Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Madame de Staël Holstein, 3 July 1815

To Madame de Staël Holstein

Monticello in Virginia. July 3. 15.

Dear Madam.

I considered your letter of Nov. 10. 12. as an evidence of the interest you were so kind as to take1 in the welfare of the United states, and I was even flattered by your exhortations to avoid taking any part in the war then raging in Europe, because they were a confirmation of the policy I had my self pursued, and which I thought and still think should be the governing canon of our republic. distance, and difference of pursuits, of interests, of connections and other circumstances prescribe to us a different system, having no object in common with Europe but a peaceable interchange of mutual comforts for mutual wants. but this may not always depend on ourselves; and injuries may be so accumulated by an European power as to pass all bounds of wise forbearance. this was our situation at the date of your letter. a long course of injuries, systematically pursued by England, and finally, formal declarations that she would neither redress nor discontinue their infliction, had fixed the epoch which rendered an appeal to arms unavoidable. in the letter of May 28. 13. which I had the honor of writing you, I entered into such details of these injuries, and of our unremitting endeavors to bring them to a peaceable end, as the narrow limits of a letter permitted. resistance on our part at length brought our enemy to reflect, to calculate, and to meet us in peaceable conferences at Ghent; but the extravagance of the pretensions brought forward by her negotiators there, when first made known in the US. dissipated at once every hope of a just peace, and prepared us for a war of utter extremity. our government, in that state of things, respecting the opinion of the world, thought it a duty to present to it a justification of the course which was likely to be forced upon us; and with this view the pamphlet was prepared which I now inclose. it was already printed, when (instead of their ministers whom they hourly expected from a fruitless negociation) they recieved the treaty of pacification signed at Ghent, and ratified at London. they endeavored to suppress the pamphlet, as now unseasonable. but the proof sheets having been surreptitiously withdrawn, soon made their appearance in the public papers, and in the form now sent. this vindication is so exact in it’s facts, so cogent in it’s reasonings, so authenticated by the documents to which it appeals, that it cannot fail to bring the world to a single opinion on our case. the concern you manifested on our entrance into this contest assures me you will take the trouble of reading it; which I wish the more earnestly, because it will fully supply the very imperfect views which my letter had presented; and because we cannot be indifferent as to the opinion which yourself personally shall ultimately form of the course we have pursued.

I learned with great pleasure your return to your native country. it is the only one which offers elements of society analogous to the powers of your mind, and sensible of the flattering distinction of possessing them. it is true that the great events which made an opening for your return, have been reversed. but not so, I hope, the circumstances which may admit it’s continuance. on these events I shall say nothing. at our distance, we hear too little truth and too much falsehood to form correct judgments concerning them; and they are moreover foreign to our umpirage. we wish the happiness and prosperity of every nation; we did not believe either of these promoted by the former pursuits of the present ruler of France; and hope that his return, if the nation wills it to be permanent, may be marked by those changes which the solid good of his own country, and the peace and well-being of the world may call for. but these things I leave to whom they belong; the object of this letter being only to convey to you a vindication of my own country, and to have the honor of a new occasion of tendering you the homage of my great consideration, and respectful attachment.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Madane [Madame] la Baronne de Staël-Holstein.” Tr (MHi); posthumous copy. Enclosed in TJ to Henry Jackson, 5 July 1815, and TJ to James Monroe, 15 July 1815.

The enclosed pamphlet was Dallas, Exposition description begins Alexander J. Dallas, An Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War, Washington, 1815, reprinted in various places with slightly variant titles description ends . The public papers included the Philadelphia Aurora General Advertiser, which printed the pamphlet between 17 and 23 Mar. 1815. your native country: France.

1Preceding three words not in Tr.

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  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Great Britain search
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  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; returns to power search
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  • Staël Holstein, Anne Louise Germaine Necker, baronne de; letters to search
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  • War of1812; An Exposition of the Causes and Character of the War (A. J. Dallas) search
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  • women; letters to; Madame de Staël Holstein search