Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Archibald Stuart, 4 January 1797

To Archibald Stuart

Monticello Jan. 4. 1797.

Dear Sir

In answer to your favor of Dec. 31. and to the question whether adviseable to address the President on the subject of war against France, I shall speak explicitly, because I know I may do it safely to you. Such is the popularity of the President that the people will support him in whatever he will do, or will not do, without appealing to their own reason or to any thing but their feelings towards him: his mind had been so long used to unlimited applause that it could not brook contradiction, or even advice offered unasked. To advice, when asked, he is very open. I have long thought therefore it was best for the republican interest to soothe him by flattery where they could approve his measures, and to be silent where they disapprove, that they may not render him desperate as to their affections, and entirely1 indifferent to their wishes; in short, to lie on their oars while he remains at the helm, and let the bark drift as2 his will and a superintending providence shall direct. By his answer to the House of Representatives on the subject of the French war, and also by private information, it seems he is earnest that the war should be avoided, and to have the credit of leaving us in full peace. I think then it is best to leave him to his own movements, and not to risk the ruffling them by what he might3 deem an improper interference with the constituted authorities. The rather too because we do not hear of any movement in any other quarter concurrent with what you suggest, and because it would scarcely reach him before his departure from office. As to the President elect, there is reason to believe that he (Mr. Adams I mean) is detached from Hamilton, and there is a possibility he may swerve from his politics4 in a greater or less degree. Should the British faction attempt to urge him to the war by addresses5 of support with life and fortune, as may happen, it would then6 be adviseable to counteract their endeavors7 by dissuasive addresses. At this moment therefore, and at our distance from the scene of information and influence, I should think it most adviseable to8 be silent till we see what turn the new administration will9 take. At the same time I mix so little with the world, that my opinion merits less attention than any body’s else, and ought not to be weighed against your own good10 judgment. If therefore I have given it freely, it is because you have desired it, and not because I think it worth your notice.

My information from Philadelphia confirms the opinion I gave you as to the event of the election. Mr. Adams will have a majority of three votes with respect to myself, and whether Mr. Pinckney will have a few11 more or less than him seems uncertain. The votes of N.H., R.I. and Vermont had not come in, nor those of Georgia and the two Western states.

You shall recieve a gong by the first conveyance. It is but fair reciprocity to give me an opportunity of gratifying you sometimes, and to prove, by accepting this, that my repeated intrusions on you have not been too troublesome. It is a great satisfaction to know that the object will be acceptable to you. With every wish for your happiness I am dear Sir Your affectionate12 friend & servt

Th: Jefferson

RC (ViHi); addressed: “Archibald Stewart Staunton”; stamped. PrC (DLC). Dft (DLC); with numerous emendations, the most important of which are noted below.

For Washington’s answer to the house of representatives, see Madison to TJ, 19 Dec. 1796.

1Word interlined in Dft.

2In Dft TJ first wrote “trust the vessel to drift where it” before altering the passage to read as above.

3Word interlined in Dft in place of “would.”

4In Dft TJ first wrote “not pursue his measures” before altering the passage to read as above. Sentence ends here in Dft.

5In Dft TJ first wrote “to sway him by addresses” before altering the passage to read as above.

6In Dft TJ here canceled “perhaps.”

7Preceding three words interlined in Dft. in place of “strengthen his [disposition?].”

8In Dft TJ here canceled “lie still.”

9Dft: “is likely to.”

10Word interlined in Dft.

11Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “one or two.”

12Word not in Dft.

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