Thomas Jefferson Papers
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https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Jefferson/03-04-02-0080

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 14 August 1811

To Henry Dearborn

Poplar Forest Aug. 14. 11.

Dear General and friend

I write from a place which I visit occasionally, near the New London of this state, 90. miles from Monticello, and where I have not the means of examining whether I have let the annual period pass over of saying ‘all’s well’ and ‘how d’ye do’? your letter of came in due time. I had learned by the newspapers the afflicting event it announced, had felt it as your friend, and as the friend of the inestimable character which had left us. but I said nothing, and I say nothing; well knowing that condolances renew the grief they would assuage, & that time and silence are the only medecines for that affliction.

I am happy to learn that your own health is good, and I hope it will long continue so. the friends we left behind us have fallen out by the way. I sincerely lament it, because I sincerely esteem them all, & because it multiplies schisms where harmony is safety. as far as I have been able to judge however, it has made no sensible impression against the government. those who were murmuring before are a little louder now; but the mass of our citizens is firm and unshaken. it furnishes, as an incident, another proof that they are perfectly equal to the purposes of self-government, and that we have nothing to fear for it’s stability. the spirit indeed which manifests itself among the tories of your quarter, altho’ I believe there is a majority there sufficient to keep it down in peaceable times, leaves me not without some disquietude. should the determination of England, now formally expressed, to take possession of the ocean, & to suffer no commerce on it but thro’ her ports, force a war upon us, I foresee a possibility of a separate treaty between her & your Essex men, on the principles of neutrality & commerce.Pickering here, & his nephew Williams there, can easily negotiate this. such a lure to the quietists in our ranks with you might recruit theirs to a majority. yet, excluded as they would be, from intercourse with the rest of the union and of Europe, I scarcely see the gain they would propose to themselves, even for the moment. the defection would certainly disconcert the other states, but it could not ultimately endanger their safety. they are adequate in all points to a defensive war. however I hope your majority, with the aid it is entitled to, will save us from this trial, to which I think it possible we are advancing. the death of George may come to our relief; but I fear the dominion of the sea is the insanity of the nation itself also. perhaps, if some stroke of fortune were to rid us at the same time from the Mammoth of the land as well as the Leviathan of the ocean, the people of England might lose their fears, & recover their sober senses again.tell my old friend, Governor Gerry that I give him glory for the rasping with which he rubbed down his herd of traitors. let them have justice, and protection against personal violence, but no favor. powers & preeminences1 conferred on them are daggers put into the hands of assassins, to be plunged into our own bosoms in the moment the thrust can go home to the heart. moderation can never reclaim them. they deem it timidity, & despise without fearing the tameness from which it flows. backed by England, they never lose the hope that their day is to come, when the terrorism of their earlier power is to be merged in the more gratifying “system of deportation & the guillotine.”2 being now hors de combat myself, I resign to others these cares. a long attack of rheumatism has greatly enfeebled me, & warns me that they will not very long be within my ken. but you may have to meet the trial, & in the focus of it’s fury. God send you a safe deliverance, a happy issue out of all afflictions, personal & public, with long life, long health, & friends as sincerely attached as

yours affectionately

Th: Jefferson

RC (Joseph Rubinfine, West Palm Beach, Fla., 2002); addressed: “General Henry Dearborne Boston”; franked; endorsed as “Private” by Henry A. S. Dearborn. PoC (DLC).

TJ regarded essex County, Massachusetts, as a hotbed of extreme Federalist sentiment. The mammoth of the land was Napoleon.

After Dearborn forwarded TJ’s letter to Elbridge gerry, the latter asked Dearborn to assure TJ “that his sentiments in regard to the implacable tories of this State & of the Union, perfectly coincide with my own; as well in respect to the malady, as to the cure. my policy is directed to this point, a discrimination & as far as it can be effected, a seperation, between the revolutional, & antirevolutional federalists. the former, altho some of them may pant for a monarchy, in order to be nobles, are generally disposed to preserve our Union & independence; the latter, with some disappointed expectants, & visionary Burrites, are decidedly for a secession of the northern states, & the erection over them of an Hanoverian monarchy. This at least is my decided opinion, & as the laconic scotch General said to his army of 3000, when his enemy consisting of 5000 were in sight, ‘if we do not kill them, they will kill us.’ The conduct of the ‘Boston assemblage,’ left me no alternative, but that of a decided opposition to them, or an abandonment of the General Government, of our Union & Independence. I have entered the list with them, & will never retreat, or yeild, before my last breath” (Gerry to Dearborn, 2 Sept. 1811, MeHi).

1Manuscript: “preeminces.”

2Quotation marks missing from PoC.

Index Entries

  • Dearborn, Dorcas Osgood Marble (Henry Dearborn’s second wife); death of search
  • Dearborn, Henry; and E. Gerry search
  • Dearborn, Henry; and wife’s death search
  • Dearborn, Henry; letters to search
  • Essex County, Mass.; Federalist sentiment in search
  • Federalist party; in Mass. search
  • George III, king of Great Britain; health of search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); and H. Dearborn search
  • Gerry, Elbridge (1744–1814); as governor of Mass. search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • health; rheumatism search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Health; rheumatism search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; New England politics search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Massachusetts; Federalists in search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Pickering, Timothy; accused of conspiracy search
  • politics; in New England search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Williams, Samuel (of London); accused of conspiracy search