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TO DOCTOR COOPER.
MONTCIELLO, November 2, 1822. DEAR SIR, Your favor of October the 18th came to hand yesterday. The atmosphere of our country is unquestionably charged with a threatening cloud of fanaticism, lighter in some parts, denser in others, but too heavy in all. I had no idea, however, that in Pennsylvania, the cradle of toleration and freedom of religion, it could have arisen to the height you describe. This must be owing to the growth of Presbyterianism. The blasphemy and absurdity of the five points of Calvin, and the impossibility of defending them, render their advocates impatient of reasoning, irritable, and prone to denunciation. In Boston, however, and its neighborhood, Unitarianism has advanced to so great strength, as now to humble this haughtiest of all religious sects; insomuch, that they condescend to interchange with them and the other sects, the civilities of preaching freely and frequently in each others' meeting houses. In Rhode Island, on the other hand, no sectarian preacher will permit an Unitarian to pollute his desk. In our Richmond there is much fanaticism, but chiefly among the women. They have their night meetings and praying parties, where, attended by their priests, and sometimes by a hen-pecked husband, they pour forth the effusions of their love to Jesus, in terms as amatory and carnal, as their modesty would permit them to use to a mere earthly lover. In our village of Charlottesville, there is a good degree of religion, with a small spice only of fanaticism. We have four sects, but without either church or meeting-house. The court-house is the common temple, one Sunday in the month to each. Here, Episcopalian and Presbyterian, Methodist and Baptist, meet together, join in hymning their Maker, listen with attention and devotion to each others' preachers, and all mix in society with perfect harmony. It is not so in the districts where Presbyterianism prevails undividedly. Their ambition and tyranny would tolerate no rival if they had power. Systematical in grasping at an ascendency over all other sects, they aim, like the Jesuits, at engrossing the educa
tion of the country, are hostile to every institution which they do not direct, and jealous at seeing others begin to attend at all to that object. The diffusion of instruction, to which there is now so growing an attention, will be the remote remedy to this fever of fanaticism ; while the more proximate one will be the progress of Unitarianism. That this will, ere long, be the religion of the majority from north to south, I have no doubt.
In our university you know there is no Professorship of Divinity. A handle has been made of this, to disseminate an idea that this is an institution, not merely of no religion, but against all religion. Occasion was taken at the last meeting of the Visitors, to bring forward an idea that might silence this calumny, which weighed on the minds of some honest friends to the institution. In our annual report to the legislature, after stating the constitutional reasons against a public establishment of any religious instruction, we suggest the expediency of encouraging the different religious sects to establish, each for itself, a professorship of their own tenets, on the confines of the university, so near as that their students may attend the lectures there, and have the free use of our library, and every other accommodation we can give them ; preserving, however, their independence of us and of each other. This fills the chasm objected to ours, as a defect in an institution professing to give instruction in all useful sciences. I think the invitation will be accepted, by some sects from candid intentions, and by others from jealousy and rivalship. And by bringing the sects together, and mixing them with the mass of other students, we shall soften their asperities, liberalize and neutralize their prejudices, and make the general religion a religion of peace, reason, and morality.
The time of opening our university is still as uncertain as ever. All the pavilions, boarding houses, and dormitories are done. Nothing is now wanting but the central building for a library and other general purposes. For this we have no funds, and the last legislature refused all aid. We have better hopes of the next. But all is uncertain. I have heard with regret of disturbances on the part of the students in your seminary. The article of discipline is the most difficult in American education Premature ideas of independence, too little repressed by parents beget a spirit of insubordination, which is the great obstacle to science with us, and a principal cause of its decay since the rev. olution. I look to it with dismay in our institution, as a breaker ahead, which I am far from being confident we shall be able to weather. The advance of age, and tardy pace of the public patronage, may probably spare me the pain of witnessing consequences.
I salute you with constant friendship and respect.
TO JOHN CAMPBELL, ESQ.
MONTICELLO, November 10, 1822. SIR,--I have to acknowledge your favor of the 4th instant, which gives me the first information I had ever received that the laurels which Colonel Campbell so honorably won in the battle of King's Mountain, had ever been brought into question by any one. To him has been ever ascribed so much of the success of that brilliant action as the valor and conduct of an able commander might justly claim. This lessens nothing the merits of his companions in arms, officers and soldiers, who, all and every one, acted well their parts in their respective stations. I have no papers on this subject in my possession, all such received at that day having belonged to the records of the council, but I remember well the deep and grateful impression made on the mind of every one by that memorable victory. It was the joyful annunciation of that turn of the tide of success which terminated the revolutionary war with the seal of our independence. The slighting expression complained of, as hazarded by the venerable Shelby, might seem inexcusable in a younger man, but he was then old, and I can assure you, dear Sir, from mortifying experience, that the lapses of memory of an old man are innocent subjects of compassion more than of blame. The descendants of Colonel Campbell may rest their heads quietly on the pillow of his renown. History has consecrated, and will forever preserve it in the faithful annals of a grateful country. With the expressions of the high sense I entertain of his character, accept the assurance to yourself of my great esteem and respect.
P. S. I received at the same time with your letter, one from Mr. William C. Preston, on the same subject. Writing is so slow and painful to me, that I must pray you to make for me my acknowledgments to him, and my request that he will consider this as an answer to his as well as your favor.
TO JAMES SMITH.
MONTICELLO, December 8, 1822. SIR,- I have to thank you for your pamphlets on the subject of Unitarianism, and to express my gratification with your efforts for the revival of primitive Christianity in your quarter. No historical fact is better established, than that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that of the early ages of Christianity; and was among the efficacious doctrines which gave it triumph over the polytheism of the ancients, sickened with the absurdities of their own theology. Nor was the unity of the Supreme Being ousted from the Christian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of civil government, wielded at the will of the fanatic Athanasius. The hocus pocus phantasm of a God like another Cerberus, with one body and three heads, had its birth and growth in the blood of thousands and thousands of martyrs. And a strong proof of the solidity of the primitive faith, is its restoration, as soon as a nation arises which vindicates to itself the freedom of religious opinion, and its external divorce from the civil authority. The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe, is now all but ascendant in the eastern States ; it is dawning in the west, and advancing towards the south ; and I confidently expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism become the general religion of the United States. The eastern presses are giving us many excellent pieces on the subject, and Priestley's learned writings on it are, or should be, in every hand. In fact, the Athanasian paradox that one is three, and three but one, is so incomprehensible to the human mind, that no candid man can say he has any
idea of it, and how can he believe what presents no idea ? He who thinks he does, only deceives himself. He proves, also, that man, once surrendering his reason, has no remaining guard against absurdities the most monstrous, and like a ship without rudder, is the sport of every wind. With such persons, gullability, which they call faith, takes the helm from the hand of reason, and the mind becomes a wreck.
I write with freedom, because, while I claim a right to believe in one God, if so my reason tells me, I yield as freely to others that of believing in three. Both religions, I find, make honest men, and that is the only point society has any right to look to. Although this mutual freedom should produce mutual indulgence, yet I wish not to be brought in question before the public on this or any other subject, and I pray you to consider me as writing under that trust. I take no part in controversies, religious or political. At the age of eighty, tranquillity is the greatest good of life, and the strongest of our desires that of dying in the good will of all mankind. And with the assurance of all my good will to Unitarian and Trinitarian, to Whig and Tory, accept for yourself that of my entire respect.
TO MR. EDWARD EVERETT.
MONTICELLO, February 24, 1823. DEAR SIR-I have read with much satisfaction the reply of Mr. Everett, your brother, to the criticisms on his work on the state of Europe, and concur with him generally in the doctrines of the reply. Certainly provisions are not allowed, by the consent of nations, to be contraband but where everything is so, as in the case of a blockaded town, with which all intercourse is