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the possible effects of their example on Brazil. I expect to return to Monticello about the middle of the ensuing month, and salute you with constant affection and respect.
TO THOMAS RITCHIE.
MONTICELLO, December 25, 1820. DEAR SIR,—On my return home after a long absence, I find here your favor of November the 23d, with Colonel Taylor's "Construction Construed,” which you have been so kind as to send me, in the name of the author as well as yourself. Permit me, if you please, to use the same channel for conveying to him the thanks I render you also for this mark of attention. I shall read it, I know, with edification, as I did his Inquiry, to which I acknowledge myself indebted for many valuable ideas, and for the correction of some errors of early opinion, never seen in a correct light until presented to me in that work. That the present volume is equally orthodox, I know before reading it, because I know that Colonel Taylor and myself have rarely, if ever, differed in any political principle of importance. Every act of his life, and every word he ever wrote, satisfies me of this. So, also, as to the two Presidents, late and now in office, I know them both to be of principles as truly republican as any men living. If there be anything amiss, therefore, in the present state of our affairs, as the formidable deficit lately unfolded to us indicates, I ascribe it to the inattention of Congress to their duties, to their unwise dissipation and waste of the public contributions. They seemed, some little while ago, to be at a loss for objects whereon to throw away the supposed fathomless funds of the treasury. I had feared the result, because I saw among them some of my old fellow laborers, of tried and known principles, yet often in their minorities. I am aware that in one of their most ruinous vagaries, the people were themselves betrayed into the same phrenzy with their Representatives. The deficit produced, and a heavy ax to supply it, will, I trust, bring both to their sober senses.
But it is not from this branch of government we have most to fear. Taxes and short elections will keep them right. The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a co-ordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. This will lay all things at their feet, and they are too well versed in English law to forget the maxim, " boni judicis est ampliare jurisdictionem.” We shall see if they are bold enough to take the daring stride their five lawyers have lately taken. If they do, then, with the editor of our book, in his address to the public, I will say, that
, “ against this every man should raise his voice," and more, should uplift his arm. Who wrote this admirable address ? Sound, luminous, strong, not a word too much, nor one which can be changed but for the worse: That pen should go on, lay bare these wounds of our constitution, expose the decisions seriatim, and arouse, as it is able, the attention of the nation to these bold-speculators on its patience. Having found, from experience, , that impeachment is an impracticable thing, a mere scare-crow, they consider themselves secure for life; they sculk from responsibility to public opinion, the only remaining hold on them, under a practice first introduced into England by Lord Mansfield. An opinion is huddled up in conclave, perhaps by a majority of one, delivered as if unanimous, and with the silent acquiescence of lazy or timid associates, by a crafty chief judge, who sophisticates the law to his mind, by the turn of his own reasoning. A judiciary law was once reported by the Attorney General to Congress, requiring each judge to deliver his opinion seriatim and openly, and then to give it in writing to the clerk to be entered in the record. A judiciary independent of a king or executive alone, is a good thing; but independence of the will of the nation is a solecism, at least in a republican government.
But to return to your letter ; you ask for my opinion of the work you send me, and to let it go out to the public. This I have ever made a point of declining, (one or two instances only excepted. Complimentary thanks to writers who have sent me their works, have betrayed me sometimes before the public, without my consent having been asked. But I am far from presuming to direct the reading of my fellow citizens, who are good enough judges themselves of what is worthy their reading. I am, also, too desirous of quiet to place myself in the way of contention. Against this I am admonished by bodily decay, which cannot be unaccompanied by corresponding wane of the mind. Of this I am as yet sensible, sufficiently to be unwilling to trust myself before the public, and when I cease to be so, I hope that my friends will be too careful of me to draw me forth and present me, like a Priam in armor, as a spectacle for public compassion. I hope our political bark will ride through all its dangers; but I can in future be but an inert passenger.
I salute you with sentiments of great friendship and respect.
TO M. DE LA FAYETTE.
MONTICELLO, December 26, 1820. It is long, indeed, my very dear friend, since I have been able to address a letter to you. For more than two years my health, has been so entirely prostrate, that I have, of necessity, intermitted all correspondence. The dislocated wrist, too, which perhaps you may recollect, has now become so stiff from the effects of age, that writing is become a slow and painful operation, and scarcely ever undertaken but under the goad of imperious business. In the meantime your country has been going on less well than I had hoped. But it will go on. The light which has been shed on the mind of man through the civilized world, has given it a new direction, from which no human power can divert it. The sovereigns of Europe who are wise, or have wise counsellors, see this, and bend to the breese which blows; the unwise alone stiffen and meet its inevitable crush. The volcanic rumblings in the bowels of Europe, from north to south, seem to VOL. VII.
threaten a general explosion, and the march of armies into Italy cannot end in a simple march. The disease of liberty is catching; those armies will take it in the south, carry it thence to their own country, spread ihere the infection of revolution and representative government, and raise its people from the prone condition of brutes to the erect altitude of man. Some fear our envelopment in the wars engendering from the unsettled state of our affairs with Spain, and therefore are anxious for a ratification of our treaty with her. I fear no such thing, and hope that if ratified by Spain it will be rejected here. We may justly say to Spain," when this negotiation commenced, twenty years ago, your authority was acknowledged by those you are selling to us. That authority is now renounced, and their right of self-disposal asserted. In buying them from you, then, we buy but a wartitle, a right to subdue them, which you can neither convey nor we acquire. This is a family quarrel in which we have no right to meddle. Settle it between yourselves, and we will then treat with the party whose right is acknowledged.” With whom that will be, no doubt can be entertained. And why should we revolt them by purchasing them as cattle, rather than receiving them as fellow-men? Spain has held off until she sees they are lost to her, and now thinks it better to get something than nothing for them. When she shall see South America equally desperate, she will be wise to sell that also.
With us things are going on well. The boisterous sea of liberty indeed is never without a wave, and that from Missouri is now rolling towards us, but we shall ride over it as we have over all others. It is not a moral question, but one merely of power. Its object is to raise a geographical principle for the choice of a president, and the noise will be kept up till that is effected. All know that permitting the slaves of the south to spread into the west will not add one being to that unfortunate condition, that it will increase the happiness of those existing, and by spreading them over a larger surface, will dilute the evil everywhere, and facilitate the means of getting finally rid of it, an event more anxiously wished by those on whom it presses than by the noisy pretenders to exclusive humanity. In the meantime, it is a ladder for rivals climbing to power.
In a letter to Mr. Porrey, of March 18th, 1819, I informed him of the success of our application to Congress on his behalf. I enclosed this letter to you, but hearing nothing from him, and as you say nothing of it in yours of July 20th, I am not without fear it may have miscarried. In the present I enclose for him the Auditor's certificate, and the letters of General Washington and myself, which he had forwarded to me with a request of their return. Your kindness in delivering this will render unnecessary another letter from me, an effort which necessarily obliges me to spare myself.
If you shall hear from me more seldom than heretofore, ascribe it, my ever dear friend, to the heavy load of seventy-seven years and to waning health, but not to weakened affections; these will continue what they have ever been, and will ever be sincere and warm to the latest breath of yours devotedly.
MONTICELLO, December 27, 1820. DEAR SIR,_Your letter received more than a twelvemonth ago, with the two tracts on penal jurisprudence, and the literary institution of Liverpool, ought long since to have called for the thanks I now return, had it been in my power sooner to have tendered them. But a long continuance of ill health has suspended all power of answering the kind attentions with which I have been honored during it; and it is only now that a state of slow and uncertain convalescence enables me to make acknowledgments which have been so long and painfully delayed. The treatise on penal jurisprudence I read with great pleasure. Beccaria had demonstrated general principles, but practical applications were difficult. Our States are trying them with more or less success; and the great light you have thrown on the subject will, I am sure, be useful to our experiment. For the thing, as