Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Middleton, 8 January 1813

To Henry Middleton

Monticello Jan. 8. 13.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Nov. 25. was a month on it’s passage to me. I recieved with great pleasure this mark of your recollection, heightened by the assurance that the part I have acted in public life has met your approbation. having seen the people of all other nations bowed down to the earth under the wars & prodigalities of their rulers, I have cherished their opposites, peace, economy, & riddance of public debt, believing that these were the right road to public, as well as to private, prosperity & happiness. and certainly there never before has been a state of the world in which such forbearances as we have exercised would not have preserved our peace. nothing but the total prostration of all moral principle could have produced the enormities which have forced us at length into the war. on one hand a ruthless tyrant drenching Europe in blood to obtain thro’ future time the character of the Destroyer of mankind, on the other a nation of buccaneers, urged by sordid avarice, & embarked in the flagitious enterprize of seizing to itself the maritime resources & rights of all other nations, have left no means of peace to reason & moderation. and yet there are beings among us who think we ought still to have acquiesced. as if, while full war was waging on one side, we could lose by making some reprisal on the other.

the paper you were so kind as to inclose me is a proof you are not of this sentiment. it expresses our grievances with energy & brevity, as well as the feelings they ought to excite. and I see with pleasure another proof that South Carolina is ever true to the principles of free government. indeed it seems to1 me that in proportion as Commercial avarice & corruption advance on us from the North and East, the principles of free government are to retire to the agricultural states of the South & West, as their last asylum & bulwark. with honesty & self-government for her portion, agriculture may abandon contentedly to others the fruits of commerce & corruption. Accept, I pray you, the assurances of my great esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Henry Middleton esq.” Tr (ViU: TJP-ER); posthumous copy; last page only.

Henry Middleton (1770–1846), planter and politician, was a son of Arthur Middleton, a signer of the Declaration of Independence. He was born in London and studied in England and with private tutors at the family plantation, ‘, near Charleston, South Carolina. Middleton served in the South Carolina House of Representatives, 1802–10, and sat briefly in the state senate in the latter year before being elected governor of South Carolina, a post he held until 1812. He sat in the United States House of Representatives, 1815–19. Middleton was United States envoy extraordinary and minister plenipotentiary to Russia, 1820–30, in which capacity he helped negotiate the Russo-American Treaty of 1824. He entered politics as a Jeffersonian Republican, but he eventually supported protective tariffs and federally funded internal improvements. As a member of the Union Party, Middleton opposed Nullification at a South Carolina convention on the subject, 1832–33. He visited TJ in New York in July 1790 but rarely corresponded afterward. Middleton was an early American cultivator of the camellia (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; N. Louise Bailey and others, eds., Biographical Directory of the South Carolina Senate, 1776–1985 [1986], 2:1102–4; PTJ description begins Julian P. Boyd, Charles T. Cullen, John Catanzariti, Barbara B. Oberg, and others, eds., The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, 1950– , 34 vols. description ends , 16:544, 600, 24:10–1; Charleston Southern Patriot, 15, 17 June 1846).

Middleton’s missing favor of nov. 25, 1812, is recorded in SJL as received from Columbia on 25 Dec. 1812. It was probably similar in theme to Middleton’s letter of the same date to President James Madison enclosing his annual message of 24 Nov. 1812 as governor to the state legislature, which he claimed demonstrated that the state was “willing to go all lengths in the prosecution of the just objects of war” (Madison, Papers description begins William T. Hutchinson, Robert A. Rutland, John C. A. Stagg, and others, eds., The Papers of James Madison, 1962– , 31 vols.  Congress. Ser., 17 vols.  Pres. Ser., 6 vols.  Sec. of State Ser., 8 vols description ends , Pres. Ser., 5:471). The paper Middleton enclosed to TJ was probably a broadside of the same document, which dealt with matters of local concern in addition to emphasizing the state’s support for the War of 1812 (broadside in DLC: Rare Book and Special Collections, with handwritten notations and docket in an unidentified hand, printed at head of text: “Governor’s Message, No. 1. / To the Members of the Senate and of the House of Representatives of the State of South-Carolina”; extract printed in Washington National Intelligencer, 10 Dec. 1812).

1Tr begins here.

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