The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

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

To Mrs. Abigail Adams.
Monticello, January 11, 1817.

I owe you, dear Madam, a thousand thanks for the letters communicated in your favor of December 15th, and now returned.  They give me more information than I possessed before, of the family of Mr. Tracy.  But what is infinitely interesting, is the scene of the exchange of Louis XVIII. for Bonaparte.  What lessons of wisdom Mr. Adams must have read in that short space of time !  More than fall to the lot of others in the course of a long life.  Man, and the man of Paris, under those circumstances, must have been a subject of profound speculation !  It would be a singular addition to that spectacle, to see the same beast in the cage of St. Helena, like a lion in the tower.  That is probably the closing verse of the chapter of his crimes.  But not so with Louis.  He has other vicissitudes to go through.

I communicated the letters, according to your permission, to my grand-daughter, Ellen Randolph, who read them with pleasure and edification.  She is justly sensible of, and flattered by your kind notice of her;  and additionally so, by the favorable recollections of our northern visiting friends.  If Monticello has anything which has merited their remembrance, it gives it a value the more in our estimation ;  and could I, in the spirit of your wish, count backwards a score of years, it would not be long before Ellen and myself would pay our homage personally to Quincy.  But those twenty years !  Alas ! where are they ?  With those beyond the flood.  Our next meeting must then be in the country to which they have flown,—a country for us not now very distant.  For this journey we shall need neither gold nor silver in our purse, nor scrip, nor coats, nor staves.  Nor is the provision for it more easy than the preparation has been kind.  Nothing proves more than this that the Being who presides over the world is essentially benevolent.  Stealing from us, one by one, the faculties of enjoyment, searing our sensibilities, leading us, like the horse in his mill, round and round the same beaten circle,

      —To see what we have seen,
To taste the tasted, and at each return
Less tasteful ;  o’er our palates to decant
Another vintage—

Until satiated and fatigued with this leaden iteration, we ask our own congé.  I heard once a very old friend, who had troubled himself with neither poets nor philosophers, say the same thing in plain prose, that he was tired of pulling off his shoes and stockings at night, and putting them on again in the morning.  The wish to stay here is thus gradually extinguished ;  but not so easily that of returning once, in awhile, to see how things have gone on.  Perhaps, however, one of the elements of future felicity is to be a constant and unimpassioned view of what is passing here.  If so, this may well supply the wish of occasional visits.  Mercier has given us a vision of the year 2440;  but prophecy is one thing, and history another.  On the whole, however, perhaps it is wise and well to be contented with the good things which the master of the feast places before us, and to be thankful for what we have, rather than thoughtful about what we have not.  You and I, dear Madam, have already had more than an ordinary portion of life, and more, too, of health than the general measure.  On this score I owe boundless thankfulness.  Your health was, some time ago, not so good as it has been ;  and I perceive in the letters communicated some complaints still.  I hope it is restored;  and that life and health may be continued to you as many years as yourself shall wish, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate and respectful friend.




To John Adams.
Monticello, January 11, 1817.

Dear Sir

Forty-three volumes read in one year, and twelve of them quarto !  Dear Sir, how I envy you !  Half a dozen octavos in that space of time, are as much as I am allowed.  I can read by candlelight only, and stealing long hours from my rest ;  nor would that time be indulged to me, could I, by that light see to write.  From sunrise to one or two o’clock, and often from dinner to dark, I am drudging at the writing-table.  And all this to answer letters into which neither interest nor inclination on my part enters;  and often from persons whose names I have never before heard.  Yet, writing civilly, it is hard to refuse them civil answers.  This is the burden of my life, a very grievous one indeed, and one which I must get rid of.  Delaplaine lately requested me to give him a line on the subject of his book;  meaning, as I well knew, to publish it.  This I constantly refuse, but in this instance yielded, that in saying a word for him, I might say two for myself.  I expressed in it freely my sufferings from this source;  hoping it would have the effect of an indirect appeal to the discretion of those, strangers and others, who, in the most friendly dispositions, oppress me with their concerns, their pursuits, their projects, inventions and speculations, political, moral, religious, mechanical, mathematical, historical, etc., etc., etc.  I hope the appeal will bring me relief, and that I shall be left to exercise and enjoy correspondence with the friends I love, and on subjects which they, or my own inclinations present.  In that case, your letters shall not be so long on my files unanswered, as sometimes they have been, to my great mortification.

To advert now to the subjects of those of December the 12th and 16th.  Tracy’s Commentaries on Montesquieu have never been published in the original.  Duane printed a translation from the original manuscript a few years ago.  It sold, I believe, readily, and whether a copy can now be had, I doubt.  If it can, you will receive it from my bookseller in Philadelphia, to whom I now write for that purpose.  Tracy comprehends, under the word “Ideology,” all the subjects which the French term Morale, as the correlative to Physique.  His works on Logic, Government, Political Economy and Morality, he considers as making up the circle of ideological subjects or of those which are within the scope of the understanding, and not of the senses.  His Logic occupies exactly the ground of Locke’s work on the Understanding.  The translation of that on Political Economy is now printing, but it is no translation of mine.  I have only had the correction of it, which was, indeed, very laborious.  Le premier jet having been by some one who understood neither French nor English, it was impossible to make it more than faithful.  But it is a valuable book.

The result of your fifty or sixty years of religious reading, in the four words, “Be just and good,” is that in which all our inquiries must end;  as the riddles of all the priesthoods end in four more, “ubi panis, ibi deus.”  What all agree in, is probably right.  What no two agree in, most probably wrong.  One of our fan-coloring biographers, who paints small men as very great, inquired of me lately, with real affection, too, whether he might consider as authentic, the change in my religion much spoken of in some circles.  Now this supposed that they knew what had been my religion before, taking for it the word of their priests, whom I certainly never made the confidants of my creed.  My answer was, “say nothing of my religion.  It is known to my God and myself alone.  Its evidence before the world is to be sought in my life;  if that has been honest and dutiful to society, the religion which has regulated it cannot be a bad one.”  Affectionately adieu.




To William Lee, Esq.
Monticello, January 16, 1817.

Dear Sir

I received, three days ago, a letter from M. Martin, 2d Vice President, and M. Parmantier, Secretary of “the French Agricultural and Manufacturing Society,” dated at Philadelphia the 5th instant.  It covered resolutions proposing to apply to Congress for a grant of two hundred and fifty thousand acres of land on the Tombigbee, and stating some of the general principles on which the society was to be founded ;  and their letter requested me to trace for them the basis of a social pact for the local regulations of their society, and to address the answer to yourself, their 1st Vice President at Washington.  No one can be more sensible than I am of the honor of their confidence in me, so flatteringly manifested in this resolution;  and certainly no one can feel stronger dispositions than myself to be useful to them, as well in return for this great mark of their respect, as from feelings for the situation of strangers, forced by the misfortunes of their native country to seek another by adoption, so distant and so different from that in all its circumstances.  I commiserate the hardships they have to encounter, and equally applaud the resolution with which they meet them, as well as the principles proposed for their government.  That their emigration may be for the happiness of their descendants, I can believe;  but from the knowledge I have of the country they have left, and its state of social intercourse and comfort, their own personal happiness will undergo severe trial here.  The laws, however, which must effect this must flow from their own habits, their own feelings, and the resources of their own minds.  No stranger to these could possibly propose regulations adapted to them.  Every people have their own particular habits, ways of thinking, manners, etc., which have grown up with them from their infancy are become a part of their nature, and to which the regulations which are to make them happy must be accommodated.  No member of a foreign country can have a sufficient sympathy with these.  The institutions of Lycurgus, for example, would not have suited Athens, nor those of Solon, Lacedaemon.  The organizations of Locke were impracticable for Carolina, and those of Rousseau and Mably for Poland.  Turning inwardly on myself from these eminent illustrations of the truth cf my observation, I feel all the presumption it would manifest, should I undertake to do what this respectable society is alone qualified to do suitably for itself.  There are some preliminary questions, too, which are particularly for their own consideration.  It is proposed that this shall be a separate State ? or a county of a State ? or a mere voluntary association, as those of the Quakers, Dunkars, Menonists ?  A separate State it cannot be, because from the tract it asks it would not be more than twenty miles square ;  and in establishing new States regard is had to a certain degree of equality in size.  If it is to be a county of a State, it cannot be governed by its own laws, but must be subject to those of the State of which it is a part.  If merely a voluntary association, the submission of its members will be merely voluntary also;  as no act of coercion would be permitted by the general law.  These considerations must control the society, and themselves alone can modify their own intentions and wishes to to them.  With this apology for declining a task to which I am so unequal, I pray them to be assured of my sincere wishes for their success and happiness, and yourself particularly of my high consideration and esteem.




To Doctor Thomas Humphreys.
Monticello, February 8, 1817.

Dear Sir

Your favor of January 2d did not come to my hands until the 5th instant.  I concur entirely in your leading principles of gradual emancipation, of establishment on the coast of Africa, and the patronage of our nation until the emigrants shall be able to protect themselves.  The subordinate details might be easily arranged.  But the bare proposition of purchase by the United States generally, would excite infinite indignation in all the States north of Maryland.  The sacrifice must fall on the States alone which hold them ;  and the difficult question will be how to lessen this so as to reconcile our fellow citizens to it.  Personally I am ready and desirous to make any sacrifice which shall ensure their gradual but complete retirement from the State, and effectually, at the same time, establish them elsewhere in freedom and safety.  But I have not perceived the growth of this disposition in the rising generation, of which I once had sanguine hopes.  No symptoms inform me that it will take place in my day.  I leave it, therefore, to time, and not at all without hope that the day will come.  equally desirable and welcome to us as to them.  Perhaps the proposition now on the carpet at Washington to provide an establishment on the coast of Africa for voluntary emigrations of people of color, may be the corner stone of this future edifice.  Praying for its completion as early as may most promote the good of all, I salute you with great esteem and respect.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, April 19, 1817.

Dear Sir

My loving and beloved friend Pickering, has been pleased to inform the world that I have “few friends.”  I wanted to whip the rogue, and I had it in my power, if it had been in my will to do it, till the blood came.  But all my real friends, as I thought then, with Dexter and Gray at their head insisted “that I should not say a word ;  that nothing that such a person could write would do me the least injury;  that it would betray the Constitution and the government, if a President, out or in, should enter into a newspaper controversy with one of his ministers, whom he had removed from his office, in justification of himself for that removal, or anything else;”  and they talked a great deal about the DIGNITY of the office of President, which I do not find that any other person, public or private, regards very much.

Nevertheless, I fear that Mr. Pickering’s information is too true.  It is impossible that any man should run such a gantlet as I have been driven through, and have many friends at last.  This “all who know me know,” though I cannot say :  who love me, tell.

I have, however, either friends who wish to amuse and solace my old age, or enemies who mean to heap coals of fire on my head, and kill me with kindness;  for they overwhelm me with books from all quarters, enough to obfuscate all eyes, and smother and stifle all human understanding.  Chateaubriand, Grimm, Tucker, Dupuis, La Harpe, Sismondi, Eustace, a new translation of Herodotus, by Bedloe, with more notes than text.  What should I do with all this lumber ?  I make my “woman-kind,” as the antiquary expresses it, read to me all the English, but as they will not read the French, I am obliged to excruciate my eyes to read it myself ;  and all to what purpose ?  I verily believe I was as wise and good, seventy years ago, as I am now.  At that period Lemuel Bryant was my parish priest, and Joseph Cleverly my Latin schoolmaster.  Lemuel was a jolly, jocular, and liberal scholar and divine.  Joseph a scholar and a gentleman ;  but a bigoted Episcopalian, of the school of Bishop Saunders, and Dr. Hicks,—a downright conscientious, passive obedience man, in Church and State.  The parson and the pedagogue lived much together, but were eternally disputing about government and religion.  One day, when the schoolmaster had been more than commonly fanatical, and declared “if he were a monarch, he would have but one religion in his dominions;”  the parson coolly replied “Cleverly ! you would be the best man in the world if you had no religion.”

Twenty times in the course of my late reading have I been on the point of breaking out, “This would be the best of all possible worlds, if, there were no religion in it ! ! !”  But in this exclamation I should have been as fanatical as Bryant or Cleverly.  Without religion this world would be something not fit to be mentioned in polite society, I mean hell.  So far from believing in the total and universal depravity of human nature, I believe there is no individual totally depraved.  The most abandoned scoundrel that ever existed, never yet wholly extinguished his conscience, and while conscience remains there is some religion.  Popes, Jesuits, and Sorbonists, and Inquisitors, have some conscience and some religion.  So had Marius and Sylla, Caesar, Catiline and Antony ;  and Augustus had not much more, let Virgil and Horace say what they will.

What shall we think of Virgil and Horace, Sallust, Quintilian, Pliny, and even Tacitus ? and even Cicero, Brutus and Seneca ?  Pompey I leave out of the question, as a mere politician and soldier.  Every one of the great creatures has left indelible marks of conscience, and consequently of religion, though every one of them has left abundant proofs of profligate violations of their consciences by their little and great passions and paltry interests.

The vast prospect of mankind, which these books have passed in review before me, from the most ancient records, histories, traditions and fables, that remain to us to the present day, has sickened my very soul, and almost reconciled me to Swift’s travels among the Yahoos ;  yet I never can be a misanthrope—Homo sum.  I must hate myself before I can hate my fellow men;  and that I cannot, and will not do.  No !  I will not hate any of them, base, brutal, and devilish as some of them have been to me.

From the bottom of my soul, I pity my fellow men.  Fears and terrors appear to have produced an universal credulity.  Fears of calamities of life, and punishments after death, seem to have possessed the souls of all men.  But fear of pain and death, here, do not seem to have been so unconquerable, as fear of what is to come hereafter.  Priests, Hierophants, Popes, Despots, Emperors, Kings, Princes, Nobles, have been as credulous as shoeblacks, boots and kitchen scullions.  The former seem to have believed in their divine rights as sincerely as the latter.

Auto-da-fe´s, in Spain and Portugal, have been celebrated with as good faith as excommunications have been practised in Connecticut, or as baptisms have been refused in Philadelphia.

How is it possible that mankind should submit to be governed, as they have been, is to me an inscrutable mystery.  How they could bear to be taxed to build the temple of Diana at Ephesus, the pyramids of Egypt, Saint Peter’s at Rome, Notre Dame at Paris, St. Paul’s in London, with a million et ceteras, when my navy yards and my quasi army made such a popular clamor, I know not.  Yet all my peccadillos never excited such a rage as the late compensation law !

I congratulate you on the late election in Connecticut.  It is a kind of epocha.  Several causes have conspired.  One which you would not suspect.  Some one, no doubt instigated by the devil, has taken it into his head to print a new edition of the “Independent Whig,” even in Connecticut, and has scattered the volumes through the State.  These volumes, it is said, have produced a burst of indignation against priestcraft, bigotry and intolerance, and in conjunction with other causes, have produced the late election.

When writing to you I never know when to subscribe,

J. A.




To John Adams.
Monticello, May 5, 1817.

Dear Sir

Absences and avocations had prevented my acknowledging your favor of February the 2d, when that of April the 19th arrived.  I had not the pleasure of receiving the former by the hands of Mr. Lyman.  His business probably carried him in another direction ;  for I am far inland, and distant from the great line of communication between the trading cities.  Your recommendations are always welcome, for indeed, the subjects of them always merit that welcome, and some of them in an extraordinary degree.  They make us acquainted with what there is excellent in our ancient sister State of Massachusetts, once venerated and beloved, and still hanging on our hopes, for what need we despair of after the resurrection of Connecticut to light and liberality.  I had believed that the last retreat of monkish darkness, bigotry, and abhorrence of those advances of the mind which had carried the other States a century ahead of them.  They seemed still to be exactly where their forefathers were when they schismatized from the covenant of works, and to consider as dangerous heresies all innovations good or bad.  I join you, therefore, in sincere congratulations that this den of the priesthood is at length broken up, and that a Protestant Popedom is no longer to disgrace the American history and character.  If by religion we are to understand sectarian dogmas, in which no two of them agree, then your exclamation on that hypothesis is just, “that this would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.”  But if the moral precepts, innate in man, and made a part of his physical constitution, as necessary for a social being, if the sublime doctrines of philanthropism and deism taught us by Jesus of Nazareth, in which all agree, constitute true religion, then, without it, this would be, as you again say, “something not fit to be named even, indeed, a hell.”

You certainly acted wisely in taking no notice of what the malice of Pickering could say of you.  Were such things to be answered, our lives would be wasted in the filth of fendings and provings, instead of being employed in promoting the happiness and prosperity of our fellow citizens.  The tenor of your life is the proper and sufficient answer.  It is fortunate for those in public trust, that posterity will judge them by their works, and not by the malignant vituperations and invectives of the Pickerings and Gardiners of their age.  After all, men of energy of character must have enemies ;  because there are two sides to every question, and taking one with decision, and acting on it with effect, those who take the other will of course be hostile in proportion as they feel that effect.  Thus, in the Revolution, Hancock and the Adamses were the raw-head and bloody bones of tories and traitors who yet knew nothing of you personally but what was good.  I do not entertain your apprehensions for the happiness of our brother Madison in a state of retirement.  Such a mind as his, fraught with information and with matter for reflection, can never know ennui.  Besides, there will always be work enough cut out for him to continue his active usefulness to his country.  For example, he and Monroe (the President) are now here on the work of a collegiate institution to be established in our neighborhood, of which they and myself are three of six visitors.  This, if it succeeds, will raise up children for Mr. Madison to employ his attention through life.  I say if it succeeds;  for we have two very essential wants in our way, first, means to compass our views;  and, second, men qualified to fulfil them.  And these, you will agree, are essential wants indeed.

I am glad to find you have a copy of Sismondi, because his is a field familiar to you, and on which you can judge him.  His work is highly praised, but I have not yet read it.  I have been occupied and delighted with reading another work, the title of which did not promise much useful information or amusement, “l’Italia avanti il dominio dei I Romani dal Micali.”  It has often, you know, been a subject of regret, that Carthage had no writer to give her side of her own history, while her wealth, power and splendor, prove she must have had a very distinguished policy and government.  Micali has given the counterpart of the Roman history, for the nations over which they extended their dominion.  For this he has gleaned up matter from every quarter, and furnished materials for reflection and digestion to those who, thinking as they read, have perceived that there was a great deal of matter behind the curtain, could that be fully withdrawn.  He certainly gives new views of a nation whose splendor has masked and palliated their barbarous ambition.  I am now reading Botta’s history of our own Revolution.  Bating the ancient practice which he has adopted, of putting speeches into mouths which never made them, and fancying motives of action which we never felt, he has given that history with more detail, precision and candor, than any writer I have yet met with.  It is, to be sure, compiled from those writers ;  but it is a good secretion of their matter, the pure from the impure, and presented in a just sense of right, in opposition to usurpation.

Accept assurances for Mrs. Adams and yourself of my affectionate esteem and respect.




To Dr. Josephus B. Stuart.
Monticello, May 10, 1817.

Dear Sir,—Your favor of April 2d is duly received.  I am very sensible of the partiality with which you are so good as to review the course I have held in public life, and I have also to be thankful to my fellow citizens for a like indulgence generally shown to my endeavors to be useful to them.  They give quite as much credit as is merited to the difficulties supposed to attend the public administration.  There are no mysteries in it.  Difficulties indeed sometimes arise ;  but common sense and honest intentions will generally steer through them, and, where they cannot be surmounted, I have ever seen the well-intentioned part of our fellow citizens sufficiently disposed not to look for impossibilities.  We all know that a farm, however large, is not more difficult to direct than a garden, and does not call for more attention or skill.

I hope with you that the policy of our country will settle down with as much navigation and commerce only as our own exchanges will require, and that the disadvantage will be seen of our undertaking to carry on that of other nations.  This, indeed, may bring gain to a few individuals, and enable them to call off from our farms more laborers to be converted into lackeys and grooms for them, but it will bring nothing to our country but wars, debt, and dilapidation.  This has been the course of England, and her examples have fearful influence on us.  In copying her we do not seem to consider that like premises induce like consequences.  The bank mania is one of the most threatening of these imitations.  It is raising up a moneyed aristocracy in our country which has already set the government at defiance, and although forced at length to yield a little on this first essay of their strength, their principles are unyielded and unyielding.  These have taken deep root in the hearts of that class from which our legislators are drawn, and the sop to Cerberus from fable has become history.  Their principles lay hold of the good, their pelf of the bad, and thus those whom the Constitution had placed as guards to its portals, are sophisticated or suborned from their duties.  That paper money has some advantages, is admitted.  But that its abuses also are inevitable, and, by breaking up the measure of value, makes a lottery of all private property, cannot be denied.  Shall we ever be able to put a constitutional veto on it ?

You say I must go to writing history.  While in public life I had not time, and now that I am retired, I am past the time.  To write history requires a whole life of observation, of inquiry, of labor and correction.  Its materials are not to be found among the ruins of a decayed memory.  At this day I should begin where I ought to have left off.  The “solve senes centem equum,” is a precept we learn in youth but for the practice of age ; and were I to disregard it, it would be but a proof the more of its soundness.  If anything has ever merited to me the respect of my fellow citizens, themselves, I hope, would wish me not to lose it by exposing the decay of faculties of which it was the reward.  I must then, dear Sir, leave to yourself and your brethren of the rising generation, to arraign at your tribunal the actions of your predecessors, and to pronounce the sentence they may have merited or incurred.  If the sacrifices of that age have resulted in the good of this, then all is well, and we shall be rewarded by their approbation, and shall be authorized to say, “go ye and do likewise.”  To yourself I tender personally the assurance of my great esteem and respect.




To Marquis de la Fayette.
Monticello, May 14, 1817.

Although, dear Sir, much retired from the world and meddling little in its concerns, yet I think it almost a religious duty to salute at times my old friends, were it only to say and to know that “all’s well.”  Our hobby has been politics, but all here is so quiet, and with you so desperate, that little matter is furnished us for active attention.  With you, too, it has long been forbidden ground, and therefore imprudent for a foreign friend to tread, in writing to you.  But although our speculations might be intrusive, our prayers cannot but be acceptable, and mine are sincerely offered for the well-being of France.  What government she can bear, depends not on the state of science, however exalted, in a select band of enlightened men, but on the condition of the general mind.  That, I am sure, is advanced and will advance ;  and the last change of government was fortunate, inasmuch as the new will be less obstructive to the effects of that advancement.  For I consider your foreign military oppressions as an ephemeral obstacle only.

Here all is quiet.  The British war has left us in debt, but that is a cheap price for the good it has done us.  The establishment of the necessary manufactures among ourselves, the proof that our government is solid, can stand the shock of war, and is superior even to civil schism, are precious facts for us ;  and of these the strongest proofs were furnished, when, with four eastern States tied to us, as dead to living bodies, all doubt was removed as to the achievements of the war, had it continued.  But its best effect has been the complete suppression of party.  The federalists who were truly American, and their great mass was so, have separated from their brethren who were mere Anglomen, and are received with cordiality into the republican ranks.  Even Connecticut, as a State, and the last one expected to yield its steady habits (which were essentially bigoted in politics as well as religion), has chosen a republican governor, and republican legislature.  Massachusetts indeed still lags, because most deeply involved in the parricide crimes and treasons of the war.  But her gangrene is contracting, the sound flesh advancing on it, and all there will be well.  I mentioned Connecticut as the most hopeless of our States.  Little Delaware had escaped my attention.  That is essentially a Quaker State, the fragment of a religious sect which, there, in the other States, in England, are a homogeneous mass, acting with one mind, and that directed by the Mother society in England.  Dispersed, as the Jews, they still form, as those do, one nation, foreign to the land they live in.  They are Protestant Jesuits, implicitly devoted to the will of their superior, and forgetting all duties to their country in the execution of the policy of their order.  When war is proposed with England, they have religious scruples, but when with France, these are laid by, and they become clamorous for it.  They are, however, silent, passive, and give no other trouble than of whipping them along.  Nor is the election of Monroe an inefficient circumstance in our felicities.  Four and twenty years, which he will accomplish, of administration in republican forms and principles, will so consecrate them in the eyes of the people as to secure them against the danger of change.  The evanition of party dissensions has harmonized intercourse, and sweetened society beyond imagination.  The war then has done us all this good, and the further one of assuring the world, that although attached to peace from a sense of its blessings, we will meet war when it is made necessary.

I wish I could give better hopes of our southern brethren.  The achievement of their independence of Spain is no longer a question.  But it is a very serious one, what will then become of them ?  Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of self-government.  They will fall under military despotism, and become the murderous tools of the ambition of their respective Bonapartes ;  and whether this will be for their greater happiness, the rule of one only has taught you to judge.  No one, I hope, can doubt my wish to see them and all mankind exercising self-government, and capable of exercising it.  But the question is not what we wish, but what is practicable ?  As their sincere friend and brother then, I do believe the best thing for them, would be for themselves to come to an accord with Spain, under the guarantee of France, Russia, Holland, and the United States, allowing to Spain a nominal supremacy, with authority only to keep the peace among them, leaving them otherwise all the powers of self-government, until their experience in them, their emancipation from their priests, and advancement in information, shall prepare them for complete independence.  I exclude England from this confederacy, because her selfish principles render her incapable of honorable patronage or disinterested co-operation ;  unless indeed, what seems now probable, a revolution should restore to her an honest government, one which will permit the world to live in peace.  Portugal grasping at an extension of her dominion in the south, has lost her great northern province of Pernambuco, and I shall not wonder if Brazil should revolt in mass, and send their royal family back to Portugal.  Brazil is more populous, more wealthy, more energetic, and as wise as Portugal.

I have been insensibly led, my dear friend, while writing to you, to indulge in that line of sentiment in which we have been always associated, forgetting that these are matters not belonging to my time.  Not so with you, who have still many years to be a spectator of these events.  That these years may indeed be many and happy, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate friend.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, May 18, 1817.

Dear Sir

Lyman was mortified that he could not visit Monticello.  He is gone to Europe a second time.  I regret that he did not see you, he would have executed any commission for you in the literary line, at any pain or any expense.  I have many apprehensions for his health, which is very delicate and precarious, but he is seized with the mania of all our young clerical spirits for foreign travel;  I fear they will lose more than they acquire, they will lose that unadulterated enthusiasm for their native country, which has produced the greatest characters among us.

Oh !  Lord !  Do you think that Protestant Popedom is annihilated in America ?  Do you recollect, or have you ever attended to the ecclesiastical strifes in Maryland, Pennsylvania, New York, and every part of New England ?  What a mercy it is that these people cannot whip, and crop, and pillory, and roast as yet in the United States !  If they could, they would.  Do you know the General of the Jesuits, and consequently all his host, have their eyes on this country ?  Do you know that the Church of England is employing more means and more art, to propagate their demi-popery among us, than ever ?  Quakers, Anabaptists, Moravians, Swedenborgians, Methodists, Unitarians, Nothingarians in all Europe are employing underhand means to propagate their sectarian system in these States.

The multitude and diversity of them, you will say, is our security against them all.  God grant it.  But if we consider that the Presbyterians and Methodists are far the most numerous and the most likely to unite, let a George Whitefield arise, with a military cast, like Mahomet or Loyola, and what will become of all the other sects who can never unite ?

My friends or enemies continue to overwhelm me with books.  Whatever may be their intention, charitable or otherwise, they certainly contribute to continue me to vegetate, much as I have done for the sixteen years last past.

Sir John Malcolm’s history of Persia, and Sir William Jones’ works, are now poured out upon me, and a little cargo is coming from Europe.  What can I do with all this learned lumber ?  Is it necessary to salvation to investigate all these Cosmogonies and Mythologies ?  Are Bryant, Gebelin, Dupuis, or Sir William Jones, right ?  What a frown upon mankind was the premature death of Sir William Jones !  Why could not Jones and Dupuis have conversed or corresponded with each other ?  Had Jones read Dupuis, or Dupuis Jones, the works of both would be immensely improved, though each would probably have adhered to his system.

I should admire to see a council composed of Gebelin, Bryant, Jones and Dupuis.  Let them live together and compare notes.  The human race ought to contribute to furnish them with all the books in the universe, and the means of subsistence.

I am not expert enough in Italian to read Botta, and I know not that he has been translated.  Indeed, I have been so little satisfied with histories of the American Revolution, that I have long since ceased to read them.  The truth is lost, in adulatory panegyrics, and in vituperary insolence.  I wish you, Mr. Madison, and Mr. Monroe, success in your collegiate institution.  And I wish that superstition in religion, exciting superstition in politics, and both united in directing military force, alias glory, may never blow up all your benevolent and philanthropic lucubrations.  But the history of all ages is against you.

It is said that no effort in favor of virtue is ever lost.  I doubt whether it was ever true ;  whether it is now true;  but hope it will be true.  In the moral government of the world, no doubt it was, is, and ever will be true ;  but it has not yet appeared to be true on this earth.

I am, Sir, sincerely your friend.


P.S.  Have you seen the Philosophy of Human Nature, and the History of the War in the Western States, from Kentucky ?  How vigorously science and literature spring up, as well as patriotism and heroism, in transalleganian regions !  Have you seen Wilkinson’s history ? etc., etc.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, May 26, 1817.

Dear Sir

Mr. Leslie Combes of Kentucky has sent me a History of the late War in the Western Country, by Mr. Robert B. M’Siffee, and the Philosophy of Human Nature, by Joseph Buchanan.  The history I am glad to see, because it will preserve facts to the honor and immortal glory of the Western people.  Indeed, I am not sorry that the Philosophy has been published, because it has been a maxim with me for sixty years at least, never to be afraid of a book.

Nevertheless, I cannot foresee much utility in reviewing, in this country, the controversy between the Spiritualists and the Materialists.  Why should time be wasted in disputing about two substances, when both parties agree that neither knows anything about either ?

If spirit is an abstraction, a conjecture, a chimera; matter is an abstraction, a conjecture, a chimera;  for we know as much, or rather as little, about one.  as the other.  We may read Cudworth, Le Clerc, Leibnitz, Berkley, Hume, Bolingbroke and Priestley, and a million other volumes in all ages, and be obliged at last to confess that we have learned nothing.  Spirit and matter still remain riddles.  Define the terms, however, and the controversy is soon settled.  If spirit is an active something, and matter an inactive something, it is certain that one is not the other.  We can no more conceive that extension, or solidity, can think, or feel, or see, or hear, or taste, or smell ;  than we can conceive that perception, memory, imagination, or reason, can remove a mountain, or blow a rock.  This enigma has puzzled mankind from the beginning, and probably will to the end.  Economy of time requires that we should waste no more in so idle an amusement.

In the eleventh discourse of Sir William Jones, before the Asiatic Society, vol. iii., page 229, of his works, we find that Materialists and Immaterialists existed in India, and that they accused each other of atheism, before Berkeley, or Priestley, or Dupuis, or Plato, or Pythagoras, was born.

Indeed, Newton himself appears to have discovered nothing that was not known to the ancient Indians.  He has only furnished more complete demonstrations of the doctrines they taught.  Sir John Malcolm agrees with Jones and Dupuis, in the Astrological origin of heathen mythologies.  Vain man ! mind your own business !  Do no wrong ;—do all the good you can !  Eat your canvas-back ducks !  Drink your Burgundy !  Sleep your siesta when necessary, and TRUST IN GOD !

What a mighty bubble, what a tremendous waterspout, has Napoleon been, according to his life, written by himself !  He says he was the creature of the principles and manners of the age;  by which, no doubt, he means the age of Reason;  the progress of Manilius’ Ratio, of Plato’s Logos, etc.  I believe him.  A whirlwind raised him, and a whirlwind blowed him away to St. Helena.  He is very confident that the age of Reason is not past, and so am I ;  but I hope that Reason will never again rashly and hastily create such creatures as him.  Liberty, equality, fraternity, and humanity, will never again, I hope, blindly surrender themselves to an unbounded ambition for national conquests, nor implicitly commit themselves to the custody and guardianship of arms and heroes.  If they do, they will again end in St. Helena, Inquisitions, Jesuits, and sacre liques.

Poor Laureate Southey is writhing in torments under the laugh of the three kingdoms, all Europe, and America, upon the publication of his “Wat Tyler.”  I wonder whether he or Bonaparte suffers most.  I congratulate you, and Madison and Monroe, on your noble employment in founding a university.  From such a noble triumvirate, the world will expect something very great and very new ;  but if it contains anything quite original, and very excellent, I fear the prejudices are too deeply rooted to suffer it to last long, though it may be accepted at first.  It will not always have three such colossal reputations to support it.

The Pernambuco Ambassador, his Secretary of legation, and private Secretary, respectable people, have made me a visit.  Having been some year or two in a similar situation, I could not but sympathize with him.  As Bonaparte says, the age of Reason is not ended.  Nothing can totally extinguish or eclipse the light which has been shed abroad by the press.

I am, Sir, with hearty wishes for your health and happiness, your friend and humble servant.




To Doctor John Manners.
Monticello, June 12, 1817.

SIR

Your favor of May 20th has been received some time since, but the increasing inertness of age renders me slow in obeying the calls of the writingtable, and less equal than I have been to its labors.

My opinion on the right of Expatriation has been, so long ago as the year 1776, consigned to record in the act of the Virginia code, drawn by myself, recognizing the right expressly, and prescribing the mode of exercising it.  The evidence of this natural right, like that of our right to life, liberty, the use of our faculties, the pursuit of happiness, is not left to the feeble and sophistical investigations of reason, but is impressed on the sense of every man.  We do not claim these under the charters of kings or legislators, but under the King of kings.  If he has made it a law in the nature of man to pursue his own happiness, he has left him free in the choice of place as well as mode ;  and we may safely call on the whole body of English jurists to produce the map on which Nature has traced, for each individual, the geographical line which she forbids him to cross in pursuit of happiness.  It certainly does not exist in his mind.  Where, then, is it ?  I believe, too, I might safely affirm, that there is not another nation, civilized or savage, which has ever denied this natural right.  I doubt if there is another which refuses its exercise.  I know it is allowed in some of the most respectable countries of continental Europe, nor have I ever heard of one in which it was not.  How it is among our savage neighbors, who have no law but that of Nature, we all know.

Though long estranged from legal reading and reasoning, and little familiar with the decisions of particular judges, I have considered that respecting the obligation of the common law in this country as a very plain one, and merely a question of document.  If we are under that law, the document which made us so can surely be produced ;  and as far as this can be produced, so far we are subject to it, and farther we are not.  Most of the States did, I believe, at an early period of their legislation, adopt the English law, common and statute, more or less in a body, as far as localities admitted of their application.  In these States then, the common law, so far as adopted, is the lex loci.  Then comes the law of Congress, declaring that what is law in any State, shall be the rule of decision in their courts, as to matters arising within that State, except when controlled by their own statutes.  But this law of Congress has been considered as extending to civil cases only ;  and that no such provision has been made for criminal ones.  A similar provision, then, for criminal offences, would, in like manner, be an adoption of more or less of the common law, as part of the lex loci, where the offence is committed;  and would cover the whole field of legislation for the General Government.  I have turned to the passage you refer to in Judge Cooper’s Justinian, and should suppose the general expressions there used would admit of modifications conformable to this doctrine.  It would alarm me indeed, in any case, to find myself entertaining an opinion different from that of a judgment so accurately organized as his.  But I am quite persuaded that, whenever Judge Cooper shall be led to consider that question simply and nakedly, it is so much within his course of thinking, as liberal as logical, that, rejecting all blind and undefined obligation, he will hold to the positive and explicit precepts of the law alone.  Accept these hasty sentiments on the subjects you propose, as hazarded in proof of my great esteem and respect.




To Baron Alexander von Humboldt.
Monticello, June 13, 1817.

Dear Sir

The receipt of your Distributio Geographica Plantarum, with the duty of thanking you fox a work which sheds so much new and valuable light on botanical science, excites the desire, also, of presenting myself to your recollection, and of expressing to you those sentiments of high admiration and esteem, which, although long silent, have never slept.  The physical information you have given us of a country hitherto so shamefully unknown, has come exactly in time to guide our understandings in the great political revolution now bringing it into prominence on the stage of the world.  The issue of its struggles, as they respect Spain, is no longer matter of doubt.  As it respects their own liberty, peace and happiness, we cannot be quite so certain.  Whether the blinds of bigotry, the shackles of the priesthood, and the fascinating glare of rank and wealth, give fair play to the common sense of the mass of their people, so far as to qualify them for self-government, is what we do not know.  Perhaps our wishes may be stronger than our hopes.  The first principle of republicanism is, that the lex majoris partis is the fundamental law of every society of individuals of equal rights;  to consider the will of the society enounced by the majority of a single vote, as sacred as if unanimous, is the first of all lessons in importance, yet the last which is thoroughly learnt.  This law once disregarded, no other remains but that of force, which ends necessarily in military despotism.  This has been the history of the French Revolution, and I wish the understanding of our Southern brethren may be sufficiently enlarged and firm to see that their fate depends on its sacred observance.

In our America we are turning to public improvements.  Schools, roads, and canals are everywhere either in operation or contemplation.  The most gigantic undertaking yet proposed, is that of New York, for drawing the waters of Lake Erie into the Hudson.  The distance is 353 miles, and the height to be surmounted 661 feet.  The expense will be great, but its effect incalculably powerful in favor of the Atlantic States.  Internal navigation by steamboats is rapidly spreading through all our States, and that by sails and oars will ere long be looked back to as among the curiosities of antiquity.  We count much, too, on its efficacy for harbor defence ;  and it will soon be tried for navigation by sea.  We consider the employment of the contributions which our citizens can spare, after feeding, and clothing, and lodging themselves comfortably, as more useful, more moral, and even more splendid, than that preferred by Europe, of destroying human life, labor and happiness.

I write this letter without knowing where it will find you.  But wherever that may be, I am sure it will find you engaged in something instructive for man.  If at Paris, you are of course in habits of society with Mr. Gallatin, our worthy, our able, and excellent minister, who will give you, from time to time, the details of the progress of a country in whose prosperity you are so good as to feel an interest, and in which your name is revered among those of the great worthies of the world.  God bless you, and preserve you long to enjoy the gratitude of your fellow men, and to be blessed with honors, health and happiness.




To Monsieur Barre de Marbois.
Monticello, June 14, 1817.

I thank you, dear Sir, for the copy of the interesting narrative of the Complet d’Arnold, which you have been so kind as to send me.  It throws light on that incident of history which we did not possess before.  An incident which merits to be known, as a lesson to mankind, in all its details.  This mark of vour attention recalls to my mind the earlier period of life at which I had the pleasure of your personal acquaintance, and renews the sentiments of high respect and esteem with which that acquaintance inspired me.  I had not failed to accompany your personal sufferings during the civil convulsions of your country, and had sincerely sympathized with them.  An awful period, indeed, has passed in Europe since our first acquaintance.  When I left France at the close of ’89, your revolution was, as I thought, under the direction of able and honest men.  But the madness of some of their successors, the vices of others, the malicious intrigues of an envious and corrupting neighbor, the tracasserie of the Directory, the usurpations, the havoc, and devastations of your Attila, and the equal usurpations, depredations and oppressions of your hypocritical deliverers, will form a mournful period in the history of man, a period of which the last chapter will not be seen in your day or mine, and one which I still fear is to be written in characters of blood.  Had Bonaparte reflected that such is the moral construction of the world, that no national crime passes unpunished in the long run, he would not now be in the cage of St. Helena ;  and were your present oppressors to reflect on the same truth, they would spare to their own countries the penalties on their present wrongs which will be inflicted on them on future times.  The seeds of hatred and revenge which they are now sowing with a large hand, will not fail to produce their fruits in time.  Like their brother robbers on the highway, they suppose the escape of the moment a final escape, and deem infamy and future risk countervailed by present gain.  Our lot has been happier.  When you witnessed our first struggles in the War of Independence, you little calculated, more than we did, on the rapid growth and prosperity of this country ;  on the practical demonstration it was about to exhibit, of the happy truth that man is capable of self-government, and only rendered otherwise by the moral degradation designedly superinduced on him by the wicked acts of his tyrants.

I have much confidence that we shall proceed successfully for ages to come, and that, contrary to the principle of Montesquieu, it will be seen that the larger the extent of country, the more firm its republican structure, if founded, not on conquest, but in principles of compact and equality.  My hope of its duration is built much on the enlargement of the resources of life going hand in hand with the enlargement of territory, and the belief that men are disposed to live honestly, if the means of doing so are open to them.  With the consolation of this belief in the future result of our labors, I have that of other prophets who foretell distant events, that I shall not live to see it falsified.  My theory has always been, that if we are to dream, the flatteries of hope are as cheap, and pleasanter than the gloom of despair.  I wish to yourself a long life of honors, health and happiness.




To Albert Gallatin.
Monticello, June 16, 1817.

Dear Sir

The importance that the enclosed letters should safely reach their destination, impels me to avail myself of the protection of your cover.  This is an inconvenience to which your situation exposes you, while it adds to the opportunities of exercising yourself in works of charity.

According to the opinion I hazarded to you a little before your departure, we have had almost an entire change in the body of Congress.  The unpopularity of the compensation law was completed, by the manner of repealing it as to all the world except themselves.  In some States, it is said, every member is changed;  in all, many.  What opposition there was to the original law, was chiefly from Southern members.  Yet many of those have been left out, because they received the advanced wages.  I have never known so unanimous a sentiment of disapprobation;  and what is remarkable is, that it was spontaneous.  The newspapers were almost entirely silent, and the people not only unled by their leaders, but in opposition to them.  I confess I was highly pleased with this proof of the innate good sense, the vigilance, and the determination of the people to act for themselves.

Among the laws of the late Congress, some were of note ;  a navigation act, particularly, applicable to those nations only who have navigation acts ;  pinching one of them especially, not only in the general way, but in the intercourse with her foreign possessions.  This part may re-act on us, and it remains for trial which may bear longest.  A law respecting our conduct as a neutral between Spain and her contending colonies, was passed by a majority of one only, I believe, and against the very general sentiment of our country.  It is thought to strain our complaisance to Spain beyond her right or merit, and almost against the right of the other party, and certainly against the claims they have to our good wishes and neighborly relations.  That we should wish to see the people of other countries free, is as natural, and at least as justifiable, as that one King should wish to see the Kings of other countries maintained in their despotism.  Right to both parties, innocent favor to the juster cause, is our proper sentiment.

You will have learned that an act for internal improvement, after passing both Houses, was negatived by the President.  The act was founded, avowedly, on the principle that the phrase in the Constitution which authorizes Congress “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,” was an extension of the powers specifically enumerated to whatever would promote the general welfare;  and this, you know, was the federal doctrine.  Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only landmark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated;  and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action;  consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money.  I think the passage and rejection of this bill a fortunate incident.  Every State will certainly concede the power;  and this will be a national confirmation of the grounds of appeal to them, and will settle forever the meaning of this phrase, which, by a mere grammatical quibble, has countenanced the General Government in a claim of universal power.  For in the phrase, “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,” it is a mere question of syntax, whether the two last infinitives are governed by the first or are distinct and coordinate powers;  a question unequivocally decided by the exact definition of powers immediately following.  It is fortunate for another reason, as the States, in conceding the power, will modify it, either by requiring the federal ratio of expense in each State, or otherwise, so as to secure us against its partial exercise.  Without this caution, intrigue, negotiation, and the barter of votes might become as habitual in Congress, as they are in those legislatures which have the appointment of officers, and which, with us, is called “logging,” the term of the farmers for their exchanges of aid in rolling together the logs of their newly-cleared grounds.

Three of our papers have presented us the copy of an act of the legislature of New York, which, if it has really passed, will carry us back to the times of the darkest bigotry and barbarism, to find a parallel.  Its purport is, that all those who shall hereafter join in communion with the religious sect of Shaking Quakers, shall be deemed civilly dead, their marriages dissolved, and all their children and property taken out of their hands.  This act being published nakedly in the papers, without the usual signatures, or any history of the circumstances of its passage, I am not without a hope it may have been a mere abortive attempt.  It contrasts singularly with a cotemporary vote of the Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body.  And you remember to have heard, that when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, “the author of our holy religion,” which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them.

I have been charmed to see that a Presidential election now produces scarcely any agitation.  On Mr. Madison’s election there was little, on Monroe’s all but none.  In Mr. Adams’ time and mine, parties were so nearly balanced as to make the struggle fearful for our peace.  But since the decided ascendency of the republican body, federalism has looked on with silent but unresisting anguish.  In the Middle, Southern and Western States, it is as low as it ever can be;  for nature has made some men monarchists and tories by their constitution, and some, of course, there always will be.

* * * * * * * * *

We have had a remarkably cold winter.  At Hallowell, in Maine, the mercury was at thirty-four degrees below zero, of Fahrenheit, which is sixteen degrees lower than it was in Paris in 1788-9.  Here it was at six degrees above zero, which is our greatest degree of cold.

Present me respectfully to Mrs. Gallatin, and be assured of my constant and affectionate friendship.




To John Adams.
Poplar Forest, September 8, 1817.

Dear Sir

A month’s absence from Monticello has added to the delay of acknowledging your last letters, and indeed for a month before I left it, our projected college gave me constant employment;  for, being the only visitor in its immediate neighborhood, all its administrative business falls on me, and that, where building is going on, is not a little.  In yours of July 15th, you express a wish to see our plan, but the present visitors have sanctioned no plan as yet.  Our predecessors, the first trustees, had desired me to propose one to them, and it was on that occasion I asked and received the benefit of your ideas on the subject.  Digesting these with such other schemes as I had been able to collect, I made out a prospectus, the looser and less satisfactory from the uncertain amount of the funds to which it was to be adapted.  This I addressed, in the form of a letter, to their President, Peter Carr, which, going before the legislature when a change in the constitution of the college was asked, got into the public papers, and, among others, I think you will find it in Niles’ Register, in the early part of 1815.  This, however, is to be considered but as a premiere ebauche, for the consideration and amendment of the present visitors, and to be accommodated to one of two conditions of things.  If the institution is to depend on private donations alone, we shall be forced to accumulate on the shoulders of four professors a mass of sciences which, if the legislature adopts it, should be distributed among ten.  We shall be ready for a professor of languages in April next, for two others the following year, and a fourth a year after.  How happy should we be if we could have a Ticknor for our first.  A critical classic is scarcely to be found in the United States.  To this professor, a fixed salary of five hundred dollars, with liberal tuition fees from the pupils, will probably give two thousand dollars a year.  We are now on the look-out for a professor, meaning to accept of none but of the very first order.

You ask if I have seen Buchanan’s, McAfee’s, or Wilkinson’s books ?  I have seen none of them, but have lately read, with great pleasure, Reid and Eaton’s Life of Jackson, if life may be called what is merely a history of his campaign of 1814.  Reid’s part is well written.  Eaton’s continuation is better for its matter than style.  The whole, however, is valuable.

I have lately received a pamphlet of extreme interest from France.  It is De Pradt’s Historical Recital of the first return of Louis XVIII. to Paris.  It is precious for the minutiæ of the proceedings which it details, and for their authenticity, as from an eyewitness.  Being but a pamphlet I enclose it for your perusal, assured, if you have not seen it, that it will give you pleasure.  I will ask its return, because I value it as a morsel of genuine history, a thing so rare as to be always valuable.  I have received some information from an eye-witness also of what passed on the occasion of the second return of Louis XVIII.  The Emperor Alexander, it seems, was solidly opposed to this.  In the consultation of the allied sovereigns and their representatives with the executive council at Paris, he insisted that the Bourbons were too incapable and unworthy of being placed at the head of the nation ;  declared he would support any other choice they should freely make, and continued to urge most strenuously that some other choice should be made.  The debates ran high and warm, and broke off after midnight, every one retaining his own opinion.  He lodged, as you know, at Talleyrand’s.  When they returned into council the next day, his host had overcome his firmness.  Louis XVIII. was accepted, and through the management of Talleyrand accepted without any capitulation, although the sovereigns would have consented that he should be first required to subscribe and swear to the constitution prepared, before permission to enter the kingdom.  It would seem as if Talleyrand had been afraid to admit the smallest interval of time, lest a change of mind would bring back Bonaparte on them.  But I observe that the friends of a limited monarchy there consider the popular representation as much improved by the late alteration, and confident it will in the end produce a fixed government in which an elective body, fairly representative of the people, will be an efficient element.

I congratulate Mrs. Adams and yourself on the return of your excellent and distinguished son, and our country still more on such a minister of their foreign affairs ;  and I renew to both the assurance of my high and friendly respect and esteem.




To George Flower.
Poplar Forest, September 12, 1817.

Dear Sir

Your favor of August 12th was yesterday received at this place, and I learn from it with pleasure that you have found a tract of country which Will suit you for settlement.  To us your first purchase would have been more gratifying, by adding yourself and your friends to our society ;  but the overruling consideration, with us as with you, is your own advantage, and as it would doubtless be a great comfort to you to have your ancient neighbors and friends settled around you.  I sincerely wish that your proposition to “purchase a tract of land in the Illinois on favorable terms, for introducing a colony of English farmers,” may encounter no difficulties from the established rules of our Land Department.  The general law prescribes an open sale, where all citizens may compete on an equal footing for any lot of land which attracts their choice.  To dispense with this in any particular case, requires a special law of Congress, and to special legislation we are generally averse, lest a principle of favoritism should creep in and pervert that of equal rights.  It has, however, been done on some occasions where a special national advantage has been expected to overweigh that of adherence to the general rule.  The promised introduction of the culture of the vine procured a special law in favor of the Swiss settlement on the Ohio.  That of the culture of oil, wine and other southern productions, did the same lately for the French settlement on the Tombigbee.  It remains to be tried whether that of an improved system of farming, interesting to so great a proportion of our citizens, may not also be thought worth a dispensation with the general rule.  This I suppose is the principal ground on which your proposition will be questioned.  For although as to other foreigners it is thought better to discourage their settling together in large masses, wherein, as in our German settlements, they preserve for a long time their own languages, habits, and principles of government, and that they should distribute themselves sparsely among the natives for quicker amalgamation, yet English emigrants are without this inconvenience.  They differ from us little but in their principles of government, and most of those (merchants excepted) who come here, are sufficiently disposed to adopt ours.  What the issue, however, of your proposition may probably be, I am less able to advise you than many others ;  for during the last eight or ten years I have no knowledge of the administration of the Land Office or the principles of its government.  Even the persons on whom it will depend are all changed within that interval, so as to leave me small means of being useful to you.  Whatever they may be, however, they shall be freely exercised for your advantage, and that, not on the selfish principle of increasing our own population at the expense of other nations, for the additions to that from emigration are but as a drop in a bucket to those by natural procreation, but to consecrate a sanctuary for those whom the misrule of Europe may compel to seek happiness in other climes.  This refuge once known will produce reaction on the happiness even of those who remain there, by warning their task-masters that when the evils of Egyptian oppression become heavier than those of the abandonment of country, another Canaan is open where their subjects will be received as brothers, and secured against like oppressions by a participation in the right of self-government.  If additional motives could be wanting with us to the maintenance of this right, they would be found in the animating consideration that a single good government becomes thus a blessing to the whole earth, its welcome to the oppressed restraining within certain limits the measure of their oppressions.  But should even this be counteracted by violence on the right of expatriation, the other branch of our example then presents itself for imitation, to rise on their rulers and do as we have done.  You have set to your own country a good example, by showing them a peaceable mode of reducing their rulers to the necessity of becoming more wise, more moderate, and more honest, and I sincerely pray that the example may work for the benefit of those who cannot follow it, as it will for your own.

With Mr. Burckbeck, the associate of your late exploratory journeying, I have not the happiness of personal acquaintance ;  but I know him through his narrative of your journeyings together through France.  The impressions received from that, give me confidence that a participation with yourself in assurances of the esteem and respect of a stranger will not be unacceptable to him, and the less when given through you and associated with those to yourself.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Quincy, October 10, 1817.

Dear Sir

I thank you for your kind congratulations on the return of my little family from Europe.  To receive them all in fine health and good spirits, after so long an absence, was a greater blessing than at my time of life, when they went a way, I had any right to hope, or reason to expect.

If the Secretary of State can give satisfaction to his fellow citizens in his new office, it will be a source of consolation to me while I live ;  although it is not probable that I shall long be a witness of his good success, or ill success.  I shall soon be obliged to say to him, and to you, and to your country and mine, God bless you all !  Fare thee well !  Indeed, I need not wait a moment.  I can say all that now, with as good a will, and as clear a conscience, as at any time past, or future.

I thank you, also, for the loan of De Pradt’s narration of the intrigues, at the second restoration of the Bourbons.  In this, as in many other instances, is seen the influence of a single subtle mind, and a trifling accident, in deciding the fate of mankind for ages.  De Pradt and Talleyrand were well associated.

I have ventured to send the pamphlet to Washington with a charge to return it to you.  The French have a King, a chamber of Peers, and a chamber of Deputies.  Voila ! les ossimens of a constitution of a limited monarchy;  and of a good one, provided the bones are united by good joints, and knitted together by strong tendons.  But where does the sovereignty reside ?  Are the three branches sufficiently defined ?  A fair representation of the body of the people by elections, sufficiently frequent, is essential to a free government;  but if the Commons cannot make themselves respected by the Peers, and the King, they can do no good, nor prevent any evil.

Can any organization of government secure public and private liberty without a general or universal freedom, without license, or licentiousness of thinking, speaking, and writing.  Have the French such freedom ?  Will their religion, or policy, allow it ?

When I think of liberty, and a free government, in an ancient, opulent, populous, and commercial empire, I fear I shall always recollect a fable of Plato.

Love is a son of the god of riches and the goddess of poverty.  He inherits from his father the intrepidity of his courage, the enthusiasm of his thoughts, his generosity, his prodigality, his confidence in himself, the opinion of his own merit, the impatience to have always the preference ;  but he derives from his mother that indigence which makes him always a beggar;  that importunity with which he demands everything;  that timidity which sometimes hinders him from daring to ask anything;  that disposition which he has to servitude, and that dread of being despised, which he can never overcome.

Such is Love according to Plato.  Who calls him a demon ?  And such is liberty in France, and England and all other great, rich, old, corrupted commercial nations.  The opposite qualities of the father and mother are perpetually tearing to pieces himself and his friends as well as his enemies.

Mr. Monroe has got the universal character among all our common people of “A very smart man.”  And verily I am of the same mind.  I know not another who could have executed so great a plan so cleverly.

I wish him the same happy success through his whole administration.

I am, Sir, with respect and friendship, yours,

J. A.




To the Honorable John Quincy Adams.
Monticello, November 1, 1817.

Dear Sir

Yours of the 4th of October was not received here until the 20th, having been sixteen days on its passage ;  since which unavoidable avocations have made this the first moment it has been in my power to acknowledge its receipt.  Of the character of M. de Pradt his political writings furnish a tolerable estimate, but not so full as you have favored me with.  He is eloquent, and his pamphlet on colonies shows him ingenious.  I was gratified by his Recit Historique, because, pretending, as all men do, to some character, and he to one of some distinction, I supposed he would not place before the world facts of glaring falsehood, on which so many living and distinguished witnesses could convict him.  We, too, who are retired from the business of the world, are glad to catch a glimpse of truth, here and there as we can, to guide our path through the boundless field of fable in which we are bewildered by public prints, and even by those calling themselves histories.  A word of truth to us is like the drop of water supplicated from the tip of Lazarus’ finger.  It is as an observation of latitude and longitude to the mariner long enveloped in clouds, for correcting the ship’s way.

On the subject of weights and measures, you will have, at its threshold, to encounter the question on which Solon and Lycurgus acted differently.  Shall we mould our citizens to the law, or the law to our citizens ?  And in solving this question their peculiar character is an element not to be neglected.  Of the two only things in nature which can furnish an invariable standard, to wit, the dimensions of the globe itself, and the time of its diurnal revolution on its axis, it is not perhaps of much importance which we adopt.  That of the dimensions of the globe, preferred ultimately by the French, after first adopting the other, has been objected to from the difficulty, not to say impracticability, of the verification of their admeasurement by other nations.  Except the portion of a meridian which they adopted for their operation, there is not another on the globe which fulfils the requisite conditions, to wit, of so considerable length, that length, too, divided not very unequally, by the 45th degree of latitude, and terminating at each end in the ocean.  Now, this singular line lies wholly in France and Spain.  Besides the immensity of expense and time which a verification would always require, it cannot be undertaken by any nation without the joint consent of these two powers.  France having once performed the work, and refusing, as she may, to let any other nation reexamine it, she makes herself the sole depository of the original standard for all nations;  and all must send to her to obtain, and from time to time to prove their standards.  To this, indeed, it may be answered that there can be no reason to doubt that the mensuration has been as accurately performed as the intervention of numerous waters, and of high ridges of craggy mountains, would admit;  that all the calculations have been free of error, their coincidences faithfully reported, and that, whether in peace or war, to foes as well as friends, free access to the original will at all times be admitted.  In favor of the standard to be taken from the time employed in a revolution of the earth on its axis, it may be urged that this revolution is a matter of fact present to all the world, that its division into seconds of time is known and received by all the world, that the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds in the different circles of latitude is already known to all, and can at any time and in any place be ascertained by any nation or individual, and inferred by known laws from their own to the medium latitude of 45° whenever any doubt may make this desirable;  and that this is the particular standard which has at different times been contemplated and desired* by the philosophers of every nation, and even by those of France, except at the particular moment when this change was suddenly proposed and adopted, and under circumstances peculiar to the history of the moment.  But the cogent reason which will decide the fate of whatever you report is, that England has lately adopted the reference of its measures to the pendulum.  It is the mercantile part of our community which will have most to do in this innovation;  it is that which having command of all the presses can make the loudest outcry, and you know their identification with English regulations, practices, and prejudices.  It is from this identification alone you can hope to be permitted to adopt even the English reference to a pendulum.  But the English proposition goes only to say what proportion their measures bear to the second pendulum of their own latitude, and not at all to change their unit, or to reduce into any simple order the chaos of their weights and measures.  That would be innovation, and innovation there is heresy and treason.  Whether the Senate meant more than this I do not know;  and much doubt if more can be effected.  However, in endeavors to improve our situation, we should never despair;  and I sincerely wish you may be able to rally us to either standard, and to give us an unit, the aliquot part of something invariable which may be applied simply and conveniently to our measures, weights, and coins, and most especially that the decimal divisions may pervade the whole.  The convenience of this in our moneyed system has been approved by all, and France has followed the example.  The volume of tracts which you have noted in the library of Congress, contains everything which I had then been able to collect on this subject.  You will find some details which may be of use, in two thin 4to vols., Nos. 399, 400, of chapter xxiv;  the latter being a collection of sheets selected from the “Encyclopedie Methodique,” on the weights measures and coins of all nations, bound up together and alone ;  and the former a supplement by Beyerlé.  Cooper’s Emporium too, for May, 1812, and August, 1813, may offer something.  The reports of the Committees of Parliament of 1758-9, I think you will find in Postlethwaite’s Dictionary, which is also in the library, chapter 20, No. 10.  That of Mechain and Delambre I have not, nor do I know who has it.

I have lately seen a book which your office ought to possess, if it has it not already, entitled “Memoire sur la Louisiane, par M. le Comte de Vergennes, 8vo, Paris, chez Lepetit, Jeune, 1802.”  It contains more in detail the proofs of the extent of Louisiana as far as the Rio Grande than I have ever before seen, and its author gives it authenticity.  It has been executed with great industry and research into the French records.  This reminds me of a MS. which Governor Claiborne found in a private family in Louisiana, being a journal kept, I forget by whom, but by a confidential officer of the government, proving exactly by what connivance between the agents of the Compagnie d’Occident and the Spaniards these last smuggled settlements into Louisiana as far as Assinais, Adais, etc., for the purpose of covering the contraband trade of the company.  Claiborne being afraid to trust the original by mail without keeping a copy, sent it on.  It arrived safe, and was deposited in the office of State.  He then sent me the copy on the destruction of the office at Washington by the British, apprehending the original might be involved in that destruction.  I sent the copy to Colonel Monroe, then Secretary of State, with a request to return it if the original was safe, and to keep it if not.  I have heard no more of it, but will now request of you to have search made for the original, and if safe, to return me the copy.  I propose to deposit it with the Historical Committee of the Philosophical Society at Philadelphia, for safe keeping.  I have no use nor wish for such a thing myself, but think it will be safer in two deposits than one.  My recommendation to Colonel Monroe, was to have it printed.  I have barely left myself room to express my satisfaction at your call to the important office you hold, and to tender you the assurance of my great esteem and respect.


* If conforming to this desire of other nations, we adopt the second pendulum 3/10 of that for our foot will be the same as 1/5 or 2/10 of the second rod, because that rod is to the pendulum as 3 to 2.  This would make our foot ¼ inch less than the present one.





To Peter Stephen DuPonceau.
Monticello, November 7, 1817.

Dear Sir

A part of the information of which the expedition of Lewis and Clarke was the object, has been communicated to the world by the publication of their journal ;  but much and valuable matter yet remains uncommunicated.  The correction of the longitudes of their map is essential to its value;  to which purpose their observations of the lunar distances are to be calculated and applied.  The new subjects they discovered in the vegetable, animal, and mineral departments, are to be digested and made known.  The numerous vocabularies they obtained of the Indian languages are to be collated and published.  Although the whole expense of the expedition was furnished by the public, and the information to be derived from.  it was theirs also, yet on the return of Messrs. Lewis and Clarke, the government thought it just to leave to them any pecuniary benefit which might result from a publication of the papers, and supposed, indeed, that this would secure the best form of publication.  But the property in these papers still remained in the government for the benefit of their constituents.  With the measures taken by Governor Lewis for their publication, I was never acquainted.  After his death, Governor Clarke put them, in the first instance, into the hands of the late Dr. Barton, from whom some of them passed to Mr. Biddle, and some again, I believe, from him to Mr. Allen.  While the MS. books of journals were in the hands of Dr. Barton, I wrote to him, on behalf of Governor Lewis’ family, requesting earnestly, that, as soon as these should be published, the originals might be returned, as the family wished to have them preserved.  He promised in his answer that it should be faithfully done.  After his death, I obtained, through the kind agency of Mr. Correa, from Mrs. Barton, three of those books, of which I knew there had been ten or twelve, having myself read them.  These were all she could find.  The rest, therefore, I presume, are in the hands of the other gentlemen.  After the agency I had had in effecting this expedition, I thought myself authorized, and, indeed, that it would be expected of me, that I should follow up the subject, and endeavor to obtain its fruits for the public.  I wrote to General Clarke, therefore, for authority to receive the original papers.  He gave it in the letters to Mr. Biddle and to myself, which I now enclose.  As the custody of these papers belonged properly to the War Office, and that was vacant at the time, I have waited several months for its being filled.  But the office still remaining vacant, and my distance rendering any effectual measures, by myself, impracticable, I ask the agency of your committee, within whose province I propose to place the matter, by making it the depository of the papers generally.  I therefore now forward the three volumes of MS. journals in my possession, and authorize them, under General Clarke’s letters, to inquire for and to receive the rest.  So also the astronomical and geographical papers, those relating to zoological, botanical, and mineral subjects, with the Indian vocabularies, and statistical tables relative to the Indians.  Of the astronomical and geographical papers, if the committee will be so good as to give me a statement, I will, as soon as a Secretary of War is appointed, propose to him to have made, at the public expense, the requisite calculations, to have the map corrected in its longitudes and latitudes, engraved and published on a proper scale;  and I will ask from General Clarke the one he offers, with his corrections.  With respect to the zoological and mineralogical papers and subjects, it would perhaps be agreeable to the Philosophical Society, to have a digest of them made, and published in their transactions or otherwise.  And if it should be within the views of the Historical Committee to have the Indian vocabularies digested and published, I would add to them the remains of my collection.  I had through the course of my life availed myself of every opportunity of procuring vocabularies of the languages of every tribe which either myself or my friends could have access to.  They amounted to about forty, more or less perfect.  But in their passage from Washington to this place, the trunk in which they were was stolen and plundered, and some fragments only of the vocabularies were recovered.  Still, however, they were such as would be worth incorporation with a larger work, and shall be at the service of the Historical Committee, if they can make any use of them.  Permit me to request the return of General Clarke’s letter, and to add assurances of my respect and esteem.


P.S.  With the volumes of MS. journal, Mrs. Barton delivered one by mistake I suppose, which seems to have been the journal of some botanist.  I presume it was the property of Dr. Barton, and therefore forward it to you to be returned to Mrs. Barton.




To Correa de Serra.
Poplar Forest, November 25, 1817.
Dear Sir

I am highly gratified by the interest you take in our Central College, and the more so as it may possibly become an inducement to pass more of your time with us.  It is even said you had thought of engaging a house in its neighborhood.  But why another house ?  Is not one enough ? and especially one whose inhabitants are made so happy by your becoming their inmate ?  When you shall have a wife and family wishing to be to themselves, then the question of another house may be taken ad referendum.  I wish Dr. Cooper could have the same partialities.  He seems to have misunderstood my last letter;  in the former I had spoken of opening our Physical School in the spring of ’19, but learning that that delay might render his engagement uncertain, the visitors determined to force their preparations so as to receive him by midsummer next, and so my letter stated.  In one I now write, I recall his attention to that circumstance.  But his decision will no doubt be governed by the result of the proposition, to permit the medical students of Philadelphia to attend him.  I can never regret any circumstance which may add to his well-being, for I most sincerely wish him well.  That himself and Mrs. Cooper will be happier in the society of Philadelphia, cannot be doubted.  It would be flattering enough to us to be his second choice.  I find from his information that we are not to expect to obtain in this country either a classical or mathematical professor of the first order;  and as our institution cannot be raised above the common herd of academies, colleges, etc., already scattered over our country, but by supereminent professors, we have determined to accept of no mediocrity, and to seek in Europe for what is eminent.  We shall go to Edinburgh in preference, because of the advantage to students of receiving communications in their native tongue, and because peculiar and personal circumstances will enable us to interest Dugald Stewart and Professor Leslie, of that College, in procuring us subjects of real worth and eminence.  I put off writing to them for a classical and mathematical professor only until I see what our legislature, which meets on Monday next, is disposed to do, either on the question singly of adopting our college for their university, or on that of entering at once on a general system of instruction, for which they have for some time been preparing.  For this last purpose I have sketched, and put into the hands of a member a bill, delineating a practicable plan, entirely within the means they already have on hand, destined to this object.  My bill proposes, 1. Elementary schools in every county, which shall place every householder within three miles of a school.  2. District colleges, which shall place every father within a day’s ride of a college where he may dispose of his son.  3. An university in a healthy and central situation, with the offer of the lands, buildings, and funds of the Central College, if they will accept that place for their establishment.  In the first will be taught reading, writing, common arithmetic, and general notions of geography.  In the second, ancient and modern languages, geography fully, a higher degree of numerical arithmetic, mensuration, and the elementary principles of navigation.  In the third, all the useful sciences in their highest degree.  To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the colleges and university.  The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be the double or treble of what it is in most countries.  The expense of the elementary schools for every county, is proposed to be levied on the wealth of the county, and all children rich and poor to be educated at these three years gratis.  The expense of the colleges and university, admitting two professors to each of the former, and ten to the latter, can be completely and permanently established with a sum of five hundred thousand dollars, in addition to the present funds of our Central College.  Our literary fund has already on hand, and appropriated to these purposes, a sum of seven hundred thousand dollars, and that increasing yearly.  This is in fact and substance the plan I proposed in a bill forty years ago, but accommodated to the circumstances of this, instead of that day.  I derive my present hopes that it may now be adopted, from the fact that the House of Representatives, at their last session, passed a bill, less practicable and boundlessly expensive, and therefore alone rejected by the Senate, and printed for public consideration and amendment.  Mine, after all, may be an Utopian dream, but being innocent, I have thought I might indulge in it till I go to the land of dreams, and sleep there with the dreamers of all past and future times.

I have taken measures to obtain the crested turkey, and will endeavor to perpetuate that beautiful and singular characteristic, and shall be not less earnest in endeavors to raise the Moronnier.  God bless you, and preserve you long in life and health, until wearied with delighting your kindred spirits here, you may wish to encounter the great problem, untried by the living, unreported by the dead.




To Peter Stephen DuPonceau.
Monticello, December 30, 1817.

Dear Sir

An absence of six weeks has occasioned your letters of the 5th and 11th inst., to lie thus long unacknowledged.  After I had sent off the two other Westover MSS. I received a third of the same journal.  On perusing it I am not sensible by memory, of anything not contained in the former, except eight pages of a preliminary account of the abridgment of our limits by successive charters to other colonies.  I suppose this to be a copy of the largest of the other two, entered fair in a folio volume, with other documents relating to the government of Virginia.  It is bound in vellum, and, by the arms pasted in it, seems to have been intended for the shelves of the author’s library.  As this journal is complete it might enable us to supply the hiatuses of the other copies.

I now send you the remains of my Indian vocabularies, some of which are perfect.  I send with them the fragments of my digest of them, which were gathered up on the banks of the river where they had been strewed by the plunderers of the trunk in which they were.  These will merely show the arrangement I had given the vocabularies, according to their affinities and degrees of resemblance or dissimilitude.

If you can recover Capt. Lewis’ collection, they will make an important addition, for there was no part of his instructions which he executed more fully or carefully, never meeting with a single Indian of a new tribe, without making his vocabulary the first object.  What Professor Adelung mentions of the Empress Catharine’s having procured many vocabularies of our Indians, is correct.  She applied to M. de La Fayette, who, through the aid of General Washington, obtained several ;  but I never learnt of what particular tribes.  The great works of Pallas being rare, I will mention that there are two editions of it, the one in two volumes, the other in four volumes 4to, in the library I ceded to Congress, which may be consulted.  But the Professor’s account of the supposed Mexican MS. is quite erroneous, nor can I conceive through whom he can have received his information.  It has probably been founded on an imperfect knowledge of the following fact :  Soon after the acquisition of Louisiana, Governor Claiborne found, in a private family there, a MS. journal kept, (I forget by whom,) but by a confidential officer of the French government, proving exactly by what eonnivance between the agents of the Compagnie d’Occident, and the Spaniards, these last smuggled settlements into Louisiana, as far as Assinais, Adias, etc., for the purpose of covering the contraband trade of the company.  Claiborne, being afraid to trust the original by mail, without keeping a copy, sent it on after being copied.  It arrived safe, and was deposited by me in the office of State.  He then sent me the copy, on the destruction of the office at Washington by the British;  apprehending the original might be involved in that destruction, I sent the copy to Colonel Monroe, then Secretary of State, with a request to return it, if the original was safe, and to keep it, if not.  I have heard no more of it.  My intention was, and is, if it is returned to me, to deposit it with your committee for safe keeping or publication.  While on the subject of Louisiana, I have thought I had better commit to you also an historical memoir of my own respecting the important question of its limits.  When we first made the purchase we knew little of its extent, having never before been interested to inquire into it.  Possessing, then, in my library, everything respecting America which I had been able to collect by unremitting researches, during my residence in Europe, particularly and generally through my life, I availed myself of the leisure of my succeeding autumnal recess from Washington, to bring together everything which my collection furnished on the subject of its boundary.  The result was the memoir I now send you, copies of which were furnished to our ministers at Paris and Madrid, for their information as to the extent of territory claimed under our purchase.  The New Orleans MS. afterwards discovered, furnished some valuable supplementary proofs of title.

I defer writing to the Secretary of War respecting the observations of longitude and latitude by Capt. Lewis, until I learn from you whether they are recovered, and whether they are so complete as to be susceptible of satisfactory calculation.  I salute you with great respect and esteem.