Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Law to Thomas Jefferson, 12 July 1814

From Thomas Law

Philadelphia July 12. 1814.

Dear Sir—

I was highly gratified by your favor of the 13th Ulto from Poplar Grove. Laudari a laudato is a real satisfaction—your observations comprise in a small compass all that has been written on the important subject: the remark that selfishness is the impulse of the individual & that moral feelings are excited by another or more, simplifies all that I have endeavored to prove—few have read my Pamphlet & of the few, I fear that one or two bigots under prejudices have deem’d it to contain irreligious doctrines—I met the other day with a novel of Holcrofts “Bryan Perdue” in which there is an excellent short Sermon on Truth, in which the preacher says “matters of fact alone meaning thereby those things which are common & subject to the examination of the senses, are the only things that can be called truths, as known to man—Concerning higher truths, which doubtless are, but which it is impossible that he should know what they are, if he saith that he hath knowledge thereof, he doth utterly shame himself, for he speaketh that which is wickedly false. Yea this falsehood, has in it the root & wickedness of hell, for it hath at all times & among all nations, engendered the worst passions,1 hatred revenge,2 yea, & it spreadeth fire sword & universal destruction. &ca” You recommend Lord Kaimes, I have taken a very pointed extract from him in my first Essay, to illustrate my position—Bonapartes fate I predicted in my lines “But soon the pigmys hurl’d &ca3 in my note explanatory of a verse in the Chapter on politicks or rather on the Constitution of the U.S—Robespierre & Bonaparte are the Scylla & Charybdis for Jacobinic & Despotic power to avoid—both of them governed by fear—affection gratitude & all the feelings which attach the multitude to a ruler were despised or not heeded—Thank Heaven all this slaughter & devastation has not been in vain. The Spaniards & the French have benefited; the Potentates of Europe have received awful lessons, & different nations have become better acquainted with each other—My own Country alas, is the only one which will not benefit—Russia has obtained too much territory, my countrymen will become jealous—The intercourse with Asia will be opened by Cabul Cashmere &cafrom the Caspias Sea—at Lahore the Seiks are all Deists & have made many proselytes amongst the Hindoos—the perturbed spirits of Europe now unoccupied will carry new lights Easterly & set fire to combustible materials, sixty million can only be kept in subjection by 20,000 during ignorance. During the last short peace with France, the British spent more than 12 Mn stg abroad—cheapness of living, the loco motive spirit, & the gratification of curiosity caused so much emigration—I perceive that already 10,000 passports have been given—the taxes press so heavy on all classes, & such a field is opened abroad for men of genius & industry, that not only income is spent abroad but much of the capital transferred—

This Govt has been embarrassed for want of a good financial System, I have one which would have saved millions & which would have kept the 6 perCts about par, but I did not perceive a disposition to receive it as I wished—it is my opus maximum—if I did not feel an aversion to intrude, I would avail myself of your former polite invitation [. . .] it to your perusal at Monticello—[. . .] Octor Finance call’d by Mr C. Ingersoll the [m]odern Elusinian mistery would appear an A.B.C study when the principles were seen—My memorial on the records of Congress two Years ago for a national bank to discount at 5 perCt unfolds some of the advantages of low interest—

I am going to the Yellow Springs. with much esteem regard & respect

I remain

T Law—

RC (DLC); torn at seal; addressed: “To Thomas Jefferson Esqr Monticello Virginia”; franked; postmarked Philadelphia, 13 July; endorsed by TJ as received 25 July 1814 and so recorded in SJL.

laudari a laudato: “to be praised by a man who has himself been praised” (Cicero, Epistolae ad familiares, 5.12, in his Letters to Friends, ed. and trans. David R. Shackleton Bailey, Loeb Classical Library [2001], 164). Law quoted from the short sermon in Thomas Holcroft’s Memoirs of Bryan Perdue: A Novel (London, 1805; repr. 1979), 1:85–6. Law’s Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses (Philadelphia, 1810; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3250), 12, 18, 34–5, quoted Henry Home, Lord Kames (kaimes). Law predicted bonapartes fate in his Second Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses (Philadelphia, 1813), 101: “But soon his dream dissolv’d, the pigmy’s hurl’d / To shame and hate, a warning to the world.”

By my own country Law meant his native Great Britain. In a 15 Feb. 1814 speech to the United States House of Representatives, Congressman Charles J. ingersoll observed that “finance is still a political secret. It is the modern Eleusinian mystery of politics” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (all editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers) description ends , 13th Cong., 2d sess., 1427–8). For Law’s memorial on the records of congress, see Law to TJ, 1 Oct. 1813, and note.

1Memoirs of Bryan Perdue here adds “of the soul.”

2Memoirs of Bryan Perdue here adds “the ignorance that confusion createth.”

3Omitted closing quotation mark editorially supplied.

Index Entries

  • banks; T. Law on search
  • Cicero, Marcus Tullius; T. Law quotes search
  • Constitution, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Great Britain; financial situation of search
  • Holcroft, Thomas; Memoirs of Bryan Perdue: A Novel search
  • Ingersoll, Charles Jared; as congressman search
  • Kames (Kaim), Henry Home, Lord; quoted search
  • Law, Thomas; letters from search
  • Law, Thomas; on banks and banking search
  • Law, Thomas; on British economy search
  • Law, Thomas; on European political economy search
  • Law, Thomas; on interest-bearing treasury notes search
  • Law, Thomas; Second Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses search
  • Law, Thomas; Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses search
  • Memoirs of Bryan Perdue: A Novel (T. Holcroft) search
  • Robespierre, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de; leader of French Revolution search
  • Second Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses (T. Law) search
  • Thoughts on Instinctive Impulses (T. Law) search