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TO FRANCIS W. GILMER.
Monticello, June 7, 1816. Dear Sir, I received a few days ago from Mr. Dupont the enclosed manuscript, with permission to read it, and a request, when read, to forward it to you, in expectation that you would translate it. It is well worthy of publication for the instruction of our citizens, being profound, sound, and short. Our legislators are not sufficiently apprized of the rightful limits of their powers: that their true office is to declare and enforce only our natural rights and duties, and to take none of them from us. No man has a natural right to commit aggression on the equal rights of another; and this is all from which the laws ought to restrain him : every man is under the natural duty of contributing to the necessities of the society ; and this is all the laws should enforce on him : and, no man having a natural right to be the judge between himself and another, it is his natural duty to submit to the umpirage of an impartial third. When the laws have declared and enforced all this, they have fulfilled their functions, and the idea is quite unfounded, that on entering into society we give up any natural right. The trial of every law by one of these texts, would lessen much the labors of our legislators, and lighten equally our municipal codes. There is a work of the first order of merit now in the press at Washington, by Destutt Tracy, on the subject of political economy, which he brings into the compass of three hundred pages, octavo. preliminary discourse on the origin of the right of property, he coincides much with the principles of the present manuscript; but is more developed, more demonstrative. He promises a future work on morals, in which I lament to see, that he will adopt the principles of Hobbes, or humiliation to human nature ; that the sense of justice and injustice is not derived from our natural organization, but founded on convention only. I lament this the more, as he is unquestionably the ablest writer living, on abstract subjects. Assuming the fact, that the earth has been created in time, and consequently the dogma of final causes, we yield, of course, to this short syllogism. Man was created for social intercourse ; but social intercourse cannot be maintained without a
justice; then man must have been created with a sense of justice. There is an error into which most of the speculators on government have fallen, and which the well known state of
society of our Indians ought, before now, to have corrected. In their hypothesis of the origin of government, they suppose it to have commenced in the patriarchal or monarchical form. Our Indians are evidently in that state of nature which has passed the association of a single family ; and not yet submitted to the authority of positive laws, or of any acknowledged magistrate. Every man, with them, is perfectly free to follow his own inclinations. But if, in doing this, he violates the rights of another, if the case be slight, he is punished by the disesteem of his society, or, as we say, by public opinion; if serious, he is tomahawked as a dangerous enemy. Their leaders conduct them by the influence of their character only; and they follow, or not, as they please, him of whose character for wisdom or war they have the highest opinion. Hence the origin of the parties among them adhering to different leaders, and governed by their advice, not by their command. The Cherokees, the only tribe I know to be contemplating the establishment of regular laws, magistrates, and government, propose a government of representatives, elected from every town. But of all things, they least think of subjecting themselves to the will of one man. This
, the only instance of actual fact within our knowledge, will be then a beginning by republican, and not by patriarchal or monarchical government, as speculative writers have generally conjectured.
We have to join in mutual congratulations on the appointment , of our friend Correa, to be Minister or Envoy of Portugal
, here. This
, I hope, will give him to us, for life. Nor will it at all interfere with his botanical rambles or journeys. The government of Portugal is so peaceable and inoffensive, that it has never any altercations with its friends. If their minister abroad writes them once a quarter that all is well, they desire no more. 1 learn (though not from Correa himself) that he thinks of paying us a visit as soon as he is through his course of lectures. Not to lose this happiness again by my absence, I have informed him I shall set out for Poplar Forest the 20th instant, and be back the first week of July. I wish you and he could concert your movements so as to meet here, and that you would make this your headquarters. It is a good central point from which to visit your connections; and you know our practice of placing our guests at their ease, by showing them we are so ourselves, and that we follow our necessary vocations, instead of fatiguing them by hanging un
on their shoulders. I salute you with affectionate esteem and respect.
TO BENJAMIN AUSTIN.
Monticello, January 9, 1816. Dear Sir, I acknowledge with pleasure your letter of the 9th of December last.
Your opinions on the events which have taken place in France, are entirely just, so far as these events are yet developed. But we have reason to suppose, that they have not reached their ultimate termination. There is still an awsul void between the present, and what is to be the last chapter of that history; and I fear it is to be filled with abominations, as frightful as those which have already disgraced it. That nation is too high-minded, has too much innate force, intelligence, and elasticity, to remain quiet under its present compression. Samson will arise in his strength, and probably will ere long burst asunder the cords and the webs of the Philistines. But what are to be the scenes of havoc and horror, and how widely they may spread between the brethren of one family, our ignorance of the interior feuds and antipathies of the country places beyond our view. Whatever may be the convulsions, we cannot but indulge the pleasing hope, they will end in the permanent establishment of a representative government; a government in which the will of the people will be an effective ingredient. This important element has taken root in the European mind, and will have its growth. Their rulers, sensible of this, are already offering this modification of their governments, under the plausible pretence that it is a voluntary concession on their part. Had Bonaparte used his legitimate power honestly, for the establishment and support of a free government, France would now have been in prosperity and rest, and her example operating for the benefit of mankind, every nation in Europe would eventually have founded a government over which the will of the people would have had a powerful control. His improper conduct, however, has checked the salutary progress of principle; but the object is fixed in the eye of nations, and they will press to its accomplishment, and to the general amelioration of the condition of man.
What a germ have the freemen of the United States planted, and how faithfully should they cherish the parent
[* This letter was accidentally misplaced, and is now inserted out of its regular order.]
tree at home. Chagrin and mortification are the punishments our enemies receive.
You tell me I am quoted by those who wish to continue our dependence on England for manufactures. There was a time when I might have been so quoted with more candor. But within the thirty years which have since elapsed, how are circumstances changed! We were then in peace; our independent place among nations was acknowledged. A commerce which offered the raw material, in exchange for the same material after receiving the last touch of industry, was worthy of welcome to all nations. It was expected, that those especially to whom manufacturing industry was important, would cherish the friendship of such customers by every favor, and particularly cultivate their peace by every act of justice and friendship. Under this prospect, the question seemed legitimate, whether, with such an immensity of unimproved land, courting the hand of husbandry, the industry of agriculture, or that of manufactures, would add most to the national wealth. And the doubt on the utility of the American manufactures was entertained on this consideration, chiefly, that to the labor of the husbandman a vast addition is made by the spontaneous energies of the earth on which it is employed. For one grain of wheat committed to the earth, she renders twenty, thirty, and even fifty fold ; whereas to the labor of the manufacturer nothing is added. Pounds of flax, in his hands, on the contrary, yield but penny weights of lace. This exchange, too, laborious as it might seem, what a field did it promise for the occupation of the ocean ; what a nursery for that class of citizens who were to exercise and maintain our equal rights on that element! This was the state of things in 1785, when the Notes on Virginia were first published; when, the ocean being open to all nations, and their common right in it acknowledged and exercised under regulations sanctioned by the assent and usage of all, it was thought that the doubt might claim some consideration.
But who, in 1785, could foresee the rapid depravity which was to render the close of that century a disgrace to the history of man? Who could have imagined that the two most distinguished in the rank of nations, for science and civilization, would have suddenly descended from that honorable eminence, and setting at defiance all those moral laws established by the Author of Nature between nation and nation, as between man and man, would cover earth and sea with robberies and piracies, merely because strong enough to do it with temporal impunity, and that under this disbandment of nations from social order, we should have been despoiled of a thousand ships, and have thousands of our VOL. IV.
citizens reduced to Algerine slavery. Yet all this has taken place. The British interdicted to our vessels all harbors of the globe, without having first proceeded to some one of hers, there paid a tribute proportioned to the cargo, and obtained her license to proceed to the port of destination. The French declared them to be lawful prize if they had touched at the port, or been visited by a ship of the enemy nation. Thus were we completely excluded from the ocean. Compare this state of things with that of '85, and say whether an opinion founded in the circumstances of that day, can be fairly applied to those of the present. We have experienced, what we did not then believe, that there exist both profligacy and power enough to exclude us from the field of interchange with other nations. That to be independent for the comforts of life, we must fabricate them ourselves. We must now place the manufacturer by the side of the agriculturalist. The former question is suppressed, or rather assumes a new form. The grand inquiry now is, Shall we make our own comforts, or go without them at the will of a foreign nation? He, therefore, who is now against domestic manufacture, must be for reducing us either to dependence on that foreign nation, or to be clothed in skins, and to live like wild beasts in dens and caverns. I am not one of these. Experience has taught me that manufactures are now as necessary to our independence as to our comfort; and if those who quote me as of a different opinion, will keep pace with me in purchasing nothing foreign, where an equivalent of domestic fabric can be obtained, without regard to difference of price, it will not be our fault if we do not soon have a supply at home equal to our demand, and wrest that weapon of distress from the hand which has so long wantonly wielded it. If it shall be proposed to go beyond our own supply, the question of '85 will then recur, Will our surplus labor be then more beneficially employed, in the culture of the earth, or in the fabrications of art? We have time yet for consideration, before that question will press upon us; and the axiom to be applied will depend on the circumstances which shall then exist. For in so complicated a science as political economy, no one axiom can be laid down as wise and expedient for all times and circumstances. Inattention to this is what has called for this explanation, which reflection would have rendered unnecessary with the candid, while nothing will do it with those who use the former opinion only as a stalking-horse to cover their disloyal propensities to keep us in eternal vassalage to a foreign and unfriendly people. I salute
great respect and esteem.