I have received your favor of the 18th, and am duly sensible of the honor done my name by its association with the institution formed in your college for improvement in the art of speaking. The efforts of the members will, I trust, give a just reputation to the society and reflect on its name the honor which it cannot derive from it. In a country and government like ours, eloquence is a powerful instrument, well worthy of the special pursuit of our youth. Models, indeed, of chaste and classical oratory are truly too rare with us ; nor do I recollect any remarkable in England. Among the ancients the most perfect specimens are perhaps to be found in Livy, Sallust and Tacitus. Their pith and brevity constitute perfection itself for an audience of sages, on whom froth and fancy would be lost in air. But in ordinary cases, and with us particularly, more development is necessary. For senatorial eloquence, Demosthenes is the finest model ; for the bar, Cicero. The former had more logic, the latter more imagination.
Of the eloquence of the pen we have fine samples in English. Robertson, Sterne, Addison, are of the first merit in the different characters of composition. Hume, in the circumstance of style, is equal to any; but his tory principles spread a cloud over his many and great excellencies. The charms of his style and matter have made tories of all England, and doubtful republicans here.
You say that any advice which I could give you would be acceptable. But, for this, you cannot be in better hands than of the worthy professors of your own college. Their counsels would, I am sure, embrace everything I could offer. It will not, however, be a work of mere supererogatior if it will gratify you, and will furnish a stronger proof of my desire to encourage you in your laudable dispositions. Some thirty-six or thirty-seven years ago, I had a nephew, the late Peter Carr, whose education I directed, and had much at heart his future fortunes. Residing abroad at the time in public service, my counsels to him were necessarily communicated by letters. Searching among my papers I find a letter written to him, and conveying such advice as I thought suitable to the particular period of his age and education. He was then about fifteen, and had made some progress in classical reading. As your present situation may be somewhat similar, you may find in that letter some things worth remembering. I enclose you a copy therefore. It was written in haste, under the pressure of official labors, and with no view of being ever seen but by himself. It might otherwise have been made more correct in style and matter. But such as it is, I place it at your service, and pray you to receive it merely as a compliance with your own request, and as a proof of my good will and of my best wishes for your success in the career of life for which you are so worthily and laudably preparing yourselves.
I am thankful to you, Sir, for the very edifying view of Europe which you have been so kind as to send me. Tossed at random by the newspapers on an ocean of uncertainties and falsehoods, it is joyful at times to catch the glimmering of a beacon which shows us truly where we are. De Pradts Europe had some effect in this way ; but the less as the author was less known in character. The views presented by your brother unite our confidence with the soundness of his observation and information. I have read the work with great avidity and profit, and have found my ideas of Europe in general, rallied by it to points of good satisfaction. In the single chapter on England only, where his theories are new, if we cannot suddenly give up all our old notions, he furnishes us abundant matter for reflection and a revisal of them. I have long considered the present crisis of England, and the origin of the evils which are lowering over her, as produced by enormous excess of her expenditures beyond her income. To pay even the interest of the debt contracted, she is obliged to take from the industrious so much of their earnings, as not to leave enough for their backs and bellies. They are daily, therefore, passing over to the pauper list, to subsist on the declining means of those still holding up, and when these also shall be exhausted, what next ? Reformation cannot remedy this. It could only prevent its recurrence when once relieved from the debt. To effect that relief I see but one possible and just course. Considering the funded and real property as equal, and the debt as much of the one as the other, for the holder of property to give up one-half to those of the funds, and the latter to the nation the whole of what it owes them. But this the nature of man forbids us to expect without blows, and blows will decide it by a promiscuous sacrifice of life and property. The debt thus, or otherwise, extinguished, a real representation introduced into the government of either property or people, or of both, renouncing eternal war, restraining future expenses to future income and breaking up forever the consuming circle of extravagance, debt, insolvency, and revolution, the island would then again be in the degree of force which nature has measured out to it, of respectable station in the scale of nations, but not at their head. I sincerely wish she could peaceably get into this state of being, as the present prospects of southern Europe seem to need the acquisition of new weights in their balance, rather than the loss of old ones. I set additional value on this volume, inasmuch as it has procured me the occasion of expressing to you my high estimation of your character, the interest with which I look to it as an American, and the great esteem and respect with which I beg leave to salute you.
I have duly received your letter of February the 16th, and have now to express my sense of the honorable station proposed to my ex-brethren and myself, in the constitution of the society for the civilization and improvement of the Indian tribes. The object too expressed, as that of the association, is one which I have ever had much at heart, and never omitted an occasion of promoting while I have been in situations to do it with effect, and nothing, even now, in the calm of age and retirement, would excite in me a more lively interest than an approvable plan of raising that respectable and unfortunate people from the state of physical and moral abjection, to which they have been reduced by circumstances foreign to them. That the plan now proposed is entitled to unmixed approbation, I am not prepared to say, after mature consideration, and with all the partialities which its professed object would rightfully claim from me.
I shall not undertake to draw the line of demarcation between private associations of laudable views and unimposing numbers, and those whose magnitude may rivalize and jeopardize the march of regular government. Yet such a line does exist. I have seen the days, they were those which preceded the Revolution, when even this last and perilous engine became necessary; but they were days which no man would wish to see a second time. That was the case where the regular authorities of the government had combined against the rights of the people, and no means of correction remained to them but to organize a collateral power, which, with their support, might rescue and secure their violated rights. But such is not the case with our government. We need hazard no collateral power, which, by a change of its original views, and assumption of others we know not how virtuous or how mischievous, would be ready organized and in force sufficient to shake the established foundations of society, and endanger its peace and the principles on which it is based. Is not the machine now proposed of this gigantic stature ? It is to consist of the ex-Presidents of the United States, the Vice-President, the Heads of all the executive departments, the members of the supreme judiciary, the Governors of the several States and territories, all the members of both Houses of Congress, all the general officers of the army, the commissioners of the navy, all Presidents and Professors of colleges and theological seminaries, all the clergy of the United States, the Presidents and Secretaries of all associations having relation to Indians, all commanding officers within or near Indian territories, all Indian superintendents and agents; all these ex officio; and as many private individuals as will pay a certain price for membership. Observe, too, that the clergy will constitute* nineteen-twentieths of this association, and, by the law of the majority, may command the twentieth part, which, composed of all the high authorities of the United States, civil and military, may be outvoted and wielded by the nineteen parts with uncontrollable power, both as to purpose and process. Can this formidable array be reviewed without dismay ? It will be said, that in this association will be all the confidential officers of the government; the choice of the people themselves. No man on Earth has more implicit confidence than myself in the integrity and discretion of this chosen band of servants. But is confidence or discretion, or is strict limit, the principle of our Constitution ? It will comprehend, indeed, all the functionaries of the government; but seceded from their constitutional stations as guardians of the nation, and acting not by the laws of their station, but by those of a voluntary society, having no limit to their purposes but the same will which constitutes their existence. It will be the authorities of the people and all influential characters from among them, arrayed on one side, and on the other, the people themselves deserted by their leaders. It is a fearful array. It will be said that these are imaginary fears. I know they are so at present. I know it is as impossible for these agents of our choice and unbounded confidence, to harbor machinations against the adored principles of our Constitution, as for gravity to change its direction, and gravid bodies to mount upwards. The fears are indeed imaginary, but the example is real. Under its authority, as a precedent, future associations will arise with objects at which we should shudder at this time. The society of Jacobins, in another country, was instituted on principles and views as virtuous as ever kindled the hearts of patriots. It was the pure patriotism of their purposes which extended their association to the limits of the nation, and rendered their power within it boundless ; and it was this power which degenerated their principles and practices to such enormities as never before could have been imagined. Yet these were men, and we and our descendants will be no more. The present is a case where, if ever, we are to guard against ourselves; not against ourselves as we are, but as we may be; for who can now imagine what we may become under circumstances not now imaginable ? The object of this institution, seems to require so hazardous an example as little as any which could be proposed. The government is, at this time, going on with the process of civilizing the Indians, on a plan probably as promising as any one of us is able to devise, and with resources more competent than we could expect to command by voluntary taxation. Is it that the new characters called into association with those of the government, are wiser than these ? Is it that a plan originated by a meeting of private individuals is better than that prepared by the concentrated wisdom of the nation, of men not self-chosen, but clothed with the full confidence of the people ? Is it that there is no danger that a new authority, marching, independently, alongside of the government, in the same line and to the same object, may not produce collision, may not thwart and obstruct the operations of the government, or wrest the object entirely from their hands ? Might we not as well appoint a committee for each department of the government, to counsel and direct its head separately, as volunteer ourselves to counsel and direct the whole, in mass ? And might we not do it as well for their foreign, their fiscal, and their military, as for their Indian affairs ? And how many societies, auxiliary to the government, may we expect to see spring up, in imitation of this, offering to associate themselves in this and that of its functions ? In a word, why not take the government out of its constitutional hands, associate them indeed with us, to preserve a semblance that the acts are theirs, but insuring them to be our own by allowing them a minor vote only.
These considerations have impressed my mind with a force so irresistible, that (in duty bound to answer your polite letter, without which I should not have obtruded an opinion) I have not been able to withhold the expression of them. Not knowing the individuals who have proposed this plan, I cannot be conceived as entertaining personal disrespect for them. On the contrary, I see in the printed list persons for whom I cherish sentiments of sincere friendship, and others, for whose opinions and purity of purpose I have the highest respect. Yet thinking as I do, that this association is unnecessary; that the government is proceeding to the same object under control of the law; that they are competent to it in wisdom, in means, and inclination; that this association, this wheel within a wheel, is more likely to produce collision than aid; and that it is, in its magnitude, of dangerous example; I am bound to say, that, as a dutiful citizen, I cannot in conscience become a member of this society, possessing as it does my entire confidence in the integrity of its views. I feel with awe the weight of opinion to which I may be opposed, and that, for myself, I have need to ask the indulgence of a belief that the opinion I have given is the best result I can deduce from my own reason and experience, and that it is sincerely conscientious. Repeating, therefore, my just acknowledgments for the honor proposed to me, I beg leave to add the assurances to the society and yourself of my highest confidence and consideration.
* The clergy of the United States may probably be estimated at eight thousand. The residue of this society at four hundred; but if the former number be halved, the reasoning will be the same.
Your favor of March 28th was received on the 7th instant. We failed in having a quorum on the 1st. Mr. Johnson and General Taylor were laboring for Lithgow in Richmond, and Mr. Madison was unwell. On the score of business it was immaterial, as there was not a single measure to be proposed. The loss was of the gratification of meeting in society with those whom we esteem. This is the valuable effect of cur semi-annual meetings, jubilees, in fact, for feasting the mind and fostering the best affections of the heart towards those who merit them.
The four rows of buildings of accommodation are so nearly completed, that they are certain of being entirely so in the course of the summer; and our funds, as you have seen stated in our last Report, are sufficient to meet the expense, except that the delays in collecting the arrears of subscriptions oblige us to borrow temporarily from this years annuity, which, according to that Report, had another destination. These buildings done, we are to rest on our oars, and passively await the will of the legislature. Our future course is a plain one. We have proceeded from the beginning on the sound determination to finish the buildings before opening the institution; because, once opened, all its funds will be absorbed by professors salaries, etc., and nothing remain ever to finish the buildings. And we have thought it better to begin two or three years later, in the full extent proposed, than to open, and go on forever, with a half-way establishment. Of the wisdom of this proceeding, and of its greater good to the public finally, I cannot a moment doubt. Our part then is to pursue with steadiness what is right, turning neither to right nor left for the intrigues or popular delusions of the day, assured that the public approbation will in the end be with us. The councils of the legislature, at their late session; were poisoned unfortunately by the question of the seat of government, and the consequent jealousies of our views in erecting the large building still wanting. This lost us some friends who feel a sincere interest in favor of the University, but a stronger one in the question respecting the seat of government. They seem not to have considered that the seat of the government, and that of the University, are incompatible with one another ; that if the former were to come here, the latter must be removed. Even Oxford and Cambridge, placed in the middle of London, they would be deserted as seats of learning, and as proper places for training youth. These groundless jealousies, it is to be hoped, will be dissipated by sober reflection, during the separation of the members; and they will perceive, before their next meeting, that the large building, without which the institution cannot proceed, has nothing to do with the question of the seat of government. If, however, the ensuing session should still refuse their patronage, a second or a third will think better, and result finally in fulfilling the object of our aim; the securing to our country a full and perpetual institution for all the useful sciences ; one which will restore us to our former station in the confederacy. It may be a year or two later indeed; but it will replace us in full grade, and not leave us among the mere subalterns of the league. Patience and steady perseverance on our part will secure the blessed end. If we shrink, it is gone forever. Our autumnal meeting will be interesting. The question will be whether we shall relinquish the scale of a real University, the rallying centre of the South and the West, or let it sink to that of a common academy. I hope you will be with us, and give us the benefit of your firm and enlarged views. I am not at all disheartened with what has passed, nor disposed to give up the ship. We have only to lie still, to do and say nothing, and firmly avoid opening. The public opinion is advancing. It is coming to our aid, and will force the institution on to consummation. The numbers are great, and many from great distances, who visit it daily as an object of curiosity. They become strengthened if friends, converted if enemies, and all loud and zealous advocates, and will shortly give full tone to the public voice. Our motto should be "be not wearied with well-doing. Accept the assurance of my affectionate friendship and respect.
I am thankful to you for the paper you have been so kind as to send me, containing the arraignment of the Presidents of the United States generally, as peculators or accessories to peculation, by an informer who masks himself under the signature of "a Native Virginian." What relates to myself in this paper, (being his No. VI., and the only No. I have seen) I had before read in the "Federal Republican" of Baltimore, of August 28th, which was sent to me by a friend, with the real name of the author. It was published there during the ferment of a warmly-contested election. I considered it, therefore, as an electioneering manoeuvre merely, and did not even think it required the trouble of recollecting, after a lapse of thirty-three years, the circumstances of the case in which he charges me with having purloined from the treasury of the United States the sum of $1,148. But as he has thought it worth repeating in his Roll of informations against your Presidents nominally, I shall give the truths of the case, which he has omitted, perhaps because he did not know them, and ventured too inconsiderately to supply them from his own conjectures.
On the return from my mission to France, and joining the government here, in the spring of 1790, I had a long and heavy account to settle with the United States, of the administration of their pecuniary affairs in Europe, of which the superintendence had been confided to me while there. I gave in my account early, but the pressure of other business did not permit the accounting officers to attend to it till October 10th, 1792, when we settled, and a balance of $888.67 appearing to be due from me, (but erroneously as will be shown,) I paid the money the same day, delivered up my vouchers, and received a certificate of it. But still the articles of my draughts on the bankers could be only provisionally passed; until their accounts also should be received to be confronted with mine. And it was not till the 24th of June, 1804, that I received a letter from Mr. Richard Harrison the auditor, informing me "that my accounts, as Minister to France, had been adjusted and closed," adding, "the bill drawn and credited by you under date of the 21st of October, 1789, for Banco florins 2,800, having never yet appeared in any account of the Dutch bankers, stand at your debit only as a provisional charge. If it should hereafter turn out, as I incline to think it will, that this bill has never been negotiated or used by Mr. Grand, you will have a just claim on the public for its value." This was the first intimation to me that I had too hastily charged myself with that draught. I determined, however, as I had allowed it in my account, and paid up the balance it had produced against me, to let it remain awhile, as there was a possibility that the draught might still be presented by the holder to the bankers; and so it remained till I was near leaving Washington, on my final retirement from the administration in 1809. I then received from the auditor, Mr. Harrison, the following note : "Mr. Jefferson, in his accounts as late Minister to France, credited among other sums, a bill drawn by him on the 21st October, 1789, to the order of Grand & Co., on the bankers of the United States at Amsterdam, f. Banco f. 2,800, equal with agio to current florins 2,870, and which was charged to him provisionally in the official statement made at the Treasury, in the month of October, 1804. But as this bill has not yet been noticed in any account rendered by the bankers, the presumption is strong that it was never negotiated or presented for payment, and Mr. Jefferson, therefore, appears justly entitled to receive the value of it, which, at forty cents the gilder, (the rate at which it was estimated in the above-mentioned statement,) amounts to $1,148. Auditors office, January 24th, 1809."
Desirous of leaving nothing unsettled behind me, I drew the money from the treasury, but without any interest, although I had let it lie there twenty years, and had actually on that error paid $888.67, an apparent balance against me, when the true balance was in my favor $259.33. The question then is, how has this happened ? I have examined minutely and can state it clearly.
Turning to my pocket diary I find that on the 21st day of October, 1789, the date of this bill, I was at Cowes in England, on my return to the United States. The entry in my diary is in these words : "1789, October 21st. Sent to Grand & Co., letter of credit on Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard, for 2,800 florins Banco." And I immediately credited it in my account with the United States in the following words : "1789, October 21. By my bill on Willinks, Van Staphorsts and Hubbard, in favor of Grand & Co., for 2,800 florins equal to 6,250 livres 18 sous. My account having been kept in livres and sous of France, the auditor settled this sum at the current exchange, making it $1,148. This bill, drawn at Cowes in England, had to pass through London to Paris by the English and French mails, in which passage it was lost, by some unknown accident, to which it was the more exposed in the French mail, by the confusion then prevailing; for it was exactly at the time that martial law was proclaimed at Paris, the country all up in arms, and executions by the mobs were daily perpetrating through town and country. However this may have been, the bill never got to the hands of Grand & Co., was never, of course, forwarded by them to the bankers of Amsterdam, nor anything more ever heard of it. The auditors first conjecture then was the true one, that it never was negotiated, nor therefore charged to the United States in any of the bankers accounts. I have now under my eye a duplicate furnished me by Grand of his account of that date against the United States, and his private account against myself, and I affirm that he has not noticed this bill in either of these accounts, and the auditor assures us the Dutch bankers had never charged it. The sum of the whole then is, that I drew a bill on the United States bankers, charged myself with it on the presumption it would be paid, that it never was paid however, either by the bankers of the United States, or anybody else. It was surely just, then, to return me the money I had paid for it. Yet the "Native Virginian" thinks that this act of receiving back the money I had thus through error overpaid, "was a palpable and manifest act of moral turpitude, about which no two honest, impartial men can possibly differ." I ascribe these hard expressions to the ardor of his zeal for the public good, and as they contain neither argument nor proof, I pass them over without observation. Indeed, I have not been in the habit of noticing these morbid ejections of spleen either with or without the names of those venting them. But I have thought it a duty on the present occasion to relieve my fellow citizens and my country from the degradation in the eyes of the world to which this informer is endeavoring to reduce it by representing it as governed hitherto by a succession of swindlers and peculators. Nor shall I notice any further endeavors to prove or to palliate this palpable misinformation. I am too old and inert to undertake minute investigations of intricate transactions of the last century; and I am not afraid to trust to the justice and good sense of my fellow citizens on future, as on former attempts to lessen me in their esteem.
I ask of you, gentlemen, the insertion of this letter in your paper ; and I trust that the printers who have hazarded the Publication of the libel, on anonymous authority, will think that of the answer a moderate retribution of the wrong to which they have been accessory.
It is very long, my dear Sir, since I have written to you. My dislocated wrist is now become so stiff that I write slow and with pain, and therefore write as little as I can. Yet it is due to mutual friendship to ask once in awhile how we do ? The papers tell us that General Stark is off at the age of 93. Charles Thomson still lives at about the same age, cheerful, slender as a grasshopper, and so much without memory that he scarcely recognizes the members of his household. An intimate friend of his called on him not long since ; it was difficult to make him recollect who he was, and, sitting one hour, he told him the same story four times over. Is this life ?
With labring step
To tread our former footsteps ? pace the round
Eternal ? to beat and beat
The beaten track ? to see what we have seen,
To taste the tasted ? oer our palates to decant
Another vintage ?
It is at most but the life of a cabbage; surely not worth a wish. When all our faculties have left, or are leaving us, one by one, sight, hearing, memory, every avenue of pleasing sensation is closed, and athumy, debility and malaise left in their places, when friends of our youth are all gone, and a generation is risen around us whom we know not, is death an evil ?
When one by one our ties are torn,
And friend from friend is snatched forlorn,
When man is left alone to mourn,
Oh ! then how sweet it is to die !
When trembling limbs refuse their weight,
And films slow gathering dim the sight,
When clouds obscure the mental light
Tis natures kindest boon to die !
I really think so. I have ever dreaded a doting old age; and my health has been generally so good, and is now so good, that I dread it still. The rapid decline of my strength during the last winter has made me hope sometimes that I see land. During summer I enjoy its temperature, but I shudder at the approach of winter, and wish I could sleep through it with the dormouse, and only wake with him in spring, if ever. They say that Stark could walk about his room. I am told you walk well and firmly. I can only reach my garden, and that with sensible fatigue. I ride, however, daily. But reading is my delight. I should wish never to put pen to paper ; and the more because of the treacherous practice some people have of publishing ones letters without leave. Lord Mansfield declared it a breach of trust, and punishable at law. I think it should be a penitentiary felony ; yet you will have seen that they have drawn me out into the arena of the newspapers ; although I know it is too late for me to buckle on the armor of youth, yet my indignation would not permit me passively to receive the kick of an ass.
To turn to the news of the day, it seems that the cannibals of Europe are going to eating one another again. A war between Russia and Turkey is like the battle of the kite and snake. Whichever destroys the other, leaves a destroyer the less for the world. This pugnacious humor of mankind seems to be the law of his nature, one of the obstacles to too great multiplication provided in the mechanism of the universe. The cocks of the henyard kill one another up. Bears, bulls, rams, do the same. And the horse, in his wild state, kills all the young males, until worn down with age and war, some vigorous youth kills him, and takes to himself the harem of females. I hope we shall prove how much happier for man the Quaker policy is, and that the life of the feeder, is better than that of the fighter; and it is some consolation that the desolation by these maniacs of one part of the earth is the means of improving it in other parts. Let the latter be our office, and let us milk the cow, while the Russian holds her by the horns, and the Turk by the tail. God bless you, and give you health, strength, and good spirits, and as much of life as you think worth having.
I thank you, Sir, for the pamphlets you have been so kind as to send me, and am happy to learn that the doctrine of Jesus that there is but one God, is advancing prosperously among our fellow citizens. Had His doctrines, pure as they came from Himself, been never sophisticated for unworthy purposes, the whole civilized world would at this day have formed but a single sect. You ask my opinion on the items of doctrine in your catechism. I have never permitted myself to meditate a specified creed. These formulas have been the bane and ruin of the Christian church, its own fatal invention, which, through so many ages, made of Christendom a slaughter-house, and at this day divides it into castes of inextinguishable hatred to one another. Witness the present internecine rage of all other sects against the Unitarian. The religions of antiquity had no particular formulas of creed. Those of the modern world none, except those of the religionists calling themselves Christians, and even among these the Quakers have none. And hence, alone, the harmony, the quiet, the brotherly affections, the exemplary and unschismatizing Society of the Friends, and I hope the Unitarians will follow their happy example. With these sentiments of the mischiefs of creeds and confessions of faith, I am sure you will excuse my not giving opinions on the items of any particular one; and that you will accept, at the same time, the assurance of the high respect and consideration which I bear to its author.
In my letter to you of May 13th, in answer to a charge by a person signing himself "a Native Virginian," that on a bill drawn by me for a sum equivalent to $1,148, the treasury of the United States had made double payment, I supposed I had done as much as would be required when I showed they had only returned to me money which I had previously paid into the treasury on the presumption that such a bill had been paid for me, but that this bill being lost or destroyed on the way, had never been presented, consequently never paid by the United States, and that the money was therefore returned to me. This being too plain for controversy, the pseudo Native of Virginia, in his reply, No. 32, in the Federal Republican of May 24th, reduces himself ultimately to the ground of a double receipt of the money by me, first on sale or negotiation of the bill in Europe, and a second time from the treasury. But the bill was never sold or negotiated anywhere. It was not drawn to raise money in the market. I sold it to nobody, received no money on it, but enclosed it to Grand & Co. for some purpose of account, for what particular purpose neither my memory, after a lapse of thirty-three years, nor my papers enable me to say. Had I preserved a copy of my letter to Grand enclosing the bill, that would doubtless have explained the purpose. But it was drawn on the eve of my embarkation with my family from Cowes for America, and probably the hurry of preparation for that did not allow me time to take a copy. I presume this because I find no such letter among my papers. Nor does any subsequent correspondence with Grand explain it, because I had no private account with him; my account as minister being kept with the treasury directly, so that he, receiving no intimation of this bill, could never give me notice of its miscarriage. But, however satisfactory might have been an explanation of the purpose of the bill, it is unnecessary at least ; the material fact being established that it never got to hand, nor was ever paid by the United States.
And how does the Native Virginian maintain his charge that I received the cash when I drew the bill ? by unceremoniously inserting into the entry of that article in my account, words of his own, making me say in direct terms that I did receive the cash for the bill. In my account rendered to the treasury, it is entered in these words : "1789, Oct. 1. By my bill on Willincks, Van Staphorsts & Hubbard in favor of Grand & Co. for 2,800 florins, equal to 6,230 livres 18 sous;" but he quotes it as stated in my account rendered to and settled at the treasury, and yet remaining, as it is to be presumed, among the archives of that department, "By cash received of Grand for bill on Willincks, &c." Now the words "cash received of Grand" constitute "the very point, the pivot, on which the matter turns," as himself says, and not finding, he has furnished them. Although the interpolation of them is sufficiently refuted by the fact that Grand was, at the time, in France, and myself in England, yet wishing that conviction of the interpolation should be founded on official document, I wrote to the auditor, Mr. Harrison, requesting an official certificate of the very words in which that article stood in my autograph account deposited in the office. I received yesterday his answer of the 3d, in which he says, "I am unable to furnish the extract you require, as the original account rendered by you of your pecuniary transactions of a public nature in Europe, together with the vouchers and documents connected with it, were all destroyed in the Registers Office in the memorable conflagration of 1814. With respect, therefore, to the sum of $1,148 in question, I can only say that, after full and repeated examinations, I considered you as most righteously and justly entitled to receive it. Otherwise, it will, I trust, be believed that I could not have consented to the repayment." Considering the intimacy which the Native Virginian shows with the treasury affairs, we might be justified in suspecting that he knew this fact of the destruction of the original by fire when he ventured to misquote. But certainly we may call on him to say, and to show, from what original he copied these words : "cash received from Grand"? I say, most assuredly, from none, for none such ever existed. Although the original be lost, which would have convicted him officially, it happens that when I made from my rough draft a fair copy of my account for the treasury, I took also, with a copying-machine, a press-copy of every page, which I kept for my own use. It is known that copies by this well-known machine are taken by impression on damp paper laid on the face of the written page while fresh, and passed between rollers as copper plates are. They must therefore be true fac similes. This press-copy now lies before me, has been shown to several persons, and will be shown to as many as wish or are willing to examine it; and this article of my account is entered in it in these words : "1789, Oct. 1. By my bill on Willincks, Van Staphorsts & Hubbard for 2,800 florins, equal to 6,230 livres 18 sous." An inspection of the account, too, shows that whenever I received cash for a bill, it is uniformly entered "by cash received of such an one, etc.;" but where a bill was drawn to constitute an item of account only, the entry is "by my bill on, etc." Now to these very words "cash received of Grand," not in my original but interpolated by himself, he constantly appeals as proofs of an acknowledgment under my own hand that I received the cash. In proof of this, I must request patience to read the following quotations from his denunciations as standing in the Federal Republican of May 24.
Page 2, column 2, l. 48 to 29 from the bottom, "he (Mr. J.] admits in his account rendered in 1790 and settled in 1792, that he had received the 'cash, (placing the word cash between inverted commas to have it marked particularly as a quotation) that he had received the 'cash for the bill in question, and he does not directly deny it now. Will he, can he, in the face of his own declaration in writing to the contrary, publicly say that he did not receive the money for this bill in Europe ? This is the point on which the whole matter rests, the pivot on which the arguments turn. If he did receive the money in Europe, (no matter whether at Cowes or at Paris,) he certainly had no right to receive it a second time from the public treasury of the United States. This is admitted I believe on all sides. Now, that he did receive the money in Europe on this bill, is proved by the acknowledgment of the receiver himself, who credits the amount in his account as settled at the treasury thus : "cash received of Grand for bill on Willincks, Van Staphorsts, 2,876 gilders, 1,148 dollars."
Col. 3,1.28 to 21 from bottom. There is a plain difference in the phraseology of the account, from which an extract is given by Mr. J. as above, and that which he rendered to the Treasury. In the former he gives the credit thus, "By my bills on Willincks," etc. In the latter he states, "By cash received of Grand for bill on Willincks, etc." There is a difference, indeed, as he states it, but it is made solely by his own interpolation.
Col. 3, 1. 8 from bottom. "That Mr. Jefferson should, in the very teeth of the facts of the evidence before us, and in his own breast, gravely say that he had paid the money for this bill, and that therefore it was but just to return him the amount of it, when he had, by his own acknowledgment, sent it to Grand & Co., and received the money for it, is, I confess, not only matter of utter astonishment but regret." I spare myself the qualifications which these paragraphs may merit, leaving them to be applied by every reader according to the feelings they may excite in his own breast.
He proceeds : "And now to place this case beyond the reach of cavil or doubt, and to show most conclusively that he had negotiated this bill in Europe, and received the cash for it there, and that such was the understanding of the matter at the treasury in 1809, when he received the money." These are his own words. Col. 4., he brings forward the overwhelming fact "not hitherto made public, but stated from the most creditable and authentic source, that one of the accounting officers of the treasury suggested in writing the propriety of taking bond and security from Mr. J., for indemnification of the United States against any future claim on this bill. But it seems the bond was not taken, and the government is now liable in law, and in good faith for the payment of this bill to the rightful owner." How this suggestion of taking bond at the treasury, so solemnly paraded, is more conclusive proof than his own interpolation, that the cash was received, I am so dull as not to perceive; but I say, that had the suggestion been made to me, it would have been instantly complied with. But I deny his law. Were the bill now to be presented to the treasury, the answer would and should be the same as a merchant would give : "You have held up this bill three and thirty years without notice; we have settled in the meantime with the drawer, and have no effects of his left in our hands. Apply to him for payment." On his application to me, I should first inquire into the history of the bill ; where it had been lurking for three and thirty years ? how came he by it ? by interception ? by trover ? by assignment from Grand ? by purchase ? from whom, when and where ? And according to his answers I should either institute criminal process against him, or if he showed that all was fair and honest, I should pay him the money, and look for reimbursement to the quarter appearing liable. The law deems seven years absence of a man, without being heard of, such presumptive evidence of his death, as to distribute his estate, and to allow his wife to marry again. The Auditor thought that twenty years non-appearance of a bill which had been risked through the post-offices of two nations, was sufficient presumption of its loss. But this self-styled Native of Virginia thinks that the thirty-three years now elapsed are not sufficient. Be it so. If the accounting officers of the treasury have any uneasiness on that subject, I am ready to give a bond of indemnification to the United States in any sum the officers will name, and with the security which themselves shall approve. Will this satisfy the Native Virginian ? or will he now try to pick some other hole in this transaction, to shield himself from a candid acknowledgment, that in making up his case, he supplied by gratuitous conjectures, the facts which were not within his knowledge, and that thus he has sinned against truth in his declarations before the public ? Be this as it may, I have so much confidence in the discernment and candor of my fellow citizens, as to leave to their judgment, and dismiss from my own notice any future torture of words or circumstances which this writer may devise for their deception. Indeed, could such a denunciation, and on such proof, bereave me of that confidence and consolation, I should, through the remainder of life, brood over the afflicting belief that I had lived and labored in vain.
I thank you for the volume of American Jurisprudence, which you have been so kind as to send me. I am now too old to read books solidly unless they promise present amusement or future benefit. To me books of law offer neither. But I read your 6th chapter with interest and satisfaction, on the question whether the common law (of England) makes a part of the laws of our General Government ? That it makes more or less a part of the laws of the States is, I suppose, an unquestionable fact. Not by birthright, a conceit as inexplicable as the Trinity, but by adoption. But, as to the General Government, the Virginia Report on the alien and sedition laws, has so completely pulverized this pretension that nothing new can be said on it. Still, seeing that judges of the Supreme Court, (I recollect, for example, Elsworth and Story) had been found capable of such paralogism, I was glad to see that the Supreme Court had given it up. In the case of Libel in the United States District Court of Connecticut, the rejection of it was certainly sound; because no law of the General Government had made it an offence. But such a case might, I suppose, be sustained in the State courts which have State laws against libels. Because as to the portions of power within each State assigned to the General Government, the President is as much the Executive of the State, as their particular Governor is in relation to State powers. These, however, are speculations with which I no longer trouble myself; and therefore, to my thanks, I will only add assurances of my great respect.
I have received and read with thankfulness and pleasure your denunciation of the abuses of tobacco and wine. Yet, however sound in its principles, I expect it will be but a sermon to the wind. You will find it is as difficult to inculcate these sanative precepts on the sensualities of the present day, as to convince an Athanasian that there is but one God. I wish success to both attempts, and am happy to learn from you that the latter, at least, is making progress, and the more rapidly in proportion as our Platonizing Christians make more stir and noise about it. The doctrines of Jesus are simple, and tend all to the happiness of man.
1. That there is one only God, and He all perfect.
2. That there is a future state of rewards and punishments.
3. That to love God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself, is the sum of religion. These are the great points on which He endeavored to reform the religion of the Jews. But compare with these the demoralizing dogmas of Calvin.
1. That there are three Gods.
2. That good works, or the love of our neighbor, are nothing.
3. That faith is everything, and the more incomprehensible the proposition, the more merit in its faith.
4. That reason in religion is of unlawful use.
5. That God, from the beginning, elected certain individuals to be saved, and certain others to be damned ; and that no crimes of the former can damn them ; no virtues of the latter save.
Now, which of these is the true and charitable Christian ? He who believes and acts on the simple doctrines of Jesus ? Or the impious dogmatists, as Athanasius and Calvin ? Verily I say these are the false shepherds foretold as to enter not by the door into the sheepfold, but to climb up some other way. They are mere usurpers of the Christian name, teaching a counter-religion made up of the deliria of crazy imaginations, as foreign from Christianity as is that of Mahomet. Their blasphemies have driven thinking men into infidelity, who have too hastily rejected the supposed Author himself, with the horrors so falsely imputed to Him. Had the doctrines of Jesus been preached always as pure as they came from his lips, the whole civilized world would now have been Christian. I rejoice that in this blessed country of free inquiry and belief, which has surrendered its creed and conscience to neither kings nor priests, the genuine doctrine of one only God is reviving, and I trust that there is not a young man now living in the United States who will not die an Unitarian.
But much I fear, that when this great truth shall be re-established, its votaries will fall into the fatal error of fabricating formulas of creed and confessions of faith, the engines which so soon destroyed the religion of Jesus, and made of Christendom a mere Aceldama; that they will give up morals for mysteries, and Jesus for Plato. How much wiser are the Quakers, who, agreeing in the fundamental doctrines of the Gospel, schismatize about no mysteries, and, keeping within the pale of common sense, suffer no speculative differences of opinion, any more than of feature, to impair the love of their brethren. Be this the wisdom of Unitarians, this the holy mantle which shall cover within its charitable circumference all who believe in one God, and who love their neighbor ! I conclude my sermon with sincere assurances of my friendly esteem and respect.
Your kind letter of the 11th has given me great satisfaction. For although I could not doubt but that the hand of age was pressing heavily on you, as on myself, yet we like to know the particulars and the degree of that pressure. Much reflection, too, has been produced by your suggestion of lending my letter of the 1st, to a printer. I have generally great aversion to the insertion of my letters in the public papers ; because of my passion for quiet retirement, and never to be exhibited in scenes on the public stage. Nor am I unmindful of the precept of Horace, "solvere senescentem, mature sanus equum, ne peccet ad extremum ridendus." In the present case, however, I see a possibility that this might aid in producing the very quiet after which I pant. I do not know how far you may suffer, as I do, under the persecution of letters, of which every mail brings a fresh load. They are letters of inquiry, for the most part, always of good will, sometimes from friends whom I esteem, but much oftener from persons whose names are unknown to me, but written kindly and civilly, and to which, therefore, civility requires answers. Perhaps the better known failure of your hand in its function of writing, may shield you in greater degree from this distress, and so far qualify the misfortune of its disability. I happened to turn to my letter-list some time ago, and a curiosity was excited to count those received in a single year. It was the year before the last. I found the number to be one thousand two hundred and sixty-seven, many of them requiring answers of elaborate research, and all to be answered with due attention and consideration. Take an average of this number for a week or a day, and I will repeat the question suggested by other considerations in mine of the 1st. Is this life ? At best it is but the life of a mill-horse, who sees no end to his circle but in death. To such a life, that of a cabbage is paradise. It occurs then, that my condition of existence, truly stated in that letter, if better known, might check the kind indiscretions which are so heavily oppressing the departing hours of life. Such a relief would, to me, be an ineffable blessing. But yours of the 11th, equally interesting and affecting, should accompany that to which it is an answer. The two, taken together, would excite a joint interest, and place before our fellow citizens the present condition of two ancient servants, who having faithfully performed their forty or fifty campaigns, stipendiis omnibus expletis, have a reasonable claim to repose from all disturbance in the sanctuary of invalids and superannuates. But some device should be thought of for their getting before the public otherwise than by our own publication. Your printer, perhaps, could frame something plausible. *******s name should be left blank, as his picture, should it meet his eye, might give him pain. I consign, however, the whole subject to your consideration, to do in it whatever your own judgment shall approve, and repeat always, with truth, the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
Your favor of the 15th of June is received, and I am very thankful for the kindness of its expressions respecting myself. But it ascribes to me merits which I do not claim. I was only of a band devoted to the cause of independence, all of whom exerted equally their best endeavors for its success, and have a common right to the merits of its acquisition. So also is the civil revolution of 1801. Very many and very meritorious were the worthy patriots who assisted in bringing back our government to its republican tack. To preserve it in that, will require unremitting vigilance. Whether the surrender of our opponents, their reception into our camp, their assumption of our name, and apparent accession to our objects, may strengthen or weaken the genuine principles of republicanism, may be a good or an evil, is yet to be seen. I consider the party division of Whig and Tory the most wholesome which can exist in any government, and well worthy of being nourished, to keep out those of a more dangerous character. We already see the power, installed for life, responsible to no authority, (for impeachment is not even a scare-crow,) advancing with a noiseless and steady pace to the great object of consolidation. The foundations are already deeply laid by their decisions, for the annihilation of constitutional State rights, and the removal of every check, every counterpoise to the ingulfing power of which themselves are to make a sovereign part. If ever this vast country is brought under a single government, it will be one of the most extensive corruption, indifferent and incapable of a wholesome care over so wide a spread of surface. This will not be borne, and you will have to choose between reformation and revolution. If I know the spirit of this country, the one or the other is inevitable. Before the canker is become inveterate, before its venom has reached so much of the body politic as to get beyond control, remedy should be applied. Let the future appointments of judges be for four or six years, and renewable by the President and Senate. This will bring their conduct, at regular periods, under revision and probation, and may keep them in equipoise between the general and special governments. We have erred in this point, by copying England, where certainly it is a good thing to have the judges independent of the king. But we have omitted to copy their caution also, which makes a judge removable on the address of both legislative Houses. That there should be public functionaries independent of the nation, whatever may be their demerit, is a solecism in a republic, of the first order of absurdity and inconsistency.
To the printed inquiries respecting our schools, it is not in my power to give an answer. Age, debility, an ancient dislocated, and now stiffened wrist, render writing so slow and painful, that I am obliged to decline everything possible requiring writing. An act of our legislature will inform you of our plan of primary schools, and the annual reports show that it is becoming completely abortive, and must be abandoned very shortly, after costing us to this day one hundred and eighty thousand dollars, and yet to cost us forty-five thousand dollars a year more until it shall be discontinued; and if a single boy has received the elements of common education, it must be in some part of the country not known to me. Experience has but too fully confirmed the early predictions of its fate. But on this subject I must refer you to others more able than I am to go into the necessary details ; and I conclude with the assurances of my great esteem and respect.
An anciently dislocated, and now stiffening wrist, makes writing an operation so slow and painful to me, that I should not so soon have troubled you with an acknowledgment of your favor of the 8th, but for the request it contained of my consent to the publication of my letter of June the 26th. No, my dear Sir, not for the world. Into what a nest of hornets would it thrust my head ! the genus irritable vatum, on whom argument is lost, and reason is, by themselves, disclaimed in matters of religion. Don Quixote undertook to redress the bodily wrongs of the world, but the redressment of mental vagaries would be an enterprise more than Quixotic. I should as soon undertake to bring the crazy skulls of Bedlam to sound understanding, as inculcate reason into that of an Athanasian. I am old, and tranquillity is now my summum bonum. Keep me, therefore, from the fire and fagots of Calvin and his victim Servetus. Happy in the prospect of a restoration of primitive Christianity, I must leave to younger athletes to encounter and lop off the false branches which have been engrafted into it by the mythologists of the middle and modern ages. I am not aware of the peculiar resistance to Unitarianism, which you ascribe to Pennsylvania. When I lived in Philadelphia, there was a respectable congregation of that sect, with a meeting-house and regular service which I attended, and in which Doctor Priestley officiated to numerous audiences. Baltimore has one or two churches, and their pastor, author of an inestimable book on this subject, was elected chaplain to the late Congress. That doctrine has not yet been preached to us : but the breeze begins to be felt which precedes the storm; and fanaticism is all in a bustle, shutting its doors and windows to keep it out. But it will come, and drive before it the foggy mists of Platonism which have so long obscured our atmosphere. I am in hopes that some of the disciples of your institution will become missionaries to us, of these doctrines truly evangelical, and open our eyes to what has been so long hidden from them. A bold and eloquent preacher would be nowhere listened to with more freedom than in this State, nor with more firmness of mind. They might need a preparatory discourse on the text of "prove all things, hold fast that which is good," in order to unlearn the lesson that reason is an unlawful guide in religion. They might startle on being first awaked from the dreams of the night, but they would rub their eyes at once, and look the spectres boldly in the face. The preacher might be excluded by our hierophants from their churches and meeting-houses, but would be attended in the fields by whole acres of hearers and thinkers. Missionaries from Cambridge would soon be greeted with more welcome, than from the tritheistical school of Andover. Such are my wishes, such would be my welcomes, warm and cordial as the assurances of my esteem and respect for you.
You must be so good, Sir, as to excuse me from entering into the optical investigation which your letter of the 18th proposes. The hand of age presses heavily on me. I have long withdrawn my mind from speculations of that kind; my memory is on the wane. I am averse even to close thinking, and writing is become slow, laborious and painful. I will make then but a single suggestion on the subject of your proposition, to show my respect to your request.
To distinct vision it is necessary not only that the visual angle should be sufficient for the powers of the human eye, but that there should be sufficient light also on the object of observation. In microscopic observations, the enlargement of the angle of vision may be more indulged, because auxiliary light may be concentrated on the object by concave mirrors. But in the case of the heavenly bodies, we can have no such aid. The moon, for example, receives from the sun but a fixed quantity of light. In proportion as you magnify her surface, you spread that fixed quantity over a greater space, dilute it more, and render the object more dim. If you increase her magnitude infinitely, you dim her face infinitely also, and she becomes invisible. When under total eclipse, all the direct rays of the sun being intercepted, she is seen but faintly, and would not be seen at all but for the refraction of the solar rays in their passage through our atmosphere. In a night of extreme darkness, a house or a mountain is not seen, as not having light enough to impress the limited sensibility of our eye. I do suppose in fact that Herschel has availed himself of the properties of the parabolic mirror to the point beyond which its effect would be countervailed by the diminution of light on the object. I barely suggest this element, not presented to view in your letter, as one which must enter into the estimate of the improved telescope you propose. You will receive from the professional mathematicians whom you have consulted, remarks more elaborate and profound, and must be so good as to accept mine merely as testimonies of my respect.
Your letter of August, was received a few days ago. Of all the departments of science no one seems to have been less advanced for the last hundred years than that of meteorology. The new chemistry indeed has given us a new principle of the generation of rain, by proving water to be a composition of different gases, and has aided our theory of meteoric lights. Electricity stands where Dr. Franklins early discoveries placed it, except with its new modification of galvanism. But the phenomena of snow, hail, halo, aurora borealis, haze, looming, etc., are as yet very imperfectly understood. I am myself an empiric in natural philosophy, suffering my faith to go no further than my facts. I am pleased, however, to see the efforts of hypothetical speculation, because by the collisions of different hypotheses, truth may be elicited and science advanced in the end. This sceptical disposition does not permit me to say whether your hypothesis for looming and the floating volumes of warm air occasionally perceived, may or may not be confirmed by future observations. More facts are yet wanting to furnish a solution on which we may rest with confidence. I even doubt as yet whether the looming at sea and at land are governed by the same laws. In this state of uncertainty, I cannot presume either to advise or discourage the publication of your essay. This must depend on circumstances of which you must be abler to judge yourself, and therefore I return the paper as requested, with assurances of my great respect.
I received on the 20th, your letter of the 13th, on the question, what is an east and west line ? which, you say, has been a subject, of discussion in the newspapers. I presume, however, it must have been a mere question of definition, and that the parties have differed only in applying the same appellation to different things. The one defines an east and west line to be on a great circle of the earth, passing through the point of departure, its nadir point, and the centre of the earth, its plane rectangular to that of the meridian of departure. The other considers an east and west line to be a line on the surface of the earth, bounding a plane at right angles with its axis, or a circle of latitude passing through the point of departure, or in other words, a line which, from the point of departure, passes every meridian at a right angle. Each party, therefore, defining the line he means, may be permitted to call it an east and west one, or at least it becomes no longer a mathematical but a philological question of the meaning of the words east and west. The last is what was meant probably by the east and west line in the treaty of Ghent. The same has been the understanding in running the numerous east and west lines which divide our different States. They have been run by observations of latitude at very short intervals, uniting the points of observation by short direct lines, and thus constituting in fact part of a polygon of very short sides.
But, Sir, I do not pretend to be an arbiter of these learned questions; age has weaned me from such speculations, and rendered me as incompetent as unwilling to puzzle myself with them. Your claim on me as a quondam neighbor has induced me to hazard thus much, not indeed for the newspapers, a vehicle to which I am never willingly committed, but to prove my attention to your wishes, and to convey to you the assurances of my respect.
I have long entertained scruples about writing this letter, upon a subject of some delicacy. But old age has overcome them at last.
You remember the four ships ordered by Congress to be built, and the four captains appointed by Washington, Talbot, and Truxton, and Barry, etc., to carry an ambassador to Algiers, and protect our commerce in the Mediterranean. I have always imputed this measure to you, for several reasons. First, because you frequently proposed it to me while we were at Paris, negotiating together for peace with the Barbary powers. Secondly, because I knew that Washington and Hamilton were not only indifferent about a navy, but averse to it. There was no Secretary of the Navy; only four Heads of department. You were Secretary of State; Hamilton, Secretary of the Treasury; Knox, Secretary of War; and I believe Bradford was Attorney General. I have always suspected that you and Knox were in favor of a navy. If Bradford was so, the majority was clear. But Washington, I am confident, was against it in his judgment. But his attachment to Knox, and his deference to your opinion, for I know he had a great regard for you, might induce him to decide in favor of you and Knox, even though Bradford united with Hamilton in opposition to you. That Hamilton was averse to the measure, I have personal evidence ; for while it was pending, he came in a hurry and a fit of impatience, to make a visit to me. He said he was likely to be called upon for a large sum of money to build ships of war, to fight the Algerines, and he asked my opinion of the measure. I answered him that I was clearly in favor of it. For I had always been of opinion, from the commencement of the Revolution, that a navy was the most powerful, the safest and the cheapest national defence for this country. My advice, therefore, was, that as much of the revenue as could possibly be spared, should be applied to the building and equipping of ships. The conversation was of some length, but it was manifest in his looks and in his air, that he was disgusted at the measure, as well as at the opinion that I had expressed.
Mrs. Knox not long since wrote a letter to Doctor Waterhouse, requesting him to procure a commission for her son, in the navy; that navy, says her ladyship, of which his father was the parent. "For," says she, "I have frequently heard General Washington say to my husband, the navy was your child." I have always believed it to be Jeffersons child, though Knox may have assisted in ushering it into the world. Hamiltons hobby was the army. That Washington was averse to a navy, I had full proof from his own lips, in many different conversations, some of them of length, in which he always insisted that it was only building and arming ships for the English. "Si quid novisti rectius istis candidus imperti; si non, his utere mecum."
If I am in error in any particular, pray correct your humble servant.
I return thanks for the pamphlet you have been so kind as to send me on the subject of commonwealths. Its moral principles merit entire approbation, its philanthropy especially, and its views of the equal rights of man. That, on the principle of a communion of property, small societies may exist in habits of virtue, order, industry, and peace, and consequently in a state of as much happiness as Heaven has been pleased to deal out to imperfect humanity, I can readily conceive, and indeed, have seen its proofs in various small societies which have been constituted on that principle. But I do not feel authorized to conclude from these that an extended society, like that of the United States, or of an individual State, could be governed happily on the same principle. I look to the diffusion of light and education as the resource most to be relied on for ameliorating the condition, promoting the virtue, and advancing the happiness of man. That every man shall be made virtuous, by any process whatever, is, indeed, no more to be expected, than that every tree shall be made to bear fruit, and every plant nourishment. The brier and bramble can never become the vine and olive; but their asperities may be softened by culture, and their properties improved to usefulness in the order and economy of the world. And I do hope that, in the present spirit of extending to the great mass of mankind the, blessings of instruction, I see a prospect of great advancement in the happiness of the human race; and that this may proceed to an indefinite, although not to an infinite degree. Wishing every success to the views of your society which their hopes can promise, and thanking you most particularly for the kind expressions of your letter towards myself, I salute you with assurances of great esteem and respect.
I have racked my memory and ransacked my papers, to enable myself to answer the inquiries of your favor of October the 15th ; but to little purpose. My papers furnish me nothing; my memory, generalities only. I know that while I was in Europe, and anxious about the fate of our seafaring men, for some of whom, then in captivity in Algiers, we were treating, and all were in like danger, I formed, undoubtingly, the opinion that our government, as soon as practicable, should provide a naval force sufficient to keep the Barbary States in order; and on this subject we communicated together, as you observe. When I returned to the United States and took part in the administration under General Washington, I constantly maintained that opinion; and in December, 1790, took advantage of a reference to me from the first Congress which met after I was in office, to report in favor of a force sufficient for the protection of our Mediterranean commerce; and I laid before them an accurate statement of the whole Barbary force, public and private. I think General Washington approved of building vessels of war to that extent. General Knox, I know, did. But what was Colonel Hamiltons opinion, I do not in the least remember. Your recollections on that subject are certainly corroborated by his known anxieties for a close connection with Great Britain, to which he might apprehend danger from collisions between their vessels and ours. Randolph was then Attorney General ; but his opinion on the question I also entirely forget. Some vessels of war were accordingly built and sent into the Mediterranean. The additions to these in your time, I need not note to you, who are well known to have ever been an advocate for the wooden walls of Themistocles. Some of those you added, were sold under an act of Congress passed while you were in office. I thought, afterwards, that the public safety might require some additional vessels of strength, to be prepared and in readiness for the first moment of a war, provided they could be preserved against the decay which is unavoidable if kept in the water, and clear of the expense of officers and men. With this view I proposed that they should be built in dry docks, above the level of the tide-waters, and covered with roofs. I further advised, that places for these docks should be selected where there was a command of water on a high level, as that of the Tyber at Washington, by which the vessels might be floated out, on the principle of a lock. But the majority of the legislature was against any addition to the navy, and the minority, although for it in judgment, voted against it on a principle of opposition. We are now, I understand, building vessels to remain on the stocks, under shelter, until wanted, when they will be launched and finished. On my plan they could be in service at an hours notice. On this, the finishing, after launching, will be a work of time.
This is all I recollect about the origin and progress of our navy. That of the late war, certainly raised our rank and character among nations. Yet a navy is a very expensive engine. It is admitted, that in ten or twelve years a vessel goes to entire decay; or, if kept in repair, costs as much as would build a new one; and that a nation who could count on twelve or fifteen years of peace, would gain by burning its navy and building a new one in time. Its extent, therefore, must be governed by circumstances. Since my proposition for a force adequate to the piracies of the Mediterranean, a similar necessity has arisen in our own seas for considerable addition to that force. Indeed, I wish we could have a convention with the naval powers of Europe, for them to keep down the pirates of the Mediterranean, and the slave ships on the coast of Africa, and for us to perform the same duties for the society of nations in our seas. In this way, those collisions would be avoided between the vessels of war of different nations, which beget wars and constitute the weightiest objection to navies. I salute you with constant affection and respect.
Your favor of October the 18th came to hand yesterday. The atmosphere of our country is unquestionably charged with a threatening cloud of fanaticism, lighter in some parts; denser in others, but too heavy in all. I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy and absurdity of the five points of Calvin, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation. In Boston, however, and its neighborhood, Unitarianism has advanced to so great strength, as now to humble this haughtiest of all religious sects; insomuch, that they condescend to interchange with them and the other sects, the civilities of preaching freely and frequently in each others meeting-houses. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, no sectarian preacher will permit an Unitarian to pollute his desk. In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a henpecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus, in terms as amatory and carnal, as their modesty would permit them to use to a mere earthly lover. In our village of Charlottesville, there is a good degree of religion, with a small spice only of fanaticism. We have four sects, but without either church or meeting-house. The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power. Systematical in grasping at an ascendency over all other sects, they aim, like the Jesuits, at engrossing the education of the country, are hostile to every institution which they do not direct, and jealous at seeing others begin to attend at all to that object. The diffusion of instruction, to which there is now so growing an attention, will be the remote remedy to this fever of fanaticism; while the more proximate one will be the progress of Unitarianism. That this will, ere long, be the religion of the majority from North to South, I have no doubt.
In our university you know there is no Professorship of Divinity. A handle has been made of this, to disseminate an idea that this is an institution, not merely of no religion, but against all religion. Occasion was taken at the last meeting of the Visitors, to bring forward an idea that might silence this calumny, which weighed on the minds of some honest friends to the institution. In our annual report to the legislature, after stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets, on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there, and have the free use of our library, and every other accommodation we can give them; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences. I think the invitation will be accepted, by some sects from candid intentions, and by others from jealousy and rival-ship. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality.
The time of opening our university is still as uncertain as ever. All the pavilions, boarding-houses, and dormitories are done. Nothing is now wanting but the central building for a library and other general purposes. For this we have no funds, and the last legislature refused all aid. We have better hopes of the next. But all is uncertain. I have heard with regret of disturbances on the part of the students in your seminary. The article of discipline is the most difficult in American education. Premature ideas of independence, too little repressed by parents, beget a spirit of insubordination, which is the great obstacle to science with us, and a principal cause of its decay since the Revolution. I look to it with dismay in our institution, as a breaker ahead, which I am far from being confident we shall be able to weather. The advance of age, and tardy pace of the public patronage, may probably spare me the pain of witnessing consequences.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
I have to acknowledge your favor of the 4th instant, which gives me the first information I had ever received that the laurels which Colonel Campbell so honorably won in the battle of Kings Mountain, had ever been brought into question by any one. To him has been ever ascribed so much of the success of that brilliant action as the valor and conduct of an able commander might justly claim. This lessens nothing the merits of his companions in arms, officers and soldiers, who, all and every one, acted well their parts in their respective stations. I have no papers on this subject in my possession, all such received at that day having belonged to the records of the council, but I remember well the deep and grateful impression made on the mind of every one by that memorable victory. It was the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success which terminated the Revolutionary war with the seal of our independence. The slighting expression complained of, as hazarded by the venerable Shelby, might seem inexcusable in a younger man, but he was then old, and I can assure you, dear Sir, from mortifying experience, that the lapses of memory of an old man are innocent subjects of compassion more than of blame. The descendants of Colonel Campbell may rest their heads quietly on the pillow of his renown. History has consecrated, and will forever preserve it in the faithful annals of a grateful country. With the expressions of the high sense I entertain of his character, accept the assurance to yourself of my great esteem and respect.
P.S. I received at the same time with your letter, one from Mr. William C. Preston, on the same subject. Writing is so slow and painful to me, that I must pray you to make for me my acknowledgments to him, and my request that he will consider this as an answer to his as well as your favor.
I have to thank you for your pamphlets on the subject of Unitarianism, and to express my gratification with your efforts for the revival of primitive Christianity in your quarter. No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity; and was among the efficacious doctrines which gave it triumph over the polytheism of the ancients, sickened with the absurdities of their own theology. Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the fanatic Athanasius. The hocus-pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs. And a strong proof of the solidity of the primitive faith, is its restoration, as soon as a nation arises which vindicates to itself the freedom of religious opinion, and its external divorce from the civil authority. The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe, is now all but ascendant in the Eastern States ; it is dawning in the West, and advancing towards the South; and I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States. The Eastern presses are giving us many excellent pieces on the subject, and Priestleys learned writings on it are, or should be, in every hand. In fact, the Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea ? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullibility, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.
I write with freedom, because, while I claim a right to believe in one God, if so my reason tells me, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society has any right to look to. Although this mutual freedom should produce mutual indulgence, yet I wish not to be brought in question before the public on this or any other subject, and I pray you to consider me as writing under that trust. I take no part in controversies, religious or political. At the age of eighty, tranquillity is the greatest good of life, and the strongest of our desires that of dying in the good will of all mankind. And with the assurance of all my good will to Unitarian and Trinitarian, to Whig and Tory, accept for yourself that of my dentire respect.