Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Gallimard, 29 July 1788

To Gallimard

Paris July 29. 1788.


In answer to your favor of the 2d. instant I have the honour to inclose you a pamphlet containing the advice of Doctr. Franklin to persons proposing to emigrate to America. No person is better qualified than him to give advice on this subject. At the same time I would recommend to all those who propose to remove thither, to go there themselves before they carry their family, or even sell off their property here, that they may see whether the country, it’s inhabitants and their manners are to their mind, and judge for themselves what part of the country may best suit their views. Having no charge from the United states on this subject I can only add assurances of the sentiments of regard with which I have the honour to be Sir Your most obedient humble servt.,

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); at foot of text: “M. Gallimard receveur des Domaines du roi á Trevoux en Dombes.” Enclosure: Copy of Benjamin Franklin’s Information to those who would remove to America (Franklin, Writings, ed. Smyth, viii, 603–14), a pamphlet that TJ caused to be reprinted for such uses as the present, not only because it saved needless repetition in writing but also because of its cogent views. Franklin had written this essay to disabuse those who intended to settle in America and who had “formed, thro’ Ignorance, mistaken Ideas and Expectations of what is to be obtained there,” and to “prevent inconvenient, expensive, and fruitless Removals and Voyages of improper Persons.” The European image of an America populated by rich but ignorant inhabitants who were eager to reward strangers “possessing Talents in the Belles-Lettres, fine Arts, &c.”; having an abundance of civil and military offices to dispose of that the natives were not capable of filling; possessing “few Persons of Family among them” and being disposed to yield great respect to “Strangers of Birth”; and having a government that encouraged emigrants not only by paying their expenses of transportation but by giving them “lands gratis … with Negroes to work for them, Utensils of Husbandry, and Stocks of Cattle”—this picture he characterized as the product of “wild Imaginations.” On the contrary, America was a country of a “general happy Mediocrity,” where there were few so miserable as the poor of Europe, few that were rich, few great landholders, few tenants, &c. Strangers who had no other quality to recommend them than birth or station might find that of value in Europe, but “it is a Commodity that cannot be carried to a worse Market than that of America.” The kind of emigrants needed were “hearty young Labouring Men, who understand the Husbandry of Corn and Cattle,” who could employ themselves briefly at high wages to accumulate the eight or ten guineas required to buy a hundred acres of fertile soil near the frontiers “and begin their Plantation, in which they are assisted by the Good-Will of their Neighbours, and some Credit. Multitudes of poor People from England, Ireland, Scotland, and Germany, have by this means in a few years become wealthy Farmers, who, in their own Countries, where all the Lands are fully occupied, and the Wages of Labour low, could never have emerged from the poor Condition wherein they were born.” Artisans, people with moderate fortunes, servants and apprentices were also needed. The general mediocrity of fortune in America prevented idleness and vice, encouraged morality and religion. “Atheism is unknown there; Infidelity rare and secret; so that persons may live to a great Age in that Country, without having their Piety shocked by meeting with either an Atheist or an Infidel.” Aimed at the lower classes, the essay that had begun as an effort to correct a distorted image ended by becoming one of the most forceful promotional tracts on America ever written.

TJ’s Account Book has the following entry under 20 Sep. 1788: “pd for reprinting Dr. Franklin’s Advice to emigrants 18f16 U.S.” TJ evidently enclosed one of these copies, and it appears that his reprinting was (as indicated on a note on verso of half-title) made from the translation of Franklin’s essay as published in Pt. iv, ch. vii, of Mazzei’s Recherches Historiques et Politiques sur les Etats-Unis de l’Amérique Septentrionale. What appears to be the only recorded copy of this separate printing is TJ’s copy in DLC, on the half-title of which TJ wrote: “par Mazzei.” See Sowerby, description begins Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, compiled with annotations by E. Millicent Sowerby, Washington, 1952–55 description ends No. 2567. The title reads: Avis ceux qui voudroient émigrer en Amérique.

The response that John Adams gave to similar appeals differed, as was to be expected, from those of Franklin and TJ: “I am not come to this Country, sir,” he answered one would-be emigrant, “to solicit emigrations to the United States of America, nor to offer any Kind of Encouragement to such as wish to go.—All the world knows that my Country is open to strangers. But she offers no rewards or assistance. Those who love liberty, Innocence, and Industry are sure of an easy, comfortable Life, but they must go there to obtain it at their own Cost and Risque‥‥ It is by no means my business to carry on or to convey the Correspondence of Gentlemen at a distance who are total strangers to me, and therefore I pray that this intercourse may cease” (Adams to John Wooddrop, Glasgow, 3 Feb. 1786). It was characteristic of the new nation that its ambassadors should have spoken with such divergent voices, and a sign of its strength that it saw no need to compel them to speak other than their conscience and intelligence directed.

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