Thomas Jefferson Papers

Horatio G. Spafford to Thomas Jefferson, 17 December 1813

From Horatio G. Spafford

Albany, 12 mo. 17, 1813.

Hond and Esteemed Friend—

I was duly favored with thy obliging favor of last autumn, & immediately sent the Gazetteer as directed. Did it arrive safe? & how dost thou like it?

But, this is only a minor cause of my writing at this time, though I confess myself anxious to learn thy opinion of my Work. I am tired of this unceasing jargon of politics, with which I am surrounded, this warring of principle against no principle, of natural right against old prejudices, & long to see it ended. Selfishness, & the basest twistings of deceit for the basest purposes, oppose the Government in every thing, & the merest trifler in Society knows more than the best of men, long tried in private & public service. Now it is said the Government is all in the wrong, & the partial advocate for any of its measures, is denouncd as worse than a devil, & more foolish than a fool. The Merchants, Lawyers, & p——s,1 are almost all Monarchists, & they & their tools are plunging us into a preparation for a civil War. I see it plainly, & know too well their designs; & I would to God that thou & all the Southern people knew it as well. I deprecate the War, as much as any man; but though I disapprove of some measures, do not condemn all. The seizure & confinement of British Officers,2 as hostages for our citizens, is now a chief topic of declamation, & for saying, just now, that, ‘were I the President, I would take of these life for life,’ I was treated most infamously by a set of these upstarts. They have proclaimed that the President dare not do it, nor would I, if in his place. But, God is my witness that I would, in defiance of all the frowns of hell, (or hades,) & I showed the ground of my reasons. This is truly a second war for independence. We took arms before, for the defence of national rights, & now we are fighting for independence of opinion; warring against the prejudices of those who think of the garlics, & other good things in Egypt. I have heard many say it was a great pity we were ever separated from Great Britain, & others that they prayed for a Monarchy. Commerce, that rapidly enriches the merchants, & the practise of Law, with a fat clergy, are all monarchical in their tendencies, which must be counteracted, or no republic can live. Why not as well take care of British advocates, although American Born, as of British Citizens? We shall finally have to do it, & the sooner it is done the better. I am ready to defend the Government quite as far as I think it ought to be defended, & that is as far as any one ought. The weakness of prejudice is opposed to reason; & prejudiced, bigotted advocates, but weaken the cause they would defend. In saying this much to thee, however, I may, I believe,3 without impropriety add, that the General Government does not take counsel of the right kind of men, relative to its affairs in this State. And this is an opinion common amongst the best informed, moderate men, of all descriptions. The best men are all in the back-ground, & the only passport to public favor, is party violence, with little regard to merits of any other kind.

Turning from these disgusting scenes, I am glad to view thee safe & undisturbed by the storm—save so far as thy private portion of concern for our common country leads to an interest in the affairs of the State. May we not hope for peace soon? or what must we expect?

I shall be happy to be favored with another Letter, & remain, with very great esteem & regard, thy


H. G. Spafford.

RC (MHi); at foot of text: “Hon. Thomas Jefferson”; endorsed by TJ as received 31 Dec. 1813 and so recorded in SJL.

TJ’s letter to Spafford of last autumn was actually dated 15 Aug. 1813. The Jews fondly recall the garlics, & other good things in egypt in the Bible, Numbers 11.5.

1Probably standing for “priests” and so construed by TJ in his 17 Mar. 1814 reply.

2Manuscript: “Offiers.”

3Manuscript: “belieive.”

Index Entries

  • A Gazetteer of the State of New-York (H. G. Spafford) search
  • Bible; Numbers referenced search
  • clergy; British sympathies of search
  • Great Britain; American supporters of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • law; British sympathies of attorneys search
  • merchants; British sympathies of search
  • politics; factionalism search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; A Gazetteer of the State of New-York search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; and War of1812 search
  • Spafford, Horatio Gates; letters from search
  • War of1812; as war of independence search
  • War of1812; prisoners of war search