Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Duane, 26 November 1802

From William Duane

Pennsylvania Avenue
Friday Evening [26 Nov. 1802]


My absence from home until this moment prevented my sending an answer to your note before.

Young Coopers name is Thomas Cooper,—he appears to be about 22 years old.

Lacretelle’s book I have not here but have written for it by Mail to Philadelphia, and requested it to be sent by some private hand.

Paine’s third letter gives me considerable uneasiness, he has in fact commenced the subject of the Age of Reason in it—I have Used every effort of which I am capable to persuade him against it—but nothing will operate on him—I have fairly told him that he will be deserted by the only party that respects or does not hate him—that all his political writings will be rendered useless—and even his fame destroyed—but he silenced me at once by telling me that Dr Rush at the period when he commenced Common Sence told him that there were two words which he should avoid by every means as necessary to his own safety and that of the public—Independence and Republicanism.

With respect Yours faithfully

Wm Duane

RC (DLC); partially dated; addressed: “The President”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 27 Nov. received 28 Nov. and recorded in SJL as a letter of the 27th received on that day.

friday evening: 26 Nov. was a Friday.

The note to Duane has not been found and is not recorded in SJL.

Thomas cooper sought an appointment for his son, Thomas Cooper, Jr., as a midshipman in the navy; see TJ to Thomas Cooper, 29 Nov., and Cooper to TJ, 21 Mch. 1803.

lacretelle’s book: French politician Pierre Louis de Lacretelle made his name as a writer with his Discours sur le préjugé des peines infamantes (Paris, 1784; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 2362). He was the author of several works, including Sur le dix-huit brumaire (Paris, 1800) and De la convocation de la prochaine tenue des États Généraux en France (Paris, 1788; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, Washington, D.C., 1952-59, 5 vols. description ends No. 2509).

paine’s third letter: “After an absence of almost fifteen years, I am again returned to the Country in whose dangers I bore my share, and to whose greatness I contributed my part”—so Thomas Paine, writing in Washington, opened a series of letters “to the citizens of the United States.” The essays appeared serially in the National Intelligencer beginning on 15 Nov. In the third one, dated 26 Nov. and published on the 29th, Paine stated that he had become so notorious among Federalists, “they cannot eat or drink without me. I serve them as a standing dish, and they cannot make up a bill of fare if I am not in it.” He characterized the latter part of George Washington’s presidency and the entirety of John Adams’s administration as a “reign of terror” built on falsehood and lies. Its leaders “were in character the same sort of men” as Robespierre and the leaders of the French Terror. The creators of the American reign of terror, Paine declared, “who were waiting in the devotion of their hearts for the joyful news of my destruction, are the same banditti who are now bellowing, in all the hackneyed language of hackneyed hypocrisy, about humanity, and piety, and often about something they call infidelity, and they finish with the chorus of crucify him, crucify him.” Paine recounted how he had been slated for execution several times in France, only to be spared from the guillotine each time by circumstance. According to the “outrageous piety” of his enemies in America, he taunted, Providence “must be as bad as Thomas Paine; she has protected him in all his dangers, patronized him in all his undertakings, encouraged him in all his ways, and rewarded him at last by bringing him in safety and in health to the promised land.” Paine asserted that during the American Revolution he had supported Washington after “a series of blunders” by the general “nearly ruined the country” and a political faction—including Adams—sought to remove Washington from command of the American armies. Yet later, when Paine faced destruction in France, Washington “left me to perish.” Washington, Paine wrote, “accepted as a present (though he was already rich) a hundred thousand acres of land in America, and left me to occupy six foot of earth in France.” The first president, Paine explained, “was of such an icy and death-like constitution, that he neither loved his friends, nor hated his enemies.” Following the appearance of another essay in December, Duane and other printers compiled the four letters as a pamphlet (Shaw-Shoemaker description begins Ralph R. Shaw and Richard H. Shoemaker, comps., American Bibliography: A Preliminary Checklist for 1801-1819, New York, 1958-63, 22 vols. description ends , Nos. 2837, 2840, 2889). Paine, however, was not finished: he resumed the series in February 1803, writing three more letters that year and adding a final essay in June 1805. Beginning with the sixth installment in March 1803, he wrote in Bordentown, New Jersey, sending most of the last essays in the series to the Aurora for publication (National Intelligencer, 15, 29 Nov.; Foner, Thomas Paine description begins Philip S. Foner, ed., The Complete Writings of Thomas Paine, New York, 1945, 2 vols. description ends , 2:908–57).

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