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TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, May 17, 1818. Dear Sir, I was so unfortunate as not to receive from Mr. Holly's owu hand your favor of January the 28th, being then at my other home. He dined only with my family, and left them with an impression which has filled me with regret that I did not partake of the pleasure his visit gave them. I am glad he is gone to Kentucky. Rational Christianity will thrive more rapidly there than here. They are freer from prejudices than we are, and bolder in grasping at truth. The time is not distant, though neither you nor I shall see it, when we shall be but a secondary people to them. Our greediness for wealth, and fantastical expense have degraded, and will degrade, the minds of our maritime citizens. These are the peculiar vices of commerce.
I had been long without hearing from you, but I had heard of you through a letter from Doctor Waterhouse. He wrote to reclaim against an expression of Mr. Wirt's, as to the commencement of motion in the revolutionary ball. The lawyers say that words are always to be expounded secundum subjectam materiem, which, in Mr. Wirt's case, was Virginia. It would, moreover, be as difficult to say at what moment the Revolution began, and what incident set it in motion, as to fix the moment that the embryo becomes an animal, or the act which gives him a beginning. But the most agreeable part of his letter was that which informed me of your health, your activity, and strength of memory ; and the most wonderful, that which assured me that you retained your industry and promptness in epistolary correspondence. Here you have entire advantage over me. My repugnance to the writingtable becomes daily and hourly more deadly and insurmountable. In place of this has come on a canine appetite for reading. And I indulge it, because I see in it a relief against the tædium senectutis ; a lamp to lighten my path through the dreary wilderness of time before me, whose bourne I see not. Losing daily all interest in the things around us, something else is necessary to fill the void. With me it is reading, which occupies the mind without the labor of producing ideas from my own stock.
I enter into all your doubts as to the event of the revolution of South America. They will succeed against Spain. But the dangerous enemy is within their own breasts. Ignorance and
superstition will chain their minds and bodies under religious and military despotism. I do believe it would be better for them to obtain freedom by degrees only ; because that would by degrees bring on light and information, and qualify them to take charge of themselves understandingly; with more certainty, if, in the mean time, under so much control as may keep them at peace with one another. Surely, it is our duty to wish them independence and self-government, because they wish it themselves, and they have the right, and we none, to choose for themselves : and I wish, moreover, that our ideas may be erroneous, and theirs prove wellfounded. But these are speculations, my friend, which we may as well deliver over to those who are to see their developement. We shall only be lookers on, from the clouds above, as now we look down on the labors, the hurry, and bustle of the ants and bees. Perhaps, in that super-mundane region, we may be amused with seeing the fallacy of our own guesses, and even the nothingness of those labors which have filled and agitated our own time here.
En attendant, with sincere affections to Mrs. Adams and yourself, I salute you both cordially.
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Monticello, November 13, 1818. The public papers, my dear friend, announce the fatal event of which your letter of October the 20th had given me ominous foreboding. Tried myself in the school of affliction, by the loss of every form of connection which can rive the human heart, I know well, and feel what you have lost, what you have suffered, are suffering, and have yet to endure. The same trials have taught me that, for ills so immeasurable, time and silence are the only medicine. I will not, therefore, by useless condolences, open afresh the sluices of your grief, nor, although mingling sincerely my tears with yours, will I say a word more where words are vain, but that it is of some comfort to us both, that the term is not very distant, at which we are to deposit in the same cerement our sorrows and suffering bodies, and to ascend in essence to an ecstatic meeting with the friends we have loved and lost, and
whom we shall still love, and never lose again. God bless you, and support you under your heavy affliction.
TO ROBERT WALSH.
Monticello, December 4, 1818. DEAR SIR, Yours of November the 8th has been some time received; but it is in my power to give little satisfaction as to its inquiries. Dr. Franklin bad many political enemies, as every character must, which, with decision enough to have opinions, has energy and talent to give them effect on the feelings of the adversary opinion. These enmities were chiefly in Pennsylvania and Massachusetts. In the former, they were merely of the proprietary party. In the latter, they did not commence till the Revolution, and then sprung chiefly from personal animosities, which, spreading by little and little, became at length of some extent. Dr. Lee was his principal calumniator, a man of much malignity, who, besides enlisting his whole family in the same hostility, was enabled, as the agent of Massachusetts with the British government, to infuse it into that State with considerable effect. Mr. Izard, the Doctor's enemy also, but from a pecuniary transaction, never countenanced these charges against him. Mr. Jay, Silas Deane, Mr. Laurens, his colleagues also, ever maintained towards him unlimited confidence and respect. That he would have waived the formal recognition of our independence, I never heard on any authority worthy notice. As to the fisheries, England was urgent to retain them exclusively, France neutral, and I believe, that had they been ultimately made a sine quâ non, our commissioners (Mr. Adams excepted) would have relinquished them, rather than have broken off the treaty. To Mr. Adams's perseverance alone, on that point, I have always understood we were indebted for their reservation. As to the charge of subservience to France, besides the evidence of his friendly colleagues before named, two years of my own service with him at Paris, daily visits, and the most friendly and confidential conversations, convince me it had not a shadow of foundation. He possessed the confidence of that government in the highest degree, insomuch, that it may truly be said, that they were more under his influence, than he under theirs. The fact is, that his temper was so amiable and conciliatory, his conduct so rational, never urging impossibilities, or even things unreasonably inconvenient to them, in short, so moderate and attentive to their difficulties, as well as our own, that what his enemies called subserviency, I saw was only that reasonable disposition, which, sensible that advantages are not all to be on one side, yielding what is just and liberal, is the more certain of obtaining liberality and justice. Mutual confidence produces, of course, mutual influence, and this was all which subsisted between Dr. Franklin and the government of France.
I state a few anecdotes of Dr. Franklin, within my own knowledge, too much in detail for the scale of Delaplaine's work, but which may find a cadre in some of the more particular views you contemplate. My health is in a great measure restored, and our family join with me in affectionate recollections and assurances of respect.
TO M. DE NEUVILLE.
Monticello, December 13, 1818.
I thank your Excellency for the notice with which your letters favor me, of the liberation of France from the occupation of the allied powers. To no one, not a native, will it give more pleasure. In the desolation of Europe, to gratify the atrocious caprices of Bonaparte, France sinned much : but she has suffered more than retaliation. Once relieved from the incubus of her late oppression, she will rise like a giant from her slumbers. Her soil and climate, her arts and eminent science, her central position and free constitution, will soon make her greater than she ever was. And I am a false prophet if she does not, at some future day, remind of her sufferings those who have inflicted them the most eagerly. I hope, however, she will be quiet for the present, and risk no new troubles. Her constitution, as now amended, gives as much of self-government as perhaps she can yet bear, and will give more, when the habits of order shall have prepared her to receive more. Besides the gratitude which every American owes her, as our sole ally during the war of independence, I am additionally affectioned by the friendships I contracted there, by the good dispositions I witnessed, and by the courtesies I received.
I rejoice, as a moralist, at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine, by our national legislature. It is an error to view a tax on that liquor as merely a tax on the rich. It is a prohibtion of its use to the middling class of our citizens, and a condemnation of them to the poison of whiskey, which is desolating their houses. No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. It is, in truth, the only antidote to the bane of whiskey. Fix but the duty at the rate of other merchandise, and we can drink wine here as cheap as we do grog: and who will not prefer it? Its extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle. Every one in easy circumstances (as the bulk of our citizens are) will prefer it to the poison to which they are now driven by their government. And the treasury itself will find that a penny a piece from a dozen, is more than a groat from a single one. This reformation, however, will require time. Our merchants know nothing of the infinite variety of cheap and good wines to be had in Europe ; and particularly in France, in Italy, and the Grecian islands : as they know little, also, of the variety of excellent manufactures and comforts to be had any where out of England. Nor will these things be known, nor of course called for here, until the native merchants of those countries, to whom they are known, shall bring them forward, exhibit, and vend them at the moderate profits they can afford. This alone will procure them familiarity with us, and the preference they merit in competition with corresponding articles now in use.
Our family renew with pleasure their recollections of your kind visit to Monticello, and join me in tendering sincere assurances of the gratification it afforded us, and of our great esteem and respectful consideration.
TO DOCTOR VINE UTLEY.
Monticello, March 21, 1819. SIR, Your letter of February the 18th came to hand on the 1st instant; and the request of the history of my physical habits would have puzzled me not a little, had it not been for the model with