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rupt and perverted, the division into wards, a regularly organ-
ized power, enables them by that organization to crush, regu-
larly and peaceably, the usurpations of their unfaithful agents,
and rescues them from the dreadful necessity of doing it in-
surrectionally. In this way we shall be as republican as a large
society can be; and secure the continuance of purity in our
government, by the salutary, peaceable, and regular control of
the people. (To Samuel Kercheval, 1816. C. VII., 35.)

Townships. — Divide the Counties into wards of such size as
that every citizen can attend, when called on, and act in person.
Ascribe to them the government of their wards in all things
relating to themselves exclusively. A justice, chosen by them-
selves, in each, a constable, a military company, a patrol, a
school, the care of their own poor, their own portion of the
public roads, the choice of one or more jurors to serve in some
court, and the delivery, within their wards, of their own votes
for all elective officers of higher sphere, will relieve the County
administration of nearly all its business, will have it better done,
and by making every citizen an acting member of the govern-
ment, and in the offices nearest and most interesting to him,
will attach him by his strongest feelings to the independence



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 411

of his country, and its republican constitution. The justices
thus chosen by every ward, would constitute the County court,
would do its judiciary business, direct roads, and bridges, levy
County and poor rates, and administer all the matters of com-
mon interest to the whole country. These wards, called town-
ships in New England, are the vital principle of their govern-
ments, and have proved themselves the wisest invention ever
devised by the wit of man for the perfect exercise of self-gov-
ernment and for its preservation. We should thus marshal our
government into, i, the general Federal republic, for all con-
cerns foreign and Federal; 2, that of the State, for what relates
to our own citizens exclusively; 3, the County republics, for
the duties and concerns of the County ; and, 4, the ward repub-
lics, for the small, and yet numerous and interesting concerns
of the neighborhood; and in government, as well as in every
other business of life, it is by division of duties alone that all
matters, great and small, can be managed to perfection. And
the whole is cemented by giving to every citizen, personally, a
part in the administration of the public affairs. (To Samuel
Kercheval, 1816. C. VII., 12.)

Townships. — Among other improvements, I hope they will
adopt the subdivision of our Counties into wards. The former
may be estimated at an average of twenty-four miles square;
the latter should be about six miles square each, and would
answer to the hundreds of your Saxon Alfred. In each of these
might be, ist. An elementary school; 2d, A company of militia,
with its of^cers; 3d, A justice of the peace and constable; 4th,
Each ward should take care of their own poor; 5th, Their own
roads; 6th, Their own police; 7th, Elect within themselves one
or more jurors to attend the courts of justice; and, 8th, Give
in at their Folk-house their votes for all functionaries reserved
to their election. Each ward should thus be a small republic
within itself, and every man in the State would thus become
an acting member of the common government, transacting in
person a great portion of its rights and duties, subordinate
indeed, yet important, and entirely within his competence. The
wit of man cauiiot devise a more solid basis for a free, durable



412 THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

and well-administered republic. (To John Cartwright, 1824.
C. VII., 357-)

Travel. — Traveling makes men wiser, but less happy. When
men of sober age travel, they gather knowledge which they
may apply usefully for their country, but they are subject ever
after to recollections mixed with regret, their affections are
weakened by being extended over more objects, and they learn
new habits which cannot be gratified when they return home.
(To Peter Carr, written in Paris, 1787. F. IV., 433.)

Treason. — Most codes do not distinguish between acts
against the government and acts against the oppression of the
government. The latter are virtues ; yet have furnished more
victims to the executioner than the former. The unsuccessful
struggles against tyranny have been the chief martyrs against
treason laws in all countries. We should not wish them to
give up to the executioner the patriot who fails and flees to us.
(From a report on Convention with Spain, 1792. F. V., 483.)

Treaties. — We conceive the constitutional doctrine to be that
though the President and the Senate have the general povv'er
of making treaties, yet whenever they include in a treaty mat-
ters confided by the Constitution to the three branches of Leg-
islature, an act of Legislature will be requisite to confirm these
articles, and that of the House of Representatives as one branch
of the Legislature are perfectly free to pass the act or refuse it,
governing themselves by their own judgment whether it is for
the good of their constituents to let the treaty go into effect or
not. (To James Monroe, 1795. F. VII., 67.)

Treaties. — With respect tO' a commercial treaty with this
country, be assured that the government not only has it not in
contemplation at present to make any, but that they do not
conceive that any circumstances will arise which shall render
it expedient for them to have any political connection with
us. They think we shall be glad of their commerce on their
own terms. There is no party in our favor here, either in
power or out of power. Even the opposition concurs with the
ministry and the nation in this. (To' R. LI. Lee, written in
London, 1786. F. IV., 206.)



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 413

Treaties. — Randolph seems to have hit upon the true theory
of our Constitution, that when a treaty is made, involving mat-
ters confided by the Constitution to the three branches of the
Legislature conjointly, the Representatives are as free as the
President and Senate were tO' consider whether tlie national
interest requires or forbids their giving the forms and force of
law to the articles over which they have a power. (To William
Giles, 1795. F. VIL, 41.)

Treaties. — We cannot too distinctly detach ourselves from,
the European system, which is essentially belligerent, nor too
sedulously cultivate an American system, essentially pacific.
But if we go into commercial treaties at all, they should be
with all, at the same time, with whom we have important com-
mercial relations, France, Spain, Portugal, Holland, Den-
mark, Sweden, Russia, all should proceed pari passu. Our min-
isters marching in phalanx on the same line, and intercommun-
icating freely, each will be supported by the weight of the whole
mass, and the facility with which the other nations will agree
to equal terms of intercourse, will discountenance the selfish
higglings of England, or justify our rejection of them. Per-
haps, with all of them, it would be best to have but the single
article gcntis amicissimae, leaving everything else to the usages
and courtesies of civilized nations. (To James Madison, 1814.
C. VI., 453-)

Truth. — Truth will do well enough if left to shift for herself.
She seldom has received much aid from the power of great men
to whom she is rarely known and seldom welcome. She has
no need of force to procure entrance into the minds of men.
Error indeed has often prevailed by the assistance of power or
force. Truth is the proper and suf^cient antagonist to error.
(From "Notes on Religion," 1776. F. II., 102

Truth. — Truth is great and will prevail if left to herself ; she is
the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has nothing
to fear from the conflict unless by human interposition dis-
armed of her natural weapons — free argument and debate; error
ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely to contra-



414 THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

diet them. (From a bill for establishing religious freedom,
1779. R II., 239.)

Truth. — Teach her (Martha's sister) to be always true; no
vice is so mean as the want of truth, as at the same time so
useless. Teach her above all things to be good, because with-
out that we can neither be valued by others nor set any value
upon ourselves. If ever you find yourself in difficulty, and
doubt how to extricate yourself, do what is right, and you will
find it is the easiest way of getting out of a difficulty. (To
Martha Jefferson, 1787. F. IV., 375.)

Tyranny. — Human nature is the same on every side of the
Atlantic, and will be alike influenced by the same causes. The
time to guard against corruption and tyranny is before they
have gotten hold of us. It is better to keep the wolf out of
the fold than to trust to drawing his teeth and talons after he
shall have entered. (From "Notes on Virginia," 1782. F.
III., 225.)

Tyranny of Man. — I am convinced that those societies (as
the Indians) which have been without government enjoy in
their general mass an infinitely greater degree of happiness than
those who five under the European Governments. Among
the former, public opinion is in the place of law, and restrains
morals as powerfully as laws ever did anywhere. Among the
latter, under the pretence of governing, they have divided
their nations into two classes, wolves and sheep. I do not ex-
aggerate. This is a true picture of Europe. Cherish therefore
the spirit of our people and keep alive their attention. Do not
be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlighten-
ing them. If once they become inattentive to the pubHc affairs,
you and I and Congress and Assemblies, judges and governors
shall all become wolves. It seems to me the law of our gen-
eral nature, in spite of individual exceptions, and experience
declares that man is the only animal which devours his own
kind, for I can apply no milder term toi the governments of
Europe, and to the general prey of the rich or the poor. (To
Edward Carrington, written in Paris, 1787. F. IV., 360.)

Uniformity. — Truth can stand by itself. Subject opinion to



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 415

coercion: whom will you make your inquisitors? Fallible
men; men governed by bad passions, by private as well as pub-
lic reasons. And why subject it to coercion? To produce
uniformity. But is uniformity of opinion desirable? No more
than of peace and stature. * * * Difference in opinion is
advantageous in religion. The several sects perform the office
of a censor over each other. Is uniformity attainable? Mil-
lions of innocent men, women and children, since the intro-
duction of Christianity have been burnt, tortured, fined,
imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uni-
formity. (From "Notes on Virginia," 1782. F. III., 265.)

Union. — We are now represented in General Congress by
members approved by this House where the former union, it
is hoped, will be so strongly cemented that no partial applica-
tions can produce the slightest departure from the common
cause. We consider ourselves as bound in honor, as well as
interest, to share one general fate with our sister colonies; and
should hold ourselves base deserters of that union to which
we have acceded, were we to agree on any measure distinct and
apart from them. (From an address to Governor Dunmore,
of Virginia, 1775. F. I., 458.)

Union. — I learn from our delegates that the Confederation is
again on the carpet, a great and a necessary wish, but I fear
almost desperate. The point of representation is what most
alarms me, as I fear the great and the small colonies are bit-
terly determined not to cede (yield). Will you be so good as to
collect the former proposition I made you in private and try if
you can work it into some good to serve our Union. (To John
Adams, 1777. F. 11. , 130.)

Union. — The interests of the States ought to be made joint
in every possible instance in order to cultivate the idea of our
being one nation, and to multiply the instances in which the
people shall look up to Congress as their head. (To James
Monroe, written from Paris, 1785. F. IV., 52.)

Union, — We shall never give up our Union, the last anchor
of our hope, and that alone which is to prevent this heavenly
country from becoming an arena of gladiators. Much as I



4l6 THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

abhor war, and view it as the greatest revenge of mankind, and
anxiously as I wish to keep out of the broils of Europe, I
would yet go with my brethren into these rather than separate
from them. (To Elbridge Gerry, 1797. F. VII., 122.)

Union. — I sincerely wish that the whole Union may accom-
modate their interests to each other and play into their hands
mutually as members of the same family, that the wealth and
strength of any one part should be viewed as the wealth and
strength of the whole. (Hugh Williamson, 1798. F. VII., 201.)

Union. — The last hope of human liberty in this world rests
on us. We ought, for so dear a state, to sacrifice every at-
tachment and every enmity. Leave the President free to choose
his own coadjutors, to pursue his own measures, and support
him and them, even if we think we are wiser than they, honester
than they are, or possessing more enlarged information of the
state of things. If we move in mass, be it ever so circuitously,
we shall attain our object; but if we break into squads, every
one pursuing the path he thinks most direct, we become an
easy conquest to those who can now barely hold us in check.
I repeat again that we ought not to schismatize on either man or
measures. Principles alone can justify that. If we find gov-
ernment in all its branches rushing headlong, like our predeces-
sors, into the arms of monarchy; if we find them violating our
dearest rights, the trial by jury, the freedom of the press, the
freedom of opinion, civil or religious, or opening on our peace
of mind or personal safety the sluices of terrorism; if we see
them raising standing armies, when the absence of all other
danger points to these as the sole objects on which they are
employed, then indeed let us withdraw and call the nation to
its tents. But while our functionaries are wise, and honest,
and vigilant, let us move compactly under their guidance, and
we have nothing to fear. Things may here and there go a little
wrong. It is not in their power to prevent it, but all will
be right in the end, though not perhaps by the shortest means.
(To WilHam Duane, 181 1. C. V., 577.)

Unitarianism. — No historical fact is better established than
that the doctrine of one God, pure and uncompounded, was that



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 417

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 Chris-
tian creed by the force of reason, but by the sword of Civil
Government, vdelded 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 re-
ligious opinion and its external divorce from the civil authority.
The pure and simple unity of the Creator of the universe is
now all but ascendent in the eastern States; it is dawning in
the west, and advancing toward the south; and I confidently
expect that the present generation will see Unitarianism be-
come the general religion of the United States. (To James
Smith, 1822. C. VII., 269.)

University of Virginia. — We wish to establish in the upper
and healthier country and more centrally for the State an uni-
versity on a plan so broad and liberal and modern as to be worth
patronizing with the public support, and be a temptation tO'
the youth of other States to come and drink of the cup of knowl-
edge and fraternize with us. The first step is to obtain a good
plan; that is a judicious selection of the sciences and a practic-
able grouping of them together. * * * j y^m venture to
sketch the sciences which seem useful and practicable for us,
as they occur to me while holding my pen. Botany, Chemistry,
Zoology, Anatomy, Surgery, Medicine, Natural Philosophy,
Agriculture, Mathematics, Astronomy, Geology, Geography,
Politics, Commerce, History, Ethics, Law, Arts, Fine Arts.
This list is imperfect because I make it hastily, and because
I am unequal to the subject. It is evident that some of these
articles are too much for one professor and must therefore be
ramified ; others may be ascribed in groups to a single professor.
(To Joseph Priestly, 1800. F. VII., 407.)

University of Virginia. — To these particular services, I think



4l8 THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

I might add the establishment of our University, as principally
my work, acknowledging at the same time, as I do, the great
assistance received from my able colleagues of the Visitation.
But my residence in the vicinity threw, of course, on me the
chief burthen of the enterprise, as well of the buildings as of the
general organization and care of the whole. The effect of this
institution on the future fame, fortune and prosperity of our
country can as yet be seen but at a distance. But an hundred
well-educated youths, which it will turn out annually, and ere
long, will fill its offices with men of superior qualifications, and
raise it from its humble state to an eminence among its asso-
ciates which it has never yet known; no, not in its brightest
days. That institution is now qualified to raise its youth to an
order of science unequalled in any other State; and this super-
iority will be the greater from the free range of mind encour-
aged there, and the restraint imposed at other seminaries by the
shackles of a domineering hierarchy, and a bigoted adhesion
to ancient habits. Those now on the theatre of affairs will enjoy
the ineffable happiness of seeing themselves succeeded by sons
of a grade of science beyond their own ken. Our sister States
will also be repairing to the same fountains of instruction, will
bring hither their genius to be kindled at our fire, and will carry
back the fraternal affections which, nourished by the same alma
mater, will knit us tO' them by the indissoluble bonds of early
personal friendships. The good Old Dominion, the blessed
mother of us all, will then raise her head with pride among the
nations, will present to them that splendor of genius which she
has ever possessed, but has too long suffered to rest unculti-
vated and unknown, and will become a centre of ralliance to the
States whose youth she has instructed, and, as it were, adopted.
(1826. C, 509.)

Vice-Presidency. — The idea that I would accept the office of
President but not that of Vice-President of the United States
had not its origin with me. I never thought of questioning
the free exercise of the right of my fellow citizens to marshal
those whom they call into their service according to their fit-
ness, nor ever presumed that they were not the best judges of



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 419

these. Had I indulged in a wish in what manner they should
dispose of me, it would precisely have coincided with what they
have done. (To James Sullivan, 1797. F. VII., 116.)

Vice-Presidency. — I thank you for your congratulation on
the public call on me to undertake the second office in the
United States, but still more for the justice you do me in view-
ing as I do the escape from the first; I have no wish to meddle
again in public affairs, being happier at home than I can be
anywhere else. Still less do I wish to engage in an of^ce where
it would be impossible to satisfy either friends or foes. If I am
to act, however, a more tranquil and unoffending station could
not have been found for me, no one so analogous to the dispo-
sitions of my mind. It will give me philosophical evenings in
the winter and rural days in summer. (To Benjamin Rush,
1797. F. VII., 114.)

Vice-President. — As to duty, the Constitution will know me
(as Vice-President) only as the member of a Legislative body;
and its principle is that of a separation of Legislative, Executive
and Judiciary functions, except in cases specified. If this prin-
ciple be not expressed in direct terms, yet it is clearly the spirit
of the Constitution, and it ought to be so commented and acted
on by every friend of free government. (To James Madison,
1797. F. VII., 108.)

War. — I do not recollect in all the animal kingdom a single
species but man which is eternally and systematically engaged
in the destruction of its own species. What is called civilization
seems to have no other effect on him than to teach him to pur-
sue the principle of helium ommum in omnia on a larger scale,
and, in place of the little contests of tribe against tribe, to en-
gage all the quarters of the earth in the same work of destruc-
tion. When we add to this that as the other species of animals
the lions and tigers are mere lambs compared with man as a
destroyer, we must conclude that it is in man alone that nature
has been able to find a sufficient barrier against the too great
nullification of other animals and of man himself, an equilibrat-
ing power against the fecundity of generation. (To James Mad-
ison, 1797. F. VII., 100.)



420 THE LIFE AND WRITINGS

War. — We had reposed great confidence in that provision
of the Constitution which requires two-thirds of the Legislature
to declare war. Yet it may be entirely eluded by a majority's
taking such measures as will bring on war. (To James Monroe,
1798. F. VIL, 222.)

War. — Wars must sometimes be our lot, and all the wise can
do will be to avoid that half of them which would be produced
by our own follies and our own acts of injustice; and to make
for the other half the best preparations we can. Of what nature
should these be? A land army would be useless for ofifense,
and not the best nor safest instrument of defense. For either
of these purposes, the sea is the field on which we should meet
an European enemy. On that element it is necessary we should
possess some power. To aim at such a navy as the greater na-
tions of Europe possess would be a foolish and wicked waste
of the energies of our countrymen. It would be to pull on our
own heads that load of military expense which makes the Eu-
ropean laborer go supperless to bed, and moistens his bread
with the sweat of his brows. (From "Notes on Virginia," 1782.
F. III., 280.)

War. — Were armies tO' be raised whenever a speck of war
is visible in our horizon, we never should have been without
them. Our resources would have been exhausted on dangers
which have never happened, instead of being reserved for what
is really to take place. A steady, perhaps a quickened pace
in preparations for the defense of our seaport towns and waters;
an early settlement of the most exposed and vulnerable parts
of our country; a militia so organized that its effective portions
can be called to any point in the Union, or volunteers instead
of them to serve a sufificient time, are means which may always
be ready yet never preying on our resources until actually
called into use. They will maintain the public interests while a
more permanent force shall be in course of preparation. But
much will depend on the promptitude with which these means
can be brought into activity. If war be forced upnDn us in spite
of our long and vain appeals to the justice of nations, rapid
and vigorous movements in its outset will go far towards se-



OF THOMAS JEFFERSON 42I

curing us in its course and issue, and towards throwing its bur-
dens on those who render necessary the resort from reason to
force. (Sixth Annual Message, 1806. F. VIII., 495.)

War. — "Is it common for a nation to obtain a redress of
wrongs by war?" The answer to this question you will, of
course, draw from history. In the meantime, reason will ans-
wer it on the grounds of probability, that when the wrong has
been done by a weaker nation the stronger one has generally
been able to enforce redress ; but where by a stronger nation, re-
dress by war has been neither obtained nor expected by the
weaker. On the contrary, the loss has been increased by the ex-
penses of the war in blood and treasure. Yet it may have
obtained another object equally securing itself from future
wrong. It may have retaliated on the aggressor losses of blood



Online LibraryThomas JeffersonThe life and writings of .. → online text (page 38 of 41)