« 上一頁繼續 »
day's post brought me the resolution of the republicans of Congress, to propose you as Vice-President. On this I sincerely congratulate you. It is a stamp of double proof. It is a notification to the factionaries that their nay is the yea of truth, and its best test. We shall be almost within striking distance of each other. Who knows but you may fill up some short recess of Congress with a visit to Monticello, where a numerous family will hail you with a hearty country welcome.
TO JUDGE TYLER.
Monticello, June 17, 1812.
On the other subject of your letter, the application of the common law to our present situation, I deride with you the ordinary doctrine, that we brought with us from England the common law rights. This narrow notion was a favorite in the first moment of rallying to our rights against Great Britain. But it was that of men who felt their rights before they had thought of their explanation. The truth is, that we brought with us the rights of men; of expatriated men. On our arrival here, the question would at once arise, by what law will we govern ourselves? The resolution seems to have been, by that system with which we are familiar, to be altered by ourselves occasionally, and adapted to our new situation. The proofs of this resolution are to be found in the form of the oaths of the judges, 1 Hening's Stat. 169, 187; of the Governor, ib. 504 ; in the act for a provisional government, ib. 372; in the preamble to the laws of 1661–2; the uniform current of opinions and decisions; and in the general recognition of all our statutes framed on that basis. But the state of the English law at the date of our emigration, constituted the system adopted here. We may doubt, therefore, the propriety of quoting in our courts English authorities subsequent to that adoption ; still more, the admission of authorities posterior to the Declaration of Independence, or rather to the accession of that King, whose reign, ab initio, was that very tissue of wrongs which rendered the Declaration at length necessary. The reason for it had inception at least as far back as the commencement of his reign. This relation to the beginning of his reign, would add the advantage of getting us rid of all Mansfield's innovations, or civilizations of the common law. For however I admit the superiority of the civil, over the common law code, as a system of perfect justice, yet an incorporation of the two would be like Nebuchadnezzar's image of metals and clay, a thing without cohesion of parts. The only natural improvement of the common law, is through its homogeneous ally, the chancery, in which new principles are to be examined, concocted, and digested. But when, by repeated decisions and modifications, they are rendered pure and certain, they should be transferred by statute to the courts of common law, and placed within the pale of juries. The exclusion from the courts of the malign influence of all authorities after the Georgium sidus became ascendant, would uncanonize Blackstone, whose book, although the most elegant and best digested of our law catalogue, has been perverted more than all others to the degeneracy of legal science. A student finds there a smattering of every thing, and his indolence easily persuades him, that if he understands that book, he is master of the whole body of the law. The distinction between these and those who have drawn their stores from the deep and rich mines of Coke's Littleton, seems well understood even by the unlettered common people, who apply the appellation of Blackstone-lawyers to these ephemeral insects of the
Whether we should undertake to reduce the common law, our own, and so much of the English statutes as we have adopted, to a text, is a question of transcendant difficulty. It was discussed at the first meeting of the committee of the revised code, in 1776, and decided in the negative, by the opinions of Wythe, Mason, and myself, against Pendleton and Thomas Lee. Pendleton proposed to take Blackstone for that text, only purging him of what was inapplicable, or unsuitable to us. In that case, the meaning of every word of Blackstone would have become a source of litigation, until it had been settled by repeated legal decisions. And to come at that meaning, we should have had produced, on all occasions, that very pile of authorities from which it would be said he drew his conclusion, and which, of course, would explain it, and the terms in which it is couched. Thus we should have retained the same chaos of law-lore from which we wished to be emancipated, added to the evils of the uncertainty which a new text and new phrases would have generated: An example of this may be found in the old statutes, and commentaries on them, in Coke's second institute ; but more remarkably, in the institute of Justinian, and the vast masses, explanatory or supplementary of that, which fill the libraries of the civilians. We were deterred from
the attempt by these considerations, added to which, the bustle of the times did not permit leisure for such an undertaking.
Your request of my opinion on this subject has given you the trouble of these observations. If your firmer mind in encountering difficulties, would have added your vote to the minority of the committee, you would have had on your side one of the greatest men of our age, and, like him, have detracted nothing from the sentiments of esteem and respect which I bore to him, and tender with sincerity the assurance of to yourself.
- Th: JEFFERSON.
TO COLONEL WILLIAM DUANE.
Monticello, October 1, 1812. Dear Sir, Your favor of September the 20th has been duly received, and I cannot but be gratified by the assurance it expresses, that my aid in the councils of our government would increase the public confidence in them; because it admits an inference that they have approved of the course pursued, when I heretofore bore a part in those councils. I profess, too, so much of the Roman principle, as to deem it honorable for the general of yesterday to act as a corporal to-day, if his services can be useful to his country; holding that to be false pride, which postpones the public good to any private or personal considerations. But I am past service. The hand of age is upon me. The decay of bodily faculties apprizes me that those of the mind cannot be unimpaired, had I not still better proofs. Every year counts by increased debility, and departing faculties keep the score. The last year it was the sight, this it is the hearing, the next something else will be going, until all is gone. Of all this I was sensible before I left Washington, and probably my fellow-laborers saw it before I did. The decay of memory was obvious : it is now become distressing. But the mind, too, is weakened. When I was young, mathematics was the passion of my life. The same passion has returned upon me, but with unequal powers. Processes which I then read off with the facility of common discourse, now cost me labor, and time, and slow investigation. When I offered this, therefore, as one of the reasons deciding my retirement from office, it was offered in sincerity and a consciousness of its truth. And I think it a great
blessing that I retain understanding enough to be sensible how much of it I have lost, and to avoid exposing myself as a spectacle for the pity of my friends; that I have surmounted the difficult point of knowing when to retire. As a compensation for faculties departed, nature gives me good health, and a perfect resignation to the laws of decay which she has prescribed to all the forms and combinations of matter.
The detestable treason of Hull has, indeed, excited a deep anxiety in all breasts. The depression was in the first moment gloomy and portentous. But it has been succeeded by a revived animation, and a determination to meet the occurrence with increased efforts; and I have so much confidence in the vigorous minds and bodies of our countrymen, as to be fearless as to the final issue. The treachery of Hull, like that of Arnold, cannot be matter of blame on our government. His character, as an officer of skill and bravery, was established on the trials of the last war, and no previous act of his life had led to doubt his fidelity. Whether the Head of the war department is equal to his charge, I am not qualified to decide. I knew him only as a pleasant, gentlemanly man in society; and the indecision of his character rather added to the amenity of his conversation. But when translated from the colloquial circle to the great stage of national concerns, and the direction of the extensive operations of war, whether he has been able to seize at one glance the long line of defenceless border presented by our enemy, the masses of strength which we hold on different points of it, the facility this gave us of attacking him, on the same day, on all his points, from the extremity of the lakes to the neighborhood of Quebec, and the perfect indifference with which this last place, impregnable as it is, might be left in the hands of the enemy to fall of itself; whether, I say, he could see and prepare vigorously for all this, or merely wrapped himself in the cloak of cold defence, I am uninformed. I clearly think with you on the competence of Monroe to embrace great views of action. The decision of his character, his enterprise, firmness, industry, and unceasing vigilance, would, I believe, secure, as I am sure they would merit, the public confidence, and give us all the success which our means can accomplish. If our operations have suffered or languished from any want of energy in the present head which directs them, I have so much confidence in the wisdom and conscientious integrity of Mr. Madison, as to be satisfied, that, however torturing to his feelings, he will fulfil his duty to the public and to his own reputation, by making the necessary change. Perhaps he may be preparing it while we are talking about it: for of all these things I am uninformed. I fear that Hull's surrender has been more than the mere loss of a year to us. Besides bringing on us the whole mass of savage nations, whom fear and not affection had kept in quiet, there is danger that in giving time to an enemy who can send reinforcements of regulars faster than we can raise them, they may strengthen Canada and Halifax beyond the assailment of our lax and divided powers. Perhaps, however, the patriotic efforts from Kentucky and Ohio, by recalling the British force to its upper posts, may yet give time to Dearborn to strike a blow below. Effectual possession of the river from Montreal to the Chaudière, which is practicable, would give us the upper country at our leisure, and close for ever the scenes of the tomahawk and scalping-knife.
But these things are for others to plan and achieve. The only succor from the old, must lie in their prayers. These I offer up with sincere devotion; and in my concern for the great public, I do not overlook my friends, but supplicate for them, as I do for yourself, a long course of freedom, happiness, and prosperity.
TO MR. MELISH.
Monticello, January 13, 1913. DEAR SIR, I received duly your favor of December the 15th, and with it the copies of your map and travels, for which be pleased to accept my thanks. The book I have read with extreme satisfaction and information. As to the western States, particularly, it has greatly edified me; for of the actual condition of that interesting portion of our country, I had not an adequate idea. I feel myself now as familiar with it as with the condition of the maritime States. I had no conception that manufactures had made such progress there, and particularly of the number of carding and spinning machines dispersed through the whole country. We are but beginning here to have them in our private families. Small spinning-jennies of from half a dozen to twenty spindles, will soon, however, make their way into the humblest cottages, as well as the richest houses; and nothing is more certain, than that the coarse and middling clothing for our families, will for ever hereafter continue to be made within ourselves. I have hitherto myself depended entirely on foreign manufactures : but I have now thirty-five spindles