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Letters Of Thomas Jefferson Part 19

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P. S. Will you come by Mr. Madison's, or let him or me know on what day he may meet you here, and join us in our greetings?

COUNSEL TO A NAMESAKE.

To Thomas Jefferson Smith Monticello, February 21, 1825 1825022.

This letter will, to you, be as one from the dead. The writer will be in the grave before you can weigh its counsels. Your affectionate and excellent father has requested that I would address to you something which might possibly have a favorable influence on the course of life you have to run, and I too, as a namesake, feel an interest in that course. Few words will be necessary, with good dispositions on your part. Adore G.o.d. Reverence and cherish your parents. Love your neighbor as yourself, and your country more than yourself. Be just. Be true. Murmur not at the ways of Providence. So shall the life into which you have entered, be the portal to one of eternal and ineffable bliss. And if to the dead it is permitted to care for the things of this world, every action of your life will be under my regard. Farewell.

The portrait of a good man by the most sublime of poets, for your imitation Lord, who's the happy man that may to thy blest courts repair; Not stranger-like to visit them but to inhabit there?



'Tis he whose every thought and deed by rules of virtue moves; Whose generous tongue disdains to speak the thing his heart disproves.

Who never did a slander forge, his neighbor's fame to wound; Nor hearken to a false report, by malice whispered round.

Who vice in all its pomp and power, can treat with just neglect; And piety, though clothed in rages, religiously respect.

Who to his plighted vows and trust has ever firmly stood; And though he promise to his loss, he makes his promise good.

Whose soul in usury disdains his treasure to employ; Whom no rewards can ever bribe the guiltless to destroy.

The man, who, by his steady course, has happiness insur'd.

When earth's foundations shake, shall stand, by Providence secur'd.

A Decalogue of Canons for observation in practical life.

1. Never put off till to-morrow what you can do to-day.

2. Never trouble another for what you can do yourself.

3. Never spend your money before you have it.

4. Never buy what you do not want, because it is cheap; it will be dear to you.

5. Pride costs us more than hunger, thirst and cold.

6. We never repent of having eaten too little.

7. Nothing is troublesome that we do willingly.

8. How much pain have cost us the evils which have never happened.

9. Take things always by their smooth handle.

10. When angry, count ten, before you speak; if very angry, an hundred.

THE OBJECT OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.

To Henry Lee Monticello, May 8, 1825 1825050.

DEAR SIR, -- Your favor of Apr. 29 has been duly recieved, and the offer of mineralogical specimens from Mr. Myer has been communicated to Dr. Emmet our Professor of Natural history. The last donation of the legislature to the University was appropriated specifically to a library and apparatus of every kind. But we apply it first to the more important articles of a library, of an astronomical, physical, & chemical apparatus. And we think it safest to see what these will cost, before we venture on collections of mineral & other subjects, the last we must proportion to what sum we shall have left only. The Professor possesses already what he thinks will be sufficient for mineralogical and geological explanations to his school. I do not know how far he might be tempted to enlarge his possession by a catalogue of articles and prices, if both should be satisfactory. If Mr. Myer chuses to send such a catalogue, it shall be returned to you immediately, if the purchase be not approved.

That George Mason was the author of the bill of rights, and the const.i.tution founded on it, the evidence of the day established fully in my mind. Of the paper you mention, purporting to be instructions to the Virginia delegation in Congress, I have no recollection. If it were anything more than a project of some private hand, that is to say, had any such instructions been ever given by the convention, they would appear in the journals, which we possess entire. But with respect to our rights, and the acts of the British government contravening those rights, there was but one opinion on this side of the water. All American whigs thought alike on these subjects. When forced, therefore, to resort to arms for redress, an appeal to the tribunal of the world was deemed proper for our justification. This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments, never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their a.s.sent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. All its authority rests then on the harmonizing sentiments of the day, whether expressed in conversation, in letters, printed essays, or in the elementary books of public right, as Aristotle, Cicero, Locke, Sidney, &c. The historical doc.u.ments which you mention as in your possession, ought all to be found, and I am persuaded you will find, to be corroborative of the facts and principles advanced in that Declaration. Be pleased to accept a.s.surances of my great esteem and respect.

THE ANGLO-SAXON LANGUAGE.

To the Honorable J. Evelyn Denison, M.P.

Monticello, November 9, 1825 1825110.

DEAR SIR, -- Your favor of July 30th was duly received, and we have now at hand the books you have been so kind as to send to our University. They are truly acceptable in themselves, for we might have been years not knowing of their existence; but give the greater pleasure as evidence of the interest you have taken in our infant inst.i.tution. It is going on as successfully as we could have expected; and I have no reason to regret the measure taken of procuring Professors from abroad where science is so much ahead of us. You witnessed some of the puny squibs of which I was the b.u.t.t on that account. They were probably from disappointed candidates, whose unworthiness had occasioned their applications to be pa.s.sed over. The measure has been generally approved in the South and West; and by all liberal minds in the North. It has been peculiarly fortunate, too, that the Professors brought from abroad were as happy selections as could have been hoped, as well for their qualifications in science as correctness and amiableness of character. I think the example will be followed, and that it cannot fail to be one of the efficacious means of promoting that cordial good will, which it is so much the interest of both nations to cherish. These teachers can never utter an unfriendly sentiment towards their native country; and those into whom their instructions will be infused, are not of ordinary significance only: they are exactly the persons who are to succeed to the government of our country, and to rule its future enmities, its friends.h.i.+ps and fortunes. As it is our interest to receive instruction through this channel, so I think it is yours to furnish it; for these two nations holding cordially together, have nothing to fear from the united world. They will be the models for regenerating the condition of man, the sources from which representative government is to flow over the whole earth.

I learn from you with great pleasure, that a taste is reviving in England for the recovery of the Anglo-Saxon dialect of our language; for a mere dialect it is, as much as those of Piers Plowman, Gower, Douglas, Chaucer, Spenser, Shakspeare, Milton, for even much of Milton is already antiquated. The Anglo-Saxon is only the earliest we possess of the many shades of mutation by which the language has tapered down to its modern form. Vocabularies we need for each of these stages from Somner to Bailey, but not grammars for each or any of them. The grammar has changed so little, in the descent from the earliest, to the present form, that a little observation suffices to understand its variations. We are greatly indebted to the worthies who have preserved the Anglo-Saxon form, from Doctor Hickes down to Mr. Bosworth. Had they not given to the public what we possess through the press, that dialect would by this time have been irrecoverably lost. I think it, however, a misfortune that they have endeavored to give it too much of a learned form, to mount it on all the scaffolding of the Greek and Latin, to load it with their genders, numbers, cases, declensions, conjugations, &c. Strip it of these embarra.s.sments, vest it in the Roman type which we have adopted instead of our English black letter, reform its uncouth orthography, and a.s.similate its p.r.o.nunciation, as much as may be, to the present English, just as we do in reading Piers Plowman or Chaucer, and with the cotemporary vocabulary for the few lost words, we understand it as we do them. For example, the Anglo-Saxon text of the Lord's prayer, as given us 6th Matthew, ix., is spelt and written thus, in the equivalent Roman type: "Faeder ure thu the eart in heofenum, si thin nama gehalG.o.d. to bec.u.me thin rice. gewurthe thin willa on eorthan. swa swa on heofenum. urne daeghwamlican hlaf syle us to daeg. and forgyf us ure gyltas, swa swa we forgifath urum gyltendum. and ne ge-laedde thu us on costnunge, ac alys us of yfele'. I should spell and p.r.o.nounce thus: 'Father our, thou tha art in heavenum. si thine name y- hallowed. come thin ric. y-wurth thine will on earthan. so so on heavenum. ourn daywhamlican loaf sell us to day. and forgive us our guilts so so we forgivath ourum guiltendum. and no y-lead thou us on costnunge, ac a-lease us of evil'. And here it is to be observed by-the-bye, that there is but the single word "temptation" in our present version of this prayer that is not Anglo-Saxon; for the word "trespa.s.ses" taken from the French, ({ofeilemata} in the original) might as well have been translated by the Anglo-Saxon "guilts."

The learned apparatus in which Dr. Hickes and his successors have m.u.f.fled our Anglo-Saxon, is what has frightened us from encountering it. The simplification I propose may, on the contrary, make it a regular part of our common English education.

So little reading and writing was there among our Anglo- Saxon ancestors of that day, that they had no fixed orthography. To produce a given sound, every one jumbled the letters together, according to his unlettered notion of their power, and all jumbled them differently, just as would be done at this day, were a dozen peasants, who have learnt the alphabet, but have never read, desired to write the Lord's prayer. Hence the varied modes of spelling by which the Anglo-Saxons meant to express the same sound. The word many, for example, was spelt in twenty different ways; yet we cannot suppose they were twenty different words, or that they had twenty different ways of p.r.o.nouncing the same word. The Anglo-Saxon orthography, then, is not an exact representation of the sounds meant to be conveyed. We must drop in p.r.o.nunciation the superfluous consonants, and give to the remaining letters their present English sound; because, not knowing the true one, the present enunciation is as likely to be right as any other, and indeed more so, and facilitates the acquisition of the language.

It is much to be wished that the publication of the present county dialects of England should go on. It will restore to us our language in all its shades of variation. It will incorporate into the present one all the riches of our ancient dialects; and what a store this will be, may be seen by running the eye over the county glossaries, and observing the words we have lost by abandonment and disuse, which in sound and sense are inferior to nothing we have retained. When these local vocabularies are published and digested together into a single one, it is probable we shall find that there is not a word in Shakspeare which is not now in use in some of the counties in England, from whence we may obtain its true sense. And what an exchange will their recovery be for the volumes of idle commentaries and conjectures with which that divine poet has been masked and metamorphosed. We shall find in him new sublimities which we had never tasted before, and find beauties in our ancient poets which are lost to us now. It is not that I am merely an enthusiast for Palaeology. I set equal value on the beautiful engraftments we have borrowed from Greece and Rome, and I am equally a friend to the encouragement of a judicious neology; a language cannot be too rich. The more copious, the more susceptible of embellishment it will become. There are several things wanting to promote this improvement. To reprint the Saxon books in modern type; reform their orthography; publish in the same way the treasures still existing in ma.n.u.script. And, more than all things, we want a dictionary on the plan of Stephens or Scapula, in which the Saxon root, placed alphabetically, shall be followed by all its cognate modifications of nouns, verbs, &c., whether Anglo-Saxon, or found in the dialects of subsequent ages. We want, too, an elaborate history of the English language. In time our country may be able to co-operate with you in these labors, of common advantage, but as yet it is too much a blank, calling for other and more pressing attentions. We have too much to do in the improvements of which it is susceptible, and which are deemed more immediately useful. Literature is not yet a distinct profession with us. Now and then a strong mind arises, and at its intervals of leisure from business, emits a flash of light. But the first object of young societies is bread and covering; science is but secondary and subsequent.

I owe apology for this long letter. It must be found in the circ.u.mstance of its subject having made an interesting part in the tenor of your letter, and in my attachment to it. It is a hobby which too often runs away with me where I meant not to give up the rein. Our youth seem disposed to mount it with me, and to begin their course where mine is ending.

Our family recollects with pleasure the visit with which you favored us; and join me in a.s.suring you of our friendly and respectful recollections, and of the gratification it will ever be to us to hear of your health and welfare.

A GIFT TO A GRANDDAUGHTER.

Ellen Randolph Coolidge Monticello, Nov. 14, 1825 MY DEAR ELLEN -- In my letter of Oct. 13. to Mr. Coolidge, I gave an account of the riot we had at the University, and of it's termination. You will both of course be under anxiety till you know how it has gone off? With the best effects in the world. Having let it be understood, from the beginning, that we wished to trust very much to the discretion of the Students themselves for their own government. With about four fifths of them, this did well, but there were about 15. or 20. bad subjects who were disposed to try whether our indulgence was without limit. Hence the licentious transaction of which I gave an account to Mr. Coolidge. But when the whole ma.s.s saw the serious way in which that experiment was met, the Faculty of Professors a.s.sembled, the Board of Visitors coming forward in support of that authority, a grand jury taking up the subject, four of the most guilty expelled, the rest reprimanded, severer laws enacted, and a rigorous execution of them declared in future, it gave them a shock and struck a terror, the most severe, as it was less expected. It determined the well disposed among them to frown upon every thing of the kind hereafter, and the ill-disposed returned to order from fear if not from better motives. A perfect subordination has succeeded, entire respect towards the Professors, and industry, order, and quiet the most exemplary, has prevailed ever since. Every one is sensible of the strength which the inst.i.tution has derived from what appeared at first to threaten it's foundation. We have no further fear of any thing of the kind from the present set. But as at the next term their numbers will be more than doubled by the accession of an additional band, as unbroken as these were, we mean to be prepared, and to ask of the legislature a power to call in the civil authority in the first instant of disorder, and to quell it on the spot by imprisonment and the same legal coercions, provided against disorder generally, committed by other citizens, from whom, at their age, they have no right to distinction.

We have heard of the loss of your baggage, with the vessel carrying it, and sincerely condole with you on it. It is not to be estimated by it's pecuniary value, but by that it held in your affections. The doc.u.ments of your childhood, your letters, correspondencies, notes, books, &c., &c., all gone! And your life cut in two, as it were, and a new one to begin, without any records of the former. John Hemmings was the first who brought me the news. He had caught it accidentally from those who first read the letter from Col. Peyton announcing it. He was au desespoir! That beautiful writing desk he had taken so much pains to make for you! Everything else seemed as nothing in his eye, and that loss was everything. Virgil could not have been more afflicted had his Aeneid fallen a prey to the flames. I asked him if he could not replace it by making another? No. His eyesight had failed him too much, and his recollection of it was too imperfect. It has occurred to me however, that I can replace it, not, indeed, to you, but to Mr. Coolidge, by a subst.i.tute, not claiming the same value from it's decorations, but from the part it has borne in our history and the events with which it has been a.s.sociated. recieved a letter from a friend in Philadelphia lately, asking information of the house, and room of the house there, in which the Declaration of Independence was written, with a view to future celebrations of the 4th. of July in it, another, enquiring whether a paper given to the Philosophical society there, as a rough draught of that Declaration was genuinely so? A society is formed there lately for an annual celebration of the advent of Penn to that place. It was held in his antient Mansion, and the chair in which he actually sat when at his writing table was presented by a lady owning it, and was occupied by the president of the celebration. Two other chairs were given them, made of the elm, under the shade of which Penn had made his first treaty with the Indians. If then things acquire a superst.i.tious value because of their connection with particular persons, surely a connection with the great Charter of our Independence may give a value to what has been a.s.sociated with that; and such was the idea of the enquirers after the room in which it was written. Now I happen still to possess the writing-box on which it was written. It was made from a drawing of my own, by Ben. Randall, a cabinet maker in whose house I took my first lodgings on my arrival in Philadelphia in May 1776. And I have used it ever since. It claims no merit of particular beauty. It is plain, neat, convenient, and, taking no more room on the writing table than a moderate 4to. volume, it yet displays it self sufficiently for any writing. Mr. Coolidge must do me the favor of accepting this. Its imaginary value will increase with the years, and if he lives to my age, or another half century, he may see it carried in the procession of our nation's birthday, as the relics of teh saints are in those of the church. I will send it thro' Colonel Peyton, and hope with better fortune than that for which it is to be a subst.i.tute.

I remark what you say in your letter to your mother, relative to Mr. Willard and our University clock. Judging from that that he is the person whom Mr. Coolidge would recommend, and having recieved from Dr. Waterhouse a very strong recommendation of him, you may a.s.sure the old gentleman from me that he shall have the making of it. We have lately made an important purchase of lands amounting to 7000. D. and the government is taking from us, under their old and new Tariff, 2700. D. duty on the marble caps and bases of the portico of our Rotunda, of 10 columns only. These things try our funds for the moment. At the end of the year we shall see how we stand, and I expect we may be able to give the final order for the clock by February.

I want to engage you, as my agent at Boston, for certain articles not to be had here, and for such only. But it will be on the indispensable condition that you keep as rigorous an account of Dollars and cents as old Yerragan our neighbor would do. This alone can induce friends to ask services freely, which would otherwise be the asking of presents and amount to a prohibition. We should be very glad occasionally to get small supplies of the fine dumb codfish to be had at Boston, and also of the tongues and sounds of the Cod. This selection of the articles I trouble you for is not of such as are better there than here; for on that ground we might ask for every thing from thence, but such only as are not to be had here to all. Perhaps I should trepa.s.s on Mr. Coolidge for one other article. We pay here 2. D. a gallon for bad French brandy. I think I have seen in Degrand's Price current Ma.r.s.eilles brandy, from Dodge and Oxnard, advertised good at 1. Dollar, am told is good Cognac at 1.25. D. will ask of you then a supply of a kental of good dumb fish, and about 20 or 30 lbs. of tongues and sounds; and of Mr. Collidge a 30 gallon cask of Dodge and Oxnard's Ma.r.s.eilles brandy, if tolerable good at 1. D. or thereabouts, but double cased to guard against spoliation. Knowing nothing of the prices of the fish, will at a venture, desire Col. Peyton to remit 60. D. to Mr. Coolidge immediately, and any little difference between this and actual cost either way, may stand over to your next account. We should be the better perhaps of your recipe for dressing both articles.

I promised Mr. Ticknor to inform him at times how our University goes on. I shall be glad if you will read to him that part of this letter which respects it, presuming Mr. Coolidge may have communicated to him the facts of my former letter to him. These facts may be used ad libitum, only keeping my name out of sight. Writing is so irksome to me, especially since I am obliged to do it in a rec.u.mbent posture, that I am sure Mr. Ticknor will excuse my economy in this exercise. To you perhaps I should apologize for the want of it on this occasion. The family is well. My own health changes little. I ride two or three miles in a carriage every day. With my affectionate salutations to Mr. Coolidge, be a.s.sured yourself of my tender and constant love.

CONSOLIDATION!.

To William Branch Giles Monticello, December 26, 1825 1825122.

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 const.i.tutional 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 a.s.sume 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 flouris.h.i.+ng of all. Under the authority to establish post roads, they claim that of cutting down mountains for the construction of roads, of digging ca.n.a.ls, 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 const.i.tution? 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 out-number 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 r 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 cla.s.sical 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 cla.s.sical 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 cla.s.s. 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 inst.i.tution, 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 a.s.sembled 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 a.s.suredly 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 antic.i.p.ation. But that youo 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.

"TAKE CARE OF ME WHEN DEAD".

To James Madison Monticello. February 17, 1826 1826021.

DEAR SIR, -- My circular was answered by Genl. Breckenridge, approving, as we had done, of the immediate appointment of Terril to the chair of Law. But our four Colleagues, who were together in Richmond, concluded not to appoint until our meeting in April. In the meantime the term of the present lamented Inc.u.mbent draws near to a close. About 150. students have already entered; many of those who engaged for a 2d. year, are yet to come; and I think we may count that our dormitories will be filled. Whether there will be any overflowing for the accomodations provided in the vicinage, which are quite considerable, is not yet known. None will enter there while a dormitory remains vacant. Were the Law-chair filled it would add 50. at least to our number.

Immediately on seeing the overwhelming vote of the House of Representatives against giving us another dollar, I rode to the University and desired Mr. Brockenbrough to engage in nothing new, to stop everything on hand which could be done without, and to employ all his force and funds in finis.h.i.+ng the circular room for the books, and the anatomical theatre. These cannot be done without; and for these and all our debts we have funds enough. But I think it prudent then to clear the decks thoroughly, to see how we shall stand, and what we may accomplish further. In the meantime, there have arrived for us in different ports of the United States, ten boxes of books from Paris, seven from London, and from Germany I know not how many; in all, perhaps, about twenty- five boxes. Not one of these can be opened until the book- room is completely finished, and all the shelves ready to receive their charge directly from the boxes as they shall be opened. This cannot be till May. I hear nothing definite of the three thousand dollars duty of which we are asking the remission from Congress. In the selection of our Law Professor, we must be rigorously attentive to his political principles. You will recollect that before the revolution, c.o.ke Littleton was the universal elementary book of law students, and a sounder whig never wrote, nor of profounder learning in the orthodox doctrines of the British const.i.tution, or in what were called English liberties. You remember also that our lawyers were then all whigs. But when his black-letter text, and uncouth but cunning learning got out of fas.h.i.+on, and the honied Mansfieldism of Blackstone became the student's hornbook, from that moment, that profession (the nursery of our Congress) began to slide into toryism, and nearly all the young brood of lawyers now are of that hue. They suppose themselves, indeed, to be whigs, because they no longer know what whigism or republicanism means. It is in our seminary that that vestal flame is to be kept alive; it is thence it is to spread anew over our own and the sister States. If we are true and vigilant in our trust, within a dozen or twenty years a majority of our own legislature will be from one school, and many disciples will have carried its doctrines home with them to their several States, and will have leavened thus the whole ma.s.s. New York has taken strong ground in vindication of the const.i.tution; South Carolina had already done the same. Although I was against our leading, I am equally against omitting to follow in the same line, and backing them firmly; and I hope that yourself or some other will mark out the track to be pursued by us.

You will have seen in the newspapers some proceedings in the legislature, which have cost me much mortification. My own debts had become considerable, but not beyond the effect of some lopping of property, which would have been little felt, when our friend Nicholas gave me the coup de grace. Ever since that have been paying twelve hundred dollars a year interest on his debt, which, with my own, was absorbing so much of my annual income, as that the maintenance of my family was making deep and rapid inroads on my capital, and had already done it. Still, sales at a fair price would leave me competently provided. Had crops and prices for several years been such as to maintain a steady compet.i.tion of substantial bidders at market, all would have been safe. But the long succession of years of stunted crops, of reduced prices, the general prostration of the farming business, under levies for the support of manufactures, &c., with the calamitous fluctuations of value in our paper medium, have kept agriculture in a state of abject depression, which has peopled the western States by silently breaking up those on the Atlantic, and glutted the land market, while it drew off its bidders. In such a state of things, property has lost its character of being a resource for debts. Highland in Bedford, which, in the days of our plethory, sold readily for from fifty to one hundred dollars the acre, (and such sales were many then,) would not now sell for more than from ten to twenty dollars, or one-quarter or one-fifth of its former price. Reflecting on these things, the practice occurred to me, of selling, on fair valuation, and by way of lottery, often resorted to before the Revolution to effect large sales, and still in constant usage in every State for individual as well as corporation purposes. If it is permitted in my case, my lands here alone, with the mills, &c., will pay every thing, and leave me Monticello and a farm free. If refused, I must sell everything here, perhaps considerably in Bedford, move thither with my family, where I have not even a log hut to put my head into, and whether ground for burial, will depend on the depredations which, under the form of sales, shall have been committed on my property. The question then with me was ultrum horum? But why afflict you with these details? Indeed, cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communication with a frt, which, with my own, was absorbing so much of my annual income, as that the maintenance of my family was making deep and rapid inroads on my capital, and had already done it. Still, sales at a fair price would leave me competently provided. Had crops and prices for several years been such as to maintain a steady compet.i.tion of substantial bidders at market, all would have been safe. But the long succession of years of stunted crops, of reduced prices, the general prostration of the farming business, under levies for the support of manufactures, &c., with the calamitous fluctuations of value in our paper medium, have kept agriculture in a state of abject depression, which has peopled the western States by silently breaking up those on the Atlantic, and glutted the land market, while it drew off its bidders. In such a state of things, property has lost its character of being a resource for debts. Highland in Bedford, which, in the days of our plethory, sold readily for from fifty to one hundred dollars the acre, (and such sales were many then,) would not dollars, or one-quarter or one-fifth of its former price. Reflecting on these things, the practice occurred to me, of selling, on fair valuation, and by way of lottery, often resorted to before the Revolution to effect large sales, and still in constant usage in every State for individual as well as corporation purposes. If it is permitted in my case, my lands here alone, with the mills, &c., will pay every thing, and leave me Monticello and a farm free. If refused, I must sell everything here, perhaps considerably in Bedford, move thither with my family, where I have not even a log hut to put my head into, and whether ground for burial, will depend on the depredations which, under the form of sales, shall have been committed on my property. The question then with me was ultrum horum? But why afflict you with these details? Indeed, cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communication with a friend. The friends.h.i.+p which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period. And if I remove beyond the reach of attentions to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that inst.i.tution under your care, and an a.s.surance that it will not be wanting. It has also been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self- government, which we had a.s.sisted too in acquiring for them. If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. To myself you have been a pillar of support through life. Take care of me when dead, and be a.s.sured that shall leave with you my last affections.

NUNC DIMITTIS ON SLAVERY.

To James Heaton Monticello, May 20, 1826 1826052.

DEAR SIR, -- The subject of your letter of April 20, is one on which I do not permit myself to express an opinion, but when time, place, and occasion may give it some favorable effect. A good cause is often injured more by ill-timed efforts of its friends than by the arguments of its enemies. Persuasion, perseverance, and patience are the best advocates on questions depending on the will of others. The revolution in public opinion which this cause requires, is not to be expected in a day, or perhaps in an age; but time, which outlives all things, will outlive this evil also. My sentiments have been forty years before the public. Had I repeated them forty times, they would only have become the more stale and threadbare. Although I shall not live to see them consummated, they will not die with me; but living or dying, they will ever be in my most fervent prayer. This is written for yourself and not for the public, in compliance with your request of two lines of sentiment on the subject. Accept the a.s.surance of my good will and respect.

LAST LETTER: APOTHEOSIS OF LIBERTY.

To Roger C. Weightman Monticello, June 24, 1826 1826062 RESPECTED SIR, -- The kind invitation I receive from you, on the part of the citizens of the city of Was.h.i.+ngton, to be present with them at their celebration on the fiftieth anniversary of American Independence, as one of the surviving signers of an instrument pregnant with our own, and the fate of the world, is most flattering to myself, and heightened by the honorable accompaniment proposed for the comfort of such a journey. It adds sensibly to the sufferings of sickness, to be deprived by it of a personal partic.i.p.ation in the rejoicings of that day. But acquiescence is a duty, under circ.u.mstances not placed among those we are permitted to control. I should, indeed, with peculiar delight, have met and exchanged there congratulations personally with the small band, the remnant of that host of worthies, who joined with us on that day, in the bold and doubtful election we were to make for our country, between submission or the sword; and to have enjoyed with them the consolatory fact, that our fellow citizens, after half a century of experience and prosperity, continue to approve the choice we made. May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains under which monkish ignorance and superst.i.tion had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to a.s.sume the blessings and security of self-government. That form which we have subst.i.tuted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. The general spread of the light of science has already laid open to every view the palpable truth, that the ma.s.s of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of G.o.d. These are grounds of hope for others. For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

I will ask permission here to express the pleasure with which I should have met my ancient neighbors of the city of Was.h.i.+ngton and its vicinities, with whom I pa.s.sed so many years of a pleasing social intercourse; an intercourse which so much relieved the anxieties of the public cares, and left impressions so deeply engraved in my affections, as never to be forgotten. With my regret that ill health forbids me the gratification of an acceptance, be pleased to receive for yourself, and those for whom you write, the a.s.surance of my highest respect and friendly attachments.

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