Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Elizabeth Trist, 10 June 1814

To Elizabeth Trist

Poplar Forest June 10. 14.

Dear Madam

My visits to this place, considered as a halfway-house, rekindle the desire of bringing myself to your recollection, and afford me at the same time more leisure to do so. I left all your friends at Monticello well, and the happier that mr Randolph had resigned his military commission. at Farmington not so much health: mrs Divers generally indisposed; and mr Divers has been all the winter, and still is kept at home by complicated complaints. we are all too more or less laboring under political fever, and variously affected by the ups and downs of Europe. our warmest zealots see nothing bad but in England, nor salutary but in Bonaparte. others see both good & evil, whichever tyranny prevails. if the recent news be true that Bonaparte has the two emperors and two kings in his possession, and consequently the whole continent of Europe at his nod, this may humble England to give us peace & justice. but that peace will be ground enough with Bonaparte for excluding us from the continent of Europe: besides, once master of the Continent, the conquest of England is inevitable, and with English fleets and French armies, our distance becomes an equivocal security.  if, on the other hand, the allies dethrone Bonaparte, we may have commerce with them in their bottoms; but England, in the insolence of triumph and hatred to us, full-armed, and without other employment or support for her pyratical power, may think us beneath her peace, and view us rather as desirable subjects for the exercise of her military faculties, and for the indulgence of her ambition, her avarice & her vindictive spirit. whichever scale then preponderates gives us both good and evil. if that of Bonaparte, we have peace with England, and exclusion from the rest of the world: if that of the allies, we have war with England, and commerce with them. which commerce however will be so far an amelioration of our present condition. such then is the present crisis, that we know not what to hope or fear; and, only standing to our helm, must abide, with folded arms, the issue of the storm. if George and his Prince regent however afflict us with these anxieties, let us enjoy the comfort and revenge of deriding and despising their individual rottenness. with this view I send, for a place on your book-shelf, from which you can take occasional doses, the famous ‘Book,’ written by Percival. it will confirm the moral truth that, independantly of another world, the wicked have their torment here also. turning from this ghastly subject to the sweeter consolations of friendship be assured that mine remains ever affectionately with you.

Th: Jefferson

RC (facsimile in NcU: Jefferson Photostats); addressed: “Mrs Elizabeth Trist at mr Gilmer’s near Henry Court house”; franked; endorsed by Nicholas P. Trist. PoC (MHi); endorsed by TJ.

In February 1814 Napoleon won a series of victories that slowed but did not stop the Allied advance on Paris and his own abdication in April (Chandler, Campaigns of Napoleon description begins David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon, 1966 description ends , 975–6; Connelly, Napoleonic France, 181, 192–3). The two emperors and two kings in the false rumor repeated by TJ presumably included Czar Alexander I of Russia, Emperor Francis I of Austria, and King Frederick William III of Prussia. For the famous ‘book’ sent with this letter, see TJ to Samuel Pleasants, 11 Aug. 1813.

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and Napoleon search
  • Divers, George; health of search
  • Divers, Martha Walker (George Divers’s wife); health of search
  • Farmington (G. Divers’s Albemarle Co. estate) search
  • France; TJ on search
  • Francis I, emperor of Austria; and Napoleon search
  • Frederick William III, king of Prussia; and Napoleon search
  • George, Prince Regent (later George IV, king of Great Britain); TJ on search
  • George III, king of Great Britain; TJ on search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; George III search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; abdicates search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Austria search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Prussia search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Russia search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Perceval, Spencer; “The Book!” or, The Proceedings and Correspondence upon the subject of the Inquiry into the Conduct of Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (included in Book of Kings compiled by TJ;see also Book of Kings) search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Randolph, Thomas Mann (1768–1828) (TJ’s son-in-law; Martha Jefferson Randolph’s husband); and military appointment search
  • Trist, Elizabeth House; letters to search
  • women; letters to; E. Trist search
  • “The Book!” or, The Proceedings and Correspondence upon the subject of the Inquiry into the Conduct of Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales (S. Perceval; included in Book of Kings compiled by TJ) search