I have read with much satisfaction the reply of Mr. Everett, your brother, to the criticisms on his work on the state of Europe, and concur with him generally in the doctrines of the reply. Certainly provisions are not allowed, by the consent of nations, to be contraband but where everything is so, as in the case of a blockaded town, with which all intercourse is forbidden. On the question whether the principle of "free bottoms making free goods, and enemy bottoms enemy goods," is now to be considered as established in the law of nations, I will state to you a fact within my own knowledge, which may lessen the weight of our authority as having acted in the war of France and England on the ancient principle "that the goods of an enemy in the bottom of a friend are lawful prize; while those of a friend in an enemy bottom are not so." England became a party in the general war against France on the 1st of February, 1793. We took immediately the stand of neutrality. We were aware that our great intercourse with these two maritime nations would subject us to harassment by multiplied questions on the duties of neutrality, and that an important and early one would be which of the two principles above stated should be the law of action with us ? We wished to act on the new one of "free bottoms free goods;" and we had established it in our treaties with other nations, but not with England. We determined therefore to avoid, if possible, committing ourselves on this question until we could negotiate with England her acquiescence in the new principle. Although the cases occurring were numerous, and the ministers, Genet and Hammond, eagerly on the watch, we were able to avoid any declaration until the massacre of St. Domingo. The whites, on that occasion, took refuge on board our ships, then in their harbor, with all the property they could find room for ; and on their passage to the United States, many of them were taken by British cruisers, and their cargoes seized as lawful prize. The inflammable temper of Genet kindled at once, and he wrote, with his usual passion, a letter reclaiming an observance of the principle of "free bottoms free goods," as if already an acknowledged law of neutrality. I pressed him in conversation not to urge this point; that although it had been acted on by convention, by the armed neutrality, it was not yet become a principle of universal admission; that we wished indeed to strengthen it by our adoption, and were negotiating an acquiescence on the part of Great Britain : but if forced to decide prematurely, we must justify ourselves by a declaration of the ancient principle, and that no general consent of nations had as yet changed it. He was immovable, and on the 25th of July wrote a letter, so insulting, that nothing but a determined system of justice and moderation would have prevented his being shipped home in the first vessel. I had the day before answered his of the 9th, in which I had been obliged in our own justification, to declare that the ancient was the established principle, still existing and authoritative. Our denial, therefore, of the new principle, and action on the old one, were forced upon us by the precipitation and intemperance of Genet, against our wishes, and against our aim; and our involuntary practice, therefore, is of less authority against the new rule.
I owe you particular thanks for the copy of your translation of Buttmans Greek Grammar, which you have been so kind as to send me. A cursory view of it promises me a rich mine of valuable criticism. I observe he goes with the herd of grammarians in denying an Ablative case to the Greek language. I cannot concur with him in that, but think with the Messrs. of Port Royal who admit an Ablative. And why exclude it ? Is it because the Dative and Ablative in Greek are always of the same form ? Then there is no Ablative to the Latin plurals, because in them as in Greek, these cases are always in the same form. The Greeks recognized the Ablative under the appellation of the --(greek text)--, which I have met with and noted from some of the scholiasts, without recollecting where. Stephens, Scapula, Hederic acknowledge it as one of the significations of the word --(greek text)--. That the Greeks used it cannot be denied. For one of multiplied examples which may be produced take the following from the Hippolytus of Euripides : "----(greek text)----," "dic quo modo justitiae clava percussit eum," "quo modo" are Ablatives, then why not --(greek text)--? And translating it into English, should we use the Dative* or Ablative preposition ? It is not perhaps easy to define very critically what constitutes a case in the declension of nouns. All agree as to the Nominative that it is simply the name of the thing. If we admit that a distinct case is constituted by any accident or modification which changes the relation which that bears to the actors or action of the sentence, we must agree to the six cases at least; because, for example, to a thing, and from a thing are very different accidents to the thing. It may be said that if every distinct accident or change of relation constitutes a different case, then there are in every language as many cases as there are prepositions ; for this is the peculiar office of the preposition. But because we do not designate by special names all the cases to which a noun is liable, is that a reason why we should throw away half of those we have, as is done by those grammarians who reject all cases, but the Nominative, Genitive, and Accusative, and in a less degree by those also who reject the Ablative alone ? as pushing the discrimination of all the possible cases to extremities leads us to nothing useful or practicable, I am contented with the old six cases, familiar to every cultivated language, ancient and modern, and well understood by all. I acknowledge myself at the same time not an adept in the metaphysical speculations of Grammar. By analyzing too minutely we often reduce our subject to atoms, of which the mind loses its hold. Nor am I a friend to a scrupulous purism of style. I readily sacrifice the niceties of syntax to euphony and strength. It is by boldly neglecting the rigorisms of grammar, that Tacitus has made himself the strongest writer in the world. The Hyperesitics call him barbarous; but I should be sorry to exchange his barbarisms for their wise-drawn purisms. Some of his sentences are as strong as language can make them. Had he scrupulously filled up the whole of their syntax, they would have been merely common. To explain my meaning by an English example, I will quote the motto of one, I believe, of the regicides of Charles I., "Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God." Correct its syntax, "Rebellion against tyrants is obedience to God," it has lost all the strength and beauty of the antithesis. However, dear Sir, I profess again my want of familiarity with these speculations; I hazard them without confidence, and offer them submissively to your consideration and more practised judgment.
Although writing, with both hands crippled, is slow and painful, and therefore nearly laid aside from necessity, I have been decoyed by my subjects into a very long letter. What would therefore have been a good excuse for ending with the first page, cannot be a bad one for concluding in the fourth, with the assurance of my great esteem and respect.
* See Buttmans Datives, p. 230, every one of which I should consider as under the accident or relation called Ablative, having no signification of approach according to his definition of the Dative.
I received, in due time, your two favors of December the 2d and February the 10th, and have to acknowledge for the ladies of my native State their obligations to you for the enconiums which you are so kind as to bestow on them. They certainly claim no advantages over those of their sister States, and are sensible of more favorable circumstances existing with many of them, and happily availed, which our situation does not offer. But the paper respecting Monticello, to which you allude, was not written by a Virginian, but a visitant from another State; and written by memory at least a dozen years after the visit. This has occasioned some lapses of recollection, and a confusion of some things in the mind of our friend, and particularly as to the volume of slanders supposed to have been cut out of newspapers and preserved. It would not, indeed, have been a single volume, but an encyclopedia in bulk. But I never had such a volume; indeed, I rarely thought those libels worth reading, much less preserving and remembering. At the end of every year, I generally sorted all my pamphlets, and had them bound according to their subjects. One of these volumes consisted of personal altercations between individuals, and calumnies on each other. This was lettered on the back, "Personalities," and is now in the library of Congress. I was in the habit, also, while living apart from my family, of cutting out of the newspapers such morsels of poetry, or tales, as I thought would please, and of sending them to my grandchildren, who pasted them on leaves of blank paper and formed them into a book. These two volumes have been confounded into one in the recollection of our friend. Her poetical imagination, too, has heightened the scenes she visited, as well as the merits of the inhabitants, to whom her society was a delightful gratification.
I have just finished reading OMearas Bonaparte. It places him in a higher scale of understanding than I had allotted him. I had thought him the greatest of all military captains, but an indifferent statesman, and misled by unworthy passions. The flashes, however, which escaped from him in these conversations with OMeara, prove a mind of great expansion although not of distinct development and reasoning. He seizes results with rapidity and penetration, but never explains logically the process of reasoning by which he arrives at them. This book, too, makes us forget his atrocities for a moment, in commiseration of his sufferings. I will not say that the authorities of the world, charged with the care of their country and people, had not a right to confine him for life, as a lion or tiger, on the principle of self-preservation. There was no safety to nations while he was permitted to roam at large. But the putting him to death in cold blood, by lingering tortures of mind, by vexations, insults and deprivations, was a degree of inhumanity to which the poisonings and assassinations of the school of Borgia and the den of Marat never attained. The book proves, also, that nature had denied him the moral sense, the first excellence of well-organized man. If he could seriously and repeatedly affirm that he had raised himself to power without ever having committed a crime, it proves that he wanted totally the sense of right and wrong. If he could consider the millions of human lives which he had destroyed or caused to be destroyed, the desolations of countries by plunderings, burnings, and famine, the destitutions of lawful rulers of the world without the consent of their constituents, to place his brothers and sisters on their thrones, the cutting up of established societies of men and jumbling them discordantly together again at his caprice, the demolition of the fairest hopes of mankind for the recovery of their rights and amelioration of their condition, and all the numberless train of his other enormities; the man, I say, who could consider all these as no crimes, must have been a moral monster, against whom every hand should have been lifted to slay him.
You are so kind as to inquire after my health. The bone of my arm is well knitted, but my hand and fingers are in a discouraging condition, kept entirely useless by an aedematous swelling of slow amendment.
God bless you and continue your good health of body and mind.
I delayed some time the acknowledgment of your welcome letter of December 10th, on the common lazy principle of never doing to-day what we can put off to to-morrow, until it became doubtful whether a letter would find you at Charleston. Learning now that you are at Washington, I will reply to some particulars which seem to require it.
The North American Review is a work I do not take, and which is little known in this State, consequently I have never seen its observations on your inestimable history, but a reviewer can never let a work pass uncensured. He must always make himself wiser than his author. He would otherwise think it an abdication of his office of censor On this occasion, he seems to have had more sensibility for Virginia than she has for herself ; for, on reading the work, I saw nothing to touch our pride or jealousy, but every expression of respect and good will which truth could justify. The family of enemies, whose buzz you apprehend, are now nothing. You may learn this at Washington; and their military relation has long ago had the full-voiced condemnation of his own State. Do not fear, therefore, these insects. What you write will be far above their grovelling sphere. Let me, then, implore you, dear Sir, to finish your history of parties, leaving the time of publication to the state of things you may deem proper, but taking especial care that we do not lose it altogether. We have been too careless of our future reputation, while our Tories will omit nothing to place us in the wrong. Besides the five-volumed libel which represents us as struggling for office, and not at all to prevent our government from being administered into a monarchy, the life of Hamilton is in the hands of a man who, to the bitterness of the priest, adds the rancor of the fiercest federalism. Mr. Adams papers, too, and his biography, will descend of course to his son, whose pen, you know, is pointed, and his prejudices not in our favor. And doubtless other things are in preparation, unknown to us. On our part we are depending on truth to make itself known, while history is taking a contrary set which may become too inveterate for correction. Mr. Madison will probably leave something, but I believe, only particular passages of our history, and these chiefly confined to the period between the dissolution of the old and commencement of the new government, which is peculiarly within his knowledge. After he joined me in the administration, he had no leisure to write. This, too, was my case. But although I had not time to prepare anything express, my letters, (all preserved) will furnish the daily occurrences and views from my return from Europe in 1790, till I retired finally from office. These will command more conviction than anything I could have written after my retirement, no day having ever passed during that period without a letter to somebody; written, too, in the moment, and in the warmth and freshness of fact and feeling, they will carry internal evidence that what they breathe is genuine. Selections from these, after my death, may come out successively as the maturity of circumstances may render their appearance seasonable. But multiplied testimony, multiplied views will be necessary to give solid establishment to truth. Much is known to one which is not known to another, and no one knows everything. It is the sum of individual knowledge which is to make up the whole truth, and to give its correct current through future time. Then do not, dear Sir, withhold your stock of information ; and I would moreover recommend that you trust it not to a single copy, nor to a single depository. Leave it not in the power of any one person, under the distempered view of an unlucky moment, to deprive us of the weight of your testimony, and to purchase, by its destruction, the favor of any party or person, as happened with a paper of Dr. Franklins.
I cannot lay down my pen without recurring to one of the subjects of my former letter, for in truth there is no danger I apprehend so much as the consolidation of our government by the noiseless, and therefore unalarming, instrumentality of the Supreme Court. This is the form in which federalism now arrays itself, and consolidation is the present principle of distinction between republicans and the pseudo-republicans but real federalists. I must comfort myself with the hope that the judges will see the importance and the duty of giving their country the only evidence they can give of fidelity to its Constitution and integrity in the administration of its laws ; that is to say, by every ones giving his opinion seriatim and publicly on the cases he decides. Let him prove by his reasoning that he has read the papers, that he has considered the case, that in the application of the law to it, he uses his own judgment independently and unbiased by party views and personal favor or disfavor. Throw himself in every case on God and his country; both will excuse him for error and value him for his honesty. The very idea of cooking up opinions in conclave, begets suspicions that something passes which fears the public ear, and this, spreading by degrees, must produce at some time abridgment of tenure, facility of removal, or some other modification which may promise a remedy. For in truth there is at this time more hostility to the federal judiciary, than to any other organ of the government.
I should greatly prefer, as you do, four judges to any greater number. Great lawyers are not over-abundant, and the multiplication of judges only enable the weak to outvote the wise, and three concurrent opinions out of four give a strong presumption of right.
I cannot better prove my entire confidence in your candor, than by the frankness with which I commit myself to you, and to this I add with truth, assurances of the sincerity of my great esteem and respect.
The sight of your well-known handwriting in your favor of 25th February last, gave me great pleasure, as it proved your arm to be restored, and your pen still manageable. May it continue till you shall become as perfect a Calvinist as I am in one particular. Poor Calvins infirmities, his rheumatism, his gouts and sciatics, made him frequently cry out, Mon Dieu, jusquà quand ! Lord, how long ! Prat, once chief justice of New York, always tormented with infirmities, dreamt that he was situated on a single rock in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean. He heard a voice :
"Why mourns the bard ? Apollo bids thee rise,
Renounce the dust, and claim thy native skies."
The ladies visit to Monticello has put my readers in requisition to read to me Simons travels in Switzerland. I thought I had some knowledge of that country before, but I find I had no idea of it. How degenerated are the Swiss. They might defend their country against France, Austria, and Russia ; neither of whom ought to be suffered to march armies over their mountains. Those powers have practiced as much tyranny, and immorality, as even the Emperor Napoleon did over them, or over the royalists of Germany or Italy.
Neither France, Austria, nor Spain, ought to have a foot of land in Italy. All conquerors are alike. Every one of them. Jura negat sibi lati, nihil non arrogat armis. We have nothing but fables concerning Theseus, Bacchus, and Hercules, and even Sesostris; but I dare say that every one of them was as tyrannical and immoral as Napoleon. Nebuchadnezzar is the first great conqueror of whom we have anything like history, and he was as great as any of them. Alexander and Caesar were more immoral than Napoleon. Zingis Khan was as great a conqueror as any of them, and destroyed as many millions of lives, and thought he had a right to the whole globe, if he could subdue it.
What are we to think of the Crusades in which three millions of lives at least were probably sacrificed ? And what right had St. Louis and Richard Coeur de Lion to Palestine and Syria more than Alexander to India, or Napoleon to Egypt and Italy ? Right and justice have hard fare in this world, but there is a Power above who is capable and willing to put all things right in the end; et pour mettre chacun à sa place dans luniverse, and I doubt not He will.
Mr. English, a Bostonian, has published a volume of his expedition with Ishmael Pasha, up the river Nile. He advanced above the third cataract, and opens a prospect of a resurrection from the dead of those vast and ancient countries of Abyssinia and Ethiopia ; a free communication with India, and the river Niger, and the city of Timbuctoo. This, however, is conjecture and speculation rather than certainty; but a free communication by land between Europe and India will ere long be opened. A few American steamboats, and our Quincy stonecutters would soon make the Nile as navigable as our Hudson, Potomac, or Mississippi. You see as my reason and intellect fails, my imagination grows more wild and ungovernable, but my friendship remains the same. Adieu.
The wishes expressed in your last favor, that I may continue in life and health until I become a Calvinist, at least in his exclamation of "Mon Dieu ! jusquà quand !" would make me immortal. I can never join Calvin in addressing his God. He was indeed an atheist, which I can never be ; or rather his religion was daemonism. If ever man worshiped a false God, he did. The Being described in his five points, is not the God whom you and I acknowledge and adore, the Creator and benevolent Governor of the world; but a dæmon of malignant spirit. It would be more pardonable to believe in no God at all, than to blaspheme Him by the atrocious attributes of Calvin. Indeed, I think that every Christian sect gives a great handle to atheism by their general dogma, that, without a revelation, there would not be sufficient proof of the being of a God. Now one-sixth of mankind only are supposed to be Christians; the other five-sixths then, who do not believe in the Jewish and Christian revelation, are without a knowledge of the existence of a God ! This gives completely a gain de cause to the disciples of Ocellus, Timæus, Spinosa, Diderot and DHolbach. The argument which they rest on as triumphant and unanswerable is, that in every hypothesis of cosmogony, you must admit an eternal pre-existence of something ; and according to the rule of sound philosophy, you are never to employ two principles to solve a difficulty when one will suffice. They say then, that it is more simple to believe at once in the eternal pre-existence of the world, as it is now going on, and may forever go on by the principle of reproduction which we see and witness, than to believe in the eternal pre-existence of an ulterior cause, or Creator of the world, a Being whom we see not and know not, of whose form, substance and mode, or place of existence, or of action, no sense informs us, no power of the mind enables us to delineate or comprehend. On the contrary, I hold, (without appeal to revelation) that when we take a view of the universe, in its parts, general or particular, it is impossible for the human mind not to perceive and feel a conviction of design, consummate skill, and indefinite power in every atom of its composition. The movements of the heavenly bodies, so exactly held in their course by the balance of centrifugal and centripetal forces ; the structure of our earth itself, with its distribution of lands, waters and atmosphere; animal and vegetable bodies, examined in all their minutest particles; insects, mere atoms of life, yet as perfectly organized as man or mammoth; the mineral substances, their generation and uses; it is impossible, I say, for the human mind not to believe, that there is in all this, design, cause and effect, up to an ultimate cause, a Fabricator of all things from matter and motion, their Preserver and Regulator while permitted to exist in their present forms, and their regeneration into new and other forms. We see, too, evident proofs of the necessity of a superintending power, to maintain the universe in its course and order. Stars, well known, have disappeared, new ones have come into view; comets, in their incalculable courses, may run foul of suns and planets, and require renovation under other laws; certain races of animals are become extinct; and were there no restoring power, all existences might extinguish successively, one by one, until all should be reduced to a shapeless chaos. So irresistible are these evidences of an intelligent and powerful Agent, that, of the infinite numbers of men who have existed through all time, they have believed, in the proportion of a million at least to unit, in the hypothesis of an eternal pre-existence of a Creator, rather than in that of a self-existent universe. Surely this unanimous sentiment renders this more probable, than that of the few in the other hypothesis. Some early Christians, indeed, have believed in the co-eternal pre-existence of both the Creator and the world, without changing their relation of cause and effect. That this was the opinion of St. Thomas, we are informed by Cardinal Toleta, in these words : "Deus ab æterno fuit jam omnipotens, sicut cum produxit mundum. Ab æterno potuit producere mundum. Si sol ab æterno esset, lumen ab æterno esset; et si pes, similiter vestigium. At lumen et vestigium effectus sunt efficientis solis et pedis; potuit ergo cum causa æterna effectus co-æterna esse. Cujus sententia est S. Thomas theologorum primus."Cardinal Toleta.
Of the nature of this Being we know nothing. Jesus tells us, that "God is a Spirit." 4 John 24. But without defining what a spirit is : "pneuma o Theos." Down to the third century, we know it was still deemed material ; but of a lighter, subtler matter than our gross bodies. So says Origen, "Deus igitur, cui anima similis est, juxta originem, reapte corporalis est; sed graviorum tantum ratione corporum incorporeus." These are the words of Huet in his commentary on Origen. Origen himself says, "appellatio asomaiou apud nostros scriptores est inusitata et incognita." So also Tertullian ; "quis autem negabit deum esse corpus etsi deus spiritus ? Spiritus etiam corporis sui generis, in sua effigie."Tertullian. These two fathers were of the third century. Calvins character of this Supreme Being seems chiefly copied from that of the Jews. But the reformation of these blasphemous attributes, and substitution of those more worthy, pure, and sublime, seems to have been the chief object of Jesus in His discourses to the Jews ; and His doctrine of the cosmogony of the world is very clearly laid down in the three first verses of the first chapter of John, in these words : "----(greek text of John 1:1-3)----" Which truly translated means, "In the beginning God existed, and reason (or mind) was with God, and that mind was God. This was in the beginning with God. All things were created by it, and without it was made not one thing which was made." Yet this text, so plainly declaring the doctrine of Jesus, that the world was created by the Supreme, Intelligent Being, has been perverted by modern Christians to build up a second person of their tritheism, by a mistranslation of the word logos. One of its legitimate meanings, indeed, is "a word." But in that sense it makes an unmeaning jargon ; while the other meaning, "reason," equally legitimate, explains rationally the eternal pre-existence of God, and His creation of the world. Knowing how incomprehensible it was that "a word" the mere action or articulation of the organs of speech could create a world, they undertook to make of this articulation a second pre-existing being, and ascribe to him, and not to God, the creation of the universe. The atheist here plumes himself on the uselessness of such a God, and the simpler hypothesis of a self-existent universe. The truth is, that the greatest enemies to the doctrines of Jesus are those, calling themselves the expositors of them, who have perverted them for the structure of a system of fancy absolutely incomprehensible, and without any foundation in His genuine words. And the day will come, when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as His Father, in the womb of a virgin, will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason, and freedom of thought in these United States, will do away all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated Reformer of human errors.
So much for your quotation of Calvins "Mon Dieu ! jusquà quand !" in which, when addressed to the God of Jesus, and our God, I join you cordially, and await His time and will with more readiness than reluctance. May we meet there again, in Congress, with our ancient colleagues, and receive with them the seal of approbation, "well done, good and faithful servants."
I duly received your favor of the 24th ultimo. But I am rendered a slow correspondent by the loss of the use, totally of the one, and almost totally of the other wrist, which renders writing scarcely and painfully practicable. I learn with great satisfaction that wholesome economies have been found, sufficient to relieve us from the ruinous necessity of adding annually to our debt by new loans. The deviser of so salutary a relief deserves truly well of his country. I shall be glad, too, if an additional tax of one-fourth of a dollar a gallon on whiskey shall enable us to meet all our engagements with punctuality. Viewing that tax as an article in a system of excise, I was once glad to see it fall with the rest of the system, which I considered as prematurely and unnecessarily introduced. It was evident that our existing taxes were then equal to our existing debts. It was clearly foreseen also that the surplus from excise would only become aliment for useless offices, and would be swallowed in idleness by those whom it would withdraw from useful industry. Considering it only as a fiscal measure, this was right. But the prostration of body and mind which the cheapness of this liquor is spreading through the mass of our citizens, now calls the attention of the legislator on a very different principle. One of his important duties is as guardian of those who from causes susceptible of precise definition, cannot take care of themselves. Such are infants, maniacs, gamblers, drunkards. The last, as much as the maniac, requires restrictive measures to save him from the fatal infatuation under which he is destroying his health, his morals, his family, and his usefulness to society. One powerful obstacle to his ruinous self-indulgence would be a price beyond his competence. As a sanatory measure, therefore, it becomes one of duty in the public guardians. Yet I do not think it follows necessarily that imported spirits should be subjected to similar enhancement, until they become as cheap as those made at home. A tax on whiskey is to discourage its consumption; a tax on foreign spirits encourages whiskey by removing its rival from competition. The price and present duty throw foreign spirits already out of competition with whiskey, and accordingly they are used but to a salutary extent. You see no persons besotting themselves with imported spirits, wines, liquors, cordials, etc. Whiskey claims to itself alone the exclusive office of sot-making. Foreign spirits, wines, teas, coffee, segars, salt, are articles of as innocent consumption as broadcloths and silks; and ought, like them, to pay but the average ad valorem duty of other imported comforts. All of them are ingredients in our happiness, and the government which steps out of the ranks of the ordinary articles of consumption to select and lay under disproportionate burdens a particular one, because it is a comfort, pleasing to the taste, or necessary to health, and will therefore be bought, is, in that particular, a tyranny. Taxes on consumption like those on capital or income, to be just, must be uniform. I do not mean to say that it may not be for the general interest to foster for awhile certain infant manufactures, until they are strong enough to stand against foreign rivals ; but when evident that they will never be so, it is against right, to make the other branches of industry support them. When it was found that France could not make sugar under 6 h. a lb., was it not tyranny to restrain her citizens from importing at 1 h.? or would it not have been so to have laid a duty of 5 h. on the imported ? The permitting an exchange of industries with other nations is a direct encouragement of your own, which without that, would bring you nothing for your comfort, and would of course cease to be produced.
On the question of the next Presidential election, I am a mere looker-on. I never permit myself to express an opinon, or to feel a wish on the subject. I indulge a single hope only, that the choice may fall on one who will be a friend of peace, of economy, of the republican principles of our Constitution, and of the salutary distribution of powers made by that between the general and the local governments; to this, I ever add sincere prayers for your happiness and prosperity.
I thank you, Sir, for the copy of the letters of Paul and Amicus, which you have been so kind as to send me, and shall learn from them with satisfaction the peculiar tenets of the Friends, and particularly their opinions on the incomprehensibilities (otherwise called the mysteries) of the Trinity. I think with them on many points, and especially on missionary and Bible societies. While we have so many around us, within the same social pale, who need instruction and assistance, why carry to a distance, and to strangers what our own neighbors need ? It is a duty certainly to give our sparings to those who want; but to see also that they are faithfully distributed, and duly apportioned to the respective wants of those receivers. And why give through agents whom we know not, to persons whom we know not, and in countries from which we get no account, when we can do it at short hand, to objects under our eye, through agents we know, and to supply wants we see ? I do not know that it is a duty to disturb by missionaries the religion and peace of other countries, who may think themselves bound to extinguish by fire and fagot the heresies to which we give the name of conversions, and quote our own example for it. Were the Pope, or his holy allies, to send in mission to us some thousands of Jesuit priests to convert us to their orthodoxy, I suspect that we should deem and treat it as a national aggression on our peace and faith. I salute you in the spirit of peace and good will.
Considering that I had not been to Bedford for a twelvemonth before, I thought myself singularly unfortunate in so timing my journey, as to have been absent exactly at the moment of your late visit to our neighborhood. The loss, indeed, was all my own; for in these short interviews with you, I generally get my political compass rectified, learn from you whereabouts we are, and correct my course again. In exchange for this, I can give you but newspaper ideas, and little indeed of these, for I read but a single paper, and that hastily. I find Horace and Tacitus so much better writers than the champions of the gazettes, that I lay those down to take up these with great reluctance. And on the question you propose, whether we can, in any form, take a bolder attitude than formerly in favor of liberty, I can give you but commonplace ideas. They will be but the widows mite, and offered only because requested. The matter which now embroils Europe, the presumption of dictating to an independent nation the form of its government, is so arrogant, so atrocious, that indignation, as well as moral sentiment, enlists all our partialities and prayers in favor of one, and our equal execrations against the other. I do not know, indeed, whether all nations do not owe to one another a bold and open declaration of their sympathies with the one party, and their detestation of the conduct of the other. But farther than this we are not bound to go; and indeed, for the sake of the world, we ought not to increase the jealousies, or draw on ourselves the power of this formidable confederacy. I have ever deemed it fundamental for the United States, never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe. Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are expended in the destruction of the labor, property and lives of their people. On our part, never had a people so favorable a chance of trying the opposite system, of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of improvement instead of destruction. With Europe we have few occasions of collision, and these, with a little prudence and forbearance, may be generally accommodated. Of the brethren of our own hemisphere, none are yet, or for an age to come will be, in a shape, condition, or disposition to war against us. And the foothold which the nations of Europe had in either America, is slipping from under them, so that we shall soon be rid of their neighborhood. Cuba alone seems at present to hold up a speck of war to us. Its possession by Great Britain would indeed be a great calamity to us. Could we induce her to join us in guaranteeing its independence against all the world, except Spain, it would be nearly as valuable to us as if it were our own. But should she take it, I would not immediately go to war for it ; because the first war on other accounts will give it to us ; or the island will give itself to us, when able to do so. While no duty, therefore, calls on us to take part in the present war of Europe, and a golden harvest offers itself in reward for doing nothing, peace and neutrality seem to be our duty and interest. We may gratify ourselves, indeed, with a neutrality as partial to Spain as would be justifiable without giving cause of war to her adversary ; we might and ought to avail ourselves of the happy occasion of procuring and cementing a cordial reconciliation with her, by giving assurance of every friendly office which neutrality admits, and especially, against all apprehension of our intermeddling in the quarrel with her colonies. And I expect daily and confidently to hear of a spark kindled in France, which will employ her at home, and relieve Spain from all further apprehensions of danger.
That England is playing false with Spain cannot be doubted. Her government is looking one way and rowing another. It is curious to look back a little on past events. During the ascendency of Bonaparte, the word among the herd of kings, was "sauve qui peut." Each shifted for himself, and left his brethren to squander and do the same as they could. After the battle of Waterloo, and the military possession of France, they rallied and combined in common cause, to maintain each other against any similar and future danger. And in this alliance, Louis, now avowedly, and George, secretly but solidly, were of the contracting parties; and there can be no doubt that the allies are bound by treaty to aid England with their armies, should insurrection take place among her people. The coquetry she is now playing off between her people and her allies is perfectly understood by the latter, and accordingly gives no apprehensions to France, to whom it is all explained. The diplomatic correspondence she is now displaying, these double papers, fabricated merely for exhibition, in which she makes herself talk of morals and principle, as if her qualms of conscience would not permit her to go all lengths with her Holy Allies, are all to gull her own people. It is a theatrical farce, in which the five powers are the actors, England the Tartuffe, and her people the dupes. Playing thus so dextrously into each others hands, and their own persons seeming secured, they are now looking to their privileged orders. These faithful auxiliaries, or accomplices, must be saved. This war is evidently that of the general body of the aristocracy, in which England is also acting her part. "Save but the nobles and there shall be no war," says she, masking her measures at the same time under the form of friendship and mediation, and hypocritically, while a party, offering herself as a judge, to betray those whom she is not permitted openly to oppose. A fraudulent neutrality, if neutrality at all, is all Spain will get from her. And Spain, probably, perceives this, and willingly winks at it rather than have her weight thrown openly into the other scale.
But I am going beyond my text, and sinning against the adage of carrying coals to Newcastle. In hazarding to you my crude and uninformed notions of things beyond my cognizance, only be so good as to remember that it is at your request, and with as little confidence on my part as profit on yours. You will do what is right, leaving the people of Europe to act their follies and crimes among themselves, while we pursue in good faith the paths of peace and prosperity. To your judgment we are willingly resigned, with sincere assurances of affectionate esteem and respect.
Our correspondence is of that accommodating character, which admits of suspension at the convenience of either party, without inconvenience to the other. Hence this tardy acknowledgment of your favor of April the 11th. I learn from that with great pleasure, that you have resolved on continuing your history of parties. Our opponents are far ahead of us in preparations for placing their cause favorably before posterity. Yet I hope even from some of them the escape of precious truths, in angry explosions or effusions of vanity, which will betray the genuine monarchism of their principles. They do not themselves believe what they endeavor to inculcate, that we were an opposition party, not on principle, but merely seeking for office. The fact is, that at the formation of our government, many had formed their political opinions on European writings and practices, believing the experience of old countries, and especially of England, abusive as it was, to be a safer guide than mere theory. The doctrines of Europe were, that men in numerous associations cannot be restrained within the limits of order and justice, but by forces physical and moral, wielded over them by authorities independent of their will. Hence their organization of kings, hereditary nobles, and priests. Still further to constrain the brute force of the people, they deem it necessary to keep them down by hard labor, poverty and ignorance, and to take from them, as from bees, so much of their earnings, as that unremitting labor shall be necessary to obtain a sufficient surplus barely to sustain a scanty and miserable life. And these earnings they apply to maintain their privileged orders in splendor and idleness, to fascinate the eyes of the people, and excite in them an humble adoration and submission, as to an order of superior beings. Although few among us had gone all these lengths of opinion, yet many had advanced, some more, some less, on the way. And in the convention which formed our government, they endeavored to draw the cords of power as tight as they could obtain them, to lessen the dependence of the general functionaries on their constituents, to subject to them those of the States, and to weaken their means of maintaining the steady equilibrium which the majority of the convention had deemed salutary for both branches, general and local. To recover, therefore, in practice the powers which the nation had refused, and to warp to their own wishes those actually given, was the steady object of the federal party. Ours, on the contrary, was to maintain the will of the majority of the convention, and of the people themselves. We believed, with them, that man was a rational animal, endowed by nature with rights, and with an innate sense of justice; and that he could be restrained from wrong and protected in right, by moderate powers, confided to persons of his own choice, and held to their duties by dependence on his own will. We believed that the complicated organization of kings, nobles, and priests, was not the wisest nor best to effect the happiness of associated man; that wisdom and virtue were not hereditary; that the trappings of such a machinery, consumed by their expense, those earnings of industry, they were meant to protect, and, by the inequalities they produced, exposed liberty to sufferance. We believed that men, enjoying in ease and security the full fruits of their own industry, enlisted by all their interests on the side of law and order, habituated to think for themselves, and to follow their reason as their guide, would be more easily and safely governed, than with minds nourished in error, and vitiated and debased, as in Europe, by ignorance, indigence and oppression. The cherishment of the people then was our principle, the fear and distrust of them, that of the other party. Composed, as we were, of the landed and laboring interests of the country, we could not be less anxious for a government of law and order than were the inhabitants of the cities, the strongholds of federalism. And whether our efforts to save the principles and form of our Constitution have not been salutary, let the present republican freedom, order and prosperity of our country determine. History may distort truth, and will distort it for a time, by the superior efforts at justification of those who are conscious of needing it most. Nor will the opening scenes of our present government be seen in their true aspect, until the letters of the day, now held in private hoards, shall be broken up and laid open to public view. What a treasure will be found in General Washingtons cabinet when it shall pass into the hands of as candid a friend to truth as he was himself ! When no longer, like Cæsars notes and memorandums in the hands of Antony, it shall be open to the high priests of federalism only, and garbled to say so much, and no more, as suits their views !
With respect to his farewell address, to the authorship of which, it seems, there are conflicting claims, I can state to you some facts. He had determined to decline a re-election at the end of his first term; and so far determined, that he had requested Mr. Madison to prepare for him something valedictory, to be addressed to his constituents on his retirement. This was done, but he was finally persuaded to acquiesce in a second election, to which no one more strenuously pressed him than myself, from a conviction of the importance of strengthening, by longer habit, the respect necessary for that office, which the weight of his character only could effect. When, at the end of this second term, his Valedictory came out, Mr. Madison recognized in it several passages of his draught ; several others, we were both satisfied, were from the pen of Hamilton, and others from that of the President himself. These he probably put into the hands of Hamilton to form into a whole, and hence it may all appear in Hamiltons handwriting, as if it were all of his composition.
I have stated above, that the original objects of the federalists were, 1st, to warp our government more to the form and principles of monarchy, and, 2d, to weaken the barriers of the State governments as co-ordinate powers. In the first they have been so completely foiled by the universal spirit of the nation, that they have abandoned the enterprise, shrunk from the odium of their old appellation, taken to themselves a participation of ours, and under the pseudo-republican mask, are now aiming at their second object, and strengthened by unsuspecting or apostate recruits from our ranks, are advancing fast towards an ascendency. I have been blamed for saying, that a prevalence of the doctrines of consolidation would one day call for reformation or revolution. I answer by asking if a single State of the Union would have agreed to the Constitution, had it given all powers to the General Government ? If the whole opposition to it did not proceed from the jealousy and fear of every State, of being subjected to the other States in matters merely its own ? And if there is any reason to believe the States more disposed now than then, to acquiesce in this general surrender of all their rights and powers to a consolidated government, one and undivided ?
You request me confidentially, to examine the question, whether the Supreme Court has advanced beyond its constitutional limits, and trespassed on those of the State authorities ? I do not undertake it, my dear Sir, because I am unable. Age and the wane of mind consequent on it, have disqualified me from investigations so severe, and researches so laborious. And it is the less necessary in this case, as having been already done by others with a logic and learning to which I could add nothing. On the decision of the case of Cohens vs. The State of Virginia, in the Supreme Court of the United States, in March, 1821, Judge Roane, under the signature of Algernon Sidney, wrote for the Enquirer a series of papers on the law of that case. I considered these papers maturely as they came out, and confess that they appeared to me to pulverize every word which had been delivered by Judge Marshall, of the extra-judicial part of his opinion; and all was extra-judicial, except the decision that the act of Congress had not purported to give to the corporation of Washington the authority claimed by their lottery law, of controlling the laws of the States within the States themselves. But unable to claim that case, he could not let it go entirely, but went on gratuitously to prove, that notwithstanding the eleventh amendment of the Constitution, a State could be brought as a defendant, to the bar of his court; and again, that Congress might authorize a corporation of its territory to exercise legislation within a State, and paramount to the laws of that State. I cite the sum and result only of his doctrines, according to the impression made on my mind at the time, and still remaining. If not strictly accurate in circumstance, it is so in substance. This doctrine was so completely refuted by Roane, that if he can be answered, I surrender human reason as a vain and useless faculty, given to bewilder, and not to guide us. And I mention this particular case as one only of several, because it gave occasion to that thorough examination of the constitutional limits between the General and State jurisdictions, which you have asked for. There were two other writers in the same paper, under the signatures of Fletcher of Saltoun, and Somers, who, in a few essays, presented some very luminous and striking views of the question. And there was a particular paper which recapitulated all the cases in which it was thought the federal court had usurped on the State jurisdictions. These essays will be found in the Enquirers of 1821, from May the 10th to July the 13th. It is not in my present power to send them to you, but if Ritchie can furnish them, I will procure and forward them. If they had been read in the other States, as they were here, I think they would have left, there as here, no dissentients from their doctrine. The subject was taken up by our legislature of 1821-22, and two draughts of remonstrances were prepared and discussed. As well as I remember, there was no difference of opinion as to the matter of right; but there was as to the expediency of a remonstrance at that time, the general mind of the States being then under extraordinary excitement by the Missouri question; and it was dropped on that consideration. But this case is not dead, it only sleepeth. The Indian chief said he did not go to war for every petty injury by itself, but put it into his pouch, and when that was full, he then made war. Thank Heaven, we have provided a more peaceable and rational mode of redress.
This practice of Judge Marshall, of travelling out of his case to prescribe what the law would be in a moot case not before the court, is very irregular and very censurable. I recollect another instance, and the more particularly, perhaps, because it in some measure bore on myself. Among the midnight appointments of Mr. Adams, were commissions to some federal justices of the peace for Alexandria. These were signed and sealed by him, but not delivered. I found them on the table of the Department of State, on my entrance into office, and I forbade their delivery. Marbury, named in one of them, applied to the Supreme Court for a mandamus to the Secretary of State, (Mr. Madison) to deliver the commission intended for him. The Court determined at once, that being an original process, they had no cognizance of it; and therefore the question before them was ended. But the Chief Justice went on to lay down what the law would be, had they jurisdiction of the case, to wit : that they should command the delivery. The object was clearly to instruct any other court having the jurisdiction, what they should do if Marbury should apply to them. Besides the impropriety of this gratuitous interference, could anything exceed the perversion of law ? For if there is any principle of law never yet contradicted, it is that delivery is one of the essentials to the validity of a deed. Although signed and sealed, yet as long as it remains in the hands of the party himself, it is in fieri only, it is not a deed, and can be made so only by its delivery. In the hands of a third person it may be made an escrow. But whatever is in the executive offices is certainly deemed to be in the hands of the President ; and in this case, was actually in my hands, because, when I countermanded them, there was as yet no Secretary of State. Yet this case of Marbury and Madison is continually cited by bench and bar, as if it were settled law, without any animadversion on its being merely an obiter dissertation of the Chief Justice.
It may be impracticable to lay down any general formula of words which shall decide at once, and with precision, in every case, this limit of jurisdiction. But there are two canons which will guide us safely in most of the cases. 1st. The capital and leading object of the Constitution was to leave with the States all authorities which respected their own citizens only, and to transfer to the United States those which respected citizens of foreign or other States : to make us several as to ourselves, but one as to all others. In the latter case, then, constructions should lean to the general jurisdiction, if the words will bear it; and in favor of the States in the former, if possible to be so construed. And indeed, between citizens and citizens of the same State, and under their own laws, I know but a single case in which a jurisdiction is given to the General Government. That is, where anything but gold or silver is made a lawful tender, or the obligation of contracts is any otherwise impaired. The separate legislatures had so often abused that power, that the citizens themselves chose to trust it to the general, rather than to their own special authorities. 2d. On every question of construction, carry ourselves back to the time when the Constitution was adopted, recollect the spirit manifested in the debates, and instead of trying what meaning may be squeezed out of the text, or invented against it, conform to the probable one in which it was passed. Let us try Cohens case by these canons only, referring always, however, for full argument, to the essays before cited.
1. It was between a citizen and his own State, and under a law of his State. It was a domestic case, therefore, and not a foreign one.
2. Can it be believed, that under the jealousies prevailing against the General Government, at the adoption of the Constitution, the States meant to surrender the authority of preserving order, of enforcing moral duties and restraining vice, within their own territory ? And this is the present case, that of Cohen being under the ancient and general law of gaming. Can any good be effected by taking from the States the moral rule of their citizens, and subordinating it to the general authority, or to one of their corporations, which may justify forcing the meaning of words, hunting after possible constructions, and hanging inference on inference, from heaven to earth, like Jacobs ladder ? Such an intention was impossible, and such a licentiousness of construction and inference, if exercised by both governments, as may be done with equal right, would equally authorize both to claim all power, general and particular, and break up the foundations of the Union. Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should, therefore, be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties, which may make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure. It should be left to the sophisms of advocates, whose trade it is, to prove that a defendant is a plaintiff, though dragged into court, torto collo, like Bonapartes volunteers, into the field in chains, or that a power has been given, because it ought to have been given, et alia talia. The States supposed that by their tenth amendment, they had secured themselves against constructive powers. They were not lessoned yet by Cohens case, nor aware of the slipperiness of the eels of the law. I ask for no straining of words against the General Government, nor yet against the States. I believe the States can best govern our home concerns, and the General Government our foreign ones. I wish, therefore, to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the Constitution for the limitation of both; and never to see all offices transferred to Washington, where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market.
But the Chief Justice says, "there must be an ultimate arbiter somewhere." True, there must; but does that prove it is either party ? The ultimate arbiter is the people of the Union, assembled by their deputies in convention, at the call of Congress, or of two-thirds of the States. Let them decide to which they mean to give an authority claimed by two of their organs. And it has been the peculiar wisdom and felicity of our Constitution, to have provided this peaceable appeal, where that of other nations is at once to force.
I rejoice in the example you set of seriatim opinions. I have heard it often noticed, and always with high approbation. Some of your brethren will be encouraged to follow it occasionally, and in time, it may be felt by all as a duty, and the sound practice of the primitive court be again restored. Why should not every judge be asked his opinion, and give it from the bench, if only by yea or nay ? Besides ascertaining the fact of his opinion, which the public have a right to know, in order to judge whether it is impeachable or not, it would show whether the opinions were unanimous or not, and thus settle more exactly the weight of their authority.
The close of my second sheet warns me that it is time now to relieve you from this letter of unmerciful length. Indeed, I wonder how I have accomplished it, with two crippled wrists, the one scarcely able to move my pen, the other to hold my paper. But I am hurried sometimes beyond the sense of pain, when unbosoming myself to friends who harmonize with me in principle. You and I may differ occasionally in details of minor consequence, as no two minds, more than two faces, are the same in every feature. But our general objects are the same : to preserve the republican form and principles of our Constitution, and cleave to the salutary distribution of powers which that has established. These are the two sheet anchors of our Union. If driven from either, we shall be in danger of foundering. To my prayers for its safety and perpetuity, I add those for the continuation of your health, happiness, and usefulness to your country.
I have been lately visited by a Mr. Miralla, a native of Buenos Ayres, but resident in Cuba for the last seven or eight years; a person of intelligence, of much information, and frankly communicative. I believe, indeed, he is known to you. I availed myself of the opportunity of learning what was the state of public sentiment in Cuba as to their future course. He says they would be satisfied to remain as they are; but all are sensible that that cannot be; that whenever circumstances shall render a separation from Spain necessary, a perfect independence would be their choice, provided they could see a certainty of protection; but that, without that prospect, they would be divided in opinion between an incorporation with Mexico, and with the United States.Colombia being too remote for prompt support. The considerations in favor of Mexico are that the Havana would be the emporium for all the produce of that immense and wealthy country, and of course, the medium of all its commerce; that having no ports on its eastern coast, Cuba would become the depot of its naval stores and strength, and, in effect, would, in a great measure, have the sinews of the government in its hands. That in favor of the United States is the fact that three-fourths of the exportations from Havana come to the United States, that they are a settled government, the power which can most promptly succor them, rising to an eminence promising future security; and of which they would make a member of the sovereignty, while as to England, they would be only a colony, subordinated to her interest, and that there is not a man in the island who would not resist her to the bitterest extremity. Of this last sentiment I had not the least idea at the date of my late letters to you. I had supposed an English interest there quite as strong as that of the United States, and therefore, that, to avoid war, and keep the island open to our own commerce, it would be best to join that power in mutually guaranteeing its independence. But if there is no danger of its falling into the possession of England, I must retract an opinion founded on an error of fact. We are surely under no obligation to give her, gratis, an interest which she has not ; and the whole inhabitants being averse to her, and the climate mortal to strangers, its continued Military occupation by her would be impracticable. It is better then to lie still in readiness to receive that interesting incorporation when solicited by herself. For, certainly, her addition to our confederacy is exactly what is wanting to round our power as a nation to the point of its utmost interest.
I have thought it my duty to acknowledge my error on this occasion, and to repeat a truth before acknowledged, that, retired as I am, I know too little of the affairs of the world to form opinions of them worthy of any attention; and I resign myself with reason, and perfect confidence to the care and guidance of those to whom the helm is committed. With this assurance, accept that of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
I received in due time your favor of June 16th, and with it your syllabus of lectures on Spanish literature. I have considered this with great interest and satisfaction, as it gives me a model of course I wish to see pursued in the different branches of instruction in our University; i.e., a methodical, critical, and profound explanation by way of protection of every science we propose to teach. I am not fully informed of the practices at Harvard, but there is one from which we shall certainly vary, although it has been copied, I believe, by nearly every college and academy in the United States. That is, the holding the students all to one prescribed course of reading, and disallowing exclusive application to those branches only which are to qualify them for the particular vocations to which they are destined. We shall, on the contrary, allow them uncontrolled choice in the lectures they shall choose to attend, and require elementary qualification only, and sufficient age. Our institution will proceed on the principle of doing all the good it can without consulting its own pride or ambition; of letting every one come and listen to whatever he thinks may improve the condition of his mind. The rock which I most dread is the discipline of the institution, and it is that on which most of our public schools labor. The insubordination of our youth is now the greatest obstacle to their education. We may lessen the difficulty, perhaps, by avoiding too much government, by requiring no useless observances, none which shall merely multiply occasions for dissatisfaction, disobedience and revolt by referring to the more discreet of themselves the minor discipline, the graver to the civil magistrates, as in Edinburgh. On this head I am anxious for information of the practices of other places, having myself had little experience of the government of youth. I presume there are printed codes of the rules of Harvard, and if so, you would oblige me by sending me a copy, and of those of any other academy which you think can furnish anything useful. You flatter me with a visit "as soon as you learn that the University is fairly opened." A visit from you at any time will be the most welcome possible to all our family, who remember with peculiar satisfaction the pleasure they received from your former one. But were I allowed to name the time, it should not be deferred beyond the autumn of the ensuing year. Our last building, and that which will be the principal ornament and keystone, giving unity to the whole, will then be nearly finished, and afford you a gratification compensating the trouble of the journey. We shall then, also, be engaged in our code of regulations preparatory to our opening, which may, perhaps, take place in the beginning of 1825. There is no person from whose information of the European institutions, and especially their discipline, I should expect so much aid in that difficult work. Come, then, dear Sir, at that, or any earlier epoch, and give to our institution the benefit of your counsel. I know that you scout, as I do, the idea of any rivalship. Our views are catholic for the improvement of our country by science, and indeed, it is better even for your own University to have its yokemate at this distance, rather than to force a nearer one from the increasing necessity for it. And how long before we may expect others in the southern, western, and middle region of this vast country ?
I send you by mail a print of the ground-plan of our institution; it may give you some idea of its distribution and conveniences, but not of its architecture, which being chastely classical, constitutes one of its distinguishing characters. I am much indebted for your kind attentions to Mr. Harrison; he is a youth of promise. I could not deny myself the gratification of communicating to his father the part of your letter respecting him.
Our family all join me in assurances of our friendly esteem and great respect.
Watchman, what of the night ? Is darkness that may be felt, to prevail over the whole world ? or can you perceive any rays of a returning dawn ? Is the devil to be the "Lords anointed" over the whole globe ? or do you foresee the fulfilment of the prophecies according to Dr. Priestleys interpretation of them ? I know not, but I have in some of my familiar, and frivolous letters to you, told the story four times over; but if I have, I never applied it so well as now.
Not long after the denouement of the tragedy of Louis XVI, when I was Vice-President, my friend the Doctor came to breakfast with me alone; he was very sociable, very learned and eloquent, on the subject of the French Revolution. It was opening a new era in the world, and presenting a near view of the millennium. I listened; I heard with great attention and perfect sang froid. At last I asked the Doctor : "Do you really believe the French will establish a free democratical government in France ?" He answered : "I do firmly believe it." "Will you give me leave to ask you upon what grounds you entertain this opinion ? Is it from anything you ever read in history ? Is there any instance of a Roman Catholic monarchy of five and twenty millions at once converted into a free and national people ?" "NoI know of no instance like it." "Is there anything in your knowledge of human nature, derived from books, or experience, that any nation, ancient or modern, consisting of such multitudes of ignorant people, ever were, or ever can be converted suddenly into materials capable of conducting a free government, especially a democratical republic ?" "NoI know nothing of the kind." "Well then, Sir, what is the ground of your opinion ?" The answer was : "My opinion is founded altogether upon revelation, and the prophecies. I take it that the ten horns of the great beast in Revelations, mean the ten crowned heads of Europe; and that the execution of the King of France, is the falling off of the first of those horns; and the nine monarchies of Europe will fall one after another in the same way." Such was the enthusiasm of that great man, that reasoning machine. After all, however, he did recollect himself so far as to say : "There is, however, a possibility of doubt ; for I read yesterday a book put into my hands, by a gentleman, a volume of travels written by a French gentleman in 1659; in which he says he had been travelling a whole year in England, into every part of it, and conversed freely with all ranks of people; he found the whole nation earnestly engaged in discussing and contriving a form of government for their future regulations; there was but one point in which they all agreed, and in that they were unanimous : that monarchy, nobility, and prelacy never would exist in England again." The Doctor paused, and said : "Yet, in the very next year, the whole nation called in the King and run mad with nobility, monarchy, and prelacy. I am no King killer, merely because they are Kings. Poor creatures, they know no better; they believe sincerely and conscientiously that God made them to rule the world. I would not, therefore, behead them, or send them to St. Helena, to be treated as Bonaparte was; but I would shut them up like the man in the iron mask; feed them well, give them as much finery as they pleased, until they could be converted to right reason and common sense." I have nothing to communicate from this part of the country, except that you must not be surprised if you hear something wonderful in Boston before long. With my profound respects for your family, and half a centurys affection for yourself, I am your humble servant.
I received the enclosed letters from the President, with a request, that after perusal I would forward them to you, for perusal by yourself also, and to be returned then to him.
You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickerings Fourth of July observations on the Declaration of Independence. If his principles and prejudices, personal and political, gave us no reason to doubt whether he had truly quoted the information he alleges to have received from Mr. Adams, I should then say, that in some of the particulars, Mr. Adams memory has led him into unquestionable error. At the age of eighty-eight, and forty-seven years after the transactions of Independence, this is not wonderful. Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on the small advantage of that difference only, venture to oppose my memory to his, were it not supported by written notes, taken by myself at the moment and on the spot. He says, "the committee of five, to wit, Dr. Franklin, Sherman, Livingston, and ourselves, met, discussed the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the draught; that we, as a sub-committee, met, and after the urgencies of each on the other, I consented to undertake the task; that the draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested a single alteration." Now these details are quite incorrect. The committee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. I consented ; I drew it ; but before I reported it to the committee, I communicated it separately to Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams, requesting their corrections, because they were the two members of whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit, before presenting it to the committee; and you have seen the original paper now in my hands, with the corrections of Dr. Franklin and Mr. Adams interlined in their own handwritings. Their alterations were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, reported it to the committee, and from them, unaltered, to Congress. This personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he has misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickerings observations, and Mr. Adams in addition, "that it contained no new ideas, that it is a commonplace compilation, its sentiments hackneyed in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis pamphlet," may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge. Richard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Lockes treatise on government. Otis pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not consider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before. Had Mr. Adams been so restrained, Congress would have lost the benefit of his bold and impressive advocations of the rights of Revolution. For no mans confident and fervid addresses, more than Mr. Adams, encouraged and supported us through the difficulties surrounding us, which, like the ceaseless action of gravity, weighed on us by night and by day. Yet, on the same ground, we may ask what of these elevated thoughts was new, or can be affirmed never before to have entered the conceptions of man ?
Whether, also, the sentiments of Independence, and the reasons for declaring it, which make so great a portion of the instrument, had been hackneyed in Congress for two years before the 4th of July, 76, or this dictum also of Mr. Adams be another slip of memory, let history say. This, how ever, I will say for Mr. Adams, that he supported the Declaration with zeal and ability, fighting fearlessly for every word of it. As to myself, I thought it a duty to be, on that occasion, a passive auditor of the opinions of others, more impartial judges than I could be, of its merits or demerits. During the debate I was sitting by Doctor Franklin, and he observed that I was writhing a little under the acrimonious criticisms on some of its parts; and it was on that occasion, that by way of comfort, he told me the story of John Thompson, the hatter, and his new sign.
Timothy thinks the instrument the better for having a fourth of it expunged. He would have thought it still better, had the other three-fourths gone out also, all but the single sentiment (the only one he approves), which recommends friendship to his dear England, whenever she is willing to be at peace with us. His insinuations are, that although "the high tone of the instrument was in unison with the warm feelings of the times, this sentiment of habitual friendship to England should never be forgotten, and that the duties it enjoins should especially be borne in mind on every celebration of this anniversary." In other words that the Declaration, as being a libel on the government of England, composed in times of passion, should now be buried in utter oblivion, to spare the feelings of our English friends and Angloman fellow citizens. But it is not to wound them that we wish to keep it in mind ; but to cherish the principles of the instrument in the bosoms of our own citizens : and it is a heavenly comfort to see that these principles are yet so strongly felt, as to render a circumstance so trifling as this little lapse of memory of Mr. Adams, worthy of being solemnly announced and supported at an anniversary assemblage of the nation on its birthday. In opposition, however, to Mr. Pickering, I pray God that these principles may be eternal, and close the prayer with my affectionate wishes for yourself of long life, health and happiness.
Your letter of August the 15th was received in due time, and with the welcome of everything which comes from you. With its opinions on the difficulties of revolutions from despotism to freedom, I very much concur. The generation which commences a revolution rarely completes it. Habituated from their infancy to passive submission of body and mind to their kings and priests, they are not qualified when called on to think and provide for themselves; and their inexperience, their ignorance and bigotry make them instruments often, in the hands of the Bonapartes and Iturbides, to defeat their own rights and purposes. This is the present situation of Europe and Spanish America. But it is not desperate. The light which has been shed on mankind by the art of printing, has eminently changed the condition of the world. As yet, that light has dawned on the middling classes only of the men in Europe. The kings and the rabble, of equal ignorance, have not yet received its rays; but it continues to spread, and while printing is preserved, it can no more recede than the sun return on his course. A first attempt to recover the right of self-government may fail, so may a second, a third, etc. But as a younger and more instructed race comes on, the sentiment becomes more and more intuitive, and a fourth, a fifth, or some subsequent one of the ever renewed attempts will ultimately succeed. In France, the first effort was defeated by Robespierre, the second by Bonaparte, the third by Louis XVIII. and his holy allies : another is yet to come, and all Europe, Russia excepted, has caught the spirit; and all will attain representative government, more or less perfect. This is now well understood to be a necessary check on kings, whom they will probably think it more prudent to chain and tame, than to exterminate. To attain all this, however, rivers of blood must yet flow, and years of desolation pass over; yet the object is worth rivers of blood, and years of desolation. For what inheritance so valuable, can man leave to his posterity ? The spirit of the Spaniard, and his deadly and eternal hatred to a Frenchman, give me much confidence that he will never submit, but finally defeat this atrocious violation of the laws of God and man, under which he is suffering; and the wisdom and firmness of the Cortes afford reasonable hope that that nation will settle down in a temperate representative government, with an executive properly subordinated to that Portugal, Italy, Prussia, Germany, Greece, will follow suit. You and I shall look down from another world on these glorious achievements to man, which will add to the joys even of heaven.
I observe your toast of Mr. Jay on the 4th of July, wherein you say that the omission of his signature to the Declaration of Independence was by accident. Our impressions as to this fact being different, I shall be glad to have mine corrected, if wrong. Jay, you know, had been in constant opposition to our laboring majority. Our estimate at the time was, that he, Dickinson and Johnson of Maryland, by their ingenuity, perseverance and partiality to our English connection, had constantly kept us a year behind where we ought to have been in our preparations and proceedings. From about the date of the Virginia instructions of May the 15th, 1776, to declare Independence, Mr. Jay absented himself from Congress, and never came there again until December, 1778. Of course, he had no part in the discussions or decision of that question. The instructions to their Delegates by the Convention of New York, then sitting, to sign the Declaration, were presented to Congress on the 15th of July only, and on that day the journals show the absence of Mr. Jay, by a letter received from him, as they had done as early as the 29th of May by another letter. And I think he had been omitted by the convention on a new election of Delegates, when they changed their instructions. Of this last fact, however, having no evidence but an ancient impression, I shall not affirm it. But whether so or not, no agency of accident appears in the case. This error of fact, however, whether yours or mine, is of little consequence to the public. But truth being as cheap as error, it is as well to rectify it for our own satisfaction.
I have had a fever of about three weeks, during the last and preceding month, from which I am entirely recovered except as to strength.
Your favor of July 28th, from Avon, came to hand on the 10th of August, and I have delayed answering it on the presumption of your continued absence, but the approach of the season of frost in that region has probably before this time turned you about to the south. I readily conceive that by the time of your return to Philadelphia, you will have had travelling enough for the present, and therefore acquiesce in your proposition to give us the next season. Your own convenience is a sufficient reason, and an auxiliary one is that we shall then have more for you to see and approve. By that time, our rotunda, (the walls of which will be finished this month) will have received its roof, and will show itself externally to some advantage. Its columns only will be wanting, as they must await their capitals from Italy. We have just received from thence, and are now putting up, the marble capitals of the buildings we have already erected, which completes our whole system, except the rotunda and its adjacent gymnasia. All are now ready to receive their occupants, and should the legislature, at their next session, liberate our funds as is hoped, we shall ask but one year more to procure our professors, for most of whom we must go to Europe. In your substitution of Monticello instead of your annual visit to Black Rock, I will engage vou equal health, and a more genial and pleasant climate; but instead of the flitting, flirting, and gay assemblage of that place, you must be contented with the plain and sober family and neighborly society, with the assurance that you shall hear no wrangling about the next President, although the excitement on that subject will then be at its acme. Numerous have been the attempts to entangle me in that imbroglio. But at the age of eighty, I seek quiet and abjure contention. I read but a single newspaper, Ritchies Enquirer, the best that is published or ever has been published in America. You should read it also, to keep yourself au fait of your own State, for we still claim you as belonging to us. A city life offers you indeed more means of dissipating time, but more frequent, also, and more painful objects of vice and wretchedness. New York, for example, like London, seems to be a Cloacina of all the depravities of human nature. Philadelphia doubtless has its share. Here, on the contrary, crime is scarcely heard of, breaches of order rare, and our societies, if not refined, are rational, moral, and affectionate at least. Our only blot is becoming less offensive by the great improvement in the condition and civilization of that race, who can now more advantageously compare their situation with that of the laborers of Europe. Still it is a hideous blot, as well from the heteromorph peculiarities of the race, as that, with them, physical compulsion to action must be substituted for the moral necessity which constrains the free laborers to work equally hard. We feel and deplore it morally and politically, and we look without entire despair to some redeeming means not yet specifically foreseen. I am happy in believing that the conviction of the necessity of removing this evil gains ground with time. Their emigration to the westward lightens the difficulty by dividing it, and renders it more practicable on the whole. And the neighborhood of a government of their color promises a more accessible asylum than that from whence they came. Ever and affectionately yours.
Your letter of August 28th, with the pamphlet accompanying it, was not received until the 18th instant.
That our Creator made the earth for the use of the living and not of the dead; that those who exist not can have no use nor right in it, no authority or power over it ; that one generation of men cannot foreclose or burden its use to another, which comes to it in its own right and by the same divine beneficence; that a preceding generation cannot bind a succeeding one by its laws or contracts; these deriving their obligation from the will of the existing majority, and that majority being removed by death, another comes in its place with a will equally free to make its own laws and contracts; these are axioms so self-evident that no explanation can make them plainer; for he is not to be reasoned with who says that non-existence can control existence, or that nothing can move something. They are axioms also pregnant with salutary consequences. The laws of civil society indeed for the encouragement of industry, give the property of the parent to his family on his death, and in most civilized countries permit him even to give it, by testament, to whom he pleases. And it is also found more convenient to suffer the laws of our predecessors to stand on our implied assent, as if positively re-enacted, until the existing majority positively repeals them. But this does not lessen the right of that majority to repeal whenever a change of circumstances or of will calls for it. Habit alone confounds what is civil practice with natural right.
On the merits of the pamphlet I say nothing of course; having found it necessary to decline giving opinions on books even when desired. For the functions of a reviewer, I have neither time, talent, nor inclination, and I trust that on reflection your indulgence will not think unreasonable my unwillingness tn embark in an office of so little enticement. With my thanks for the pamphlet, be pleased to accept the assurance of my great respect.
You must, I think, have somewhat misunderstood what I may have said to you as to manuscripts in my possession relating to the antiquities, and particularly the Indian antiquities of our country. The only manuscripts I now possess are some folio volumes; two of these are the proceedings of the Virginia Company in England; the remaining four are of the Records of the Council of Virginia from 1622 to 1700. The account of the two first volumes you will see in the preface to Stiths History of Virginia. They contain the records of the Virginia Company, copied from the originals, under the eye, if I recollect rightly, of the Earl of Southampton, a member of the company, bought at the sale of his library by Doctor Byrd, of Westover, and sold with that library to Isaac Zane. These volumes happened at the time of the sale, to have been borrowed by Colonel R. Bland, whose library I bought, and with this, they were sent to me. I gave notice of it to Mr. Zane, but he never reclaimed them. I shall deposit them in the library of the University, where they will be most likely to be preserved with care. The other four volumes, I am confident, are the original office records of the Council. My conjectures are that when Sr. John Randolph was about to begin the History of Virginia which he meant to write, he borrowed these volumes from the Council office, to collect from them materials for his work. He died before he had made any progress in that work, and they remained in his library, probably unobserved, during the whole life of the late Peyton Randolph, his son; from his executors I purchased his library in a lump, and these volumes were sent to me as a part of it. I found the leaves so rotten as often to crumble into dust on being handled; I bound them, therefore, together, that they might not be unnecessarily opened, and have thus preserved them forty-seven years. If my conjectures are right, they must have been out of the public office about eighty years. I shall deposit them also with the others in the same library of the University, where they will be safer from injury than in a public office. I have promised, however, to trust them to Mr. Hening, if he will copy and publish them when he shall have finished his collection of the laws. For this he is peculiarly qualified, as well by his diligence as by his familiarity with our ancient manuscript characters, a familiarity very necessary for decyphering these volumes.
I agree with you that it is the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country. That I have not been remiss in this while I had youth, health, and opportunity, is proved otherwise, as well as by the materials I furnished towards Mr. Henings invaluable collection of the laws of our country; but there is a time, and that time is come with me, when these duties are no more, when age and the wane of mind and memory, and the feebleness of the powers of life pass them over as a legacy to younger hands. I write now slowly, laboriously, painfully. I am obliged, therefore, to decline all correspondence which some moral duty does not urgently call on me to answer. I always trust that those who write them will read their answer in my age and silence, and see in these a manifestation that I am done with writing letters. I am sorry, therefore, that I am not able to give any aid to the work you contemplate, other than my best wishes for its success, and to these I add the assurance of my great respect.
I do not write with the ease which your letter of September the 18th supposes. Crippled wrists and fingers make writing slow and laborious. But while writing to you, I lose the sense of these things in the recollection of ancient times, when youth and health made happiness out of everything. I forget for a while the hoary winter of age, when we can think of nothing but how to keep ourselves warm, and how to get rid of our heavy hours until the friendly hand of death shall rid us of all at once. Against this tedium vitæ, however, I am fortunately mounted on a hobby, which, indeed, I should have better managed some thirty or forty years ago ; but whose easy amble is still sufficient to give exercise and amusement to an octogenary rider. This is the establishment of a University, on a scale more comprehensive, and in a country more healthy and central than our old William and Mary, which these obstacles have long kept in a state of languor and inefficiency. But the tardiness with which such works proceed, may render it doubtful whether I shall live to see it go into action.
Putting aside these things, however, for the present, I write this letter as due to a friendship coeval with our government, and now attempted to be poisoned, when too late in life to be replaced by new affections. I had for some time observed in the public papers, dark hints and mysterious innuendoes of a correspondence of yours with a friend, to whom you had opened your bosom without reserve, and which was to be made public by that friend or his representative. And now it is said to be actually published. It has not yet reached us, but extracts have been given, and such as seemed most likely to draw a curtain of separation between you and myself. Were there no other motive than that of indignation against the author of this outrage on private confidence, whose shaft seems to have been aimed at yourself more particularly, this would make it the duty of every honorable mind to disappoint that aim, by opposing to its impression a sevenfold shield of apathy and insensibility. With me, however, no such armor is needed. The circumstances of the times in which we have happened to live, and the partiality of our friends at a particular period, placed us in a state of apparent opposition, which some might suppose to be personal also; and there might not be wanting those who wished to make it so, by filling our ears with malignant falsehoods, by dressing up hideous phantoms of their own creation, presenting them to you under my name, to me under yours, and endeavoring to instil into our minds things concerning each other the most destitute of truth. And if there had been, at any time, a moment when we were off our guard, and in a temper to let the whispers of these people make us forget what we had known of each other for so many years, and years of so much trial, yet all men who have attended to the workings of the human mind, who have seen the false colors under which passion sometimes dresses the actions and motives of others, have seen also those passions subsiding with time and reflection, dissipating like mists before the rising sun, and restoring to us the sight of all things in their true shape and colors. It would be strange indeed, if, at our years, we were to go back an age to hunt up imaginary or forgotten facts, to disturb the repose of affections so sweetening to the evening of our lives. Be assured, my dear Sir, that I am incapable of receiving the slightest impression from the effort now made to plant thorns on the pillow of age, worth and wisdom, and to sow tares between friends who have been such for near half a century. Beseeching you then, not to suffer your mind to be disquieted by this wicked attempt to poison its peace, and praying you to throw it by among the things which have never happened, I add sincere assurances of my unabated and constant attachment, friendship and respect.
The Monroe Doctrine
To the President of the United States (James Monroe).
Monticello, October 24, 1823.
Dear Sir, The question presented by the letters you have sent me, is the most momentous which has ever been offered to my contemplation since that of Independence . That made us a nation, this sets our compass and points the course which we are to steer through the ocean of time opening on us . And never could we embark on it under circumstances more auspicious . Our first and fundamental maxim should be, never to entangle ourselves in the broils of Europe . Our second, never to suffer Europe to intermeddle with cis-Atlantic affairs . America, North and South, has a set of interests distinct from those of Europe, and peculiarly her own . She should therefore have a system of her own, separate and apart from that of Europe . While the last is laboring to become the domicil of despotism, our endeavor should surely be, to make our hemisphere that of freedom . One nation, most of all, could disturb us in this pursuit ; she now offers to lead, aid, and accompany us in it . By acceding to her proposition, we detach her from the bands, bring her mighty weight into the scale of free government, and emancipate a continent at one stroke, which might otherwise linger long in doubt and difficulty . Great Britain is the nation which can do us the most harm of any one, or all on earth ; and with her on our side we need not fear the whole world . With her then, we should most sedulously cherish a cordial friendship ; and nothing would tend more to knit our affections than to be fighting once more, side by side, in the same cause . Not that I would purchase even her amity at the price of taking part in her wars . But the war in which the present proposition might engage us, should that be its consequence, is not her war, but ours . Its object is to introduce and establish the American system, of keeping out of our land all foreign powers, of never permitting those of Europe to intermeddle with the affairs of our nations . It is to maintain our own principle, not to depart from it . And if, to facilitate this, we can effect a division in the body of the European powers, and draw over to our side its most powerful member, surely we should do it . But I am clearly of Mr. Cannings opinion, that it will prevent instead of provoking war . With Great Britain withdrawn from their scale and shifted into that of our two continents, all Europe combined would not undertake such a war . For how would they propose to get at either enemy without superior fleets ? Nor is the occasion to be slighted which this proposition offers, of declaring our protest against the atrocious violations of the rights of nations, by the interference of any one in the internal affairs of another, so flagitiously begun by Bonaparte, and now continued by the equally lawless Alliance, calling itself Holy .
But we have first to ask ourselves a question . Do we wish to acquire to our own confederacy any one or more of the Spanish provinces ? I candidly confess, that I have ever looked on Cuba as the most interesting addition which could ever be made to our system of States . The control which, with Florida Point, this island would give us over the Gulf of Mexico, and the countries and isthmus bordering on it, as well as all those whose waters flow into it, would fill up the measure of our political well-being . Yet, as I am sensible that this can never be obtained, even with her own consent, but by war; and its independence, which is our second interest, (and especially its independence of England,) can be secured without it, I have no hesitation in abandoning my first wish to future chances, and accepting its independence, with peace and the friendship of England, rather than its association, at the expense of war and her enmity .
I could honestly, therefore, join in the declaration proposed, that we aim not at the acquisition of any of those possessions, that we will not stand in the way of any amicable arrangement between them and the Mother country ; but that we will oppose, with all our means, the forcible interposition of any other power, as auxiliary, stipendiary, or under any other form or pretext, and most especially, their transfer to any power by conquest, cession, or acquisition in any other way. I should think it, therefore, advisable, that the Executive should encourage the British government to a continuance in the dispositions expressed in these letters, by an assurance of his concurrence with them as far as his authority goes ; and that as it may lead to war, the declaration of which requires an act of Congress, the case shall be laid before them for consideration at their first meeting, and under the reasonable aspect in which it is seen by himself.
I have been so long weaned from political subjects, and have so long ceased to take any interest in them, that I am sensible I am not qualified to offer opinions on them worthy of any attention. But the question now proposed involves consequences so lasting, and effects so decisive of our future destinies, as to rekindle all the interest I have heretofore felt on such occasions, and to induce me to the hazard of opinions, which will prove only my wish to contribute still my mite towards anything which may be useful to our country. And praying you to accept it at only what it is worth, I add the assurance of my constant and affectionate friendship and respect.
Your favor of July 10th is lately received. I recollect with pleasure the short opportunity of acquaintance with you afforded me in Paris, by the kindness of Mr. Paradise, and the fine editions of the classical writers of Greece which have been announced by you from time to time, have never permitted me to lose the recollection. Until those of Aristotles Ethics, and the Strategicos of Onesander, with which you have now favored me, and for which I pray you to accept my thanks, I had seen only your Lives of Plutarch. These I had read, and profited much by your valuable Scholia, arid the aid of a few words from a modern Greek dictionary, would, I believe, have enabled me to read your patriotic addresses to your countrymen.
You have certainly begun at the right end towards preparing them for the great object they are now contending for, by improving their minds and qualifying them for self-government. For this they will owe you lasting honors. Nothing is more likely to forward this object than a study of the fine models of science left by their ancestors, to whom we also are all indebted for the lights which originally led ourselves out of Gothic darkness.
No people sympathize more feelingly than ours with the sufferings of your countrymen, none offer more sincere and ardent prayers to heaven for their success. And nothing indeed but the fundamental principle of our government, never to entangle us with the broils of Europe, could restrain our generous youth from taking some part in this holy cause. Possessing ourselves the combined blessing of liberty and order, we wish the same to other countries, and to none more than yours, which, the first of civilized nations, presented examples of what man should be. Not, indeed, that the forms of government adapted to their age and country are practicable or to be imitated in our day, although prejudices in their favor would be natural enough to your people. The circumstances of the world are too much changed for that. The government of Athens, for example, was that of the people of one city making laws for the whole country subjected to them. That of Lacedaemon was the rule of military monks over the laboring class of the people, reduced to abject slavery. These are not the doctrines of the present age. The equal rights of man, and the happiness of every individual, are now acknowledged to be the only legitimate objects of government. Modern times have the signal advantage, too, of having discovered the only device by which these rights can be secured, to wit : government by the people, acting not in person, but by representatives chosen by themselves, that is to say, by every man of ripe years and sane mind, who either contributes by his purse or person to the support of his country. The small and imperfect mixture of representative government in England, impeded as it is by other branches, aristocratical and hereditary, shows yet the power of the representative principle towards improving the condition of man. With us, all the branches of the government are elective by the people themselves, except the judiciary, of whose science and qualifications they are not competent judges. Yet, even in that department, we call in a jury of the people to decide all controverted matters of fact, because to that investigation they are entirely competent, leaving thus as little as possible, merely the law of the case, to the decision of the judges. And true it is that the people, especially when moderately instructed, are the only safe, because the only honest, depositories of the public rights, and should therefore be introduced into the administration of them in every function to which they are sufficient; they will err sometimes and accidentally, but never designedly, and with a systematic and persevering purpose of overthrowing the free principles of the government. Hereditary bodies, on the contrary, always existing, always on the watch for their own aggrandizement, profit of every opportunity of advancing the privileges of their order, and encroaching on the rights of the people.
The public papers tell us that your nation has established a government of some kind, without informing us what it is. This is certainly necessary for the direction of the war, but I presume it is intended to be temporary only, as a permanent constitution must be the work of quiet, leisure, much inquiry, and great deliberation. The extent of our country was so great, and its former division into distinct States so established, that we thought it better to confederate as to foreign affairs only. Every State retained its self-government in domestic matters, as better qualified to direct them to the good and satisfaction of their citizens, than a general government so distant from its remoter citizens, and so little familiar with the local peculiarities of the different parts. But I presume that the extent of country with you, which may liberate itself from the Turks, is not too large to be associated under a single government, and that the particular constitutions of our several States, therefore, and not that of our federal government, will furnish the basis best adapted to your situation. There are now twenty-four of these distinct States, none smaller perhaps than your Morea, several larger than all Greece. Each of these has a constitution framed by itself and for itself, but militating in nothing with the powers of the General Government in its appropriate department of war and foreign affairs. These constitutions being in print and in every hand, I shall only make brief observations on them, and on those provisions particularly which have not fulfilled expectations, or which, being varied in different States, leave a choice to be made of that which is best. You will find much good in all of them, and no one which would be approved in all its parts. Such indeed are the different circumstances, prejudices, and habits of different nations, that the constitution of no one would be reconcilable to any other in every point. A judicious selection of the parts of each suitable to any other, is all which prudence should attempt; this will appear from a review of some parts of our constitutions.
Our executives are elected by the people for terms of one, two, three, or four years, under the names of Governors or Presidents, and are reeligible a second time, or after a certain term, if approved by the people. May your Ethnarch be elective also ? or does your position among the warring powers of Europe need an office more permanent, and a leader more stable ? Surely you will make him single. For if experience has ever taught a truth, it is that a plurality in the supreme Executive will forever split into discordant factions, distract the nation, annihilate its energies, and force the nation to rally under a single head, generally an usurper. We have, I think, fallen on the happiest of all modes of constituting the Executive, that of easing and aiding our President, by permitting him to choose Secretaries of State, of Finance, of War, and of the Navy, with whom he may advise, either separately or all together, and remedy their divisions by adopting or controlling their opinions at his discretion; this saves the nation from the evils of a divided will, and secures to it a steady march in the systematic course which the President may have adopted for that of his administration.
Our legislatures are composed of two Houses, the Senate and Representatives, elected in different modes, and for different periods, and in some States, with a qualified veto in the Executive chief. But to avoid all temptation to superior pretensions of the one over the other House, and the possibility of either erecting itself into a privileged order, might it not be better to choose at the same time and in the same mode, a body sufficiently numerous to be divided by lot into two separate Houses, acting as independently as the two Houses in England, or in our governments, and to shuffle their names together and re-distribute them by lot, once a week for a fortnight ? This would equally give the benefit of time and separate deliberation, guard against an absolute passage by acclamation, derange cabals, intrigues, and the count of noses, disarm the ascendency which a popular demagogue might at any time obtain over either House, and render impossible all disputes between the two Houses, which often form such obstacles to business.
Our different States have differently modified their several judiciaries as to the tenure of office. Some appoint their judges for a given term of time; some continue them during good behavior, and that to be determined on by the concurring vote of two-thirds of each legislative House. In England they are removable by a majority only of each House. The last is a practicable remedy ; the second is not. The combination of the friends and associates of the accused, the action of personal and party passions, and the sympathies of the human heart, will forever find means of influencing one-third of either the one or the other House, will thus secure their impunity, and establish them in fact for life. The first remedy is the best, that of appointing for a term of years only, with a capacity of reappointment if their conduct has been approved. At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous ; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account.
The constitutions of some of our States have made it a duty of their government to provide with due care for the public education. This we divide into three grades. 1. Primary schools, in which are taught reading, writing, and common arithmetic, to every infant of the State, male and female. 2. Intermediate schools, in which an education is given proper for artificers and the middle vocations of life ; in grammar, for example, general history, logarithms, arithmetic, plane trigonometry, mensuration, the use of the globes, navigation, the mechanical principles, the elements of natural philosophy, and, as a preparation for the University, the Greek and Latin languages. 3. An University, in which these and all other useful sciences shall be taught in their highest degree; the expenses of these institutions are defrayed partly by the public, and partly by the individuals profiting of them.
But, whatever be the constitution, great care must be taken to provide a mode of amendment, when experience or change of circumstances shall have manifested that any part of it is unadapted to the good of the nation. In some of our States it requires a new authority from the whole people, acting by their representatives, chosen for this express purpose, and assembled in convention. This is found too difficult for remedying the imperfections which experience develops from time to time in an organization of the first impression. A greater facility of amendment is certainly requisite to maintain it in a course of action accommodated to the times and changes through which we are ever passing. In England the constitution may be altered by a single act of the legislature, which amounts to the having no constitution at all. In some of our States, an act passed by two different legislatures, chosen by the people, at different and successive elections, is sufficient to make a change in the constitution. As this mode may be rendered more or less easy, by requiring the approbation of fewer or more successive legislatures, according to the degree of difficulty thought sufficient, and yet safe, it is evidently the best principle which can be adopted for constitutional amendments.
I have stated that the constitutions of our several States vary more or less in some particulars. But there are certain principles in which all agree, and which all cherish as vitally essential to the protection of the life, liberty, property, and safety of the citizen.
1. Freedom of religion, restricted only from acts of trespass on that of others.
2. Freedom of person, securing every one from imprisonment, or other bodily restraint, but by the laws of the land. This is effected by the well-known law of habeas corpus.
3. Trial by jury, the best of all safeguards for the person, the property, and the fame of every individual.
4. The exclusive right of legislation and taxation in the representatives of the people.
5. Freedom of the press, subject only to liability for personal injuries. This formidable censor of the public functionaries, by arraigning them at the tribunal of public opinion, produces reform peaceably, which must otherwise be done by revolution. It is also the best instrument for enlightening the mind of man, and improving him as a rational, moral, and social being.
I have thus; dear Sir, according to your request, given you some thoughts on the subject of national government. They are the result of the observations and reflections of an octogenary, who has passed fifty years of trial and trouble in the various grades of his countrys service. They are yet but outlines which you will better fill up, and accommodate to the habits and circumstances of your countrymen. Should they furnish a single idea which may be useful to them, I shall fancy it a tribute rendered to the manes of your Homer, your Demosthenes, and the splendid constellation of sages and heroes, whose blood is still flowing in your veins, and whose merits are still resting, as a heavy debt, on the shoulders of the living, and the future races of men. While we offer to heaven the warmest supplications for the restoration of your countrymen to the freedom and science of their ancestors, permit me to assure yourself of the cordial esteem and high respect which I bear and cherish towards yourself personally.
Two dislocated wrists and crippled fingers have rendered writing so slow and laborious, as to oblige me to withdraw from nearly all correspondence; not, however, from yours, while I can make a stroke with a pen. We have gone through too many trying scenes together, to forget the sympathies and affections they nourished.
Your trials have indeed been long and severe. When they will end, is yet unknown, but where they will end, cannot be doubted. Alliances, Holy or Hellish, may be formed, and retard the epoch of deliverance, may swell the rivers of blood which are yet to flow, but their own will close the scene, and leave to mankind the right of self-government. I trust that Spain will prove, that a nation cannot be conquered which determines not to be so, and that her success will be the turning of the tide of liberty, no more to be arrested by human efforts. Whether the state of society in Europe can bear a republican government, I doubted, you know, when with you, and I do now. An hereditary chief, strictly limited, the right of war vested in the legislative body, a rigid economy of the public contributions, and absolute interdiction of all useless expenses, will go far towards keeping the government honest and unoppressive. But the only security of all, is in a free press. The force of public opinion cannot be resisted, when permitted freely to be expressed. The agitation it produces must be submitted to. It is necessary, to keep the waters pure.
We are all, for example, in agitation even in our peaceful country. For in peace as well as in war, the mind must be kept in motion. Who is to be the next President, is the topic here of every conversation. My opinion on that subject is what I expressed to you in my last letter. The question will be ultimately reduced to the northernmost and southernmost candidate. The former will get every federal vote in the Union, and many republicans; the latter, all of those denominated of the old school; for you are not to believe that these two parties are amalgamated, that the lion and the lamb are lying down together. The Hartford Convention, the victory of Orleans, the peace of Ghent, prostrated the name of federalism. Its votaries abandoned it through shame and mortification; and now call themselves republicans. But the name alone is changed, the principles are the same. For in truth, the parties of Whig and Tory, are those of nature. They exist in all countries, whether called by these names, or by those of Aristocrats and Democrats, Coté Droite and Coté Gauche, Ultras and Radicals, Serviles, and Liberals. The sickly, weakly, timid man, fears the people, and is a Tory by nature. The healthy, strong and bold, cherishes them, and is formed a Whig by nature. On the eclipse of federalism with us, although not its extinction, its leaders got up the Missouri question, under the false front of lessening the measure of slavery, but with the real view of producing a geographical division of parties, which might insure them the next President. The people of the North went blindfold into the snare, followed their leaders for awhile with a zeal truly moral and laudable, until they became sensible that they were injuring instead of aiding the real interests of the slaves, that they had been used merely as tools for electioneering purposes ; and that trick of hypocrisy then fell as quickly as it had been got up. To that is now succeeding a distinction, which, like that of Republican and Federal, or Whig and Tory, being equally intermixed through every State, threatens none of those geographical schisms which go immediately to a separation. The line of division now, is the preservation of State rights, as reserved in the Constitution, or by strained constructions of that instrument, to merge all into a consolidated government. The Tories are for strengthening the Executive and General Government; the Whigs cherish the representative branch, and the rights reserved by the States, as the bulwark against consolidation, which must immediately generate monarchy. And although this division excites, as yet, no warmth, yet it exists, is well understood, and will be a principle of voting at the ensuing election, with the reflecting men of both parties.
I thank you much for the two books you were so kind as to send me by Mr. Gallatin. Miss Wright had before favored me with the first edition of her American work; but her "Few Days in Athens" was entirely new, and has been a treat to me of the highest order. The matter and manner of the dialogue is strictly ancient; and the principles of the sects are beautifully and candidly explained and contrasted; and the scenery and portraiture of the interlocutors are of higher finish than anything in that line left us by the ancients; and like Ossian, if not ancient, it is equal to the best morsels of antiquity. I augur, from this instance, that Herculaneum is likely to furnish better specimens of modern than of ancient, genius ; and may we not hope more from the same pen ?
After much sickness, and the accident of a broken and disabled arm, I am again in tolerable health, but extremely debilitated, so as to be scarcely able to walk into my garden. The hebetude of age, too, and extinguishment of interest in the things around me, are weaning me from them, and dispose me with cheerfulness to resign them to the existing generation, satisfied that the daily advance of science will enable them to administer the commonwealth with increased wisdom. You have still many valuable years to give to your country, and with my prayers that they may be years of health and happiness, and especially that they may see the establishment of the principles of government which you have cherished through life, accept the assurance of my affectionate dand constant friendship and respect.