« PreviousContinue »
Entered according to act of Congress, in the year 1831, by Alfred Francis and William Boardman, in the Clerk's office of the District court of Connecticut.
Errata.–Page 34, fifth line from the top, for · 1769' read 1765.
372, ninth line from botttom, for thirty-six' read sixteen.
397, third line from top, for • Jay' read Marshal. NOTE.---Owing to the extension of the volume about 50 pages beyond what was contemplated, the Appendix is necessarily omitted.
The materials for this volume are principally derived from the posthumous works of Mr. Jefferson himself, lately published by his grandson, Thomas Jefferson Randolph. These works were received with extraordinary approbation by one great portion of the public, as was the case, indeed, with every thing that ever came from that remarkable man; and by another considerable portion, with a corresponding degree of dissatisfaction, always to be expected from the well known opinions of the Author on certain fundamental points of principle, and the strongly marked division of public sentiment on those points.
These works extend through four large octavo volumes, of about 500 pages each ; nearly the whole of which is occupied with the Correspondence of the Author, public and private. In the first volume is an auto-memoir of about ninety pages, exhibiting a brief outline of the first forty-seven years only of the Author's life, and terminating, unfortunately, at the precise epoch when his history began to assume the highest importance. It appears in the rough form of 'memoranda and recollections of dates and facts,' taken simply as he states, 'for his own more ready reference, and for the information of his family. Besides containing many interesting notices of his personal and family history, the Memoir is enriched by many important particulars relating to the origin and early stages of the Revolution, and the establishment of the Republic—by the Debates in Congress on the great question of Independence, with the historical circumstances attending the preparation and adoption of that memorable instrument; and hy a narrative, interspersed with sage political reflections, of the causes and early course of the French Revolution, as exhibited to the observation of the Author, during lais diplomatic residence at Paris. This portion of the work derives peculiar value from the circumstance of its containing the first disclosure to the world, in an authentic form, of the Debates on the memorable occasion of Independence, and from the probability, or rather certainty, that a like knowledge of them is not to be expect. ed from any other source. Appended to the Memoir, or within the body of it, are a variety of ancient productions of Mr. Jefferson, which will be new to most readers. Among them are, a paper drawn up in 1774, as instructions to the Delegates in Congress from Virginia, being the first formal enunciation of the political doctrines
of the Revolution-A Penal Code, being part of a Revised Code of Laws executed by himself and others, in 1776, with reference to the humane principles of a Republican form of government-An historical account of the overthrow of the Church establishment in Virginia, always considered by the Author as one of his best efforts in the cause of Liberty-And an elaborate paper, drafted in 1784, on the establishment of a uniform system of Coinage and Currency, which laid the foundation of the present system in the United States. At the end of the fourth volume are about eighty pages of what are quaintly denominated Anas; being Notes of Conversations held with President Washington, Mr. Adams, General Hamilton, and others, while he was Secretary of State, or Vice President; and memoranda of Cabinet Councils, committed to paper on the spot, and filed; the whole combining to show the views and tendencies of parties, from the year 1790 to 1800, and preserved for the purpose of furnishing “ their testimony against the only history of that period which pretends to have been compiled from authentic and unpublished documents.”
The remainder of the four volumes consists entirely of the Correspondence of the Author, chiefly private and confidential, from the year 1775 to his death. During the greater period of his life. Mr. Jefferson wrote with a polygraph or copying press, which enabled him to preserve with ease a regular file of his letters from year to year. These letters are addressed to a great variety of individuals in this, and in foreign countries. They comprise an immense range of information, and in many instances, regular Essays on subjects of History, Politics, Science, Morals, and Religion.
Taken all in all, this posthumous work is the richest auto-biographical deposite, and one of the most important publications eter presented to the world. Viewed in the light of Political History, Philosophy and Literature, it abounds with relations of momentous import, with reflections of consummate wisdom and profound observation, conveyed in a style of unrivaled felicity and power; and it supplies the record of many important transactions connected with our government, of which no authentic memorials had been preserved. But it is in the light of a private revelation, pushing its fearless disclosures into the inmost recesses of the mind and character of the man, that its most distinguishing excellence consists. We have here the ungarbled contents of the Cabinet of the Author, gradually accumulating through an era among the most momentous in the annals of the world, and of which himself was a principal actor, incessantly placed in the most trying situations wbich it afforded. This vast collection of letters, compiled from the unrevised manuscripts of the Writer, thrown off on the spur of the occasion, in the freedom of unrestrained confidence, and spreading over a period of fifty years, have opened the folding doors to the character of Mr. Jefferson, and introduced us into the sanctuary of his most secret meditations. They derive essential importance from the fact
that at the time they were written, the Author had no conception of their ever being made public. On this point we have the authority of the Editor, who states in his Preface, that "the historical parts of the Letters, and the entire publication, have the rare value of coming from one of the chief actors himself, and of being written not for the public eye, but in the freedom and confidence of private friendship."
It would undoubtedly be a happy circumstance for this country, and for the mass of mankind, besides serving, if possible, to enhance the reputation of the revered Author, if these works could obtain a circulation which should place them in the hands of every individual; for if any thing could give stability to those principles, which form alike the basis of his renown, and the elements of the splendid structure of free government which he was chiefly instrumental in establishing, it would be such an extensive dissemination of his Writings. Unfortunately, however, the form in which they have appeared, is not the most advantageous to the accomplishment of this desirable purpose. The publication is too voluminous, and consequently too expensive, to admit of a general introduction among all classes ; nor is the mode of arrangement the best adapted to its reception into ordinary use as a work of reference.
These considerations have suggested the plan of the present undertaking, which aspires to no higher claims than that of an analytic, and, it is hoped, a well assorted generalization of the original publication. It has been the leading object of the compilation, to condense the most valuable substance of the four, within the compass of one volume, and to supply what are presumed to be essential wants of the former, by interweaving a connected narrative of the Author's Life, by systematizing the contents as much as possible, and furnishing the whole with a definite and copious Iudex. All the great political papers of Mr. Jefferson, contained in the original works, have been copied into this, or their substance faithfully stated; and many others, not therein contained, have been procured from other sources, and likewise introduced. Among the latter, are the Answer of Congress to the 'Conciliatory Proposition of Lord North ; the celebrated bill for the establishment of Religious Freedom; and the first Inaugural Address of the Author, on bis elevation to the Presidency-inserted at length; an analysis of his Reports, while Secretary of State, on Coins, Weights and Measures, on the Fisheries, and on Commerce and Navigation; the Preambles to the bills for Abolishing the law of Entails, for the General Diffusion of Knowledge, and other organic acts of the Virginia Legislature, at the establishment of the republican form of government; and extracts of the most interesting portions of his Notes on Virginia.
The Selections from the Private Correspondence of Mr. Jefferson, are extensive, and dispersed through the volume, with reference to the topic under consideration, more than to the order of time. They
will probably be found the most interesting portions of the volume. In making the quotations from this department, it has been the object to bring the greatest quantity of useful matter within the smallest space. Parts of letters, therefore, are usually introduced, --rarely the whole of any one ---sufficient to give the full sense of the Writer on any required point, and avoiding all extraneous observations. The historical and biographical portions of the work have also been derived, in great part, from this pregnant source. In some cases the very language of the Author has been adopted, without invariably noting it with the usual mark of credit. In all such cases, however, the style or the sentiment will be sutficiently distinguishable to place it where it belongs. Some parts of the narrative may appear overwrought with culogy, to some minds--not so much because the subject does not deserve it, as because it was infinitely above the attempt. It is a difficult matter to commemorate the deeds of so distinguished a benefactor of the human race, without yielding in some degree to the influence of a passion which they are so ju-tly calculated to inspire; and the writer does not scruple to admit, that he has less endeavored to restrain his own grateful feelings, than to infuse the same into the minds of his readers.
The character of THOMAS JEFFERSON should be held up to all succeeding generations of American people, as the model on which they should habitually fix their eyes, and fashion their own characters and principles. His unparalleled achievements and sacrifices for their benefit, with the pre-eminent success, and the blissful close of his life, should be continually spread before them, as incitements to run the same virtuous and glorious career of action. His Writings should enlighten the fireside of every citizen of this Republic, and form the text-book of the American statesman. Ilis pure fame should be religiously cherished by his countrymen, as a most precious inheritance to them, and as meriting from man universally an everlasting remembrance. If the present volume shall have been instrumental in promoting these objects, it will have fulfilled its destiny.