Thomas Jefferson Papers
You searched for: “Frenchtown, Mich. Territory; American army captured at”
sorted by: date (ascending)
Permanent link for this document:

Thomas Jefferson to William Duane, 4 April 1813

To William Duane

Monticello Apr. 4. 13.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Feb. 14. has been duly recieved, and the MS of the Commentary on Montesquieu is also safe at hand. I now forward to you the work of Tracy, which you will find a valuable supplement and corrective to those we already possess on political economy. it is a little unlucky that it’s outset is of a metaphysical character, which may damp the ardor of perusal in some readers. he has been led to this by a desire to embody this work, as well as a future one he is preparing on Morals, with his former treatise on Ideology. by the bye, it is surely to this work that Bonaparte alludes in his answer to his council of state, published not long since, in which he scouts ‘the dark & metaphysical doctrine of Ideology, which, diving into first causes, founds on this basis a legislation of the people Etc.’ if indeed this answer be not a forgery; for every thing is now forged, even to the fat of our beef & mutton. yet the speech is not unlike him, and affords scope for an excellent parody. I wish you may succeed in getting the Commentary on Montesquieu reviewed by the Edinburgh Reviewers. I should expect from them an able & favorable Analysis of it. I sent a copy of it to a friend in England in the hope he would communicate it to them; not however expressing that hope, lest the source of it should have been made known. but the book will make it’s way, and will become a standard work. a copy which I sent to France was under translation by one of the ablest men of that country.

It is true that I am tired of practical politics, and happier while reading the history of antient, than of modern times. the total banishment of all moral principle from the Code which governs the intercourse of nations, the melancholy reflection that after the mean, wicked and cowardly cunning of the Cabinets of the age of Machiavel had given place to the integrity and good faith which dignified the succeeding one of a Chatham and Turgot, that this is to be swept away again by the daring profligacy, and avowed destitution of all moral principle of a Cartouche and a Blackbeard, sickens my soul unto death. I turn from the contemplation with loathing, and take refuge in the histories of other times, where if they also furnished their Tarquins, their Catilines & Caligulas, their stories are handed to us under the brand of a Livy, a Sallust and a Tacitus, and we are comforted with the reflection that the condemnation of all succeeding generations has confirmed the censures of the historian, and consigned their memories to everlasting infamy, a solace we cannot have with the Georges & Napoleons, but by anticipation.

In surveying the scenes of which we make a part, I confess that three frigates taken by our gallant little navy, do not balance, in my mind, three armies lost by the treachery, cowardice, or incapacity of those to whom they were entrusted. I see that our men are good, and only want generals. we may yet hope however that the talents, which always exist among men, will shew themselves with opportunity, & that it will be found that this age also can produce able & honest defenders of their country. at what further expence however of blood & treasure is yet to be seen. perhaps this Russian mediation may cut short the history of the present war, and leave to us the laurels of the sea, while our enemies are bedecked with those of the land. this would be the reverse of what has been expected, and perhaps of what was to be wished.

I have never seen the work on Political economy of which you speak. Say, and Tracy contain the sum of that science, as far as it has been soundly traced, in my judgment. and it is a pity that Say’s work should not, as well as Tracy’s, be made known to our country men by a good translation. it would supplant Smith’s book altogether, because shorter, clearer, and sounder.

Accept my friendly salutations and assurances of continued esteem and respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Colo Duane.”

TJ here forwarded the manuscript treatise on political economy that Destutt de tracy had enclosed in his letter of 15 Nov. 1811. The French newspaper Moniteur published Napoleon’s 20 Dec. answer to his council of state on 25 Dec. 1812 (Friedrich C. Schlosser, History of the Eighteenth Century and of the Nineteenth Till the Overthrow of the French Empire, with a Particular Reference to Mental Cultivation and Progress [1852], 309). The text, of which TJ paraphrased an excerpt, was reprinted in the Massachusetts Spy, or Worcester Gazette, 3 Mar. 1813. Pierre Samuel Du Pont de Nemours was one of the ablest men of France who was engaged in translating Tracy’s work. Although the American navy had successfully captured three frigates in 1812, HMS Guerriere, HMS Macedonian, and HMS Java, this did not fully compensate for the loss of the three armies at Detroit, Frenchtown, and Queenston (Donald R. Hickey, The War of 1812: A Forgotten Conflict [1989], 84–7, 93–6). Duane had recommended a work on political economy by Charles Ganilh, An Inquiry into the Various Systems of Political Economy; Their Advantages and Disadvantages; and The Theory Most Favourable to the Increase of National Wealth, trans. Daniel Boileau (New York, 1812).

Index Entries

  • An Inquiry into the Various Systems of Political Economy (Ganilh) search
  • Blackbeard (Edward Teach) search
  • Caligula, Roman emperor search
  • Cartouche (Louis Bourguignon) search
  • Catiline (Lucius Sergius Catilina) search
  • Chatham, William Pitt, 1st Earl of search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); manuscript of, sent to TJ search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); reviews of search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; economic theories of search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Élémens d’Idéologie search
  • Detroit, Mich. Territory; W. Hull’s surrender at search
  • Duane, William; and Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Duane, William; letters to search
  • Duane, William; on War of1812 search
  • Du Pont de Nemours, Pierre Samuel; and Destutt de Tracy’s commentary on Montesquieu search
  • Edinburgh Review search
  • Élémens d’Idéologie (Destutt de Tracy) search
  • France; Council of State search
  • Frenchtown, Mich. Territory; American army captured at search
  • Ganilh, Charles; An Inquiry into the Various Systems of Political Economy search
  • George III, king of Great Britain; TJ on search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • Guerriere, HMS (frigate) search
  • history; TJ on search
  • Java, HMS (frigate) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; George III search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. B. Say’s writings search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; reading search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Livy (Titus Livius); TJ on search
  • Macedonian, HMS (frigate) search
  • Machiavelli, Niccolò search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; on ideology search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Queenston Heights, Battle of search
  • Sallust (Gaius Sallustius Crispus); tyrants condemned in works of search
  • Say, Jean Baptiste; economic theories of search
  • Smith, Adam; The Wealth of Nations search
  • Tacitus; tyrants condemned in works of search
  • Teach, Edward (Blackbeard) search
  • The Wealth of Nations (A. Smith) search
  • Turgot, Anne Robert Jacques; French economist search
  • War of1812; TJ on search