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letter to Mr. Adams a few years ago, I had occasion
to explain to him the structure of our scheme of
education as proposed in the bill for the diffusion
of knowledge, and the views of this particular section
of it; and in another lately to Mr. Cabell, on the
occasion of the bill for the Albemarle College, I also
took a view of the political effects of the proposed
division into wards, which being more easily cop'ed
than thrown into new form here, I take the liberty
of enclosing extracts from them. Should the Board
of Directors approve of the plan, and make ward
divisions the substratum of their elementary schools,

Correspondence 455

their report may furnish a happy occasion of intro-
ducing them, leaving all their other uses to be adapted
from time to time hereafter as occasions shall occur.

With these subjects I shall close the present letter,
but that it may be necessary to anticipate on the next
one so far as respects proper persons for carrying into
execution the astronomical and geometrical surveys,
I know no one in the State equal to the first who
could be engaged in it; but my acquaintance in the
State is very limited. There is a person near Wash-
ington possessing every quality which could be de-
sired, among our first mathematicians and astrono-
mers, of good bodily activity, used to rough living,
of great experience in field operations, and of the
most perfect integrity. I speak of Isaac Briggs, who
was Surveyor-General south of Ohio, and who was
employed to trace the route from Washington to
New Orleans, below the mountains, which he did
with great accuracy by observations of longitude and
latitude only, on a journey thither. I do not know
that he would undertake the present work, but I have
learnt that he is at this time disengaged ; I know he
is poor, and was always moderate in his views. This
is the most important of all the surveys, and if done
by him, I will answer for this part of your work stand-
ing the test of time and criticism. If you should
desire it, I could write and press him to undertake
it ; but it would be necessary to say something about

John Wood, of the Petersburg Academy, has writ-

4S^ Jefferson's Works

ten to me that he would be wilhng to undertake the
geometrical survey of the external boundaries, and
internal divisions. We have certainly no abler
mathematician ; and he informs me he has had good
experience in the works of the field. He is a great
walker, and is, therefore, probably equal to the bodily
fatigue, Vv^hich is a material qualification. But he is
so much better known where you are, that I need
only mention his readiness to undertake, and your
own personal knowledge or inquiries will best deter-
mine what should be done. It is the part of the work
above the tide-waters w^hich he would undertake;
that below, where soundings are to be taken, requir-
ing nautical apparatus and practice.

Whether he is a mineralogist or not, I do not know.
It would be a convenient and economical association
with that of the geometrical survey.

I am obliged to postpone for some days the con-
sideration of the remaining subjects of your letter.
Accept the assurance of my great esteem and high


MoNTicELLo, April 6, 1816.

Sir, — Your favor of March 6th did not come to
hand until the 1 5 th. I then expected I should finish
revising the translation of Tracy's book within a week,
and could send the whole together. I got through
it, but, on further consideration, thought I ought to

Correspondence 457

read it over again, lest any errors should have been
left in it. It was fortunate I did so, for I found
several little errors. The whole is now done and
forwarded by this mail, with a title, and something
I have written which may serve for a Prospectus, and
indeed for a Preface also, with a little alteration.
You will see from the face of the work what a horrible
job I have had in the revisal. It is so defaced that it
is absolutely necessary you should have a fair copy
taken, and by a person of good understanding, for
that will be necessary to decipher the erasures, inter-
lineations, etc., of the translation. The translator's
orthograph}^ too, will need great correction, as you
will find a multitude of words shamefully misspelt;
and he seems to have had no idea of the use of stops :
he uses the comma very commonly for a full stop;
and as often the full stop, followed by a capital letter,
for a comma. Your copyist will, therefore, have to
stop it properly quite through the work. Still, there
will be places where it cannot be stopped correctly
without reference to the original; for I observed
many instances where a member of a sentence might
be given either to the preceding or following one,
grammatically, which would yet make the sense very
different, and could, therefore, be rectified only by
the original. I have, therefore, thought it would be
better for you to send me the proof sheets as they
come out of the press. We have two mails a week,
which leave this Wednesdays and Saturdays, and
you should always receive it by return of the first

4sS Jefferson's Works

mail. Only observe that I set out for Bedford in five
or six days, and shall not be back till the first week
in May.

The original construction of the style of the trans-
lation was so bungling, that although I have made it
render the author's sense faithfully, yet it was im-
possible to change the structure of the sentences to
anything good. I have endeavored to apologize for
it in the Prospectus ; as also to prepare the reader for
the dry, and to most of them, uninteresting character
of the preliminary tracts, advising him to pass at
once to the beginning of the main work, where, also,
you will see I have recommended the beginning the
principal series of pages. In this I have departed
from the order of pages adopted by the author.

My name must in nowise appear connected with
the work. I have no objection to your naming me
in conversation, but not in print, as the person to
whom the original was communicated. Although
the author puts his name to the work, yet, if called
to account for it by his government, he means to dis-
avow it, which its publication at such a distance will
enable him to do. But he would not think himself
at liberty to do this if avowedly sanctioned by me
here. The best open mark of approbation I can give
is to subscribe for a dozen copies; or if you would
prefer it, you may place on your subscription paper
a letter in these words: " Sir, I subscribe with pleas-
ure for a dozen copies of the invaluable book you are
about to publish on Political Economy. I should

Correspondence . 459

be happy to see it in the hands of every American

The Ainsworth, Ovid, ComeHus Nepos and Virgil,
as also of the two books below mentioned,^ and for-
merly written for, I fear I shall not get, the Ovid and
Nepos I sent to be bound, in time for the pocket in
my Bedford trip. Accept my best wishes and re-

Title. — "A Treatise on Political Economy by the
Count Destutt Tracy, member of the Senate and In-
stitute of France, and of the American Philosophical
Society, to which is prefixed a supplement to a pre-
ceding work on the Understanding or Elements of
Ideology, by the same author, with an analytical
table, and an introduction on the faculty of the will,
translated from the unpublished French original."

Prospectus. — Political Economy in modem times
assumed the form of a regular science first in the
hands of the political sect in France, called the Econo-
mists. They made it a branch only of a comprehen-
sive system on the natural order of societies. Ques-
nai first, Gournay, Le Frosne, Turgot and Dupont
de Nemours, the enlightened, philanthropic, and ven-
erable citizen, now of the United States, led the way
in these developments, and gave to our inquiries the
direction they have since observed. Many sound

f ^ Moore's Greek Grammar, translated by Ewen. Mail's Tyro's Dic-

46o Jefferson's Works

and valuable principles established by them, have
received the sanction of general approbation. Some,
as in the infancy of a science might be expected, have
been brought into question, and have furnished occa-
sion for much discussion. Their opinions on pro-
duction, and on the proper subjects of taxation, have
been particularly controverted; and whatever may
be the merit of their principles of taxation, it is not
wonderful they have not prevailed ; not on the ques-
tioned score of correctness, but because not accept-
able to the people, whose will must be the supreme
law. Taxation is in fact the most difficult function
of government — and that against which their citizens
are most apt to be refractory. The general aim is
therefore to adopt the mode most consonant with the
circumstances and sentiments of the country.

Adam Smith, first in England, published a rational
and systematic work on Political Economy, adopting
generally the ground of the Economists, but differing
on the subjects before specified. The system being
novel, much argument and detail seemed then neces-
sary to establish principles which now are assented
to as soon as proposed. Hence his book, admitted
to be able, and of the first degree of merit, has yet
been considered as prolix and tedious.

In France, John Baptist Say has the merit of pro-
ducing a very superior work on the subject of Political
Economy. His arrangement is luminous, ideas clear,
style perspicuous, and the whole subject brought
within half the volume of Smith's work. x\dd to this

Correspondence 461

considerable advances in correctness and extension
of principles.

The work of Senator Tracy, now announced, conies
forward with all the lights of his predecessors in
the science, and with the advantages of further
experience, more discussion, and greater maturity
of subjects. It is certainly distinguished by impor-
tant traits ; a cogency of logic which has never been
exceeded in any work, a rigorous enchainment of
ideas, and constant recurrence to it to keep it in the
reader's view, a fearless pursuit of truth whitherso-
ever it leads, and a diction so correct that not a word
can be changed but for the worse; and, as happens
in other cases, that the more a subject is understood,
the more briefly it may be explained, he has reduced,
not indeed all the details, but all the elements and
the system of principles within the compass of an 8vo,
of about 400 pages. Indeed we might say within
two-thirds of that space, the one-third being taken
up with some preliminary pieces now to be noticed.

Mr. Tracy is the author of a treatise on the Ele-
ments of Ideology, justly considered as a production
of the first order in the science of our thinking faculty,
or of the understanding. Considering the present
work but as a second section to those Elements under
the titles of Analytical Table, Supplement, and In-
troduction, he gives in these preliminary pieces a
supplement to the Elements, shows how the present
work stands on that as its basis, presents a summary
view of it, and, before entering on the formation, dis-

4^2 Jefferson's Works

tribution, and employment of property and person-
ality, a question not new indeed, yet one which has
not hitherto been satisfactorily settled. These in-
vestigations are very metaphysical, profound, and
demonstrative, and will give satisfaction to minds in
the habit of abstract speculation. Readers, however,
not disposed to enter into them, after reading the
summary view, entitled, " on our actions," will prob-
ably pass on at once to the commencement of the
main subject of the work, which is treated of under
the following heads :

Of Society.

Of Production, or the formation of our riches.

Of Value, or the measure of utility.

Of change of form, or fabrication.

Of change of place, or commerce.

Of Money.

Of the distribution of our riches.

Of Population.

Of the employment of our riches, or consumption.

Of public revenue, expenses and debts.

Although the work now offered is but a translation,
it may be considered in some degree as the original,
that having never been published in the country in
which it was written. The author would there have
been submitted to the unpleasant alternative either
of mutilating his sentiments, where they were either
free or doubtful, or of risking himself under the un-
settled regimen of the press. A manuscript copy
communicated to a friend here has enabled him to

Correspondence 463

give it to a country which is afraid to read nothing,
and which may be trusted with anything, so long as
its reason remains unfettered by law.

In the translation, fidelity has been chiefly con-
sulted. A more correct style would sometimes have
given a shade of sentiment which was not the au-
thor's, and which, in a work standing in the place of
the original, would have been unjust towards him.
Some Gallicisms have, therefore, been admitted,
where a single word gives an idea which would re-
quire a whole phrase of dictionary English. Indeed,
the horrors of Neologism, which startle the purist,
have given no alarm to the translator. Where brev-
ity, perspicuity, and even euphony can be promoted
by the introduction of a new word, it is an improve-
ment to the language. It is thus the English lan-
guage has been brought to what it is; one-half of it
having been innovations, made at different times,
from the Greek. Latin, French, and other languages.
And is it the worse for these ? Had the preposterous
idea of fixing the language been adopted by our Saxon
ancestors, of Pierce Plowman, of Chaucer, of Spenser,
the progress of ideas must have stopped with that of
the language. On the contrary, nothing is more evi-
dent than that as we advance in the knowledge of
new things, and of new combinations of old ones, we
must have new words to express them. Were Van
Helmont, Stane, Scheele, to rise from the dead at
this time, they would scarcely understand one word
of their own science. Would it have been better,

4^4 Jefferson's Works

then, to have abandoned the science of Chemistry,
rather than admit innovations in its terms? What
a wonderful accession of copiousness and force has
the French language attained, by the innovations of
the last thirty years! And what do we not owe to
Shakespeare for the enrichment of the language, by
his free and magical creation of words ? In giving a
loose to Neologism, indeed, uncouth words will some-
times be offered ; but the public will judge them, and
receive or reject, as sense or sound shall suggest, and
authors will be approved or condemned according to
the use they make of this license, as they now are
from their use of the present vocabulary. The claim
of the present translation, however, is limited to its
duties of fidelity and justice to the sense of its orig-
inal; adopting the author's own word only where no
term of our own language would convey his meaning.

{A Note communicated to the Editor.)

Our author's classification of taxes being taken
from those practised in France, will scarcely be intel-
ligible to an American reader, to whom the nature
as well as names of some of them must be unknown.
The taxes with which we are familiar, class them-
selves readily according to the basis on which they
rest. I. Capital. 2. Income. 3. Consumption.
These may be considered as commensurate; Con-
sumption being generally equal to Incom^e, and In-
come the annual profit of Capital. A government
may select either of these bases for the establishment

Correspondence 465

of its system of taxation, and so frame it as to reach
the faculties of every member of the society, and to
draw from him his equal proportion of the public con-
tributions; and, if this be correctly obtained, it is the
perfection of the function of taxation. But when
once a government has assumed its basis, to select
and tax special articles from either of the other
classes, is double taxation. For example, if the
system be established on the basis of Income, and
his just proportion on that scale has been already
drawn from every one, to step into the field of Con-
sumption, and tax special articles in that, as broad-
cloth or homespun, wine or whiske}^ a coach or a
wagon, is doubly taxing the same article. For that
portion of Income with which these articles are pur-
chased, having already paid its tax as Income, to pay
another tax on the thing it purchased, is paying
twice for the same thing ; it is an aggrievance on the
citizens who use these articles in exoneration of those
who do not, contrary to the most sacred of the duties
of a government, to do equal and impartial justice
to all its citizens.

How far it may be the interest and the duty of all
to submit to this sacrifice on other grounds, for in-
stance, to pay for a time an impost on the im^porta-
tion of certain articles, in order to encourage their
manufacture at home, or an excise on others injurious
to the morals or health of the citizens, will depend on
a series of considerations of another order, and be-
yond the proper limits of this note. The reader, in


466 Jefferson's Works

deciding which basis of taxation is most eligible for
the local circumstances of his country, will, of course,
avail himself of the weighty observations of our

To this a single observation shall yet be added.
Whether property alone, and the whole of what each
citizen possesses, shall be subject to contribution,
or only its surplus after satisfying his first wants,
or whether the faculties of body and mind shall con-
tribute also from their annual earnings, is a question
to be decided. But, when decided, and the principle
settled, it is to be equally and fairly applied to all.
To take from one, because it is thought that his own
industry and that of his fathers has acquired too
much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose
fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill,
is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of associa-
tion, " the guarantee to every one of a free exercise
of his industry, and the fruits acquired by it." If
the overgrown wealth of an individual be deem.ed
dangerous to the State, the best corrective is the law
of equal inheritance to all in equal degree; and the
better, as this enforces a law of nature, while extra-
taxation violates it.


MoNTiCELLO, April 8, 1816.

Dear Sir, — I have to acknowledge your two favors
of February the i6th and March the 2d, and to join

Correspondence 46 7

sincerely in the sentiment of Mrs. Adams, and regret
that distance separates lis so widely. An hour of
conversation would be worth a volume of letters.
But we must take things as they come.

You ask, if I would agree to live my seventy or
rather seventy-three years over again? To which I
say, yea. I think with you, that it is a good world
on the whole ; that it has been framed on a principle
of benevolence, and more pleasure than pain dealt
out to us. There are, indeed, (who might say nay)
gloomy and hypochondriac minds, inhabitants of
diseased bodies, disgusted with the present, and
despairing of the future; always counting that the
worst will happen, because it may happen. To
these I say, how much pain have cost us the evils
which have never happened! My temperament is
sanguine. I steer my bark with Hope in the head,
leaving Fear astern. My hopes, indeed, sometimes
fail; but not oftener than the forebodings of the
gloomy. There are, I acknowledge, even in the hap-
piest life, some terrible convulsions, heavy set-offs
against the opposite page of the account. I have
often w^ondered for what good end the sensations of
grief could be intended. All our other passions,
within proper bounds, have an useful object. And
the perfection of the moral character is, not in a
stoical apathy, so hypocritically vaunted, and so
untruly too, because impossible, but in a just equi-
librium of all the passions. I wish the pathologists
then' would tell us what is the use of grief in the econ-

468 Jefferson's Works

omy, and of what good it is the cause, proximate or

Did I know Baron Grimm while at Paris? Yes,
most intimately. He was the pleasantest and most
conversable member of the diplomatic corps while I
was there; a man of good fancy, acuteness, irony,
cunning and egoism. No heart, not much of any
science, yet enough of every one to speak its lan-
guage; his forte was belles-lettres, painting and
sculpture. In these he was the oracle of society,
and as such, was the Empress Catharine's private
correspondent and factor, in all things not diplo-
matic. It was through him I got her permission for
poor Ledyard to go to Kamschatka, and cross over
thence to the western coast of America, in order to
penetrate across our continent in the opposite direc-
tion to that afterwards adopted for Lewis and Clarke ;
which permission she withdrew after he had got
within two hundred miles of Kamschatka, had him
seized, brought back, and set down in Poland.
Although I never heard Grimm express the opinion
directly, yet I always supposed him to be of the
school of Diderot, D'Alembert, D'Holbach; the first
of whom committed his system of atheism to writing
in ''Le bon sens,'' and the last in his "Systeme de la
Nature.'' It was a numerous school in the Catholic
countries, while the infidelity of the Protestant took
generally the form of theism. The former always
insisted that it was a mere question of definition
between them, the hypostasis of which, on both sides,

Correspondence 469

was ''Nature,'' or ''the Universe;'' that both agreed
in the order of the existing system, but the one sup-
posed it from eternity, the other as having begun in
time. And when the atheist descanted on the un-
ceasing motion and circulation of matter through the
animal, vegetable and mineral kingdoms, never rest-
ing, never annihilated, always changing form, and
under all forms gifted with the power of reproduc-
tion; the theist pointing " to the heavens above, and
to the earth beneath, and to the waters under the
earth," asked, if these did not proclaim a first cause,
possessing intelligence and power ; power in the pro-
duction, and intelligence in the design and constant
preservation of the system ; urged the palpable exist-
ence of final causes; that the eye was made to see,
and the ear to hear, and not that we see because we
have eyes, and hear because we have ears; an an-
swer obvious to the senses, as that of walking across
the room, was to the philosopher dem^onstrating the
non-existence of motion. It was in D'Holbach's
conventicles that Rousseau imagined all the machi-
nations against him were contrived; and he left,
in his Confessions, the most biting anecdotes of
Grimm. These appeared after I left France; but I
have heard that poor Grimm was so much afflicted
by them, that he kept his bed several weeks. I have
never seen the Memoirs of Grimm. Their volume
has kept them out of our market.

I have lately been amusing myself with Levi's
book, in answer to Dr. Priestley. It is a curious and

470 Jefferson's Works

tough work. His style is inelegant and incorrect,
harsh and petulant to his adversary, and his reason-
ing flimsy enough. Some of his doctrines were new
to me, particularly that of his two resurrections ; the
first, a particular one of all the dead, in body as well
as soul, who are to live over again, the Jews in a state
of perfect obedience to God, the other nations in a state
of corporeal punishment for the sufferings they have
inflicted on the Jev/s. And he explains this resurrec-
tion of the bodies to be only of the original stamen of
Leibnitz, or the human calus in semme masctdino,
considering that as a mathematical point, insuscepti-
ble of separation or division. The second resurrec-
tion, a general one of souls and bodies, eternally to
enjoy divine glory in the presence of the Supreme
Being. He alleges that the Jews alone preserve the
doctrine of the unity of God. Yet their God would
be deemed a very indifferent man with us; and it
was to correct their anamorphosis of the Deity, that
Jesus preached, as well as to establish the doctrine
of a future state. However, Levi insists, that that
was taught in the Old Testament, and even by Moses
himself and the prophets. He agrees that an
anointed prince was prophesied and promised;
but denies that the character and history of Jesus
had any analogy with that of the person promised.
He must be fearfully embarrassing to the Hiero-
phants of fabricated Christianity ; because it is their

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