Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Michael Walton, 20 January 1809

Balte 20th Jany. 1809


Perhaps the liberty I take may be disagreeable; but when I assure you, that the public good occupies my first thoughts, that the situation in which our Country is placed, demands the serious consideration of every good Citizen—surrounded by Enemies without & agitated by Enemies within, you will forgive me—

The Aristocracy begins to raise its head; lop it off, before it is capable of conceiving or executing Plans for our destruction.

Who are our internal Agitators?

The Lawyers, Bank Directors, British Importers, Justices of the Peace, Bailiffs & Tavern Keepers—

How to bring these turbulent & ambitious Men upon a level with the peaceable Farmer, the Mechanick.

Permit me Sir to offer my opinion; I have weighed it well & am convinced, that in one twelve Month after the Arrangements are made & the Laws passed, the Aristocracy will dwindle into nothing, our Country our Constitution & form of Govt. will be secure from internal as well as the external attacks of the envious.

1st. Cause a General Insolvent Law to pass—

2. Abolish the custom of Imprisonment for debt, but not for fraud—

3. Let Commissioners of Bankrupt be appointed by a Chamber of Commerce in each State, to take possession of the Bankrupt’s property & judge between the Creditor & the Debtor—Punish the Debtor if proved fraudulent; if not, give him his discharge—

4 Let Arbitrators be appointed by a Chamber of Commerce to settle all disputed Accounts in the first instance—& recommend to the Legislature to correct the vices of Commerce

5 Let the number of Bank Directors in each Bank be reduced to four, & subject to severe regulations—

6. Raise the Salary of the Judges, that Men of honour disinterestedness & ability may be induced to fill the station, & subject them to severe punishment for defaults. Shorten the duration of Law suits—

7 Let Justices of the Peace receive a handsome Salary to be paid by the Nonsuited. hold a Court every day if necessary, in which every individual shall plead his own cause. judge all Debts Differences &c &c under $100—

8 Let all Lotteries be abolished for ever—

9 Let Colleges for Physicians & Lawyers be established in Washington at the public expence under severe regulations; & pass a Law, that none shall practice in the U.S. after such a time that have not passed the Examinations, & whose conduct will not bear the severst scrutiny

10 Let Military Schools be established in Washington under severe regulations for the Education of Officers of the Navy & Army. Forbid all Gold & silver ornaments, except the Epaulet—

11 Let each State erect an University, to be filled with Scholars from smaller Schools dispersed thro’ out: & as an inducement to poor Boys to pay attention to their conduct as well as their learning, let a certain number be educated & cloathed untill such an Age at the U. Then have an offer to finish their education Gratis at the Colleges in Washington—

12 Let the Negro be well clothed fed & receive his Liberty at such an Age if his past conduct merits it—If not, let him be transported to an other Country & sold to pay the Expence—if after he receives his Liberty, he is found guilty of crimes, let him be either sold again as a Slave, or transported & sold

13 Let every Grog Shop be shut—Let there be only a sufficient number of Inns for the accomodation of Travellers. Let a Law be passed to put an end to the present scenes of Gambling & Intoxication. Also to punish severely all Adulterators & Fabricators of Wine & Liquors—

Permit me to add the followg remarks—

That the Lawyers, Justices, Bailiffs Tavern Keepers &c exercise a most unnatural Persecution over the Poor Man which brings Misery on his Family, renders him disatisfied with the Measures of Govt. & often prevents the independent exertions of his mind—

That of the Citizens of the US. are at Law with each other, which keeps the public in a ferment, raises the power of the Lawyers &c & depresses the independent spirit of the Citizen—

14—   Cause plain & wholesome Laws to be passed—

That the Banks are nests of Aristocracy, Tyranny Inquisition & Injustice: they might be rendered blessings instead of curses, if it was made Fraud, & punishable with hard labour, for any Insolvent to give a preference, & such to be rendered null & void—At present the Banks secure themselves by obtaining nearly the whole property of the Insolvent & the unsuspecting Creditor is left to mourn the loss of his industry & exertions.

That Lotteries were the principal cause of all the horrors of the French Revolution, & are a disgrace to a Republic

That a drunken expensive & licentious Army destroyed the liberties of Rome. Gold & silver are Royal ornaments not Republican—

That Public Education is the great bulwark of Liberty—Ignorance, the support of Tyrants—

The necessity of ameliorating the condition of the Negro to the Southward & of getting rid of the worthless Free Negroes is too evident to need any observation.

Liberty cannot exist long, when a great number of Freemen are seduced to sell their vote for a glass of Grog by Men who are base enough to forget; that the Purchaser & Seller are equally infamous—If we examine the number of Individuals imprisoned for debt we shall discover that a great many are sent there by Tavern Keepers—The present distress is greatly heightened by the drunkenness of Parents

I shall conclude by stating a circumstance that was related to me by a French Officer—

A Merchant shipped to a French Colony several Hogsheads of Wine; on its landing it was discovered to be so infamous, that the Govr. ordered the Wine to be annalised: the result was, The Physicians declared, that if a Man drank two bottles, he wou’d be poisoned—

When I took the liberty of sending a Plan for the Organization of a Corps of Sea Fencibles, I was aware, that the Seamen were leaving their Country—Be not disheartened on that account. The British Officers, in case of War, will be glad to get rid of them—They will be apprehensive of a Mutiny.

Wou’d to God your wise & benevolent spirit wou’d actuate you to apply a remedy to the enormities which now effect our Constitutional rights; the undertaking is arduous & worthy of you—The consciousness of doing good will be the reward of your labours—The times are critical. The wicked are planning our destruction—

Your fellow Citizen

Michael Walton

DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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