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empire, and our free institution ; and I say as devoutly as father Paul, estor perpetua, but I am sometimes Cassandra enough to dream that another Hamilton, and another Burr, might rend this mighty fabric in twain, or perhaps into a leash ; and a few more
; choice spirits of the same stamp, might produce as many nations in North America as there are in Europe.
To return to the Romans. I never could discover that they possessed much virtue, or real liberty. Their Patricians were in general griping usurers, and tyrannical creditors in all ages. Pride, strength, and courage, were all the virtues that composed their national characters; a few of their nobles effecting simplicity, frugality, and piety, perhaps really possessing them, acquired popularity amongst the plebeians, and extended the power and dominions of the republic, and advanced in glory till riches and luxury come in, sat like an incubus on the Republic, victam que ulcissitur orbem.
Our winter sets in a fortnight earlier than usual, and is pretty severe. I hope you have fairer skies, and milder air. Wishing your health may last as long as your life, and your life as long as you desire it, I am, dear Sir, respectfully and affectionately,
TO H. NELSON, ESQ.
MONTICELLO, March 12, 1820 I thank you, dear Sir, for the information in your favor of the 4th instant, of the settlement, for the present, of the Missouri question. I am so completely withdrawn from all attention to public matters, that nothing less could arouse me than the definition of a geographical line, which on an abstract principle is to become the line of separation of these States, and to render desperate the hope that man can ever enjoy the two blessings of peace and self-government. The question sleeps for the present, but is not dead. This State is in a condition of unparalleled distress. The sudden reduction of the circulating medium from a plethory to all but annihilation is producing an entire revolution
of fortune. In other places I have known lands sold by the sheriff for one year's rent; beyond the mountain we hear of good slaves selling for one hundred dollars, good horses for five dollars, and the sheriff's generally the purchasers. Our produce is now selling at market for one-third of its price, before this commercial catastrophe, say flour at three and a quarter and three and a half dollars the barrel. We should have less right to expect relief from our legislators if they had been the establishers of the unwise system of banks. A remedy to a certain degree was practicable, that of reducing the quantum of circulation gradually to a level with that of the countries with which we have commerce, and an eternal abjuration of paper. But they have adjourned without doing anything. I fear local insurrections against these horrible sacrifices of property. In every condition of trouble or tranquillity be assured of my constant esteem
TO MR. ADAMS.
MONTICELLO, March 14, 1820. DEAR SIR, -A continuation of poor health makes me an irregular correspondent. I am, therefore, your debtor for the two letters of January 20th and February 21st. It was after you left Europe that Dugald Stuart, concerning whom you inquire, and Lord Dare, second son of the Marquis of Lansdown, came to Paris. They brought me a letter from Lord Wycombe, whom you knew. I became immediately intimate with Stuart, calling mutually on each other and almost daily, during their stay at Paris, which was of some months. Lord Dare was a young man of imagination, with occasional flashes indicating deep penetration, but of much caprice, and little judgment. He has been long dead, and the family title is now, I believe, in the third son, who has shown in Parliament talents of a superior order. Stuart is a great man, and among the most honest living. I have heard nothing of his dying at top, as you suppose. Mr. Ticknor, however, can give you the best information on that subject, as he
must have heard particularly of him when in Edinburgh, although I believe he did not see him. I have understood he was then in London superintending the publication of a new work. I consider him and Tracy as the ablest metaphysicians living ; by which I mean investigators of the thinking faculty of man. Stuart seems to have given its natural history from facts and observations; Tracy its modes of action and deduction, which he calls Logic, and Ideology; and Cabanis, in his Physique et Morale de l'Homme, has investigated anatomically, and most ingeniously, the particular organs in the human structure which may most probably exercise that faculty. And they ask why may not the mode of action called thought, have been given to a material organ of peculiar structure, as that of magnetism is to the needle, or of elasticity to the spring by a particular manipulation of the steel. They observe that on ignition of the needle or spring, their magnetism and elasticity cease. So on dissolution of the material organ by death, its action of thought may cease also, and that nobody supposes that the magnetism or elasticity retire to hold a substantive and distinct existence. These were qualities only of particular conformations of matter ; change the conformation, and its qualities change also. Mr. Locke, you know, and other materialists, have charged with blasphemy the spiritualists who have denied the Creator the power of endowing certain forms of matter with the faculty of thought. These, however, are speculations and subtleties in which, for my own part, I have little indulged myself. When I meet with a proposition beyond finite comprehension, I abandon it as I do a weight which human strength cannot lift, and I think ignorance, in these cases, is truly the softest pillow on which I can lay my head. Were it necessary, however, to form an opinion, I confess I should, with Mr. Locke, prefer swallowing one incomprehensibility rather than two. It requires one effort only to admit the single incomprehensibility of matter endowed with thought, and two to believe, first that of an existence called spirit, of which we have neither evidence nor idea, and then secondly how that spirit, which has neither extension nor solidity, can put material organs into motion. These are things which you and I may perhaps know ere long. We have so lived as to fear neither horn of the dilemma. We have, willingly, done injury to no man ; and have done for our country the good which has fallen in our way, so far as commensurate with the faculties given us. That we have not done more than we could, cannot be imputed to us as a crime before any tribunal. I look, therefore, to the crisis, as I am sure you also do, as one qui summum nec metuit diem nec optat.” In the meantime be our last as cordial as were our first affections.
TO THE HONORABLE MARK LANGDON HILL.
MONTICELLO, April 5, 1820. SIR,—A near relation of my late friend Governor Langdon, needs no apology for addressing a letter to me, that relationship giving sufficient title to all my respect. We were fellow labor- . ers from the beginning of the first to the accomplishment of the second revolution in our government, of the same zeal and the same sentiments, and I shall honor his memory while memory remains to me. The letter you mention is proof of my friendship and unreserved confidence in him ; it was written in warm times, and is therefore too warmly expressed for the more reconciled temper of the present day. I must pray you, therefore, not to let it get before the public, lest it rekindle a flame which burnt too long and too fiercely against me. It was my lot to be placed at the head of the column which made the first breach in the ramparts of federalism, and to be charged, on that event, with the duty of changing the course of the government from what we deemed a monarchical, to its republican tack. This made me the mark for every shaft which calumny and falsehood could point against me. I bore them with resignation, as one of the duties imposed on me by my post. But I assure you it was among the most painful duties from which I hoped to find relief in retirement. Tranquillity is the summum bonum of old age and ill health, and nothing could so much disturb this with me
as to awaken angry feelings from the slumber in which I wish them ever to remain. I beseech you then, good Sir, in the name of my departed friend, not to bring on me a contention which neither duty nor public good require me to encounter.
I regret the circumstances which have deprived us of the pleasure of your visit, but console myself with the French proverb that “ all is not lost which is deferred,” and the hope that more favorable circumstances will some day give us that gratification. I congratulate you on the sleep of the Missouri question. I wish I could say on its death, but of this I despair. The idea of a geographical line once suggested will brood in the minds of all those who prefer the gratification of their ungovernable passions to the peace and union of their country. If I do not contemplate this subject with pleasure, I do sincerely that of the independence of Maine, and the wise choice they have made of General King in the agency of their affairs, and I tender to yourself the assurance of my esteem and respect.
TO WILLIAM SHORT.
MONTICELLO, April 13, 1820. DEAR Sir,-Your favor of March the 27th is received, and as you request, a copy of the syllabus is now enclosed. It was originally written to Dr. Rush. On his death, fearing that the inquisition of the public might get hold of it, I asked the return of it from the family, which they kindly complied with. At the request of another friend, I had given him a copy. He lent it to his friend to read, who copied it, and in a few months it appeared in the Theological Magazine of London. Happily that repository is scarcely known in this country, and the syllabus, therefore, is still a secret, and in your hands I am sure it will continue so.
But while this syllabus is meant to place the character of Jesus in its true and high light, as no impostor himself, but a great reformer of the Hebrew code of religion, it is not to be understood