could be intended ?" "You wish the pathologists would tell us, what is the use of grief in our economy, and of what good it is the cause proximate or remote." When I approach such questions as this, I consider myself, like one of those little eels in Vinaigre, or one of those animalcules in black or red pepper, or in the horse-radish root, that bite our tongues so cruelly, reasoning upon the (Greek inserted here). Of what use is this sting upon the tongue ? Why might we not have the benefit of these stimulants, without the sting ? Why might we not have the fragrance and beauty of the rose without the thorn ?
In the first place, however, we know not the connection between pleasure and pain. They seem to be mechanical and inseparable. How can we conceive a strong passion, a sanguine hope suddenly disappointed, without producing pain, or grief ? Swift at seventy, recollected the fish he had angled out of water when a boy, which broke loose from his hook; and said, I feel the disappointment at this moment. A merchant places all his fortune and all his credit in a single India or China ship. She arrives at the Vineyard with a cargo worth a million, in order. Sailing round a cape for Boston, a sudden storm wrecks hership, cargo and crew, all lost. Is it possible that the merchant ruined, bankrupt, sent to prison by his creditorshis wife and children starvingshould not grieve ? Suppose a young couple, with every advantage of persons, fortunes and connections, on the point of indissoluble union. A flash of lightning, or any one of those millions of accidents which are allotted to humanity, proves fatal to one of the lovers. Is it possible that the other, and all the friends of both, should not grieve ? It seems that grief, as a mere passion, must be in proportion to sensibility.
Did you ever see a portrait, or a statue of a great man, without perceiving strong traits of pain and anxiety ? These furrows were all ploughed in the countenance, by grief. Our juridical oracle, Sir Edward Coke, thought that none were fit for legislators and magistrates, but "sad men." And who were these sad men ? They were aged men, who had been tossed and buffeted in the vicissitudes of life forced upon profound reflection by grief and disappointmentsand taught to command their passions and prejudices.
But all this you will say is nothing to the purpose. It is only repeating and exemplifying a fact, which my question supposed to be well known, viz., the existence of grief; and is no answer to my question, "what are the uses of grief ?" This is very true, and you are very right ; but may not the uses of grief be inferred, or at least suggested by such exemplifications of known facts ? Grief compels the India merchant to think ; to reflect upon the plans of his voyage. Have I not been rash, to trust my fortune, my family, my liberty, to the caprices of winds and waves in a single ship ? I will never again give a loose to my imagination and avarice. It had been wiser and more honest to have traded on a smaller scale upon my own capital.
The desolated lover, and disappointed connections, are compelled by their grief to reflect on the vanity of human wishes and expectations; to learn the essential lesson of resignation ; to review their own conduct towards the deceased; to correct any errors or faults in their future conduct towards their remaining friends, and towards all men ; to recollect the virtues of the lost friend, and resolve to imitate them; his follies and vices if he had any, and resolve to avoid them.
Grief drives men into habits of serious refection, sharpens the understanding, and softens the heart; it compels them to arouse their reason, to assert its empire over their passions, propensities and prejudices ; to elevate them to a superiority over all human events ; to give them the felicis annimi immota tranquilitatum; in short, to make them stoics and Christians. After all, as grief is a pain, it stands in the predicament of all other evil, and the great question occurs, what is the origin, and what the final cause of evil ? This perhaps is known only to Omniscience. We poor mortals have nothing to do with itbut to fabricate all the good we can out of all inevitable evilsand to avoid all that are avoidable, and many such there are, among which are our own unnecessary apprehensions and imaginary fears. Though stoical apathy is impossible, yet patience, and resignation, and tranquillity may be acquired by consideration, in a great degree, very much for the happiness of life.
I have read Grimm, in fifteen volumes, of more than five hundred pages each. I will not say like Uncle Toby, "You shall not die till you have read him." But you ought to read him, if possible. It is the most entertaining work I ever read. He appears exactly as you represent him. What is most remarkable of all is his impartiality. He spares no characters but Necker and Diderot. Voltaire, Buffon, DAlembert, Helvetius, Rousseau, Marmontel, Condorcet, La Harpe, Beaumarchais, and all others, are lashed without ceremony. Their portraits as faithfully drawn as possible. It is a complete review of French literature and fine arts from 1753 to 1790. No politics. Criticisms very just. Anecdotes without number, and very merry. One ineffably ridiculous, I wish I could send you, but it is immeasurably long. DArgens, a little out of health and shivering with the cold in Berlin, asked leave of the King to take a ride to Gascony, his native province. He was absent so long that Frederick concluded the air of the south of France was like to detain his friend; and as he wanted his society and services, he contrived a trick to bring him back. He fabricated a mandement in the name of the Archbishop of Aix, commanding all the faithful to seize the Marquis DArgens, author of Ocellus, Timaus and Julian, works atheistical, deistical, heretical and impious in the highest degree. This mandement, composed in a style of ecclesiastical eloquence that never was exceeded by Pope, Jesuit, Inquisitor, or Sorbonite, he sent in print by a courier to DArgens, who, frightened out of his wit, fled by cross roads out of France, and back to Berlin, to the greater joy of the philosophical court; for the laugh of Europe, which they had raised at the expense of the learned Marquis.
I do not like the late resurrection of the Jesuits. They have a general now in Russia, in correspondence with the Jesuits in the United States, who are more numerous than everybody knows. Shall we not have swarms of them here ? In as many shapes and disguises as ever a king of the GypsiesBamfield Morecarew himself, assumed ? In the shape of printers, editors, writers, schoolmasters, &c. I have lately read Pascals letters over again, and four volumes of the history of the Jesuits. If ever any congregation of men could merit eternal perdition on earth and in hell, according to these historians, though like Pascal true Catholics, it is this company Loyola. Our system, however, of religious liberty must afford them an asylum. But if they do not put the purity of our elections to a severe trial, it will be a wonder.
Dear Sir, On my return from a long journey and considerable absence from home, I found here the copy of your Enquiry into the principles of our government, which you had been so kind as to send me ; and for which I pray you to accept my thanks . The difficulties of getting new works in our situation, inland and without a single bookstore, are such as had prevented my obtaining a copy before ; and letters which had accumulated during my absence, and were calling for answers, have not yet permitted me to give to the whole a thorough reading ; yet certain that you and I could not think differently on the fundamentals of rightful government, I was impatient, and availed myself of the intervals of repose from the writing table, to obtain a cursory idea of the body of the work.
I see in it much matter for profound reflection ; much which should confirm our adhesion, in practice, to the good principles of our constitution, and fix our attention on what is yet to be made good . The sixth section on the good moral principles of our government, I found so interesting and replete with sound principles, as to postpone my letter-writing to its thorough perusal and consideration . Besides much other good matter, it settles unanswerably the right of instructing representatives, and their duty to obey . The system of banking we have both equally and ever reprobated . I contemplate it as a blot left in all our constitutions, which, if not covered, will end in their destruction, which is already hit by the gamblers in corruption, and is sweeping away in its progress the fortunes and morals of our citizens. Funding I consider as limited, rightfully, to a redemption of the debt within the lives of a majority of the generation contracting it ; every generation coming equally, by the laws of the Creator of the world, to the free possession of the earth he made for their subsistence, unincumbered by their predecessors, who, like them, were but tenants for life . You have successfully and completely pulverized Mr. Adams system of orders, and his opening the mantle of republicanism to every government of laws, whether consistent or not with natural right . Indeed, it must be acknowledged, that the term republic is of very vague application in every language . Witness the self-styled republics of Holland, Switzerland, Genoa, Venice, Poland . Were I to assign to this term a precise and definite idea, I would say, purely and simply, it means a government by its citizens in mass, acting directly and personally, according to rules established by the majority ; and that every other government is more or less republican, in proportion as it has in its composition more or less of this ingredient of the direct action of the citizens. Such a government is evidently restrained to very narrow limits of space and population . I doubt if it would be practicable beyond the extent of a New England township . The first shade from this pure element, which, like that of pure vital air, cannot sustain life of itself, would be where the powers of the government, being divided, should be exercised each by representatives chosen either pro hac vice, or for such short terms as should render secure the duty of expressing the will of their constituents . This I should consider as the nearest approach to a pure republic, which is practicable on a large scale of country or population . And we have examples of it in some of our States constitutions, which, if not poisoned by priest-craft, would prove its excellence over all mixtures with other elements ; and, with only equal doses of poison, would still be the best. Other shades of republicanism may be found in other forms of government, where the executive, judiciary and legislative functions, and the different branches of the latter, are chosen by the people more or less directly, for longer terms of years or for life, or made hereditary ; or where there are mixtures of authorities, some dependent on, and others independent of the people . The further the departure from direct and constant control by the citizens, the less has the government of the ingredient of republicanism ; evidently none where the authorities are hereditary, as in France, Venice, &c., or self-chosen, as in Holland; and little, where for life, in proportion as the life continues in being after the act of election.
The purest republican feature in the government of our own State, is the House of Representatives . The Senate is equally so the first year, less the second, and so on . The Executive still less, because not chosen by the people directly . The Judiciary seriously anti-republican, because for life ; and the national arm wielded, as you observe, by military leaders irresponsible but to themselves. Add to this the vicious constitution of our county courts (to whom the justice, the executive administration, the taxation, police, the military appointments of the county, and nearly all our daily concerns are confided), self-appointed, self-continued, holding their authorities for life, and with an impossibility of breaking in on the perpetual succession of any faction once possessed of the bench. They are in truth, the executive, the judiciary, and the military of their respective counties, and the sum of the counties makes the State . And add, also, that one half of our brethren who fight and pay taxes, are excluded, like Helots, from the rights of representation, as if society were instituted for the soil, and not for the men inhabiting it ; or one half of these could dispose of the rights and the will of the other half, without their consent.
What constitutes a State ?
Not high-raised battlements, or labord mound,
Thick wall, or moated gate ;
Not cities proud, with spires and turrets crownd ;
No : men, high minded men ;
Men, who their duties know ;
But know their rights ; and knowing, dare maintain.
These constitute a State.
In the General Government, the House of Representatives is mainly republican ; the Senate scarcely so at all, as not elected by the people directly, and so long secured even against those who do elect them ; the Executive more republican than the Senate, from its shorter term, its election by the people, in practice, (for they vote for A only on an assurance that he will vote for B,) and because, in practice also, a principle of rotation seems to be in a course of establishment ; the judiciary independent of the nation, their coercion by impeachment being found nugatory.
If, then, the control of the people over the organs of their government be the measure of its republicanism, and I confess I know no other measure, it must be agreed that our governments have much less of republicanism than ought to have been expected ; in other words, that the people have less regular control over their agents, than their rights and their interests require . And this I ascribe, not to any want of republican dispositions in those who formed these constitutions, but to a submission of true principle to European authorities, to speculators on government, whose fears of the people have been inspired by the populace of their own great cities, and were unjustly entertained against the independent, the happy, and therefore orderly citizens of the United States . Much I apprehend that the golden moment is past for reforming these heresies . The functionaries of public power rarely strengthen in their dispositions to abridge it, and an unorganized call for timely amendment is not likely to prevail against an organized opposition to it . We are always told that things are going on well ; why change them ? Chi sta bene, non si muove, said the Italian, let him who stands well, stand still. This is true ; and I verily believe they would go on well with us under an absolute monarch, while our present character remains, of order, industry and love of peace, and restrained, as he would be, by the proper spirit of the people . But it is while it remains such, we should provide against the consequences of its deterioration. And let us rest in the hope that it will yet be done, and spare ourselves the pain of evils which may never happen.
On this view of the import of the term republic, instead of saying, as has been said, that it may mean anything or nothing, we may say with truth and meaning, that governments are more or less republican as they have more or less of the element of popular election and control in their composition ; and believing, as I do, that the mass of the citizens is the safest depository of their own rights, and especially, that the evils flowing from the duperies of the people, are less injurious than those from the egoism of their agents, I am a friend to that composition of government which has in it the most of this ingredient . And I sincerely believe, with you, that banking establishments are more dangerous than standing armies ; and that the principle of spending money to be paid by posterity, under the name of funding, is but swindling futurity on a large scale.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
Dear Sir,I received a few days ago from Mr. Dupont the enclosed manuscript, with permission to read it, and a request, when read, to forward it to you, in expectation that you would translate it. It is well worthy of publication for the instruction of our citizens, being profound, sound, and short. Our legislators are not sufficiently apprised of the rightful limits of their power; that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him; every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society; and this is all the laws should enforce on him ; and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions; and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes. There is a work of the first order of merit now in the press at Washington, by Destutt Tracy, on the subject of political economy, which he brings into the compass of three hundred pages, octavo. In a preliminary discourse on the origin of the right of property, he coincides much with the principles of the present manuscript; but is more developed, more demonstrative. He promises a future work on morals, in which I lament to see that he will adopt the principles of Hobbes, or humiliation to human nature; that the sense of justice and injustice is not derived from our natural organization, but founded on convention only. I lament this the more, as he is unquestionably the ablest writer living, on abstract subjects. Assuming the fact, that the earth has been created in time, and consequently the dogma of final causes, we yield, of course, to this short syllogism. Man was created for social intercourse; but social intercourse cannot be maintained without a sense of justice; then man must have been created with a sense of justice. There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well-known state of society of our Indians ought, before now, to have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they suppose it to have commenced in the patriarchal or monarchical form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family ; and not yet submitted to the authority of positive laws, or of any acknowledged magistrate. Every man, with them, is perfectly free to follow his own inclinations. But if, in doing this, he violates the rights of another, if the case be slight, he is punished by the disesteem of his society, or, as we say, by public opinion; if serious, he is tomahawked as a dangerous enemy. Their leaders conduct them by the influence of their character only; and they follow, or not, as they please, him of whose character for wisdom or war they have the highest opinion. Hence the origin of the parties among them adhering to different leaders, and governed by their advice, not by their command. The Cherokees, the only tribe I know to be contemplating the establishment of regular laws, magistrates, and government, propose a government of representatives, elected from every town. But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man. This, the only instance of actual fact within our knowledge, will be then a beginning by republican, and not by patriarchal or monarchical government, as speculative writers have generally conjectured.
We have to join in mutual congratulations on the appointment of our friend Correa, to be minister or envoy of Portugal, here. This, I hope, will give him to us for life. Nor will it at all interfere with his botanical rambles or journeys. The government of Portugal is so peaceable and inoffensive, that it has never any altercations with its friends. If their minister abroad writes them once a quarter that all is well, they desire no more. I learn, (though not from Correa himself,) that he thinks of paying us a visit as soon as he is through his course of lectures. Not to lose this happiness again by my absence, I have informed him I shall set out for Poplar Forest the 20th instant, and be back the first week of July. I wish you and he could concert your movements so as to meet here, and that you would make this your headquarters. It is a good central point from which to visit your connections; and you know our practice of placing our guests at their ease, by showing them we are so ourselves and that we follow our necessary vocations, instead of fatiguing them by hanging unremittingly on their shoulders. I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.
Sir,I duly received your favor of June the 13th, with the copy of the letters on the calling a convention, on which you are pleased to ask my opinion. I have not been in the habit of mysterious reserve on any subject, nor of buttoning up my opinions within my own doublet. On the contrary, while in public service especially, I thought the public entitled to frankness, and intimately to know whom they employed. But I am now retired : I resign myself, as a passenger, with confidence to those at present at the helm, and ask but for rest, peace and good will. The question you propose, on equal representation, has become a party one, in which I wish to take no public share. Yet, if it be asked for your own satisfaction only, and not to be quoted before the public, I have no motive to withhold it, and the less from you, as it coincides with your own. At the birth of our republic, I committed that opinion to the world, in the draught of a constitution annexed to the Notes on Virginia, in which a provision was inserted for a representation permanently equal. The infancy of the subject at that moment, and our inexperience of self-government, occasioned gross departures in that draught from genuine republican canons. In truth, the abuses of monarchy had so much filled all the space of political contemplation, that we imagined everything republican which was not monarchy. We had not yet penetrated to the mother principle, that governments are republican only in proportion as they embody the will of their people, and execute it. Hence, our first constitutions had really no leading principles in them. But experience and reflection have but more and more confirmed me in the particular importance of the equal representation then proposed. On that point, then, I am entirely in sentiment with your letters; and only lament that a copy-right of your pamphlet prevents their appearance in the newspapers, where alone they would be generally read, and produce general effect. The present vacancy too, of other matter, would give them place in every paper, and bring the question home to every man's conscience.
But inequality of representation in both Houses of our legislature, is not the only republican heresy in this first essay of our revolutionary patriots at forming a constitution. For let it be agreed that a government is republican in proportion as every member composing it has his equal voice in the direction of its concerns (not indeed in person, which would be impracticable beyond the limits of a city, or small township, but) by representatives chosen by himself, and responsible to him at short periods, and let us bring to the test of this canon every branch of our constitution.
In the legislature, the House of Representatives is chosen by less than half the people, and not at all in proportion to those who do choose. The Senate are still more disproportionate, and for long terms of irresponsibility. In the Executive, the Governor is entirely independent of the choice of the people, and of their control; his Council equally so, and at best but a fifth wheel to a wagon. In the Judiciary, the judges of the highest courts are dependent on none but themselves. In England, where judges were named and removable at the will of an hereditary executive, from which branch most misrule was feared, and has flowed, it was a great point gained, by fixing them for life, to make them independent of that executive. But in a government founded on the public will, this principle operates in an opposite direction, and against that will. There, too, they were still removable on a concurrence of the executive and legislative branches. But we have made them independent of the nation itself. They are irremovable, but by their own body, for any depravities of conduct, and even by their own body for the imbecilities of dotage. The justices of the inferior courts are self-chosen, are for life, and perpetuate their own body in succession forever, so that a faction once possessing themselves of the bench of a county, can never be broken up, but hold their county in chains, forever indissoluble. Yet these justices are the real executive as well as judiciary, in all our minor and most ordinary concerns. They tax us at will; fill the office of sheriff, the most important of all the executive officers of the county; name nearly all our military leaders, which leaders, once named, are removable but by themselves. The juries, our judges of all fact, and of law when they choose it, are not selected by the people, nor amenable to them. They are chosen by an officer named by the court and executive. Chosen, did I say ? Picked up by the sheriff from the loungings of the court yard, after everything respectable has retired from it. Where then is our republicanism to be found ? Not in our constitution certainly, but merely in the spirit of our people. That would oblige even a despot to govern us republicanly. Owing to this spirit, and to nothing in the form of our constitution, all things have gone well. But this fact, so triumphantly misquoted by the enemies of reformation, is not the fruit of our constitution, but has prevailed in spite of it. Our functionaries have done well, because generally honest men. If any were not so, they feared to show it.
But it will be said, it is easier to find faults than to amend them. I do not think their amendment so difficult as is pretended. Only lay down true principles, and adhere to them inflexibly. Do not be frightened into their surrender by the alarms of the timid, or the croakings of wealth against the ascendency of the people. If experience be called for, appeal to that of our fifteen or twenty governments for forty years, and show me where the people have done half the mischief in these forty years, that a single despot would have done in a single year; or show half the riots and rebellions, the crimes and the punishments, which have taken place in any single nation, under kingly government, during the same period. The true foundation of republican government is the equal right of every citizen, in his person and property, and in their management. Try by this, as a tally, every provision of our constitution, and see if it hangs directly on the will of the people. Reduce your legislature to a convenient number for full, but orderly discussion. Let every man who fights or pays, exercise his just and equal right in their election. Submit them to approbation or rejection at short intervals. Let the executive be chosen in the same way, and for the same term, by those whose agent he is to be; and leave no screen of a council behind which to skulk from responsibility. It has been thought that the people are not competent electors of judges learned in the law. But I do not know that this is true, and, if doubtful, we should follow principle. In this, as in many other elections, they would be guided by reputation, which would not err oftener, perhaps, than the present mode of appointment. In one State of the Union, at least, it has long been tried, and with the most satisfactory success. The judges of Connecticut have been chosen by the people every six months, for nearly two centuries, and I believe there has hardly ever been an instance of change; so powerful is the curb of incessant responsibility. If prejudice, however, derived from a monarchical institution, is still to prevail against the vital elective principle of our own, and if the existing example among ourselves of periodical election of judges by the people be still mistrusted, let us at least not adopt the evil, and reject the good, of the English precedent; let us retain amovability on the concurrence of the executive and legislative branches, and nomination by the executive alone. Nomination to office is an executive function. To give it to the legislature, as we do, is a violation of the principle of the separation of powers. It swerves the members from correctness, by temptations to intrigue for office themselves, and to a corrupt barter of votes; and destroys responsibility by dividing it among a multitude. By leaving nomination in its proper place, among executive functions, the principle of the distribution of power is preserved, and responsibility weighs with its heaviest force on a single head.
The organization of our county administrations may be thought more difficult. But follow principle, and the knot unties itself. Divide the counties into wards of such size as that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person. Ascribe to them the government of their wards in all things relating to themselves exclusively. A justice, chosen by themselves, in each, a constable, a military company, a patrol, a school, the care of their own poor, their own portion of the public roads, the choice of one or more jurors to serve in some court, and the delivery, within their own wards, of their own votes for all elective officers of higher sphere, will relieve the county administration of nearly all its business, will have it better done, and by making every citizen an acting member of the government, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him, will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence of his country, and its republican constitution. The justices thus chosen by every ward, would constitute the county court, would do its judiciary business, direct roads and bridges, levy county and poor rates, and administer all the matters of common interest to the whole country. These wards, called townships in New England, are the vital principle of their governments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-government, and for its preservation. We should thus marshal our government into, 1, the general federal republic, for all concerns foreign and federal; 2, that of the State, for what relates to our own citizens exclusively; 3, the county republics, for the duties and concerns of the county; and 4, the ward republics, for the small, and yet numerous and interesting concerns of the neighborhood; and in government, as well as in every other business of life, it is by division and subdivision of duties alone, that all matters, great and small, can be managed to perfection. And the whole is cemented by giving to every citizen, personally, a part in the administration of the public affairs.
The sum of these amendments is, 1. General Suffrage. 2. Equal representation in the legislature. 3. An executive chosen by the people. 4. Judges elective or amovable. 5. Justices, jurors, and sheriffs elective. 6. Ward divisions. And 7. Periodical amendments of the constitution.
I have thrown out these as loose heads of amendment, for consideration and correction; and their object is to secure self-government by the republicanism of our constitution, as well as by the spirit of the people; and to nourish and perpetuate that spirit. I am not among those who fear the people. They, and not the rich, are our dependence for continued freedom. And to preserve their independence, we must not let our rulers load us with perpetual debt. We must make our election between economy and liberty, or profusion and servitude. If we run into such debts, as that we must be taxed in our meat and in our drink, in our necessaries and our comforts, in our labors and our amusements, for our callings and our creeds, as the people of England are, our people, like them, must come to labor sixteen hours in the twenty-four, give the earnings of fifteen of these to the government for their debts and daily expenses; and the sixteenth being insufficient to afford us bread, we must live, as they now do, on oatmeal and potatoes; have no time to think, no means of calling the mismanagers to account; but be glad to obtain subsistence by hiring ourselves to rivet their chains on the necks of our fellow-sufferers. Our landholders, too, like theirs, retaining indeed the title and stewardship of estates called theirs, but held really in trust for the treasury, must wander, like theirs, in foreign countries, and be contented with penury, obscurity, exile, and the glory of the nation. This example reads to us the salutary lesson, that private fortunes are destroyed by public as well as by private extravagance. And this is the tendency of all human governments. A departure from principle in one instance becomes a precedent for a second; that second for a third; and so on, till the bulk of the society is reduced to be mere automatons of misery, and to have no sensibilities left but for sinning and suffering. Then begins, indeed, the bellum omnium in omnia, which some philosophers observing to be so general in this world, have mistaken it for the natural, instead of the abusive state of man. And the fore horse of this frightful team is public debt. Taxation follows that, and in its train wretchedness and oppression.
Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human, and suppose what they did to be beyond amendment. I knew that age well; I belonged to it, and labored with it. It deserved well of its country. It was very like the present, but without the experience of the present; and forty years of experience in government is worth a century of book-reading; and this they would say themselves, were they to rise from the dead. I am certainly not an advocate for frequent and untried changes in laws and constitutions. I think moderate imperfections had better be borne with; because, when once known, we accommodate ourselves to them, and find practical means of correcting their ill effects. But I know also, that laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors. It is this preposterous idea which has lately deluged Europe in blood. Their monarchs, instead of wisely yielding to the gradual change of circumstances, of favoring progressive accommodation to progressive improvement, have clung to old abuses, entrenched themselves behind steady habits, and obliged their subjects to seek through blood and violence rash and ruinous innovations, which, had they been referred to the peaceful deliberations and collected wisdom of the nation, would have been put into acceptable and salutary forms. Let us follow no such examples, nor weakly believe that one generation is not as capable as another of taking care of itself, and of ordering its own affairs. Let us, as our sister States have done, avail ourselves of our reason and experience, to correct the crude essays of our first and unexperienced, although wise, virtuous, and well-meaning councils. And lastly, let us provide in our constitution for its revision at stated periods. What these periods should be, nature herself indicates. By the European tables of mortality, of the adults living at any one moment of time, a majority will be dead in about nineteen years. At the end of that period, then, a new majority is come into place; or, in other words, a new generation. Each generation is as independent as the one preceding, as that was of all which had gone before. It has then, like them, a right to choose for itself the form of government it believes most promotive of its own happiness; consequently, to accommodate to the circumstances in which it finds itself, that received from its predecessors; and it is for the peace and good of mankind, that a solemn opportunity of doing this every nineteen or twenty years, should be provided by the constitution; so that it may be handed on, with periodical repairs, from generation to generation, to the end of time, if anything human can so long endure. It is now forty years since the constitution of Virginia was formed. The same tables inform us, that, within that period, two-thirds of the adults then living are now dead. Have then the remaining third, even if they had the wish, the right to hold in obedience to their will, and to laws heretofore made by them, the other two-thirds, who, with themselves, compose the present mass of adults ? If they have not, who has ? The dead ? But the dead have no rights. They are nothing; and nothing cannot own something. Where there is no substance, there can be no accident. This corporeal globe, and everything upon it, belong to its present corporeal inhabitants, during their generation. They alone have a right to direct what is the concern of themselves alone, and to declare the law of that direction; and this declaration can only be made by their majority. That majority, then, has a right to depute representatives to a convention, and to make the constitution what they think will be the best for themselves. But how collect their voice? This is the real difficulty. If invited by private authority, or county or district meetings, these divisions are so large that few will attend; and their voice will be imperfectly, or falsely pronounced. Here, then, would be one of the advantages of the ward divisions I have proposed. The mayor of every ward, on a question like the present, would call his ward together, take the simple yea or nay of its members, convey these to the county court, who would hand on those of all its wards to the proper general authority; and the voice of the whole people would be thus fairly, fully, and peaceably expressed, discussed, and decided by the common reason of the society. If this avenue be shut to the call of sufferance, it will make itself heard through that of force, and we shall go on, as other nations are doing, in the endless circle of oppression, rebellion, reformation; and oppression, rebellion, reformation, again; and so on forever.
These, Sir, are my opinions of the governments we see among men, and of the principles by which alone we may prevent our own from falling into the same dreadful track. I have given them at greater length than your letter called for. But I cannot say things by halves; and I confide them to your honor, so to use them as to preserve me from the gridiron of the public papers. If you shall approve and enforce them, as you have done that of equal representation, they may do some good. If not, keep them to yourself as the effusions of withered age and useless time. I shall, with not the less truth, assure you of my great respect and consideration.
DEAR SIR,Yours of the 10th is received, and I have to acknowledge a copious supply of the turnip seed requested. Besides taking care myself, I shall endeavor again to commit it to the depository of the neighborhood, generally found to be the best precaution against losing a good thing. I will add a word on the political part of our letters. I believe we do not differ on either of the points you suppose. On education certainly not ; of which the proofs are my bill for the diffusion of knowledge, proposed near forty years ago, and my uniform endeavors, to this day, to get our counties divided into wards, one of the principal objects of which is, the establishment of a primary school in each. But education not being a branch of municipal government, but, like the other arts and sciences, an accident only, I did not place it, with election, as a fundamental member in the structure of government. Nor, I believe, do we differ as to the county courts. I acknowledge the value of this institution; that it is in truth our principal executive and judiciary, and that it does much for little pecuniary reward. It is their self-appointment I wish to correct; to find some means of breaking up a cabal, when such a one gets possession of the bench. When this takes place, it becomes the most afflicting of tyrannies, because its powers are so various, and exercised on everything most immediately around us. And how many instances have you and I known of these monopolies of county administration ? I knew a county in which a particular family (a numerous one) got possession of the bench, and for a whole generation never admitted a man on it who was not of its clan or connection. I know a county now of one thousand and five hundred militia, of which sixty are federalists. Its court is of thirty members, of whom twenty are federalists (every third man of the sect). There are large and populous districts in it without a justice, because without a federalist for appointment; the militia are as disproportionably under federal officers. And there is no authority on earth which can break up this junto, short of a general convention. The remaining one thousand four hundred and forty, free, fighting, and paying citizens, are governed by men neither of their choice nor confidence, and without a hope of relief. They are certainly excluded from the blessings of a free government for life, and indefinitely, for aught the Constitution has provided. This solecism may be called anything but republican, and ought undoubtedly to be corrected. I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
Dear Sir,I am about to sin against all discretion, and knowingly, by adding to the drudgery of your letter-reading, this acknowledgment of the receipt of your favor of May the 31st, with the papers it covered. I cannot, however, deny myself the gratification of expressing the satisfaction I have received, not only from the general statement of affairs at Paris, in yours of December the 12th, 1814, (as a matter of history which I had not before received,) but most especially and superlatively, from the perusal of your letter of the 8th of the same month to Mr. Fisk, on the subject of draw-backs. This most heterogeneous principle was transplanted into ours from the British system, by a man whose mind was really powerful, but chained by native partialities to everything English; who had formed exaggerated ideas of the superior perfection of the English constitution, the superior wisdom of their government, and sincerely believed it for the good of this country to make them their model in everything; without considering that what might be wise and good for a nation essentially commercial, and entangled in complicated intercourse with numerous and powerful neighbors, might not be so for one essentially agricultural, and insulated by nature from the abusive governments of the old world.
The exercise, by our own citizens, of so much commerce as may suffice to exchange our superfluities for our wants, may be advantageous for the whole. But it does not follow, that with a territory so boundless, it is the interest of the whole to become a mere city of London, to carry on the business of one-half the world at the expense of eternal war with the other half. The agricultural capacities of our country constitute its distinguishing feature; and the adapting our policy and pursuits to that, is more likely to make us a numerous and happy people, than the mimicry of an Amsterdam, a Hamburg, or a city of London. Every society has a right to fix the fundamental principles of its association, and to say to all individuals, that, if they contemplate pursuits beyond the limits of these principles, and involving dangers which the society chooses to avoid, they must go somewhere else for their exercise; that we want no citizens, and still less ephemeral and pseudo-citizens, on such terms. We may exclude them from our territory, as we do persons infected with disease. Such is the situation of our country. We have mast abundant resources of happiness within ourselves, which we may enjoy in peace and safety, without permitting a few citizens, infected with the mania of rambling and gambling, to bring danger on the great mass engaged in innocent and safe pursuits at home. In your letter to Fisk, you have fairly stated the alternatives between which we are to choose : 1, licentious commerce and gambling speculations for a few, with eternal war for the many; or, 2, restricted commerce, peace, and steady occupations for all. If any State in the Union will declare that it prefers separation with the first alternative, to a continuance in union without it, I have no hesitation in saying, "let us separate." I would rather the States should withdraw, which are for unlimited commerce and war, and confederate with those alone which are for peace and agriculture. I know that every nation in Europe would join in sincere amity with the latter, and hold the former at arms length, by jealousies, prohibitions, restrictions, vexations and war. No earthly consideration could induce my consent to contract such a debt as England has by her wars for commerce, to reduce our citizens by taxes to such wretchedness, as that laboring sixteen of the twenty-four hours, they are still unable to afford themselves bread, or barely to earn as much oatmeal or potatoes as will keep soul and body together. And all this to feed the avidity of a few millionary merchants, and to keep up one thousand ships of war for the protection of their commercial speculations. I returned from Europe after our government had got under way, and had adopted from the British code the law of draw-backs. I early saw its effects in the jealousies and vexations of Britain; and that, retaining it, we must become like her an essentially warring nation, and meet, in the end, the catastrophe impending over her. No one can doubt that this alone produced the orders of council, the depredations which preceded, and the war which followed them. Had we carried but our own produce, and brought back but our own wants, no nation would have troubled us. Our commercial dashers, then, have already cost us so many thousand lives, so many millions of dollars, more than their persons and all their commerce were worth. When war was declared, and especially after Massachusetts, who had produced it, took side with the enemy waging it, I pressed on some confidential friends in Congress to avail us of the happy opportunity of repealing the draw-back; and I do rejoice to find that you are in that sentiment. You are young, and may be in the way of bringing it into effect. Perhaps time, even yet, and change of tone, (for there are symptoms of that in Massachusetts,) may not have obliterated altogether the sense of our late feelings and sufferings; may not have induced oblivion of the friends we have lost, the depredations and conflagrations we have suffered, and the debts we have incurred, and have to labor for through the lives of the present generation. The earlier the repeal is proposed, the more it will be befriended by all these recollections and considerations. This is one of three great measures necessary to insure us permanent prosperity. This preserves our peace. A second should enable us to meet any war, by adopting the report of the War Department, for placing the force of the nation at effectual command; and a third should insure resources of money by the suppression of all paper circulation during peace, and licensing that of the nation alone during war. The metallic medium of which we should be possessed at the commencement of a war, would be a sufficient fund for all the loans we should need through its continuance; and if the national bills issued be bottomed (as is indispensable) on pledges of specific taxes for their redemption within certain and moderate epochs, and be of proper denominations for circulation, no interest on them would be necessary or just, because they would answer to every one the purposes of the metallic money withdrawn and replaced by them.
But possibly these may be the dreams of an old man, or that the occasions of realizing them may have passed away without return. A government regulating itself by what is wise and just for the many, uninfluenced by the local and selfish views of the few who direct their affairs, has not been seen, perhaps, on earth. Or if it existed, for a moment, at the birth of ours, it would not be easy to fix the term of its continuance. Still, I believe it does exist here in a greater degree than anywhere else ; and for its growth and continuance, as well as for your personal health and happiness, I offer sincere prayers, with the homage of my respect and esteem.
I thank you, Sir, for the copy you have been so good as to send me, of your late speech to the legislature of your State, which I have read a second time with great pleasure, as I had before done in the public papers. It is replete with sound principles, and truly republican. Some articles, too, are worthy of peculiar notice. The idea that institutions established for the use of the nation cannot be touched nor modified, even to make them answer their end, because of rights gratuitously supposed in those employed to manage them in trust for the public, may perhaps be a salutary provision against the abuses of a monarch, but is most absurd against the nation itself. Yet our lawyers and priests generally inculcate this doctrine, and suppose that preceding generations held the earth more freely than we do; had a right to impose laws on us, unalterable by ourselves, and that we, in like manner, can make laws and impose burdens on future generations, which they will have no right to alter; in fine, that the earth belongs to the dead and not the living. I remark also the phenomenon of a chief magistrate recommending the reduction of his own compensation. This is a solecism of which the wisdom of our late Congress cannot be accused. I, however, place economy among the first and most important of republican virtues, and public debt as the greatest of the dangers to be feared. We see in England the consequences of the want of it, their laborers reduced to live on a penny in the shilling of their earnings, to give up bread, and resort to oatmeal and potatoes for food; and their landholders exiling themselves to live in penury and obscurity abroad, because at home the government must have all the clear profits of their land. In fact, they see the fee simple of the island transferred to the public creditors, all its profits going to them for the interest of their debts. Our laborers and landholders must come to this also, unless they severely adhere to the economy you recommend. I salute you with entire esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,-I have received and read with great pleasure the account you have been so kind as to send me of the interview between the Emperor Alexander and Mr. Clarkson, which I now return, as it is in manuscript. It shows great condescension of character on the part of the Emperor, and power of mind also, to be able to abdicate the artificial distance between himself and other good, able men, and to converse as on equal ground. This conversation too, taken with his late Christian league, seems to bespeak in him something like a sectarian piety ; his character is undoubtedly good, and the world, I think, may expect good effects from it. I have no doubt that his firmness in favor of France, after the deposition of Bonaparte, has saved that country from evils still more severe than she is suffering, and perhaps even from partition. I sincerely wish that the history of the secret proceedings at Vienna may become known, and may reconcile to our good opinion of him his participation in the demolition of ancient and independent States, transferring them and their inhabitants as farms and stocks of cattle at a market to other owners, and even taking a part of the spoil to himself. It is possible to suppose a case excusing this, and my partiality for his character encourages me to expect it, and to impute to others, known to have no moral scruples, the crimes of that conclave, who, under pretence of punishing the atrocities of Bonaparte, reached them themselves, and proved that with equal power they were equally flagitious. But let us turn with abhorrence from these sceptered Scelerats, and disregarding our own petty differences of opinion about men and measures, let us cling in mass to our country and to one another, and bid defiance, as we can if united, to the plundering combinations of the old world. Present me affectionately and respectfully to Mrs. Logan, and accept the assurance of my friendship and best wishes.
Dear Sir,In compliance with the request of your letter of the 6th. inst. with respect to Peyton Randolph, I have to observe that the difference of age between him and myself admitted my knowing little of his early life, except what I accidentally caught from occasional conversations. I was a student at college when he was already Attorney General at the bar, and a man of established years ; and I had no intimacy with him until I went to the bar myself, when, I suppose, he must have been upwards of forty ; from that time, and especially after I became a member of the legislature, until his death, our intimacy was cordial, and I was with him when he died. Under these circumstances, I have committed to writing as many incidents of his life as memory enabled me to do, and to give faith to the many and excellent qualities he possessed, I have mentioned those minor ones which he did not possess ; considering true history, in which all will be believed, as preferable to unqualified panegyric, in which nothing is believed. I avoided, too, the mention of trivial incidents, which, by not distinguishing, disparage a character; but I have not been able to state early dates. Before forwarding this paper to you, I received a letter from Peyton Randolph, his great nephew, repeating the request you had made. I therefore put the paper under a blank cover, addressed to you, unsealed, and sent it to Peyton Randolph, that he might see what dates as well as what incidents might be collected, supplementary to mine, and correct any which I had inexactly stated; circumstances may have been misremembered, but nothing, I think, of substance. This account of Peyton Randolph, therefore, you may expect to be forwarded by his nephew.
You requested me when here, to communicate to you the particulars of two transactions in which I was myself an agent, to wit : the coup de main of Arnold on Richmond, and Tarletons on Charlottesville. I now enclose them, detailed with an exactness on which you may rely with an entire confidence. But, having an insuperable aversion to be drawn into controversy in the public papers, I must request not to be quoted either as to these or the account of Peyton Randolph. Accept the assurances of my esteem and respect.
Dear Sir,Your favor of November 1st came but lately to my hand. It covered a prospectus of your code of health and longevity, a great and useful work, which I shall be happy to see brought to a conclusion. Like our good old Franklin, your labors and science go all to the utilities of human life.
I reciprocate congratulations with you sincerely on the restoration of peace between our two nations. And why should there have been war ? for the party to which the blame is to be imputed, we appeal to the "Exposition of the causes and character of the war," a pamphlet which, we are told, has gone through some editions with you. If that does not justify us, then the blame is ours. But let all this be forgotten ; and let both parties now count soberly the value of mutual friendship. I am satisfied both will find that no advantage either can derive from any act of injustice whatever, will be of equal value with those flowing from friendly intercourse. Both ought to wish for peace and cordial friendship ; we, because, you can do us more harm than any other nation; and you, because we can do you more good than any other. Our growth is now so well established by regular enumerations through a course of forty years, and the same grounds of continuance so likely to endure for a much longer period, that, speaking in round numbers, we may safely call ourselves twenty millions in twenty years, and forty millions in forty years. Many of the statesmen now living saw the commencement of the first term, and many now living will see the end of the second. It is not then a mere concern of posterity; a third of those now in life will see that day. Of what importance then to you must such a nation be, whether as friends or foes. But is their friendship, dear Sir, to be obtained by the irritating policy of fomenting among us party discord, and a teasing opposition ; by bribing traitors, whose sale of themselves proves they would sell their purchasers also, if their treacheries were worth a price ? How much cheaper would it be, how much easier, more honorable, more magnanimous and secure, to gain the government itself, by a moral, a friendly, and respectful course of conduct, which is all they would ask for a cordial and faithful return. I know the difficulties arising from the irritation, the exasperation produced on both sides by the late war. It is great with you, as I judge from your newspapers ; and greater with us, as I see myself. The reason lies in the different degrees in which the war has acted on us. To your people it has been a matter of distant history only, a mere war in the carnatic; with us it has reached the bosom of every man, woman and child. The maritime parts have felt it in the conflagration of their houses, and towns, and desolation of their farms; the borderers in the massacres and scalpings of their husbands, wives and children ; and the middle parts in their personal labors and losses in defence of both frontiers, and the revolting scenes they have there witnessed. It is not wonderful then, if their irritations are extreme. Yet time and prudence on the part of the two governments may get over these. Manifestations of cordiality between them, friendly and kind offices made visible to the people on both sides, will mollify their feelings, and second the wishes of their functionaries to cultivate peace, and promote mutual interest. That these dispositions have been strong on our part, in every administration from the first to the present one, that we would at any time have gone our full half-way to meet them, if a single step in advance had been taken by the other party, I can affirm of my own intimate knowledge of the fact. During the first year of my own administration, I thought I discovered in the conduct of Mr. Addington some marks of comity towards us, and a willingness to extend to us the decencies and duties observed towards other nations. My desire to catch at this, and to improve it for the benefit of my own country, induced me, in addition to the official declarations from the Secretary of State, to write with my own hand to Mr. King, then our Minister Plenipotentiary at London, in the following words : "I avail myself of this occasion to assure you of my perfect satisfaction with the manner in which you have conducted the several matters committed to you by us; and to express my hope that through your agency, we may be able to remove everything inauspicious to a cordial friendship between this country, and the one in which you are stationed; a friendship dictated by too many considerations not to be felt by the wise and the dispassionate of both nations. It is, therefore, with the sincerest pleasure I have observed on the part of the British government various manifestations of a just and friendly disposition towards us; we wish to cultivate peace and friendship with all nations, believing that course most conducive to the welfare of our own; it is natural that these friendships should bear some proportion to the common interests of the parties. The interesting relations between Great Britain and the United States are certainly of the first order, and as such are estimated, and will be faithfully cultivated by us. These sentiments have been communicated to you from time to time, in the official correspondence of the Secretary of State; but I have thought it might not be unacceptable to be assured that they perfectly concur with my own personal convictions, both in relation to yourself, and the country in which you are."
My expectation was that Mr. King would show this letter to Mr. Addington, and that it would be received by him as an overture towards a cordial understanding between the two countries. He left the ministry, however, and I never heard more of it, and certainly never perceived any good effect from it. I know that in the present temper, the boastful, the insolent, and the mendacious newspapers on both sides, will present serious impediments. Ours will be insulting your public authorities, and boasting of victories ; and yours will not be sparing of provocations and abuses of us. But if those at our helms could not place themselves above these pitiful notices, and throwing aside all personal feelings, look only to the interests of their nations, they would be unequal to the trusts confided to them. I am equally confident, on our part, in the administration now in place, as in that which will succeed it ; and that if friendship is not hereafter sincerely cultivated, it will not be their fault. I will not, however, disguise that the settlement of the practice of impressing our citizens is a sine qua non, a preliminary, without which treaties of peace are but truces. But it is impossible that reasonable dispositions on both parts should not remove this stumbling-block, which unremoved, will be an eternal obstacle to peace, and lead finally to the deletion of the one or the other nation. The regulations necessary to keep your own seamen to yourselves are those which our interests would lead us to adopt, and that interest would be a guarantee of their observance ; and the transfer of these questions from the cognizance of their naval commanders to the governments themselves, would be but an act of mutual as well as of self-respect.
I did not mean, when I began my letter, to have indulged my pen so far on subjects with which I have long ceased to have connection ; but it may do good, and I will let it go, for although what I write is from no personal privity with the views or wishes of our government, yet believing them to be what they ought to be, and confident in their wisdom and integrity, I am sure I hazard no deception in what I have said of them, and I shall be happy indeed if some good shall result to both our countries, from this renewal of our correspondence and ancient friendship. I recall with great pleasure the days of our former intercourse, personal and epistolary, and can assure you with truth that in no instant of time has there been any abatement of my great esteem and respect for you.
Dear Sir,Your two philosophical letters of May 4th and 6th have been too long in my carton of "letters to be answered." To the question, indeed, on the utility of grief, no answer remains to be given. You have exhausted the subject. I see that, with the other evils of life, it is destined to temper the cup we are to drink.
Two urns by Joves high throne have ever stood,
The source of evil one, and one of good ;
From thence the cup of mortal man he fills,
Blessings to these, to those distributes ills;
To most he mingles both.
Putting to myself your question, would I agree to live my seventy-three years over again forever ? I hesitate to say. With Chews limitations from twenty-five to sixty, I would say yes; and I might go further back, but not come lower down. For, at the latter period, with most of us, the powers of life are sensibly on the wane, sight becomes dim, hearing dull, memory constantly enlarging its frightful blank and parting with all we have ever seen or known, spirits evaporate, bodily debility creeps on palsying every limb, and so faculty after faculty quits us, and where then is life ? If, in its full vigor, of good as well as evil, your friend Vassall could doubt its value, it must be purely a negative quantity when its evils alone remain. Yet I do not go into his opinion entirely. I do not agree that an age of pleasure is no compensation for a moment of pain. I think, with you, that life is a fair matter of account, and the balance often, nay generally, in its favor. It is not indeed easy, by calculation of intensity and time, to apply a common measure, or to fix the par between pleasure and pain; yet it exists, and is measurable. On the question, for example, whether to be cut for the stone? The young, with a longer prospect of years, think these overbalance the pain of the operation. Dr. Franklin, at the age of eighty, thought his residuum of life not worth that price. I should have thought with him, even taking the stone out of the scale. There is a ripeness of time for death, regarding others as well as ourselves, when it is reasonable we should drop off, and make room for another growth. When we have lived our generation out, we should not wish to encroach on another. I enjoy good health; I am happy in what is around me, yet I assure you I am ripe for leaving all, this year, this day, this hour. If it could be doubted whether we would go back to twenty-five, how can it be whether we would go forward from seventy-three ? Bodily decay is gloomy in prospect, but of all human contemplations the most abhorrent is body without mind. Perhaps, however, I might accept of time to read Grimm before I go. Fifteen volumes of anecdotes and incidents, within the compass of my own time and cognizance, written by a man of genius; of taste, of point, an acquaintance, the measure and traverses of whose mind I know, could not fail to turn the scale in favor of life during their perusal. I must write to Ticknor to add it to my catalogue, and hold on till it comes. There is a Mr. Van der Kemp of New York, a correspondent, I believe, of yours, with whom I have exchanged some letters without knowing who he is. Will you tell me ? I know nothing of the history of the Jesuits you mention in four volumes. Is it a good one ? I dislike, with you, their restoration, because it marks a retrograde step from light towards darkness. We shall have our follies without doubt. Some one or more of them will always be afloat. But ours will be the follies of enthusiasm, not of bigotry, not of Jesuitism. Bigotry is the disease of ignorance, of morbid minds ; enthusiasm of the free and buoyant. Education and free discussion are the antidotes of both. We are destined to be a barrier against the returns of ignorance and barbarism. Old Europe will have to lean on our shoulders, and to hobble along by our side, under the monkish trammels of priests and kings, as she can. What a colossus shall we be when the southern continent comes up to our mark ! What a stand will it secure as a ralliance for the reason and freedom of the globe ! I like the dreams of the future better than the history of the past,so good night ! I will dream on, always fancying that Mrs. Adams and yourself are by my side marking the progress and the obliquities of ages and countries.
I have received, dear Madam, your very friendly letter of July 21st, and assure you that I feel with deep sensibility its kind expressions towards myself, and the more as from a person than whom no others could be more in sympathy with my own affections. I often call to mind the occasions of knowing your worth, which the societies of Washington furnished ; and none more than those derived from your much valued visit to Monticello. I recognize the same motives of goodness in the solicitude you express on the rumor supposed to proceed from a letter of mine to Charles Thomson, on the subject of the Christian religion. It is true that, in writing to the translator of the Bible and Testament, that subject was mentioned; but equally so that no adherence to any particular mode of Christianity was there expressed, nor any change of opinions suggested. A change from what ? the priests indeed have heretofore thought proper to ascribe to me religious, or rather anti-religious sentiments, of their own fabric, but such as soothed their resentments against the act of Virginia for establishing religious freedom. They wished him to be thought atheist, deist, or devil, who could advocate freedom from their religious dictations. But I have ever thought religion a concern purely between our God and our consciences, for which we were accountable to Him, and not to the priests. I never told my own religion, nor scrutinized that of another. I never attempted to make a convert, nor wished to change anothers creed. I have ever judged of the religion of others by their lives, and by this test, my dear Madam, I have been satisfied yours must be an excellent one, to have produced a life of such exemplary virtue and correctness. For it is in our lives, and not from our words, that our religion must be read. By the same test the world must judge me. But this does not satisfy the priesthood. They must have a positive, a declared assent to all their interested absurdities. My opinion is that there would never have been an infidel, if there had never been a priest. The artificial structures they have built on the purest of all moral systems, for the purpose of deriving from it pence and power, revolt those who think for themselves, and who read in that system only what is really there. These, therefore, they brand with such nick-names as their enmity chooses gratuitously to impute. I have left the world, in silence, to judge of causes from their effects ; and I am consoled in this course, my dear friend, when I perceive the candor with which I am judged by your justice and discernment; and that, notwithstanding the slanders of the saints, my fellow citizens have thought me worthy of trusts. The imputations of irreligion having spent their force, they think an imputation of change might now be turned to account as a bolster for their duperies. I shall leave them, as heretofore, to grope on in the dark.
Our family at Monticello is all in good health; Ellen speaking of you with affection, and Mrs. Randolph always regretting the accident which so far deprived her of the happiness of your former visit. She still cherishes the hope of some future renewal of that kindness; in which we all join her, as in the assurances of affectionate attachment and respect.
Dear Sir,The biography of Mr. Van der Kemp would require a volume which I could not write if a million were offered me as a reward for the work. After a learned and scientific education he entered the army in Holland, and served as captain, with reputation; but loving books more than arms, he resigned his commission and became a preacher. My acquaintance with him commenced at Leyden in 1790. He was then minister of the Menonist congregation, the richest in Europe; in that city, where he was celebrated as the most elegant writer in the Dutch language, he was the intimate friend of Luzac and De Gysecaar. In 1788, when the King of Prussia threatened Holland with invasion, his party insisted on his taking a command in the army of defence, and he was appointed to the command of the most exposed and most important post in the seven provinces. He was soon surrounded by the Prussian forces ; but he defended his fortress with a prudence, fortitude, patience, and perseverance, which were admired by all Europe ; till, abandoned by his nation, destitute of provisions and ammunition, still refusing to surrender, he was offered the most honorable capitulation. He accepted it; was offered very advantageous proposals ; but despairing of the liberties of his country, he retired to Antwerp, determined to emigrate to New York; wrote to me in London, requesting letters of introduction. I sent him letters to Governor Clinton, and several others of our little great men. His history in this country is equally curious and affecting. He left property in Holland, which the revolutions there have annihilated; and I fear is now pinched with poverty. His head is deeply learned and his heart is pure. I scarcely know a more amiable character.
* * * * * * * * *
He has written to me occasionally, and I have answered his letters in great haste. You may well suppose that such a man has not always been able to understand our American politics. Nor have I. Had he been as great a master of our language as he was of his own, he would have been at this day one of the most conspicuous characters in the United States.
So much for Van der Kemp ; now for your letter of August 1st. Your poet, the Ionian I suppose, ought to have told us whether Jove, in the distribution of good and evil from his two urns, observes any rule of equity or not ; whether he thunders out flames of eternal fire on the many, and power, and glory, and felicity on the few, without any consideration of justice ?
Let us state a few questions sub rosa.
1. Would you accept a life, if offered you, of equal pleasure and pain ? For example. One million of moments of pleasure, and one million of moments of pain ! (1,000,000 moments of pleasure=1,000,000 moments of pain.) Suppose the pleasure as exquisite as any in life, and the pain as exquisite as any; for example, stone-gravel, gout, headache, earache, toothache, colic, &c. I would not. I would rather be blotted out.
2. Would you accept a life of one year of incessant gout, headache, &c., for seventy-two years of such life as you have enjoyed ? I would not. (One year of colic=seventy-two of Boules de Savon; pretty, but unsubstantial.) I had rather be extinguished. You may vary these algebraical equations at pleasure and without end. All this ratiocination, calculation, call it what you will, is founded on the supposition of no future state. Promise me eternal life free from pain, although in all other respects no better than our present terrestrial existence, I know not how many thousand years of Smithfield fevers I would not endure to obtain it. In fine, without the supposition of a future state, mankind and this globe appear to me the most sublime and beautiful bubble; and bauble, that imagination can conceive.
Let us then wish for immortality at all hazards, and trust the Ruler with His skies. I do ; and earnestly wish for His commands, which to the utmost of my power shall be implicitly and piously obeyed.
It is worth while to live to read Grimm, whom I have read ; and La Harpe and Mademoiselle DEspinasse the fair friend of DAlembert, both of whom Grimm characterizes very distinguished, and are, I am told, in print. I have not seen them, but hope soon to have them.
My history of the Jesuits is not elegantly written, but is supported by unquestionable authorities, is very particular and very horrible. Their restoration is indeed a "step towards darkness," cruelty, perfidy, despotism, death and ! I wish we were out of "danger of bigotry and Jesuitism" ! May we be "a barrier against the returns of ignorance and barbarism" ! "What a colossus shall we be" ! But will it not be of brass, iron and clay ? Your taste is judicious in liking better the dreams of the future, than the history of the past. Upon this principle I prophesy that you and I shall soon meet, and be better friends than ever. So wishes,
In answer to your inquiry as to the merits of Gillies translation of the Politics of Aristotle, I can only say that it has the reputation of being preferable to Ellis, the only rival translation into English. I have never seen it myself, and therefore do not speak of it from my own knowledge. But so different was the style of society then, and with those people, from what it is now and with us, that I think little edification can be obtained from their writings on the subject of government. They had just ideas of the value of personal liberty, but none at all of the structure of government best calculated to preserve it. They knew no medium between a democracy (the only pure republic, but impracticable beyond the limits of a town) and an abandonment of themselves to an aristocracy, or a tyranny independent of the people. It seems not to have occurred that where the citizens cannot meet to transact their business in person, they alone have the right to choose the agents who shall transact it; and that in this way a republican, or popular government, of the second grade of purity, may be exercised over any extent of country. The full experiment of a government democratical, but representative, was and is still reserved for us. The idea (taken, indeed, from the little specimen formerly existing in the English constitution, but now lost) has been carried by us, more or less, into all our legislative and executive departments; but it has not yet, by any of us, been pushed into all the ramifications of the system, so far as to leave no authority existing not responsible to the people ; whose rights, however, to the exercise and fruits of their own industry; can never be protected against the selfishness of rulers not subject to their control at short periods. The introduction of this new principle of representative democracy has rendered useless almost everything written before on the structure of government ; and, in a great measure, relieves our regret, if the political writings of Aristotle, or of any other ancient, have been lost, or are unfaithfully rendered or explained to us. My most earnest wish is to see the republican element of popular control pushed to the maximum of its practicable exercise. I shall then believe that our government may be pure and perpetual. Accept my respectful salutations.
Dear Sir,Dr. James Freeman is a learned, ingenious, honest and benevolent man, who wishes to see President Jefferson, and requests me to introduce him. If you would introduce some of your friends to me, I could, with more confidence, introduce mine to you. He is a Christian, but not a Pythagorian, a Platonic, or a Philonic Christian. You will ken him, and he will ken you; but you may depend he will never betray, deceive, or injure you.
Without hinting to him anything which had passed between you and me, I asked him your question, "What are the uses of grief ?" He stared, and said "The question was new to him." All he could say at present was, that he had known, in his own parish, more than one instance of ladies who had been thoughtless, modish, extravagant in a high degree who, upon the death of a child, had become thoughtful, modest, humble; as prudent, amiable women as any he had known. Upon this I read to him your letters and mine upon this subject of grief, with which he seemed to be pleased. You see I was not afraid to trust him, and you need not be.
Since I am, accidentally, invited to write to you, I may add a few words upon pleasures and pains of life. Vassall thought, an hundred years, nay, an eternity of pleasure, was no compensation for one hour of bilious colic. Read again Molieres Psyche act 2d, scene 1st, on the subject of grief. And read in another place, "on est payè de mille maux, par un heureux moment." Thus differently do men speak of pleasures and pains. Now, Sir, I will tease you with another question. What have been the abuses of grief ?
In answer to this question, I doubt not you might write an hundred volumes. A few hints may convince you that the subject is ample.
1st. The death of Socrates excited a general sensibility of grief at Athens, in Attica, and in all Greece. Plato and Xenophon, two of his disciples, took advantage of that sentiment, by employing their enchanting style to represent their master to be greater and better than he probably was; and what have been the effects of Socratic, Platonic, which were Pythagorian, which was Indian philosophy, in the world ?
2d. The death of Caesar, tyrant as he was, spread a general compassion, which always includes grief, among the Romans. The scoundrel Mark Antony availed himself of this momentary grief to destroy the republic, to establish the empire, and to proscribe Cicero.
3d. But to skip over all ages and nations for the present, and descend to our own times. The death of Washington diffused a general grief. The old tories, the hyperfederalists, the speculators, set up a general howl. Orations, prayers, sermons, mock funerals, were all employed, not that they loved Washington, but to keep in countenance the funding and banking system ; and to cast into the background and the shade, all others who had been concerned in the service of their country in the Revolution.
4th. The death of Hamilton, under all its circumstances, produced a general grief. His most determined enemies did not like to get rid of him in that way. They pitied, too, his widow and children. His party seized the moment of public feeling to come forward with funeral orations, and printed panegyrics, reinforced with mock funerals and solemn grimaces, and all this by people who have buried Otis, Sam Adams, Hancock, and Gerry, in comparative obscurity. And why ? Merely to disgrace the old Whigs, and keep the funds and banks in countenance.
5th. The death of Mr. Ames excited a general regret. His long consumption, his amiable character, and reputable talents, had attracted a general interest, and his death a general mourning. His party made the most of it, by processions, orations, and a mock funeral. And why ? To glorify the Tories, to abash the Whigs, and maintain the reputation of funds, banks, and speculation. And all this was done in honor of that insignificant boy, by people who have let a Dance, a Gerry, and a Dexter, go to their graves without notice.
6th. I almost shudder at the thought of alluding to the most fatal example of the abuses of grief which the history of mankind has preservedthe Cross. Consider what calamities that engine of grief has produced ! With the rational respect which is due to it, knavish priests have added prostitutions of it, that fill, or might fill, the blackest and bloodiest pages of human history.
I am with ancient friendly sentiments.
Your letter of August the 16th is just received. That which I wrote to you under the address of H. Tompkinson, was intended for the author of the pamphlet you were so kind as to send me, and therefore, in your hands, found its true destination. But I must beseech you, Sir, not to admit a possibility of its being published. Many good people will revolt from its doctrines, and my wish is to offend nobody; to leave to those who are to live under it, the settlement of their own constitution, and to pass in peace the remainder of my time. If those opinions are sound, they will occur to others, and will prevail by their own weight, without the aid of names. I am glad to see that the Staunton meeting has rejected the idea of a limited convention. The article, however, nearest my heart, is the division of counties into wards. These will be pure and elementary republics, the sum of all which, taken together, composes the State, and will make of the whole a true democracy as to the business of the wards, which is that of nearest and daily concern. The affairs of the larger sections, of counties, of States, and of the Union, not admitting personal transactions by the people, will be delegated to agents elected by themselves; and representation will thus be substituted, where personal action becomes impracticable. Yet, even over these representative organs, should they become corrupt and perverted, the division into wards constituting the people, in their wards, a regularly organized power, enables them by that organization to crush, regularly and peaceably, the usurpations of their unfaithful agents, and rescues them from the dreadful necessity of doing it insurrectionally. In this way we shall be as republican as a large society can be ; and secure the continuance of purity in our government, by the salutary, peaceable, and regular control of the people. No other depositories of power have ever yet been found, which did not end in converting to their own profit the earnings of those committed to their charge. George the III. in execution of the trust confided to him, has, within his own day, loaded the inhabitants of Great Britain with debts equal to the whole fee-simple value of their island, and under pretext of governing it, has alienated its whole soil to creditors who could lend money to be lavished on priests, pensions, plunder and perpetual war. This would not have been so, had the people retained organized means of acting on their agents. In this example then, let us read a lesson for ourselves, and not "go and do likewise."
Since writing my letter of July the 12th, I have been told, that on the question of equal representation, our fellow citizens in some sections of the State claim peremptorily a right of representation for their slaves. Principle will, in this, as in most other cases, open the way for us to correct conclusion. Were our State a pure democracy, in which all its inhabitants should meet together to transact all their business, there would yet be excluded from their deliberations, 1, infants, until arrived at years of discretion. 2. Women, who, to prevent depravation of morals and ambiguity of issue, could not mix promiscuously in the public meetings of men. 3. Slaves, from whom the unfortunate state of things with us takes away the rights of will and of property. Those then who have no will could be permitted to exercise none in the popular assembly; and of course, could delegate none to an agent in a representative assembly. The business, in the first case, would be done by qualified citizens only. It is true, that in the general Constitution, our State is allowed a larger representation on account of its slaves. But every one knows, that that Constitution was a matter of compromise; a capitulation between conflicting interests and opinions. In truth, the condition of different descriptions of inhabitants in any country is a matter of municipal arrangement, of which no foreign country has a right to take notice. All its inhabitants are men as to them. Thus, in the New England States, have the powers of citizens but those whom they call freemen; and none are freemen until admitted by a vote of the freemen of the town. Yet, in the General Government, these non-freemen are counted in their quantum of representation and of taxation. So, slaves with us have no powers as citizens; yet, in representation in the General Government, they count in the proportion of three to five; and so also in taxation. Whether this is equal, is not here the question. It is a capitulation of discordant sentiments and circumstances, and is obligatory on that ground. But this view shows there is no inconsistency in claiming representation for them for the other States, and refusing it within our own. Accept the renewal of assurances of my respect.
Your letter, dear Sir, of May the 6th, had already well explained the uses of grief. That of September the 3d, with equal truth, adduces instances of its abuse; and when we put into the same scale these abuses, with the afflictions of soul which even the uses of grief cost us, we may consider its value in the economy of the human being, as equivocal at least. Those afflictions cloud too great a portion of life to find a counterpoise in any benefits derived from its use. For setting aside its paroxysms on the occasions of special bereavements, all the latter years of aged men are overshadowed with its gloom. Whither, for instance, can you and I look without seeing the graves of those we have known ? And whom can we call up, of our early companions, who has not left us to regret his loss ? This, indeed, may be one of the salutary effects of grief; inasmuch as it prepares us to loose ourselves also without repugnance. Doctor Freemans instances of female levity cured by grief, are certainly to the point, and constitute an item of credit in the account we examine. I was much mortified by the loss of the Doctors visit, by my absence from home. To have shown how much I feel indebted to you for making good people known to me, would have been one pleasure; and to have enjoyed that of his conversation, and the benefits of his information, so favorably reported by my family, would have been another. I returned home on the third day after his departure. The loss of such visits is among the sacrifices which my divided residence costs me.
Your undertaking the twelve volumes of Dupuis, is a degree of heroism to which I could not have aspired even in my younger days. I have been contented with the humble achievement of reading the analysis of his work by Destutt Tracy, in two hundred pages octavo. I believe I should have ventured on his own abridgment of the work, in one octavo volume, had it ever come to my hands; but the marrow of it in Tracy has satisfied my appetite ; and even in that, the preliminary discourse of the analyzer himself, and his conclusion, are worth more in my eye than the body of the work. For the object of that seems to be to smother all history under the mantle of allegory. If histories so unlike as those of Hercules and Jesus, can, by a fertile imagination and allegorical interpretations, be brought to the same tally, no line of distinction remains between fact and fancy. As this pithy morsel will not overburthen the mail in passing and repassing between Quincy and Monticello, I send it for your perusal. Perhaps it will satisfy you, as it has me; and may save you the labor of reading twenty-four times its volume. I have said to you that it was written by Tracy; and I had so entered it on the title page, as I usually do on anonymous works whose authors are known to me. But Tracy requested me not to betray his anonyme, for reasons which may not yet, perhaps, have ceased to weigh. I am bound, then, to make the same reserve with you. Destutt Tracy is, in my judgment, the ablest writer living on intellectual subjects, or the operations of the understanding. His three octavo volumes on Ideology, which constitute the foundation of what he has since written, I have not entirely read; because I am not fond of reading what is merely abstract, and unapplied immediately to some useful science. Bonaparte, with his repeated derisions of Ideologists (squinting at this author), has by this time felt that true wisdom does not lie in mere practice without principle. The next work Tracy wrote was the Commentary on Montesquieu, never published in the original, because not safe; but translated and published in Philadelphia, yet without the authors name. He has since permitted his name to be mentioned. Although called a Commentary, it is, in truth, an elementary work on the principles of government, comprised in about three hundred pages octavo. He has lately published a third work, on Political Economy, comprising the whole subject within about the same compass; in which all its principles are demonstrated with the severity of Euclid, and, like him, without ever using a superfluous word. I have procured this to be translated, and have been four years endeavoring to get it printed; but as yet, without success. In the meantime, the author has published the original in France, which he thought unsafe while Bonaparte was in power. No printed copy, I believe, has yet reached this country. He has his fourth and last work now in the press at Paris, closing, as he conceives, the circle of metaphysical sciences. This work, which is on Ethics, I have not seen, but suspect I shall differ from it in its foundation, although not in its deductions. I gather from his other works that he adopts the principle of Hobbes, that justice is founded in contract solely, and does not result from the construction of man. I believe, on the contrary, that it is instinct and innate, that the moral sense is as much a part of our constitution as that of feeling, seeing, or hearing; as a wise creator must have seen to be necessary in an animal destined to live in society; that every human mind feels pleasure in doing good to another; that the non-existence of justice is not to be inferred from the fact that the same act is deemed virtuous and right in one society which is held vicious and wrong in another; because, as the circumstances and opinions of different societies vary, so the acts which may do them right or wrong must vary also ; for virtue does not consist in the act we do, but in the end it is to effect. If it is to effect the happiness of him to whom it is directed, it is virtuous, while in a society under different circumstances and opinions, the same act might produce pain, and would be vicious. The essence of virtue is in doing good to others, while what is good may be one thing in one society, and its contrary in another. Yet, however we may differ as to the foundation of morals, (and as many foundations have been assumed as there are writers on the subject nearly,) so correct a thinker as Tracy will give us a sound system of morals. And, indeed, it is remarkable, that so many writers, setting out from so many different premises, yet meet all in the same conclusions. This looks as if they were guided, unconsciously, by the unerring hand of instinct.
Your history of the Jesuits, by what name of the author or other description is it to be inquired for ?
What do you think of the present situation of England ? Is not this the great and fatal crush of their funding system, which, like death, has been foreseen by all, but its hour, like that of death, hidden from mortal prescience ? It appears to me that all the circumstances now exist which render recovery desperate. The interest of the national debt is now equal to such a portion of the profits of all the land and the labor of the island, as not to leave enough for the subsistence of those who labor. Hence the owners of the land abandon it and retire to other countries, and the laborer has not enough of his earnings left to him to cover his back and to fill his belly. The local insurrections, now almost general, are of the hungry and the naked, who cannot be quieted but by food and raiment. But where are the means of feeding and clothing them ? The landholder has nothing of his own to give ; he is but the fiduciary of those who have lent him money; the lender is so taxed in his meat, drink and clothing, that he has but a bare subsistence left. The landholder, then, must give up his land, or the lender his debt, or they must compromise by giving up each one-half. But will either consent, peaceably, to such an abandonment of property ? Or must it not be settled by civil conflict ? If peaceably compromised, will they agree to risk another ruin under the same government unreformed ? I think not ; but I would rather know what you think ; because you have lived with John Bull, and know better than I do the character of his herd. I salute Mrs. Adams and yourself with every sentiment of affectionate cordiality and respect.
Dear Sir,If it be proposed to place an inscription on the capitol, the lapidary style requires that essential facts only should be stated, and these with a brevity admitting no superfluous word. The essential facts in the two inscriptions proposed are these :
FOUNDED 1791.BURNT BY A BRITISH ARMY 1814.RESTORED BY CONGRESS 1817.
The reasons for this brevity are that the letters must be of extraordinary magnitude to be read from below ; that little space is allowed them, being usually put into a pediment or in a frieze, or on a small tablet on the wall; and in our case, a third reason may be added, that no passion can be imputed to this inscription, every word being justifiable from the most classical examples.
But a question of more importance is whether there should be one at all ? The barbarism of the conflagration will immortalize that of the nation. It will place them forever in degraded comparison with the execrated Bonaparte, who, in possession of almost every capitol in Europe, injured no one. Of this, history will take care, which all will read, while our inscription will be seen by few. Great Britain, in her pride and ascendency, has certainly hated and despised us beyond every earthly object. Her hatred may remain, but the hour of her contempt is passed and is succeeded by dread; not at present, but a distant and deep one. It is the greater as she feels herself plunged into an abyss of ruin from which no human means point out an issue. We also have more reason to hate her than any nation on earth. But she is not now an object for hatred. She is falling from her transcendant sphere, which all men ought to have wished, but not that she should lose all place among nations. It is for the interest of all that she should be maintained, nearly on a par with other members of the republic of nations. Her power, absorbed into that of any other, would be an object of dread to all, and to us more than all, because we are accessible to her alone and through her alone. The armies of Bonaparte with the fleets of Britain, would change the aspect of our destinies. Under these prospects should we perpetuate hatred against her ? Should we not, on the contrary, begin to open ourselves to other and more rational dispositions ? It is not improbable that the circumstances of the war and her own circumstances may have brought her wise men to begin to view us with other and even with kindred eyes. Should not our wise men, then, lifted above the passions of the ordinary citizen, begin to contemplate what will be the interests of our country on so important a change among the elements which influence it ? I think it would be better to give her time to show her present temper, and to prepare the minds of our citizens for a corresponding change of disposition, by acts of comity towards England rather than by commemoration of hatred. These views might be greatly extended. Perhaps, however, they are premature, and that I may see the ruin of England nearer than it really is. This will be matter of consideration with those to whose councils we have committed ourselves, and whose wisdom, I am sure, will conclude on what is best. Perhaps they may let it go off on the single and short consideration that the thing can do no good, and may do harm. Ever and affectionately yours.
I receive here, dear Sir, your favor of the 4th, just as I am preparing my return to Monticello for winter quarters, and I hasten to answer to some of your inquiries. The Tracy I mentioned to you is the one connected by marriage with Lafayettes family. The mail which brought your letter, brought one also from him. He writes me that he is become blind, and so infirm that he is no longer able to compose anything. So that we are to consider his works as now closed. They are three volumes of Ideology, one on Political Economy, one on Ethics, and one containing his Commentary on Montesquieu, and a little tract on Education. Although his commentary explains his principles of government, he had intended to have substituted for it an elementary and regular treatise on the subject, but he is, prevented by his infirmities. His Analyse de Dupuys he does not avow.
My books are all arrived, some at New York, some at Boston, and I am glad to hear that those of Harvard are safe also, and the Uranologia you mention without telling me what it is. It is something good, I am sure, from the name connected with it ; and if you would add to it your fable of the bees, we should receive valuable instruction as to the Uranologia both of the father and son, more valuable than the Chinese will from our Bible Societies. These incendiaries, finding that the days of fire and fagot are over in the Atlantic hemisphere, are now preparing to put the torch to the Asiatic regions. What would they say were the Pope to send annually to this country colonies of Jesuit priests with cargoes of their missal and translations of their Vulgate, to be put gratis into the hands of every one who would accept them ? and to act thus nationally on us as a nation ?
I proceed to the letter you were so good as to enclose me. It is an able letter, speaks volumes in few words, presents a profound view of awful truths, and lets us see truths more awful, which are still to follow. George the Third then, and his minister Pitt, and successors, have spent the fee simple of the kingdom, under pretence of governing it ; their sinecures, salaries, pensions, priests, prelates, princes and eternal wars, have mortgaged to its full value the last foot of their soil. They are reduced to the dilemma of a bankrupt spendthrift, who, having run through his whole fortune, now asks himself what he is to do ? It is in vain he dismisses his coaches and horses, his grooms, liveries, cooks and butlers. This done, he still finds he has nothing to eat. What was his property is now that of his creditors ; if still in his hands, it is only as their trustee. To them it belongs, and to them every farthing of its profits must go. The reformation of extravagances comes too late. All is gone. Nothing left for retrenchment or frugality to go on. The debts of England, however, being due from the whole nation to one-half of it, being as much the debt of the creditor as debtor, if it could be referred to a court of equity, principles might be devised to adjust it peaceably. Dismiss their parasites, ship off their paupers to this country, let the landholders give half their lands to the money lenders and these last relinquish one-half of their debts. They would still have a fertile island, a sound and effective population to labor it, and would hold that station among political powers, to which their natural resources and faculties entitle them. They would no longer, indeed, be the lords of the ocean and paymasters of all the princes of the earth. They would no longer enjoy the luxuries of pirating and plundering everything by sea, and of bribing and corrupting everything by land; but they might enjoy the more safe and lasting luxury of living on terms of equality, justice and good neighborhood with all nations. As it is, their first efforts will probably be to quiet things awhile by the palliatives of reformation ; to nibble a little at pensions and sinecures, to bite off a bit here, and a bite there to amuse the people; and to keep the government a going by encroachments on the interest of the public debt, one per cent. of which, for instance, withheld, gives them a spare revenue of ten millions for present subsistence, and spunges, in fact, two hundred millions of the debt. This remedy they may endeavor to administer in broken doses of a small pill at a time. The first may not occasion more than a strong nausea in the money lenders ; but the second will probably produce a revulsion of the stomach, borborisms, and spasmodic calls for fair settlement and compromise. But it is not in the character of man to come to any peaceable compromise of such a state of things. The princes and priests will hold to the flesh-pots, the empty bellies will seize on them, and these being the multitude, the issue is obvious, civil war, massacre, exile as in France, until the stage is cleaned of everything but the multitude, and the lands get into their hands by such processes as the revolution will engender. They will then want peace and a government, and what will it be ? certainly not a renewal of that which has already ruined them. Their habits of law and order, their ideas almost innate of the vital elements of free government, of trial by jury, habeas corpus, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, and representative government, make them, I think, capable of bearing a considerable portion of liberty. They will probably turn their eyes to us, and be disposed to tread in our footsteps, seeing how safely these have led us into port. There is no part of our model to which they seem unequal, unless perhaps the elective presidency; and even that might possibly be rescued from the tumult of elections, by subdividing the electoral assemblages into very small parts, such as of wards or townships, and making them simultaneous. But you know them so much better than I do, that it is presumption to offer my conjectures to you.
While it is much our interest to see this power reduced from its towering and borrowed height, to within the limits of its natural resources, it is by no means our interest that she should be brought below that, or lose her competent place among the nations of Europe. The present exhausted state of the continent will, I hope, permit them to go through their struggle without foreign interference, and to settle their new government according to their own will. I think it will be friendly to us, as the nation itself would be were it not artfully wrought up by the hatred their government bears us. And were they once under a government which should treat us with justice and equity, I should myself feel with great strength the ties which bind us together, of origin, language, laws and manners; and I am persuaded the two people would become in future, as it was with the ancient Greeks, among whom it was reproachful for Greek to be found fighting against Greek in a foreign army. The individuals of the nation I have ever honored and esteemed, the basis of their character being essentially worthy; but I consider their government as the most flagitious which has existed since the days of Philip of Macedon, whom they make their model. It is not only founded in corruption itself, but insinuates the same poison into the bowels of every other, corrupts its councils, nourishes factions, stirs up revolutions, and places its own happiness in fomenting commotions and civil wars among others, thus rendering itself truly the hostis humani generis. The effect is now coming home to itself. Its first operation will fall on the individuals who have been the chief instruments in its corruptions, and will eradicate the families which have from generation to generation been fattening on the blood of their brethren ; and this scoria once thrown off, I am in hopes a purer nation will result, and a purer government be instituted, one which, instead of endeavoring to make us their natural enemies, will see in us, what we really are, their natural friends and brethren, and more interested in a fraternal connection with them than with any other nation on earth. I look, therefore, to their revolution with great interest. I wish it to be as moderate and bloodless as will effect the desired object of an honest government, one which will permit the world to live in peace, and under the bonds of friendship and good neighborhood.
In this tremendous tempest, the distinctions of whig and tory will disappear like chaff on a troubled ocean. Indeed, they have been disappearing from the day Hume first began to publish his history. This single book has done more to sap the free principles of the English constitution than the largest standing army of which their patriots have been jealous. It is like the portraits of our countryman Wright, whose eye was so unhappy as to seize all the ugly features of his subject, and to present them faithfully, while it was entirely insensible to every lineament of beauty. So Hume has concentrated, in his fascinating style, all the arbitrary proceedings of the English kings, as true evidences of the constitution, and glided over its Whig principles as the unfounded pretensions of factious demagogues. He even boasts, in his life written by himself, that of the numerous alterations suggested by the readers of his work, he had never adopted one proposed by a Whig.
But what, in this same tempest, will become of their colonies and their fleets ? Will the former assume independence, and the latter resort to piracy for subsistence, taking possession of some island as a point dappui ? A pursuit of these would add too much to the speculations on the situation and prospects of England, into which I have been led by the pithy text of the letter you so kindly sent me, and which I now return. It is worthy the pen of Tacitus. I add, therefore, only my affectionate and respectful souvenirs to Mrs. Adams and yourself.
Your letter, dear Sir, of November 25th, from Polar Forest, was sent to me from the post-office the next day after I had sent "The Analysis," with my thanks to you.
" Three vols. of Ideology !" Pray explain to me this Neological title ! What does it mean ? When Bonaparte used it, I was delighted with it, upon the common principle of delight in everything we cannot understand. Does it mean Idiotism ? The science of non compos mentuism ? The science of Lunacy ? The theory of delirium ? or does it mean the science of self-love ? Of amour propre ? or the elements of vanity ?
Were I in France at this time, I could profess blindness and infirmity, and prove it too. I suppose he does not avow the analysis, as Hume did not avow his essay on human nature. That analysis, however, does not show a man of excessive mediocrity. Had I known any of these things two years ago, I would have written him a letter. Of all things, I wish to see his Ideology upon Montesquieu. If you, with all your influence, have not been able to get your own translation of it, with your own notes upon it, published in four years, where and what is the freedom of the American press ? Mr. Taylor of Hazelwood, Port Royal, can have his voluminous and luminous works published with ease and despatch.
The Uranologia, as I am told, is a collection of plates, stamps, charts of the heavens upon a large scale, representing all the constellations. The work of some professor in Sweden. It is said to be the most perfect that ever has appeared. I have not seen it. Why should I ride fifteen miles to see it, when I can see the original every clear evening ; and especially as Dupuis has almost made me afraid to inquire after anything more of it than I can see with my naked eye in a star-light night ?
That the Pope will send Jesuits to this country, I doubt not; and the church of England, missionaries too. And the Methodists, and the Quakers, and the Moravians, and the Swedenborgians, and the Menonists, and the Scottish Kirkers, and the Jacobites, and the Jacobins, and the Democrats, and the Aristocrats and the Monarchists, and the Despotists of all denominations; and every emissary of every one of these sects will find a party here already formed, to give him a cordial reception. No power or intelligence less than Raphaels Moderator, can reduce this chaos to order.
I am charmed with the fluency and rapidity of your reasoning on the state of Great Britain. I can deny none of your premises; but I doubt your conclusion. After all the convulsions that you foresee, they will return to that constitution which you say has ruined them and I say has been the source of all their power and importance. They have, as you say, too much sense and knowledge of liberty, ever to submit to simple monarchy, or absolute despotism, on the one hand ; and too much of the devil in them ever to be governed by popular elections of Presidents, Senators, and Representatives in Congress. Instead of "turning their eyes to us," their innate feelings will turn them from us. They have been taught from their cradles to despise, scorn, insult, and abuse us. They hate us more vigorously than they do the French. They would sooner adopt the simple monarchy of France, than our republican institutions. You compliment me with more knowledge of them than I can assume or pretend. If I should write you a volume of observations I made in England, you would pronounce it a satire. Suppose the "Refrain," as the French call it, or the "Burden of the Song," as the English express it, should be, the Religion, the Government, the Commerce, the Manufactures, the Army and Navy of Great Britain, are all reduced to the science of pounds, shillings and pence. Elections appeared to me a mere commercial traffic; mere bargain and sale. I have been told by sober, steady freeholders, that "they never had been and never would go to the poll, without being paid for their time, travel and expenses." Now, suppose an election for a President of the British empire. There must be a nomination of candidates by a national convention, Congress, or caucusin which would be two partiesWhigs and Tories. Of course two candidates at least would be nominated. The empire is instantly divided into two parties at least. Every man must be paid for his vote by the candidate of his party. The only question would be, which party has the deepest purse. The same reasoning will apply to elections of Senators and Representatives too. A revolution might destroy the boroughs and the inequalities of representation, and might produce more toleration; and these acquisitions might be worth all they would cost; but I dread the experiment.
Britain will never be our friend till we are her master.
This will happen in less time than you and I have been struggling with her power ; provided we remain united. Aye ! theres the rub ! I fear there will be greater difficulties to preserve our Union, than you and I, our fathers, brothers, friends, disciples and sons have had, to form it. Towards Great Britain, I would adopt their own maxim. An English jockey says, "If I have a wild horse to break, I begin by convincing him I am his master; and then I will convince him that I am his friend." I am well assured that nothing will restrain Great Britain from injuring us, but fear.
You think that "in a revolution the distinction of Whig and Tory would disappear." I cannot believe this. That distinction arises from nature and society; is now, and ever will be, time without end, among Negroes, Indians, and Tartars, as well as federalists and republicans. Instead of "disappearing since Hume published his history," that history has only increased the Tories and diminished the Whigs. That history has been the bane of Great Britain. It has destroyed many of the best effects of the revolution of 1688. Style has governed the empire. Swift, Pope and Hume, have disgraced all the honest historians. Rapin and Burnet, Oldmixen and Coke, contain more honest truth than Hume and Clarendon, and all their disciples and imitators. But who reads any of them at this day ? Every one of the fine arts from the earliest times has been enlisted in the service of superstition and despotism. The whole world at this day gazes with astonishment at the grossest fictions, because they have been immortalized by the most exquisite artistsHomer and Milton, Phidias and Raphael The rabble of the classic skies, and the hosts of Roman Catholic saints and angels, are still adored in paint, and marble, and verse. Raphael has sketched the actors and scenes in all Apuliuss Amours of Psyche and Cupid. Nothing is too offensive to morals, delicacy, or decency, for this painter. Raphael has painted in one of the most ostentatious churches in Italy-the Creationand with what genius ? God Almighty is represented as leaping into chaos, and boxing it about with His fists, and kicking it about with His feet, till He tumbles it into order !
Nothing is too impious or profane for this great master, who has painted so many inimitable Virgins and children.
To help me on in my career of improvement, I have now read four volumes of La Harpes correspondence with Paul and a Russian minister. Philosophers ! Never again think of annuling superstition per Saltum. Testine cente.
Your favor of November 23d, after a very long passage, is received, and with it the map which you have been so kind as to send me, for which I return you many thanks. It is handsomely executed, and on a well-chosen scale ; giving a luminous view of the comparative possessions of different powers in our America. It is on account of the value I set on it, that I will make some suggestions. By the charter of Louis XIV. all the country comprehending the waters which flow into the Mississippi, was made a part of Louisiana. Consequently its northern boundary was the summit of the highlands in which its northern waters rise. But by the Xth Art. of the Treaty of Utrecht, France and England agreed to appoint commissioners to settle the boundary between their possessions in that quarter, and those commissioners settled it at the 49th degree of latitude. See Hutchinsons Topographical Description of Louisiana, p. 7. This it was which induced the British Commissioners, in settling the boundary with us, to follow the northern water line to the Lake of the Woods, at the latitude of 49°, and then go off on that parallel. This, then, is the true northern boundary of Louisiana.
The western boundary of Louisiana is, rightfully, the Rio Bravo, (its main stream,) from its mouth to its source, and thence along the highlands and mountains dividing the waters of the Mississippi from those of the Pacific. The usurpations of Spain on the east side of that river, have induced geographers to suppose the Puerco or Salado to be the boundary. The line along the highlands stands on the charter of Louis XIV. that of the Rio Bravo, on the circumstance that, when La Salle took possession of the Bay of St. Bernard, Panuco was the nearest possession of Spain, and the Rio Bravo the natural half-way boundary between them.
On the waters of the Pacific, we can found no claim in right of Louisiana. If we claim that country at all, it must be on Astors settlement near the mouth of the Columbia, and the principle of the jus gentium of America, that when a civilized nation takes possession of the mouth of a river in new country, that possession is considered as including all its waters.
The line of latitude of the southern source of the Multnomat might be claimed as appurtenant to Astoria. For its northern boundary, I believe an understanding has been come to between our government and Russia, which might be known from some of its members. I do not know it.
Although the irksomeness of writing, which you may perceive from the present letter, and its labor, oblige me now to withdraw from letter writing, yet the wish that your map should set to rights the ideas of our own countrymen, as well as foreign nations, as to our correct boundaries, has induced me to make these suggestions, that you may bestow on them whatever inquiry they may merit. I salute you with esteem and respect.