Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from Pseudonym: "Cassandra", 28 February 1809

Philadelphia Feby. 28th. ’09


I address you without apology a few words on a subject of magnitude.

You have brought the government to the jaws of destruction. I do not undertake to say whether by supineness, timidity, or enthusiasm. The effect is certain. On the cause I cannot pronounce.

Sedition & Treason have prowled abroad in the glare of day. They have scorned concealment. They have gloried in their turpitude, and seemed to dare your vengeance.—

Duty, imperious duty called upon you to have the law executed. Had you performed this indispensible duty twelve months ago treason would have been intimidated—the freinds of the government would have been invigorated—& the reliance of our foreign enemies on internal Conspirators would have been defeated—America would now stand on a proud eminence, glorious to her friends, & terrible to her enemies.

From this proud & commanding eminence we have sunk—never I am afraid to rise again. All our glories are, it is too probable, passing away “like the baseless fabric of a vision, without leaving a trace behind” There appears to me but one chance of salvation. That chance rests on the Massachusetts election. If that fail, we are undone.

This last stake demands all our energies. An immediate association in Massachusetts, of small societies, with corresponding committees, of the friends of union & good government, might secure the election of a democratic governor & a democratic legislature. In that case there would be time for the popular frenzy to subside & all might be safe.

Lose not a moment: The election comes on in a few weeks. Call your friends together. Let the Massachusetts Members of Congress press the immediate adoption of this measure in their state. That & the total destruction of the British hopes in Spain may rescue the Commonwealth. But if our torpor endure a little longer, we may go sleep for ever, or else wake to all the horrors of anarchy or despotism.

This letter comes from a man whose approbation has been bestowed upon the general tenor of your measures—& wh[. . .] in the administration of the government your intentions [. . .] unexceptionable.


DLC: Papers of Thomas Jefferson.

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