Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Abraham Small, 20 May 1814

To Abraham Small

Monticello May 20. 1814.


I thank you for the copy of the American Speaker which you have been so kind as to send me. it is a judicious selection of what has been excellently spoken on both sides of the Atlantic; and according to your request I willingly add some suggestions should another edition be called for. to the speeches of Ld Chatham might be added his reply to Horace Walpole on the Seamen’s bill in the H. of Commons in 1740; one of the severest which history has recorded. indeed the subsequent speeches on order, to which that reply gave rise, being few short and pithy well merit insertion in such a collection as this. they are in the 12th vol. of Chandler’s Debates of the H. of Commons. but the finest thing in my opinion which the English language has produced is the Defence of Eugene Arum, spoken by himself at the bar of the York Assizes in 1759.1 on a charge of murder, and to be found in the Annual Register of that date, or a little after. it had been upwards of 50. years since I had read it, when the reciept of your letter induced me to look up a MS. copy I had preserved, and on re-perusal at this age & distance of time, it loses nothing of it’s high station, in my mind, for classical style, close logic, and strong representation. I send you this copy which was taken for me by a school-boy, replete with errors of punctuation, of orthography, and sometimes substitutions of one word for another. it would be better to recur to the Annual Register itself for correctness, where also, I think, are stated the circumstances and issue of the case. to these I would add the short, the nervous, the unanswerable speech of Carnot, in 1803. on the proposition to declare Bonaparte Consul for life. this creed of republicanism should be well translated, and placed in the hands & heart2 of every friend to the rights of self government. I consider these speeches of Arum, & Carnot, and that of Logan, inserted in your collection, as worthily standing in a line with those of Scipio and Hannibal in Livy, and of Cato and Caesar in Sallust. on examining the Indian speeches in my possession, I find none which are not already in your collection, except that my copy of the Cornplanter’s has much in it which yours has not. but, observing that the omissions relate to special subjects only, I presume they are made purposely, and indeed properly.

I must add more particular thanks for the kind expressions of your letter towards myself. these testimonies of approbation from my fellow citizens, offered too when the lapse of time may have cooled and matured their opinions, are an ample reward for such services as I have been able to render them, and are peculiarly gratifying in a state of retirement & reflection. I pray you to accept the assurance of my respect.

Th: Jefferson

P. S. since writing the above I have undertaken to transcribe the schoolboy copy of Arum’s speech, and to correct some of it’s errors: but some, I am persuaded, still remain. the book therefore should be recurred to.

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Abraham Small.” Tr (MHi); posthumous copy; at head of text: “ext.”

The next edition of Small’s American Speaker did not include the 6 Mar. 1741 speech in Parliament by William Pitt, later 1st earl of chatham, opposing provisions of the seamen’s bill that gave British justices of the peace rights to issue search warrants and impress men into the navy. It did, however, contain the 1759 defence of eugene Aram printed below and the 1 May 1804 speech of Lazare carnot that opposed making Napoleon consul for life (Small, The American Speaker; A Selection of Popular, Parliamentary and Forensic Eloquence; particularly calculated for the Seminaries in the United States, 3d ed. [Philadelphia, 1816], 114–20, 355–61). Small’s text of cornplanter’s speech (printed as “Speech of the Chiefs of the Seneca nation to the President of the United States—1790”) omitted large sections of the speech that appear in the manuscript version owned by TJ (American Speaker, 2d ed. [Philadelphia, 1814; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 13 (no. 819)], 376–9; Tr in DLC: TJ Papers, 58:9949–58; undated; in John Wayles Eppes’s hand).

1Reworked from “1769.”

2Preceding two words not in Tr.

Index Entries

  • Annual Register; and E. Aram’s defense search
  • Aram, Eugene; Defense at his Trial for Murder search
  • books; of speeches search
  • Caesar, Julius; mentioned search
  • Carnot, Lazare; speech of on Napoleon search
  • Cato the Younger (Marcus Porcius Cato Uticensis); mentioned search
  • Chandler, Richard; The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons search
  • Chatham, William Pitt, 1st Earl of search
  • Cornplanter (Seneca Indian); speech of search
  • Great Britain; House of Commons search
  • impressment; laws regarding search
  • Indians; speeches by search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; E. Aram’s defense search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Logan’s speech search
  • Livy (Titus Livius); Titi Livii Historiarum Libri search
  • Logan, James (ca.1725–80) (Mingo Indian); speech of search
  • murder; E. Aram tried for search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; opposition to published search
  • Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus); TJ on search
  • Small, Abraham; letters to search
  • Small, Abraham; The American Speaker search
  • The American Speaker (A. Small) search
  • The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons (R. Chandler) search
  • Titi Livii Historiarum Libri (Livy) search
  • Walpole, Horatio (Horace), first Baron Walpole of Wolterton; as member of parliament search
  • York, England; assizes at search