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promise by giving up each one-half. But will either consent, peaceably, to such an abandonment of property ? Or must it not be settled by civil conflict? If peaceably compromised, will they agree to risk another ruin under the same government unreformed ? I think not; but I would rather know what you think ; because you have lived with John Bull, and know better than I do the character of his herd. I salute Mrs. Adams and yourself with every sentiment of affectionate cordiality and respect.
TO THE SECRETARY OF STATE.
MONTICELLO, October 16, 1816. DEAR SIR,—If it be proposed to place an inscription on the capitol, the lapidary style requires that essential facts only should be stated, and these with a brevity admitting no superfluous word. The essential facts in the two inscriptions proposed are these :
FOUNDED 1791.—BURNT BY A BRITISH ARMY 1814.-RESTORED BY CONGRESS 1817.
The reasons for this brevity are that the letters must be of extraordinary magnitude to be read from below; that little space is allowed them, being usually put into a pediment or in a frize, or on a small tablet on the wall; and in our case, a third reason may be added, that no passion can be imputed to this inscription, every word being justifiable from the most classical examples.
But a question of more importance is whether there should be one at all? The barbarism of the conflagration will immortalize that of the nation. It will place them forever in degraded comparison with the execrated Bonaparte, who, in possession of almost every capitol in Europe, injured no one. Of this, history will take care, which all will read, while our inscription will be seen by few. Great Britain, in her pride and ascendency, has certainly hated and despised us beyond every earthly object. Her hatred may remain, but the hour of her contempt is passed and is succeeded by dread; not a present, but a distant and deep
one. It is the greater as she feels herself plunged into an abyss of ruin from which no human means point out an issue. We also have more reason to hate her than any nation on earth. But she is not now an object for hatred. She is falling from her transcendant sphere, which all men ought to have wished, but not that she should lose all place among nations. It is for the interest of all that she should be maintained, nearly on a par with other members of the republic of nations. Her power, absorbed into that of any other, would be an object of dread to all, and to us more than all, because we are accessible to her alone and through her alone. The armies of Bonaparte with the fleets of Britain, would change the aspect of our destinies. Under these prospects should we perpetuate hatred against her? Should we not, on the contrary, begin to open ourselves to other and more rational dispositions? It is not improbable that the circumstances of the war and her own circumstances may have brought her wise men to begin to view us with other and even with kindred eyes. Should not our wise men, then, lifted above the passions of the ordinary citizen, begin to contemplate what will be the interests of our country on so important a change among the elements which influence it? I think it would be better to give her time to show her present temper, and to prepare the minds of our citizens for a corresponding change of disposition, by acts of comity towards England rather than by commemoration of hatred. These views might be greatly extended. Perhaps, however, they are premature, and that I may see the ruin of England nearer than it really is. This will be matter of consideration with those to whose councils we have commited ourselves, and whose wisdom, I am sure, will conclude on what is best. Perhaps they may let it go
off on the single and short consideration that the thing can do no good, and may do harm. Ever and affectionately yours.
TO JOHN ADAMS.
Poplar FOBEST, November 25, 1816. I receive here, dear Sir, your favor of the 4th, just as I am preparing my return to Monticello for winter quarters, and I hasten to answer to some of your inquiries. The Tracy I mentioned to you is the one connected by marriage with Lafayette's family. The mail which brought your letter, brought one also from him. He writes me that he is become blind, and so infirm that he is no longer able to compose anything. So that we are to consider his works as now closed. They are three volumes of Ideology, one on Political Economy, one on Ethics, and one containing his Commentary on Montesquieu, and a little tract on Education. Although his commentary explains his principles of government, he had intended to have substituted for it an elementary and regular treatise on the subject, but he is prevented by his infirmities. His Analyse de Dupuys he does not avow.
My books are all arrived, some at New York, some at Boston, and I am glad to hear that those for Harvard are safe also, and the Uranologia you mention without telling me what it is. It is something good, I am sure, from the name connected with it; and if you would add to it your fable of the bees, we should receive valuable instruction as to the Uranologia both of the father and son, more valuable than the Chinese will from our bible societies. These incendiaries, finding that the days of fire and fagot are over in the Atlantic hemisphere, are now preparing to put the torch to the Asiatic regions. What would they say were the Pope to send annually to this country, colonies of Jesuit priests with cargoes of their missal and translations of their Vulgate, to be put gratis into the hands of every one who would accept them ? and to act thus nationally on us as a nation ?
I proceed to the letter you were so good as to enclose me. It is an able letter, speaks volumes in few words, presents a profound view of awful truths, and lets us see truths more awful, which are still to follow. George the Third then, and his minister Pitt, and successors, have spent the fee simple of the kingdom, under pretence of governing it; their sinecures, salaries, pensions, priests, prelates, princes and eternal wars, have mortgaged to its full value the last foot of their soil. They are reduced to the dilemma of a bankrupt spendthrift, who, having run through his whole fortune, now asks himself what he is to do? It is in vain he dismisses his coaches and horses, his grooms, liveries, cooks and butlers. This done, he still finds he has nothing to eat. What was his property is now that of his creditors; if still in his hands, it is only as their trustee. To them it belongs, and to them every farthing of its profits must go. The reformation of extravagances comes too late. All is gone. Nothing left for retrenchment or frugality to go on.
The debts of England, however, being due from the whole nation to one half of it, being as much the debt of the creditor as debtor, if it could be referred to a court of equity, principles might be devised to adjust it peaceably. Dismiss their parasites, ship off their paupers to this country, let the landholders give half their lands to the money lenders, and these last relinquish one half of their debts. They would still have a fertile island, a sound and effective population to labor it, and would hold that station among political powers, to which their natural resources and faculties entitle them. They would no longer, indeed, be the lords of the ocean and paymasters of all the princes of the earth. They would no longer enjoy the luxuries of pirating and plundering everything by sea, and of bribing and corrupting everything by land; but they might enjoy the more safe and lasting luxury of living on terms of equality, justice and good neighborhood with all nations. As it is, their first efforts will probably be to quiet things awhile by the palliatives of reformation ; to nibble a little at pensions and sinecures, to bite off a bit here, and a bite there to amuse the people ; and to keep the government a going by encroachments on the interest of the public debt, one per cent. of which, for instance, withheld, gives them a spare revenue of ten millions for present subsistence, and spunges, in fact, two hundred millions of the debt. This remedy they may endeavor to administer in broken doses of a small pill at a time. The first may not occasion more than a strong nausea in the money lenders; but the second will probably produce a revulsion of the stomach, borborisms, and spasmodic calls for fair settlement and compromise. But it is not in the character of man to come to any peaceable compromise of such a state of things. The princes and priests will hold to the flesh-pots, the empty bellies will seize on them, and these being the multitude, the issue is obvious, civil war, massacre, exile as in France, until the stage is cleaned of everything but the multitude, and the lands get into their hands by such processes as the revolution will engender. They will then want peace and a government, and what will it be? certainly not a renewal of that which has already ruined them. Their habits of law and order, their ideas almost innate of the vital elements of free government, of trial by jury, habeas corpus, freedom of the press, freedom of opinion, and representative government, make them, I think, capable of bearing a considerable portion of liberty. They will probably turn their eyes to us, and be disposed to tread in our footsteps, seeing how safely these have led us into port. There is no part of our model to which they seem unequal, unless perhaps the elective presidency; and even that might possibly be rescued from the tumult of elections, by subdividing the electoral assemblages into very small parts, such as of wards or townships, and making them simultaneous. But you know them so much better than I do, that it is presumption to offer my conjectures to you.
While it is much our interest to see this power reduced from its towering and borrowed height, to within the limits of its natural resources, it is by no means our interest that she should be brought below that, or lose her competent place among the nations of Europe. The present exhausted state of the continent will, I hope, permit them to go through their struggle without foreign interference, and to settle their new government according to their own will. I think it will be friendly to us, as the nation itself would be were it not artfully wrought up by the hatred their government bears us. And were they once un