The Writings of
Thomas Jefferson

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

To William B. Giles.
Monticello, December 26, 1825.

Dear Sir, — I wrote you a letter yesterday, of which you will be free to make what use you please.  This will contain matters not intended for the public eye.  I see, as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the States, and the consolidation in itself of all powers, foreign and domestic;  and that too, by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.  Take together the decisions of the federal court, the doctrines of the President, and the misconstructions of the constitutional compact acted on by the legislature of the federal branch, and it is but too evident, that the three ruling branches of that department are in combination to strip their colleagues, the State authorities of the powers reserved by them, and to exercise themselves all functions foreign and domestic.  Under the power to regulate commerce, they assume indefinitely that also over agriculture and manufactures, and call it regulation to take the earnings of one of these branches of industry, and that, too, the most depressed, and put them into the pockets of the other, the most flourishing of all.  Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging canals, and aided by a little sophistry on the words “general welfare,” a right to do, not only the acts to effect that, which are specifically enumerated and permitted, but whatsoever they shall think, or pretend will be for the general welfare.  And what is our resource for the preservation of the Constitution ?  Reason and argument ?  You might as well reason and argue with the marble columns encircling them.  The representatives chosen by ourselves ?  They are joined in the combination, some from incorrect views of government, some from corrupt ones, sufficient voting together to outnumber the sound parts;  and with majorities only of one, two, or three, bold enough to go forward in defiance.  Are we then to stand to our arms, with the hot-headed Georgian ?  No.  That must be the last resource, not to be thought of until much longer and greater sufferings.  If every infraction of a compact of so many parties is to be resisted at once, as a dissolution of it, none can ever be formed which would last one year.  We must have patience and longer endurance then with our brethren while under delusion;  give them time for reflection and experience of consequences;  keep ourselves in a situation to profit by the chapter of accidents;  and separate from our companions only when the sole alternatives left, are the dissolution of our Union with them, or submission to a government without limitation of powers.  Between these two evils, when we must make a choice, there can be no hesitation.  But in the meanwhile, the States should be watchful to note every material usurpation on their rights;  to denounce them as they occur in the most peremptory terms;  to protest against them as wrongs to which our present submission shall be considered, not as acknowledgments or precedents of right, but as a temporary yielding to the lesser evil, until their accumulation shall overweigh that of separation.  I would go still further, and give to the federal member, by a regular amendment of the Constitution, a right to make roads and canals of intercommunication between the States, providing sufficiently against corrupt practices in Congress, (log-rolling, etc.,) by declaring that the federal proportion of each State of the moneys so employed, shall be in works within the State, or elsewhere with its consent, and with a due salvo of jurisdiction.  This is the course which I think safest and best as yet.

You ask my opinion of the propriety of giving publicity to what is stated in your letter, as having passed between Mr. John Q. Adams and yourself.  Of this no one can judge but yourself.  It is one of those questions which belong to the forum of feeling.  This alone can decide on the degree of confidence implied in the disclosure;  whether under no circumstances it was to be communicated to others ?  It does not seem to be of that character, or at all to wear that aspect.  They are historical facts which belong to the present, as well as future times.  I doubt whether a single fact, known to the world, will carry as clear conviction to it, of the correctness of our knowledge of the treasonable views of the federal party of that day, as that disclosed by this, the most nefarious and daring attempt to dissever the Union, of which the Hartford convention was a subsequent chapter;  and both of these having failed, consolidation becomes the fourth chapter of the next book of their history.  But this opens with a vast accession of strength from their younger recruits, who, having nothing in them of the feelings or principles of ’76, now look to a single and splendid government of an aristocracy, founded on banking institutions, and moneyed incorporations under the guise and cloak of their favored branches of manufactures, commerce and navigation, riding and ruling over the plundered ploughman and beggared yeomanry.  This will be to them a next best blessing to the monarchy of their first aim, and perhaps the surest stepping-stone to it.

I learn with great satisfaction that your school is thriving well, and that you have at its head a truly classical scholar.  He is one of three or four whom I can hear of in the State.  We were obliged the last year to receive shameful Latinists into the classical school of the University, such as we will certainly refuse as soon as we can get from better schools a sufficiency of those properly instructed to form a class.  We must get rid of this Connecticut Latin, of this barbarous confusion of long and short syllables, which renders doubtful whether we are listening to a reader of Cherokee, Shawnee, Iroquois, or what.  Our University has been most fortunate in the five professors procured from England.  A finer selection could not have been made.  Besides their being of a grade of science which has left little superior behind, the correctness of their moral character, their accommodating dispositions, and zeal for the prosperity of the institution, leave us nothing more to wish.  I verily believe that as high a degree of education can now be obtained here, as in the country they left.  And a finer set of youths I never saw assembled for instruction.  They committed some irregularities at first, until they learned the lawful length of their tether;  since which it has never been transgressed in the smallest degree.  A great proportion of them are severely devoted to study, and I fear not to say that within twelve or fifteen years from this time, a majority of the rulers of our State will have been educated here.  They shall carry hence the correct principles of our day, and you may count assuredly that they will exhibit their country in a degree of sound respectability it has never known, either in our days, or those of our forefathers.  I cannot live to see it.  My joy must only be that of anticipation.  But that you may see it in full fruition, is the probable consequence of the twenty years I am ahead of you in time, and is the sincere prayer of your affectionate and constant friend.

Usurpation of power by Supreme Court

To Judge William Johnson.
Monticello, June 12, 1823.

Dear Sir

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 Washington’s cabinet when it shall pass into the hands of as candid a friend to truth as he was himself !  When no longer, like Cæsar’s 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 Hamilton’s 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 Cohen’s 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 Jacob’s 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 Bonaparte’s 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 Cohen’s 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.

Judicial Subversion

To William Charles Jarvis.
Monticello, September 28, 1820.

I thank you, Sir, for the copy of your Republican which you have been so kind as to send me, and I should have acknowledged it sooner but that I am just returned home after a long absence.  I have not vet had time to read it seriously, but in looking over it cursorily I see much in it to approve, and shall be glad if it shall lead our youth to the practice of thinking on such subjects and for themselves.  That it will have this tendency may be expected, and for that reason I feel an urgency to note what I deem an error in it, the more requiring notice as your opinion is strengthened by that of many others.  You seem, in pages 84 and 148, to consider the judges as the ultimate arbiters of all constitutional questionsa very dangerous doctrine indeed, and one which would place us under the despotism of an oligarchy.  Our judges are as honest as other men, and not more so.  They have, with others, the same passions for party, for power, and the privilege of their corps.  Their maxim is “boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem,” and their power the more dangerous as they are in office for life, and not responsible, as the other functionaries are, to the elective control.  The Constitution has erected no such single tribunal, knowing that to whatever hands confided, with the corruptions of time and party, its members would become despots.  It has more wisely made all the departments co-equal and co-sovereign within themselves.  If the legislature fails to pass laws for a census, for paying the judges and other officers of government, for establishing a militia, for naturalization as prescribed by the Constitution, or if they fail to meet in congress, the judges cannot issue their mandamus to them ;  if the President fails to supply the place of a judge, to appoint other civil or military officers, to issue requisite commissions, the judges cannot force him.  They can issue their mandamus or distringas to no executive or legislative officer to enforce the fulfilment of their official duties, any more than the President or legislature may issue orders to the judges or their officers.  Betrayed by English example, and unaware, as it should seem, of the control of our Constitution in this particular, they have at times overstepped their limit by undertaking to command executive officers in the discharge of their executive duties ;  but the Constitution, in keeping three departments distinct and independent, restrains the authority of the judges to judiciary organs, as it does the executive and legislative to executive and legislative organs.  The judges certainly have more frequent occasion to act on constitutional questions, because the laws of meum and tuum and of criminal action, forming the great mass of the system of law, constitute their particular department.  When the legislative or executive functionaries act unconstitutionally, they are responsible to the people in their elective capacity.  The exemption of the judges from that is quite dangerous enough.  I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves ;  and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.  This is the true corrective of abuses of constitutional power.  Pardon me, Sir, for this difference of opinion.  My personal interest in such questions is entirely extinct, but not my wishes for the longest possible continuance of our government on its pure principles ;  if the three powers maintain their mutual independence on each other it may last long, but not so if either can assume the authorities of the other.  I ask your candid re-consideration of this subject, and am sufficiently sure you will form a candid conclusion.  Accept the assurance of my great respect.

To Thomas Ritchie
Monticello, December 25, 1820

Dear Sir, — On my return home after a long absence, I find here your favor of November the 23d, with Colonel Taylor’s “Construction Construed,” which you have been so kind as to send me, in the name of the author as well as yourself.  Permit me, if you please, to use the same channel for conveying to him the thanks I render you also for this mark of attention.  I shall read it, I know, with edification, as I did his Inquiry, to which I acknowledge myself indebted for many valuable ideas, and for the correction of some errors of early opinion, never seen in a correct light until presented to me in that work.  That the present volume is equally orthodox, I know before reading it, because I know that Colonel Taylor and myself have rarely, if ever, differed in any political principle of importance.  Every act of his life, and every word he ever wrote, satisfies me of this.  So, also, as to the two Presidents, late and now in office, I know them both to be of principles as truly republican as any men living.  If there be anything amiss, therefore, in the present state of our affairs, as the formidable deficit lately unfolded to us indicates, I ascribe it to the inattention of Congress to their duties, to their unwise dissipation and waste of the public contributions.  They seemed, some little while ago, to be at a loss for objects whereon to throw away the supposed fathomless funds of the treasury.  I had feared the result, because I saw among them some of my old fellow laborers, of tried and known principles, yet often in their minorities.  I am aware that in one of their most ruinous vagaries, the people were themselves betrayed into the same phrenzy with their Representatives.  The deficit produced, and a heavy tax to supply it, will, I trust, bring both to their sober senses.

But it is not from this branch of government we have most to fear.  Taxes and short elections will keep them right.  The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric.  They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone.  This will lay all things at their feet, and they are too well versed in English law to forget the maxim, "boni judicis est ampliare juris-dictionem."  We shall see if they are bold enough to take the daring stride their five lawyers have lately taken.  If they do, then, with the editor of our book, in his address to the public, I will say, that "against this every man should raise his voice," and more, should uplift his arm.  Who wrote this admirable address?  Sound, luminous, strong, not a word too much, nor one which can be changed but for the worse.  That pen should go on, lay bare these wounds of our constitution, expose the decisions seriatim, and arouse, as it is able, the attention of the nation to these bold speculators on its patience.  Having found, from experience, that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scare-crow, they consider themselves secure for life;  they sculk from responsibility to public opinion, the only remaining hold on them, under a practice first introduced into England by Lord Mansfield.  An opinion is huddled up in conclave, perhaps by a majority of one, delivered as if unanimous, and with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates, by a crafty chief judge, who sophisticates the law to his mind, by the turn of his own reasoning.  A judiciary law was once reported by the Attorney General to Congress, requiring each judge to deliver his opinion seriatim and openly, and then to give it in writing to the clerk to be entered in the record.  A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.

But to return to your letter; you ask for my opinion of the work you send me, and to let it go out to the public.  This I have ever made a point of declining, (one or two instances only excepted.)  Complimentary thanks to writers who have sent me their works, have betrayed me sometimes before the public, without my consent having been asked.  But I am far from presuming to direct the reading of my fellow citizens, who are good enough judges themselves of what is worthy their reading.  I am, also, too desirous of quiet to place myself in the way of contention.  Against this I am admonished by bodily decay, which cannot be unaccompanied by corresponding wane of the mind.  Of this I am as yet sensible, sufficiently to be unwilling to trust myself before the public, and when I cease to be so, I hope that my friends will be too careful of me to draw me forth and present me, like a Priam in armor, as a spectacle for public compassion.  I hope our political bark will ride through all its dangers; but I can in future be but an inert passenger.

I salute you with sentiments of great friendship and respect.