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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Thomas Jefferson Letter to Benjamin Franklin - December, 1786

Cover of L'Encyclopédie (1751)Image via Wikipedia
TO HIS EXCELLENCY DR. FRANKLIN.

PARIS, December 23, 1786.

DEAR SIR,--I have received your favor of October 8, but the volume of transactions mentioned to come with it, did not; but I had received one from Mr. Hopkinson. You also mention the diplomas it covered for other persons, and some order of the society relative to myself, which I supposed were omitted by accident, and will come by some other conveyance. So far as relates to myself, whatever the order was, I beg leave to express to you my sense of their favor, and wish to merit it. I have several livraisons of the "Encyclopédie" for yourself and Mr. Hopkinson, which shall be sent in the spring, when they will be less liable to injury. Some books also which I received from Baron Blome must await that conveyance. I receive some discouraging accounts of the temper of the people in our new government, yet were I to judge only from the accounts given in the public papers, I should not fear their passing over without injury. I wish you may have given your opinion of them to some of your friends here, as your experience and knowledge of men would give us more confidence in your opinion. Russia and the Porte have patched up an accommodation through the mediation of this court. The coolness between Spain and Naples will remain, and will occasion the former to cease intermeddling with the affairs of the latter. The Dutch affairs are still to be settled. The new King of Prussia is more earnest in supporting the cause of the slaveholder than his uncle was, and in general an affectation begins to show itself of differing from his uncle. There is some fear of his throwing himself into the Austrian scale in the European division of power. Our treaty with Morocco is favorably concluded through the influence of Spain. That with Algiers affords no expectation. We have been rendered anxious here about your health, by hearing you have had a severe attack of your gout. Remarkable deaths are the Duchess of Chabot, of the House of Rochefoucault, Beaujon, and Peyronet, the architect who built the bridge of Neuilly, and was to have begun one the next spring from the Place Louis XV. to the Palais Bourbon. A dislocated wrist not yet re-established, obliges me to conclude here with assurances of the perfect esteem and respect with which I have the honor to be, your Excellency's most obedient, and most humble servant.

Thomas Jefferson

P. S. Will you permit my respects to your grandson, Mr. Franklin, to find their place here?

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Letter to General George Washington - November, 1786

Lafayette visits George Washington after the A...Image via Wikipedia
TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.

PARIS, November 14, 1786.

SIR,--The house of Le Coulteux, which for some centuries has been the wealthiest of this place, has it in contemplation to establish a great company for the fur trade. They propose that partners interested one half in the establishment, should be American citizens, born and residing in the United States. Yet if I understood them rightly, they expect that that half of the company which resides here, should make the greatest part, or perhaps the whole of the advances, while those on our side of the water should superintend the details. They had, at first, thought of Baltimore as the centre of their American transactions. I have pointed out to them the advantages of Alexandria for this purpose. They have concluded to take information as to Baltimore, Philadelphia, and New York, for a principal deposit, and having no correspondent at Alexandria, have asked me to procure a state of the advantages of that place, as also to get a recommendation of the best merchant there, to be adopted as partner and head of the business there. Skill, punctuality and integrity are the requisites in such a character. They will decide on their whole information, as to the place for their principal factory. Being unwilling that Alexandria should lose its pretensions, I have undertaken to procure them information as to that place. If they undertake this trade at all, it will be on so great a scale as to decide the current of the Indian trade to the place they adopt. I have no acquaintance at Alexandria or in its neighborhood; but, believing you would feel an interest in the matter, from the same motives which I do, I venture to ask the favor of you to recommend to me a proper merchant for their purpose, and to engage some well-informed person to send me a representation of the advantages of Alexandria, as the principal deposit of the fur trade.

The author of the political part of the "Encyclopédie Methodique" desired me to examine his article, "Etats Unis." I did so. I found it a tissue of errors; for, in truth, they know nothing about us here. Particularly, however, the article "Cincinnati" was a mere philippic against that institution; in which it appeared that there was an utter ignorance of facts and motives. I gave him notes on it. He reformed it, as he supposed, and sent it again to me to revise. In this reformed state, Colonel Humphreys saw it. I found it necessary to write that article for him. Before I gave it to him, I showed it to the Marquis de La Fayette, who made a correction or two. I then sent it to the author. He used the materials, mixing a great deal of his own with them. In a work, which is sure of going down to the latest posterity, I thought it material to set facts to rights as much as possible. The author was well disposed; but could not entirely get the better of his original bias. I send you the article as ultimately published. If you find any material errors in it, and will be so good as to inform me of them, I shall probably have opportunities of setting this author to rights. What has heretofore passed between us on this institution, makes it my duty to mention to you, that I have never heard a person in Europe, learned or unlearned, express his thoughts on this institution, who did not consider it as dishonorable and destructive to our governments; and that every writing which has come out since my arrival here, in which it is mentioned, considers it, even as now reformed, as the germ whose development is one day to destroy the fabric we have reared. I did not apprehend this, while I had American ideas only. But I confess that what I have seen in Europe has brought me over to that opinion; and that though the day may be at some distance, beyond the reach of our lives perhaps, yet it will certainly come, when a single fibre left of this institution will produce an hereditary aristocracy, which will change the form of our governments from the best to the worst in the world. To know the mass of evil which flows from this fatal source, a person must be in France; he must see the finest soil, the finest climate, the most compact State, the most benevolent character of people, and every earthly advantage combined, insufficient to prevent this scourge from rendering existence a curse to twenty-four out of twenty-five parts of the inhabitants of this country. With us, the branches of this institution cover all the States. The southern ones, at this time, are aristocratical in their dispositions; and, that that spirit should grow and extend itself, is within the natural order of things. I do not flatter myself with the immortality of our governments; but I shall think little also of their longevity, unless this germ of destruction be taken out. When the society themselves shall weigh the possibility of evil, against the impossibility of any good to proceed from this institution, I cannot help hoping they will eradicate it. I know they wish the permanence of our governments, as much as any individuals composing them.

An interruption here, and the departure of the gentleman by whom I send this, oblige me to conclude it, with assurances of the sincere respect and esteem with which I have the honor to be, dear Sir, your most obedient, and most humble servant.

Th. Jefferson
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Thomas Jefferson - First Inaugural Address - March 4, 1801

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AT WASHINGTON, D.C.

Friends and Fellow-Citizens.

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled to express my grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land, traversing all the seas with the rich productions of their industry, engaged in commerce with nations who feel power and forget right, advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye--when I contemplate these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation, and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should I despair did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we are all embarked amidst the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed the animation of discussions and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers unused to think freely and to speak and to write what they think; but this being now decided by the voice of the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression. Let us, then, fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind. Let us restore to social intercourse that harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let us reflect that, having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and feared by some and less by others, and should divide opinions as to measures of safety. But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different names brethren of the same principle. We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that a republican government can not be strong, that this Government is not strong enough; but would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a government which has so far kept us free and firm on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government, the world's best hope, may by possibility want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it the only one where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man can not be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the forms of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.

Let us, then, with courage and confidence pursue our own Federal and Republican principles, our attachment to union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our descendants to the thousandth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our own industry, to honor and confidence from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth, but from our actions and their sense of them; enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and adoring an overruling Providence, which by all its dispensations proves that it delights in the happiness of man here and his greater happiness hereafter--with all these blessings, what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens--a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend everything dear and valuable to you, it is proper you should understand what I deem the essential principles of our Government, and consequently those which ought to shape its Administration. I will compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations for our domestic concerns and the surest bulwarks against antirepublican tendencies; the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet anchor of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people--a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution where peaceable remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority, the vital principle of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent of despotism; a well-disciplined militia, our best reliance in peace and for the first moments of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority; economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burthened; the honest payment of our debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of the public reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press, and freedom of person under the protection of the habeas corpus, and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation which has gone before us and guided our steps through an age of revolution and reformation. The wisdom of our sages and blood of our heroes have been devoted to their attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the touchstone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps and to regain the road which alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this the greatest of all, I have learnt to expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence you reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose preeminent services had entitled him to the first place in his country's love and destined for him the fairest page in the volume of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong through defect of judgment. When right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional, and your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a great consolation to me for the past, and my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance, to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work, ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your power to make. And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe lead our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.
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Thomas Jefferson - A Short Bio

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Thomas Jefferson was born at Shadwell, Albemarle County, Va., on April 2 (old style), 1743. He was the oldest son of Peter Jefferson, who died in 1757. After attending private schools, he entered William and Mary College in 1760. In 1767 began the practice of the law. In 1769 was chosen to represent his county in the Virginia house of Burgesses, a station he continued to fill up to the period of the Revolution. He married Mrs. Martha Skelton in 1772, she being a daughter of John Wayles, an eminent lawyer of Virginia. On March 12, 1773, was chosen a member of the first committee of correspondence established by the Colonial legislature. Was elected a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1775; was placed on the Committee of Five to prepare the Declaration of Independence, and at the request of that committee he drafted the Declaration, which, with slight amendments, was adopted July 4, 1776. Resigned his seat in Congress and occupied one in the Virginia legislature in October, 1776. Was elected governor of Virginia by the legislature on June 1, 1779, to succeed Patrick Henry. Retired to private life at the end of his term as governor, but was the same year elected again to the legislature. Was appointed commissioner with others to negotiate treaties with France in 1776, but declined. In 1782 he was appointed by Congress minister plenipotentiary to act with others in Europe in negotiating a treaty of peace with Great Britain. Was again elected a Delegate to Congress in 1783, and as a member of that body he advocated and had adopted the dollar as the unit and the present system of coins and decimals. In May, 1784, was appointed minister plenipotentiary to Europe to assist John Adams and Benjamin Franklin in negotiating treaties of commerce. In March, 1785, was appointed by Congress minister at the French Court to succeed Dr. Franklin, and remained in France until September, 1789. On his arrival at Norfolk, November 23, 1789, received a letter from Washington offering him the appointment of Secretary of State in his Cabinet. Accepted and became the first Secretary of State under the Constitution. December 31, 1793, resigned his place in the Cabinet and retired to private life at his home. In 1796 was brought forward by his friends as a candidate for President, but Mr. Adams, receiving the highest number of votes, was elected President, and Jefferson became Vice-President for four years from March 4, 1797. In 1800 was again voted for by his party for President. He and Mr. Burr received an equal number of electoral votes, and under the Constitution the House of Representatives was called upon to elect. Mr. Jefferson was chosen on the thirty-sixth ballot. Was re-elected in 1804, and retired finally from public life March 4, 1809. He died on the 4th day of July, 1826, and was buried at Monticello, Va.
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LETTER FROM THE PRESIDENT ELECT, Thomas Jefferson

The President laid before the Senate a letter from the President elect of the United States, which was read, as follows:

WASHINGTON, March 2, 1801.

The PRESIDENT PRO TEMPORE OF THE SENATE.

SIR: I beg leave through you to inform the honorable the Senate of the United States that I propose to take the oath which the Constitution prescribes to the President of the United States before he enters on the execution of his office on Wednesday, the 4th instant, at 12 o'clock, in the Senate Chamber.

I have the honor to be, with the greatest respect, sir, your most obedient and most humble servant,

TH. JEFFERSON.
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