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TO MARQUIS DE LA FAYETTE.
Monticello, May 14, 1917. Although, Dear Sir, much retired from the world, and meddling little in its concerns, yet I think it almost a religious duty to salute at times my old friends, were it only to say and to know that
all's well.' Our hobby has been politics; but all here is so quiet, and with you so desperate, that little matter is furnished us for active attention. With you too, it has long been forbidden ground, and therefore imprudent for a foreign friend to tread, in writing to you. But although our speculations might be intrusive, our prayers cannot but be acceptable, and mine are sincerely offered for the well-being of France. What government she can bear, depends not on the state of science, however exalted, in a select band of enlightened men, but on the condition of the general mind. That, I am sure, is advanced and will advance; and the last change of government was fortunate, inasmuch as the new will be less obstructive to the effects of that advancement. For I consider your foreign military oppression as an ephemeral obstacle only.
Here all is quiet. The British war has left us in debt ; but that is a cheap price for the good it has done us. The establishment of the necessary manufactures among ourselves, the proof that our government is solid, can stand the shock of war, and is superior even to civil schism, are precious facts for us; and of these the strongest proofs were furnished, when, with four eastern States tied to us, as dead to living bodies, all doubt was removed as to the achievements of the war, had it continued. But its best effect has been the complete suppression of party. The federalists who were truly American, and their great mass was so, have separated from their brethren who were mere Anglomen, and are received with cordiality into the republican ranks. Even Connecticut, as a State, and the last one expected to yield its steady habits (which were essentially bigoted in politics as well as religion), has chosen a republican governor, and republican legislature. Massachusetts indeed still lags ; because most deeply involved in the parricide crimes and treasons of the war. But her gangrene is contracting, the sound Mesh advancing on it, and all there will be well. I mentioned Connecticut as the most hopeless of our States. Little Delaware had escaped my attention. That is essentially a Quaker State, the fragment of a religious sect which, there, in the other States, in England, are a homogeneous mass, acting with one mind, and that directed by the mother society in England. Dispersed, as the Jews, they still form, as those do, one nation, foreign to the land they live in. They are Protestant Jesuits, implicitly devoted to the will of their superior, and forgetting all duties to their country in the execution of the policy of their order. When war is proposed with England, they have religious scruples; but when with France, these are laid by, and they become clamorous for it. They are, however, silent, passive, and give no other trouble than of whipping them along. Nor is the election of Monroe an inefficient circumstance in our felicities. Four and twenty years, which he will accomplish, of administration in republican forms and principles, will so consecrate them in the eyes of the people as to secure them against the danger of change. The evanition of party dissensions has harmonized intercourse, and sweetened society beyond imagination.
The war then has done us all this good, and the further one of assuring the world, that although attached to peace from a sense of its blessings, we will meet war when it is made necessary. ,
I wish I could give better hopes of our southern brethren. The achievement of their independence of Spain is no longer a question. But it is a very serious one, what will then become of them. Ignorance and bigotry, like other insanities, are incapable of selfgovernment. They will fall under military despotisms, and become the murderous tools of the ambition of their respective Bonapartes; and whether this will be for their greater happiness, the rule of one only has taught you to judge. No one, I hope, can doubt my wish to see them and all mankind exercising selfgovernment, and capable of exercising it. But the question is not what we wish, but what is practicable. As their sincere friend and brother, then, I do believe the best thing for them, would be for themselves to come to an accord with Spain, under the guarantee of France, Russia, Holland, and the United States, allowing to Spain a nominal supremacy, with authority only to keep the peace among them, leaving them otherwise all the powers of selfgovernment, until their experience in them, their emancipation from their priests, and advancement in information, shall prepare them for complete independence. I exclude England from this confederacy, because her selfish principles render her incapable of honorable patronage or disinterested co-operation : unless, indeed, what seems now probable, a revolution, should restore to her an honest government, one which will permit the world to live in peace. Portugal grasping at an extension of her dominion in the
south, has lost her great northern province of Pernambuco, and I shall not wonder if Brazil should revolt in mass, and send their royal family back to Portugal. Brazil is more populous, more wealthy, more energetic, and as wise as Portugal. I have been insensibly led, my dear friend, while writing to you, to indulge in that line of sentiment in which we have been always associated, forgetting that these are matters not belonging to my time. Not so with you, who have still many years to be a spectator of these events. That these years may indeed be many and happy, is the sincere prayer of your affectionate friend.
TO ALBERT GALLATIN.
Monticello, June 16, 1817. DEAR SIR, The importance that the enclosed letters should safely reach their destination, impels me to avail myself of the protection of your cover. This is an inconvenience to which your situation exposes you, while it adds to the opportunities of exercising yourself in works of charity.
According to the opinion I hazarded to you a little before your departure, we have had almost an entire change in the body of Congress. The unpopularity of the compensation law was completed, by the manner of repealing it as to all the world except themselves. In some States, it is said, every member is changed; in all, many. What opposition there was to the original law, was chiefly from southern members. Yet many of those have been left out, because they received the advanced wages. I have never known so unanimous a sentiment of disapprobation; and what is remarkable, is, that it was spontaneous. The newspapers were almost entirely silent, and the people not only unled by their leaders, but in opposition to them. I confess I was highly pleased with this proof of the innate good sense, the vigilance, and the determination of the people to act for themselves.
Among the laws of the late Congress, some were of note : a navigation act, particularly, applicable to those nations only who have navigation acts; pinching one of them especially, not only in the general way, but in the intercourse with her foreign possessions. This part may re-act on us, and it remains for trial which · VOL. IV.
may bear longest. A law respecting our conduct as a neutral between Spain and her contending colonies, was passed by a majority of one only, I believe, and against the very general sentiment of our country. It is thought to strain our complaisance to Spain beyond her right or merit, and almost against the right of the other party, and certainly against the claims they have to our good wishes and neighborly relations. That we should wish to see the people of other countries free, is as natural, and at least as justifiable, as that one King should wish to see the Kings of other countries maintained in their despotism. Right to both parties, innocent favor to the juster cause, is our proper sentiment.
You will have learned that an act for internal improvement, after passing both houses, was negatived by the President. The act was founded, avowedly, on the principle that the phrase in the constitution, which authorizes Congress • to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,' was an extension of the powers specifically enumerated to whatever would promote the general welfare; and this, you know, was the federal doctrine. Whereas, our tenet ever was, and, indeed, it is almost the only land-mark which now divides the federalists from the republicans, that Congress had not unlimited powers to provide for the general welfare, but were restrained to those specifically enumerated; and that, as it was never meant they should provide for that welfare but by the exercise of the enumerated powers, so it could not have been meant they should raise money for purposes which the enumeration did not place under their action : consequently, that the specification of powers is a limitation of the purposes for which they may raise money. I think the passage and rejection of this bill a fortunate incident. Every State will certainly concede the power; and this will be a national confirmation of the grounds of appeal to them, and will settle for ever the meaning of this phrase, which, by a mere grammatical quibble, has countenanced the General Government in a claim of universal power. For in the phrase, “to lay taxes, to pay the debts and provide for the general welfare,' it is a mere question of syntax, whether the two last infinitives are governed by the first, or are distinct and co-ordinate powers; a question unequivocally decided by the exact definition of powers immediately following. It is fortunate for another reason, as the States, in conceding the power, will modify it, either by requiring the federal ratio of expense in each State, or otherwise, so as to secure us against its partial exercise. Without this caution, intrigue, negotiation, and the barter of votes might become as habitual in Congress, as they are in those legislatures which have the appointment of officers, and which, with
us, is called • logging,' the term of the farmers for their exchanges of aid in rolling together the logs of their newly cleared grounds. Three of our papers have presented us the copy of an act of the legislature of New York, which, if it has really passed, will carry us back to the times of the darkest bigotry and barbarism to find a parallel. Its purport is, that all those who shall hereafter join in communion with the religious sect of Shaking Quakers, shall be deemed civilly dead, their marriages dissolved, and all their children and property taken out of their hands. This act being published nakedly in the papers, without the usual signatures, or any history of the circumstances of its passage, I am not without a hope it may have been a mere abortive attempt. It contrasts singularly with a cotemporary vote of the Pennsylvania legislature, who, on a proposition to make the belief in a God a necessary qualification for office, rejected it by a great majority, although assuredly there was not a single atheist in their body. And you remember to have heard, that, when the act for religious freedom was before the Virginia Assembly, a motion to insert the name of Jesus Christ before the phrase, the author of our holy religion,' which stood in the bill, was rejected, although that was the creed of a great majority of them.
I have been charmed to see that a Presidential election now produces scarcely any agitation. On Mr. Madison's election there was little, on Monroe's all but none. In Mr. Adams's time and mine, parties were so nearly balanced as to make the struggle fearful for our peace. But since the decided ascendancy of the republican body, federalism has looked on with silent but unresisting anguish. In the middle, southern, and western States, it is as low as it ever can be ; for nature has made some men monarchists and tories by their constitution, and some, of course, there always will be.
We have had a remarkably cold winter. At Hallowell, in Maine, the mercury was at thirty-four degrees below zero, of Fahrenheit, which is sixteen degrees lower than it was in Paris in 1788–9. Here it was at six degrees above zero, which is our greatest degree of cold.
Present me respectfully to Mrs. Gallatin, and be assured of my constant and affectionate friendship.