Page images

will to enter into action at all on it, it would have l een in a direction exactly the reverse of what has been imputed to me; but I had no right to a will on the subject, much less to control that of the people of the United States in arranging us according to our capacities. Least of all could I have any feelings which would rerolt at taking a station secondary to Mr. Adams. ] have been secondary to him in every situation in which we ever acted together in public life for twenty years past. A contrary position would have been the novelty, and his the right of revolting at it. Be assured then, my dear Sir, that if I had had a fibre in my composition still looking after public office, it would have been gratified precisely by the very call you are pleased to announce to me, and no other. But in truth I wish for neither honors nor offices. I am happier at home than I can be elsewhere. Since, however, I am called out, an object of great anxiety to me is that those with whom I am to act, shutting their minds to the unfounded abuse of which I have been the subject, will view me with the same candor with which I shall certainly act. An acquaintance of many long years ensures to me your just support, as it does to you the sentiments of sincere respect and attachment with which I am, dear Sir, your friend and servant.


MONTICELLO, January 22, 1797. DEAR SIR,—I was yesterday gratified with the receipt of your favor of December 15th, which gave me the first information of your return from Europe. On the 20th of October I received a letter of July 30th from Colonel Monroe, but did not know through what channel it came. I should be glad to see the defence of his conduct which you possess, though no paper of that title is necessary for me. He was appointed to an office during pleasure merely to get him out of the Senate, and with an intention to seize the first pretext for exercising the pleasure of recalling him. As I shall be at Philadelphia the first week in March, perhaps I may have an opportunity of seeing the paper there in Mr. Madison's hands. I think with you it will be best to publish nothing concerning Colonel Monroe till his return, that he may accommodate the complexion of his publication to times and circumstances. When you left America you had not a good opinion of the train of our affairs. I dare say you do not find that they have got into better train. It will never be easy to convince me that by a firm yet just conduct in 1793, we might not have obtained such a respect for our neutral rights from Great Britain, as that her violations of them and use of our means to all her wars, would not have furnished any pretence to the other party to do the same. War with both would have been avoided, commerce and navigation protected and enlarged. We shall now either be forced into a war, or have our commerce and navigation at least totally annihilated, and the produce of our farms for some years left to rot on our hands. A little time will unfold these things, and show which class of opinions would have been most friendly to the firmness of our government, and to the interests of those for whom it was made. I am, with great respect, dear Sir, your most obedient servant.


MONTICELLO, January 22, 1797. DEAR SIR,—I received yesterday your kind favor of the 4th instant, and the eulogium it covered on the subject of our late invaluable friend Rittenhouse, and I perused it with the avidity and approbation which the matter and manner of everything from your pen has long taught me to feel. I thank you too for your congratulations 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 viewing as I do the escape from the first. I have

I 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 office where it would be impossible to satisfy either friends or foes, and least of all at a moment when the storm is about to burst, which has been conjuring up for four years past.

If I am to act however, a more tranquil and unoffending station could not have been found for me, nor one so analogous to the dispositions of my mind. It will give me philosophical evenings in the winter, and rural days in summer. I am indebted to the Philosophical Society a communication of some bones of an animal of the lion kind, but of most exaggerated size. What are we to think of a creature whose claws were eight inches long, when those of the lion are not 1 1-2 inches; whose thigh-bone was 6 1-4 diameter; when that of the lion is not 1 1-2 inches? Were not the things within the jurisdiction of the rule and compass, and of ocular inspection, credit to them could not be obtained. I have been disappointed in getting the femur as yet, but shall bring on the bones I have, if I can, for the Society, and have the pleasure of seeing you for a few days in the first week of March. I wish the usual delays of the publications of the Society may admit the addition to our new volume, of this interesting article, which it would be best to have first announced under the sanction of their authority. I am, with sincere esteem, dear Sir, your friend and servant.


MONTICELLO, January 30, 1797. Yours of the 18th came to hand yesterday. . I am very thankful for the discretion you have exercised over the letter. That has happened to be the case, which I knew to be possible, that the honest expression of my feelings towards Mr. Adams might be rendered mal-apropos from circumstances existing, and known at the seat of government, but not known by me in my retired situation. Mr. Adams and myself were cordial friends from the beginning of the revolution. Since our return from Europe, some little incidents have happened, which were capable of af

fecting a jealous mind like his. His deviation from that line ! of politics on which we had been united, has not made me less

sensible of the rectitude of his heart; and I wished him to know this, and also another truth, that I am sincerely pleased at having escaped the late draught for the helm, and have not a wish which he stands in the way of. That he should be convinced of these truths, is important to our mutual satisfaction, and perhaps to the harmony and good of the public service. But there was a difficulty in conveying them to him, and a possibility that the attempt might do mischief there or somewhere else; and I would not have hazarded the attempt, if you had not been in place to decide upon its expediency. It has now become unneces- . sary to repeat it by a letter.


I have turned to the Constitution and laws, and find nothing to warrant the opinion that I might not have been qualified here, or wherever else I could meet with a Senator; any member of that body being authorized to administer the oath, without being confined to time or place, and consequently to make a record of it, and to deposit it with the records of the Senate. However, I shall come on, on the principle which had first determined me, respect to the public. I hope I shall be made a part

I of no ceremony whatever. I shall escape into the city as covertly as possible. If Governor Mifflin should show any symptoms

ceremony, pray contrive to parry them. We have now fine mild weather here. The thermometer is above the point which renders fires necessary. Adieu affectionately.



Monticello, February 9, 1797. Dear Sir, I have many acknowledgments to make for the friendly anxiety you are pleased to express in your letter of


January the 12th, for my undertaking the office to which I have been elected. The idea that I would accept the office of President, but not that of Vice President of the United States, nad 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 fitness, nor ever presumed that they were not the best judges of that. Had I indulged a wish in what manner they should dispose of me, it would precisely have coincided with what they have done. Neither the splendor, nor the power, nor the difficulties, nor the fame or defamation, as may happen, attached to the first magistracy, have any attractions for me. The helm of a free government is always arduous, and never was ours more so, than at a moment when two friendly people are like to be committed in war by the ill temper of their administrations. I am so much attached to my domestic situation, that I would not have wished to leave it at all. However, if I am to be called from it, the shortest absences and most tranquil station suit me best. I value highly, indeed, the part my fellow citizens gave me in their late vote, as an evidence of their esteem, and I am happy in the information you are so kind as to give, that many in the eastern quarter entertain the same sentiment.

Where a constitution, like ours, wears a mixed aspect of monarchy and republicanism, its citizens will naturally divide into two classes of sentiment, according as their tone of body or mind, their habits, connections and callings, induce them to wish to strengthen either the monarchial or the republican features of the Constitution. Some will consider it as an elective monarchy, which had better be made hereditary, and therefore endeavor to lead towards that all the forms and principles of its administration. Others will view it as an energetic republic, turning in all its points on the pivot of free and frequent elections. The great body of our native citizens are unquestionably of the republican sentiment. Foreign education, and foreign connections of interest, have produced some exceptions in every part of the Union, north and south, and perhaps other circumstances in your quarter,

« PreviousContinue »