Thomas Jefferson Papers
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Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Leiper, 12 June 1815

To Thomas Leiper

Monticello June 12. 15.

Dear Sir

A journey soon after the reciept of your favor of April 17. and an absence from home of some continuance has prevented my earlier acknolegement of it. in that came safely1 my letter of Jan. 2. 14. in our principles of government we differ not at all, nor in the general object & tenor of political measures. we concur in considering the government of England as totally without morality, insolent beyond bearing, inflated with vanity and ambition, aiming at the exclusive dominion of the sea, lost in corruption, of deep rooted hatred towards us, hostile to liberty wherever it endeavors to shew it’s head, and the eternal disturber of the peace of the world. in our estimate of Bonaparte I suspect we differ. I view him as a political engine only and a very wicked one,2 you I believe as both political & religious, and obeying, as an instrument, an unseen hand. I still deprecate his becoming sole lord of the continent of Europe, which he would have been had he reached in triumph the gates of Petersburg. the establishment, in our day, of another Roman empire, spreading vassalage and depravity over the face of the globe, is not, I hope, within the purposes of heaven. nor does the return of Bonaparte give me pleasure unmixed. I see in his expulsion of the Bourbons a valuable lesson to the world, as shewing that it’s antient dynasties may be changed for their misrule. should the allied powers presume to dictate a ruler & government to France, and follow the example he had set of parcelling and usurping to themselves their neighbor nations, I hope he will give them another lesson in vindication of the rights of independance and self government, which himself had heretofore so much abused; and that in this contest he will wear down the maritime power of England to limitable and safe dimensions. so far, good. it cannot be denied on the other hand that his succesful perversion3 of the force (committed to him for vindicating the rights and liberties of his country) to usurp it’s government, and to enchain it under an hereditary despotism, is of baneful effect in encouraging future usurpations, and deterring those under oppression from rising to redress themselves. his restless spirit leaves no hope of peace to the world; and his hatred of us is only a little less than that he bears to England, and England to us. our form of government is odious to him, as a standing contrast between republican and despotic rule; and as much from that hatred, as from ignorance in Political economy, he had excluded intercourse between us and his people, by prohibiting the only articles they wanted from us, that is, cotton and tobacco. whether the war we have had with England, the atchievements of that war, and the hope that we may become his instruments and partisans against that enemy may induce him in future to tolerate our commercial intercourse with his people is still to be seen. for my part I wish that all nations may recover and retain their independance; that those which are overgrown may not advance beyond safe measures of power, that a salutary balance may be ever maintained among nations, and that our peace, commerce and friendship may be sought and cultivated by all. it is our business to manufacture for ourselves whatever we can, to keep all markets open for what we can spare or want, and the less we have to do with the amities or enmities of Europe, the better. not in our day; but at no distant one, we may shake a rod over the heads of all, which may make the stoutest of them tremble. but I hope our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.

The federal misrepresentation of my sentiments which occasioned my former letter to you was gross enough; but that and all others are exceeded by the impudence and falshood of the printed extract you sent me from Ralph’s paper. that a continuance of the embargo for two months longer would have prevented our war; that the non-importation law which succeeded it was a wise and powerful measure, I have constantly maintained. my friendship for mr Madison; my confidence in his wisdom and virtue, and my approbation of all his measures, and especially of his taking up at length the gauntlet against England, is known to all with whom I have ever conversed or corresponded on these measures. the word Federal, or it’s synonym lie, may therefore be written under every word of mr Ralph’s paragraph I have ransacked my memory to recollect any incident which might have given countenance to any particle of it; but I find none. for if you will except the bringing into power and importance those who were enemies to himself as well as to the principles of republican government, I do not recollect a single measure of the President which I have not approved. of those under him, and of some very near him, there have been many acts of which we have all disapproved, and he more than we. we have at times dissented from the measures and lamented the dilatoriness of Congress. I recollect an instance the first winter of the war, when, from sloth of proceedings, an embargo was permitted to run thro’ the winter, while the enemy could not cruise, nor consequently restrain the exportation of our whole produce, and was taken off in the spring, as soon as they could resume their stations. how can expedition be expected from a body which we have saddled with an hundred lawyers, whose trade is talking? but this procrastination is unavoidable.—but lies, to sow divisions among us is so stale an artifice of the federal prints, & are so well understood, that they need neither contradiction nor explanation. as to my self, my confidence in the wisdom and integrity of the administration is so entire, that I scarcely notice what is passing, and have almost ceased to read newspapers. mine remain in our post office a week or 10. days sometimes unasked for. I find more amusement in studies to which I was always more attached, and from which I was dragged by the events of the times in which I have happened to live.

I rejoice exceedingly that our war with England was singlehanded. in that of the revolution we had France, Spain & Holland on our side, and the credit of it’s success was given to them. on the late occasion, unprepared and unexpecting war, we were compelled to declare it, and to recieve the attack of England, just issuing from a general war, fully armed and freed from all other enemies, and have not only made her sick of it, but glad to prevent by a peace the capture of her adjacent possessions, which one or two campaigns more would infallibly have made ours. she has found that we can do her more injury than any other enemy on earth, and henceforward will better estimate the value of our peace. but whether her government has power, in opposition to the aristocracy of her navy, to restrain their piracies within the limits of national rights may well be doubted. I pray therefore for peace, as best for all the world, best for us, and best for me who have already lived to see three wars, and now pant for nothing more than to be permitted to depart in peace. that you also who have longer to live may continue to enjoy this blessing with health and prosperity thro’ as long a life as you desire, is the prayer of yours affectionately

Th: Jefferson

P.S. June 14. before I had sent my letter to the post office, I recieve the new treaty of the allied powers, declaring that the French nation shall not have Bonaparte, and shall have Louis XVIII. for their ruler. they are all then as great rascals as Bonaparte himself. while he was in the wrong, I wished him exactly as much success as would answer our purposes and no more. now that they are wrong, and he in the right, he shall have all my prayers for success, and that he may dethrone every man of them.

RC (PWacD: Sol Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP). PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Mr Lieper.” Postscript added separately to RC and PoC.

The letter of jan. 2. 14. returned previously by Leiper was actually TJ’s letter to him of 1 Jan. 1814. The printed extract from Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette was enclosed in Leiper’s letter of 17 Apr. 1814. “An Act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbours of the United States,” 17 Dec. 1813, was allowed to run thro’ the winter until its repeal on 14 Apr. 1814 (U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:88–93, 123). The new treaty was a declaration signed by the representatives of many European nations at the Congress of Vienna on 13 Mar. 1815 that condemned Napoleon’s escape from Elba and his return in arms to France, declared him outside of “all civil and social relations,” offered support to the French king and the French nation and to any allied government seeking aid, and agreed to make common cause against any disturber of the public tranquility (New-York Evening Post, 1 May 1815; British and Foreign State Papers 2 [1814/15]: 665–6).

1Word interlined.

2Preceding five words interlined.

3Word interlined in place of “employment.”

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; TJ on search
  • An Act laying an embargo on all ships and vessels in the ports and harbours of the United States (1813) search
  • Congress, U.S.; and Embargo Act search
  • Congress, U.S.; TJ on search
  • cotton; export of search
  • Embargo Act (1813); passage of search
  • Embargo Act (1813); TJ on search
  • Federalist party; abuses TJ search
  • Federalist party; TJ on search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • Great Britain; and France search
  • Great Britain; and U.S. search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; spurious letter allegedly from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; American Revolution search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British government search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Embargo acts search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European affairs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; European monarchs search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Federalist party search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Madison search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; newspapers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. Congress search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. economic interests search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. future search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Leiper, Thomas; letters to search
  • Leiper, Thomas; TJ reports on politics and international affairs to search
  • Louis XVIII, king of France; restoration of search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); administration of supported search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Embargo of1813 search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); TJ on search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Congress of Vienna search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and Great Britain search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; and U.S. search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; defeated in Russia search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; returns to power search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • newspapers; Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • Philadelphia; Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette (newspaper) search
  • Revolutionary War; TJ on search
  • Russia; Napoleon defeated in search
  • tobacco; export of search
  • United States; and France search
  • United States; and Great Britain search
  • United States; and Napoleon search
  • United States; trade of search
  • Vienna, Congress of; negotiations at search
  • War of1812; TJ on search