The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

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

To Francis Eppes.
Monticello, January 19, 1821.

Dear Francis

Your letter of the 1st came safely to hand.  I am sorry you have lost Mr. Elliot, however, the kindness of Dr. Cooper will be able to keep you in the track of what is worthy of your time.

You ask my opinion of Lord Bolingbroke and Thomas Paine.  They were alike in making bitter enemies of the priests and pharisees of their day.  Both were honest men;  both advocates for human liberty.  Paine wrote for a country which permitted him to push his reasoning to whatever length it would go ;  Lord Bolingbroke in one restrained by a constitution, and by public opinion.  He was called indeed a tory ;  but his writings prove him a stronger advocate for liberty than any of his countrymen, the whigs of the present day.  Irritated by his exile, he committed one act unworthy of him, in connecting himself momentarily with a prince rejected by his country.  But he redeemed that single act by his establishment of the principles which proved it to be wrong.  These two persons differed remarkably in the style of their writing, each leaving a model of what is most perfect in both extremes of the simple and the sublime.  No writer has exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming language.  In this he may be compared with Dr. Franklin ;  and indeed his Common Sense was, for awhile, believed to have been written by Dr. Franklin, and published under the borrowed name of Paine, who had come over with him from England.  Lord Bolingbroke’s, on the other hand, is a style of the highest order.  The lofty, rhythmical, full-flowing eloquence of Cicero.  Periods of just measure, their members proportioned, their close full and round.  His conceptions, too, are bold and strong, his diction copious, polished and commanding as his subject.  His writings are certainly the finest samples in the English language, of the eloquence proper for the Senate.  His political tracts are safe reading for the most timid religionist, his philosophical, for those who are not afraid to trust their reason with discussions of right and wrong.

You have asked my opinion of these persons, and, to you, I have given it freely.  But, remember, that I am old, that I wish not to make new enemies, nor to give offence to those who would consider a difference of opinion as sufficient ground for unfriendly dispositions.  God bless you, and make you what dI wish you to be.




To Archibald Thweat.
Monticello, January 19, 1821.

Dear Sir

I duly received your favor of the 11th, covering Judge Roane’s letter, which I now return.  Of the kindness of his sentiments expressed towards myself I am highly sensible ;  and could I believe that my public services had merited the approbation he so indulgently bestows, the satisfaction I should derive from it would be reward enough to his wish that I would take a part in the transactions of the present day.  I am sensible of my incompetence.  For first, I know little about them, having long with drawn my attention from public affairs, and resigned myself with folded arms to the care of those who are to care for us all.  And, next, the hand of time pressing heavily on me, in mind as well as body, leaves to neither sufficient energy to engage in public contentions.  I am sensible of the inroads daily making by the federal, into the jurisdiction of its co-ordinate associates, the State governments.  The legislative and executive branches may sometimes err, but elections and dependence will bring them to rights.  The judiciary branch is the instrument which, working like gravity, without intermission, is to press us at last into one consolidated mass.  Against this I know no one who, equally with Judge Roane himself, possesses the power and the courage to make resistance ;  and to him I look, and have long looked, as our strongest bulwark.  If Congress fails to shield the States from dangers so palpable and so imminent, the States must shield themselves, and meet the invader foot to foot.  This is already half done by Colonel Taylor’s book;  because a conviction that we are right accomplishes half the difficulty of correcting wrong.  This book is the most effectual retraction of our government to its original principles which has ever yet been sent by heaven to our aid.  Every State in the Union should give a copy to every member they elect, as a standing instruction, and ours should set the example.  Accept with Mrs. Thweat the assurance of my affectionate and respectful attachment.




To John Adams.
Monticello, January 22, 1821.

I was quite rejoiced, dear Sir, to see that you had health and spirits enough to take part in the late convention of your State, for revising its Constitution, and to bear your share in its debates and labors.  The amendments of which we have as yet heard, prove the advance of liberalism in the intervening period;  and encourage a hope that the human mind will some day get back to the freedom it enjoyed two thousand years ago.  This country, which has given to the world the example of physical liberty, owes to it that of moral emancipation also, for as yet it is but nominal with us.  The inquisition of public opinion overwhelms in practice, the freedom asserted by the laws in theory.

Our anxieties in this quarter are all concentrated in the question, what does the Holy Alliance in and out of Congress mean to do with us on the Missouri question ?  And this, by-the-bye, is but the name of the case, it is only the John Doe or Richard Roe of the ejectment.  The real question, as seen in the States afflicted with this unfortunate population, is, are our slaves to be presented with freedom and a dagger ?  For if Congress has the power to regulate the conditions of the inhabitants of the States, within the States, it will be but another exercise of that power, to declare that all shall be free.  Are we then to see again Athenian and Lacedemonian confederacies ?  To wage another Peloponnesian war to settle the ascendency between them ?  Or is this the tocsin of merely a servile war ?  That remains to be seen;  but not, I hope, by you or me.  Surely, they will parley awhile, and give us time to get out of the way.  What a Bedlamite is man !  But let us turn from our own uneasiness to the miseries of our southern friends.  Bolivar and Morillo, it seems, have come to the parley, with dispositions at length to stop the useless effusion of human blood in that quarter.  I feared from the beginning, that these people were not yet sufficiently enlightened for self-government;  and that after wading through blood and slaughter, they would end in military tyrannies, more or less numerous.  Yet as they wished to try the experiment, I wished them success in it;  they have now tried it, and will possibly find that their safest road will be an accommodation with the Mother country, which shall hold them together by the single link of the same chief magistrate, leaving to him power enough to keep them in peace with one another, and to themselves the essential power of self-government and self-improvement, until they shall be sufficiently trained by education and habits of freedom to walk safely by themselves.  Representative government, native functionaries, a qualified negative on their laws, with a previous security by compact for freedom of commerce, freedom of the press, habeas corpus and trial by jury, would make a good beginning.  This last would be the school in which their people might begin to learn the exercise of civic duties as well as rights.  For freedom of religion they are not yet prepared.  The scales of bigotry have not sufficiently fallen from their eyes, to accept it for themselves individually, much less to trust others with it.  But that will come in time, as well as a general ripeness to break entirely from the parent stem.  You see, my dear Sir, how easily we prescribe for others a cure for their difficulties, while we cannot cure our own.  We must leave both, I believe, to heaven, and wrap ourselves up in the mantle of resignation, and of that friendship of which I tender to you the most sincere assurances.




To Joseph C. Cabell.
Monticello, January 31, 1821.

Dear Sir

Your favors of the 18th and 25th came together, three days ago.  They fill me with gloom as to the dispositions of our legislature towards the University.  I perceive that I am not to live to see it opened.  As to what had better be done within the limits of their will, I trust with entire confidence to what yourself, Gen. Breckenridge and Mr. Johnson shall think best.  You will see what is practicable, and give it such shape as you think best.  If a loan is to be resorted to, I think sixty thousand dollars will be necessary, including the library.  Its instalments cannot begin until those of the former loan are accomplished;  and they should not begin later, nor be less than thirteen thousand dollars a year.  (I think it safe to retain two thousand dollars a year for care of the buildings, improvement of the grounds, and unavoidable contingencies.)  To extinguish this second loan, will require between five and six instalments, which will carry us to the end of 1833, or thirteen years from this time.  My individual opinion is, that we had better not open the institution until the buildings, library, and all, are finished, and our funds cleared of incumbrance.  These buildings once erected, will secure the full object infallibly at the end of thirteen years, and as much earlier as the legislature shall choose.  And if we were to begin sooner, with half funds only, it would satisfy the common mind, prevent their aid beyond that point, and our institution remaining at that forever, would be no more than the paltry academies we now have.  Even with the whole funds we shall be reduced to six professors.  While Harvard will still prime it over us with her twenty professors.  How many of our youths she now has, learning the lessons of anti-Missourianism, I know not;  but a gentleman lately from Princeton, told me he saw there the list of the students at that place, and that more than half were Virginians.  These will return home, no doubt, deeply impressed with the sacred principles of our Holy Alliance of restrictionists.

But the gloomiest of all prospects, is in the desertion of the best friends of the institution, for desertion I must call it.  I know not the necessities which may force this on you.  General Cocke, you say, will explain them to me;  but I cannot conceive them, nor persuade myself they are uncontrollable.  I have ever hoped, that yourself, Gen. Breckenridge and Mr. Johnson would stand at your posts in the legislature, until everything was effected, and the institution opened.  If it is so difficult to get along with all the energy and influence of our present colleagues in the legislature, how can we expect to proceed at all, reducing our moving power ?  I know well your devotion to your country, and your foresight of the awful scenes coming on her, sooner or later.  With this foresight, what service can we ever render her equal to this ?  What object of our lives can we propose so important ?  What interest of our own which ought not to be postponed to this ?  Health, time, labor, on what in the single life which nature has given us, can these be better bestowed than on this immortal boon to our country ?  The exertions and the mortifications are temporary;  the benefit eternal.  If any member of our college of visitors could justifiably withdraw from this sacred duty, it would be myself, who, quadragenis stipendiis jamdudum peractis, have neither vigor of body nor mind left to keep the field;  but I will die in the last ditch, and so I hope you will, my friend, as well as our firm-breasted brothers and colleagues, Mr. Johnson and Gen. Breckenridge.  Nature will not give you a second life wherein to atone for the omissions of this.  Pray then, dear and very dear Sir, do not think of deserting us, but view the sacrifices which seem to stand in your way, as the lesser duties, and such as ought to be postponed, to this, the greatest of all.  Continue with us in these holy labors, until having seen their accomplishment, we may say with old Simeon, "nunc dimittas, Domine."  Under all circumstances, however, of praise or blame, I shall be affectionately yours.




To Jared Mansfield, Esq.
Monticello, February 13, 1821.

I am favored, Sir, with your letter of January 26th, and am duly sensible of the honor proposed of giving to my portrait a place among the benefactors of our nation, and of the establishment of West Point in particular.  I have ever considered that establishment as of major importance to our country, and in whatever I could do for it, I viewed myself as performing a duty only.  This is certainly more than requited by the kind sentiments expressed in your letter.  The real debt of the institution is to its able and zealous professors.  Mr. Sully, I fear, however, will consider the trouble of his journey, and the employment of his fine pencil, as illy bestowed on an ottamy of 78.  Voltaire, when requested by a female friend to sit for his bust by the sculptor Pigalle, answered, "J’ai soixante seize ans ; et M. Pigalle doit, dit-on venir modeler mon visage.  Mais, Madame, il faudrait que j’eusse un visage.  On n’en devinerait à peine la place mes yeux sont enfonces de trois pouces;  mes joues sont de vieux parchemin mal collés sur des os qui ne tiennent à rien.  Le peu de dents que j’avais est parti."  I will conclude however, with him, that what remains is at your service, and that of the pencil of Mr. Sully.  I shall be at home till the middle of April, when I shall go for some time to an occasional and distant residence.  Within this term Mr. Sully will be pleased to consult his own convenience, in which the state of the roads will of course have great weight.  Every day of it will be equal with me.

I pray you, Sir, to convey to the brethren of your institution, and to accept for yourself also, the assurance of my high consideration and regard.




To General James Breckinridge.
Monticello, February 15, 1821.

Dear Sir

I learn, with deep affliction, that nothing is likely to be done for our University this year.  So near as it is to the shore that one shove more would land it there, I had hoped that would be given ;  and that we should open with the next year an institution on which the fortunes of our country may depend more than may meet the general eye.  The reflections that the boys of this age are to be the men of the next;  that they should be prepared to receive the holy charge which we are cherishing to deliver over to them;  that in establishing an institution of wisdom for them, we secure it to all our future generations;  that in fulfilling this duty, we bring home to our own bosoms the sweet consolation of seeing our suns rising under a luminous tuition, to destinies of high promise ;  these are considerations which will occur to all ;  but all, I fear, do not see the speck in our horizon which is to burst on us as a tornado, sooner or later.  The line of division lately marked out between different portions of our confederacy, is such as will never, I fear, be obliterated, and we are now trusting to those who are against us in position and principle, to fashion to their own form the minds and affections of our youth.  If, as has been estimated, we send three hundred thousand dollars a year to the Northern seminaries, for the instruction of our own sons, then we must have there five hundred of our sons, imbibing opinions and principles in discord with those of their own country.  This canker is eating on the vitals of our existence, and if not arrested at once, will be beyond remedy.  We are now certainly furnishing recruits to their school.  If it be asked what are we to do, or said we cannot give the last lift to the University without stopping our primary schools, and these we think most important ;  I answer, I know their importance.  Nobody can doubt my zeal for the general instruction of the people.  Who first started that idea ?  I may surely say, myself.  Turn to the bill in the revised code, which I drew more than forty years ago, and before which the idea of a plan for the education of the people, generally, had never been suggested in this State.  There you will see developed the first rudiments of the whole system of general education we are now urging and acting on;  and it is well known to those with whom I have acted on this subject, that I never have proposed a sacrifice of the primary to the ultimate grade of instruction.  Let us keep our eye steadily on the while system.  If we cannot do everything at once, let us do one at a time.  The primary schools need no preliminary expense;  the ultimate grade requires a considerable expenditure in advance.  A suspension of proceeding for a year or two on the primary schools, and an application of the whole income, during that time, to the completion of the buildings necessary for the University, would enable us then to start both institutions at the same time.  The intermediate branch, of colleges, academies and private classical schools, for the middle grade, may hereafter receive any necessary aids when the funds shall become competent.  In the meantime, they are going on sufficiently, as they have ever yet gone on, at the private expense of those who use them, and who in numbers and means are competent to their own exigencies.  The experience of three years has, I presume, left no doubt that the present plan of primary schools, of putting money into the hands of twelve hundred persons acting for nothing, and under no responsibility, is entirely inefficient.  Some other must be thought of;  and during this pause, if it be only for a year, the whole revenue of that year, with that of the last three years which has not been already thrown away, would place our University in readiness to start with a better organization of primary schools, and both may then go on, hand in hand, forever.  No diminution of the capital will in this way have been incurred ;  a principle which ought to be deemed sacred.  A relinquishment of interest on the late loan of sixty thousand dollars, would so far, also, forward the University without lessening the capital.

But what may be best done I leave with entire confidence to yourself and your colleagues in legislation, who know better than I do the conditions of the literary fund and its wisest application;  and I shall acquiesce with perfect resignation to their will.  I have brooded, perhaps with fondness, over this establishment, as it held up to me the hope of continuing to be useful while I continued to live.  I had believed that the course and circumstances of my life had placed within my power some services favorable to the outset of the institution.  But this may be egotism;  pardonable, perhaps, when I express a consciousness that my colleagues and successors will do as well, whatever the legislature shall enable them to do.

I have thus, my dear Sir, opened my bosom, with all its anxieties, freely to you.  I blame nobody for seeing things in a different light.  I am sure that all act conscientiously, and that all will be done honestly and wisely which can be done.  I yield the concerns of the world with cheerfulness to those who are appointed in the order of nature to succeed to them; and for yourself, for our colleagues, and for all in charge of our country’s future fame and fortune, I offer up sincere prayers.




To Dabney Terrell, Esq.
Monticello, February 26, 1821.

Dear Sir

While you were in this neighborhood, you mentioned to me your intention of studying the law, and asked my opinion as to the sufficient course of reading.  I gave it to you, ore tenus, and with so little consideration that I do not remember what it was ;  but I have since recollected that I once wrote a letter to Dr. Cooper, on good consideration of the subject.  He was then Law Lecturer, I believe, at Carlisle.  My stiffening wrist makes writing now a slow and painful operation, but my grand-daughter Ellen undertakes to copy the letter, which I shall enclose herein.

I notice in that letter four distinct epochs at which the English laws have been reviewed, and their whole body, as existing at each epoch, well digested into a code.  These digests were by Bracton, Coke, Matthew Bacon and Blackstone.  Bracton having written about the commencement of the extant statutes, may be considered as having given a digest of the laws then in being, written and unwritten, and forming, therefore, the textual code of what is called the common law, just at the period, too, when it begins to be altered by statutes to which we can appeal.  But so much of his matter is become obsolete by change of circumstances or altered by statute, that the student may omit him for the present, and

1st.  Begin with Coke’s four Institutes.*  These give a complete body of the law as it stood in the reign of the first James, an epoch the more interesting to us, as we separated at that point from English legislation, and acknowledge no subsequent statutory alterations.

2.  Then passing over (for occasional reading as hereafter proposed) all the reports and treatises to the time of Matthew Bacon, read his abridgment, compiled about one hundred years after Coke’s, in which they are all embodied.  This gives numerous applications of the old principles to new cases, and gives the general state of the English law at that period.

Here, too, the student should take up the chancery branch of the law, by reading the first and second abridgments of the cases in Equity.  The second is by the same Matthew Bacon, the first having been published some time before.  The alphabetical order adopted by Bacon, is certainly not as satisfactory as the systematic.  But the arrangement is under very general and leading heads, and these, indeed, with very little difficulty, might be systematically instead of alphabetically arranged and read.

3.  Passing now in like manner over all intervening reports and tracts, the student may take up Blackstone’s Commentaries, published about twenty-five years later than Bacon’s abridgment, and giving the substance of these new reports and tracts.  This review is not so full as that of Bacon, by any means, but better digested.  Here, too, Woodeson should be read as supplementary to Blackstone, under heads too shortly treated by him.  Foublanque’s edition of Francis’ Maxims of Equity, and Bridgman’s digested Index, into which the latter cases are incorporated, are also supplementary in the chancery branch, in which Blackstone is very short.

This course comprehends about twenty-six 8vo volumes, and reading four or five hours a day would employ about two years.

After these, the best of the reporters since Blackstone should be read for the new cases which have occurred since his time.  Which they are I know not, as all of them are since my time.

By way of change and relief for another hour or two in the day, should be read the law tracts of merit which are many, and among them all those of Baron Gilbert are of the first order.  In these hours, too, may be read Bracton, (now translated,) and Justinian’s Institute.  The method of these two last works is very much the same, and their language often quite so.  Justinian is very illustrative of the doctrines of equity, and is often appealed to, and Cooper’s edition is the best on account of the analogies and contrasts he has given of the Roman and English law.  After Bracton, Reeves’ History of the English Law may be read to advantage.  During this same hour or two of lighter law reading, select and leading cases of the reporters may be successively read, which the several digests will have pointed out and referred to.

* * * * * * * * * * *

I have here sketched the reading in common law and chancery which I suppose necessary for a reputable practitioner in those courts.  But there are other branches of law in which, although it is not expected he should be an adept, yet when it occurs to speak of them, it should be understandingly to a decent degree.  There are the Admiralty law, Ecclesiastical law, and the Law of Nations.  I would name as elementary books in these branches, Molloy de Jure Maritimo.  Brown’s Compend of the Civil and Admiralty Law, 2 vols., 8vo.  The Jura Ecclesiastica, 2 vols., 8vo.  And Les Institutions du droit de la Nature et des Gens de Reyneval, 1 vol., 8vo.

Besides these six hours of law reading, light and heavy, and those necessary for the repasts of the day, for exercise and sleep, which suppose to be ten or twelve, there will still be six or eight hours for reading, history, politics, ethics, physics, oratory, poetry, criticism, etc., as necessary as law to form an accomplished lawyer.

The letter to Dr. Cooper, with this as a supplement, will give you those ideas on a sufficient course of law reading which I ought to have done with more consideration at the moment of your first request.  Accept them now as a testimony of my esteem, and of sincere wishes for your success;  and the family, unâ voce, desires me to convey theirs with my own affectionate salutations.


* Since the date of this letter, a most important and valuable edition has been published of Coke’s First Institute.  The editor, Thomas, has analyzed the whole work, and re-composed its matter in the order of Blackstone’s Commentaries, not omitting a sentence of Lord Coke’s text, nor inserting one not his.  In notes, under the text, he has given the modern decisions relating to the same subjects, rendering it thus as methodical, lucid, easy and agreeable to the reader as Blackstone, and more precise and profound.  It can now be no longer doubted that this is the very best elementary work for a beginner in the study of the law.  It is not, I suppose, to be had in this State, and questionable if in the North, as yet, and it is dear, costing in England four guineas or nineteen dollars, to which add the duty here on imported books, which, on the three volumes 8vo, is something more than three dollars, or one dollar the 8vo volume.  This is a tax on learned readers to support printers for the readers of "The Delicate Distress," and "The Wild Irish Boy."





To Timothy Pickering, Esq.
Monticello, February 27, 1821.

I have received, Sir, your favor of the 12th, and I assure you I received it with pleasure.  It is true, as you say, that we have differed in political opinions;  but I can say with equal truth, that I never suffered a political to become a personal difference.  I have been left on this ground by some friends whom I dearly loved, but I was never the first to separate.  With some others, of politics different from mine, I have continued in the warmest friendship to this day, and to all, and to yourself particularly, I have ever done moral justice.

I thank you for Mr. Channing’s discourse, which you have been so kind as to forward me.  It is not yet at hand, but is doubtless on its way.  I had received it through another channel, and read it with high satisfaction.  No one sees with greater pleasure than myself the progress of reason in its advances towards rational Christianity.  When we shall have done away the incomprehensible jargon of the Trinitarian arithmetic, that three are one, and one is three ;  when we shall have knocked down the artificial scaffolding, reared to mask from view the simple structure of Jesus;  when, in short, we shall have unlearned everything which has been taught since His day, and got back to the pure and simple doctrines He inculcated, we shall then be truly and worthily His disciples;  and my opinion is that if nothing had ever been added to what flowed purely from His lips, the whole world would at this day have been Christian.  I know that the case you cite, of Dr. Drake, has been a common one.  The religion-builders have so distorted and deformed the doctrines of Jesus, so muffled them in mysticisms, fancies and falsehoods, have caricatured them into forms so monstrous and inconceivable, as to shock reasonable thinkers, to revolt them against the whole, and drive them rashly to pronounce its Founder an impostor.  Had there never been a commentator, there never would have been an infidel.  In the present advance of truth, which we both approve, I do not know that you and I may think alike on all points.  As the Creator has made no two faces alike, so no two minds, and probably no two creeds.  We well know that among Unitarians themselves there are strong shades of difference, as between Doctors Price and Priestley, for example.  So there may be peculiarities in your creed and in mine.  They are honestly formed without doubt.  I do not wish to trouble the world with mine, nor to be troubled for them.  These accounts are to be settled only with Him who made us;  and to Him we leave it, with charity for all others, of whom, also, He is the only rightful and competent Judge.  I have little doubt that the whole of our country will soon be rallied to the unity of the Creator, and, I hope, to the pure doctrines of Jesus also.

In saying to you so much, and without reserve, on a subject on which I never permit myself to go before the public, I know that I am safe against the infidelities which have so often betrayed my letters to the strictures of those for whom they were not written, and to whom I never meant to commit my peace.  To yourself I wish every happiness, and will conclude, as you have done, in the same simple style of antiquity, da operam ut valeas; hoc mihi gratius facere nihil potes.




To Judge Spencer Roane.
Monticello, March 9, 1821.

Dear Sir

I am indebted for your favor of February 25th, and especially for your friendly indulgence to my excuses for retiring from the polemical world.  I should not shrink from the post of duty, had not the decays of nature withdrawn me from the list of combatants.  Great decline in the energies of the body import naturally a corresponding wane of the mind, and a longing after tranquillity as the last and sweetest asylum of age.  It is a law of nature that the generations of men should give way, one to another, and I hope that the one now on the stage will preserve for their sons the political blessings delivered into their hands by their fathers.  Time indeed changes manners and notions, and so far we must expect institutions to bend to them.  But time produces also corruption of principles, and against this it is the duty of good citizens to be ever on the watch, and if the gangrene is to prevail at last, let the day be kept off as long as possible.  We see already germs of this, as might be expected.  But we are not the less bound to press against them.  The multiplication of public offices, increase of expense beyond income, growth and entailment of a public debt, are indications soliciting the employment of the pruning-knife;  and I doubt not it will be employed ;  good principles being as yet prevalent enough for that.

The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary.  That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is ingulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them.  The recent recall to first principles, however, by Colonel Taylor, by yourself, and now by Alexander Smith, will, I hope, be heard and obeyed, and that a temporary check will be effected.  Yet be not weary of well doing.  Let the eye of vigilance never be closed.

Last and most portentous of all is the Missouri question.  It is smeared over for the present;  but its geographical demarcation is indelible.  What it is to become, I see not;  and leave to those who will live to see it.  The University will give employment to my remaining years, and quite enough for my senile faculties.  It is the last act of usefulness I can render, and could I see it open I would not ask an hour more of life.  To you I hope many will still be given ;  and, certain they will all be employed for the good of our beloved country, I salute you with sentiments of especial friendship and respect.




To Judge Spencer Roane.
Monticello, June 27, 1821.

Dear Sir

I have received through the hands of the Governor, Colonel Taylor’s letter to you.  It is with extreme reluctance that I permit myself to usurp the office of an adviser of the public, what books they should read, and what not.  I yield, however, on this occasion to your wish and that of Colonel Taylor, and do what (with a single exception only) I never did before, on the many similar applications made to me.  On reviewing my letters to Colonel Taylor and to Mr. Thweatt, neither appeared exactly proper.  Each contained matter which might give offence to the judges, without adding strength to the opinion.  I have, therefore, out of the two, cooked up what may be called "an extract of a letter from Th : J. to ----;"  but without saying it is published with my consent.  That would forever deprive me of the ground of declining the office of a Reviewer of books in future cases.  I sincerely wish the attention of the public may be drawn to the doctrines of the book;  and if this self-styled extract may contribute to it, I shall be gratified.  I salute you with constant friendship and respect.


Extract of a Letter from Th: Jefferson to ----.

I have read Colonel Taylor’s book of "Constructions Construed," with great satisfaction, and, I will say, with edification ;  for I acknowledge it corrected some errors of opinion into which I had slidden without sufficient examination.  It is the most logical retraction of our governments to the original and true principles of the Constitution creating them, which has appeared since the adoption of that instrument.  I may not perhaps concur in all its opinions, great and small ;  for no two men ever thought alike on so many points.  But on all its important questions, it contains the true political faith, to which every catholic republican should steadfastly hold.  It should be put into the hands of all our functionaries, authoritatively, as a standing instruction, and true exposition of our Constitution, as understood at the time we agreed to it.  It is a fatal heresy to suppose that either our State governments are superior to the federal, or the federal to the States.  The people, to whom all authority belongs, have divided the powers of government into two distinct departments, the leading characters of which are foreign and domestic;  and they have appointed for each a distinct set of functionaries.  These they have made co-ordinate, checking and balancing each other, like the three cardinal departments in the individual States :  each equally supreme as to the powers delegated to itself, and neither authorized ultimately to decide what belongs to itself, or to its coparcenor in government.  As independent, in fact, as different nations, a spirit of forbearance and compromise, therefore, and not of encroachment and usurpation, is the healing balm of such a Constitution ;  and each party should prudently shrink from all approach to the line of demarcation, instead of rashly overleaping it, or throwing grapples ahead to haul to hereafter.  But, finally, the peculiar happiness of our blessed system is, that in differences of opinion between these different sets of servants, the appeal is to neither, but to their employers peaceably assembled by their representatives in convention.  This is more rational than the jus fortioris, or the cannon’s mouth, the ultima et sola ratio regum.




To General Henry Dearborn.
Monticello, August 17, 1821.

Dear Sir

Your favor of the 8th came to hand yesterday evening.  I hope you will never suppose your letters to be among those which are troublesome to me.  They are always welcome, and it is among my great comforts to hear from my ancient colleagues, and to know that they are well.  The affectionate recollection of Mrs. Dearborn cherished by our family, will ever render her health and happiness interesting to them.  You are so far astern of Mr. Adams and myself, that you must not yet talk of old age.  I am happy to hear of his good health.  I think he will outlive us all, I mean the Declaration men, although our senior since the death of Colonel Floyd.  It is a race in which I have no ambition to win.  Man, like the fruit he eats, has his period of ripeness.  Like that, too, if he continues longer hanging to the stem, it is but an useless and unsightly appendage.  I rejoice with you that the State of Missouri is at length a member of our Union.  Whether the question it excited is dead, or only sleepeth, I do not know.  I see only that it has given resurrection to the Hartford Convention men.  They have had the address, by playing on the honest feelings of our former friends, to seduce them from their kindred spirits, and to borrow their weight into the federal scale.  Desperate of regaining power under political distinctions, they have adroitly wriggled into its seat under the auspices of morality, and are again in the ascendency from which their sins had hurled them.  It is indeed of little consequence who governs us, if they sincerely and zealously cherish the principles of union and republicanism.

I still believe that the Western extension of our confederacy will ensure its duration, by overruling local factions, which might shake a smaller association.  But whatever may be the merit or demerit of that acquisition, I divide it with my colleagues, to whose counsels I was indebted for a course of administration which, notwithstanding this late coalition of clay and brass, will, I hope, continue to receive the approbation of our country.

The portrait by Stuart was received in due time and good order, and claims for this difficult acquisition, the thanks of the family, who join me in affectionate souvenirs of Mrs. Dearborn and yourself.  My particular salutations to both flow, as ever, from the heart, continual and warm.




To Charles Hammond.
Monticello, August 18, 1821.

SIR

Your favor of the 7th is just now received.  The letter to which it refers was written by me with the sole view of recommending to the study of my fellow citizens a book which I considered as containing more genuine doctrines on the subject of our government, and carrying us back more truly to its fundamental principles, than any one which had been written since the adoption of our Constitution.  As confined to this object, I thought, and still think, its language as plain and intelligible as I can make it.  But when we see inspired writings made to speak whatever opposite controversialists wish them to say, we cannot ourselves expect to find language incapable of similar distortion.  My expressions were general ;  their perversion is in their misapplication to a particular case.  To test them truly, they should turn to the book with whose opinion they profess to coincide.  If the book establishes that a State has no right to tax the moneyed property within its limits, or that it can be called, as a party, to the bar of the federal judiciary, then they may infer that these are my opinions.  If no such doctrines are there, my letter does not authorize their imputation to me.

It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression, (although I do not choose to put it into a newspaper, nor, like a Priam in armor, offer myself its champion,) that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciaryan irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow,) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little to-day and a little to-morrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the States, and the government of all be consolidated into one.  To this I am opposed ;  because, when all government, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the centre of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another, and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.  It will be as in Europe, where every man must be either pike or gudgeon, hammer or anvil.  Our functionaries and theirs are wares from the same work-shop;  made of the same materials, and by the same hand.  If the States look with apathy on this silent descent of their government into the gulf which is to swallow all, we have only to weep over the human character formed uncontrollable but by a rod of iron, and the blasphemers of man, as incapable of self-government, become his true historians.

But let me beseech you, Sir, not to let this letter get into a newspaper.  Tranquillity, at my age, is the supreme good of life.  I think it a duty, and it is my earnest wish, to take no further part in public affairs;  to leave them to the existing generation to whose turn they have fallen, and to resign the remains of a decaying body and mind to their protection.  The abuse of confidence by publishing my letters has cost me more than all other pains, and makes me afraid to put pen to paper in a letter of sentiment.  If I have done it frankly in answer to your letter, it is in full trust that I shall not be thrown by you into the arena of a newspaper.  I salute you with great respect.




To John Adams.
Monticello, September 12, 1821.

Dear Sir

I am just returned from my other home, and shall within a week go back to it for the rest of the autumn.  I find here your favor of August 20th, and was before in arrear for that of May 19th.  I cannot answer, but join in, your question of May 19th.  Are we to surrender the pleasing hopes of seeing improvement in the moral and intellectual condition of man ?  The events of Naples and Piedmont cast a gloomy cloud over that hope, and Spain and Portugal are not beyond jeopardy.  And what are we to think of this northern triumvirate, arming their nations to dictate despotisms to the rest of the world ?  And the evident connivance of England, as the price of secret stipulations for continental armies, if her own should take side with her malcontent and pulverized people ?  And what of the poor Greeks, and their small chance of amelioration even if the hypocritical Autocrat should take them under the iron cover of his Ukazes.  Would this be lighter or safer than that of the Turk ?  These, my dear friend, are speculations for the new generation, as, before they will be resolved, you and I must join our deceased brother Floyd.  Yet I will not believe our labors are lost.  I shall not die without a hope that light and liberty are on steady advance.  We have seen, indeed, once within the records of history, a complete eclipse of the human mind continuing for centuries.  And this, too, by swarms of the same northern barbarians, conquering and taking possession of the countries and governments of the civilized world.  Should this be again attempted, should the same northern hordes, allured again by the corn, wine, and oil of the south, be able again to settle their swarms in the countries of their growth, the art of printing alone, and the vast dissemination of books, will maintain the mind where it is, and raise the conquering ruffians to the level of the conquered, instead of degrading these to that of their conquerors.  And even should the cloud of barbarism and despotism again obscure the science and liberties of Europe, this country remains to preserve and restore light and liberty to them.  In short, the flames kindled on the 4th of July, 1776, have spread over too much of the globe to be extinguished by the feeble engines of despotism;  on the contrary, they will consume these engines and all who work them.

I think with you that there should be a school of instruction for our navy as well as artillery ;  and I do not see why the same establishment might not suffice for both.  Both require the same basis of general mathematics, adding projectiles and fortifications for the artillery exclusively, and astronomy and theory of navigation exclusively for the naval students.  Berout conducted both schools in France, and has left us the best book extant for their joint and separate instruction.  It ought not to require a separate professor.

A 4th of July oration delivered in the town of Milford, in your State, gives to Samuel Chase the credit of having "first started the cry of independence in the ears of his countrymen."  Do you remember anything of this ?  I do not.  I have no doubt it was uttered in Massachusetts even before it was by Thomas Paine.  But certainly I never considered Samuel Chase as foremost, or even forward in that hallowed cry.  I know that Maryland hung heavily on our backs, and that Chase, although first named, was not most in unison with us of that delegation, either in politics or morals, et c’est ainsi que l’on ecrit l’histoire !

Your doubt of the legitimacy of the word gloriola, is resolved by Cicero, who, in his letter to Lucceius expresses a wish "ut nos metipsi vivi gloriola nostra perfruamur."  Affectionately adieu.




John Adams to Thomas Jefferson.
Montezillo, September 24, 1821.

Dear Sir

I thank you for your favor of the 12th instant.  Hope springs eternal.  Eight millions of Jews hope for a Messiah more powerful and glorious than Moses, David, or Solomon;  who is to make them as powerful as he pleases.  Some hundreds of millions of Mussulmans expect another prophet more powerful than Mahomet, who is to spread Islamism over the whole earth.  Hundreds of millions of Christians expect and hope for a millennium in which Jesus is to reign for a thousand years over the whole world before it is burnt up.  The Hindoos expect another and final incarnation of Vishnu, who is to do great and wonderful things, I know not what.  All these hopes are founded on real or pretended revelation.  The modern Greeks, too, it seems, hope, for a deliverer who is to produce them—the Themistocleses and Demostheneses—the Platos and Aristotles—the Solons and Lycurguses.  On what prophecies they found their belief, I know not.  You and I hope for splendid improvements in human society, and vast amelioration in the condition of mankind.  Our faith may be supposed by more rational arguments than any of the former.  I own that I am very sanguine in the belief of them, as I hope and believe you are, and your reasoning in your letter confirmed me in them.

As Brother Floyd has gone, I am now the oldest of the little Congressional group that remain.  I may therefore rationally hope to be the first to depart ;  and as you are the youngest and most energetic in mind and body, you may therefore rationally hope to be the last to take your flight, and to rake up the fire as father Sherman, who always staid to the last, and commonly two days afterwards, used to say, "that it was his office to sit up and rake the ashes over the coals."  And much satisfaction may you have in your office.

The cholera morbus has done wonders in St. Helena and in London.  We shall soon hear of a negotiation for a second wife.  Whether in the body, or out of the body, I shall always be your friend.

The anecdote of Mr. Chase, contained in the oration delivered at Milford, must be an idle rumor, for neither the State of Maryland, nor of their delegates, were very early in their conviction of the necessity of independence, nor very forward in promoting it.  The old speaker Tilghman, Johnson, Chase, and Paca, were steady in promoting resistance, but after some of them, Maryland sent one, at least, of the most turbulent Tories that ever came to Congress.




To ----.
Monticello, September 28, 1821.

SIR

The government of the United States, at a very early period, when establishing its tariff on foreign importations, were very much guided in their selection of objects by a desire to encourage manufactures within ourselves.  Among other articles then selected were books, on the importation of which a duty of fifteen per cent. was imposed, which, by ordinary custom-house charges, amount to about eighteen per cent., and adding the importing bookseller’s profit on this, becomes about twenty-seven per cent.  This was useful at first, perhaps, towards exciting our printers to make a beginning in that business here.  But it is found in experience that the home demand is not sufficient to justify the reprinting any but the most popular English works, and cheap editions of a few of the classics for schools.  For the editions of value, enriched by notes, commentaries, etc., and for books in foreign living languages, the demand here is too small and sparse to reimburse the expense of re-printing them.  None of these, therefore, are printed here, and the duty on them becomes consequently not a protecting, but really a prohibitory one.  It makes a very serious addition to the price of the book, and falls chiefly on a description of persons little able to meet it.  Students who are destined for professional callings, as must of our scholars are, are barely able for the most part to meet the expenses of tuition.  The addition of eighteen or twenty-seven per cent. on the books necessary for their instruction, amounts often to a prohibition as to them.  For want of these aids, which are open to the students of all other nations but our own, they enter on their course on a very unequal footing with those of the same professions in foreign countries, and our citizens at large, too, who employ them, do not derive from that employment all the benefit which higher qualifications would give them.  It is true that no duty is required on books imported for seminaries of learning, but these, locked up in libraries, can be of no avail to the practical man when he wishes a recurrence to them for the uses of life.  Of many important books of reference there is not perhaps a single copy in the United States ;  of others but a few, and these too distant often to be accessible to scholars generally.  It is believed, therefore, that if the attention of Congress could be drawn to this article, they would, in their wisdom, see its impolicy.  Science is more important in a republican than in any other government.  And in an infant country like ours, we must much depend for improvement on the science of other countries, longer established, possessing better means, and more advanced than we are.  To prohibit us from the benefit of foreign light, is to consign us to long darkness.

The Northern seminaries following with parental solicitude the interests of their eleves in the course for which they have prepared them, propose to petition Congress on this subject, and wish for the cooperation of those of the South and West, and I have been requested, as more convenient in position than they are, to solicit that cooperation.  Having no personal acquaintance with those who are charged with the direction of the college of ----, I do not know how more effectually to communicate these views to them, than by availing myself of the knowledge I have of your zeal for the happiness and improvement of our country.  I take the liberty, therefore, of requesting you to place the subject before the proper authorities of that institution, and if they approve the measure, to solicit a concurrent proceeding on their part to carry it into effect.  Besides petitioning Congress, I would propose that they address in their corporate capacity, a letter to their delegates and Senators in Congress, soliciting their best endeavors to obtain the repeal of the duty on imported books.  I cannot but suppose that such an application will be respected by them, and will engage their votes and endeavors to effect an object so reasonable.  A conviction that science is important to the preservation of our republican government, and that it is also essential to its protection against foreign power, induces me, on this occasion, to step beyond the limits of that retirement to which age and inclination equally dispose me, and I am without a doubt that the same considerations will induce you to excuse the trouble I propose to you, and that you will kindly accept the assurance of my high respect and esteem.




To Nathaniel Macon.
Monticello, November 23, 1821.

Dear Sir

Absence at an occasional but distant residence, prevented my receiving your friendly letter of October 20th till three days ago.  A line from my good old friends is like balm to my soul.  You ask me what you are to do with my letter of September 19th ?  I wrote it, my dear Sir, with no other view than to pour my thoughts into your bosom.  I knew they would be safe there, and I believed they would be welcome.  But if you think, as you say, that "good may be done by showing it to a few well-tried friends," I have no objection to that, but ultimately you cannot do better than to throw it into the fire.

My confidence, as you kindly observed, has been often abused by the publication of my letters for the purposes of interest or vanity, and it has been to me the source of much pain to be exhibited before the public in forms not meant for them.  I receive letters expressed in the most friendly and even affectionate terms, sometimes, perhaps asking my opinion on some subject.  I cannot refuse to answer such letters, nor can I do it dryly and suspiciously.  Among a score or two of such correspondents, one perhaps betrays me.  I feel it mortifyingly, but conclude I had better incur one treachery than offend a score or two of good people.  I sometimes expressly desire that my letter may not be published;  but this is so like requesting a man not to steal or cheat, that I am ashamed of it after I have done it.

Our government is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit:  by consolidation first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence.  The engine of consolidation will be the federal judiciary;  the two other branches, the corrupting and corrupted instruments.  I fear an explosion in our State Legislature.  I wish they may restrain themselves to a strong but temperate protestation.  Virginia is not at present in favor with her co-States.  An opposition headed by her would determine all the anti-Missouri States to take the contrary side.  She had better lie by, therefore, till the shoe shall pinch an Eastern State.  Let the cry be first raised from that quarter, and we may fall into it with effect.  But I fear our Eastern associates wish for consolidation, in which they would be joined by the smaller States generally.  But, with one foot in the grave, I have no right to meddle with these things.  Ever and affectionately yours.




To ----.
Monticello, November 29, 1821.

Dear Sir

You have often gratified me by your astronomical communications, and I am now about to amuse you with one of mine.  But I must first explain the circumstances which have drawn me into a speculation so foreign to the path of life which the times in which I have lived, more than my own inclinations, have led me to pursue.

I had long deemed it incumbent on the authorities of our country, to have the great western wilderness beyond the Mississippi, explored, to make known its geography, its natural productions, its general character and inhabitants.  Two attempts which I had myself made formerly, before the country was ours, the one from west to east, the other from east to west had both proved abortive.  When called to the administration of the General Government, I made this an object of early attention, and proposed it to Congress.  They voted a sum of five thousand dollars for its execution, and I placed Captain Lewis at the head of the enterprise.  No man within the range of my acquaintance, united so many of the qualifications necessary for its successful direction.  But he had not received such an astronomical education as might enable him to give us the geography of the country with the precision desired.  The Missouri and Columbia, which were to constitute the track of his journey, were rivers which varied little in their progressive latitudes, but changed their longitudes rapidly and at every step.  To qualify him for making these observations, so important to the value of the enterprise, I encouraged him to apply himself to this particular object, and gave him letters to Doctor Patterson and Mr. Ellicott, requesting them to instruct him in the necessary processes.  Those for the longitude would of course be founded on the lunar distances.  But as these require essentially the aid of a timekeeper, it occurred to me that during a journey of two, three, or four years, exposed to so many accidents as himself and the instrument would be, we might expect with certainty that it would become deranged, and in a desert country where it could not be repaired.  I thought it then highly important that some means of observation should be furnished him, if any could be, which should be practicable and competent to ascertain his longitudes in that event.  The equatorial occurred to myself as the most promising substitute.  I observed only that Ramsden, in his explanation of its uses, and particularly that of finding the longitude at land, still required his observer to have the aid of a timekeeper.  But this cannot be necessary, for the margin of the equatorial circle of this instrument being divided into time by hours, minutes, and seconds, supplies the main functions of the timekeeper, and for measuring merely the interval of the observations, is such as not to be neglected.  A portable pendulum, for counting, by an assistant, would fully answer that purpose.  I suggested my fears to several of our best astronomical friends, and my wishes that other processes should be furnished him, if any could be, which might guard us ultimately from disappointment.  Several other methods were proposed, but all requiring the use of a timekeeper.  That of the equatorial being recommended by none, and other duties refusing me time for protracted consultations, I relinquished the idea for that occasion.  But, if a sound one, it should not be abandoned.  Those deserts are yet to be explored, and their geography given to the world and ourselves with a correctness worthy of the science of the age.  The acquisition of the country before Captain Lewis’ departure facilitated our enterprise, but his timekeeper failed early in his journey.  His dependence, then, was on the compass and log-line, with the correction of latitudes only ;  and the true longitudes of the different points of the Missouri, of the Stony Mountains, the Columbia and Pacific, at its mouth, remain yet to be obtained by future enterprise.

The circumstance which occasions a recurrence of the subject to my mind at this time particularly is this :  our legislature, some time ago, came to a determination that an accurate map should be made of our State.  The late John Wood was employed on it.  Its first elements are prepared by maps of the several counties.  But these have been made by chain and compass only, which suppose the surface of the earth to be a plane.  To fit them together, they must be accommodated to its real spherical surface;  and this can be done only by observations of latitude and longitude, taken at different points of the area to which they are to be reduced.  It is true that in the lower and more populous parts of the State, the method of lunar distances by the circle or sextant, and timekeeper, may be used;  because those parts furnish means of repairing or replacing a deranged timekeeper.  But the deserts beyond the Alleghany are as destitute of resource in that case, as those of the Missouri.  The question then recurs whether the equatorial, without the auxiliary of a timekeeper, is not competent to the ascertainment of longitudes at land, where a fixed meridian can always be obtained ? and whether indeed it may not everywhere at land, be a readier and preferable instrument for that purpose ?  To these questions I ask your attentions;  and to show the grounds on which I entertain the opinion myself, I will briefly explain the principles of the process, and the peculiarities of the instrument which give it the competence I ascribe to it.  And should you concur in the opinion, I will further ask you to notice any particular circumstances claiming attention in the process, and the corrections which the observations may necessarily require.  As to myself, I am an astronomer of theory only, little versed in practical observations, and the minute attentions and corrections they require.  I proceed now to the explanation.

A method of finding the longitude of a place at land, without a timekeeper.

If two persons, at different points of the same hemisphere, (as Greenwich and Washington, for example,) observe the same celestial phenomenon, at the same instant of time, the difference of the times marked by their respective clocks is the difference of their longitudes, or the distance between their meridians.  To catch with precision the same instant of time for these simultaneous observations, the moon’s motion in her orbit is the best element ;  her change of place (about a half second of space in a second of time) is rapid enough to be ascertained by a good instrument with sufficient precision for the object.  But suppose the observer at Washington, or in a desert, to be without a timekeeper;  the equatorial is the instrument to be used in that case.  Again, we have supposed a cotemporaneous observer at Greenwich.  But his functions may be supplied by the nautical almanac, adapted to that place, and enabling us to calculate for any instant of time the meridian distances there of the heavenly bodies necessary to be observed for this purpose.

The observer at Washington, choosing the time when their position is suitable, is to adjust his equatorial to his meridian, to his latitude, and to the plane of his horizon ;  or if he is in a desert where neither meridian nor latitude is yet ascertained, the advantages of this noble instrument are, that it enables him to find both in the course of a few hours.  Thus prepared, let him ascertain by observation the right ascension of the moon from that of a known star, or their horary distance;  and, at the same instant, her horary distance from his meridian.  Her right ascension at the instant thus ascertained, enter with that of the nautical almanac, and calculate, by its tables, what was her horary distance from the meridian of Greenwich at the instant she had attained that point of right ascension, or that horary distance from the same star.  The addition of these meridian distances, if the moon was between the two meridians, or the subtraction of the lesser from the greater, if she was on the same side of both, is the differences of their longitudes.

This general theory admits different cases, of which the observer may avail himself, according to the particular position of the heavenly bodies at the moment of observation.

Case 1st.  When the moon is on his meridian, or on that of Greenwich.

Second.  When the star is on either meridian.

Third.  When the moon and star are on the same side of his meridian.

Fourth.  When they are on different sides.

For instantaneousness of observation, the equatorial has great advantage over the circle or sextant ;  for being truly placed in the meridian beforehand, the telescope may be directed sufficiently in advance of the moon’s motion, for time to note its place on the equatorial circle, before she attains that point.  Then observe, until her limb touches the cross-hairs;  and in that instant direct the telescope to the star;  that completes the observation, and the place of the star may be read at leisure.  The apparatus for correcting the effects of refraction and parallax, which is fixed on the eye-tube of the telescope, saves time by rendering the notation of altitudes unnecessary, and dispenses with the use of either a timekeeper or portable pendulum.

I have observed that, if placed in a desert where neither meridian nor latitude is yet ascertained, the equatorial enables the observer to find both in a few hours.  For the latitude, adjust by the cross-levels the azimuth plane of the instrument to the horizon of the place.  Bring down the equatorial plane to an exact parallelism with it, its pole then becoming vertical.  By the nut and pinion commanding it, and by that of the semicircle of declination, direct the telescope to the sun.  Follow its path with the telescope by the combined use of these two pinions, and when it has attained its greatest altitude, calculate the latitude as when taken by a sextant.

For finding the meridian, set the azimuth circle to the horizon, elevate the equatorial circle to the complement of the latitude, and fix it by the clamp and tightening screw of the two brass segments of arches below.  By the declination semicircle set the telescope to the sun’s declination of the moment.  Turn the instrument towards the meridian by guess, and by the combined movement of the equatorial and azimuth circles direct the telescope to the sun, then by the pinion of the equatorial alone, follow the path of the sun with the telescope.  If it swerves from that path, turn the azimuth circle until it shall follow the sun accurately.  A distant stake or tree should mark the meridian, to guard against its loss by any accidental jostle of the instrument.  The 12 o’clock line will then be in the true meridian, and the axis of the equatorial circle will be parallel with that of the earth.  The instrument is then in its true position for the observations of the night.  To the competence and the advantages of this method, I will only add that these instruments are high-priced.  Mine cost thirty-five guineas in Ramsden’s shop, a little before the Revolution.  I will lengthen my letter, already too long, only by assurances of my great esteem and respect.




To Joseph Cabell Breckinridge
Monticello, December 11, 1821.

Dear Sir

Your letter of December the 19th places me under a dilemma, which I cannot solve but by an exposition of the naked truth.  I would have wished this rather to have remained as hitherto, without inquiry;  but your inquiries have a right to be answered.  I will do it as exactly as the great lapse of time and a waning memory will enable me.  I may misremember indifferent circumstances, but can be right in substance.

At the time when the republicans of our country were so much alarmed at the proceedings of the federal ascendency in Congress, in the executive and the judiciary departments, it became a matter of serious consideration how head could be made against their enterprises on the Constitution.  The leading republicans in Congress found themselves of no use there, browbeaten, as they were, by a bold and overwhelming majority.  They concluded to retire from that field, take a stand in the State legislatures, and endeavor there to arrest their progress.  The alien and sedition laws furnished the particular occasion.  The sympathy between Virginia and Kentucky was more cordial, and more intimately confidential, than between any other two States of republican policy.  Mr. Madison came into the Virginia legislature.  I was then in the Vice-Presidency, and could not leave my station.  But your father, Colonel W.C. Nicholas, and myself happening to be together, the engaging the co-operation of Kentucky in an energetic protestation against the constitutionality of those laws, became a subject of consultation.  Those gentlemen pressed me strongly to sketch resolutions for that purpose, your father undertaking to introduce them to that legislature, with a solemn assurance, which I strictly required, that it should not be known from what quarter they came.  I drew and delivered them to him, and in keeping their origin secret, he fulfilled his pledge of honor.  Some years after this, Colonel Nicholas asked me if I would have any objection to its being known that I had drawn them.  I pointedly enjoined that it should not.  Whether he had unguardedly intimated it before to any one, I know not;  but I afterwards observed in the papers repeated imputations of them to me;  on which, as has been my practice on all occasions of imputation, I have observed entire silence.  The question, indeed, has never before been put to me, nor should I answer it to any other than yourself;  seeing no good end to be proposed by it, and the desire of tranquillity inducing with me a wish to be withdrawn from public notice.  Your father’s zeal and talents were too well known, to derive any additional distinction from the penning these resolutions.  That circumstance, surely, was of far less merit than the proposing and carrying them through the legislature of his State.  The only fact in this statement, on which my memory is not distinct, is the time and occasion of the consultation with your father and Colonel Nicholas.  It took place here, I know;  but whether any other person was present, or communicated with, is my doubt.  I think Mr. Madison was either with us, or consulted, but my memory is uncertain as to minute details.

I fear, dear Sir, we are now in such another crisis, with this difference only, that the judiciary branch is alone and single-handed in the present assaults on the Constitution.  But its assaults are more sure and deadly, as from an agent seemingly passive and unassuming.  May you and your cotemporaries meet them with the same determination and effect, as your father and his did the alien and sedition laws, and preserve inviolate a Constitution, which, cherished in all its chastity and purity, will prove in the end a blessing to all the nations of the earth.  With these prayers, accept those for your own happiness and prosperity.