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Full text of "Autobiography of Thomas Jefferson, 1743-1790, together with a summary of the chief events in Jefferson's life"

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Thomas Jefferson. 

From the painting by Gilbert Stuart, 1805. 



Autobiography 

of 

Thomas Jefferson 

I 743~ I 79o 

Together with 
A Summary of the Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 



An Introduction and Notes by 
Paul Leicester Ford 

and 

A Foreword by 
George Haven Putnam 



G. P. PUTNAM S SONS 

NEW YORK AND LONDON 

Ifmtcfcerbocfcer press 

1914 



In compliance with current copyright 

law, U. C. Library Bindery produced 

this replacement volume on paper 

that meets the ANSI Standard Z39.48- 

1984 to replace the irreparably 

deteriorated original 

1995 



C 35 

A 



A 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 



FOREWORD . iii 

INTRODUCTION . ix 

CHIEF EVENTS IN JEFFERSON S LIFE . . . xxxiii 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY 3 

Jefferson s family Education Elected to legislature 
Marriage Political disputes with England Origin of 
Committees of Correspondence Rallying the people 
Prepares Summary View Elected to Congress Drafts 
a Declaration on taking up arms Congressional debates 
on Declaration of Independence Text of the Declaration 
of Independence Congressional debates on Confedera 
tion Leaves Congress and attends Virginia legislature 
Drafts bills Aids in preparing a proposed code 
Elected Governor Elected to Congress Plans money 
unit Proposes Committee of Congress Proceedings on 
English treaty Appointed . to negotiate European 
treaties Sails for France Prepares Notes on Virginia 
Negotiates with European states Proposes united action 
against Barbary states Beginning of the French revolu 
tion The federal constitution Dangers from the ju 
diciary Bankruptcy of the union Progress of the 
French revolution Meeting of "Patriots" at Jefferson s 
house Jefferson sails for America Accepts position of 
Secretary of State Calls on Franklin Conduct of W. T. 
Franklin Jefferson arrives at New York. 



FOREWORD 



The Autobiography left by Thomas Jefferson 
belongs to the literature of the Nation. The import 
ant part played by the great Virginian in the organ 
ization of the Republic and in the leadership of affairs 
during the first three or four Administrations, the 
distinctive character of the man, his imagination, 
his intellectual force, and his patriotism, have served 
to make Thomas Jefferson a great figure in American 
history. Even his fiercest opponents in his own 
generation and of later years, those who believed 
that his theories would prove detrimental to the 
interests of the State, have been ready to admit that 
he had honestly at heart the welfare of" his fellow- 
citizens and of mankind, and to admit further that 
he must take rank among the great Americans. 

The peculiar value that is possessed by a narrative 
in autobiographical form does not rest on the pro 
bability that the statement of facts or the record of 
facts and the motives which influence action would 
be presented more accurately than in a narrative by 
another hand. It may easily be the case that the 
memory of a writer as to the events of his earlier 
life will not prove as trustworthy as records left by 
his contemporaries. The writer of an autobiography 



IV 



Foreword 



will not only be confused in his memories, but these 
memories may themselves be affected by vanity, 
of by the natural human desire to put the best ap 
pearance upon one s individual actions and utterances, 
and to estimate at its full value any service that has 
been rendered to the community. Autobiographies 
must, of course, differ very materially in their trust 
worthiness, according to the character and the tem 
perament of their several writers. No biographical 
record can, however, preserve the distinctive person 
ality of a man in the way in w r hich such personality 
is revealed in a diary or autobiographical subject. 
A man s character and nature are indicated as well by 
the matters in which he is reticent as by those con 
cerning which he claims or believes himself to be 
making a full and candid presentation of the action 
and of the motive for the action. 

An autobiographical sketch written in later life 
presents evidence also of changes in point of view, of 
the development of character, and of the acceptance 
of later beliefs, convictions, and ideals. The descrip 
tions given by an old man of his own actions in youth, 
even when not accompanied by any express criticism 
or detailed analysis, possess interest and value as 
pictures of the double personality that of youth and 
that of maturity. 

It is very much to be regretted that the narrative 
of Jefferson, the writing of which was begun in 1821, 
in his seventy -seventh year, is brought down only to 
the 29th of July, 1790. His life extended from 1743 
to 1826, a period which included the development of 
the colonies, the strenuous years of the War of the 



Foreword v 

Revolution, and the critical period of the organiza 
tion and re-organization of the State. Jefferson s 
opinions of the events of the second Administratioft 
of Washington and of the Administration of Adams 
would have had a special interest. His own two 
Administrations covered the years 1801-1809, but 
his opinions as to the management of affairs by his 
successor, James Madison, who had the mortification 
of being driven out of the Capitol by the British 
invader, and of the work done by James Monroe 
would have possessed historic value and personal 
interest. 

There is much, however, both of value and of 
interest in the pages that were put into shape and 
that have fortunately been preserved. After pre 
senting the data concerning the Jefferson family, 
the narrative proceeds with a record of the events 
preceding the Revolution, events in which Jeffer 
son s leadership was important. One of the first 
general statements made in behalf of the contentions 
of the colonists, was written in 1774 by Jefferson 
under the title of "A Summary View of the Rights of 
British America:" The author tells us that the 
pamphlet found its way to England, and, with some 
additions, was utilized by Mr. Burke and his asso 
ciates and ran through several editions. 

Jefferson claims that the credit for initiating the 
committees of correspondence belongs not to Massa 
chusetts but to Virginia. The first of such committee 
work was done under his direction in Virginia, as far 
back as 1773. The account of the placing in the 
hands of Jefferson the task of preparing the famous 



VI 



Foreword 



Declaration of Independence is given in full, and 
is probably the chief authority on the matter. 

In the later constitutional discussions, Jefferson 
placed himself with the group which contended that 
representation in Congress should be based upon 
population or on voters. He saw no reason why 
10,000 people should, by calling themselves a state, 
secure as large a representative power in the Govern 
ment as belonged to 50,000 people. The jealousy 
and apprehensions of the smaller states, such as 
Rhode Island and Delaware, that the Government 
might be entirely controlled by states like Pennsyl 
vania, Virginia, and New York proved, as we know, 
sufficient to secure an equal state representation in the 
Upper House of Congress. It- was supposed that the 
evil of this disproportioned representation would at 
least be restricted to the original group of states; 
but in comparatively recent history, we have seen 
a still greater inequity in the authority given to 
Nevada with 70,000 inhabitants to control through 
its two senators, a decision of the Senate and through 
the Senate of the whole Government, in regard to a 
financial policy to which the great states of the 
country were opposed. 

Jefferson was, in 1787, appointed U. S. Minister 
to Paris, and the latter portion of the Diary is taken 
up chiefly with his account of the beginnings of the 
French Revolution and his analysis of the causes and 
events. 

The students of American history will not fail 
to bear in mind the long contest between the advo 
cates of a strong, or at least a sufficiently strong, 



Foreword 



Vll 



central government, of whom Hamilton was the 
leader, and those who, apprehensive of the tyranny 
of a central authority, preferred to maintain the full 
independence of the states, even at the sacrifice of 
National power and effectiveness a group of which 
Jefferson was the acknowledged representative. 

The constitution of 1789, carried through the 
influence of Hamilton, represented important con 
cessions made to the views of the Jeffersonians, some 
of which had troublesome results in the later history 
of the Republic. I may mention, among others, the 
including of slaves in the proportion of three slaves 
to two white men in the basis of representation 
for the slave-holding states ; the acceptance of a 
site on the banks of the Potomac, that is to say, 
in Southern territory, for the new Capital. The 
power given to the slave holders in Congress through 
the counting of the slaves as if they were a part of 
their voting constituency, resulted in strengthening 
through the long series of years, the authority of the 
South in the House of Representatives, and delayed 
any effective action on the part of the Free states 
in bringing about the restriction of slavery. The 
position of Washington on the banks of the Potomac 
brought about no small difficulties later in the shaping 
of the campaigns of the Civil War. The necessity 
for the protection of the Capitol interfered materially 
with the action of the armies of the North and must 
have delayed for a long period of months the final 
decision of the contest. 

The results of the Civil War brought the Nation to 
a substantial acceptance of the theories of Hamilton. 



Vlll 



Foreword 



The Government as developed under the I3th, i4th, 
and 1 5th amendments to the Constitution, was made 
strong enough to control peace at home and to 
maintain the authority and dignity of the Nation 
abroad. The occasional difficulties arising from 
independent state action, such as that of Louisiana 
eighteen years back in its friction with Italy, and 
that of California during the past few years in its 
state laws affecting the interests of the Japanese, 
are examples of what is probably the last remnant 
of the Jeffersoniari theories of state rights. The 
American citizen of to-day is unwilling to believe that 
any right of action should be left to the state that 
can interfere with obligations and international rela 
tions of the National Government. The fact, how 
ever, that certain, and probably the more important, 
of Jefferson s theories, having been fairly tested, have 
been put to one side, or have been. fought to one side, 
does not prevent the citizen of to-day from holding 
in affectionate regard the author of the Declaration of 
Independence who, through his distinguished ser 
vices, and his high ideals is to be ranked among the 
greatest of American citizens. 

G. H. P. 

NEW YORK, January 1914. 



INTRODUCTION 



The political theories and usages origina ted or 
adopted by Thomas Jefferson have shown such per 
sistence and permanence in their value to our people 
and government as to demonstrate a far deeper and 
broader principle underlying them than is always 
recognized. In popular estimation, Jefferson stands 
as the founder of the Democratic party, and the 
developer of the theory of State Rights; and on 
these foundations are based the so called "Jeffer- 
sonian principles," and the respect and acceptance, 
as well as the criticism and Contravention, accorded 
to them. That this basis was deemed sufficient 
during his life, is natural, for judgment of a living 
man must always be partial and superficial. That 
this limited view should during that time acquire 
prestige and momentum enough to project it into 
history, is not strange, the more that the logical 
conclusions of certain theories advanced by him 
suited the policy of one of our political parties. The 
acceptance of this limited view has enabled his an 
tagonists and critics to charge, him with hypo 
crisy, opportunism, and even lack of any political 
principles,; and the contradictions and instability 
they have cited in his opinions and conduct have 



x Introduction 

embarrassed even his most devoted adherents. If this 
limited view is still to be accepted as sufficient and 
final, these criticisms must stand: His advocacy 
of a weak national government ; with his complaints 
that it was "a rope of sand," and his far-reaching 
augmentations to its power. His advocacy of a 
strict construing of our constitution; and yet his 
so exceeding the implied powers granted by it, as 
to make it, in his own words, "waste paper." His 
support of the State governments as "sovereign"; 
and his dislike and attempted changes in and over 
riding of their constitutions. His arguments in 
favor of an absolutely independent jury and judi 
ciary; and his attacks on both. His desire for a 
national navy; and his later opposition. His de 
mands that the executive and legislative depart 
ments should be beyond reciprocal influence; yet, 
when president, his interference in the latter to an 
extent which led to a stinging rebuke on the floor 
of Congress in open debate. His dread of a partizan 
civil .service as a means of influencing and defeating 
free elections, and his oft repeated claim that public 
officers should be selected only on their merit ; while 
himself inaugurating the spoils system, sending his 
political friends commissions in blank, and retaining 
a federalist official "because of his connections." 
His disapproval of the re-eligibility of the president, 
and advocacy of rotation in office to prevent the 
creation of a bureaucracy ; with his subsequent will 
ingness that the former should serve more than two 
terms, and his writing to a superannuated appointee, 
"would it be a relief to transfer the office to your 



Introduction xi 

son, for your use, with the understanding that it 
should be afterwards continued with him for the 
benefit of the family?" His opposition to the alien 
act; and his framing of a bill directed against for 
eigners of far greater injustice than that enactment. 
His support of the passage of the funding and as 
sumption act; ^and his unending opposition to its 
execution. His condemnation of the national bank, 
not merely on constitutional grounds, but because 
he believed it to be unduly influencing the national 
government; yet when himself at the head of that 
government advocating "a judicious distribution" 
of favors to that and other banks " to engage the 
individuals who belong to them in support" of his 
administration. JJis early opposition to national 
internal improvements, his later recommendation of 
this policy to Congress, and his final resolutions 
declaring it unconstitutional. His arguments and 
labors in opposition to slavery; while owning many 
negroes, and rerusing to act as executor of a will 
because the testator freed his slaves And many 
other actions apparently implying so little principle, 
or views so shifting, as superficially to reduce them 
to nothing else than a mass of inconsistencies, each 
one notable only for its immediate results. Judged 
by these standards, the marvel of the Federalists and 
his later critics, that he should have been the chosen 
instrument of American democracy, is proper. The 
scholarly and reclusive nature of his tastes and 
studies; the retiring and limited character of his 
intercourse with the world ; the influence of his 
social equals; his dislike of party and personal 



xii Introduction 

antagonism ; and his sensitiveness to abuse and criti 
cism, make his acceptance of that leadership, as 
strange a problem, as that the people should have 
chosen for their representative a man lacking nearly 
all of the personal qualities which are presumed to 
win popularity with the masses. And only explic 
able from the narrow view of his critics as the suc 
cess of an ambitious and unprincipled self-seeking 
man, attained by astuteness and chicane so great as 
to deceive the masses. 

But if the people embody the total of human 
thought and experience, as our political theories 
maintain, there are better reasons than these for his 
elevation, and for the political influence his name 
has carried for over one hundred years better 
reasons than the leadership of a party, or a fine-spun 
theory of the respective powers of the state and 
national governments. The explanation of these ap 
parent anomalies lies deeper than any mere matter 
of individuality, party success, or rigid political plat 
form. To understand why Jefferson became "a 
man of the people," and for what reasons and pur 
poses they made him their leader, we must study 
certain forces and tendencies then working in 
America. 

In the never-ending struggle between the so called 
"classes" and "masses," not the least interesting 
phase is that which occurred in the revolutionary 
period in this country. Although the colonies were 
nominally ro}^al appendages, legislated for by King 
and Parliament, the difficulties of governing at such 
distance and other conditions, had compelled the 



Introduction xiii 

granting to them, or an acquiescence in their exer 
cising, a large degree of local self-government. In 
conceding this, the attempt had been made, and in 
most cases successfully, to place power in the hands 
of the classes; so as to build up a colonial aristo 
cracy, subservient to the wishes of the mother country. 
And as the colonies grew and became objects of 
greater interest to Great Britain, this tendency be 
came more and more marked. But the conditions 
of the country were not suited for class or central 
ized government. The wilderness made every man 
a land-holder, and the vast extent of territory and 
its sparse settlement rendered civil authority unable 
to exercise its force, and therefore hardly a factor 
in its influence on the people. Yet the lawlessness 
of the new settlements, and the Indians on the 
frontier, compelled the maintenance of some kind 
of authority, and so each settler, and each commun 
ity, became largely the law-maker and administrator 
of their own affairs. Thus it was that local self- 
government, based solely on manhood, was tested 
and became the cardinal principle of American 
government. 

Such was the trending development of the people, 
when the policy of England between 1764 and 1775, 
towards her American colonies, united them in op 
position to her rule. That opposition, and the great 
movement towards democratic government, were by 
events so blended, that they have since stood as one 
in the public mind. Yet they were entirely differ 
ent, most of our great revolutionary leaders depre 
cating the latter; and while events converted some 



Introduction 

few to the democratic theory of power, the majority 
never ceased to fear the people. Had it not been 
for the exigencies of the war, which compelled an 
appeal to the masses, to destroy the royal govern 
ment, and to fight the mother country, it is probable 
that they would not have gained any political power 
from -national independence. But in the interreg 
num between the destruction of the old and the crea 
tion of the new governments, much was gained, not 
merely in actual exercise of rights, but in experience; 
for the masses learned that self -organized bodies of 
men, acting under no legal authority, could rule a 
whole country by mere recommendations; that a 
dependent government is the strongest in the world, 
for it must accord with public opinion, and therefore 
meet with public support; that constitutions and 
laws are but ink and paper unless they approximate 
to that sole origin of force and authority; and that 
it is not the government which supports the people, 
but the people who support the government. 

The masses are by their nature and condition, 
however, negative rather than positive, and when 
constructive, rather than destructive or obstructive 
force is required, they are compelled to delegate a 
portion of their powers. Thus, in the re-building of 
government, the classes secured an influence far out 
of proportion to their numbers. In the State consti 
tutions, the) 7 succeeded in somewhat curtailing and 
limiting the popular control ; and later, in the forma 
tion of our national constitution they sought still 
further to wrest powers from the people, both by 
grants, which interposed barriers to the direct dele- 



Introduction xv 

gatlon of power from the people to the executive, 
judiciary, and one of the legislative branches, and 
by clauses purposely worded so as to leave the ques 
tion of the quantity of power granted to the decision 
of men who would almost certainly be drawn from 
the classes. And a resulting political party at 
tempted to carry this policy still further. Had gov 
ernment been merely a matter of intellect and 
ability, the Federalists would have succeeded in 
controlling and fixing its character in this country. 
That when they had done their work of construc 
tion, they were excluded from office, without ever 
comprehending the reason, proves how little they 
understood the tendency, intelligence, and power of 
the forces they were attempting to circumscribe. 
Unlike the Federalists, Jefferson was willing to dis 
card the tradition of ages that the people must be 
protected against themselves by the brains, money, 
and better "elements" of the country and for this 
reason American democracy made him- its chosen 
agent and mouth-piece. 

To understand why Jefferson was one of the few 
men of intellect of his time able to appreciate, sym 
pathize with, and aid this popular movement, a 
retrospect of certain factors in his life and times is 
necessary. Inheriting unsettling tendencies of mind, 
he was from an early age a thorough skeptic of tradi 
tion and precedent. In his own words, he never 
" feared to follow truth and reason to whatever re 
sults they led, and bearding every authority which 
stood in their way." Almost alone of the revolu 
tionary leaders, he was born on the frontier, which, 



xvi Introduction 

as already stated, was the ultimate of local self- 
government. Among those conditions he passed the 
formative period of his life, and as representative of 
this district he made his first essay in politics, na 
turally as an advocate and defender of the demo 
cratic mountaineers. In the Virginia Assembly, in 
which his earliest battles were fought, the strongest 
line of party division was between the aristocratic 
"planter" interest great landed and slave-holding 
proprietors, with the prestige and inertia of favorable 
laws and offices and the "settler" interest inhab 
iting the frontier, far from the law or protection" of 
government, but strong in numbers, independence, 
and necessities; and in these conflicts he learned 
how absolutely selfish and grasping all class legisla 
tion is. Then came the Revolution, and Jefferson 
saw governments, deriving their authority from 
laws innumerable, and their force from the strongest 
nation of Europe, utterly destroyed, with hardly a 
blow, merely through their non-recognition by the 
masses. With the Committees of Safety and the 
Congresses which succeeded, he saw the experiment 
of " a government of the people, by the people, for 
the people," established and tested. Had he been in 
America between 1784 and 1788, he too might have 
become doubtful as to how far the masses could 
control themselves, for the reaction of the revolu 
tionary struggle was severe, and strained democratic 
institutions almost to anarchy. But at this time he 
was in France, witnessing another great struggle be 
tween the privileged and unprivileged. So he re 
turned to America, true to the influences and lessons 



Introduction xvii 

of his life, to find his theories in disfavor with the 
conservative, and government slipping more and 
more from the control of the governed. And be 
cause he believed that only the. people truly knew 
what the people needed; that those who could take 
care of themselves were wise and practical enough 
to help care for the nation; and that the only way 
of enforcing laws was that they should be made by 
those who are to obey them, he undertook, with re 
luctance and self-sacrifice, to be the instrument of 
popular action. That he was the founder of the 
Democratic party is a claim little less than absurd, 
for there always has been, and always will be, such 
a party. But he united the democratic elements on 
certain principles and objects, and proved himself 
such a leader as the party has seldom been able to 
obtain. 

Recognition of what he endeavored to accomplish 
explains many of his apparent inconsistencies. The 
dominant principle of his creed was that all powers 
belonged to the people, and that governments, con 
stitutions, laws, precedent, and all other artificial 
clogs and " protections," arc entitled to respect and 
obedience only as they fulfilled their limited function 
of aiding not curtailing the greatest freedom to 
the individual. For this reason, he held that no 
power existed to bind the people or poster it) , except 
by their own acts. For this reason, he was the strict 
construer of the national constitution, where he be 
lieved it destructive of personal freedom ; and con 
strued it liberally where it threatened to limit the 
development of the people. He was the defender of 



xviii Introduction 

the State governments; for he regarded them as a 
ne.cessary division for local self-government and as 
natural checks on the national power, and so a safe 
guard to the people. That he appealed to them in 
his resolutions of 1798, was because he believed the 
people for once unable to act for their own interest, 
and the" theories of that paper are a radical and 
short-lived contradiction of his true beliefs. Be 
cause he believed the national judiciary and the na 
tional bank to be opposed to the will of the people, 
he attacked them. Because he believed he was 
furthering the popular will, he interfered in the 
legislative department and changed office-holders. 
Because he wished them free to think and act, he 
favored separation from England, abolition of 
slavery, free lands, free education, freedom of re 
ligion, and the largest degree of local self-govern 
ment. His methods and results were not always 
good. His character and conduct had many serious 
flaws. Yet in some subtle way the people under 
stood him, and forgave in him weaknesses and de 
fects they have seldom condoned. And eventually 
this judgment will universally obtain, as the fact be 
comes clearer and clearer, that neither national in 
dependence, nor state sovereignty, with the national 
and party rancors that attach to them, were the 
controlling aim and attempt of his life ; that no party 
or temporary advantage was the object of his en 
deavors, but that he fought for the ever enduring 
privilege of personal freedom. 



*** 



Introduction xix 

The proof for this view of Jefferson must be sought 
in such of his writings as are still preserved: 

In the Journal of the House of Burgesses of Vir 
ginia for May 9, 1769, are a series of resolutions in 
tended to serve as a basis for the reply of that body 
to the speech of their newly arrived governor. Re 
markable here only for their intense obsequiousness 
and adulation, these resolutions merit notice as the 
first public paper drawn by Thomas Jefferson. As 
a lawyer, however, Jefferson was already known. 
Few of his arguments have been preserved, but these 
few give evidence that he was already out of spirit 
with his surroundings. The man who could argue 
that human servitude was " a violation of the law of 
nature"; that under those laws, "all men are born 
free, every one comes into the world with a right to 
his own person, which includes the liberty of moving 
and using it at his own will , and that " Christianity 
neither is nor ever was a part of the common law," 
was clearly not in sympathy with a slave-holding 
community, living under an established church, and 
ruled by a royal governor. 

His next public paper was of much the same form, 
though differing greatly in nature from his first. It 
was a series of resolutions intended for the guidance 
and adoption of the self - constituted convention 
which met in August, 1774, and the difference in 
tone almost tells the history of those intervening 
years. Then, the interests of England and America 
were "inseparably the same." Now, only by ac 
cepting the advice of these resolutions could the 
\ reciprocal advantages of their connection be 



xx Introduction 

preserved. The power of Parliament over the colonies 
was denied; the King instructed that he was "no 
more than the chief officer of the people, appointed 
by the laws, and circumscribed with definite powers, 
to assist in working the great machine of govern 
ment erected for their use, and consequently subject 
to their superintendence"; and the assertion made 
that the American people possessed the sole power 
of self-government and could " exercise it to an un 
limited extent." These opinions were too extreme 
for even a revolutionary convention, but they never 
theless formed one more stepping-stone in the direc 
tion of independence for the colonies. 

A year later he wrote the reply of the Virginia 
House of Burgesses to the plan of reconciliation 
known as Lord North s " Motion," and was the bearer 
of it to the Continental Congress, of which he had 
been elected a member. For this body, he likewise 
wrote a second reply to the "Motion," as well as a 
"Declaration" on the United Colonies taking up 
arms. But this latter did not meet with their ap 
proval, and one prepared by Dickinson was taken in 
its stead; and a comparison of the two certainly jus 
tifies the Congress. He also drafted a number of 
minor papers for that body, and prepared a plan for 
an executive government by a committee of Con 
gress an attempt not then realized, but which was 
later in an elaborated form to be again proposed by 
Jefferson, to be tried, and to result in failure. 

In the Congress of 1776 he drafted, for the com 
mittee of which he was a member, three reports deal 
ing with Canadian affairs, which are now of interest 



Introduction xxi 

only from the light they throw on the attempt to 
conquer that country. While so occupied, he 
drafted a proposed constitution for his native state 
and forwarded it to the convention in hopes of their 
accepting it, which they failed to do. But it is for 
us a most interesting paper, as illustrating the de 
velopment of his political theories, the most notable 
being his acquiescence in the limiting of the franchise 
to freeholders, well knowing as he did, the impossi 
bility of gaining from, the aristocratic party any 
extension of the ballot, but neutralizing this acquies 
cence by distributing the public lands so as to make 
a manhood suffrage ; his far-seeing method for dealing 
with western colonization, his proposed ending of 
primogeniture, test oaths, and the slave trade; and 
his guarantees of freedom of religion and press. He 
prepared a number of other reports and resolutions 
for Congress, the most worthy of notice being his 
rules for the government of that body, which was 
probably the first step towards his parliamentary 
manual. His greatest work, however, was the writ 
ing of a vindication of the resolution of indepen 
dence, since popularly known as the " Declaration 
of Independence." Jefferson never forgave the al 
terations which the sectional interests, as also the 
better sense of the Congress, made in his draft, even 
though they were for the most part omissions of 
what lacked either truth or dignity. The fame of 
the paper, which is probably the best known that 
ever came from the pen of an individual, has led to 
much discussion as to its origin, and numerous 
charges of plagiarism have been made against the 



xxii Introduction 

author. That the catalogue of wrongs and griev 
ances which constitute the body of the declaration 
was hackneyed is beyond dispute, for these had 
formed the basis of nearly every address and petition 
put forth by the Continental Congress, or Provincial 
Assemblies, and had been as well the prevailing sub 
ject of written and verbal discussion. The preamble 
and exordium are however the important parts, A 
comparison of the former with the Virginia Declara 
tion of Rights would seem to indicate the source from 
which Jefferson derived a most important and popu 
lar part. The latter was practically rewritten by 
Congress. But the unity and phrasing of such a 
paper constitute no small portion of its composition, 
and to embody the feelings and hopes of a new na 
tion in a single paper, as Jefferson did with such 
marvellous success, makes it unique among the 
greatest writings of the world, and gives to him an 
honor that can never end. With the Declaration of 
Independence the Congress completed a change 
which had been slowly maturing. From being a 
scribe of petitions and declarations, it tended more 
and more to become a war executive, and Jefferson, 
who achieved reputation by his philosophic mind 
and pen, and who himself realized his lack of ability 
in administration, found himself of little use in such 
a body. Pleading family and other reasons, there 
fore, he retired from Congress and took his seat in 
the Virginia House of Delegates. 

The great problem here was a rebuilding of civil 
government destroyed by the Revolution. A con 
stitution had been adopted, and under this a legisla- 



Introduction xxiii 

ture and executive had been elected, but courts and 
laws had fallen with the royal government, and to 
re-establish them in modified form was the task to 
which Jefferson set himself. With the permission of 
the legislature, and in conjunction with two col 
laborators, he worked for nearly three years upon a 
complete code, and reported it to that body ; which 
from time to time adopted certain features from it, 
but neglected the larger part. In addition to this 
great work, he drafted, during his service in this body, 
many bills of immediate or temporary moment. 
This was done in a period almost without precedent, 
when it was necessary not merely to carry on the 
ordinary forms of government, but to conduct a war 
in distant states and territories, and repress dis 
loyalty and lawlessness within the limits of the state. 
And he was thwarted by parties and cliques formed 
on geographical lines, religious beliefs, and class feel 
ing, and rent by personal hatred and cabal. It is 
therefore small wonder that he aided in some unjust 
and even unconstitutional legislation, or that much 
of his that was good should fail. But his proposed 
bills for religious freedom, for the creation of public 
schools, and for the establishment of free libraries 
.more than redeem his errors. His legislation con 
tributed more than the work of any other man 
to free the aristocratic colony of Virginia from 
the "planter" interest and start it towards demo 
cratic statehood; and the Assembly proved that he 
had labored to their satisfaction by electing him 
Governor. 

In an executive position, Jefferson was out of his 



xxiv Introduction 

element. Nothing was called for or came from his 
pen but official letters and proclamations. His ad 
ministration produced open murmurs, and at the 
end of two years he sought relief in resignation, with 
the stigma of incompetence, if not of cowardice, the 
prevailing opinion concerning him. Impeachment 
was attempted without success ; and later, when the 
evils begun in his term had been overcome, white 
washing resolutions were adopted by the legislature 
in his behalf; but they brought no relief to his own 
supersensitiveness, and he hid himself in an almost 
hermit-like seclusion from the world, determined 
never more to hold public office. 

Here he prepared for the information of the French 
government his famous Notes on Virginia. In 
tended for confidential use only, and written during 
a period of personal bitterness, it is most interesting 
from its outspoken tone on many subjects. But 
even more notable is the remarkable mass of in 
formation he gives concerning the State; which 
after a lapse of more than one hundred years still 
makes it a valuable work of reference. During the . 
same period he wrote an essay on the Art of Poesy, 
and prepared a second proposed constitution for / 
Virginia, which illustrated the tendency of his mind 
since he had drafted his first in 1776, the most 
marked departure being his direct attempt to ex 
tend the franchise. 

Drawn from his retirement by the hope of a foreign 
mission, the importunities of his friends induced him 
to accept an election to the Continental Congress. 
In his less than six months service in this body, the 



Introduction xxv 

amount and importance of his work can hardly be 
overestimated. He was a member of almost every 
important committee appointed, and no less than 
thirty-one papers were drafted by him. He pro 
posed and carried a plan for a committee of Congress 
which should sit during adjournments. He drew 
the report and instructions for negotiating commer 
cial treaties with European states, in which he em 
bodied his humane desires that fishermen, farmers, 
and artisans engaged in their vocations should not 
be subject to capture; that undefended towns should 
not be injured; that privateering should cease; and 
commerce, even between belligerents, should be free. 
His reports on the finances were most elaborate and 
careful, and in connection with these he prepared his 
Notes on a Money Unit, which led to the adoption of 
the dollar as our standard of value, and in which he 
was far-seeing enough to argue that " the true pro 
portion of value between gold and silver was a mer 
cantile problem altogether," and that it was policy 
" to give a little more than the market price for gold 
because of its superior convenience in transporta 
tion." But his greatest work was in reference to the 
western territories. His pen drafted the cession 
which Virginia made to the national government, 
and, conscious that this " was the time when our 
Confederation with the territory included within its 
limits should assume its ultimate form," he framed 
a plan of government for all "the territory outside 
the boundaries of the original states. The effect of 
the clauses making this territory forever part of the 
United States and ending slavery in it after the year 



xxvi Introduction 

1800, would have solved our greatest political con 
test, but these are of small moment when compared 
with the system here for the first time established, 
that the inhabitants of the public domain were not 
to be held as subject colonies, but were to be given 
equal rights with the parent state. No one enact 
ment has had so vital an influence on the American 
Union ; and this principle was extended by another 
ordinance, proposing a land system, which must be 
considered as the first of the national acts towards 
distributing the public lands among the people. 

Sent to Europe in 1784 to aid in negotiating trea 
ties, and a year later made Minister to France, he 
wrote little in the few following years, other than 
official letters. He contributed a few anonymous 
articles to the Paris papers to counteract the pub 
lished criticisms of America, and at the request of 
the authors carefully corrected certain historical 
works on the same subject which were then appear 
ing. In his diplomatic function he proposed to the 
several European nations an agreement to restrain, 
by united action, the piratical states of North Africa; 
drafted a proposed Consular convention with France; 
and prepared a careful and minute memoire on the 
American whale fisheries, with the purpose of ob 
taining from France special exemptions in favor of 
the oil sent from America. In addition, his deep in 
terest in the French Revolution led .Jiim to overstep 
the proper limits of his office, and prepare a " Charter 
of Rights" which he desired should be adopted by 
the States-General. 

Returning to America, he became Secretary of 



Introduction xxvii 

State in Washington s administration. His position 
resulted in a diplomatic correspondence and a series 
of reports to Congress on subjects referred to him. 
But of more interest are his cabinet opinions and the 
messages he drafted for the President. Gradually 
growing out of sympathy with the acts of the Execu 
tive, he likewise recorded passing events and opinions 
in notes, which have since become famous under the 
name of " Anas. " Later in his life, he himself judged 
it expedient to revise and suppress portions of these 
notes, and his editors took further liberties with them. 
Yet even after this double revision, they were not 
printed without apologies and regrets that they had 
ever been written. 

Retiring from the cabinet in 1794, he resumed a 
planter s life, and during this period, his pen produced 
nothing, unless we except some curious " Notes for a 
Constitution" for Virginia. Having reference only 
to the legislative branch, they are too imperfect to 
be of value, except as a contrast to the methods sug 
gested in his proposed constitutions of 1776 and 1783. 

Elected Vice- President in 1796, and so made pre 
siding officer of the Senate, he prepared his Manual 
of Parliamentary Practice, chiefly drawn from the 
rules of Parliament, as well "to have them at hand 
for my own government, as to deposit with the 
Senate the standard by which I judge and am willing 
to be judged." In this same period, he wrote an 
essay on Anglo-Saxon; a memoir on the discovery 
of certain bones of an animal in the western parts 
of Virginia; and a description of a mould-board of 
the least resistance for ploughs. He also drew a 



xxviii Introduction 

protest for his district against the act of a grand 
jury, employing in it a train of argument, which, put 
in practice, would have ended the independence of 
juries; and prepared a series of resolutions for the 
Kentucky legislature, which mark the culminating 
point of certain political tendencies that had been 
developed by the administrations of Washington and 
Adams. The platform of a party for many years, 
they have become famous not merely for the theory, 
but for the logical results of the theory, which history 
has given us. The Kentucky Resolutions of 98 
were, however, prepared by Jefferson as a piece of 
party manoeuvring, he himself acknowledging that 
the direct action of the people rather than the in 
terference by the states, was "the constitutional 
method ; and he so thoroughly understood the de 
structive quality of his argument that he worded it 
" so as to hold that ground in future, and leave the 
matter in such train as that we may not be commit-" 
ted to push matters to extremities, and yet be free to 
push as far as events will render prudent." In fact, 
nullification of Federal, not national acts, was his 
object in those resolutions. 

Raised to the Presidency in 1801, he wrote many 
messages and other public papers ; drew a number of 
bills and resolutions for Congress to pass; compiled 
an elaborate treatise on the boundaries of Louisiana ; 
contributed a series of articles to a newspaper vindi 
cating certain of his actions which had met with criti 
cism ; and partly drafted a curious monograph on the 
question: "Will the human race become more per 
fect?" The latter typical of his optimism, for when i 



Introduction xxix 

all Europe was in arms, and his own country suffer 
ing many evils, he could yet argue strongly in favor 
of a steady progress towards perfection. 

After his retirement from office in 1809, he wrote 
a "plan of an agricultural society," which is of little 
importance; sketched a paper on " objects of finance, 
intended for the guidance of the national government 
in the difficulties already felt, in which he argued 
strongly against all forms of fiat money ; drew a brief 
for the government relative to certain riparian rights ; 
prepared at various times biographical notes and 
sketches of Franklin, Wythe, Peyton Randolph, and 
Meriwether Lewis; planned and partially outlined a 
work to be entitled The Morals and Life of Jesus of 
Nazareth; prepared an Autobiography to the year 
1790; framed another series of resolutions opposed 
to the action of the national government ; and finally, 
owing to press of financial difficulties, and in behalf 
of a private scheme for his own advantage, wrote 
vigorously in favor of lotteries. 

In addition to these, and a number of minor papers, 
Jefferson carried on between the years of 1760 and 
1826 an enormous correspondence, both private and 
official, which practically constitutes the greater mass 
of his writings. A careful estimate of the letters 
still in existence gives not less than twenty-five thou 
sand, yet portions only of certain years are still 
extant. Interesting not merely for the opinions ex 
pressed, but for the personal element they present, 
they are of equal, if not superior, importance to his 
other writings. 

#** 



xxx Introduction 

The first of these writings to appear in print was 
the resolutions prepared for the Virginia House of 
Burgesses in 1 769, which was printed in their Journal 
for that year. In 1774, without his knowledge, his 
friends caused the printing in pamphlet form of his 
proposed instructions to the Virginia delegates to the 
first Congress. His reply to Lord North s " Motion" 
was printed in the Journal of Congress for 1775, and 
very generally in the newspaper press of that year. 
His Declaration of Independence ran through the col 
onies like wildfire, in many printed forms. Such bills 
as he drafted, which became laws, were printed in the 
session acts of Virginia during the years 1776 to 1779. 
Several of his reports in the Congress of 1783-4 were 
printed as broadsides, and he himself printed in the 
same form his Notes on a Money Unit. In 1784, the 
State of Virginia printed, in the Report of the Revi- 
sors, the laws he had prepared for the proposed code. 
And, in the same year, he himself privately printed 
his Notes on Virginia and his Draft of a Funda 
mental Constitution for Virginia. In 1788, his 06- 
servations on the Whale Fisheries, and the Consular 
Convention he had agreed upon with France, were 
printed. Most of his reports to Congress as Secre 
tary of State, and a part of his correspondence with 
the foreign governments, were printed at various 
times between 1790 and 1794, by order of Congress. 
His Kentucky Resohttions of 1798 were, in their 
amended form, given print and general currency by 
that state. His Mamial of Parliamentary Practice 
was originally printed by request in 1800, and has 
been many times reprinted. In 1800, he published 



Introduction xxxi 

his Appendix to the Notes on Virginia, which was 
later issued as a part of that work. His inaugural 
speeches and messages as President were published 
in various forms as they became public. The argu 
ment he prepared on the Batture case was issued in 
pamphlet form in 1812. His biographical sketch of 
Lewis was printed in 1814 in the History of the 
Expedition of Lewis and Clark. A volume of legal 
reports, containing .three of his early law arguments, 
edited by him before his death, was issued in 1829. 
In the same year, his grandson, Thomas Jefferson 
Randolph, as his literary executor, edited a four- 
volume edition of his writings and correspondence, 
including his autobiography, a small portion of his 
private correspondence, a part of his Anas, and a few 
miscellaneous papers; which was several times re 
printed. In 1851, his Essay on Anglo-Saxon was 
printed by the University of Virginia, and five years 
later, his correspondence relating to that institution 
was included in the History of the University of Vir 
ginia. In 1848, Congress purchased the larger part 
of his papers, and by their direction, H. A. Wash 
ington selected from them, with a few additions from 
other sources, enough to make a nine- volume edition 
of his writings, which naturally became the standard 
collection. 

PAUL LEICESTER FORD. 

October 15, 1892. 



PUBLISHERS NOTE 

The publishers have thought it in order to utilize 
for this re-issue of Jefferson s Autobiography the 
Introduction prepared by the late Paul Leicester 
Ford, for the Federal Edition of Jefferson s Works. 

In this volume only the closing paragraph, which 
refers to the sources from which he collected the 
material comprised in the complete works, has been 
omitted from Ford s Introduction. 



CHIEF EVENTS IN JEFFERSON S LIFE 

FROM HIS BIRTH IN 1743 TO HIS DEATH IN 1826 



1743. April 2 [or 13] 

1748. 

1752. 

1757. August 17. 



1760. 
1762. 

1764. 
1766. 

1767. 
1769. 



-March 25. 
-April 25. 



1770. 



1771, 



May 8. 

9- 
17- 

Feb. i. 
May ii. 

March 14. 

19- 

April 10. 
June i. 
n. 

October 10. 
December 10. 



1772. 



Jan. i. 
Sept. 27. 



Bom at Shad well, Albemarle Co., Va. 

Attends English School at Tuckahoe. 

Attends Latin School at Douglas. 

Death of his father, Peter Jefferson. 

Attends Murray School. 

Enters William and Mary College. 

Graduates from William and Mary. 

Enters law office of George Wy the. 

At Williamsburg. 

Journeys to Annapolis, Philadelphia, and New 
York. 

Admitted to the bar from Shadwell. 

Elected a Burgess from Shadwell. 

Attends House of Burgesses. 

At Williamsburg. 

Drafts resolutions in reply to Botetourt. 

House of Burgesses dissolved. 

Signs Non-importation Association. 

House and library at Shadwell burned. 

Argues case ofjrlpweli v. NetherlanoT. 

Attends House of Burgesses. 

At Monticello. 

Attends. County Court at Albemarle. 

Attends County Court at- Augusta. 

Attends County Court at Williamsburg. 

At Monticello. 

Attends Court at Oyer & Terminer at Williams 
burg. 

Argues case of Godwin et al v. Lunan. 

Attends Court of Oyer & Terminer at Williams 
burg. 

Marries Martha (Waylies) Skelton. 

Birth of first daughter, Martha. 



Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 



1773. March 4. 

12. 

October 14. 
1 7 74. --April 3. 
May 9. 
July 26. 

1 775- Jan. 5. 

March 20. 

23- 

27. 

June 2. 
10. 
21. 



July 31- 
August 9. 

IT. 

16. 

October 2. 

Nov. 1 6. 

23- 

24. 

Dec. 15. 

22. 

1776. March 31. 
May 21. 



June 2. 
5- 

10. 
n. 



20. 
28. 



Attends House of Burgesses at Williamsburg. 

Attends Committee of Correspondence. 

Appointed Surveyor of Albemarle County. 

Birth of second daughter, Jane Randolph. 

Attends House of Burgesses. 

Drafts the resolutions of Albemarle Co. 

Writes "A Summary View." 

Elected member of Albemarle Committee of 
Safety. 

Attends Convention at Richmond. 

Placed on Committee for Defense of Colony. 

Elected deputy delegate to the Continental 
Congress. 

On Committee to Draft Address to the Governor. 

Prepares address to Governor Dunmore. 

Attends Continental Congress at Philadelphia. 

Placed on Committee to Draft Declaration on 
Army and Prepares draft. 

Reports from Committee Draft and Reply to 
Lord North s Motion. 

Attends at Richmond Convention of Va. 

Reelected member of Continental Congress. 

Placed on Committee on Defense. 

Attends at Philadelphia session of Continental 
Congress. 

Placed on Committee on Massachusetts Papers. 

Placed on Committee on Currency. 

Placed on Committee on Condition of N. C. 

Prepares rules for Committee of Congress. 

Placed on Committee on Business of Congress. 

Death of Jefferson s mother. 

Draft of Report of Congressional Committee on 
Letters. 

Placed on Committee to Address Foreign Mer 
cenaries. 

Drafts Constitution for Va. 

Placed on Committee for Procuring News and 
vSupplies. 

On Committee to Prepare Rules for Congress. 

On Committee to Prepare Declaration of In 
dependence. 

Draft Report of such Committee. 

Reelected member of Congress. 

Draft Report on Canada. 

Reports draft of Declaration of Independence. 



Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 



1776- July 4. Adopted Declaration. 

5. Placed on Committee to Plan Seal for U. S. 

6. Placed on Committee on Indian Affairs. 

Aug. 9. Placed on Committee to Encourage Hessians to 

Desert. 

Sept. 26. Elected Commissioner of France. 

Oct. 1 1 . Placed on Committee on Propositions and 

Grievances. 
On Committee on Privileges and Elections. 

15. On Committee to Draft Infantry Bill. 

16. On Committee to Draft Punishment Bill. 

21. On Committee to Draft Bill to Remove Seat of 

Government and on Committee to Draft 
Naturalization Bill. 

25. On Committee to Draft Congress Bill. 

28. On Committee to Draft Bill to Define Treason. 

Nov. 6. Chosen one of five to revise the laws. 

7. On Committee to Draft Copper-Coinage Bill, 
n. Introduces Bill to Remove Capital. 

1777. Dec. 13. On Committee to Draft Tax Bill. 

On Committee to Draft Salary Bill. 
27. On Committee to Amend Small-Pox Bill. 

1778. Jan. 20. On Committee to Draft Chancery Court Bill. 

May 1 8. On Committee toDraft Bill forRecovery of Debts. 

June 10. Leaves Williamsburg. 

Aug. i. Third daughter born (Mary Jefferson). 

I779- J^n- 22. At Williamsburg. 

Nov. 30. Issues Proclamation Laying Embargo. 

1780. June i. Reelected Governor of Virginia. 

Nov. 3. Birth of fourth daughter. 

Dec. 31. Receives news of Leslie s Invasion. 

1781. Jan. 2. Orders out militia. 

Feb. 5. Issues Proclamation Concerning Foreigners. 

April 15. Death of son. 

June j. Resigns Governorship. 

14. Appointed by Congress Peace Commissioner, 

which appointment he declines. 

July. Begins preparation of Notes on Virginia. 

Nov. 30. Elected delegate to Continental Congress. 

Dec. 10. Placed on Committee on Finance. 

19. Declines appointment for Congress. 

1782. Sept. Birth of youngest daughter, Lucy Elizabeth. 

6. . Death of wife. 

Nov. 12. Appointed Peace Commissioner to Europe. 

Dec. 19. Arrives at Philadelphia. 



Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 



1783. Feb. 14. Departure to Europe suspended. 

April i. Congress withdraws appointment. 

June 6. Elected delegate to Congress. 

10. Drafts Constitution for Virginia. 

Nov. 4. Congress adjourns to Annapolis. 

Dec. 16. Reports on definitive treaty. 

22. Reports on ceremonial for Washington. 
27. Reports on ratification of treaty. 

1784. Jan. 14. Reports Proclamation of British .Treaty. 

March i. Reports on Government for Western Territory. 

5. Reports on Indiana. 

12. Elected Chairman of Congress. 

13. Placed on Committee on Qualifications and on 

Foreign Letters. 

30. Elected Chairman of Congress. 

April 5. - Prepares Notes on a Money Unit. 

13. Drafts resolution concerning seat of Govern 

ment. 
May 3. Reports ordinance for Western lands. 

23. Report on Western Territory considered and 

adopted. 

July 5. Sails from Boston on ship Ceres. 

Aug. 6. Reaches Paris, 

10. At Passy, conferring with Franklin. 

Sept. 1 3. Sends the first Notes on Virginia. 

15. At Versailles, with Commissioners, to meet 

Vergennes. 

1 6. The Commissioners meet the British Mini 

sters. 

1785. March 10. Elected by Congress Minister to France. 

May ii. Completes Notes on Virginia. 

July 28. Signs treaty with Prussia. 

November. Death in Virginia of the youngest daughter, 

Lucy Elizabeth. 
1786. March 5. Leaves Paris for London. 

22. Presented at Windsor to the King. 

23. Negotiates treaty with Portugal. 

26. Prepares with Adams pro jet of treaty with Great 

Britain. 

May 23. Plans treaty against Barbary States. 

Oct. 22. Prepares map of Virginia. 

Dec. 1 6. Act of Religious Freedom passed by the Virginia 

Assembly. 

26. Publication of French version of Notes on 

Virginia. 



Chief Events in Jefferson s Life xxxix 



1787. Jan. 4. 

April, May, 

Sept. 

Dec. 

1788. Feb. 4. 
II. 

April 
June 20. 
1789. May 8. 

June 3. 
July 17. 
Sept. 25. 
26. 
Oct. 

1790. Feb. 14. 
28. 



March 29. 



June 7. 
July 4- 

Aug. 22. 

26. 
28. 

Nov. 21. 
Dec. 8. 



1791. 



Feb. 14. 



28. 
May. . 



July. 



1792. 



Makes proposition to British creditors. 
June. Tour through France. 

Finishes map of Virginia. 

Publication in England of " Notes on Virginia." 
; Leaves Paris. 

^Declines membership in Society for Abolition of 
Slave Trade. 

Journey to Germany. 

Receives from Harvard degree of LL.D. 

Attends the opening at Versailles of the States- 
General. 

Prepares charter for France. 

Views ruins of Bastille. 

Jefferson nominated for .Secretary of State. 

Confirmed by Senate. 

.Sails for America on the Montgomery. 

Accepts Secretaryship of State. 

Arranges with Dutch bankers for a loan. 

Marriage of Jefferson s daughter Martha to 
Thomas Mann Randolph. 

Takes residence in Maiden Lane, New York 
City. 

Elected member of American Arts and Sciences. 

Arranges with Hamilton the Assumption and 
Capital Compromise. 

Reports on coinage, weights, and measures. 

Drafts Considerations on Navigation of Missis 
sippi. 

Opinion on Foreign Debt. 

Opinion on course toward Britain and Spain. 

Takes residence in Philadelphia. 

Draft of paragraph for President s Message. 

Prepares Report on Fisheries. 

Reports on Algerian Prisoners. 

Draft oj: President s Message on British Nego 
tiations. 

Opinion on National Bank. 

Offers Freneau a place. 
Endorses Paine s Rights of Man. 

Arranges with Freneau for the publication of a 
paper. 

Endeavors to have Thomas Paine appointed 
postmaster. 

Draft of President s Message on Diplomatic 
Nominations. 



xi Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 

1792. Feb. 28. Announces to President intention to leave office. 

May 23. Writes to Washington of intended resignation. 

Sept. 9. Writes to President in defense of conduct 

1793. Jan. Reconsiders resignation. 

Feb. 7. Paper on maladministration (by Hamilton) of 

the Treasury. 

April 8. Genet lands at Charleston. 

1 8. Drafts Cabinet Opinion on Proclamation and 

French Minister. 

May 8. Opposes Hamilton s circular to collectors. 

July 5. Receives call from Genet. 

8. Dissents from Cabinet Opinion on Little Sarah. 

Aug. 2. Recall of Genet decided upon by the Cabinet. 

31. Drafts Cabinet Opinion on Privateers and 

Prizes. 

Nov. 16: Borrows money. 

23. Drafts Message to the President. 
Dec. 31. Resigns Secretaryship of State. 

1794. Sept. Offer of foreign mission. 

1795. Dec. Invents mould-board for plough. 

1796. May 12. Executes mortgage on his home. 

Nov. 4. Elected Vice-President. 

1797. Jan. Elected President to Philosophical Society. 

1797. Jan. 25. Letter written to Mazzei (in 1796) printed in 

Paris. 

March 4. Sworn in as Vice-President. 

5. Offer of French Mission. 

May 14. Mazzei letter printed in America. 

Oct. 13. Marriage of Maria Jefferson to John Way lies 

Eppes. 

1798. Feb. 19. X Y Z Message. 

July 6. Passage of the Alien Bill. 

14. Passage of the Sedition Bill. 

Oct. Draft of the Kentucky Resolutions. 

Nov. 14. Kentucky Legislature adopts resolutions. 

15. Refuses Virginia Resolutions of Madison. 
iSoo. Jan. 18. Drafts plan for the University of Va. 

Feb. Prepares Parliamentary Manual. 

May. Republican Caucus nominates Jefferson and 

Burr. 

June. Removal of the capital to Washington. 

Dec. 14. Offers Secretaryship of Navy to Livingston. 

1801. Feb. 17. Election of Jefferson as President. 

1 8. Offers Secretaryship of War to Dearborn. 

24. Offers French Mission to Livingston. 



Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 



xli 



1801. Feb. 28. Farewell speech to Senate. 

March 4. Inauguration of Jefferson as President. 

5. Nominates Madison, Dearborn, and Lincoln to 

Cabinet. 

9. Cabinet remits fines under Sedition Law. 

1 8. Offers Paine passage on public vessel. 

May 14. Appoints Gallatin Secretary of Treasury. 

15. Cabinet discusses Barbary War. 

Squadron ordered to Mediterranean. 

July 15. Appoints Robert Smith Secretary of Navy. 

Nov. 28. Appoints Granger Postmaster-General. 

1803. Jan. ii. Nominates Monroe Joint Minister to France. 

1 8. Sends secret message on Lewis and Clark Ex 

pedition. 
April. Prepares estimate of Christ. 

ii. Talleyrand offers to sell Louisiana. 

May 2. Louisiana treaty signed at Paris. 

July. Frames Louisiana Amendment to the Constitu 

tion. 

24. Appoints Monroe Minister to Great Britain. 

Oct. 20. Louisiana treaty ratified by Senate. 

1804. Jan. 8. Offers Monroe Governorship of Louisiana. 

Feb. 1 8. Approves act organizing Louisiana and Orleans. 

April 17. Death of daughter Mary. 

May 26. Appoints Monroe Minister to Spain. 

Nov. Reflected President of United States. 

19. Nominates Bowdoin Minister to Spain. 
1805. March 2. Appoints Robert Smith Attorney-General. 

Appoints Jacob Crowninshield- Secretary of 

Navy. 

4. Inaugurated as President. 

August. Prepares Note on Conduct 1780-1. 

Suggests alliance with Great Britain. 

Dec. 20. Nominates John Breckenridge Attorney-General 

1806. Feb. 24. Aids Barlow to Draft Bill for a National Uni 

versity. 

28. Nominated Bowdoin and Armstrong Joint Com 

missioners to Spain. 
April 19. Writes letter to Alexander of Russia. 

Nominates Monroe and Pinkney Joint Com 
missioners. 

Oct. 25. Cabinet decision on Burr. 

Nov. 8. Orders to Wilkinson, in re Burr. 

1807. Jan. 28. Sends additional message to Burr. 

31. Sends message on Cumberland Road. 



xlii Chief Events in Jefferson s Life 

1807. Feb. 22. Cabinet Council on British negotiations. 

Feb. 28. Writes to King of Holland. 

March 2. Sends Bill to End SUva-Irade. 

30. Beginning of trial of Burr. 

June 22. Capture of the Chesapeake. 

Sept. i . Proposes to seize the Floridas. 

ii. Acquittal of Burr. 

Nov. ii. Great Britain extends Orders in Council. 

Dec. 22. Signs Embargo Act. 

1808. Jan. 23. Refuses to recommend Fast Day. 

Feb. 19. Sends message on Cumberland Road. 

29. Sends reply to New York Society of St. Tam 

many. 

April 19. Issues Proclamation on Embargo. 

1809. Jan. 17. Forced to borrow money. 

March i. Sends repeal of Embargo. 

4. Sends reply to citizens of Washington. 

Close of Presidential term. 
Issues circular letter on Public Appointments. 
1811. Jan. Urges seizures of the Floridas. 

1812. April 12. Sends Win; his recollections of Patrick Henry. 

Dec. 17. Writes sketch of Meriwether Lewis. 

1813. July. Sells Mazzei s property in Richmond and bor 

rows purchase money. 
1814. Sept, 21. Offers Library to Congress. 

Nov. 21. Resigns presidency of American Philosophical 

Society. 
1815. Jan. Congress passes Bill to Purchase Library. 

Completes scheme for the University of Va. 
1816. July 10. Writes sketch of Peyton Randolph. 

Oct. 1 6. Writes inscription for National Capitol. 

1818. Sept. i. Writes Anecdotes of Franklin. 

1822. May. Writes answer to "A Native of Virginia." 

1825. Dec. Drafts Protest for Virginia. 

1826. March 16. Executes will. 

July 4. Death of Jefferson. 



AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



THE WRITINGS 

OF 

THOMAS JEFFERSON 

AUTOBIOGRAPHY 



1821. Jan. 6. 

At the age of 77, I begin to make some memo 
randa and state some recollections of dates & facts 
concerning myself, for my own more ready reference 
& for the information of my family. 

The tradition in my father s family was that their 
ancestor came to this country from Wales, and from 
near the mountain of Snowdon, the highest in Gr. 
Br. I noted once a case from Wales in the law re 
ports where a person of our name was either pi. or 
def. and one of the same name was Secretary to the 
Virginia company. 1 These are the only instances 
in which I have met with the name in that country. 
I have found it in our early records, but the first 
particular information I have of any ancestor was 

1 No Jefferson was ever secretary of the Virginia Company, but John 
Jefferson was a member of the company. He came to Virginia in the 
Bona Nova, in 1619. 

3 



4 The Writings of [1743 

my grandfather who lived at the place in Chester 
field called Ozborne s and ownd. the lands afterwards 
the glebe of the parish. 1 He had three sons, Thomas 
who died young, Field who settled on the waters of 
Roanoke and left numerous descendants, and Peter 
my father, who settled on the lands I still own called 
Shad well 2 adjoining my present residence. He was 
born Feb. 29, 1707/8, and intermarried 1739, with 
Jane Randolph, of the age of 19. daur of Isham Ran 
dolph one of the seven sons of that name & family 
settled at Dungeoness in Goochld. They trace their 
pedigree far back in England & Scotland, to which 
let every one ascribe the faith & merit he chooses. 

My father s education had been quite neglected; 
but being of a strong mind, sound judgment and 
eager after information, he read much and improved 
himself insomuch that he was chosen with Joshua 
Fry, professor of Math em. in W. & M. college to con 
tinue the boundary line between Virginia & N. 
Caroline which had been begun by Colo Byrd, and 
was afterwards employed with the same Mr. Fry to 
make the ist map of Virginia 3 which had ever been 
made, that of Capt Smith being merely a conjectural 
sketch. They possessed excellent materials for so 
much of the country as is below the blue ridge; little 
being then known beyond that ridge. He was the 

1 This was Capt. Thomas Jefferson, son of Thomas and Mary (Branch) 
Jefferson, of Henrico Co. He married Mary Field."- 

2 In Albemarle County. The house lot of 400 acres was purchased 
from William Randolph by "Henry Weatherbourne s biggest bowl of 
arrack punch." 

3 Engraved and printed on four sheets in London, in 1751, by 
Thomas Jeffreys. The name Shadwell which it contains is even then 
one of the most western of settlements. 



1743] Thomas Jefferson 5 

3d or 4th settler of the part of the country in which 
I live, which was about 1737. He died Aug. 17. 
1757, leaving my mother a widow who lived till 1776, 
with 6 daurs & 2. sons, myself the elder. 1 To my 
younger brother he left his estate on James river 
called Snowden after the supposed birth-place of the 
family. To myself the lands on which I was born & 
live. He placed me at the English school at 5. years 
of age and at the Latin at 9. where I continued until 
his death. My teacher Mr. Douglas 2 a clergyman 
from Scotland was but a superficial Latinist, less in 
structed in Greek, but with the rudiments of these 
languages he taught me French, and on the death of 
my father I went to the revd. Mr. Maury 3 a correct 
classical scholar, with whom I continued two years, 
and then went to Wm. and Mary college, to wit in 
the spring of 1760, where I continued 2. years. It 
was my great good fortune, and what probably fixed 

1 In Colonel Peter Jefferson s Prayer Book in the handwriting of 
Thomas Jefferson, are the following entries: 



"Jane Jefferson 
Mary 
Thomas . 
Elizabeth 
Martha 
Peter Field 
A son 


BIRTHS 

1740, June 17 
1741, Oct i 
1743, Apr 2 
1744, Nov. 4 
1746, May 29 
1748, Oct 1 6 
1750, March 9 


MARRIAGES 


DEATHS 

1765 Oct i 


1760 June 24 
1772 Jan i 




1773 Jan i 


1765 Jtily 20 


1748 Nov. 29 
1750 Mar. 9 







Anna Scott Randolph 1755, Oct i 

2 The Rev. William Douglas, of St. James, Northam Parish, Gooch- 
land. 

3 Rev. James Maury, of Fredericks ville, Louisa Co., "an ingenious 
young man, who tho born of French parents, has lived with them in 
this country of Virginia since he was a very young child. He has been 
educated at our College." James Blair to Bishop of London, 1742 



6 The Writings of [i7 6 

the destinies 5 of my life that Dr. Wm. Small of Scot 
land was then professor of Mathematics, a man pro 
found in most of the useful branches of science, with 
a happy talent of communication correct and gen 
tlemanly manners, & an enlarged & liberal mind. 
He, most happily for me, became soon attached to 
me & made me his daily companion when not en 
gaged in the school; and from his conversation I 
got my first views of the expansion of science & of 
the system of things in which we are placed. Fortu 
nately the Philosophical chair became vacant soon 
after my arrival at college, and he was appointed to 
fill it per interim : and he was the first who ever gave 
in that college regular lectures in Ethics /Rhetoric & 
Belles lettres. He returned to Europe in 1762, 
having previously filled up the measure of his good 
ness to me, by procuring for me, from his most inti 
mate friend G. Wythe, a reception as a student of 
law, under his direction, and introduced me to the 
acquaintance and familiar table of Governor Fau- 
quier, the ablest man who had ever filled that office. 
With him, and at his table, Dr. Small & Mr. Wythe, 
his amici omnium horarum, & myself, formed a 
partie quarree, & to the habitual conversations on 
these occasions I owed much instruction. Mr. Wythe 
continued to be my faithful and beloved Mentor in 
youth, and my most affectionate friend through life. 
In 1767, he led me into the practice of the law at 
the bar of the General court, at which I continued 
until the revolution shut up the courts of justice. 
[For a sketch of the life & character of Mr. Wythe see 
my letter of Aug. 31. 20. to Mr. John Saunderson] 



1769] Thomas Jefferson 7 

In 1769, I became a member of the legislature by 
the choice of the county in which I live, & continued 
in that until it was closed by the revolution. I 
made one effort in that body for the permission of 
the emancipation of slaves, 1 which was rejected: 
and indeed, during the regal government, nothing 
liberal could expect success. Our minds were cir 
cumscribed within narrow limits by an habitual be 
lief that it was our duty to be subordinate to the 
mother country in all matters of government, to 
direct all our labors in subservience to her interests, 
and even to observe a bigoted intolerance for all 
religions but hers. The difficulties with our repre 
sentatives were of habit and despair, not of reflection 
& conviction. Experience soon proved that they 
could bring their minds to rights on the first sum 
mons of their attention. But the king s council, 
which acted as another house of legislature, held 
their places at will & were in most humble obedience 
to that will: the Governor too, who had a negative 
on our laws held by the same tenure, & with still 
greater devotedness to it: and last of all the Royal 
negative closed the last door to every hope of 
amelioration. 

On the ist of January, 1772 I was married to 
Martha Skelton widow of Bathurst Skelton, & 
daughter of John Wayles, then 23. years old. Mr. 
Wayles was a lawyer of much practice, to which he 

1 Under the act oi id George II., no slave was to be set "free upon 
anv pretence whatsoever, except for some meritorious services, to be 
adjudged and allowed by the Governor and Council/ Acts of the 
Assembly, 176 p. No trace of this "effort" is recorded in the Journal 
of the House of Burgesses. 



8 The Writings of [1772 

was introduced more by his great industry, punctual 
ity & practical readiness, than to eminence in the 
science of his profession. He was a most agreeable 
companion, full of pleasantry & good- humor, and 
welcomed in every society. He acquired a hand- 
some fortune, died in May, 1773, leaving three 
daughters, and the portion which came on that event 
to Mrs. Jefferson, after the debts should be paid, 
which were very considerable, was about equal to 
my own patrimony, and consequently doubled the 
ease of our circumstances. 

When the famous Resolutions of 1765, against the 
Stamp-act, were proposed, I was yet a student of 
law in AVmsbg. I attended the debate however at 
the door of the lobby of the H. of Burgesses, & heard 
the splendid display of Mr. Henry s talents as a popu 
lar orator. They were great indeed ; such as I have 
never heard from any other man. He appeared to 
me to speak as Homer wrote. Mr. Johnson, a law 
yer & member from the Northern Neck, seconded the 
resolns, & by him the learning & the logic of the case 
were chiefly maintained. My recollections of these 
transactions may be seen pa. 60, Wirt s life of P. H., 1 
to whom I furnished them. 

In May, 2 1769, a meeting of the General Assembly 
was called by the Govr., Ld. Botetourt. I had then 
become a member; and to that meeting became 
known the joint resolutions & address of the Lords 
& Commons of 1768-9, on the proceedings in Mas 
sachusetts. Counter-resolutions, & an address to the 

1 Patrick Henry. Cf. post, sketch of Patrick Henry, under 1814. 

2 May 8th. 



1769] Thomas Jefferson 9 

King, by the H. of Burgesses were agreed to with 
little opposition, & a spirit manifestly displayed of 
considering the cause of Massachusetts as a common 
one. The Governor dissolved us l : but we met the 
next day in the Apollo 2 of the Raleigh tavern, 
formed ourselves into a voluntary convention, drew 
up articles of association against the use of any 
merchandise imported from Gr. Britain, signed and 
recommended them to the people, repaired to our 
several counties, & were re elected without any other 
exception than of the very few who had declined 
assent to our proceedings. 

Nothing of particular excitement occurring for a 
considerable time our countrymen seemed to fall into 
a state of insensibility to our situation. The duty 
on tea not yet repealed & the Declaratory act of a 
right in the British parl to bind us by their laws in 
all cases whatsoever, still suspended over us. But a 
court of inquiry held in R. Island in 1762, with a 
power to send persons to England to be tried for 
offences committed here 3 was considered. at our ses 
sion of the spring of 1773. as demanding attention. 
Not thinking our old & leading members up to the 
point of forwardness & zeal which the times required, 
Mr. Henry, R. H. Lee, Francis L. Lee, Mr. Carr & 
myself agreed to meet in the evening in a private 
room of the Raleigh to consult on the state of things. 
There may have been a member or two more whom I 

1 May 1 6th. 

2 A public room sometimes called the "long room" in the tavern. 
There is a picture of it in The Century Magazine for November, 1875. 

3 This was the famous "Gaspee" inquiry, the date being a slip for 
1772. 



io The Writings of [1773 

do not recollect. We were all sensible that the most 
urgent of all measures was that of coming to an 
understanding with all the other colonies to consider 
the British claims as a common cause to all, & to 
produce an unity of action : and for this purpose that 
a commee of correspondce in each colony would 
be the best instrument for intercommunication : and 
that their first measure would probably be to pro 
pose a meeting of deputies from every colony at 
some central place, who should be charged with the 
direction of the measures which should be taken by 
all. We therefore drew up the resolutions which 
may be seen in Wirt pa 87 . The consulting members 
proposed to me to move them, but I urged that it 
should be done by Mr. Carr, 1 my friend & brother in 
law, then a new member to whom I wished an op 
portunity should be given of making known to the 
house his great worth & talents. It was so agreed; 
he moved them, they were agreed to nem. con. and a 
commee of correspondence appointed of whom Pey 
ton Randolph, the Speaker, was chairman. The 
Govr. (then Ld. Dunmore) dissolved us, but the 
commee met the next day, prepared a circular letter 
to the Speakers of the other colonies, inclosing to 
each a copy of the resolns and left it in charge with 
their chairman to forward them by expresses. 

The origination of these commees of correspond 
ence between the colonies has been since claimed for 
Massachusetts, and Marshall II. 151, has given into 
this error, altho the very note of his appendix to 
which he refers, shows that their establmt was con- 

1 Dabney Carr. He married Martha Jefferson. 



1774] Thomas Jefferson 11 

fined to their own towns. This matter will be seen 
clearly stated in a letter of Samuel Adams Wells to 
me of Apr. 2, 1819, and my answer of May 12. I 
was corrected by the letter of Mr. Wells in the in 
formation I had given Mr. Wirt, as stated in his note, 
pa. 87, that the messengers of Massach. & Virga 
crossed each other on the way bearing similar pro 
positions, for Mr. Wells shows that Mass, did not 
adopt the measure but on the receipt of our proposn 
delivered at their next session. Their message 
therefore which passed ours, must have related to 
something else, for I well remember P. Randolph s 
informing me of the crossing of our messengers. 

The next event which excited our sympathies for 
Massachusets was the Boston port bill, by which 
that port was to be shut up on the ist of June, 1774. 
This arrived while we were in session in the spring of 
that year. The lead in the house on these subjects 
being no longer left to the old members, Mr. Henry, 
R. H. Lee, Fr. L. Lee, 3. or 4. other members, whom 
I do not recollect, and myself, agreeing that we must 
boldly take an unequivocal stand in the line with 
Massachusetts, determined to meet and consult on 
the proper measures in the council chamber, for the 
benefit of the library in that room. We were under 
conviction of the necessity of arousing our people 
from the lethargy into which they had fallen as to 
passing events; and thought that the appointment 
of a day of general fasting & prayer would be 
most likely to call up & alarm their attention. 1 No 

1 "Mr. Jefferson and Charles Lee may be said to have originated a 
fast to electrify the people from the pulpit. . . . Those gentlemen, 



12 The Writings of [1774 

example of such a solemnity had existed since the 
days of our distresses in the war of 5 5 . since which a 
new generation had grown up. With the help there 
fore of Rush worth, whom we rummaged over for the 
revolutionary precedents & forms of the Puritans of 
that day, preserved by him, we cooked up a resolu 
tion, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for ap 
pointing the ist day of June, on which the Port bill 
was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation & 
prayer, to implore heaven to avert from us the evils 
of civil war, to inspire us with firmness in support of 
our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King & par 
liament to moderation & justice. 1 To give greater 
emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the 
next morning on Mr. Nicholas, 2 whose grave & re 
ligious character was more in unison with the tone 
of our resolution and to solicit him to move it. We 
accordingly went to him in the morning. He moved 
it the same day; the ist of June was proposed and 
it passed without opposition. 3 The Governor dis- 

knowing that Robert Carter Nicholas, the chairman of the committee 
of religion, was no less zealous than themselves against the attempt to 
starve thousands of American people into a subservience to the minis 
try, easily persuaded him to put forth the strength of his character, on 
an occasion which he thought to be pious, and move a fast, to be 
observed on the first day of June. Edmund Randolph s (MS.) History 
of Virginia, p. 24. 

1 Printed in Force s Archives, 4th, r, 350. 

2 Robert Carter Nicholas. 

3 "It (the fast) was spoke of by some as a Schem calculated to in 
flame and excite an enthusiastic zeal in the Minds of the People under a 
Cloak of Religion, than which nothing could be more calumnious and 
unjust ... The Resolution was not Smiiggled, but proposed in a 
very full House, not above one Dissentient appearing amongst near an 
hundred members." R. C. Nicholas Considerations on the Present 
State of Virginia Examined, p. 40. 



1774] Thomas Jefferson 13 

solved us as usual. We retired to the Apollo as be 
fore, agreed to an association, 1 and instructed the 
commee of correspdce to propose to the correspond 
ing commees of the other colonies to appoint deputies 
to meet in Congress at such place, annually, as should 
be convenient to direct, from time to time, the 
measures required by the general interest: and we 
declared that an attack on any one colony should be 
considered as an attack on the whole. This was in 
May. 2 We further recommended to the several 
counties to elect deputies to meet at Wmsbg the ist 
of Aug ensuing, to consider the state of the colony, 
& particularly to appoint delegates to a general Con 
gress, should that measure be acceded to by the 
commees of correspdce generally. 3 It was acceded 
to, Philadelphia was appointed for the place, and the 
5th of Sep. for the time of meeting. We returned 
home, and in our several counties invited the clergy 
to meet assemblies of the people on the ist of June, 4 
to perform the ceremonies of the day, & to address to 
them discourses suited to the occasion. The people 
met generally, with anxiety & alarm in their coun 
tenances, and the effect of the day thro the whole 
colony was like a shock of electricity, arousing every 
man & placing him erect & solidly on his centre. 

1 Printed in Rind s Virginia Gazette for May 26, i 774. It was signed 
by eighty-nine members. 

2 May 27, 1774. 

3 This was in a separate resolution, adopted May 3oth, by "all the 
members that were then in town." It was not to "elect deputies " but 
merely a reference of the consideration of important papers to such 
"late members of the House of Burgesses" who should then gather. 

4 By the original invitation, printed herein under June, 1774, it will 
be seen that the call was for June 23d, instead of the ist. 



14 The Writings of [1774 

They chose universally delegates for the convention. 
Being elected one for my own county I prepared a 
draught of instructions to be given to the delegates 
whom we should send to the Congress, and which I 
meant to propose at our meeting. In this I took the 
ground which, from the beginning I had thought the 
only one orthodox or tenable, which was that the 
relation between Gr. Br. and these colonies was 
exactly the same as that of England & Scotland 
after the accession of James until the Union, and 
the same as her present relations with Hanover, 
having the same Executive chief but no other neces 
sary political connection; and that our emigration 
from England to this country gave her no more rights 
over us, than the emigrations of the Danes and 
Saxons gave to the present authorities of the mother 
country over England. In this doctrine however I 
had never been able to get any one to agree with me 
but Mr. Wythe. He concurred in it from the first 
dawn of the question What was the political relation 
between us & England? Our other patriots Ran 
dolph, the Lees, Nicholas, Pendleton stopped at the 
half-way house of John Dickinson who admitted that 
England had a right to regulate our commerce, and 
to lay duties on it for the purposes of regulation, but 
not of raising revenue. But for this ground there 
was no foundation in compact, in any acknowledged 
principles of colonization, nor in reason: expatria 
tion being a natural right, and acted on as such, by 
all nations, in all ages. I set out for Wmsbg some 
days before that appointed for our meeting, but was 
taken ill of a dysentery on the road, & unable to pro- 



1774] Thomas Jefferson 15 

ceed. I sent on therefore to Wmsbg two copies of 
my draught, the one under cover to Peyton Ran 
dolph, who I knew would be in the chair of the con 
vention, the other to Patrick Henry. Whether Mr. 
Henry disapproved the ground taken, or was too 
lazy to read it (for he was the laziest man in reading 
I ever knew) I never learned : but he communicated 
it to nobody. Peyton Randolph informed the con 
vention he had received such a paper from a member 
prevented by sickness from offering it in his place, 
and he laid it on the table for perusal. It was read 
generally by the members, approved by many, but 
thought too bold for the present state of things ; but 
they printed it in pamphlet form under the title of 
A Summary view of the rights of British America. 
It found its way to England, was taken up by the 
opposition, interpolated a little by Mr. Burke so as 
to make it answer opposition purposes, and in that 
form ran rapidly thro several editions. 1 This in 
formation I had from Parson Hurt, 2 who happened 
at the time to be in London, whither he had gone to 
receive clerical orders. And I was informed after 
wards by Peyton Randolph that it had procured me 
the honor of having my name inserted in a long list 
of proscriptions enrolled in a bill of attainder com 
menced in one of the houses of parliament, but sup 
pressed in embryo by the hasty step of events which 
warned them to be a little cautious. 3 Montague, 

1 There are several errors in this statement, which are treated in the 
note on the pamphlet. See post, 1774. 

2 Rev. John Hurt. 

3 It is hardly necessary to state that this so-called bill was a myth, 
which had no basis in fact. But at the time when these leaders were 



16 The Writings of [1775 

agent pf the H. of Burgesses in England made ex 
tracts from the bill, copied the names, and sent them 
to Peyton Randolph. The names I think were about 
20 which he repeated to me, but I recollect those 
only of Hancock, the two Adamses, Peyton Randolph 
himself, Patrick Henry, & myself. 1 The conven 
tion met on the ist of Aug, renewed their associa 
tion, appointed delegates to the Congress, gave them 
instructions very temperately & properly expressed, 
both as to style & matter; and they repaired to 
Philadelphia at the time appointed. The splendid 
proceedings of that Congress at their ist session be 
long to general history, are known to every one, and 
need not therefore be noted here. They terminated 
their session on the 26th of Octob, to meet again 
on the zoth May ensuing. The convention at their 
ensuing session of Mar, 75, 2 approved of the proceed 
ings of Congress, thanked their delegates and reap- 
pointed the same persons to represent the colony at 
the meeting to be held in May : and foreseeing the 
probability that Peyton Randolph their president 
and Speaker also of the H. of B. might be called off, 
they added me, in that event to the delegation. 

Mr. Randolph was according to expectation ob 
liged to leave the chair of Congress to attend the Gen. 
Assembly summoned by Ld. Dunmore to meet on 
the ist day of June 1775. Ld. North s conciliatory 

risking such a proscription, it was the current belief, both in England 
and America, that steps would be taken against them, and it is not 
strange that, in the absence of the proof to the contrary which we now 
possess, it was believed in. 

1 See Girardin s History of Virginia, Appendix No. 12, note. T.J. 

2 March 27, 1775. See Force s Archives, 4th, n, 172. 



i775l Thomas Jefferson 17 

propositions, as they were called, had been received 
by the Governor and furnished the subject for 
which this assembly was convened. Mr. Randolph 
accordingly attended, and the tenor of these propo 
sitions being generally known, as having been ad 
dressed to all the governors, he was anxious that the 
answer of our assembly, likely to be the first, 1 should 
harmonize with what he knew to be the sentiments 
and wishes of the body he had recently left. He 
feared that Mr. Nicholas, whose mind was not yet 
up to the mark of the times, wotild undertake the 
answer, & therefore pressed me to prepare an answer. 
I did so, and with his aid carried it through the house 
with long and doubtful scruples from Mr. Nicholas 
and James Mercer, and a dash of cold water on it 
here & there, enfeebling it somewhat, but finally 
with unanimity or a vote approaching it. 2 This 
being passed, I repaired immediately to Philadelphia, 
and conveyed to Congress the first notice they had 
of it. It was entirely approved there. I took my 
seat with them on the 2ist of June. On the 24th, a 
commee which had been appointed to prepare a de 
claration of the causes of taking up arms, brought in 
their report (drawn I believe by J. Rutledge) which 
not being liked they recommitted it on the 26th, and 
added Mr. Dickinson and myself to the committee. 
On the rising of the house, the commee having not 
yet met, I happened to find myself near Govr W. 
Livingston, and proposed to him to draw the paper. 

1 It had already been referred to the Congress by New Jersey, May 
aoth, 1775. 

3 See post, under June 12, 1775. 



1 8 The Writings of [1775 

He excused himself and proposed that I should draw 
it. On my pressing him with urgency, " we are as 
yet but new acquaintances, sir, said he, why are you 
so earnest for my doing it?" Because, said I, I 
have been informed that you drew the Address to 
the people of Gr. Britain, a production certainly of 
the finest pen in America." " On that, says he, per 
haps sir you may not have been correctly informed." 
I had received the information in Virginia from Colo 
Harrison on his return from that Congress. Lee, 
Livingston & Jay had been the commee for that 
draught. The first, prepared by Lee, had been dis 
approved & recommitted. The second was drawn 
by Jay, but being presented by Govr Livingston, 
had led Colo Harrison into the error. The next 
morning, walking in the hall of Congress, many mem 
bers being assembled but the house not yet formed, 
I observed Mr. Jay, speaking to R. H. Lee, and 
leading him by the button of his coat, to me. " I un 
derstand, sir, said he to me, that this gentleman in 
formed you that Govr Livingston drew the Address 
to the people of Gr Britain." I assured him at once 
that I had not received that information from Mr. 
Lee & that not a word had ever passed on the subject 
between Mr. Lee & myself; and after some explana 
tions the subject was dropt. These gentlemen had 
had some sparrings in debate before, and continued 
ever very hostile to each other. 

I prepared a draught of the Declaration committed 
to us. 1 It was too strong for Mr. Dickinson. He 
still retained the hope of reconciliation with the 

*Cf. note on Jefferson s draft, post, under July 6, 1775. 



i775l Thomas Jefferson 19 

mother country, and was unwilling it should be 
lessened by offensive statements. He was so honest 
a man, & so able a one that he was greatly indulged 
even by those who could not feel his scruples. We 
therefore requested him to take the paper, and put 
it into a form he could approve. He did so, pre 
paring an entire new statement, and preserving of 
the former only the last 4. paragraphs & half of the 
preceding one. We approved & reported it to Con 
gress, who accepted it. Congress gave a signal proof 
of their indulgence to Mr. Dickinson, and of their 
great desire not to go too fast for any respectable 
part of our body, in permitting him to draw their 
second petition to the king according to his own 
ideas, 1 and passing it with scarcely any amendment. 
The disgust against this humility was general; and 
Mr. Dickinson s delight at its passage was the only 
circumstance which reconciled them to it. The 
vote being passed, altho further observn on it was 
out of order, he could not refrain from rising and ex 
pressing his satisfaction and concluded -by saying 
"there is but one word, Mr. President, in the paper 
which I disapprove, & that is the word Congress," 
on which Ben Harrison rose and said "there is but 
one word in the paper, Mr. President, of which I ap 
prove, and that is the word Congress" 

On the 22d of July Dr. Franklin, Mr. Adams, R. 
H. Lee, & myself, were appointed a commee to con 
sider and report on Ld. North s conciliatory resolu 
tion. The answer of the Virginia assembly on that 
subject having been approved I was requested by 

1 " Scarcely I believe altering one " struck out in MS. by author. 



20 The Writings of 

the commee to prepare this report, which will ac 
count for the similarity of feature in the two instru 
ments. 1 

On the i5th of May, 1776, the convention of Vir 
ginia instructed their delegates in Congress to pro 
pose to that body to declare the colonies independent 
of G. Britain, and appointed a commee to prepare a 
declaration of rights and plan of government. 2 

3 In Congress, Friday June 7. 1776. The delegates 
from Virginia moved 4 in obedience to instructions 
from their constituents that the Congress should de 
clare that these United colonies are & of right ought 
to be free & independent states, that they are ab 
solved from all allegiance to the British crown, and 
that all political connection between them & the 
state of Great Britain is & ought to be, totally dis 
solved; that measures should be immediately taken 
for procuring the assistance of foreign powers, and a 
Confederation be formed to bind the colonies more 
closely together. 5 

1 See post, under July 31, 1775. 

2 Printed in Force s Archives, 5th, vi, 461. 

3 Here, in the original manuscript, commence the "two preceding 
sheets" referred to by Mr. Jefferson, as containing "notes" taken by 
him "whilst these things were going on. " They are easily distinguished 
from the body of the MS. in which they were inserted by him, being of 
a paper very different in size, quality, and color from that on which the 
latter is written. 

4 Introduced by Richard Henry Lee. His autograph resolution is 
reproduced in Etting s Memorials of 1776, p. 4. 

5 "The Congress sat till 7 o clock this evening in consequence of a 
motion of R. H. Lee s rendering ourselves free and independent States. 
The sensible part of the House opposed the Motion they had no ob 
jection to forming a Scheme of a Treaty which they would send to 
France by proper Persons & uniting this Continent by a Confederacy; 
they saw no wisdom in a Declaration of Independence, nor any other 



Thomas Jefferson 21 

The house being obliged to attend at that time 
to some other business, the proposition was referred 
to the next day, when the members were ordered to 
attend punctually at ten o clock. 

Saturday June 8. They proceeded to take it into 
consideration and referred it to a committee of the 
whole, into which they immediately resolved them 
selves, and passed that day & Monday the loth in 
debating on the subject. 

It was argued by Wilson, Robert R. Livingston, 
E. Rutledge, Dickinson and others 

That tho they were friends to the measures them 
selves, and saw the impossibility that we should ever 
again be united with Gr. Britain, yet they were 
against adopting them at this time: 

That the conduct we had formerly observed was 
wise & proper now, of deferring to take any capital 
step till the voice of the people drove us into it : 

That they were our power, & without them our 
declarations could not be carried into effect; 

That the people of the middle colonies (Maryland, 
Delaware, Pennsylva, the Jerseys & N. York) were 

Purpose to be enforced by it, but placing ourselves in the power of 
those with whom we mean to treat, giving our Enemy Notice of our 
Intentions before we had taken any steps to execute them. The event, 
however, was that the Question was postponed ; it is to be renewed on 
Monday when I mean to move that it should be postponed for 3 Weeks 
or Months. In the mean Time the plan of Confederation & the Scheme 
of Treaty may go on. I don t know whether I shall succeed in this 
Motion; I think not, it is at least doubtful. However I must do what 
is right in my own Eyes, & Consequences must take Care of themselves. 
I wish you had been here the whole Argument was sustained on one 
side by R. Livingston, Wilson, Dickenson, & myself, & by the Power 
of all N. England, Virginia & Georgia at the other." E. Rutledge to 
John Jay, June S, 1776. 



22 



The Writings of [1776 



not yet ripe for bidding adieu to British connection, 
but that they were fast ripening & in a short time 
would join in the general voice of America : 

That the resolution entered into by this house on 
the 1 5th of May for suppressing the exercise of all 
powers derived from the crown, had shown, by the 
ferment into which it had thrown these middle colo 
nies, that they had not yet accommodated their 
minds to a separation from the mother country : 

That some of them had expressly forbidden their 
delegates to consent to such a declaration, and others 
had given no instructions, & consequently no powers 
to give such consent: 

That if the delegates of any particular colony had 
no power to declare such colony independant, certain 
they were the others could not declare it for them; 
the colonies being as yet perfectly independant of 
each other : 

That the assembly of Pennsylvania was now sitting 
above stairs, their convention would sit within a few 
days, the convention of New York was now sitting, 
& those of the Jerseys & Delaware counties would 
meet on the Monday following, & it was probable 
these bodies would take up the question of Inde- 
pendance & would declare to their delegates the voice 
of their state : 

1 That "every kind of authority under the said crown should be 
totally suppressed" and "to adopt such government as shall . . . 
best conduce to the happiness and safety of their constituents." 
Journal of Congress, n., 166, 174. Duane, in a letter to Jay, dated 
May 1 6th, states that: "it has occasioned a great alarm here [Phila- 
delphial, and the cautious folks are very fearful of its being attended 
with many ill consequences." 



776] Thomas Jefferson 23 

That if such a declaration should now be agreed to, 
these delegates must retire possibly their colonies 
might secede from the Union: 

That such a secession would weaken us more than 
could be compensated by any foreign alliance: 

That in the event of such a division, foreign powers 
would either refuse to join themselves to our fortunes, 
or, having us so much in their power as that desperate 
declaration would place us, they would insist on 
terms proportionably more hard and prejudicial : 

That we had little reason to expect an alliance with 
those to whom alone as yet we had cast our eyes: 

That France & Spain had reason to be jealous of 
that rising power which would one day certainly 
strip them of all their American possessions: 

That it was more likely they should form a con 
nection with the British court, who, if they should 
find themselves unable otherwise to extricate them 
selves from their difficulties, would agree to a parti 
tion of our territories, restoring Canada to France, 
& the Floridas to Spain, to accomplish for- themselves 
a recovery of these colonies : 

That it would not be long before we should re 
ceive certain information of the disposition of the 
French court, from the agent whom we had sent to 
Paris for that purpose : 

That if this disposition should be favorable, by 
waiting the event of the present campaign, which we 
all hoped would be successful, we should have reason 
to expect an alliance on better terms: 

That this would in fact work no delay of any 
effectual aid from such ally, as, from the advance of 



24 The Writings of 

the season & distance of our situation, it was im 
possible we could receive any assistance during this 
campaign : 

That it was prudent to fix among ourselves the 
terms on which we should form alliance, before we 
declared we would form one at all events: 

And that if these were agreed on, & our Declara 
tion of Independance ready by the time our Am 
bassador should be prepared to sail, it would be as 
well as to go into that Declaration at this day. 

On the other side it was urged by J. Adams, Lee, 
Wythe, and others 

That no gentleman had argued against the policy 
or the right of separation from Britain, nor had sup 
posed it possible we should ever renew our connec 
tion; that they had only opposed its being now 
declared : 

That the question was not whether, by a declara 
tion of independance, we should make ourselves what 
we are not; but whether we should declare a fact 
which already exists: 

That as to the people or parliament of England, 
we had alwais been independent of them, their re 
straints on our trade deriving efficacy from our 
acquiescence only, & not from any rights they 
possessed of imposing them, & that so far our con 
nection had been federal only & was now dissolved 
by the commencement of hostilities: 

That as to the King, we had been bound to him by 
allegiance, but that this bond was now dissolved by 
his assent to the late act of parliament, by which he 
declares us out of his protection, and by his levying 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 25 

war on us, a fact which had long ago proved us out 
of his protection ; it being a certain position in law 
that allegiance & protection are reciprocal, the one 
ceasing when the other is withdrawn: 

That James the lid. never declared the people of 
England out of his protection yet his actions proved 
it the parliament declared it: 

No delegates then can be denied, or ever want, a 
power of declaring an existing truth: 

That the delegates from the Delaware counties 
having declared their constituents ready to join, there 
are only two colonies Pennsylvania & Maryland 
whose delegates are absolutely tied up, and that 
these had by their instructions only reserved a right 
of confirming or rejecting the measure: 

That the instructions from Pennsylvania might be 
accounted for from the times in which they were 
drawn, near a twelvemonth ago, since which the face 
of affairs has totally changed: 

That within that time it had become apparent that 
Britain was determined to accept nothing less than 
a carte-blanche, and that the King s answer to the 
Lord Mayor Aldermen & common council of London, 
which had come to hand four days ago, must have 
satisfied every one of this point: 

That the people wait for us to lead the way : 

That they are in favour of the measure, tho the in 
structions given by some of their representatives are 
not: 

That the voice of the representatives is not always 
consonant with the voice of the people, and that this 
is remarkably the case in these middle colonies: 



26 The Writings of [1776 

That the effect of the resolution of the i5th of May 
has proved this, which, raising the murmurs of some 
in the colonies of -Pennsylvania & Maryland, called 
forth the opposing voice of the freer part of the peo 
ple, & proved them to be the majority, even in these 
colonies : 

That the backwardness of these two colonies might 
be ascribed partly to the influence of proprietary 
power & connections, & partly to their having not 
yet been attacked by the enemy: 

That these causes were not likely to be soon re 
moved, as there seemed no probability that the 
enemy would make either of these the seat of this 
summer s war: 

That it would be vain to w r ait either weeks or 
months for perfect unanimity, since it was impos 
sible that all men should ever become of one senti 
ment on any question : 

That the conduct of some colonies from the begin 
ning of this contest, had given reason to suspect 
it was their settled policy to keep in the. rear of the 
confederacy, that their particular prospect might be 
better, even in the worst event: 

That therefore it was necessary for those colonies 
who had thrown themselves forward & hazarded all 
from the beginning, to come forward now also, and 
put all again to their own hazard: 

That the history of the Dutch revolution, of whom 
three states only confederated at first proved that a 
secession of some colonies would not be so dangerous 
as some apprehended : 

That a declaration of Independence alone could 



i77 6 J Thomas Jefferson 27 

render it consistent with European delicacy for Euro 
pean powers to treat with us, or even to receive an 
Ambassador from us: 

That till this they would not receive our vessels 
into their ports, nor acknowledge the adjudications 
of our courts of admiralty to be legitimate, in cases 
of capture of British vessels: 

That though France & Spain may be jealous of our 
rising power, they must think it will be much more 
formidable with the addition of Great Britain; and 
will therefore see it their interest to prevent a coali 
tion; but should they refuse, we shall be but where 
we are ; whereas without trying we shall never know 
whether they will aid us or not: 

That the present campaign may be unsuccessful, 
& therefore we had better propose an alliance while 
our affairs wear a hopeful aspect: 

That to await the event of this campaign will 
certainly work delay, because during this summer 
France may assist us effectually by cutting off those 
supplies of provisions from England & Ireland on 
which the enemy s armies here are to depend; or by 
setting in motion the great power they have collected 
in the West Indies, & calling our enemy to the de 
fence of the possessions they have there: 

That it would be idle to lose time in settling the 
terms of alliance, till we had first determined we 
would enter into alliance: 

That it is necessary to lose no time in opening a 
trade for our people, who will want clothes, and will 
want money too for the paiment of taxes: 

And that the only misfortune is that we did not 



28 The Writings of [1776 

enter into alliance with France six months sooner, 
as besides opening their ports for the vent of our last 
year s produce, they might have marched an army 
into Germany and prevented the petty princes there 
from selling their unhappy subjects to subdue us. 

It appearing in the course of these debates that 
the colonies of N. York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, 
Delaware, Maryland, and South Carolina x were not 
yet matured for falling from the parent stem, but 
that they were fast advancing to that state, it was 
thought most prudent to wait a while for them, and 
to postpone the final decision to July i. but that this 
might occasion as little delay as possible a committee 
was appointed 2 to prepare a declaration of inde 
pendence. The commee were J. Adams, Dr. Frank 
lin, Roger Sherman, Robert R. Livingston & myself. 
Committees were also appointed at the same time to 
prepare a plan of confederation for the colonies, and 
to state the terms proper to be proposed for foreign 
alliance. The committee for drawing the declara 
tion of Independence desired me to do it. It was 
accordingly done, and being approved by them, I 
reported it to the house on Friday the 28th of June 
when it was read and ordered to lie on the table. 3 On 

1 " Had not yet advanced to" struck out in MS. by author. 

2 June 10, 1776. 

3 A different account is given of this by John Adams, as follows: 
"The committee had several meetings, in which were proposed the 

articles of which the declaration was to consist, and minutes made of 
them. The committee then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to draw 
them up in form, and clothe them in a proper dress. The sub-com 
mittee met, and considered the minutes, making such observations on 
them an then occurred, when Mr. Jefferson desired me to take them to 
my lodgings, and make the draught. This I declined, and gave several 



X 77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 29 

Monday, the ist of July the house resolved itself into 
a commee of the whole & resumed the consideration 
of the original motion made by the delegates of 

reasons for declining, i. That he was a Virginian, and I a Massa- 
chusettensian. 2. That he was a southern man, and 1 a northern one. 

3. That I had been so obnoxious for my early and constant zeal in pro 
moting the measure, that any draught of mine would undergo a more 
severe scrutiny and criticism in Congress, than one of his composition. 

4. And lastly, and that would be reason enough if there were no other, 
I had a great opinion of the elegance of his pen, and none at all of my 
own. I therefore insisted that no hesitation should be made on his 
part. He accordingly took the minutes, and in a day or two produced 
to me his draught. Whether I made or suggested any correction, I 
remember not. The report was made to the committee of five, by 
them examined, but, whether altered or corrected in any thing, I 
cannot recollect. But, in substance at least, it was reported to Con 
gress, where, after a severe criticism, and striking out several of the 
most oratorical paragraphs, it was adopted on the fourth of July, 1776, 
and published to the world." Autobiography of John Adams. 

"You inquire why so young a man as Mr. Jefferson was placed at 
the head of the Committee for preparing a Declaration of Independ 
ence? I answer: it was the Frankfort advice, to place Virginia at the 
head of every thing. Mr. Richard Henry Lee might be gone to Vir- 
gina, to his sick family, for aught I know, but that was not the reason 
of Mr. Jefferson s appointment. There were three committees ap 
pointed at the same time. One for the Declaration of Independence, 
another for preparing the articles of Confederation, another for pre 
paring a treaty to be proposed to France. Mr. Lee was chosen for the 
committee of Confederation, and it was not thought convenient that 
the same person should be upon both. Mr. Jefferson came into Con 
gress, in June, 1775, and brought with him a reputation for literature, 
science, and a happy talent of composition. Writings of his were 
handed about, remarkable for the peculiar felicity of expression. 
Though a silent member in Congress, he was so prompt, frank, ex 
plicit, and decisive upon committees and in conversation, not even 
Samuel Adams was more so, that he soon seized upon my heart and 
upon this occasion I gave him my vote, and did all in my power to 
procure the votes of others. I think he had one more vote than any 
other, and that placed him at the head of the committee. I had the 
next highest number, and that placed me the second. The committee 
met, discussed the subject, and then appointed Mr. Jefferson and me to 
make the draft, I suppose because we were the two first on the list. 

"The sub-committee met. Jefferson proposed to me to make the 



30 The Writings of 

Virginia, which being again debated through the 
day, was carried in the affirmative by the votes of 
N. Hampshire, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode 
Island, N. Jersey, Maryland, Virginia, N. Carolina, & 

draft. I said: I will not. You should do it. Oh! no. Why 
will you not? You ought to do it. I will not. Why? Reasons 
enough. What can be your reasons ? Reason first You are a 
Virginian, and a Virginian ought to appear at the head of this business. 
Reason second I am obnoxious, suspected, and unpopular. You are 
very much otherwise. Reason third You can write ten times better 
than I can. Well, said Jefferson, If you are decided, I will do as 
well as I can. Very well. When you have drawn it up, we will have 
a meeting. 

"A meeting we accordingly had, and conned the paper over. I was 
delighted with its high tone and the flights of oratory with which it 
abounded, especially that concerning negro slavery, which, though I 
knew his Southern brethren would never suffer to pass in Congress, 
I certainly never would oppose. There were other expressions which I 
would not have inserted, if I had drawn it up, particularly that which 
called the King tyrant. I thought this too personal; for I never be 
lieved George to be a tyrant in disposition and in nature; I always be 
lieved him to be deceived by his courtiers on both sides of the Atlantic, 
and in his official capacity only, cruel. I thought the expression too 
passionate, and too much like scolding, for so grave and solemn a 
document ; but as Franklin and Sherman were to inspect it afterwards, 
I thought it would not become me to strike it out. I consented to re 
port it, and do not now remember that I made or suggested a single 
alteration. 

"We reported it to the committee of five. It was read, and I do not 
remember that. Franklin or Sherman criticised any thing. We were 
all in haste. Congress was impatient, and the instrument was re 
ported, as I believe, in Jefferson s handwriting, as he first drew it. 
Congress cut off about a quarter of it, as I expected they would; but 
they obliterated some of the best of it, and left all that was exception 
able, if anything in it was. I have long wondered that the original 
draught has not been published. I suppose the reason is, the ve 
hement philippic against negro slavery." John Adams to Timothy 
Pickering, Aug. 22, 1822. 

To this Jefferson replied: 

"You have doubtless seen Timothy Pickering s fourth of July ob 
servations on the Declaration of Independence. If- his principles and 
prejudices, personal and political, gave us no reason to doubt whether 



Thomas Jefferson 3 1 

Georgia. S. Carolina and Pennsylvania voted against 
it.. Delaware having but two members present, they 
were divided. 1 The delegates for New York de- 
he had truly quoted the information he alleges to have received from 
Mr. Adams, I should then say, that in some of the particulars, Mr. 
Adams memory has led him into unquestionable error. At the age 
of eighty-eight, and forty-seven years after the transactions of Inde 
pendence, this is not wonderful. Nor should I, at the age of eighty, on 
the small advantage of that difference only, venture to oppose my 
memory to his, were it not supported by written notes, taken by my 
self at the moment and on the spot. He says the committee of five, 
to wit, Doctor Franklin, Sherman, Livingston and ourselves, met, dis 
cussed the subject, and then appointed him and myself to make the 
draught; that we, as a sub-committee, met, and after the urgencies 
of each on the other, I consented to undertake the task, that the 
draught being made, we, the sub-committee, met, and conned the 
paper over, and he does not remember that he made or suggested a 
single alteration. Now these details are quite incorrect. The com 
mittee of five met; no such thing as a sub-committee was proposed, but 
they unanimously pressed on myself alone to undertake the draught. 
I consented; I drew it; but before I reported it to the committee, I 
communicated it separately to Doctor Franklin and Mr. Adams, re 
questing their corrections because they were the two members of 
whose judgments and amendments I wished most to have the benefit, 
before presenting it to the committee : and you have seen the original 
paper now in my hands, with the corrections of Doctor Franklin and 
Mr. Adams interlined in their own handwritings. Their alterations 
were two or three only, and merely verbal. I then wrote a fair copy, 
reported it to the committee, and from them unaltered, to Congress. 
This personal communication and consultation with Mr. Adams, he 
has misremembered into the actings of a sub-committee. Pickering s 
observations, and Mr. Adams in addition, that it contained no new 
ideas, that it is a common place compilation, its sentiments hacknied 
in Congress for two years before, and its essence contained in Otis 
pamphlet, may all be true. Of that I am not to be the judge. Rich 
ard Henry Lee charged it as copied from Locke s treatise on govern 
ment. Otis pamphlet I never saw, and whether I had gathered my 
ideas from reading or reflection I do not know. I know only that I 
turned to neither book nor pamphlet while writing it. I did not con 
sider it as any part of my charge to invent new ideas altogether, and 
to offer no sentiment which had ever been expressed before," Letter 
to J. Madison, Aiig. 30, 1823. 

1 George Read (opposing) and Thomas McKean. 



32 The Writings of 

clared they were for it themselves & were assured 
their constituents were for it, but that their instruc 
tions having been drawn near a twelvemonth before, 
when reconciliation was still the general object, they 
were enjoined by them to do nothing which should 
impede that object. They therefore thought them 
selves not justifiable in voting on either side, and 
asked leave to withdraw from the question, which 
was given them. The commee rose & reported their 
resolution to the house. Mr. Edward Rutledge of S. 
Carolina then requested the determination might be 
put off to the next day, as he believed his colleagues, 
tho they disapproved of the resolution, would then 
join in it for the sake of unanimity. The ultimate 
question whether the house would agree to the reso 
lution of the committee was accordingly postponed 
to the next day, when it was again moved and S. Caro 
lina concurred in voting for it. In the meantime a 
third member had come post from the Delaware coun 
ties T and turned the vote of that colony in favour of 
the resolution. Members 2 of a different sentiment 
attending that morning from Pennsylvania also, their 
vote was changed, so that the whole 1 2 colonies who 
were authorized to vote at all, gave their voices for it ; 
and within a few days, 3 the convention of N. York 
approved of it and thus supplied the void occasioned 
by the withdrawing of her delegates from the vote. 
Congress proceeded the same day 4 to consider the 

1 Caesar Rodney. 

2 Dickinson and Robert Morris did not attend, Wilson changed his 
vote, and with Franklin and Morton, outvoted Willing and Humphreys. 

3 July Qth. 

4 Monday, July ist. No sitting was held on Saturday. 



T 77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 33 

declaration of Independance which had been reported 
& lain on the table the Friday preceding, and on Mon 
day referred to a comniee of the whole. The pusil 
lanimous idea that we had friends in England worth 
keeping terms with, still haunted the minds of many. 
For this reason those passages which conveyed cen 
sures on the people of England were struck out, lest 
they should give them offence. The clause too, re 
probating the enslaving the inhabitants of Africa, 
was struck out in complaisance to South Carolina 
and Georgia, who had never attempted to restrain 
the importation of slaves, and who on the contrary 
still wished to continue it. Our northern brethren 
also I believe felt a little tender under those cen 
sures; for tho their people have very few slaves 
themselves yet they had been pretty considerable 
carriers of them to others. The debates having 
taken up the greater parts of the 2d 3d & 4th days of 
July were, 1 in the evening of the last, closed the de 
claration was reported by the commee, agreed to by 
the house and signed by every member present ex 
cept Mr. Dickinson. 2 As the sentiments of men are 
known not only by what they receive, but what they 



1 The "Resolution" for independence was under discussion on. the 
ist of July. The declaration on July 2d, 3d, and 4th. 

3 The question whether the declaration was signed on the 4th of 
July, as well as on the 26. of August, has been a much vexed one, but 
a careful study of it must make almost certain that it was not. The 
MS. Journal of Congress (that printed by order of Congress being 
fabricated and altered) merely required its "authentication," which 
we know from other cases was by the signatures of the president and 
secretary; who accordingly signed it "by order and in behalf of the 
Congress," and the printed copies at once sent out had only these sig 
natures. It is also certain that several of the members then in Con- 

VOL. I. 3, 



34 The Writings of [1776 

reject also, I will state the form of the declaration as 
originally reported. The parts struck out by Con 
gress shall be distinguished by a black line drawn 
under them ; & those inserted by them shall be placed 
in the margin or in a concurrent column. 1 

gress would have refused to sign it on that day, and that the Congress 
therefore had good cause to postpone the signing till certain of the 
delegations should receive new instructions, or be changed; and also 
till its first effect on the people might be seen. For these reasons the 
declaration was not even entered in the journal, though a blank was 
left for it, and when it was inserted at a later period, the list of signers 
was taken from the engrossed copy, though had there been one signed 
on the 4th of July it would certainly have been the one printed from, 
as including the men who were in Congress on that day and who voted 
on the question, instead of one signed by a number of men who were 
neither present nor members when the declaration was adopted. 
Moreover, though the printed journal afterwards led John Adams to 
believe and state that the declaration was signed on the 4th, we have 
his contemporary statement, on July gth, that "as soon as an Amer 
ican seal is prepared, I conjecture the Declaration will be subscribed 
by all the members." And we have the positive denial of McKean 
that "no person signed it on that day," and this statement is substan 
tiated by the later action of Congress in specially permitting him to 
sign what he certainly would have already done on the 4th, had there 
been the opportunity. Opposed to these direct statements and prob 
abilities, we have Jefferson s positive statement, three times repeated, 
that such a signing took place, but as he follows his nearly contempor 
ary one with the statements that it was "signed by every member 
present except Mr. Dickinson," when we have proof positive that all 
the New York delegates refxised to even vote, much less sign, and that 
Dickinson was not even present in Congress on that day, it is evident 
that this narrative is not wholly trustworthy. 

1 " I expected you had in the Preamble to our form of Government, 
exhausted the subject of complaint agt Geo. 3d & was at a loss to 
discover what Congress would do for one to their Declaration of Inde 
pendence without copying, but find you have acquitted your selves 
very well on that score." E. Pendleton to Jefferson, July 22. 

" I am also obliged by ye Original Declaration of Independence, 
which I find your brethren have treated as they did ye Manifesto last 
summer altered it much for the worse ; their hopes of a Reconciliation 
might restrain them from plain truths then, but what could cramp 
them now?" E. Pendleton to Jefferson, Aug. 10, 1776. 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 35 

A DECLARATION BY THE REPRESENTATIVES OF THE 

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, IN GENERAL 

CONGRESS ASSEMBLED 

When in the course of human events it becomes 
necessary for one people to dissolve the political 
bands which have connected them with another, 
and to assume among the powers of the earth the 
separate & equal station to which the laws of na 
ture and of nature s God entitle them, a decent re 
spect to the opinions of mankind requires that they 
should declare the causes which impel them to the 
separation . 

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all 
men are created equal; that they are endowed by 
their creator with inherent and inalienable certain 
rights; that among these are life, liberty, 
& the pursuit of happiness: that to secure these 
rights, governments are instituted among men, de 
riving their just powers from the consent of the 
governed; that whenever any form of government 
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of 
the people to alter or abolish it, & to institute new 
government, laying it s foundation on such prin 
ciples, & organizing it s powers in such form, as to 
them shall seem most likely to effect their safety & 
happiness. Prudence indeed will dictate that gov 
ernments long established should not be changed for 
light & transient causes; and accordingly all ex 
perience hath shown that mankind are more disposed 
to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right them 
selves by abolishing the forms to which they are 



36 The Writings of [1776 

accustomed. But when a long train of abuses & 
usurpations begun at a distinguished period and 
pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a de 
sign to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is 
their right, it is their duty to throw off such govern 
ment, & to provide new guards for their future se 
curity. Such has been the patient sufferance of these 
colonies; & such is now the necessity which con- 
aiter strains them to expunge their former 

systems of government. The history of the 
present king of Great Britain is a history of un- 
rcpeated remitting injuries & usurpations, among 
which appears no solitary fact to contradict the 
an having uniform tenor of the rest but all have in 
direct object the establishment of an absolute 
tyranny over these states. To prove this let facts 
be submitted to a candid world for the truth of which 
we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood. 

He has refused his assent to laws the most whole 
some & necessary for the public good. 

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of 
immediate & pressing importance, unless suspended 
in their operation till his assent should be obtained; 
& when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to 
attend to them. 

He has refused to pass other laws for the accom 
modation of large districts of people, unless those 
people would relinquish the right of representation 
in the legislature, a right inestimable to them, & 
formidable to tyrants only. 

He has called together legislative bodies at places 
unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the deposi- 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 37 

tory of their public records, for the sole purpose of 
fatiguing them into compliance with his measures. 

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly 
& continually for opposing with manly firmness his 
invasions on the rights of the people. 

He has refused for a long time after such dissolu 
tions to cause others to be elected, whereby the 
legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have 
returned to the people at large for their exercise, the 
state remaining in the meantime exposed to all the 
dangers of invasion from without & convulsions 
within. 

He has endeavored to prevent the population of 
these states; for that purpose obstructing the laws 
for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass 
others to encourage their migrations hither, & raising 
the conditions of new appropriations of lands. 

He has suffered the administration of obstructed 
justice totally to cease in some of these b y 

states refusing his assent to laws for establishing 
judiciary powers. 

He has made our judges dependant on his will 
alone, for the tenure of their offices, & the amount 
& paiment of their salaries. 

He has erected a multitude of new offices by a self 
assumed power and sent hither swarms of new officers 
to harass our people and eat out their substance. 

He has kept among us in times of peace standing 
armies and ships of war without the consent of our 
legislatures. 

He has affected to render the military independant 
of, & superior to the civil power. 



38 The Writings of [1776 

He has combined with others to subject us to a 
jurisdiction foreign to our constitutions & unac 
knowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their 
acts of pretended legislation for quartering large 
bodies of armed troops among r_r; for protecting 
them by a mock-trial from punishment for any 
murders which they should commit on the inhabit 
ants of these states ; for cutting off our trade with all 
parts of the world ; for imposing taxes on us without 
in many our consent ; for depriving us [ ] of the 
benefits of trial by jury; for transporting 
us beyond seas to bo tried for pretended offences; 
for abolishing the free system of English laws in a 
neighboring province, establishing therein an arbi 
trary government, and enlarging it s boundaries, so 
as to render it at once an example and fit instru 
ment for introducing the Game absolute 
colonies ru i e into these states ; for taking away our 
charters, abolishing our most valuable laws, and 
altering fundamentally the forms of our govern 
ments; for suspending our own legislatures, & de 
claring themselves invested with power to legislate 
for us in all cases whatsoever, 
by declaring He has abdicated government here with- 

us out of his 

drawing his governors, and declaring us out 
of his allegiance & protection. 
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, 
burnt our towns, & destroyed the lives of our 
people. 

He is at this time transporting large armies of 
foreign mercenaries to compleat the works of death, 
desolation & tyranny already begun with circum- 



war against 
us. 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 39 

stances of cruelty and perfidy [ ] unworthy the head 
of a civilized nation. 

He has constrained our fellow citizens 



ages, & 

taken captive on the high seas to bear arms totall y 
against their country, to become the executioners of 
their friends & brethren, or to fall themselves by 
their hands. 

He has [ ] endeavored to bring on the excited 

. . ~ ~ 1 .- domestic in- 

inhabitants of our frontiers the merciless sun-ection 

among us, 

Indian savages, whose known rule of war 

fare is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, 

sexes, & conditions of existence. 

He has incited treasonable insurrections of our 
fellow-citizens, with the allurements of forfeiture & 
confiscation of our property. 

He has waged cruel war against human nature 
itself, violating it s most sacred rights of life and 
liberty in the persons of a distant people who never 
offended him, captivating & carrying them into 
slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable 
death in their transportation thither. This piratical 
warfare, the opprobium of INFIDEL powers, is the 
warfare of tfie CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. De- 
termined to keep open a market where MEN should 
be bought & sold, he has prostituted his negative for 
suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or 
to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this 
assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distin 
guished die, he is now exciting those very people to 
rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty 
of which he has deprived them, by murdering the 
people on whom ho also obtruded them : thus paying 



40 The Writings of l>776 

off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES 
of one people, with crimes which he urges them to 
commit against the LIVES of another. 

In every stage of these oppressions we have peti 
tioned for redress in the most humble terms: our 
repeated petitions have been answered only by re 
peated injuries. 

A prince whose character is thus marked by every 
act which may define a tyrant is unfit to be the ruler 
free of a [ ] people who mean to be free. Future 

ages will scarcely believe that the hardiness of one 
man adventured, within the short compass of twelve 
years only, to lay a foundation so broad & so undis 
guised for tyranny over a people fostered & fixed in 
principles of freedom. 

Nor have we been wanting in attention to our 
British brethren. We have warned them from time 
rantSf" to time of attempts by their legislature to 
us extend ^jurisdiction over these our states. 

We have reminded them of the circumstances of our 
emigration & settlement here, no one of which could 
warrant so strange a pretension: that these were 
effected at the expense of our own blood & treasure, 
unassisted by the wealth or the strength of Great 
Britain: that in constituting indeed our several 
forms of government, we had adopted one common 
king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league 
& amity with them : but that submission to their par 
liament was no part of our constitution, nor ever in 
have idoa, if history may be credited: and, we [ ] 

and we have appealed to their native justice and magnan- 
fem by imity as well as to the ties of our common 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 4 r 

kindred to disavow these usurpations which were 
likely to interrupt our connection and cor- wou i din . 
respondencc. They too have been deaf to 
the voice of justice & of consanguinity, and when 
occasions have been given them, by the regular 
course of their laws, of removing from their coun 
cils the disturbers of our harmony, they have, by 
their free election, re-established them in power. 
At this very time too they are permitting their 
chief magistrate to send over not only soldiers of 
our common blood, but Scotch & foreign mercena 
ries to invade & destroy us. These facts have given 
the last stab to agonizing affection, and manly spirit 
bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren. 
We must endeavor to forget our former love for them, 
and hold them as we hold the rest of mankind, ene 
mies in war, in peace friends. We might have been 
a free and a great people together ; but a communi 
cation of grandeur & of freedom it seems is below 
their dignity. Be it so, since they will have it. The 
road to happiness & to glory is open to us too. We 
will tread it apart from them, and ac- We must therefore 
quiesce in the necessity which de- and hold them as 

. we hold the rest of 

nuonces our eternal separation | mankind, enemies 

in war, in peace 

friends. 



We therefore the repre 
sentatives of the United 
States of America in Gen 
eral Congress assembled 
do in the name & by au 
thority of the good people 
of these states reject & 



We therefore the repre 
sentatives of the United 
States of America in Gen 
eral Congress assembled, 
appealing to the supreme 
judge of the world for the 
rectitude of our inten- 



The Writings of 



[1776 



renounce all allegiance & 
subjection to the kings of 
Great Britain & all others 
who may hereafter claim 
by, through or under 
them: we utterly dis 
solve all political connec 
tion which may hereto- 
fore have subsisted be 
tween us & the people 
or parliament of Great 
Britain: & finally we do 
assert & declare these 
colonies to be free & 
independent states, & 
that as free & independ 
ent states, they have 
full power to levy war, 
conclude peace, contract 
alliances, establish com 
merce, & to do all other 
acts & things which inde 
pendent states may of 
right do. 

And for the support 
of this declaration we 
mutually pledge to each 
other our lives, our for 
tunes, & our sacred honor. 



tions, do in the name, & 
by the authority of the 
good people of these colo 
nies, solemnly publish 
declare that these united 
colonies are & of right 
ought to be free & inde 
pendent states ; that they 
are absolved from all al 
legiance to the British 
crown, and that all poli 
tical connection between 
them & the state of Great 
Britain is, & ought to be, 
totally dissolved ; & that 
as free & independent 
states they have full pow 
er to levy war, conclude 
peace, contract alliances, 
establish commerce & to 
do all other acts & things 
which independant states 
may of right do. 

And for the support of 
this declaration, with a 
firm reliance on the pro 
tection of divine provi 
dence we mutually pledge 
to each other our lives, 
our fortunes, & our sa 
cred honor. 1 



This is printed just as Jefferson prepared it for the press. By 



*77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 43 

% 

The Declaration thus signed on the 4th, on paper 
was engrossed on parchment, & signed again on the 
2d. of August. 1 

On Friday July 12. the Committee appointed to 
draw the articles of confederation reported them, 
and on the 22d. the house resolved themselves into 
a committee to take them into consideration. On 
the 3oth. & 3ist. of that month & ist. of the ensuing, 
those articles were debated which determined the 
proportion or quota of money which each state 
should furnish to the common treasury, and the 
manner of voting in Congress. The first of these 
articles was expressed in the original draught in 
these words. 2 " Art. XL All charges of war & all 

comparing it with the text as printed post, under July 4, 1776, it will 
be seen that he took the liberty of somewhat changing and even ex 
punging portions. 

1 This is an interlineation made at a later period apparently after 
the question as to the signing of the declaration was raised. Jefferson 
has also written the following on a slip and pasted it on the sheet : 

"Some erroneous statements of the proceedings on the declaration 
of independence having got before the public in latter times, Mr. 
Samuel A. Wells asked explanations of me, which are given in my let 
ter to him of May 12. 19. before and now again referred to. I took 
notes in my place while these things were going on, and at their close 
wrote them out in form and with correctness and from i to 7 of the 
two preceding sheets are the originals then written ; as the two follow 
ing are of the earlier debates on the Confederation, which I took in 
like manner." 

2 In the Works of John Adams (ii., 492) are printed his memoranda 
of the debates on the confederation, wherein he has recorded the 
following sentences from Jefferson s speeches on that subject: Article 
14. "The limits of the Southern Colonies are fixed. Moves an amend 
ment, that all purchases of lands, not within the boundaries of any 
Colony, shall be made by Congress of the Indians in a great Council." 
Article 15. "What are reasonable limits? What security have we, 
that the Congress will not curtail the present settlements of the States? 



44 The Writings of i>77 6 

other expenses that shall be incurred for the common 
defence, or general welfare, and allowed by the 
United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of 
a common treasury, which shall be supplied by the 
several colonies in proportion to the number of in 
habitants of every age, sex & quality, except Indians 
not paying taxes, in each colony, a true account of 
which, distinguishing the white inhabitants, shall be 
triennially taken & transmitted to the Assembly 
of the United States." 

Mr. [Samuel] Chase moved that the quotas should 
be fixed, not by the number of inhabitants of every 
condition, but by that of the "white inhabitants." 
He admitted that taxation should be alwais in pro 
portion to property, that this was in theory the true 
rule, but that from a variety of difficulties, it was a 
rule which could never be adopted in practice. .The 
value of the property in every State could never be 
estimated justly & equally. Some other measure 
for the wealth of the State must therefore be devised, 
some standard referred to which would be more sim 
ple. He considered the number of inhabitants as a 
tolerably good criterion of property, and that this 
might alwais be obtained. He therefore thought it 
the best mode which we could adopt, with one ex 
ception only. He observed that negroes are prop- 

I have no doubt that the colonies will limit themselves." Article 16. 
"Thinks the Congress will have a short meeting in the Fall and another 
in the Spring." Article 17. "Explains it to mean the Indians who live 
in the Colony. These are subject to the laws in some degree. . . . 
I protest against the right of Congress to decide xipon the right of Vir 
ginia. Virginia has released all claims to lands settled by Maryland, 
&c." 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 45 

erty, and as such cannot be distinguished from the 
lands or personalities held in those States where 
there are few slaves, that the surplus of profit which 
a Northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in 
cattle, horses, &c. whereas a Southern farmer lays 
out that same surplus in slaves. There is no more 
reason therefore for taxing the Southern states on 
the farmer s head, on his slave s head, than the 
Northern ones on their farmer s heads & the heads 
of their cattle, that the method proposed would 
therefore tax the Southern states according to their 
numbers & their wealth conjunctly, while the North 
ern would be taxed on numbers only: that negroes 
in fact should not be considered as members of the 
state more than cattle & that they have no more 
interest in it. 

Mr. John Adams observed that the numbers of 
people were taken by this article as an index of the 
wealth of the state, & not as subjects of taxation, 
that as to this matter it was of no consequence by 
what name you called your people, whether by that 
of freemen or of slaves. That in some countries the 
labouring poor were called freemen, in others they 
were called slaves; but that the difference as to the 
state was imaginary only. What matters it whether 
a landlord employing ten labourers in his farm, gives 
them annually as much money as will buy them the 
necessaries of life, or gives them those necessaries at 
short hand. The ten labourers add as much wealth 
annually to the state increase it s exports as much 
in the one case as the other. Certainly 500 freemen 
produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the 



46 The Writings of [1776 

paiment of taxes than 500 slaves. Therefore the 
state in which are the labourers called freemen should 
be taxed no more than that in which are those called 
slaves. Suppose by any extraordinary operation of 
nature or of law one half the labourers of a state 
could in the course of one night be transformed into 
slaves: would the state be made the poorer or the 
less able to pay taxes? That the condition of the 
laboring poor in most countries, that of the fishermen 
particularly of the Northern states, is as abject as 
that of slaves. It is the number of labourers which 
produce the surplus for taxation, and numbers there 
fore indiscriminately, are the fair index of wealth. 
That it is the use of the word "property" here, & 
it s application to some of the people of the state, 
which produces the fallacy. How does the Southern 
farmer procure slaves? Either by importation or 
by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a 
slave, he adds one to the number of labourers in his 
country, and proportionably to it s profits & abilities 
to pay taxes. If he buys from his neighbor it is only 
a transfer of a labourer from one farm to another, 
which does not change the annual produce of the 
state, & therefore should not change it s tax. That 
if a Northern farmer works ten labourers on his 
farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten 
men s labour in cattle: but so may the Southern 
farmer working ten slaves. That a state of one 
hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more 
cattle than one of one hundred thousand slaves. 
Therefore they have no more of that kind of prop 
erty. That a slave may indeed from the custom of 



*77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 47 

speech be more properly called the wealth of his 
master, than the free labourer might be called the 
wealth of his employer: but as to the state, both 
were equally it s wealth, and should therefore 
equally add to the quota of it s tax. 

Mr. [Benjamin] Harrison proposed as a compromise, 
that two slaves should be counted as one freeman. 
He affirmed that slaves did not do so much work as 
freemen, and doubted if two effected more than one. 
That this was proved by the price of labor. The 
hire of a labourer in the Southern colonies being from 
8 to 12. while in the Northern it was generally 24. 

Mr. [James] Wilson said that if this amendment 
should take place the Southern colonies would have 
all the benefit of slaves, whilst the Northern ones 
would bear the burthen. That slaves increase the 
profits of a state, which the Southern states mean 
to take to themselves; that they also increase the 
burthen of defence, which would of course fall so 
much the heavier on the Northern. That slaves 
occupy the places of freemen and eat their food. 
Dismiss your slaves & freemen will take their places. 
It is our duty to lay every discouragement on the 
importation of slaves; but this amendment would 
give the jus trium liberorum to him who would im 
port slaves. That other kinds of property were 
pretty equally distributed thro all the colonies: 
there were as many cattle, horses, & sheep, in the 
North as the South, & South as the North; but not 
so as to slaves. That experience has shown that 
those colonies have been alwais able to pay most 
which have the most inhabitants, whether they be 



4 8 The Writings of 1>77 6 

black or white, and the practice of the Southern 
colonies has alwais been to make every farmer pay 
poll taxes upon all his labourers whether they be 
black or white. He acknowledges indeed that free 
men work the most; but they consume the most 
also. They do not produce a greater surplus for 
taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so 
expensively as a freeman. Again white women are 
exempted from labor generally, but negro women 
are not. In this then the Southern states have an 
advantage as the article now stands. It has some 
times been said that slavery is necessary because the 
commodities they raise would be too dear for market 
if cultivated by freemen ; but now it is said that the 
labor of the slave is the dearest. 

Mr. Payne l urged the original resolution of Con 
gress, to proportion the quotas of the states to the 
number of souls. 

Dr. [John] Witherspoon was of opinion that the 
value of lands & houses was the best estimate of the 
wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to 
obtain such a valuation. This is the true barometer 
of wealth. The one now proposed is imperfect in itself, 
and unequal between the States. It has been objected 
that negroes eat the food of freemen & therefore 
should be taxed. Horses also eat the food of freemen ; 
therefore they also should be taxed. It has been said 
too that in carrying slaves into the estimate of the 
taxes the state is to pay, we do no more than those 
states themselves do, who alwais take slaves into the 
estimate of the taxes the individual is to pay. But 

1 Robert Treat Paine. 



*77 6 J Thomas Jefferson 49 

the cases are not parallel. In the Southern colonies 
slaves pervade the whole colony; but they do not 
pervade the whole continent. That as to the orig 
inal resolution of Congress to proportion the quotas 
according to the souls, it was temporary only, & re 
lated to the monies heretofore emitted: whereas we 
are now entering into a new compact, and therefore 
stand on original ground. 

Aug. i. The question being put the amendment 
proposed was rejected by the votes of N. Hampshire, 
Massachusetts, Rhode island, Connecticut, N. York, 
N. Jersey, & Pennsylvania, against those of Dela 
ware, Maryland, Virginia, North- & South Carolina. 
Georgia was divided. 

The other article was in these words. "Art. XVII. 
In determining questions each colony shall have one 
vote." 

July 30. 31. Aug. i. Present 41. members. Mr. 
Chase observed that this article was the most likely 
to divide us of any one proposed in the draught then 
under consideration. That the larger colonies had 
threatened they would not confederate at all if their 
weight in congress should not be equal to the num 
bers of people they added to the confederacy ; while 
the smaller ones declared against a union if they did 
not retain an equal vote for the protection of their 
rights. That it was of the utmost consequence to 
bring the parties together, as should we sever from 
each other, either no foreign power will ally with us 
at all, or the different states will form different alli 
ances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes 
of civil war and bloodshed which in such a state of 

VOL. I. 4, 



50 The Writings of 

separation & independance would render us a miser 
able people. That our importance, our interests, 
our peace required that we should confederate, and 
that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a 
compromise of this difficult question. He was of 
opinion the smaller colonies would lose their rights, 
if they were not in some instances allowed an equal 
vote; and therefore that a discrimination should 
take place among the questions which would come 
before Congress. 1 That the smaller states should 
be secured in all questions concerning life or liberty 
& the greater ones in all respecting property. He 
therefore proposed that in votes relating to money, 
the voice of each colony should be proportioned to 
the number of its inhabitants. 

Dr. Franklin 2 thought that the votes should be so 
proportioned in all cases. He took notice that the 
Delaware counties had bound up their Delegates to 
disagree to this article. He thought it a very ex 
traordinary language to be held by any state, that 
they would not confederate with us unless we would 
let them dispose of our money. Certainly if we vote 
equally we ought to pay equally; but the smaller 
states will hardly purchase the privilege at this price. 
That had he lived in a state where the representation, 
originally equal, had become unequal by time & 
accident he might have submitted rather than dis 
turb government ; but that we should be very wrong 
to set out in this practice when it is in our power to 
establish what is right. That at the time of the 

1 "He therefore proposed" struck out in MS. by author. 
a Seconded the proposition" struck out in MS. by author. 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 51 

Union between England and Scotland the latter had 
made the objection which the smaller states now do. 
But experience had proved that no unfairness had 
ever been shown them. That their advocates had 
prognosticated that it would again happen as in 
times of old, that the whale would swallow Jonas, 
but he thought the prediction reversed in event and 
that Jonas had swallowed the whale, for the Scotch 
had in fact got possession of the government and 
gave laws to the English. He reprobated the orig 
inal agreement of Congress to vote by colonies and 
therefore was for their voting in all cases according 
to the number of taxables. 1 

Dr. Witherspoon opposed every alteration of the 
article. All men admit that a confederacy is 
necessary. Should the idea get abroad that there 
is likely to be no union among us, it will damp the 
minds of the people, diminish the glory of our strug 
gle, & lessen it s importance; because it will open to 
our view future prospects of war & dissension among 
ourselves. If an equal vote be refused, the smaller 
states will become vassals to the larger;. & all ex 
perience has shown that the vassals & subjects of 
free states are the most enslaved. He instanced the 
Helots of Sparta & the provinces of Rome. He ob 
served that foreign powers discovering this blemish 
would make it a handle for disengaging the smaller 
states from so unequal a confederacy. That the 
colonies should in fact be considered as individuals ; 
and that as such, in all disputes they should have an 

1 "So far going beyond Mr. Chase s proposition," struck out in MS. 
by author. 



52 The Writings of [1776 

equal vote ; that they are now collected as individ 
uals making a bargain with each other, & of course 
had a right to vote as individuals. That in the East 
India company they voted by persons, & not by 
their proportion of stock. That the Belgic con 
federacy voted by provinces. That in questions of 
war the smaller states were as much interested as 
the larger, & therefore should vote equally; and in 
deed that the larger states were more likely to bring 
war on the confederacy in proportion as their frontier 
was more extensive. He admitted that equality of 
representation was an excellent principle, but then 
it must be of things which are co-ordinate; that is, 
of things similar & of the same nature : that nothing 
relating to individuals could ever come before Con 
gress ; nothing but what would respect colonies. He 
distinguished between an incorporating & a federal 
union. The union of England was an incorporating 
one; yet Scotland had suffered by that union: for 
that it s inhabitants were drawn from it by the hopes 
of places & employments. Nor was it an instance 
of equality of representation; because while Scot 
land was allowed nearly a thirteenth of representa 
tion they were to pay only one fortieth of the land 
tax. He expressed his hopes that in the present 
enlightened state of men s minds we might expect 
a lasting confederacy, if it was founded on fair 
principles. 

John Adams advocated the voting in proportion 
to numbers. He said that we stand here as the re 
presentatives of the people. That in some states 
the people are many, in others they are few; that 



1776] Thomas Jefferson 53 

therefore their vote here should be proportioned to 
the numbers from whom it comes. Reason, justice, 
& equity never had weight enough on the face of the 
earth to govern the councils of men. It is interest 
alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can 
be trusted. That therefore the interests within 
doors should be the mathematical representatives of 
the interests without doors. That the individuality 
of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the individu 
ality of a colony increase it s wealth or numbers. If it 
does, pay equally. If it does not add weight in the 
scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, 
nor weigh in argument. A. has 50. B. 500. C. 
1000. in partnership. Is it just they should equally 
dispose of the monies of the partnership? It has 
been said we are independent individuals making a 
bargain together. The question is not what we are 
now, but what we ought to be when our bargain 
shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one 
individual only ; it is to form us, like separate parcels 
of metal, into one common mass. We- shall no 
longer retain our separate individuality, but become 
a single individual as to all questions submitted to 
the confederacy. Therefore all those reasons which 
prove the justice & expediency of equal represen 
tation in other assemblies, hold good here. It has 
been objected that a proportional vote will endanger 
the smaller states. We answer that an equal vote 
will endanger the larger. Virginia, Pennsylvania, & 
Massachusetts are the three greater colonies. Con 
sider their distance, their difference of produce, 
of interests & of manners, & it is apparent they can 



54 The Writings of l>77 6 

never have an interest or inclination to combine for 
the oppression of the smaller. That the smaller will 
naturally divide on all questions with the larger. 
Rhode isld, from it s relation, similarity & inter 
course will generally pursue the same objects with 
Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware & Maryland, with 
Pennsylvania. 

Dr. [Benjamin] Rush took notice that the decay 
of the liberties of the Dutch republic proceeded from 
three causes, i . The perfect unanimity requisite on 
all occasions. 2. Their obligation to consult their 
constituents. 3. Their voting by provinces. .This 
last destroyed the equality of representation, and 
the liberties of great Britain also are sinking from the 
same defect. That a part of our rights is deposited 
in the hands of our legislatures. There it was ad 
mitted there should be an equality of representation. 
Another part of our rights is deposited in the hands 
of Congress: why is it not equally necessary there 
should be an equal representation there? Were it 
possible to collect the whole body of the people to 
gether, they would determine the questions sub 
mitted to them by their majority. Why should not 
the same majority decide when voting here by their 
representatives? The larger colonies are so provi 
dentially divided in situation as to render every fear 
of their combining visionary. Their interests are 
different, & their circumstances dissimilar. It is 
more probable they will become rivals & leave it in 
the power of the smaller states to give preponderance 
to any scale they please. The voting by the number 
of free inhabitants will have one excellent effect, that 



i77 6 J Thomas Jefferson 55 

of inducing the colonies to discourage slavery & to 
encourage the increase of their free inhabitants. 

Mr. [Stephen] Hopkins observed there were 4 
larger, 4 smaller, & 4 middle-sized colonies. That 
the 4 largest would contain more than half the in 
habitants of the confederated states, & therefore 
would govern the others as they should please. That 
history affords no instance of such a thing as 
equal representation. The Germanic body votes by 
states. The Helvetic body does the same; & so does 
the Belgic confederacy. That too little is known of 
the ancient confederations to say what was their 
practice. 

Mr. Wilson thought that taxation should be in 
proportion to wealth, but that representation should 
accord with the number of freemen. That govern 
ment is a collection or result of the wills of all. That 
if any government could speak the will of all, it 
would be perfect ; and that so far as it departs from 
this it becomes imperfect. It has been said that 
Congress is a representation of states ; not of indivi 
duals. I say that the objects of its care are all the 
individuals of the states. It is strange that annexing 
the name of "State" to ten thousand men, should 
give them an equal right with forty thousand. This 
must be the effect of magic, not of reason. As to 
those matters which are referred to Congress, we are 
not so many states, we are one large state. We lay 
aside our individuality, whenever we come here. 
The Germanic body is a burlesque on government; 
and their practice on any point is a sufficient 
authority & proof that it is wrong. The greatest 



56 The Writings of [1776 

imperfection in the constitution of the Belgic confed 
eracy is their voting by provinces. The interest of 
the whole is constantly sacrificed to that of the small 
states. The history of the war in the reign of Q. 
Anne sufficiently proves this. It is asked shall nine 
colonies put it into the power of four to govern them 
as they please? I invert the question, and ask shall 
two millions of people put it in the power of one 
million to govern them as they please? It is pre 
tended too that the smaller colonies will be in danger 
from the greater. Speak in honest language & say 
the minority will be in danger from the majority. 
And is there an assembly on earth where this danger 
may not be equally pretended? The truth is that 
our proceedings will then be consentaneous with the 
interests of the majority, and so they ought to be. 
The probability is much greater that the larger 
states will disagree than that they will combine. I 
defy the wit of man to invent a possible case or to 
suggest any one thing on earth which shall be for the 
interests of Virginia, Pennsylvania & Massachusetts, 
and which will not also be for the interest of the 
other states. 1 

These articles reported July 12. 76 were debated 

1 Here end the notes which Jefferson states were taken "while these 
things were going on, and at their close " were "written out in form and 
with correctness." Much of their value depends on the date of their 
writing, but there is nothing to show this, except negative evidence. 
The sheets were all written at the same time, which makes the writing 
after Aug. i, 1776; while the misstatements as to the signing, and as 
to Dickinson s presence, would seem almost impossible unless greater 
time even than this had elapsed between the occurrence and the notes. 
The MS. is, moreover, considerably corrected and interlined, which 
would hardly be the case if merely a transcript of rough notes. 



Thomas Jefferson 57 

from day to day, & time to time for two years, were 
ratified July 9, 78, by 10 states, by N. Jersey on the 
26th. of Nov. of the same year, and by Delaware on 
the 23d. of Feb. following. Maryland alone held off 
2 years more, acceding to them Mar i, 81. and thus 
closing the obligation. 

Our delegation had been renewed for the ensuing 
year commencing Aug. 1 1 . but the new government 
was now organized, a meeting of the legislature was 
to be held in Oct. and I had been elected a member 
by my county. I knew that our legislation under 
the regal government had many very vicious points 
which urgently required reformation, and I thought 
I could be of more use in forwarding that work. I 
therefore retired from my seat in Congress on the 26.. 
of Sep. resigned it, and took my place in the legisla 
ture of my state, on the yth. of October. 

On the nth. 1 I moved for leave to bring in a bill 
for the establishment of courts of justice, the or 
ganization of which was of importance; I drew the 
bill it was approved by the commee, reported and 
passed after going thro it s due course. 2 

1 Ordered, That leave be given to bring in a bill For the establishment 
of courts of justice within this Commonwealth, and that Mr. Jefferson, 
Mr. Smith, Mr. Bullitt, Mr. Fleming, Mr. Watts, Mr. Williams, Mr. Gray, 
Mr. Bland, Mr. Braxton, and Mr. Curie do prepare and bring in the 
same. Journal of the House of Delegates, 1/7(5, p. 12. 

2 This is erroneously stated. After the committee was formed they 
were directed by the House of Delegates to divide the subject thereof 
into five distinct bills. " Three of these. ("Appeals," "Chancery," and 
"Assize") were introduced by Jefferson Nov. 25, 1776, and the other 
two ("Admiralty" and "County") Dec. 4, 1776. All but the "Ad 
miralty" (which was promptly passed) encountered bitter opposition, 
(see note to: Bill for suspending execution for debt, Dec. 6, 1776), and 
none were acted upon at this session, nor at the succeeding one. On 



58 The Writings of [1776 

On the 1 2th. I obtained leave to bring in a bill 
declaring tenants in tail to hold their lands in fee 
simple. 1 In the earlier times of the colony when 
lands were to be obtained for little or nothing, some 
provident individuals procured large grants, and, de 
sirous of founding great families for themselves, set 
tled them on their descendants in fee- tail. The 
transmission of this property from generation to 
generation in the same name raised up a distinct set 
of families who, being privileged by law in the per 
petuation of their wealth were thus formed into a 
Patrician order, distinguished by the splendor and 
luxury of their establishments. From this order 
too the king habitually selected his Counsellors of 
State, the hope of which distinction devoted the 
whole corps to the interests & will of the crown. To 
annul this privilege, and instead of an aristocracy of 
wealth, of more harm and danger, than benefit, to 
society, to make an opening for the aristocracy of 
virtue and talent, which nature has wisely provided 
for the direction of the interests of society, & scat 
tered with equal hand through all it s conditions, 
was deemed essential to a well ordered republic. To 
effect it no violence was necessary, no deprivation of 
natural right, but rather an enlargement of it by a 
repeal of the law. For this would authorize the 
present holder to divide the property among his 

Oct. 30, 1777, fresh leave was granted to introduce bills establishing 
Courts of Appeals, " General Court and Court of Assize " and Chancery. 
The latter two were passed at this session, and the first passed at the 
first session in 1778. They are all printed in A Collection of the Public 
Acts of Virginia. Richmond, 1785, pp. 66, 70, 84. 
1 See post, Oct. 12, 1776. 



J 77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 59 

children equally, as his affections were divided ; and 
would place them, by natural generation on the level 
of their fellow citizens. But this repeal was strongly 
opposed by Mr. Pendleton, who was zealously at 
tached to ancient establishments; and who, taken all 
in all, was the ablest man in debate I have ever met 
with. He had not indeed the poetical fancy of Mr. 
Henry, his sublime imagination, his lofty and over 
whelming diction ; but he was cool, smooth and per 
suasive; his language flowing, chaste & embellished, 
his conceptions quick, acute and full of resource; 
never vanquished; for if he lost the main battle, he 
returned upon you, and regained so much of it as to 
make it a drawn one, by dexterous manoeuvres, 
skirmishes in detail, and the recovery of small ad 
vantages which, little singly, were important alto 
gether. You never knew when you were clear of 
him, but were harassed by his perseverance until the 
patience was worn down of all who had less of it than 
himself. Add to this that he was one of the most 
virtuous & benevolent of men, the kindest-friend, the 
most amiable & pleasant of companions, which en 
sured a favorable reception to whatever came from 
him. Finding that the general principles of entails 
could not be maintained, he took his stand on an 
amendment which he proposed, instead of an abso 
lute abolition, to permit the tenant in tail to convey 
in fee simple, if he chose it : and he was within a few 
votes of saving so much of the old law. But the bill 
passed finally for entire abolition. 

In that one of the bills for organizing our judiciary 
system which proposed a court of chancery, I had 



60 The Writings of l>77 6 

provided for a trial by jury of all matters of fact 
in that as well as in the courts of law. He defeated 
it by the introduction of 4. words only, "if either 
party chuse." l The consequence has been that as no 
suitor will say to his judge, "Sir, I distrust you, give 
me a jury" juries are rarely, I might say perhaps 
never seen in that court, but when called for by the 
Chancellor of his own accord. 

The first establishment in Virginia which became 
permanent was made in 1607. I have found no 
mention of negroes in the colony until about 1650. 
The first brought here as slaves were by a Dutch 
ship ; after which the English commenced the trade 
and continued it until the revolutionary war. That 
suspended, ipso facto, their further importation for 
the present, and the business of the war pressing 
constantly on the legislature, this subject was not 
acted on finally until the year 78. when I brought 
in a bill to prevent their further importation. 2 This 

1 This was one of the five bills into which the committee by order of 
the House of Delegates divided the law for the establishment of courts 
of justice (see Journal of the House of Delegates, p. 69). But the ori 
ginal draft of the bill (which is not in Jefferson s handwriting) in the 
Virginia State Archives contains only the clause concerning juries in 
the bill as passed, which was to the effect that by mutual agreement of 
the parties the case could be submitted to the judge, without the calling 
of a jury, but otherwise a jury trial should be given; such having been 
the lav/ before the extinction of the courts by the revolutionary con 
flict. Moreover, with the rough draft of the bill already alluded to, is 
a separate paper, in Pendleton s handwriting, containing his amend 
ments to the bill, which does not alter in any way the jury system in 
the original bill. 

2 This is erroneously stated. The earliest step towards this limita 
tion was the permission of the House of Delegates, Nov. 8, 1777, to 
John Henry and Starke to introduce a bill "to prohibit the importa 
tion of slaves." On Nov. 22d, Henry introduced a bill which was read 



Thomas Jefferson 61 

passed without opposition, and stopped the increase 
of the evil by importation, leaving to future efforts 
its final eradication. 

The first settlers of this colony were Englishmen, 
loyal subjects to their king and church, and the grant 
to Sr. Walter Raleigh contained an express Proviso 
that their laws "should not be against the true 
Christian faith, now professed in the church of Eng 
land." As soon as the state of the colony admitted, 
it was divided into parishes, in each of which was 
established a minister of the Anglican church, en 
dowed with a fixed salary, in tobacco, a glebe house 
and land with the other necessary appendages. To 
meet these expenses all the inhabitants of the 
parishes were assessed, whether they were or not, 
members of the established church. Towards Quak 
ers who came here they were most cruelly intolerant, 
driving them from the colony by the severest penal 
ties. In process of time however, other sectarisms 
were introduced, chiefly of the Presbyterian family; 
and the established clergy, secure for life in their 
glebes and salaries, adding to these generally the 
emoluments of a classical school, found employment 

for a first and second time on that day, and then postponed from time 
to time till the end of the session. In the next session, the matter was 
taken up de novo, on Oct. 15, 1778, by the House of Delegates ordering 
the committee of trade to prepare a new bill. It was introduced by 
Kella as chairman of the committee on Oct. i5th, passed on Oct. 22d, 
amended by the Senate on the 23d, and finally concurred in by the 
House, Oct. 27, 1778. Jefferson thus clearly had nothing to do with 
the first bill, and, as he did not take his seat at the second session till 
Nov. 3oth, it is equally certain he had nothing to do with the one which 
was adopted. See Journal of the House of Delegates for 1777, pp. 17, 
40; for 1778, pp. ii, 13, 19, 23. The original draft of the bill, now in 
the Virginia State Archives, is not in Jefferson s handwriting. 



62 The Writings of [1776 

enough, in their farms and schoolrooms for the rest 
of the week, and devoted Sunday only to the edifica 
tion of their flock, by service, and a sermon at their 
parish church. Their other pastoral functions were 
little attended to. Against this inactivity the zeal 
and industry of sectarian preachers had an open and 
undisputed field ; and by the time of the revolution, 
a majority of the inhabitants had become dissenters 
from the established church, but were still obliged 
to pay contributions to support the Pastors of the 
minority. This unrighteous compulsion to maintain 
teachers of what they deemed religious errors was 
grievously felt during the regal government, and 
without a hope of relief. But the first republican 
legislature which met in 76. was crowded with pe 
titions to abolish this spiritual tyranny. These 
brought on the severest contests in which I have 
ever been engaged. Our great opponents were Mr. 
Pendelton & Robert Carter Nicholas, honest men, 
but zealous churchmen. The petitions were referred 
to the commee of the whole house on the state of the 
country; and after desperate contests in that com 
mittee, almost daily from the nth of Octob. 1 to the 
5th of December, -we prevailed so far only as to repeal 
the laws which rendered criminal the maintenance of 
any religious opinions, the forbearance of repairing to 
church, or the exercise of any mode of worship: and 

1 An error. These petitions were invariably referred to the "Com 
mittee of Religion" consisting of nineteen members (including Jeffer 
son) appointed Oct. 11, 1776. See Journal of the House of Delegates, 
pp. 7, 24, 26, 35, 47. On Nov. pth, however, that committee was "dis 
charged" of this question and it was referred to the "Committee of 
the Whole House upon the State of the Country." 



J 77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 63 

further, to exempt dissenters from contributions to 
the support of the established church; and to sus 
pend, only until the next session levies on the mem 
bers of that church for the salaries of their own in 
cumbents. For although the majority of our citizens 
were dissenters, as has been observed, a majority of 
the legislature were churchmen. Among these how 
ever were some reasonable and liberal men, who 
enabled us, on some points, to obtain feeble majori 
ties. But our opponents carried in the general reso 
lutions of the commee of Nov. 19. a declaration that 
religious assemblies ought to be regulated, and that 
provision ought to be made for continuing the suc 
cession of the clergy, and superintending their con 
duct. And in the bill now passed r was inserted an 
express reservation of the question Whether a general 
assessment should not be established by law, on 
every one, to the support of the pastor of his choice; 
or whether all should be left to voluntary contribu 
tions; and on this question, debated at every session 
from 76 to 79 (some of our dissenting allies, having 
now secured their particular object, going over to the 
advocates of a general assessment) we could only 
obtain a suspension from session to session until 79. 
when the question against a general assessment was 
finally carried, and the establishment of the Anglican 

1 Entitled: "An Act for exempting the different societies of dis 
senters from contributing to the support and maintenance of the 
church as by law established, and its ministers, and for other purposes 
therein mentioned." Passed by the House of Delegates, Dec. 5th. 
Concurred in by the Senate Dec. gth. Re-enacted Jan. i, 1778. It is 
printed in A Collection of Public Acts of Virginia, Richmond, 1785, 
P- 39- 



64 The Writings of [ J 77 6 

church entirely put down. In justice to the two 
honest but zealous opponents, who have been named 
I must add that altho , from their natural tempera 
ments, they were more disposed generally to acqui 
esce in things as they are, then to risk innovations, 
yet whenever the public will had once decided, none 
were more faithful or exact in their obedience to it. 

The seat of our government had been originally 
fixed in the peninsula of Jamestown, the first settle 
ment of the colonists ; and had been afterwards re 
moved a few miles inland to Williamsburg. But this 
was at a time when our settlements had not extended 
beyond the tide water. Now they had crossed the 
Alleghany; and the center of population was very 
far removed from what it had been. Yet Williams- 
burg was still the depository of our archives, the 
habitual residence of the Governor & many other of 
the public functionaries, the established place for the 
sessions of the legislature, and the magazine of our 
military stores: and it s situation was so exposed 
that it might be taken at any time in war, and, at 
this time particularly, an enemy might in the night 
run up either of the rivers between which it lies, land 
a force above, and take possession of the place, with 
out the possibility of saving either persons or things. 
I had proposed it s removal so early as Octob. 76.* but 
it did not prevail until the session of May. 79. 

Early in the session of May 79. I prepared, and 
obtained leave to bring in a bill declaring who should 

1 This was moved as early as 1761, and only failed by a vote of 35 
to 36. A second attempt was made Feb. 10, 1772. Journal of the 
House of Burgesses. Cf. post, Oct. 14, 1776. 



1777] Thomas Jefferson 65 

be deemed citizens, asserting the natural right of 
expatriation, and prescribing the mode of exercising 
it. This, when I withdrew from the house on the ist 
of June following, I left in the hands of George Mason 
and it was passed on the 26th of that month. 1 

In giving this account of the laws of which I was 
myself the mover & draughtsman, I by no means 
mean to claim to myself the merit of obtaining their 
passage. I had many occasional and strenuous 
coadjutors in debate, and one most steadfast, able, 
and zealous; who was himself a host. This was 
George Mason, a man of the first order of wisdom 
among those who acted on the theatre of the revolu 
tion, of expansive mind, profound judgment, cogent 
in argument, learned in the lore of our former con 
stitution, and earnest for the republican change on 
democratic principles. His elocution was neither 
flowing nor smooth, but his language was strong, 
his manner most impressive, and strengthened by a 
dash of biting cynicism when provocation made it 
seasonable. 

Mr. Wythe, while speaker in the two sessions of 
1777. between his return from Congress and his ap 
pointment to the Chancery, was an able and constant 
associate in whatever was before a committee of the 
whole. His pure integrity, judgment and reasoning 
powers gave him great weight. Of him see more in 
some notes inclosed in my letter of August 31, 1821, 
to Mr. John Saunderson. 

Mr. Madison came into the House in 1776. a new 
member and young ; which circumstances, concurring 

1 Printed in the Report of the Committee of Revisors, p. 41. 



66 The Writings of I>77 6 

with his extreme modesty, prevented his ventur 
ing himself in debate before his removal to the 
Council of State in Nov. 77. From thence he went to 
Congress, then consisting of few members. Trained 
in these successive schools, he acquired a habit of 
self-possession which placed at ready command the 
rich resources of his luminous and discriminating 
mind, & of his extensive information, and rendered 
him the first of every assembly afterwards of which 
he became a member. Never wandering from his 
subject into vain declamation, but pursuing it closely 
in language pure, classical, and copious, soothing 
always the feelings of his adversaries by civilities and 
softness of expression, he rose to the eminent station 
which he held in the great National convention of 
1787. and in that of Virginia which followed, he sus 
tained the new constitution in all its parts, bearing off 
the palm against the logic of George Mason, and the 
fervid declamation of Mr. Henry. With these con 
summate powers were united a pure and spotless 
virtue which no calumny has ever attempted to sully. 
Of the powers and polish of his pen, and of the wis 
dom of his administration in the highest office of the 
nation, I need say nothing. They have spoken, and 
will forever speak for themselves. 

So far we were proceeding in the details of reforma 
tion only ; selecting points of legislation prominent in 
character & principle, urgent, and indicative of the 
strength of the general pulse of reformation. When 
I left Congress, in 76. it was in the persuasion that 
our whole code must be reviewed, adapted to our 
republican form of government, and, now that we 



*77 6 ] Thomas Jefferson 67 

had no negatives of Councils, Governors & Kings to 
restrain us from doing right, that it should be cor- 
.rected, in all it s parts, with a single eye to reason, & 
the good of those for whose government it was 
framed. Early therefore in the session of 76. to 
which I returned, I moved and presented a bill for the 
revision of the laws ; which was passed on the 24th. of 
October, and on the 5th. of November Mr. Pendleton, 
Mr. Wythe, George Mason, Thomas L. Lee and my 
self were appointed a committee to execute the work. 
We agreed to meet at Fredericksburg to settle the 
plan of operation and to distribute the work. We 
met there accordingly, on the i3th. of January 1777. 
The first question was whether we should propose to 
abolish the whole existing system of laws, and pre 
pare a new and complete Institute, or preserve the 
general system, and only modify it to the present 
state of things. Mr. Pendleton, contrary to his usual 
disposition in favor of antient things, was for the 
former proposition, in which he was joined by Mr. 
Lee. To this it was objected that to abrogate our 
whole system would be a bold measure, and probably 
far beyond the views of the legislature ; that they had 
been in the practice of revising from time to time the 
laws of the colony, omitting the expired, the repealed 
and the obsolete, amending only those retained, and 
probably meant we should now do the same, only 
including the British statutes as well as our own : that 
to compose a new Institute like those of Justinian and 
Bracton, or that of Blackstone, which was the model 
proposed by Mr. Pendleton, would be an arduous 

1 Oct. 1 2th. Cf. note on this revision, post, under June 18, 1779. 



68 The Writings of [1777 

undertaking, of vast research, of great consideration 
& judgment ; and when reduced to a text, every word 
of that text, from the imperfection of human lan 
guage, and it s incompetence to express distinctly 
every shade of idea, would become a subject of ques 
tion & chicanery until settled by repeated adjudi 
cations; that this would involve us for ages in 
litigation, and render property uncertain until, like 
the statutes of old, every word had been tried, and 
settled by numerous decisions, and by new volumes 
of reports & commentaries; and that no one of us 
probably would undertake such a work, which, to be 
systematical, must be the work of one hand. This 
last was the opinion of Mr. Wythe, Mr. Mason & my 
self. When we proceeded to the distribution of the 
work, Mr. Mason excused himself as, being no lawyer, 
he felt himself unqualified for the work, and he 
resigned soon after. Mr. Lee excused himself on the 
same ground, and died indeed in a short time. The 
other two gentlemen therefore and myself divided 
the work among us. The common law and statutes 
to the 4. James I. (when our separate legislature was 
established) were assigned to me ; the British statutes 
from that period to the present day to Mr. Wythe, 
and the Virginia laws to Mr. Pendleton. As the law 
of Descents, & the criminal law fell of course within 
my portion, I wished the commee to settle the lead 
ing principles of these, as a guide for me in framing 
them. And with respect to the first, I proposed to 
abolish the law of primogeniture, and to make real 
estate descendible in parcenary to the next of kin, as 
personal property is by the statute of distribution. 



177.7] Thomas Jefferson 69 

Mr. Pendleton wished to preserve the right of primo 
geniture, but seeing at once that that could not 
prevail, he proposed we should adopt the Hebrew 
principle, and give a double portion to the elder son. 
I observed that if the eldest son could eat twice as 
much, or do double work, it might be a natural evi 
dence of his right to a double portion ; but being on 
a par in his powers & wants, with his brothers and 
sisters, he should be on a par also in the partition of 
the patrimony, and such was the decision of the other 
members. 

On the subject of the Criminal law, all were agreed 
that the punishment of death should be abolished, 
except for treason and murder; and that, for other 
felonies should be substituted hard labor in the public 
works, and in some cases, the Lex talionis. How 
this last revolting principle came to obtain our appro 
bation, I do not remember. There remained indeed 
in our laws a vestige of it in a single case of a slave, 
it was the English law in the time of the Anglo- 
Saxons, copied probably from the Hebrew law of 
"an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth," and it was 
the law of several antient people. But the modern 
mind had left it far in the rear of it s advances. 
These points however being settled, we repaired to 
our respective homes for the preparation of the 
work, v 

Feb. 6. In the execution of my part I thought it 
material not to vary the diction of the antient statutes 
by modernizing it, nor to give rise to new questions 
by new expressions. The text of these statutes had 
been so fully explained and defined by numerous 



70 The Writings of [1779 

adjudications, as scarcely ever now to produce a 
question in our courts. I thought it would be useful 
also, in all new draughts, to reform the style of the 
later British statutes, and of our own acts of assembly, 
which from their verbosity, their endless tautolo 
gies, their involutions of case within case, and paren 
thesis within parenthesis, and their multiplied efforts 
at certainty by saids and aforesaids, by ors and by 
ands, to make them more plain, do really render 
them more perplexed and incomprehensible, not only 
to common readers, but to the lawyers themselves. 
We were employed in this work from that time to 
Feb. 1779, when we met at Williamsburg, that is to 
say, Mr. Pendleton, Mr. Wythe & myself, and meet 
ing day by day, we examined critically our several 
parts, sentence by sentence, scrutinizing and amend 
ing until we had agreed on the whole. We then re 
turned home, had fair copies made of our several 
parts, which were reported to the General Assembly 
June 1 8. 1779. by Mr. Wythe and myself, Mr. Pendle 
ton s residence being distant, and he having author 
ized us by letter to declare his approbation. We had 
in this work brought so much of the Common law as 
it was thought necessary to alter, all the British 
statutes from Magna Charta to the present day, and 
all the laws of Virginia, from the establishment of our 
legislature, in the 4th. Jac. i. to the present time, 
which we thought should be retained, within the 
compass of 126 bills, making a printed folio of 90 
pages only. Some bills were taken out occasionally, 
from time to time, and passed; but the main body of 
the work was not entered on by the legislature until 



1779] Thomas Jefferson 71 

after the general peace, in 1785. when by the un 
wearied exertions of Mr. Madison, in opposition to the 
endless quibbles, chicaneries, perversions, vexations 
and delays of lawyers and demi-lawyers, most of 
the bills were passed by the legislature, with little 
alteration. 1 

The bill for establishing religious freedom, 2 the 
principles of which had, to a certain degree, been 
enacted before, I had drawn in all the latitude of 
reason & right. It still met with opposition; but, 
with some mutilations in the preamble, it was finally 
passed; and a singular proposition proved that it s 
protection of opinion was meant to be universal. 
Where the preamble declares that coercion is a de 
parture from the plan of the holy author of our 
religion, an amendment was proposed, by inserting 
the word "Jesus Christ," so that it should read "a 
departure from the plan of Jesus Christ, the holy 
author of our religion" the insertion was rejected by 
a great majority, in proof that they meant to com 
prehend, within the mantle of it s protection, the 
Jew and the Gentile, the Christian and Mahometan, 
the Hindoo, and infidel of every denomination. 

Beccaria and other writers on crimes and punish 
ments had satisfied the reasonable world of the 
unrightfulness and inefficacy of the punishment of 
crimes by death; and hard labor on roads, canals 
and other public works, had been suggested as a 
proper substitute. The Revisors had adopted these 

1 See Correspondence of James Madison, i., 199, 203, 207, 212 ; iii., 532, 
580, 583, 612. 

2 Printed in this edition under June 18, 1779. 



72 The Writings of [1779 

opinions; but the general idea of our country had 
not yet advanced to that point. The bill therefore 
for proportioning crimes and punishments was lost 
in the House of Delegates by a majority of a single 
vote. 1 I learnt afterwards that the substitute of 
hard labor in public was tried (I believe it was in 
Pennsylvania) without success. Exhibited as a pub 
lic spectacle, with shaved heads and mean clothing, 
working on the high roads produced in the crimi 
nals such a prostration of character, such an abandon 
ment of self-respect, as, instead of reforming, plunged 
them into the most desperate & hardened depravity 
of morals and character. To pursue the subject of 
this law. I was written to in 1785 (being then in 
Paris) by Directors appointed to superintend the 
building of a Capitol in Richmond, to advise them 
as to a plan, and to add to it one of a prison. Think 
ing it a favorable opportunity of introducing into 
the state an example of architecture in the classic 
style of antiquity, and the Maison quarree of Nismes, 
an antient Roman temple, being considered as the 

1 We went on slowly but successfully till we arrived at the bill con 
cerning crimes and punishments. Here the adversaries of the Code 
exerted their whole force, which, being abetted by the impatience of 
its friends in an advanced stage of the session, so far prevailed that the 
farther prosecution of the work was postponed till the next session." 
Madison to Jefferson, January 22, 1786. "After being altered so as 
to remove most of the objections, as was thought [it] was lost by a 
single vote. The rage against Horse-stealers had a great influence on 
the fate of the bill. Our old bloody code is by this event fully re 
stored." Madison to Jefferson, February 15, 1787. "In the changes 
made in the penal law, the Revisers were unfortunately misled into 

some of the specious errors of [Beccaria] then in the zenith of his 

fame as a philosophical legislator." Madison to Grimke, January 15, 
1828. 



1779] Thomas Jefferson 73 

most perfect model existing of what may be called 
Cubic architecture, I applied to M. Clerissault, who 
had published drawings of the Antiquities of Nismes, 
to have me a model of the building made in stucco, 
only changing the order from Corinthian to Ionic, on 
account of the difficulty of the Corinthian capitals. 
I yielded with reluctance to the taste of Clerissault, 
in his preference of the modern capital of Scamozzi 
to the more noble capital of antiquity. This was 
executed by the artist whom Choiseul Gouffier had 
carried with him to Constantinople, and employed 
while Ambassador there, in making those beautiful 
models of the remains of Grecian architecture which 
are to be seen at Paris. To adapt the exterior to 
our use, I drew a plan for the interior, with the 
apartments necessary for legislative, executive & 
judiciary purposes, and accommodated in their size 
and distribution to the form and dimensions of the 
building. These were forwarded to the Directors in 
1786. and were carried into execution, with some 
variations not for the better, the most important of 
which however admit of future correction. With 
respect to the plan of a Prison, requested at the 
same time, I had heard of a benevolent society in 
England which had been indulged by the govern 
ment in an experiment of the effect of labor in soli 
tary confinement on some of their criminals, which 
experiment had succeeded beyond expectation. The 
same idea had been suggested in France, and an 
Architect of Lyons had proposed a plan of a well 
contrived edifice on the principle of solitary confine 
ment. I procured a copy, and as it was too large 



74 The Writings of [1779 

for our purposes, I drew one on a scale, less exten 
sive, but susceptible of additions as they should be 
wanting. This I sent to the Directors instead of a 
plan of a common prison, in the hope that it would 
suggest the idea of labor in solitary confinement in 
stead of that on the public works, which we had 
adopted in our Revised Code. It s principle ac 
cordingly, but not it s exact form, was adopted by 
Latrobe in cany ing the plan into execution, by the 
erection of what is now called the Penitentiary, 
built under his direction. In the meanwhile the 
public opinion was ripening by time, by reflection, 
and by the example of Pensylva, where labor on the 
highways had been tried without approbation from 
1786 to 89. & had been followed by their Peniten 
tiary system on the principle of confinement and la 
bor, which was proceeding auspiciously. In 1 796. our 
legislature resumed the subject and passed the law 
for amending the Penal laws of the commonwealth. 
They adopted solitary, instead of public labor, es 
tablished a gradation in the duration of the confine 
ment, approximated the style of the law more to the 
modern usage, and instead of the settled distinctions 
of murder & manslaughter, preserved in my bill, they 
introduced the new terms of murder in the ist & 2d 
degree. Whether these have produced more or 
fewer questions of definition I am not sufficiently 
informed of our judiciary transactions to say. I 
will here however insert the text of my bill, with the 
notes I made in the course of my researches into the 
subject. 1 

1 Printed in this edition under June 18, 1779. 



1779] Thomas Jefferson 75 

Feb. 7. The acts of assembly concerning the 
College of Wm. Mary, were properly within Mr. 
Pendleton s portion of our work. But these related 
chiefly to it s revenue, while it s constitution, or 
ganization and scope of science were derived from 
it s charter. We thought, that on this subject a 
systematical plan of general education should be 
proposed, and I was requested to undertake it. I 
accordingly prepared three bills for the Revisal, 
proposing three distinct grades of education, reach 
ing all classes. 1 i . Elementary schools for all children 
generally, rich and poor. 2. Colleges for a middle 
degree of instruction, calculated for the common 
purposes of life, and such as would be desirable for 
all who were in easy circumstances. And 3d. an 
ultimate grade for teaching the sciences generally, 
& in their highest degree. The first bill proposed to 
lay off every county into Hundreds or Wards, of 
a proper size and population for a school, in which 
reading, writing, and common arithmetic should be 
taught; and that the whole state should be divided 
into 24 districts, in each of which should be a school 
for classical learning, grammar, geography, and the 
higher branches of numerical arithmetic. The sec 
ond bill proposed to amend the constitution of Wm. 
& Mary College, to enlarge it s sphere of science, and 
to make it in fact an University. The third was for 
the establishment of a library. These bills were not 
acted on until the same year 96. and then only so 
much of the first as provided for elementary schools. 
The College of Wm. & Mary was an establishment 

1 Printed in this edition under June 18, 1779. 



76 The Writings of [1779 

purely of the Church of England, the Visitors were 
required to be all of that Church; the Professors to 
subscribe it s 39 Articles, it s Students to learn it s 
Catechism, and one of its fundamental objects was 
declared to be to raise up Ministers for that church. 
The religious jealousies therefore of all the dissenters 
took alarm lest this might give an ascendancy to the 
Anglican sect and refused acting on that bill. Its 
local eccentricity too and unhealthy autumnal cli 
mate lessened the general inclination towards it. 
And in the Elementary bill they inserted a provision 
which completely defeated it, for they left it to the 
court of each county to determine for itself when 
this act should be carried into execution, within 
their county. One provision of the bill was that the 
expenses of these schools should be borne by the in 
habitants of the county, every one in proportion to 
his general tax-rate. This would throw on wealth 
the education of the poor; and the justices, being 
generally of the more wealthy class, were unwilling 
to incur that burthen, and I believe it was not suf 
fered to commence in a single county. I shall recur 
again to this subject towards the close of my story, if I 
should have life and resolution enough to reach that 
term ; for I am already tired of talking about myself. 
The bill on the subject of slaves was a mere digest 
of the existing laws respecting them, without any 
intimation of a plan for a future & general emanci 
pation. It was thought better that this should be 
kept back, and attempted only by way of amendment 
whenever the bill should be brought on. 1 The prin- 

1 Cf. post, with Notes on Virginia in this edition. 



1779] Thomas Jefferson 77 

ciples of the amendment however were agreed on, 
that is to say, the freedom of all born after a certain 
day, and deportation at a proper age. But it was 
found that the public mind would not yet bear the 
proposition, nor will it bear it even at this day. Yet 
the day is not distant when it must bear and adopt 
it, or worse will follow. Nothing is more certainly 
written in the book of fate than that these people 
are to be free. Nor is it less certain that the two 
races, equally free, cannot live in the same govern 
ment. Nature, habit, opinion has drawn indelible 
lines of distinction between them. It is still in our 
power to direct the process of emancipation and de 
portation peaceably and in such slow degree as that 
the evil will wear off insensibly, and their place be 
pari passu filled up by free white laborers. If on the 
contrary it is left to force itself on, human nature 
must shudder at the prospect held up. We should 
in vain look for an example in the Spanish deporta 
tion or deletion of the Moors. This precedent would 
fall far short of our case. 

I considered 4 of these bills, passed or reported, 
as forming a system by which every fibre would be 
eradicated of antient or future aristocracy; and a 
foundation laid for a government truly republican. 
The repeal of the laws of entail would prevent the 
accumulation and perpetuation of wealth in select 
families, and preserve the soil of the country from 
being daily more & more absorbed in Mortmain. 
The abolition of primogeniture, and equal partition 
of inheritances removed the feudal and unnatural 
distinctions which made one member of every family 



78 The Writings of [1779 

rich, and all the rest poor, substituting equal parti 
tion, the best of all Agrarian laws. The restoration 
of the rights of conscience relieved the people from 
taxation for the support of a religion not theirs; for 
the establishment was truly of the religion of the 
rich, the dissenting sects being entirely composed of 
the less wealthy people; and these, by the bill for a 
general education, would be qualified to understand 
their rights, to maintain them, and to exercise with in 
telligence their parts in self-government : and all this 
would be effected without the violation of a single nat 
ural right of any one individual citizen. To these too 
might be added, as a further security, the introduction 
of the trial by jury, into the Chancery courts, which 
have already ingulfed and continue to ingulf, so great 
a proportion of the jurisdiction over our property. 

On the ist of June 17 79. -I was appointed Governor 
of the Commonwealth and retired from the legis 
lature. Being elected also one of the Visitors of 
Wm. & Mary college, a self-electing body, I effected, 
during my residence in Williamsburg that year, a 
change in the organization of that institution by 
abolishing the Grammar school, and the two pro 
fessorships of Divinity & Oriental languages, and 
substituting a professorship of Law & Police, one of 
Anatomy Medicine and Chemistry, and one of 
Modern languages; and the charter confining us to 
six professorships, 1 we added the law of Nature & 
Nations, & the Fine Arts to the duties of the Moral 
professor, and Natural history to those of the pro 
fessor of Mathematics and Natural philosophy. 

1 Cf. post, with Notes on Virginia in this edition. 



1779] Thomas Jefferson 79 

Being now, as it were, identified with the Com 
monwealth itself, to write my own history during 
the two years of my administration, would be to 
write the public history of that portion of the revo 
lution within this state. This has been done by 
others, and particularly by Mr. Girardin, who wrote 
his Continuation of Burke s history of Virginia 
while at Milton, in this neighborhood, had free access 
to all my papers while composing it, and has given 
as faithful an account as I could myself. For this 
portion therefore of my own life, I refer altogether 
to his history. From a belief that under the pres 
sure of the invasion under which we were then labor 
ing the public would have more confidence in a 
Military chief, and that the Military commander, 
being invested with the Civil power also, both might 
be wielded with more energy promptitude and effect 
for the defence of the state, I resigned the adminis 
tration at the end of my 2d. year, and General Nelson 
was appointed to succeed me. 

vSoon after my leaving Congress in Sep.- 76, to wit 
on the last day of that month, 1 I had been appointed, 
with Dr. Franklin, to go to France, as a Commis 
sioner to negotiate treaties of alliance and commerce 
with that government. Silas Deane, then in France, 
acting as agent 2 for procuring military stores, was 

1 An error. He was appointed Sept. 26th. Secret Journals of Con 
gress* ii., 31. 

2 His ostensible character was to be that of a merchant, his real one 
that of agent for military supplies, and also for sounding the dispositions 
of the government of France, and seeing how far they would favor us, 
either secretly or openly. His appointment had been by the Com 
mittee of Foreign Correspondence, March, 1776. T. J. 



8o The Writings of [1782 

joined with us in commission. But such was the 
state of my family that I could not leave it, nor 
could I expose it to the dangers of the sea, and of 
capture by the British ships, then covering the 
ocean. I saw too that the laboring oar was really 
at home, where much was to be done of the most 
permanent interest in new modelling our govern 
ments, and much to defend our fanes and fire-sides 
from the desolations of an invading enemy pressing 
on our country in every point. I declined therefore 
and Dr. Lee was appointed in my place. On the 
1 5th. of June 1781. I had been appointed with Mr. 
Adams, Dr. Franklin, Mr. Jay, and Mr. Laurens a 
Minister plenipotentiary for negotiating peace, then 
expected to be effected thro the mediation of the 
Empress of Russia. The same reasons obliged me 
still to decline; and the negotiation was in fact 
never entered on. But, in the autumn of the next 
year 1782 Congress receiving assurances that a gen 
eral peace would be concluded in the winter and 
spring, they renewed my appointment on the i3th. 
of Nov. of that year. I had two months before that 
lost the cherished companion of my life, in whose 
affections, unabated on both sides I had lived the 
last ten years in un chequered happiness. With the 
public interests, the state of my mind concurred in 
recommending the change of scene proposed; and 
I accepted the appointment, and left Monticello on 
the i gth. of Dec. 1782. for Philadelphia, where I 
arrived on the 27th. The Minister of France, Lu- 
zerne, offered me a passage in the Romulus frigate, 

1 By the Secret Journal of Congress it was June 



1784] Thomas Jefferson 81 

which I accepting. But she was then lying a few 
miles below Baltimore blocked up in the ice. I re 
mained therefore a month in Philadelphia, looking 
over the papers in the office of State in order to 
possess myself of the general state of our foreign re 
lations, and then went to Baltimore to await the 
liberation of the frigate from the ice. After waiting 
there nearly a month, we received information that 
a Provisional treaty of peace had been signed by our 
Commissioners on the 3d. of Sep. 1782. to become 
absolute on the conclusion of peace between France 
and Great Britain. Considering my proceeding to 
Europe as now of no utility to the public, I returned 
immediately to Philadelphia to take the orders of 
Congress, and was excused by them from further 
proceeding. I therefore returned home, where I 
arrived on the isth. of May, 1783. 

On the 6th. of the following month I was appointed 
by the legislature a delegate to Congress, the appoint 
ment to take place on the ist. of Nov. ensuing, when 
that of the existing delegation would expire. I ac 
cordingly left home on the i6th. of Oct. arrived at 
Trenton, where Congress was sitting, on the 3d. of 
Nov. and took my seat on the 4th., on which day 
Congress adjourned to meet at Annapolis on the 26th. 

Congress had now become a very small body, and 
the members very remiss 4n their attendance on it s 
duties insomuch that a majority of the states, 
necessary by the Confederation to constitute a 
house even for minor business did not assemble until 
the 1 3th. of December. 

They as early as Jan. 7. 1782. had turned their 



VOL. I. 6. 



82 The Writings of [1784 

attention to the monies current in the several states, 
and had directed the Financier, Robert Morris, to 
report to them a table of rates at which the foreign 
coins, should be received at the treasury. That 
officer, or rather his assistant, Gouverneur Morris, 
answered them on the i5th T in an able and elaborate 
statement of the denominations of money current in 
the several states, and of the comparative value of 
the foreign coins chiefly in circulation with us. He 
went into the consideration of the necessity of es 
tablishing a standard of value with us, and of the 
adoption of a money-Unit. He proposed for the 
Unit such a fraction of pure silver as would be a 
common measure of the penny of every state, with 
out leaving a fraction. This common divisor he 
found to be 1-1440 of a dollar, or 1-1600 of the crown 
sterling. The value of a dollar was therefore to be 
expressed by 1440 units, and of a crown by 1600. 
Each unit containing a quarter of a grain of fine 
silver. Congress turning again their attention to 
this subject the following year, the financier, by a 
letter of Apr. 30, 1783. further explained and urged 
the Unit he had proposed; but nothing more was 
done on it until the ensuing year, when it was again 
taken up, and referred to a commee of which I was 
a member. The general views of the financier were 
sound, and the principle was ingenious on which he 
proposed to found his Unit. But it was too minute 
for ordinary use, too laborious for computation 
either by the head or in figures. The price of a loaf 
of bread 1-20 of a dollar would be 72. units. 

1 Diplomatic Correspondence, xii., 81. 



1784] Thomas Jefferson 83 

A pound of butter 1-5 of a dollar 288. units. 

A horse or bullock of 80. D value would require a 
notation of 6. figures, to wit -115, 200, and the public 
debt, suppose of 80. millions, would require 12. fig 
ures, to wit 115,200,000,000 units. Such a system 
of money-arithmetic would be entirely unmanage 
able for the common purposes of society. I pro 
posed therefore, instead of this, to adopt the Dollar 
as our Unit of account and payment, and that it s 
divisions and sub-divisions should be in the decimal 
ratio. I wrote some Notes on the subject, which 
I submitted to the consideration of the financier. I 
received his answer and adherence to his general 
system, only agreeing to take for his Unit 100. of 
those he first proposed, so that a Dollar should be 
14 40-100 and a crown 16. units. I replied to this 
and printed my notes and reply on a flying sheet, 
which I put into the hands of the members of Con 
gress for consideration, and the Committee agreed 
to report on my principle. This was adopted the 
ensuing year and is the system which now prevails. 
I insert here the Notes and Reply, as shewing the 
different views on which the adoption of our money 
system hung. The division into dimes, cents & 
mills is now so well understood, that it would be 
easy of introduction into the kindred branches of 
weights & measures. I use, when I travel, an 
Odometer of Clarke s invention which divides the 
mile into cents, and I find every one comprehend a 
distance readily when stated to them in miles & cents ; 
so they would in feet and cents, pounds & cents, &c. 

1 Printed in this edition under 1784. 



84 The Writings of [1784 

The remissness of Congress, and their permanent 
session, began to be a subject of uneasiness and even 
some of the legislatures had recommended to them 
intermissions, and periodical sessions. As the Con 
federation had made no provision for a visible head 
of the government during vacations of Congress, 
and such a one was necessary to superintend the ex 
ecutive business, to receive and communicate with 
foreign ministers & nations, and to assemble Con 
gress on sudden and extraordinary emergencies, I 
proposed early in April l the appointment of a com- 
mee to be called the Committee of the states, to 
consist of a member from each state, who should 
remain in session during the recess of Congress: 
that the functions of Congress should be divided into 
Executive and Legislative, the latter to be reserved, 
and the former, by a general resolution to be dele 
gated to that Committee. This proposition was 
afterwards agreed to; a Committee appointed, who 
entered on duty on the subsequent adjournment of 
Congress, quarrelled very soon, split into two parties, 
abandoned their post and left the government with 
out any visible head until the next meeting in Con 
gress. We have since seen the same thing take 
place in the Directory of France ; and I believe it will 
forever take place in any Executive consisting of a 
plurality. Our plan, best I believe, combines wis 
dom and practicability, by providing a plurality of 
Counsellors, but a single Arbiter for ultimate deci 
sion. I was in France when we heard of this schism, 

1 April 14, 1784. Journal of Congress, ix., 127. Cf. post, under Jan. 
30, 1784, Jefferson s report on the committee of the States. 



1783] Thomas Jefferson 85 

and separation of our Committee, and, speaking 
with Dr. Franklin of this singular disposition of men 
to quarrel and divide into parties, he gave his senti 
ments as usual by way of Apologue. He mentioned 
the Eddystone lighthouse in the British channel as 
being built on a rock in the mid-channel, totally in 
accessible in winter, from the boisterous character 
of that sea, in that season. That therefore, for the 
two keepers employed to keep up the lights, all pro 
visions for the winter were necessarily carried to 
them in autumn, as they could never be visited again 
till the return of the milder season. That on the 
first practicable day in the spring a boat put off to 
them with fresh supplies. The boatmen met at the 
door one of the keepers and accosted him with a How 
goes it friend ? Very well. How is your companion ? 
I do not know. Don t know ? Is not he here ? I can t 
tell. Have not you seen him to-day? No. When did 
you see him? Not since last fall. You have killed 
him? Not I, indeed. They were about to lay hold 
of him, as having certainly murdered his companion; 
but he desired them to go up stairs & examine for 
themselves. They went up, and there found the 
other keeper. They had quarrelled it seems soon after 
being left there, had divided into two parties, assigned 
the cares below to one, and those above to the other, 
and had never spoken to or seen one another since. 
But to return to our Congress at Annapolis, the 
definitive treaty of peace which had been signed at 
Paris on the 3d. of Sep. 1783. and received here, 
could not be ratified without a House of 9. states. 1 

1 Cf. post, under Jan., 1784. 



86 The Writings of [1783 

On the 23d. of Dec. 1 therefore we addressed letters 
to the several governors, stating the receipt of the 
definitive treaty, that 7 states only were in attend 
ance, while 9. were necessary to its ratification, and 
urging them to press on their delegates the necessity 
of their immediate attendance. And on the 26th. 
to save time I moved that the Agent of Marine (Rob 
ert Morris) should be instructed to have ready a 
vessel at this place, at N. York, & at some Eastern 
port, to carry over the ratification of the treaty when 
agreed to. It met the general sense of the house, 
but was opposed by Dr. Lee 2 on the ground of ex 
pense which it would authorize the agent to incur for 
us ; and he said it would be better to ratify at once 
& send on the ratification. Some members had 
before suggested that 7 states were competent to the 
ratification. My motion was therefore postponed 
and another brought forward by Mr. Read 3 of S. C. 
for an immediate ratification. This was debated 
the 26th. and 27th. Reed, Lee, [Hugh] Williamson 
& Jeremiah Chace urged that ratification was a 
mere matter of form, that the treaty was conclusive 
from the moment it was signed by the ministers; 
that although the Confederation requires the assent 
of 9. states to enter into a treaty, yet that it s conclu 
sion could not be called entrance into it; that sup 
posing 9. states requisite, it would be in the power 
of 5. states to keep us always at war; that 9. states 
had virtually authorized the ratifion having ratified 

1 On motion of Williamson, seconded by Jefferson. 

2 Arthur Lee, Delegate from Virginia. 

3 Jacob Read. 



1783] Thomas Jefferson 87 

the provisional treaty, and instructed their ministers 
to agree to a definitive one in the same terms, and 
the present one was in fact substantially and almost 
verbatim the same; that there now remain but 67. 
days for the ratification, for it s passage across the 
Atlantic, and it s exchange; that there was no hope 
of our soon having 9. states present; in fact that this 
was the ultimate point of time to which we could 
venture to wait; that if the ratification was not in 
Paris by the time stipulated, the treaty would be 
come void; that if ratified by 7 states, it would go 
under our seal without it s being known to Gr. 
Britain that only 7. had concurred; that it was a 
question of which they had no right to take cogni 
zance, and we were only answerable for it to our 
constituents; that it was like the ratification which 
Gr. Britain had received from the Dutch by the 
negotiations of Sr. Wm. Temple. 

On the contrary, it was argued by Monroe, Gerry, 
Howel, Ellery & myself that by the modern usage 
of Europe the ratification was considered -as the act 
which gave validity to a treaty, until which it was 
not obligatory. 1 That the commission to the minis 
ters reserved the ratification to Congress; that the 
treaty itself stipulated that it should be ratified; 
that it became a 26.. question who were competent 
to the ratification? That the Confederation ex 
pressly required 9 states to enter into any treaty; 
that, by this, that instrument must have intended 
that the assent of 9. states should be necessary as 

1 Vattel, L. 2, 156. L. 4, 77. i. Mably Droit D Europe, 86. 
T.J. 



88 The Writings of [1783 

well to the completion as to the commencement of the 
treaty, it s object having been to guard the rights 
of the Union in all those important cases where 9. 
states are called for; that, by the contrary con 
struction, 7 states, containing less than one third of 
our whole citizens, might rivet on us a treaty, com 
menced indeed under commission and instructions 
from 9. states, but formed by the minister in ex 
press contradiction to such instructions, and in 
direct sacrifice of the interests of so great a ma 
jority; that the definitive treaty was admitted not 
to be a verbal copy of the provisional one, and 
whether the departures from it were of substance 
or not, was a question on which 9. states alone were 
competent to decide; that the circumstances of the 
ratification of the provisional articles by 9. states the 
instructions to our ministers to form a definitive one 
by them, and their actual agreement in substance, 
do not render us competent to ratify in the present 
instance; if these circumstances are in themselves a 
ratification, nothing further is requisite than to give 
attested copies of them, in exchange for the British 
ratification; if they are not, we remain where we 
were, without a ratification by 9. states, and incom 
petent ourselves to ratify; that it was but 4. days 
since the seven states now 7 present unanimously con 
curred in a resolution to be forwarded to the govern 
ors of the absent states, in which they stated as a 
cause for urging on their delegates, that 9. states 
were necessary to ratify the treaty ; that in the case 
of the Dutch ratification, Gr. Britain had courted it, 
and therefore was glad to accept it as it was; that 



1783] Thomas Jefferson 89 

they knew our constitution, and would object to a 
ratification by 7. that if that circumstance was kept 
back, it would be known hereafter, & would give 
them ground to deny the validity of a ratification 
into which they should have been surprised and 
cheated, and it would be a dishonorable prostitution 
of our seal; that there is a hope of 9. states; that 
if the treaty would become null if not ratified in 
time, it would not be saved by an imperfect ratifica 
tion ; but that in fact it would not be null, and would 
be placed on better ground, going in unexceptionable 
form, tho a few days too late, and rested on the 
small importance of this circumstance, and the phy 
sical impossibilities which had prevented a punctual 
compliance in point of time; that this would be ap 
proved by all nations, & by Great Britain herself, if 
not determined to renew the war, and if determined, 
she would never want excuses, were this out of the 
way. Mr. Reade gave notice he should call for the 
yeas & nays; whereon those in opposition prepared 
a resolution expressing pointedly the reasons of the 
dissent from his motion. It appearing however that 
his proposition could not be carried, it was thought 
better to make no entry at all. Massachusetts 
alone would have been for it; Rhode Island, Penn 
sylvania and Virginia against it, Delaware, Mary 
land & N. Carolina, would have been divided. 

Our body was little numerous, but very conten 
tious. Day after day was wasted on the most un 
important questions. My colleague Mercer was 
one of those afflicted with the morbid rage of debate, 

1 John F. Mercer. 



90 The Writings of [1783 

of an ardent mind, prompt imagination, and copious 
flow of words, he heard with impatience any logic 
which was not his own. Sitting near me on some 
occasion of a trifling but wordy debate, he asked how 
I could sit in silence hearing so much false reasoning 
which a word should refute ? I observed to him that 
to refute indeed was easy, but to silence impossible. 
That in measures brought forward by myself, I took 
the laboring oar, as was incumbent on me; but that 
in general I was willing to listen. If every sound 
argument or objection was used by some one or other 
of the numerous debaters, it was enough: if not, I 
thought it sufficient to suggest the omission, without 
going into a repetition of what had been already said 
by others. That this was a waste and abuse of the 
time and patience of the house which could not be 
justified. And I believe that if the members of de 
liberative bodies were to observe this course gener 
ally, they would do in a day what takes them a week, 
and it is really more questionable, than may at first 
be thought, whether Bonaparte s dumb legislature 
which said nothing and did much, may not be pre 
ferable to one which talks much and does nothing. I 
served with General Washington in the legislature of 
Virginia before the revolution, and, during it, with 
Dr. Franklin in Congress. I never heard either of 
them speak ten minutes at a time, nor to any but 
the main point which was to decide the question. 
They laid their shoulders to the great points, know 
ing that the little ones would follow of themselves. 
If the present Congress errs in too much talking, how 
can it be otherwise in a body to which the people 



1783] Thomas Jefferson 9 1 

send 150. lawyers, whose trade it is to question every 
thing, yield nothing, & talk by the hour? That 150. 
lawyers should do business together ought not to be 
expected. But to return again to our subject; 

Those who thought 7. states competent to the 
ratification being very restless under the loss of their 
motion, I proposed, on the 3d. of January to meet 
them on middle ground, and therefore moved a reso 
lution which premising that there were but 7 . states 
present, who were unanimous for the ratification, 
but, that they differed in opinion on the question 
of competency. That those however in the negative 
were unwilling that any powers which it might be sup 
posed they possessed should remain unexercised for 
the restoration of peace, provided it could be done 
saving their good faith, and without importing any 
opinion of Congress that 7. states were competent, 
and resolving that treaty be ratified so far as they 
had power; that it should be transmitted to our 
ministers with instructions to keep it uncommuni- 
cated; to endeavor to obtain 3. months "longer for 
exchange of ratifications; that they should be in 
formed that so soon as 9. states shall be present a 
ratification by 9. shall be sent them; if this should 
get to them before the ultimate point of time for ex 
change, they were to use it, and not the other; if 
not, they were to offer the act of the 7. states in ex 
change, informing them the treaty had come to 
hand while Congress was not in session, that but 7. 
states were as yet assembled, and these had unani 
mously concurred in the ratification. This was 

1 Printed in this edition under that date. 



92 The Writings of [1784 

debated on the 3d. and 4th. 1 and on the 5th. a vessel 
being to sail for England from this port (Annapolis) 
the House directed the President to write to our 
ministers accordingly. 

Jan. 14. Delegates from Connecticut having at 
tended yesterday, and another from S. Carolina 
coming in this day, the treaty was ratified without 
a dissenting voice, and three instruments of ratifica 
tion were ordered to be made out, one of which was 
sent by Colo. Harmer, another by Colo. Franks, and 
the 3d. transmitted to the agent of Marine to be 
forwarded by any good opportunity. 

Congress soon took up the consideration of their 
foreign relations. They deemed it necessary to get 
their commerce placed with every nation on a foot 
ing as favorable as that of other nations; and for 
this purpose to propose to each a distinct treaty of 
commerce. This act too would amount to an ac 
knowledgment by each of our independance and of 
our reception into the fraternity of nations; which 
altho , as possessing our station of right and in fact, 
we would not condescend to ask, we were not un 
willing to furnish opportunities for receiving their 
friendly salutations & welcome. With France the 
United Netherlands and Sweden we had already 
treaties of commerce, but commissions were given 
for those countries also, should any amendments be 
thought necessary. The other states to which 
treaties were to be proposed were England, Ham 
burg, Saxony, Prussia, Denmark, Russia, Austria, 
Venice, Rome, Naples, Tuscany, Sardinia, Genoa, 

1 The 4th of January, 1784, was Sunday, so Congress did not sit. 



1784] Thomas Jefferson 93 

Spain. Portugal, the Porte, Algiers, Tripoli, Tunis & 
Morocco. 1 

Mar. 16. On the yth. of May Congress resolved 
that a Minister Plenipotentiary should be appointed 
in addition to Mr. Adams & Dr. Franklin for nego 
tiating treaties of commerce with foreign nations, and 
I was elected to that duty. I accordingly left An 
napolis on the 1 1 tli. Took with me my elder 
daughter 2 then at Philadelphia (the two others 
being too young for the voyage) & proceeded to Bos 
ton in quest of a passage. While passing thro the 
different states, I made a point of informing myself 
of the state of the commerce of each, went on to New 
Hampshire with the same view and returned to 
Boston. From thence I sailed on the 5th. of July 
in the Ceres a merchant ship of Mr. Nathaniel 
Tracey, bound to Cowes. He was himself a pas 
senger, and, after a pleasant voyage of 19. days from 
land to land, we arrived at Cowes on the 26th. I 
was detained there a few days by the indisposition 
of my daughter. On the 3oth. we embarked for 
Havre, arrived there on the 3ist. left it on the 3d. of 
August, and arrived at Paris on the 6th. I called 
immediately on Doctr. Franklin at Passy, com 
municated to him our charge, and we wrote to Mr. 
Adams, then at the Hague to join us at Paris. 

Before I had left America, that is to say in the 
year 1781. I had received a letter from M. de Mar- 
bois, of the French legation in Philadelphia, inform 
ing me he had been instructed by his government to 

1 See Jefferson s report on European treaties, post, under 1784. 

2 Martha Jefferson, afterwards Mrs. Thomas Mann Randolph. 



94 The Writings of [1784 

obtain such statistical accounts of the different states 
of our Union, as might be useful for their informa 
tion ; and addressing to me a number of queries 
relative to the state of Virginia. I had always made 
it a practice whenever an opportunity occurred of 
obtaining any information of our country, which 
might be of use to me in any station public or pri 
vate, to commit it to writing. These memoranda 
were on loose papers, bundled up without order, and 
difficult of recurrence when I had occasion for a 
particular one. I thought this a good occasion to 
embody their substance, which I did in the order of 
Mr. Marbois queries, so as to answer his wish and to 
arrange them for my own use. Some friends to 
whom they were occasionally communicated wished 
for copies; but their volume rendering this too 
laborious by hand, I proposed to get a few printed 
for their gratification. I was asked such a price 
however as exceeded the importance of the object. 
On my arrival at Paris I found it could be done for 
a fourth of what I had been asked here. I therefore 
corrected and enlarged them, and had 200. copies 
printed, under the title of Notes on Virginia. I 
gave a very few copies to some particular persons in 
Europe, and sent the rest to my friends in America. 
An European copy, by the death of the owner, got 
into the hands of a bookseller, who engaged it s 
translation, & when ready for the press, communi 
cated his intentions & manuscript to me, without 
any other permission than that of suggesting correc 
tions. I never had seen so wretched an attempt at 
translation. Inter verted, abridged, mutilated, and 



1784] Thomas Jefferson 95 

often reversing the sense of the original, I found it a 
blotch of errors from beginning to end. I corrected 
some of the most material, and in that form it was 
printed in French. A London bookseller, on see 
ing the translation, requested me to permit him to 
print the English original. I thought it best to do 
so to let the world see that it was not really so bad 
as the French translation had made it appear. And 
this is the true history of that publication. 

Mr. Adams soon joined us at Paris, & our first em 
ployment was to prepare a general form to be pro 
posed to such nations as were disposed to treat with 
us. During the negotiations for peace with the 
British Commissioner David Hartley, our Commis 
sioners had proposed, on the suggestion of Doctr. 
Franklin, to insert an article exempting from cap 
ture by the public or private armed ships of either 
belligerent, when at war, all merchant vessels and 
their cargoes, employed merely in carrying on the 
commerce between nations. It was refused by 
England, and unwisely, in my opinion. For in the 
case of a war with us, their superior commerce places 
infinitely more at hazard on the ocean than ours; 
and as hawks abound in proportion to game, so our 
privateers would swarm in proportion to the wealth 
exposed to their prize, while theirs would be few for 
want of subjects of capture. We inserted this 
article in our form, with a provision against the 
molestation of fishermen, husbandmen, citizens un 
armed and following their occupations in unfortified 
places, for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, 

1 Cf. post, note on Notes on Virginia under 1782. 



9 6 The Writings of [1784 

the abolition of contraband of war, which exposes 
merchant vessels to such vexatious & ruinous de 
tentions and abuses; and for the principle of free 
bottoms, free goods. 

In a conference with the Count de Vergennes, it 
was thought better to leave to legislative regulation 
on both sides such modifications of our commercial 
intercourse as would voluntarily flow from amicable 
dispositions. Without urging, we sounded the min 
isters of the several European nations at the court 
of Versailles, on their dispositions towards mutual 
commerce, and the expediency of encouraging it by 
the protection of a treaty. Old Frederic of Prussia 
met us cordially and without hesitation, and ap 
pointing the Baron de Thulemeyer, his minister at 
the Hague, to negotiate with us, we communicated 
to him our Project, which with little alteration by 
the King, was soon concluded. Denmark and Tus 
cany entered also into negotiations with us. Other 
powers appearing indifferent we did not think it 
proper to press them. They seemed in fact to know 
little about us, but as rebels who had been successful 
in throwing off the yoke of the mother country. 
They were ignorant of our commerce, which had 
been always monopolized by England, and of the 
exchange of articles it might offer advantageously to 
both parties. They were inclined therefore to stand 
aloof until they could see better what relations 
might be usefully instituted with us. The negotia 
tions therefore begun with Denmark & Tuscany we 
protracted designedly until our powers had expired ; 
and abstained from making new propositions to 



1785! Thomas Jefferson 97 

others having no colonies; because our commerce 
being an exchange of raw for wrought materials, is 
a competent price for admission into the colonies of 
those possessing them : but were we to give it, with 
out price, to others, all would claim it without price 
on the ordinary ground of gentis amicissimae. 

Mr. Adams being appointed Min. Pleny. of the U 
S. to London, left us in June, and in July 1785. Dr. 
Franklin returned to America, and I was appointed 
his successor at Paris. In Feb. 1786. Mr. Adams 
wrote to me pressingly to join him in London imme 
diately, as he thought he discovered there some symp 
toms of better disposition towards us. Colo. Smith, 1 
his Secretary of legation, was the bearer of his 
urgencies for my immediate attendance. I accord 
ingly left Paris on the ist. of March, and on my ar 
rival in London we agreed on a very summary form 
of treaty, proposing an exchange of citizenship for 
our citizens, our ships, and our productions generally, 
except as to office. On my presentation as usual 
to the King and Queen at their levees, it was impos 
sible for anything to be more ungracious than their 
notice of Mr. Adams & myself. I saw at once that 
the ulcerations in the narrow mind of that mulish 
being left nothing to be expected on the subject of 
my attendance ; and on the first conference with the 
Marquis of Caermarthen, his Minister of foreign 
affairs, the distance and disinclination which he be 
trayed in his conversation, the vagueness & evasions 
of his answers to us, confirmed me in the belief of 
their aversion to have anything to do with us. We 

1 William Stephens Smith. 



VOL, I. 7, 



9^ The Writings of [1786 

delivered him however our Pro jet, Mr. Adams not 
despairing as much as I did of it s effect. We after 
wards, by one or more notes, requested his appoint 
ment of an interview and conference, which, without 
directly declining, he evaded by pretences of other 
pressing occupations for the moment. After staying 
there seven weeks, till within a few days of the ex 
piration of our commission, I informed the minister 
by note that my duties at Paris required my return 
to that place, and that I should with pleasure be the 
bearer of any commands to his Ambassador there. 
He answered that he had none, and wishing me a 
pleasant journey, I left London the 26th. arrived at 
Paris on the 3oth. of April. 

While in London we entered into negotiations 
with the Chevalier Pinto, Ambassador of Portugal 
at that place. The only article of difficulty between 
us was a stipulation that our bread stuff should be 
received in Portugal in the form of flour as well as 
of grain. He approved of it himself, but observed 
that several Nobles, of great influence at their court, 
were the owners of wind mills in the neighborhood 
of Lisbon which depended much for their profits on 
manufacturing our wheat, and that this stipulation 
would endanger the whole treaty. He signed it how 
ever, & it s fate was what he had candidly portended. 

My duties at Paris were confined to a few objects ; 
the receipt of our whale-oils, salted fish, and salted 
meats on favorable terms, the admission of our rice 
on equal terms with that of Piedmont, Egypt & the 
Levant, a mitigation of the monopolies of our tobacco 
by the Farmers-general, and a free admission of our 



1786] Thomas Jefferson 99 

productions into their islands; were the principal 
commercial objects which required attention; and 
on these occasions I was powerfully aided by all the 
influence and the energies of the Marquis de La 
Fayette, who proved himself equally zealous for the 
friendship and welfare of both nations; and in jus 
tice I must also say that I found the government 
entirely disposed to befriend us on all occasions, and 
to yield us every indulgence not absolutely injurious 
to themselves. The Count de Vergennes had the 
reputation with the diplomatic corps of being wary 
& slippery in his diplomatic intercourse; and so he 
might be with those whom he knew to be slippery 
and double-faced themselves. As he saw that I had 
no indirect views, practised no subtleties, meddled 
in no intrigues, pursued no concealed object, I found 
him as frank, as honorable, as easy of access to 
reason as any man with whom I had ever done 
business ; and I must say the same for his successor 
Montmorin, one of the most honest and worthy of 
human beings. 

Our commerce in the Mediterranean was placed 
under early alarm by the capture of two of our ves 
sels and crews by the Barbary cruisers. I was very 
unwilling that we should acquiesce in the European 
humiliation of paying a tribute to those lawless 
pirates, and endeavored to form an association of 
the powers subject to habitual depredation from 
them. I accordingly prepared and proposed to 
their ministers at Paris, for consultation with their 
governments, articles of a special confederation in 
the following form. 



ioo The Writings of [1786 

" Proposals for concerted operation among the 
powers at war with the Piratical States of Barbary. 

" i. It is proposed that the several powers at war 
with the Piratical States of Barbary, or any two or 
more of them who shall be willing, shall enter into a 
convention to carry on their operations against those 
states, in concert, beginning with the Algerines. 

" 2. This convention shall remain open to any 
other power who shall at any future time wish to 
accede to it; the parties reserving a right to pre 
scribe the conditions of such accession, according to 
the circumstances existing at the time it shall be 
proposed. 

"3. The object of the convention shall be to com 
pel the piratical states to perpetual peace, without 
price, & to guarantee that peace to each other. 

"4. The operations for obtaining this peace shall 
be constant cruises on their coast with a naval force 
now to be agreed on. It is not proposed that this 
force shall be so considerable as to be inconvenient 
to any party. It is believed that half a dozen frig 
ates, with as many Tenders or Xebecs, one half of 
which shall be in cruise, while the other half is at 
rest, will suffice. 

"5. The force agreed to be necessary shall be fur 
nished by the parties in certain quotas now to be 
fixed ; it being expected that each will be willing to 
contribute in such proportion as circumstance may 
render reasonable. 

"6. As miscarriages often proceed from the want of 
harmony among officers of different nations, the 
parties shall now consider & decide whether it will 



1786] Thomas Jefferson IP ; 

not be better to . contribute their quotas in money 
to be employed in fitting out, and keeping on duty, 
a single fleet of the force agreed on. 

"7. The difficulties and delays too which will at 
tend the management of these operations, if con 
ducted by the parties themselves separately, distant 
as their courts may be from one another, and in 
capable of meeting in consultation, suggest a ques 
tion whether it will not be better for them to give 
full powers for that purpose to their Ambassadors 
or other ministers resident at some one court of 
Europe, who shall form a Committee or Council 
for carrying this convention into effect; wherein the 
vote of each member shall be computed in propor 
tion to the quota of his sovereign, and the majority 
so computed shall prevail in all questions within the 
view of this convention. The court of Versailles is 
proposed, on account of it s neighborhood to the 
Mediterranean, and because all those powers are 
represented there, who are likely to become parties 
to this convention. 

"8. To save to that council the embarrassment 
of personal solicitations for office, and to assure the 
parties that their contributions will be applied solely 
to the object for which they are destined, there shall 
be no establishment of officers for the said Council, 
such as Commis, Secretaries, or any other kind, with 
either salaries or perquisites, nor any other lucrative 
appointments but such whose functions are to be 
exercised on board the sd vessels. 

"9. Should war arise between any two of the 
parties to this convention it shall not extend to this 



The Writings of [1786 

enterprise, nor interrupt it; but as to this they shall 
be reputed at peace. 

" 10. When Algiers shall be reduced to peace, the 
other pyratical states, if they refuse to discontinue 
their pyracies shall become the objects of this con 
vention, either successively or together as shall seem 
best. 

" ii. Where this convention would interfere with 
treaties actually existing between any of the parties 
and the sd states of Barbary, the treaty shall prevail, 
and such party shall be allowed to withdraw from 
the operations against that state." 

Spain had just concluded a treaty with Algiers at 
the expense of 3. millions of dollars, and did not 
like to relinquish the benefit of that until the other 
party should fail in their observance of it. Portu 
gal, Naples, the two Sicilies, Venice, Malta, Denmark 
and Sweden were favorably disposed to such an as 
sociation; but their representatives at Paris ex 
pressed apprehensions that France would interfere, 
and, either openly or secretly support the Barbary 
powers; and they required that I should ascertain 
the dispositions of the Count de Vergennes on the 
subject. I had before taken occasion to inform him 
of what we were proposing, and therefore did not 
think it proper to insinuate any doubt of the fair 
conduct of his government ; but stating our proposi 
tions, I mentioned the apprehensions entertained by 
us that England would interfere in behalf of those 
piratical governments. " She dares not do it," said 
he. I pressed it no further. The other agents were 



1786] Thomas Jefferson 103 

satisfied with this indication of his sentiments, and 
nothing was now wanting to bring it into direct and 
formal consideration, but the assent of our govern 
ment, and their authority to make the formal pro 
position. I communicated to them the favorable 
prospect of protecting our commerce from the Bar- 
bary depredations, and for such a continuance of 
time as, by an exclusion of them from the sea, to 
change their habits & characters from a predatory to 
an agricultural people: towards which however it 
was expected they would contribute a frigate, and 
it s expenses to be in constant cruise. But they 
were in no condition to make any such engagement. 
Their recommendatory powers for obtaining contri 
butions were so openly neglected by the several 
states that they declined an engagement which they 
were conscious they could not fulfill with punctuality ; 
and so it fell through. 

May 17. In 17 86.. while at Paris I became ac 
quainted with John Ledyard of Connecticut, a man 
of genius, of some science, and of fearless courage, & 
enterprise. He had accompanied Capt Cook in his 
voyage to the Pacific, had distinguished himself on 
several occasions by an unrivalled intrepidity, and 
published an account of that voyage with details un 
favorable to Cook s deportment towards the savages, 
and lessening our regrets at his fate. Ledyard had 
come to Paris in the hope of forming a company to 
engage in the fur trade of the Western coast of 
America. He was disappointed in this, and being 
out of business, and of a roaming, restless character, 
I suggested to him the enterprise of exploring the 



104 The Writings of [1786 

Western part of our continent, by passing thro St. 
Petersburg to Kamschatka, and procuring a passage 
thence in some of the Russian vessels to Nootka 
Sound, whence he might make his way across the 
continent to America; and I undertook to have the 
permission of the Empress of Russia solicited. He 
eagerly embraced the proposition, and M. de Semou- 
lin, the Russian Ambassador, and more particularly 
Baron Grimm the special correspondent of the Em 
press, solicited her permission for him to pass thro 
her dominions to the Western coast of America. 
And here I must correct a material error which I 
have committed in another place to the prejudice of 
the Empress. In writing some Notes of the life of 
Capt Lewis, 1 prefixed to his expedition to the Pacific, 
I stated that the Empress gave the permission asked, 
& afterwards retracted it. This idea, after a lapse 
of 26 years, had so insinuated itself into my mind, 
that I committed it to paper without the least suspi 
cion of error. Yet I find, on recurring to my letters 
of that date that the Empress refused permission at 
once, considering the enterprise as entirely chimeri 
cal. But Ledyard would not relinquish it, persuad 
ing himself that by proceeding to St. Petersburg 
he could satisfy the Empress of it s practicabil 
ity and obtain her permission. He went accord 
ingly, but she was absent on a visit to some distant 
part of her dominions, 2 and he pursued his course 
to within 200. miles of Kamschatka, where he was 
overtaken by an arrest from the Empress, brought 
back to Poland, and there dismissed. I must there- 

1 In Lewis and Clarke s Travels. 2 The Crimea. T. J. 



1786] Thomas Jefferson 105 

fore in justice, acquit the Empress of ever having 
for a moment countenanced, even by the indulgence 
of an innocent passage thro her territories this in 
teresting enterprise. 

May 1 8. The pecuniary distresses of France pro 
duced this year a measure of which there had been 
no example for near two centuries, & the conse 
quences of which, good and evil, are not yet calcula 
ble. For it s remote causes we must go a little back. 

Celebrated writers of France and England had 
already sketched good principles on the subject of 
government. Yet the American Revolution seems 
first to have awakened the thinking part of the 
French nation in general from the sleep of despotism 
in which they were sunk. The officers too who had 
been to America, were mostly young men, less 
shackled by habit and prejudice, and more ready to 
assent to the suggestions of common sense, and feel 
ing of common rights. They came back with new 
ideas & impressions. The press, notwithstanding 
it s shackles, began to disseminate them. .Conversa 
tion assumed new freedoms. Politics became the 
theme of all societies, male and female, and a very 
extensive & zealous party was formed which ac 
quired the appellation of the Patriotic party, who, 
sensible of the abusive government under which 
they lived, sighed for occasions of reforming it. 
This party comprehended all the honesty of the 
kingdom sufficiently at it s leisure to think, the men 
of letters, the easy Bourgeois, the young nobility 
partly from reflection, partly from mode, for these 
sentiments became matter of mode, and as such 



io6 The Writings of [1787 

united most of the young women to the party. 
Happily for the nation, it happened at the same 
moment that the dissipations of the Queen and 
court, the abuses of the pension-list, and dilapida 
tions in the administration of every branch of the 
finances, had exhausted the treasures and credit 
of the nation, insomuch that it s most necessary 
functions were paralyzed. To reform these abuses 
would have overset the minister; to impose new 
taxes by the authority of the King was known to be 
impossible from the determined opposition of the 
parliament to their enregistry. No resource re 
mained then but to appeal to the nation. He ad 
vised therefore the call of an assembly of the most 
distinguished characters of the nation, in the hope 
that by promises of various and valuable improve 
ments in the organization and regimen of the govern 
ment, they would be induced to authorize new taxes, 
to controul the opposition of the parliament, and to 
raise the annual revenue to the level of expenditures. 
An Assembly of Notables therefore, about 150. in 
number named by the King, convened on the 226.. 
of Feb. The Minister (Calonne) stated to them 
that the annual excess of expenses beyond the 
revenue, when Louis XVI. came to the throne, was 
37. millions of livres; that 440. millns. had been 
borrowed to reestablish the navy ; that the American 
war had cost them 1440. millns. (256. mils, of Dollars) 
and that the interest of these sums, with other in 
creased expenses had added 40 millns. more to the 
annual deficit. (But a subseqt. and more candid 
estimate made it 56. millns.) He proffered them an 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 107 

universal redress of grievances, laid open those griev 
ances fully, pointed out sound remedies, and cover 
ing his canvas with objects of this magnitude, the 
deficit dwindled to a little accessory, scarcely at 
tracting attention. The persons chosen were the 
most able & independent characters in the kingdom, 
and their support, if it could be obtained, would be 
enough for him. They improved the occasion for 
redressing their grievances, and agreed that the 
public wants should be relieved; but went into an 
examination of the causes of them. It was sup 
posed that Calonne was conscious that his accounts 
could not bear examination; and it was said and 
believed that he asked of the King to send 4. mem 
bers to the Bastile, of whom the M. de la Fayette was 
one, to banish 20. others, & 2. of his Ministers. The 
King found it shorter to banish him. His successor 
went on in full concert with the Assembly. The 
result was an augmentation of the revenue a pro 
mise of economies in it s expenditure, of an annual 
settlement of the public accounts before a council, 
which the Comptroller, having been heretofore 
obliged to settle only with the King in person, of 
course never settled at all ; an acknowledgment that 
the King could not lay a new tax, a reformation of 
the criminal laws abolition of torture, suppression 
of Corvees, reformation of the gabelles, removal of 
the interior custom houses, free commerce of grain 
internal & external, and the establishment of Pro 
vincial assemblies; which altogether constituted a 
great mass of improvement in the condition of the 
nation. The establishment of the Provincial assem- 



io8 The Writings of [1787 

blies was in itself a fundamental improvement. They 
would be of the choice of the people, one third re 
newed every year, in those provinces where there are 
no States, that is to say over about three fourths of 
the kingdom. They would be partly an Executive 
themselves, & partly an Executive council to the 
Intendant, to whom the Executive power, in his 
province had been heretofore entirely delegated. 
Chosen by the people, they would soften the execu 
tion of hard laws, & having a right of representation 
to the King, they would censure bad laws, suggest 
good ones, expose abuses, and their representations, 
when tinited, would command respect. To the other 
advantages might be added the precedent itself of 
calling the Assemblee des Notables, which would 
perhaps grow into habit. The hope was that the 
improvements thus promised would be carried into 
effect, that they would be maintained during the 
present reign, & that that would be long enough for 
them to take some root in the constitution, so that 
they might come to be considered as a part of that, 
and be protected by time, and the attachment of the 
nation. 

The Count de Vergennes had died a few days be 
fore the meeting of the Assembly, & the Count de 
Montmorin had been named Minister of foreign 
affairs in his place. Villedeuil succeeded Calonnes 
as Comptroller general, Lomenie de Bryenne, 
Archbishop of Thoulouse, afterwards of Sens, & 
ultimately Cardinal Lomenie, was named Minister 
principal, with whom the other ministers were to 
transact the business of their departments, hereto- 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 109 

fore done with the King in person, and the Duke de 
Nivernois, and M. de Malesherbes were called to the 
Council. On the nomination of the Minister princi 
pal the Marshals de Segur & de Castries retired from 
the departments of War & Marine, unwilling to act 
subo rdinately, or to share the blame of proceedings 
taken out of their direction. They were succeeded 
by the Count de Brienne, brother of the Prime 
minister, and the Marquis de la Luzerne, brother to 
him who had been Minister in the United States. 

May 24. A dislocated wrist, unsuccessfully set, 
occasioned advice from my Surgeon to try the min 
eral waters of Aix in Provence as a corroborant. I. 
left Paris for that place therefore on the 28th. of 
Feb. and proceeded up the Seine, thro Champagne 
& Burgundy, and down the Rhone thro the Beau- 
jolais by Lyons, Avignon, Nismes to Aix, where 
finding on trial no benefit from the waters, I con 
cluded to visit the rice country of Piedmont, to see 
if anything might be learned there to benefit the 
rivalship of our Carolina rice with that, and thence 
to make a tour of the seaport towns of France, along 
it s Southern and Western Coast, to inform myself 
if anything could be done to favor our commerce 
with them. 1 From Aix therefore I took my route by 
Marseilles, Toulon, Hieres, Nice, across the Col de 
Tende, by Coni, Turin, Vercelli, Novara, Milan, 
Pavia, Novi, Genoa. Thence returning along the 
coast by Savona, Noli, Albenga, Oneglia, Monaco, 
Nice, Antibes, Frejus, Aix, Marseilles, Avignon, 

1 In Washington s edition of Jefferson s Writings (ix., 313) a journal 
of this tour is printed. 



no The Writings of [1787 

Nismes, Montpellier, Frontignan, Cette, Agde, and 
along the canal of Languedoc, by Bezieres, Narbonne, 
Cascassonne, Castelnaudari, thro the Souterrain of 
St. Feriol and back by Castelnaudari, to Toulouse, 
thence to Montauban & down the Garonne by Lan- 
gon to Bordeaux. Thence to Rochefort, la Rochelle, 
Nantes, L Orient, then back by Rennes to Nantes, 
and up the Loire by Angers, Tours, Amboise, Blois to 
New Orleans, thence direct to Paris where I arrived 
on the zoth. of June. Soon after my return from 
this journey to wit, about the latter part of July, I 
received my younger daughter Maria from Virginia 
by the way of London, the youngest having died 
some time before. 

The treasonable perfidy of the Prince of Orange, 
Stadtholder & Captain General of the United Neth 
erlands, in the war which England waged against 
them for entering into a treaty of commerce with 
the U. S. is known to all. As their Executive officer, 
charged with the conduct of the war, he contrived 
to baffle all the measures of the States General, to 
dislocate all their military plans, & played false into 
the hands of England and against his own country 
on every possible occasion, confident in her protec 
tion, and in that of the King of Prussia, brother to 
his Princess. The States General indignant at this 
patricidal conduct applied to France for aid, accord 
ing to the stipulations of the treaty concluded with 
her in 85. It was assured to them readily, and in 
cordial terms, in a letter from the Ct. de Vergennes 
to the Marquis de Verac, Ambassador of France at 
the Hague, of which the following is an extract. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 1 1 1 

" Extrait de la depeche de Monsr. le Comte de Ver- 
gennes a Monsr. le Marquis de Verac, Ambassadeur 
de France a la Haye, du ler Mars 1786. 

" Le Roi concourrera, autant qu il sera en son pou- 
voir, au succes de la chose, et vous inviterez de sa 
part les patriotes de lui communiquer leurs vues, leurs 
plans, et letirs envieux. Vous les assurerez que le 
roi prend un interet veritable k leurs personnes 
comme k leur cause, et qu ils peuvent compter sur 
sa protection. Ils doivent y compter d autant plus, 
Monsieur, que nous ne dissimulons pas que si Monsr. 
le Stadhoulder reprend son ancienne influence, le 
systeme Anglois ne tardera pas de prevaloir, et que 
notre alliance deviendroit un etre de raison. Les 
Patriotes sentiront facilement que cette position 
seroit incompatible avec la dignite, comme avec la 
consideration de sa majeste. Mais dans le cas, Mon 
sieur, ou les chefs des Patriotes auroient a craindre 
une scission, ils auroient le temps suffisant pour 
ramener ceux de leurs amis que les Anglomanes ont 
egares, et preparer les choses de maniere que la ques 
tion de nouveau mise en deliberation soit decide 
selon leurs desirs. Dans cette hypo these, le roi vous 
autorise k agir de concert avec eux, de suivre la di 
rection qu ils jugeront devoir vous donner, et d em 
ployer tous les moyens pour augmenter le nombre 
des partisans de la bonne cause. II me reste, Mon 
sieur, il me reste, Monsieur, de vous parler de la 
surete" person elle des patriotes. Vous les assurerez 
que dans tout etat de cause, le roi les prend sous sa 
protection immediate, et vous ferez connoitre par- 
tout ou vous le jugerez necessaire, que sa Majeste 



ii2 The Writings of [1787 

regarderoit comme une offense personnelle tout ce 
qu on entreprenderoit centre leur liberte. II est a 
presumer que ce langage, tenu avec energie, en 
imposera a 1 audace des Anglomanes et que Monsr. 
le Prince de Nassau croira courir quelque risque en 
provoquant le ressentiment de sa MajesteV 

This letter was communicated by the Patriots 
to me when at Amsterdam in 1788. and a copy 
sent by me to Mr. Jay in my letter to him of Mar. 
16. 1788. 

The object of the Patriots was to establish a re 
presentative and republican government. The ma 
jority of the States general were with them, but the 
majority of the populace of the towns was with the 
Prince of Orange ; and that populace was played off 
with great effect by the triumvirate of * * * 
Harris l the English Ambassador afterwards Ld. 
Malmesbury, the Prince of Orange a stupid man. and 
the Princess as much a man as either of her colleagues 
in audaciousness, in enterprise, & in the thirst of 
domination. By these the mobs of the Hague were 
excited against the members of the States general, 
their persons were insulted & endangered in the 
streets, the sanctuary of their houses was violated, 
and the Prince whose function & duty it was to re 
press and punish these violations of order, took no 
steps for that purpose. The States General, for 
their own protection were therefore obliged to place 
their militia under the command of a Committee. 
The Prince filled the courts of London and Berlin 

1 Sir James Harris. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 113 

with complaints at this usurpation of his preroga 
tives, and forgetting that he was but the first servant 
of a republic, marched his regular troops against the 
city of Utrecht, where the States were in session. 
They were repulsed by the militia. His interests 
now became marshalled with those of the public 
enemy & against his own country. The States 
therefore, exercising their rights of sovereignty, de 
prived him of all his powers. The great Frederic 
had died in August 86. 1 He had never intended to 
break with France in support of the Prince of Orange. 
During the illness of which he died, he had thro the 
Duke of Brunswick, declared to the Marquis de la 
Fayette, who was then at Berlin, that he meant not 
to support the English interest in Holland: that he 
might assure the go vernment of France his only wish 
was that some honorable place in the Constitution 
should be reserved for the Stadtholder and his child 
ren, and that he would take no part in the quarrel 
unless an entire abolition of the Stadtholderate 
should be attempted. But his place was now occu 
pied by Frederic William, his great nephew, a man 
of little understanding, much caprice, & very in 
considerate; and the Princess his sister, altho her 
husband was in arms against the legitimate au 
thorities of the country, attempting to go to Am 
sterdam for the purpose of exciting the mobs of that 
place and being refused permission to pass a military 
post on the way, he put the Duke of Brunswick at 
the head of 20,000 men, and made demonstrations of 
marching on Holland. The King of France hereupon 

7 Ire to Jay Aug. 6. 87. T. J. 



VOL. I. 8. 



ii4 The Writings of [1787 

declared, by his Charge des Affaires in Holland that 
if the Prussian troops continued to menace Holland 
with an invasion, his Majesty, in quality of Ally, 
was determined to succor that province. 1 In an 
swer to this Eden gave official information to Count 
Montmorin, that England must consider as at an 
end, it s convention with France relative to giving 
notice of it s naval armaments and that she was 
arming generally. 2 War being now imminent, Eden 
questioned me on the effect of our .treaty with 
France in the case of a war, & what might be our 
dispositions. I told him frankly and without hesita 
tion that our dispositions would be neutral, and that 
I thought it would be the interest of both these 
powers that we should be so; because it would re 
lieve both from all anxiety as to feeding their W. 
India islands. That England too, by suffering us 
to remain so, would avoid a heavy land- war on our 
continent, which might very much cripple her pro 
ceedings elsewhere; that our treaty indeed obliged 
us to receive into our ports the armed vessels of 
France, with their prizes, and to refuse admission to 
the prizes made on her by her enemies: that there 
was a clause also by which we guaranteed to France 
her American possessions, which might perhaps force 
us into the war, if these were attacked. "Then it 
will be war, said he, for they will assuredly be at 
tacked." 3 Liston, at Madrid, about the same time, 
made the same inquiries of Carmichael. The gov 
ernment of France then declared a determination to 

1 My Ire Sep. 22. 87. T. J. 2 My Ire to J. Jay Sep. 24. T. J, 
3 Ire to Carm. Dec. 15. T. J. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 115 

form a camp of observation at Givet, commenced 
arming her marine, and named the Bailli de Suffrein 
their Generalissimo on the Ocean. She secretly en 
gaged also in negotiations with Russia, Austria, & 
Spain to form a quadruple alliance. The Duke of 
Brunswick having advanced to the confines of Hol 
land, sent some of his officers to Givet to reconnoitre 
the state of things there, and report them to him. 
He said afterwards that "if there had been only a 
few tents at that place, he should not have advanced 
further, for that the King would not merely for the in 
terest of his sister, engage in a war with France. But 
finding that there was not a single company there, he 
boldly entered the country took their towns as fast 
as he presented himself before them, and advanced 
on Utrecht. The States had appointed the Rhin- 
grave of Salm their Commander-in-chief, a Prince 
without talents, without courage, and without prin 
ciple. He might have held out in Utrecht for a con 
siderable time, but he surrendered the place without 
firing a gun, literally ran away & hid himself so that 
for months it was not known what had become of 
him. Amsterdam was then attacked and capitu 
lated. In the meantime the negotiations for the 
quadruple alliance were proceeding favorably. But 
the secrecy with which they were attempted to be 
conducted, was penetrated by Fraser, Charge des 
affaires of England at St. Petersburg, who instantly 
notified his court, and gave the alarm to Prussia. 
The King saw at once what would be his situation 
between the jaws of France, Austria, and Russia. 
In great dismay he besought the court of London 



1 16 The Writings of [1787 

not to abandon him, sent Alvensleben to Paris to 
explain and soothe, and England thro the D. of 
Dorset and Eden, renewed her conferences for ac 
commodation. The Archbishop, who shuddered at 
the idea of war, and preferred a peaceful surrender 
of right to an armed vindication of it, received them 
with open arms, entered into cordial conferences, 
and a declaration, and counter declaration were 
cooked up at Versailles and sent to London for ap 
probation. They were approved there, reached 
Paris at i o clock of the 27th. and were signed that 
night at Versailles. It was said and believed at Paris 
that M. de Montmorin, literally " pleuroit comme 
tin enfant," when obliged to sign this counter de 
claration; so distressed was he by the dishonor of 
sacrificing the Patriots after assurances so solemn 
of protection, and absolute encouragement to pro 
ceed. 1 The Prince of Orange was reinstated in all 
his powers, now become regal. A great emigration 
of the Patriots took place, all were deprived of office, 
many exiled, and their property confiscated. They 
were received in France, and subsisted for some 
time on her bounty. Thus fell Holland, by the 
treachery of her chief, from her honorable inde 
pendence to become a province of England, and so 
also her Stadtholder from the high station of the 
first citizen of a free republic, to be the servile 
Viceroy of a foreign sovereign. And this- was ef 
fected by a mere scene of bullying & demonstration, 
not one of the parties, France England or Prussia 
having ever really meant to encounter actual war 

1 My Ire to Jay Nov. 3. Ire to J. Adams, Nov. 13. T. ]. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 117 

for the interest of the Prince of Orange. But it had 
all the effect of a real and decisive war. 

Our first essay in America to establish a federative 
government had fallen, on trial, very short of it s 
object. During the war of Independance, while the 
pressure of an external enemy hooped us together, 
and their enterprises kept us necessarily on the alert, 
the spirit of the people, excited by danger, was a 
supplement to the Confederation, and urged them 
to zealous exertions, whether claimed by that instru 
ment, or not. But when peace and safety were re 
stored, and every man became engaged in useful 
and profitable occupation, less attention was paid to 
the calls of Congress. The fundamental defect of 
the Confederation was that Congress was not author 
ized to act immediately on the people, & by it s own 
officers. Their power was only requisitory, and 
these requisitions were addressed to the several 
legislatures, to be by them carried into execution, 
without other coercion than the moral principle of 
duty. This allowed in fact a negative to every 
legislature, on every measure proposed by Congress; 
a negative so frequently exercised in practice as to 
benumb the action of the federal government, and 
to render it inefficient in it s general objects, & more 
especially in pecuniary and foreign Concerns. The 
want too of a separation of the legislative, executive, 
& judiciary functions worked disadvantageously in 
practice. Yet this state of things afforded a happy 
augury of the future march of our confederacy, when 
it was seen that the good sense and good disposi 
tions of the people, as soon as they perceived the 



n8 The Writings of [1787 

incompetence of their first compact, instead of leav 
ing it s correction to insurrection and civil war, agreed 
with one voice to elect deputies to a general conven 
tion, who should peaceably meet and agree on such a 
constitution as "would ensure peace, justice, liberty, 
the common defence & general welfare." 

This Convention met at Philadelphia on the 25th. 
of May 87. It sate with closed doors, and kept all 
it s proceedings secret, until it s dissolution on the 
1 7th. of September, when the results of their labors 
were published all together. I received a copy early 
in November, and read and contemplated it s pro 
visions with great satisfaction. As not a member 
of the Convention however, nor probably a single 
citizen of the Union, had approved it in all it s 
parts, so I too found articles which I thought ob 
jectionable. The absence of express declarations 
ensuring freedom of religion, freedom of the press, 
freedom of the person under the uninterrupted 
protection of the Habeas corpus, & trial by jury 
in civil as well as in criminal cases excited my 
jealousy; and the re-eligibility of the President 
for life, I quite disapproved. I expressed freely in 
letters to my friends, and most particularly to Mr. 
Madison & General Washington, my approbations 
and objections. How the good should be secured, 
and the ill brought to rights was the difficulty. To 
refer it back to a new Convention might endanger the 
loss of the whole. My first idea was that the 9. 
states first acting should accept it unconditionally, 
and thus secure what in it was good, and that the 4. 
last should accept on the previous condition that 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 1 19 

certain amendments should be agreed to, but a bet 
ter course was devised of accepting the whole and 
trusting that the good sense & honest intention 
of our citizens would make the alterations which 
should be deemed necessary. Accordingly all ac 
cepted, 6. without objection, and 7. with recom 
mendations of specified amendments. Those re 
specting the press, religion, & juries, with several 
others, of great value, were accordingly made: but 
the Habeas corpus was left to the discretion of Con 
gress, and the amendment against the reeligibility 
of the President was not proposed by that body. 
My fears of that feature were founded on the im 
portance of the office, on the fierce contentions it 
might excite among ourselves, if continuable for 
life, and the dangers of interference either with 
money or arms, by foreign nations, to whom the 
choice of an American President might become in 
teresting. Examples of this abounded in history ; in 
the case of the Roman emperors for instance, of the 
Popes while of any significance, of the German em 
perors, the Kings of Poland, & the Deys of Barbary. 
I had observed too in the feudal History, and in the 
recent instance particularly of the Stadtholder of 
Holland, how easily offices or tenures for life slide 
into inheritances. My wish therefore was that the 
President should be elected for 7. years & be ineli 
gible afterwards. This term I thought sufficient to 
enable him, with the concurrence of the legislature, 
to carry thro & establish any system of improve 
ment he should propose for the general good. But 
the practice adopted I think is better allowing his 



120 The Writings of [1787 

continuance for 8 . years with a liability to be dropped 
at half way of the term, making that a period of 
probation. That his continuance should be re 
strained to 7 . years was the opinion of the Convention 
at an early stage of it s session, when it voted that 
term by a majority of 8. against 2. and by a simple 
majority, that he should be ineligible a second time. 
This opinion &c. was confirmed by the house so late 
as July 26, referred to the committee of detail, re- 
reported favorably by them, and changed to the 
present form by final vote on the last day but one 
only of their session. 1 Of this change three states 
expressed their disapprobation, N. York by recom 
mending an amendment that the President should 
not be eligible a third time, and Virginia and N. 
Carolina that he should not be capable of serving 
more than 8. in any term of 16. years. And altho 
this amendment has not been made in form, yet 
practice seems to have established it. The example 
of 4 Presidents voluntarily retiring at the end of their 
8th year, & the progress of public opinion that the 
principle is salutary, have given it in practice the 
force of precedent & usage ; insomuch that should a 
President consent to be a candidate for a 3d. election, 
I trust he would be rejected on this demonstration 
of ambitious views. 

But there was another amendment of which none 
of us thought at the time and in the omission of 
which lurks the germ that is to destroy this happy 

1 This is an evident error. On September 4th, the committee of 
eleven reported a clause making the term four years, which was adopted 
by the convention on the 6th, and not altered thereafter. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 121 

combination of National powers in the General gov 
ernment for matters of National concern, and inde 
pendent powers in the states for what concerns the 
states severally. In England it was a great point 
gained at the Revolution, that the commissions of 
the judges, which had hitherto been during pleasure, 
should thenceforth be made during good behavior. 
A Judiciary dependent on the will of the King had 
proved itself the most oppressive of all tools in the 
hands of that Magistrate. Nothing then could be 
more salutary than a change there to the tenure of 
good behavior; and the question of good behavior 
left to the vote of a simple majority in the two houses 
of parliament. Before the revolution we were all 
good English Whigs, cordial in their free principles, 
and in their jealousies of their executive Magistrate. 
These jealousies are very apparent in all our state 
constitutions; and, in the general government in 
this instance, we have gone even beyond the English 
caution, by requiring a vote of two thirds in one of 
the Houses for removing a judge; a vote so impos 
sible where any defence is made, before men of 
ordinary prejudices & passions, that our judges are 
effectually independent of the nation. But this 
ought not to be. I would not indeed make them 
dependant on the Executive authority, as they 
formerly were in England; but I deem it indis 
pensable to the continuance of this government 
that they should be submitted to some practical & 

1 In the impeachment of judge Pickering of New Hampshire, a 
habitual & maniac drunkard, no defence was made. Had there been, 
the party vote of more than one third of the Senate would have ac 
quitted him. T. J. 



122 The Writings of [1787 

impartial controul: and that this, to be imparted, 
must be compounded of a mixture of state and federal 
authorities. It is not enough that honest men are 
appointed judges. All know the influence of inter 
est on the mind of man, and how unconsciously his 
judgment is warped by that influence. To this bias 
add that of the esprit de corps, of their peculiar 
maxim and creed that "it is the office of a good 
judge to enlarge his jurisdiction," and the absence of 
responsibility, and how can we expect impartial de 
cision between the General government, of which 
they are themselves so eminent a part, and an indi 
vidual state from which they have nothing to hope 
or fear. We have seen too that, contrary to all cor 
rect example, they are in the habit of going out of 
the question before them, to throw an anchor ahead 
and grapple further hold for future advances of 
power. They are then in fact the corps of sappers 
& miners, steadily working to undermine the inde- 
pendant rights of the States, to consolidate all 
power in the hands of that government in which they 
have so important a freehold estate. But it is not 
by the consolidation, or concentration of powers, 
but by their distribution, that good government is 
effected. Were not this great country already di 
vided into states, that division must be made, that 
each might do for itself what concerns itself directly, 
and what it can so much better do than a distant 
authority. Every state again is divided into coun 
ties, each to take care of what lies within it s local 
bounds; each county again into townships or wards, 
to manage minuter details; and every ward into 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 123 

farms, to be governed each by it s individual pro 
prietor. Were we directed from Washington when 
to sow, & when to reap, we should soon want bread. 
It is by this partition of cares, descending in grada 
tion from general to particular, that the mass of 
human affairs may be best managed for the good 
and prosperity of all. I repeat that I do not charge 
the judges with wilful and ill-intentioned error; but 
honest error must be arrested where it s toleration 
leads to public ruin. As, for the safety of society, 
we commit honest maniacs to Bedlam, so judges 
should be withdrawn from their bench, whose erro 
neous biases are leading us to dissolution. It may in 
deed injure them in fame or in fortune ; but it saves 
the republic, which is the first and supreme law. 

Among the debilities of the government of the 
Confederation, no one was more distinguished or 
more distressing than the utter impossibility of ob 
taining, from the states, the monies necessary for 
the payment of debts, or even for the ordinary ex 
penses of the government. Some contributed a 
little, some less, & some nothing, and the last fur 
nished at length an excuse for the first to do nothing 
also. Mr. Adams, while residing at the Hague, had 
a general authority to borrow what sums might be 
requisite for ordinary & necessary expenses. In 
terest on the public debt, and the maintenance of 
the diplomatic establishment in Europe, had been 
habitually provided in this way. He was now 
elected Vice President of the U S. was soon to return 
to America, 1 and had referred our bankers to me for 

1 Adams returned to America before his election as Vice President. 



J24 The Writings of [1787 

future councel on our affairs in their hands. But I 
had no powers, no instructions, no means, and no 
familiarity with the subject. It had always been 
exclusively under his management, except as to 
occasional and partial deposits in the hands of Mr. 
Grand, banker in Paris, for special and local pur 
poses. These last had been exhausted for some 
time, and I had fervently pressed the Treasury board 
to replenish this particular deposit; as Mr. Grand 
now refused to make further advances. They an 
swered candidly that no funds could be obtained 
until the new government should get into action, and 
have time to make it s arrangements. Mr. Adams 
had received his appointment to the court of London 
while engaged at Paris, with Dr. Franklin and my 
self, in the negotiations under our joint commissions. 
He had repaired thence to London, without return 
ing to the Hague to take leave of that government. 
He thought it necessary however to do so now, be 
fore he should leave Europe, and accordingly went 
there. I learned his departure from London by a 
letter from Mrs. Adams received on the very day on 
which he would arrive at the Hague. A consultation 
with him, & some provision for the future was in 
dispensable, while we could yet avail ourselves of his 
powers. For when they would be gone, we should 
be without resource. I was daily dunned by a com 
pany who had formerly made a small loan to the U 
S. the principal of which was now become due; and 
our bankers in Amsterdam had notified me that the 
interest on our general debt would be expected in 
June; that if we failed to pay it, it would be deemed 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 125 

an act of bankruptcy and would effectually destroy 
the credit of the U S. and all future prospect of ob 
taining money there; that the loan they had been 
authorized to open, of which a third only was filled, 
had now ceased to get forward, and rendered des 
perate that hope of resource. I saw that there was 
not a moment to lose, and set out for the Hague on 
the 2d. morning after receiving the information of 
Mr. Adams s journey. I went the direct road by 
Louvres, Senlis, Roye, Pont St. Maxence, Bois le 
due, Gouniay, Peronne, Cambray, Bouchain, Valen 
ciennes, Mons, Bruxelles, Malines, Antwerp, Mor- 
dick, and Rotterdam, to the Hague, where I happily 
found Mr. Adams. He concurred with me at once 
in opinion that something must be done, and that we 
ought to risk ourselves on doing it without instruc 
tions, to save the credit of the U S. We foresaw 
that before the new government could be adopted, 
assembled, establish it s financial system, get the 
money into the treasury, and place it in Europe, 
considerable time would elapse; that therefore we 
had better provide at once for the years 88. 89. & go. 
in order to place our government at it s ease, and 
our credit in security, during that trying interval. 
We set out therefore by the way of Leyden for Am 
sterdam, where we arrived on the loth. I had pre 
pared an estimate showing that 

Florins. 

there would be necessary for the year 88 531,937-10 

8 9 538,540 
90 473,540 



Total, 1,544,017-10 



The Writings of [1787 



Flor. 
to meet this the bankers had in hand 79,268-2-8 

& the unsold bonds would yield 542,800 622,068-2-8 



leaving a deficit of ...... 921,949-7-4 

we proposed then to borrow a million yielding . 920,000 



which would leave a small deficiency of . 1,949-7-4 

Mr. Adams accordingly executed 1000. bonds, for 
1000. florins each, and deposited them in the hands 
of our bankers, with instructions however not to 
issue them until Congress should ratify the measure. 
This done, he returned to London, and I set out for 
P^ris; and as nothing urgent forbade it, I deter 
mined to return along the banks of the Rhine to 
Strasburg, and thence strike off to Paris. I ac 
cordingly left Amsterdam on the 3oth of March, 
and proceeded by Utrecht, Nimeguen, Cleves, Duys- 
berg, Dusseldorf, Cologne, Bonne, Coblentz, Nassau, 
Hocheim, Frankfort, & made an excursion to Hanau, 
thence to Mayence and another excursion to Rudes- 
heim, & Johansberg; then by Oppenheim, Worms, 
and Manheim, and an excursion to Heidelberg, then 
by Spire, Carlsruh, Rastadt Kelh, to Strasburg, 
where I arrived Apr. i6th, and proceeded again on 
the 1 8th, by Phalsbourg, Fenestrange, vDieuze, 
Moyenvie, Nancy, Toul, Ligny, Barleduc, St. Diziers, 
Vitry, Chalons sur Marne, Epernay, Chateau Thierri, 
Meaux, to Paris where I arrived on the 23d. of April ; 
and I had the satisfaction to reflect that by this 
journey our credit was secured, the new government 
was placed at ease for two years to come, and that 

1 A journal of this tour, kept by Jefferson, is printed in Washington s 
edition of his writings, ix., 373. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 127 

as well as myself were relieved from the torment of 
incessant duns, whose just complaints could not be 
silenced by any means within our power. 

A Consular Convention had been agreed on in 84. 
between Dr. Franklin and the French government 
containing several articles so entirely inconsistent 
with the laws of the several states, and the general 
spirit of our citizens, that Congress withheld their 
ratification, and sent it back to me with instructions 
to get those articles expunged or modified so as to 
render them compatible with our laws. The min 
ister retired unwillingly from these concessions, which 
indeed authorized the exercise of powers very offen 
sive in a free state. After much discussion it was 
reformed in a considerable degree, and the Conven 
tion- was signed by the Count Montmorin and my 
self, on the 1 4th. of Nov. 88 not indeed such as I 
would have wished; but such as could be obtained 
with good humor & friendship. 1 

On my return from Holland, I had found Paris 
still in high fermentation as I had left it. Had the 
Archbishop, on the close of the assembly of Notables, 
immediately carried into operation the measures 
contemplated, it was believed they would all have 
been registered by the parliament, but he was slow, 
presented his edicts, one after another, & at con 
siderable intervals of time, which gave time for the 
feelings excited by the proceedings of the Notables 
to cool off, new claims to be advanced, and a pressure 

1 Among the Jefferson MSS. in the Department of State are printed 
copies of both the consular conventions negotiated by Franklin and 
Jefferson, and the original draft of the latter, in Jefferson s hand 
writing. 



128 The Writings of [1787 

to arise for a fixed constitution, not subject to 
changes at the will of the King. Nor should we 
wonder at this pressure when we consider the mon 
strous abuses of power under which this people were 
ground to powder, when we pass in review the weight 
of their taxes, and inequality of their distribution; 
the oppressions of the tythes, of the tallies, the 
corve"es, the gabelles, the farms & barriers; the 
shackles on Commerce by monopolies; on Industry 
by gilds & corporations ; on the freedom of conscience, 
of thought, and of speech; on the Press by the 
Censure; and of person by lettres de Cachet, the 
cruelty of the criminal code generally, the atrocities 
of the Rack, the venality of judges, and their par 
tialities to the rich ; the Monopoly of Military honors 
by the Noblesse; the enormous expenses of the 
Queen, the princes & the Court; the prodigalities 
of pensions; & the riches, luxury, indolence & im 
morality of the clergy. Surely under such a mass 
of misrule and oppression, a people might justly 
press for a thoro reformation, and might even dis 
mount their rough-shod riders, & leave them to 
walk on their own legs. The edicts relative to the 
corvees & free circulation of grain, were first pre 
sented to the parliament and registered. But those 
for the impot territorial, & stamp tax, offered some 
time after, were refused by the parliament, which 
proposed a call of the States General as alone com 
petent to their authorization. Their refusal produced 
a Bed of justice, and their exile to Troyes. The 
advocates however refusing to attend them, a sus 
pension in the administration of justice took place. 



1787] Thomas Jefferson 129 

The Parliament held out for awhile, but the ennui of 
their exile and absence from Paris begun at length to 
be felt, and some dispositions for compromise to ap 
pear. On their consent therefore to prolong some 
of the former taxes, they were recalled from exile, 
the King met them in session Nov. 19. 87. promised 
to call the States General in the year 92. and a ma 
jority expressed their assent to register an edict for 
successive and annual loans from 1788. to 92. But 
a protest being entered by the Duke of Orleans and 
this encouraging others in a -disposition to retract, 
the King ordered peremptorily the registry of the 
edict, and left the assembly abruptly. The parlia 
ment immediately protested that the votes for the 
enregistry had not been legally taken, and that they 
gave no sanction to the loans proposed. This was 
enough to discredit and defeat them. Hereupon 
issued another edict for the establishment of a cour 
pleniere, and the suspension of all the parliaments 
in the kingdom. This being opposed as might be 
expected by reclamations from all the parliaments 
& provinces, the King gave way and by an edict of 
July 5. 88 renounced his cour pleniere, & promised 
the States General for the ist. of May of the ensuing 
year: and the Archbishop finding the times beyond 
his faculties, accepted the promise of a Cardinal s 
hat, was removed [Sep. 88] from the ministry, and 
Mr. Necker was called to the department of finance. 
The innocent rejoicings of the people of Paris on this 
change provoked the interference of an officer of the 
city guards, whose order for their dispersion not 
being obeyed, he charged them with fixed bayonets, 



VOL. I. 9. 



130 The Writings of [1788 

killed two or three, and wounded many. This dis 
persed them for the moment ; but they collected the 
next day in great numbers, burnt 10. or 12.. guard 
houses, killed two or three of the guards, & lost 6. or 
8. more of their own number. The city was here 
upon put under martial law, and after awhile the 
tumult subsided. The effect of this change of min 
isters, and the promise of the States General at an 
early day, tranquillized the nation. But two great 
questions now occurred, i. What proportion shall 
the number of deputies of the tiers etat bear to those 
of the Nobles and Clergy? And 2. shall they sit in 
the same, or in distinct apartments? Mr. Necker, 
desirous of avoiding himself these knotty questions, 
proposed a second call of the same Notables, and 
that their advice should be asked on the subject. 
They met Nov. 9. 88. and, by five bureaux against 
one, they recommended the forms of the States Gen 
eral of 1614. wherein the houses were separate, and 
voted by orders, not by persons. But the whole 
nation declaring at once against this, and that the 
tiers etat should be, in numbers, equal to both 
the other orders, and the Parliament deciding for the 
same proportion, it was determined so to be, by a 
declaration of Dec. 27. 88. A Report of Mr. Necker 
to the King, of about the same date, contained other 
very important concessions, i. That the King 
could neither lay a new tax, nor prolong an old one. 
2. It expressed a readiness to agree on the periodical 
meeting of the States. 3. To consult on the neces 
sary restriction on lettres de Cachet. And 4. how 
far the Press might be made free. 5. It admits that 



1788] Thomas Jefferson 131 

the States are to appropriate the public money ; and 
6. that Ministers shall be responsible for public ex 
penditures. And these concessions came from the 
very heart of the King. He had not a wish but for 
the good of the nation, and for that object no per 
sonal sacrifice would ever have cost him a moment s 
regret. But his mind was weakness itself, his con 
stitution timid, his judgment null, and without 
sufficient firmness even to stand by the faith of his 
word. His Queen too, haughty and bearing no 
contradiction, had an absolute ascendency over him; 
and around her were rallied the King s brother d Ar- 
tois, the court generally, and the aristocratic part of 
his ministers, particularly Breteuil, Broglio, Vau- 
guyon, Foulon, Luzerne, men whose principles of 
government were those of the age of Louis XIV. 
Against this host the good counsels of Necker, Mont- 
morin, St. Priest, altho in unison with the wishes of 
the King himself, were of little avail. The resolu 
tions of the morning formed under their advice, 
would be reversed in the evening by the influence of 
the Queen & court. But the hand of heaven weighed 
heavily indeed on the machinations of this junto; 
producing collateral incidents, not arising out of the 
case, yet powerfully co-exciting the nation to force 
a regeneration of it s government, and overwhelming 
with accumulated difficulties this liberticide resist 
ance. For, while laboring under the want of money 
for even ordinary purposes, in a government which 
required a million of livres a day, and driven to the 
last ditch by the universal call for liberty, there 
came on a winter of such severe cold, as was without 



i3 2 The Writings of [1788 

example in the memory of man, or in the written 
records of history. The Mercury was at times 50 
below the freezing point of Fahrenheit and 22 below 
that of Reaumur. All out-door labor was suspended, 
and the poor, without the wages of labor, were of 
course without either bread or fuel. The govern 
ment found it s necessities aggravated by that of 
procuring immense quantities of fire- wood, and of 
keeping great fires at all the cross-streets, around 
which the people gathered in crowds to avoid perish 
ing with cold. Bread too was to be bought, and 
distributed daily gratis, until a relaxation of the 
season should enable the people to work: and the 
slender stock of bread-stuff had for some time threat 
ened famine, and had raised that article to an enor 
mous price. So great indeed was the scarcity of 
bread that from the highest to the lowest citizen, 
the bakers were permitted to deal but a scanty 
allowance per head, even to those who paid for it; 
and in cards of invitation to dine in the richest 
houses, the guest was notified to bring his own bread. 
To eke out the existence of the people, every person 
who had the means, was called on for a weekly sub 
scription, which the Cures collected and employed 
in providing messes for the nourishment of the poor, 
and vied with each other in devising such economical 
compositions of food as would subsist the greatest 
number with the smallest means. This want of 
bread had been foreseen for some time past and M. 
de Montmorin had desired me to notify it in America, 
and that, in addition to the market price, a premium 
should be given on what should be brought from 



1788] Thomas Jefferson 133 

the U S. Notice was accordingly given and pro 
duced considerable supplies. Subsequent information 
made the importations from America, during the 
months of March, April & May, into the Atlantic 
ports of France, amount to about 21,000 barrels of 
flour, besides what went to other ports, and in other 
months, while our supplies to their West-Indian 
islands relieved them also from that drain. This 
distress for bread continued till July. 

Hitherto no acts of popular violence had been pro 
duced by the struggle for political reformation. 
Little riots, on ordinary incidents, had taken place, 
as at other times, in different parts of the kingdom, 
in which some lives, perhaps a dozen or twenty, had 
been lost, but in the month of April a more serious 
one occurred in Paris, unconnected indeed with the 
revolutionary principle, but making part of the his 
tory of the day. The Fauxbourg St. Antoine is a 
quarter of the city inhabited entirely by the class of 
day-laborers and journeymen in every line. A ru 
mor was spread among them that a great paper 
manufacturer, of the name of Reveillon, had pro 
posed, on some occasion, that their wages should be 
lowered to 15 sous a day. Inflamed at once into 
rage, & without inquiring into it s truth, they flew 
to his house in vast numbers, destroyed everything 
in it, and in his magazines & work shops, without 
secreting however a pin s worth to themselves, and . 
were continuing this work of devastation when the 
regular troops were called in. Admonitions being 
disregarded, they were of necessity fired on, and a 
regular action ensued, in which about 100. of them 



i34 The Writings of [1789 

were killed, before the rest would disperse. There 
had rarely passed a year without such a riot in some 
part or other of the Kingdom; and this is distin 
guished only as cotemporary with the revolution, 
altho not produced by it. 

The States General were opened on the 5th. of 
May 89. by speeches from the King, the Garde des 
Sceaux Lamoignon, and Mr. Necker. The last was 
thought to trip too lightly over the constitutional 
reformations which were expected. His notices of 
them in this speech were not as full as in his previous 
* Rapport au Roi. This was observed to his disad 
vantage. But much allowance should have been 
made for the situation in which he was placed be 
tween his own counsels, and those of the ministers 
and party of the court. Overruled in his own opin 
ions, compelled to deliver, and to gloss over those of 
his opponents, and even to keep their secrets, he 
could not come forward in his own attitude. 

The composition of the assembly, altho equivalent 
on the whole to what had been expected, was some 
thing different in it s elements. It had been sup 
posed that a superior education would carry into the 
scale of the Commons a respectable portion of the 
Noblesse. It did so as to those of Paris, of it s 
vicinity and of the other considerable cities, whose 
greater intercourse with enlightened society had 
liberalized their minds, and prepared them to ad 
vance up to the measure of the times. But the 
Noblesse of the country, which constituted two 
thirds of that body, were far in their rear. Residing 
constantly on their patrimonial feuds, and familiar- 



1789] Thomas Jefferson 135 

ized by daily habit with Seigneurial powers and 
practices, they had not yet learned to suspect their 
inconsistence with reason and right. They were 
willing to submit to equality of taxation, but not to 
descend from their rank and prerogatives to be in 
corporated in session with the tiers etat. Among 
the clergy, on the other hand, it had been appre 
hended that the higher orders of the hierarchy, by 
their wealth and connections, would have carried the 
elections generally. But it proved that in most 
cases the lower clergy had obtained the popular 
majorities. These consisted of the Cures, sons of 
the peasantry who had been employed to do all the 
drudgery of parochial services for 10. 20. or 30 Louis 
a year; while their superiors were consuming their 
princely revenues in palaces of luxury & indolence. 

The objects for which this body was convened 
being of the first order of importance, I felt it very 
interesting to understand the views of the parties of 
which it was composed, and especially the ideas 
prevalent as to the organization contemplated for 
their government. I went therefore daily from 
Paris to Versailles, and attended their debates, gen 
erally till the hour of adjournment. Those of the 
Noblesse were impassioned and tempestuous. They 
had some able men on both sides, and actuated by 
equal zeal. The debates of the Commons were tem 
perate, rational and inflexibly firm. As preliminary 
to all other business, the awful questions came on, 
Shall the States sit in one, or in distinct apartments ? 
And shall they vote by heads or houses? The op 
position was soon found to consist of the Episcopal 



136 The Writings of [1789 

order among the clergy, and two thirds of the No 
blesse; while the tiers etat were, to a man, united 
and determined. After various propositions of com 
promise had failed, the Commons undertook to cut 
the Gordian knot. The Abbe Sieyes, the most 
logical head of the nation (author of the pamphlet 
Qu est ce que le tiers etat ? which had electrified that 
country, as Paine s Common sense did us) after an 
impressive speech on the icth of June, moved that 
a last invitation should be sent to the Nobles and 
Clergy, to attend in the Hall of the States, collect 
ively or individually for the verification of powers, 
to which the commons would proceed immediately, 
either in their presence or absence. This verifica 
tion being finished, a motion was made, on the i5th. 
that they should constitute themselves a National 
assembly; which was decided on the lyth. by a 
majority of four fifths. During the debates on this 
question, about twenty of the Cures had joined them, 
and a proposition was made in the chamber of the 
clergy that their whole body should join them. 
This was rejected at first by a small majority only; 
but, being afterwards somewhat modified, it was 
decided affirmatively, by a majority of eleven. 
While this .was under debate and unknown to the 
court, to wit, on the igth. a council was held in the 
afternoon at Marly, wherein it was proposed that 
the King should interpose by a declaration of his 
sentiments, in a seance royale. A form of declaration 
was proposed by Necker, which, while it censured in 
general the proceedings both of the Nobles and Com 
mons, announced the King s views, such as substan- 



Thomas Jefferson 137 

tially to coincide with the Commons. It was agreed 
to in council, the seance was fixed for the 22d. the 
meetings of the States were till then to be suspended, 
and everything, in the meantime, kept secret. The 
members the next morning (2oth.) repairing to their 
house as usual, found the doors shut and guarded, a 
proclamation posted up for a seance royale on the 
22d. and a suspension of their meetings in the mean 
time. Concluding that their dissolution was now to 
take place, they repaired to a building called the 
" Jeu de paume" (or Tennis court) and there bound 
themselves by oath to each other, never to separate 
of their own accord, till they had settled a constitu 
tion for the nation, on a solid basis, and if separated 
by force, that they would reassemble in some other 
place. The next day they met in the church of St. 
Louis, and were joined by a majority of the clergy. 
The heads of the Aristocracy saw that all was lost 
without some bold exertion. The King was still at 
Marly. Nobody was permitted to approach him 
but their friends. He was assailed by falsehoods in 
all shapes. He was made to believe that the Com 
mons were about to absolve the army from their 
oath of fidelity to him, and to raise their pay. The 
court party were now all rage and desperate. They 
procured a committee to be held consisting of the 
King and his ministers, to which Monsieur & the 
Count d Artois should be admitted. At this com 
mittee the latter attacked Mr. Necker personally, 
arraigned his declaration, and proposed one which 
some of his prompters had put into his hands. Mr. 
Necker was brow-beaten and intimidated, and the 



138 The Writings of [1789 

King shaken. He determined that the two plans 
should be deliberated on the next day and the 
seance royale put off a day longer. This encouraged 
a fiercer attack on Mr. Necker the next day. His 
draught of a declaration was entirely broken up, & 
that of the Count d Artois inserted into it. Himself 
and Montmorin offered their resignation, which was 
refused, the Count d Artois saying to Mr. Necker 
" No sir, you must be kept as the hostage; we hold 
you responsible for all the ill which shall happen." 
This change of plan was immediately whispered 
without doors. The Noblesse were in triumph; the 
people in consternation. I was quite alarmed at 
this state of things. The soldiery had not yet in 
dicated which side they should take, and that which 
they should support would be sure to prevail. I 
considered a successful reformation of government 
in France, as ensuring a general reformation thro 
Europe, and the resurrection, to a new life, of their 
people, now ground to dust by the abuses of the 
governing powers. -I was much acquainted with 
the leading patriots of the assembly. Being from a 
country/which had successfully passed thro a similar 
reformation, they were disposed to my acquaintance, 
and had some confidence in me. I urged most 
strenuously an immediate compromise; to secure 
what the government was now ready to yield, and 
trust to future occasions for what might still be 
wanting. It was well understood that the King 
would grant at this time i. Freedom of the person 
by Habeas corpus. 2. Freedom of conscience. 3. 
Freedom of the press. 4. Trial by jury. 5. A repre- 



Thomas Jefferson 139 

vSentative legislature. 6. Annual meetings. 7. The 
origination of laws. 8. The exclusive right of taxa 
tion and appropriation. And 9. The responsibility 
of ministers; and with the exercise of these powers 
they would obtain in future whatever might be fur 
ther necessary to improve and preserve their con 
stitution. They thought otherwise however, and 
events have proved their lamentable error. For 
after 30. years of war, foreign and domestic, the loss 
of millions of lives, the prostration of private happi 
ness, and foreign subjugation of their own country 
for a time, they have obtained no more, nor even 
that securely. They were unconscious of (for who 
could foresee?) the melancholy sequel of their well- 
meant perseverance ; that their physical force would 
be usurped by a first tyrant to trample on the inde- 
pendance, and even the existence, of other nations: 
that this would afford fatal example for the atrocious 
conspiracy of Kings against their people; would 
generate their unholy and homicide alliance to make 
common cause among themselves, and to crush, by 
the power of the whole, the efforts of any part, to 
moderate their abuses and oppressions. 

When the King passed, the next day, thro the 
lane formed from the Chateau to the Hotel des etats, 
there was a dead silence. He was about an hour in 
-the House delivering his speech & declaration. On 
his coming out a feeble cry of Vive le Roy" was 
raised by some children, but the people remained 
silent & sullen. In the close of his speech he 
had ordered that the members should follow him, 
& resume their deliberations the next day. The 



The Writings of [1789 

Noblesse followed him, and so did the clergy, ex 
cept about thirty, who, with the tiers, remained in 
the room, and entered into deliberation. They pro 
tested against what the King had done, adhered to 
all their former proceedings, and resolved the in 
violability of their own persons. An officer came 
to order them out of the room in the King s name. 
" Tell those who sent you, said Mirabeau, that we 
shall not move hence but at our own will, or the 
point of the bayonet." In the afternoon the people, 
uneasy, began to assemble in great numbers in the 
courts, and vicinities of the palace. This produced 
alarm. The Queen sent for Mr. Necker. He was 
conducted amidst the shouts and acclamations of 
the multitude who filled all the apartments of the 
palace. He was a few minutes only with the queen, 
and what passed between them did not transpire. 
The King went out to ride. He passed thro the 
crowd to his carriage and into it, without being in the 
least noticed. As Mr. Neckar followed him universal 
acclamations were raised of " vive Monsr. Neckar, 
vive le sauveur de la France opprime e." He was 
conducted back to his house with the same demon 
strations of affection and anxiety. About 200. depu 
ties of the Tiers, catching the enthusiasm of the 
moment, went to his house, and extorted from him 
a promise that he would not resign. On the 25th. 
48. of the Nobles joined the tiers, & among them the 
D. of Orleans. There were then with them 164 mem 
bers of the Clergy, altho the minority of that body 
still sat apart & called themselves the chamber of 
the clergy. On the 26th. the Archbp. of Paris joined 



1789] Thomas Jefferson 141 

the tiers, as did some others of the clergy and of the 
Noblesse. 

These proceedings had thrown the people into 
violent ferment. It gained the souldiery, first of the 
French guards, extended to those of every other de 
nomination, except the Swiss, and even to the body 
guards of the King. They began to quit their bar 
racks, to assemble in squads, to declare they would 
defend the life of the King, but would not be the 
murderers of their fellow-citizens. They called 
themselves the souldiers of the nation, and left now 
no doubt on which side they would be, in case of 
rupture. Similar accounts came in from the troops 
in other parts of the kingdom, giving good reason to 
believe they would side with their fathers and 
brothers rather than with their officers. The opera 
tion of this medicine at Versailles was as sudden as 
it was powerful. The alarm there was so compleat 
that in the afternoon of the 27th. the King wrote 
with his own hand letters to the Presidents of the 
clergy and Nobles, engaging them immediately to 
join the Tiers. These two bodies were debating & 
hesitating when notes from the Ct. d Artois decided 
their compliance. They went in a body and took 
their seats with the tiers, and thus rendered the 
union of the orders in one chamber compleat. 

The Assembly now entered on the business of 
their mission, and first proceeded to arrange, the 
order in which they would take up the heads of their 
constitution, as follows: 

First, and as Preliminary to the whole a general 
Declaration of the Rights of Man. Then specifically 



142 The Writings of [1789 

the Principles of the Monarchy ; rights of the Nation ; 
rights of the King; rights of the citizens; organiza 
tion & rights of the National assembly ; forms neces 
sary for the enactment of laws; organization & 
functions of the provincial & municipal assemblies; 
duties and limits of the Judiciary power; functions 
& duties of the military power. 

A declaration of the rights of man, as the pre 
liminary of their work, was accordingly prepared and 
proposed by the Marquis de la Fayette. 

But the quiet of their march was soon disturbed 
by information that troops, and particularly the 
foreign troops, were advancing on Paris from various 
quarters. The King had been probably advised to 
this on the pretext of preserving peace in Paris. 
But his advisers were believed to have other things 
in contemplation. The Marshal de Broglio was ap 
pointed to their command, a high flying aristocrat, 
cool and capable of everything. Some of the French 
guards were soon arrested, under other pretexts, but 
really on account of their dispositions in favor of the 
National cause. The people of Paris forced their 
prison, liberated them, and sent a deputation to the 
Assembly to solicit a pardon. The Assembly recom 
mended peace and order to the people of Paris, the 
prisoners to the King, and asked from him the re 
moval of the troops. His answer was negative and 
dry, saying they might remove themselves, if they 
pleased, to Noyons or Soissons. In the meantime 
these troops, to the number of twenty or thirty thou 
sand, had arrived and were posted in, and between 
Paris and Versailles. The bridges and passes were 



Thomas Jefferson 143 

guarded. At three o clock in the afternoon of the 
nth July the Count de la Luzerne was sent to notify 
Mr. Neckar of his dismission, and to enjoin him to 
retire instantly without saying a word of it to any 
body. He went home, dined, and proposed to his 
wife a visit to a friend, but went in fact to his country 
house at St. Ouen, and at midnight set out for Brus 
sels. This was not known till the next day, i2th 
when the whole ministry was changed, except Ville- 
deuil, of the Domestic department, and Barenton, 
Garde des sceaux. The changes were as follows: 

The Baron de Breteuil, president of the council of 
finance; de la Galaisiere, Comptroller general in the 
room of Mr. Neckar; the Marshal de Broglio, minis 
ter of War, & Foulon under him in the room of Puy- 
Segur; the Duke de la Vauguyon, minister of foreign 
affairs instead of the Ct. de Montmorin; de La Porte, 
minister of Marine, in place of the Ct. de la Luzerne; 
St. Priest was also removed from the council. Lu 
zerne and Puy-Segur had been strongly of the Aristo 
cratic party in the Council, but they were not con 
sidered as equal to the work now to be done. The 
King was now compleatly in the hands of men, the 
principal among whom had been noted thro their 
lives for the Turkish despotism of their characters, 
and who were associated around the King as proper 
instruments for what was to be executed. The news 
of this change began to be known at Paris about i . 
or 2. o clock. In the afternoon a body of about 100 
German cavalry were advanced and drawn up in the 
Place Louis XV. and about 200. Swiss posted at a 
little distance in their rear. This drew people to the 



H4 The Writings of [1789 

spot, who thus accidentally found themselves in 
front of the troops, merely at first as spectators; 
but as their numbers increased, their indignation 
rose. They retired a few steps, and posted them 
selves on and behind large piles of stones, large and 
small, collected in that Place for a bridge which was 
to be built adjacent to it. In this position, happen 
ing to be in my carriage on a visit, I passed thro the 
lane they had formed, without interruption. But 
the moment after I had passed, the people attacked 
the cavalry with stones. They charged, but the ad 
vantageous position of the people, and the showers 
of stones obliged the horse to retire, and quit the 
field altogether, leaving one of their number on the 
ground, & the Swiss in their rear not moving to their 
aid. This was the signal for universal insurrection, 
and this body of cavalry, to avoid being massacred, 
retired towards Versailles. The people now armed 
themselves with such weapons as they could find in 
armorer s shops and private houses, and with blud 
geons, and were roaming all night thro all parts of 
the city, without any decided object. The next day 
(i3th.) the assembly pressed on the king to send 
away the troops, to permit the Bourgeosie of Paris 
to arm for the preservation of order in the city, and 
offer[ed] to send a deputation from their body to 
tranquillize them; but their propositions were re 
fused. A committee of magistrates and electors of 
the city are appointed by those bodies to take upon 
them it s government. The people, now openly 
joined by the French guards, force the prison of St. 
Lazare, release all the prisoners, and take a great 



1789] Thomas Jefferson 145 

store of corn, which they carry to the Corn-market. 
Here they get some arms, and the French guards 
begin to form & train them. The City-committee 
determined to raise 48.000 Bourgeoise, or rather to 
restrain their numbers to 48.000. On the i4th. 
they send one of their members (Mons. de Corny) to 
the Hotel des Invalides, to ask arms for their Garde- 
Bourgeoise. He was followed by, and he found 
there a great collection of people. The Governor of 
the Invalids came out and represented the impos 
sibility of his delivering arms without the orders of 
those from whom he received them. De Corny ad 
vised the people then to retire, and retired himself; 
but the people took possession of the arms. It was 
remarkable that not only the Invalids themselves 
made no opposition, but that a body of 5000. for 
eign troops, within 400. yards, never stirred. M. de 
Corny and five others were then sent to ask arms of 
M. de Launay, governor of the Bastile. They found 
a great collection of people already before the place, 
and they immediately planted a flag of truce, which 
was answered by a like flag hoisted on the Parapet. 
The deputation prevailed on the people to fall back 
a little, advanced themselves to make their demand 
of the Governor, and in that instant a discharge from 
the Bastile killed four persons, of those nearest to 
the deputies. The deputies retired. I happened to 
be at the house of M. de Corny when he returned 
to it, and received from him a narrative of these 
transactions. On the retirement of the deputies, 
the people rushed forward & almost in an instant 
were in possession of a fortification defended by 100. 



VOL. I. 10. 



146 The Writings of [1789 

men of infinite strength, which in other times had 
stood several regular sieges, and had never been 
taken. How they forced their entrance has never 
been explained. They took all the arms, discharged 
the prisoners, and such of the garrison as were not 
killed in the first moment of fury, carried the Gov 
ernor and Lt. Governor to the Place de Greve (the 
place of public execution) cut off their heads, and 
sent them thro the city in triumph to the Palais 
royal. About the same instant a treacherous corre 
spondence having been discovered in M. de Flesselles, 
prevot des marchands, they seized him in the Hotel 
de Ville where he was in the execution of his office, 
and cut off his head. These events carried imper 
fectly to Versailles were the subject of two successive 
deputations from the assembly to the king, to both of 
which he gave dry and hard answers for nobody had 
as yet been permitted to inform him truly and fully 
of what had passed at Paris. But at night the Duke 
de Liancourt forced his way into the king s bed 
chamber, and obliged him to hear a full and ani 
mated detail of the disasters of the day in Paris. 
He went to bed fearfully impressed. The decapita 
tion of de Launai worked powerfully thro the night 
on the whole aristocratic party, insomuch that, in 
the morning, those of the greatest influence on the 
Count d Artois represented to him the absolute neces 
sity that the king should give up everything to the 
Assembly. This according with the dispositions of 
the king, he went about n. o clock, accompanied 
only by his brothers, to the Assembly, & there read 
to them a speech, in which he asked their interpod- 



Thomas Jefferson 147 

tion to re-establish order. Altho couched in terms 
of some caution, yet the manner in which it was de 
livered made it evident that it was meant as a sur 
render at discretion. He returned to the Chateau 
afoot, accompanied by the assembly. They sent off 
a deputation to quiet Paris, at the head of which was 
the Marquis de la Fayette who had, the same morn 
ing, been named Commandant en chef of the Milice 
Bourgeoise, and Mons Bailly, former President of 
the States General, was called for as Prevot des mar- 
chands. The demolition of the Bastile was now 
ordered and begun. A body of the Swiss guards of 
the regiment of Ventimille, and the city horse guards 
joined the people. The alarm at Versailles increased. 
The foreign troops were ordered off instantly. Every 
minister resigned. The king confirmed Bailly as 
Prevot des Marchands, wrote to Mr. Neckar to recall 
him, sent his letter open to the assembly, to be for 
warded by them, and invited them to go with him to 
Paris the next day, to satisfy the city of his disposi 
tions; and that night, and the next morning the 
Count d Artois and M. de Montesson a deputy con 
nected with him, Madame de Polignac, Madame de 
Quiche, and the Count de Vaudreuil, favorites of 
the queen, the Abbe de Vermont, her confessor, the 
Prince of Conde and Duke of Bourbon fled. The 
king came to Paris, leaving the queen in consterna 
tion for his return. Omitting the less important 
figures of the procession, the king s carriage was in 
the center, on each side of it the assembly, in two 
ranks afoot, at their head the M. de la Fayette, as 
Commander-in-chief, on horseback, and Bourgeois 



148 The Writings of , [1789 

guards before and behind. About 60.000 citizens of 
all forms and conditions, armed with the muskets of 
the Bastile and Invalids, as far as they would go, 
the rest with pistols, swords, pikes, pruning hooks, 
scythes, &c. lined all the streets thro which the 
procession passed, and with the crowds of people in 
the streets, doors & windows, saluted them every 
where with cries of "vive la nation," but not a 
single "vive le roy " was heard. The King landed 
at the Hotel de Ville. There M. Bailly presented 
and put into his hat the popular cockade, and ad 
dressed him. The King being unprepared, and un 
able to answer, Bailly went to him, gathered from 
him some scraps of sentences, and made out an an 
swer, which he delivered to the audience as from the 
king. On their return the popular cries were "vive 
le roy et la nation." He was conducted by a garde 
bourgeoise to his palace at Versailles, & thus con 
cluded an amende honorable as no sovereign ever 
made, and no people ever received. 

And here again was lost another precious occasion 
of sparing to France the crimes and cruelties thro 
which she has since passed, and to Europe, & finally 
America the evils which flowed on them also from 
this mortal source. The king was now become a 
passive machine in the hands of the National Assem 
bly, and had he been left to himself, he would have 
willingly acquiesced in whatever they should devise 
as best for the nation. A wise constitution would 
have been formed, hereditary in his line, himself 
placed at it s head, with powers so large as to enable 
him to do all the good of his station, and so limited 



Thomas Jefferson 149 

as to restrain him from it s abuse! This he would 
have faithfully administered, and more than this 1 
do not believe he ever wished. But he had a Queen 
of absolute sway over his weak mind, and timid vir 
tue ; and of a character the reverse of his in all points. 
This angel, as gaudily painted in the rhapsodies of 
the Rhetor Burke, with some smartness of fancy, but 
no sound sense was proud, disdainful of restraint, 
indignant at all obstacles to her will, eager in the 
pursuit of pleasure, and firm enough to hold to her 
desires, or perish in their wreck. Her inordinate 
gambling and dissipations, with those of the Count 
d Artois and others of her clique, had been a sensible 
item in the exhaustion of the treasury, which called 
into action the reforming hand of the nation; and 
her opposition to it her inflexible perverseness, and 
dauntless spirit, led herself to the Guillotine, & drew 
the king on with her, and plunged the world into 
crimes & calamities which will forever stain the 
pages of modern history. I have ever believed that 
had there been no queen, there would have been no 
revolution. No force would have been provoked . 
nor exercised. The king would have gone hand in 
hand with the wisdom of his sounder counsellors, 
who, guided by the increased lights of the age, wished 
only, with the same pace, to advance the principles 
of their social institution. The deed which closed 
the mortal course of these sovereigns, I shall neither 
approve nor condemn. I am not prepared to say 
that the first magistrate of a nation cannot commit 
treason against his country, or is unamenable to it s 
punishment: nor yet that where there is no written 



150 The Writings of 

law, no regulated tribunal, there is not a law in our 
hearts, and a power in our hands, given for righteous 
employment in maintaining right, and redressing 
wrong. Of those who judged the king, many thought 
him wilfully criminal, many that his existence would 
keep the nation in perpetual conflict with the horde 
of kings, who would war against a regeneration 
which might come home to themselves, and that it 
were better that one should die than all. I should 
not have voted with this portion of the legislature. 
I should have shut up the Queen in a Convent, put 
ting harm out of her power, and placed the king in 
his station, investing him with limited powers, which 
I verily believe he would have honestly exercised, 
according to the measure of. his understanding. In 
this way no void would have been created, courting 
the usurpation of a military adventurer, nor occa 
sion given for those enormities which demoralized 
the nations of the world, and destroyed, and is yet 
to destroy millions and millions of it s inhabitants. 
There are three epochs in history signalized by the 
total extinction of national morality. The first was 
of the successors of Alexander, not omitting himself. 
The next the successors of the first Caesar, the third 
our own age. This was begun by the partition of 
Poland followed by that of the treaty of Pilnitz 
next the conflagration of Copenhagen; then the 
enormities of Bonaparte partitioning the earth at his 
will, and devastating it with fire and sword; now 
the conspiracy of kings, the successors of Bonaparte, 
blasphemously calling themselves the Holy Alliance, 
and treading in the footsteps of their incarcerated 



Thomas Jefferson 151 

leader, not yet indeed usurping the government of 
other nations avowedly and in detail, but controuling 
by their armies the forms in which they will permit 
them to be governed; and reserving in petto the 
order and extent of the usurpations further medi 
tated. But I will return from a digression, antici 
pated too in time, into which I have been led by 
reflection on the criminal passions which refused to 
the world a favorable occasion of saving it from the 
afflictions it has since suffered. 

M. Necker had reached Basle before he was over 
taken by the letter of the king, inviting him back to 
resume the office he had recently left. He returned 
immediately, and all the other ministers having re 
signed, a new administration was named, to wit St. 
Priest & Montmorin were restored; the Archbishop 
of Bordeaux was appointed Garde des sceaux; La 
Tour du Pin Minister of War; La Luzerne Minister 
of Marine. This last was believed to have been 
effected by the friendship of Montmorin; for altho 
differing in politics, they continued firm in friend 
ship, & Luzerne, altho not an able man was thought 
an honest one. And the Prince of Bauvau was taken 
into the Council. 

Seven princes of the blood royal, six ex-ministers, 
and many of the high Noblesse having fled, and the 
present ministers, except Luzerne, being all of the 
popular party, all the functionaries of government 
moved for the present in perfect harmony. 

In the evening of Aug. 4. and on the motion of 
the Viscount de Noailles brother in law of La Fay- 
ette, the assembly abolished all titles of rank, all the 



i5 2 The Writings of [1789 

abusive privileges of feudalism, the tythes and casu 
als of the clergy, all provincial privileges, and, in fine, 
the Feudal regimen generally. To the suppression 
of tythes the Abbe Sieves was vehemently opposed ; 
but his learned and logical arguments were un 
heeded, and his estimation lessened by a contrast 
of his egoism (for he was beneficed on them) with the 
generous abandonment of rights by the other mem 
bers of the assembly. Many days were employed in 
putting into the form of laws the numerous demoli 
tions of ancient abuses; which done, they proceeded 
to the preliminary work of a Declaration of rights. 
There being much concord of sentiment on the ele 
ments of this instrument, it was liberally framed, 
and passed with a very general approbation. They 
then appointed a Committee for the reduction of a 
pro jet of a Constitution, at the head of which was 
the Archbishop of Bordeaux. I received from him, 
as Chairman of the Commitee a letter of July 20. 
requesting me to attend and assist at their delib 
erations; but I excused myself on the obvious con 
siderations that my mission was to the king as Chief 
Magistrate of the nation, that my duties were limited 
to the concerns of my own country, and forbade me 
to intermeddle with the internal transactions of that 
in which I had been received under a specific charac 
ter only. Their plan of a constitution was discussed 
in sections, and so reported from time to time, as 
agreed to by the Committee. The first respected the 
general frame of the government; and that this 
should be formed into three departments, Executive, 
Legislative and Judiciary was generally agreed. But 



*7 8 9] Thomas Jefferson 153 

when they proceeded to subordinate developments, 
many and various shades of opinion came into con 
flict, and schism, strongly marked, broke the Pa 
triots into fragments of very discordant principles. 
The first question Whether there should be a king, 
met with no open opposition, and it was readily 
agreed that the government of France should be 
monarchical & hereditary. Shall the king have a 
negative on the laws? shall that negative be absolute, 
or suspensive only? Shall there be two chambers 
of legislation ? or one only ? If two, shall one of them 
be hereditary? or for life? or for a fixed term? and 
named by the king ? or elected by the people ? These 
questions found strong differences of opinion, and 
produced repulsive combinations among the Patriots. 
The Aristocracy was cemented by a common prin 
ciple of preserving the ancient regime, or whatever 
should be nearest to it. Making this their Polar 
star, they moved in phalanx, gave preponderance 
on every question to the minorities of the Patriots, 
and always to those who advocated the least change. 
\ The features of the new constitution were thus as- 
suming a fearful aspect, and great alarm was pro 
duced among the honest patriots by these dissensions 
in their ranks. In this uneasy state of things, I re 
ceived one da^ 7 a note from the Marquis de la Fay- 
ette, informing me that he should bring a party of 
six or eight friends to ask a dinner of me the next 
day. I assured him of their welcome. When they 
arrived, they were La Fayette himself, Duport, 
Barnave, Alexander La Meth, Blacon, Mounier, Mau- 
bourg, and Dagout. These were leading patriots, 



154 The Writings of [1789 

of honest but differing opinions sensible of the ne 
cessity of effecting a coalition by mutual sacrifices, 
knowing each other, and not afraid therefore to un 
bosom themselves mutually. This last was a mate 
rial principle in the selection. With this view the 
Marquis had invited the conference and had fixed the 
time & place inadvertently as to the embarrassment 
under which it might place me. The cloth being re 
moved and wine set on the table, after the American 
manner, the Marquis introduced the objects of the 
conference by summarily reminding them of the 
state of things in the Assembly, the course which 
the principles of the constitution were taking, and 
the inevitable result, unless checked by more concord 
among the Patriots themselves. He observed that 
altho he also had his opinion, he was ready to sacri 
fice it to that of his brethren of the same cause : but 
that a common opinion must now be formed, or the 
Aristocracy would carry everything, and that what 
ever they should now agree on, he, at the head of the 
National force, would maintain. The discussions 
began at the hour of four, and were continued till 
ten o clock in the evening; during which time I was 
a silent witness to a coolness and candor of argu 
ment unusual in the conflicts of political opinion; 
to a logical reasoning, and chaste eloquence, disfig 
ured by no gaudy tinsel of rhetoric or declamation, 
and truly worthy of being placed in parallel with the 
finest dialogues of antiquity, as handed to us by 
Xenophon, by Plato and Cicero. The result was an 
agreement that the king should have a suspensive 
veto on the laws, that the legislature should be com- 



Thomas Jefferson 155 

posed of a single body only, that to be chosen by 
the people. This Concordate decided the fate of the 
constitution. The Patriots all rallied to the prin 
ciples thus settled, carried every question agreeably 
to them, and reduced the Aristocracy to insignifi 
cance and impotence. But duties of exculpation 
were now incumbent on me. I waited on Count 
Montmorin the next morning, and explained to him 
with truth and candor how it had happened that my 
house had been made the scene of conferences of such 
a character. He told me he already knew everything 
which had passed, that, so far from taking umbrage 
at the use made of my house on that occasion, he 
earnestly wished I would habitually assist at such 
conferences, being sure I should be useful in moderat 
ing the warmer spirits, and promoting a wholesome 
and practicable reformation only. I told him I 
knew too well the duties I owed to the king, to the 
nation, and to my own country to take any part in 
councils concerning their internal government, and 
that I should persevere with care in the character of 
a neutral and passive spectator, with wishes only 
and very sincere ones, that those measures might 
prevail which would be for the greatest good of the 
nation. I have no doubt indeed that this conference 
was previously known and approved by this honest 
minister, who was in confidence and communication 
with the patriots, and wished for a reasonable reform 
of the Constitution. 

Here I discontinue my relation of the French revo 
lution. The minuteness with which I have so far - 
given it s details is disproportioned to the general 



i5 6 The Writings of [1789 

i_ scale of my narrative. But I have thought it justified 
by the interest which the whole world must take in 
this revolution. As yet we are but in the first chapter 
of it s history. The appeal to the rights of man, 
which had been made in the U S. was taken up by 
France, first of the European nations. From her the 
spirit has spread over those of the South. The ty 
rants of the North have allied indeed against it, but it 
is irresistible. Their opposition will only multiply 
it s millions of human victims; their own satellites 
will catch it, and the condition of man thro the 
civilized world will be finally and greatly ameliorated. 
This is a wonderful instance of great events from 
small causes. So inscrutable is the arrangement of 
causes & consequences in this world that a two-penny 
duty on tea, unjustly imposed in a sequestered part 
of it, changes the condition of all it s inhabitants. I 
have been more minute in relating the early trans 
actions of this regeneration because I was in circum 
stances peculiarly favorable for a knowledge of the 
truth. Possessing the confidence and intimacy of 
the leading patriots, & more than all of the Marquis 
Fayette, their head and Atlas, who had no secrets 
from me, I learnt with correctness the views & pro 
ceedings of that party; while my intercourse with 
the diplomatic missionaries of Europe at Paris, all of 
them with the court, and eager in prying into it s 
councils and proceedings, gave me a knolege of these 
also. My information was always and immediately 
committed to writing, in letters to Mr. Jay, and often 
to my friends, and a recurrence to these letters now 
insures me against errors of memory. 



i? 8 9] Thomas Jefferson 157 

These opportunities of information ceased at this 
period, with my retirement from this interesting scene 
of action. I had been more than a year soliciting 
leave to go home with a view to place my daughters 
in the society & care of their friends, and to return 
for a short time to my station at Paris. But the 
metamorphosis thro which our government was 
then passing from it s Chrysalid to it s Organic form 
suspended it s action in a great degree; and it was 
not till the last of August that I received the permis 
sion I had asked. And here I cannot leave this great 
and good country without expressing my sense of it s 
preeminence of character among the nations of the 
earth. A more benevolent people, I have never 
known, nor greater warmth & devotedness in their 
select friendships. Their kindness and accommoda 
tion to strangers is unparalleled, and the hospitality 
of Paris is beyond anything I had conceived to be 
practicable in a large city. Their eminence too in 
science, the communicative dispositions of their scien 
tific men, the politeness of the general manners, the 
ease and vivacity of their conversation, give a charm 
to their society to be found nowhere else. In a com 
parison of this with other countries we have the proof 
of primacy, which was given to Themistocles after the 
battle of Salamis. Every general voted to himself the 
first reward of valor, and the second to Themistocles. 
So ask the travelled inhabitant of any nation, In what 
country on earth would you rather live ? Certainly in 
my own, where are all my friends, my relations, and the 
earliest & sweetest affections and recollections of my 
life. Which would be your second choice? France. 



158 The Writings of [1789 

On the 26th. of Sep. I left Paris for Havre, where 
I was detained by contrary winds until the 8th. of Oct. 
On that day, and the gth. I crossed over to Cowes, 
where I had engaged the Clermont, Capt. Colley, to 
touch for me. She did so, but here again we were 
detained by contrary winds until the 22d. when we 
embarked and landed at Norfolk on the 23d. of No 
vember. On my way home I passed some days at 
Eppington in Chesterfield, the residence of my friend 
and connection, Mr. Eppes, and, while there, I re 
ceived a letter from the President, Genl. Washington, 
by express, covering an appointment to be Secretary 
of State. I received it with real regret. My wish 
had been to return to Paris, where I had left my 
household establishment, as if there myself, and to 
see the end of the Revolution, which, I then thought 
would be certainly and happily closed in less than a 
year. I then meant to return home, to withdraw 
from Political life, into which I had been impresed 
by the circumstances of the times, to sink into the 
bosom of my family and friends, and devote myself 
to studies more congenial to my mind. In my answer 
of Dec. 15.1 expressed these dispositions candidly to 
the President, and my preference of a return to Paris; 
but assured him that if it was believed I could be 
more useful in the administration of the government, 
I would sacrifice my own inclinations without hesita 
tion, and repair to that destination; this I left to his 
decision. I arrived at Monticello on the 23d. of Dec. 
where I received a second letter from the President, 
expressing his continued wish that I should take my 
station there, but leaving me still at liberty to con- 



1 79] Thomas Jefferson 159 

tinue in my former office, if I could not reconcile my 
self to that now proposed. This silenced my re 
luctance, and I accepted the new appointment. 

In the interval of my stay at home my eldest 
daughter had been happily married to the eldest son 
of the Tuckahoe branch of Randolphs, a young gen 
tleman of genius, science and honorable mind, who 
afterwards filled a dignified station in the General 
Government, & the most dignified in his own State. 
I left Monticello on the ist of March 1790. for New 
York. At Philadelphia I called on the venerable and 
beloved Franklin. He was then on the bed of sick 
ness from which he never rose. My recent return 
from a country in which he had left so many friends, 
and the perilous convulsions to which they had been 
exposed, revived all his anxieties to know what part 
they had taken, what had been their course, and what 
their fate. He went over all in succession, with a 
rapidity and animation almost too much for his 
strength. When all his inquiries were satisfied, and 
a pause took place, I told him I had learnt -with much 
pleasure that, since his return to America, he had 
been occupied in preparing for the world the history 
of his own life. I cannot say much of that, said he; 
but I will give you a sample of what I shall leave: 
and he directed his little grandson (William Bache) 
who was standing by the bedside, to hand him a paper 
from the table to which he pointed. He did so ; and 
the Doctr. putting it into my hands, desired me to 
take it and read it at my leisure. It was about a 
quire of folio paper, written in a large and running 

1 Thomas Mann Randolph. 



160 The Writings of [1790 

hand very like his own. I looked into it slightly, 
then shut it and said I would accept his permission 
to read it and would carefully return it. He said, 
"no, keep it." Not certain of his meaning, I again 
looked into it, folded it for my pocket, and said again, 
I would certainly return it. "No," said he, "keep 
it." I put it into my pocket, and shortly after took 
leave of him. He died on the iyth, of the ensuing 
month of April; and as I understood that he had 
bequeathed all his papers to his grandson William 
Temple Franklin, I immediately wrote to Mr. Franklin 
to inform him I possessed this paper, which I should 
consider as his property, and would deliver to his 
order. He came on immediately to New York, 
called on me for it, and I delivered it to him. As he 
put it into his pocket, he said carelessly he had either 
the original, or another copy of it, I do not recollect 
which. This last expression struck my attention 
forcibly, and for the first time suggested to me the 
thought that Dr. Franklin had meant it as a confi 
dential deposit in my hands, and that I had done 
wrong in parting from it. I have not yet seen the 
collection he published of Dr. Franklin s works, 1 and 
therefore know not if this is among them. I have 
been told it is not. It contained a narrative of the 
negotiations between Dr. Franklin and the British 
Ministry, when he was endeavoring to prevent the 
contest of arms which followed. The negotiation 
was brought about by the intervention of Ld. Howe 
and his sister, who, I believe, was called Lady Howe, 
but I may misremember her title. Ld. Howe seems 

1 It was printed in that edition. 



179] Thomas Jefferson 161 

to have been friendly to America, and exceedingly 
anxious to prevent a rupture. His intimacy with Dr. 
Franklin, and his position with the Ministry induced 
him to undertake a mediation between them; in 
which his sister seemed to have been associated. 
They carried from one to the other, backwards and 
forwards, the several propositions and answers which 
past, and seconded with their own intercessions the 
importance of mutual sacrifices to preserve the peace 
& connection of the two countries. I remember that 
Ld. North s answers were dry, unyielding, in the 
spirit of unconditional submission, and betrayed an 
absolute indifference to the occurrence of a rupture; 
and he said to the mediators distinctly, at last that 
" a rebellion was not to be deprecated on the part of 
Great Britain; that the confiscations it would pro 
duce, would provide for many of their friends." 1 
This expression was reported by the mediators to 
Dr. Franklin, and indicated so cool and calculated a 
purpose in the Ministry, as to render compromise 
hopeless, and the negotiation was discontinued. If 
this is not among the papers published, we ask what 
has become of it ? I delivered it with my own hands 
into those of Temple Franklin. It certainly estab 
lished views so atrocious in the British government 
that it s suppression would to them be worth a great 
price. But could the grandson of Dr. Franklin be in 
such degree an accomplice in the parricide of the 
memory of his immortal grandfather? The suspen 
sion for more than 20. years of the general publication 

1 Neither this expression, nor any of Lord North s, were given in 
Franklin s narrative. Cf. Bigelow s Writings of Franklin, v. 440. 



VOL I. II. 



1 62 Writings of Jefferson [1790 

bequeathed and confided to him, produced for awhile 
hard suspicions against him : and if at last all are not 
published, a part of these suspicions may remain 
with some. 

I arrived at New York on the 2ist. of Mar. where 
Congress was in session. 

. So far July 29. 21. 



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