Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Stevens Thomson Mason, 27 October 1799

To Stevens Thomson Mason

Monticello Oct. 27. 1799.

Dear Sir

Your favor by mr Craven has been duly recieved, and I am very thankful for your attention to the subject of my former letter. it is one I have very much at heart, for I find I am not fit to be a farmer with the kind of labour we have, and also subject to such long avocation. mr Craven had thought too much of the Raspberry plains to be satisfied with our mountainous country: however, although we have not come to an absolute engagement, yet he departs under an expectation of deciding to return, and to engage others to come. I have shewn him 800. acres of inclosed & cultivated lands, which I will lease in such parcels as the tenants desire. before he arrived, I had leased 160. acres to a very good man, being afraid to lose the offer under the uncertainty whether I might get others.

I sincerely congratulate you on the success of Mc.kean’s election and I hope the Pennsylvania1 republicans have been as successful in the election of the members of their legislature. such a state as that, harmonising by it’s public authorities with those to the South, would command respect to the Federal constitution. still we must place at the distance of at least two years that reformation in the public proceedings which depends on the character of Congress. that now coming into the exercise of authority affords no hope. the misfortunes of the French would probably produce at the next session still greater intolerance than we have hitherto experienced, did not the insolencies of the English keep their votaries here in check for us. the public mind in the middle states, from every information I recieve, has very much regenerated in principles of whiggism. in this part of our state some symptoms of waivering which had appeared in certain places, have again become firm, or are fast returning to that state: always excepting however that gangrene which spreads from the public functionaries great & small, proceeding from the canker of interest. I am with great & sincere affection Dear Sir

Your friend & servt

Th: Jefferson

PrC (DLC); faint; at foot of text: “[…] Mason.”

Mason’s favor of 23 Oct., recorded in SJL as received two days later, has not been found. Another letter from Mason to TJ of 27 Apr. 1799, recorded in SJL as received 3 May, is also missing. Former letter: according to SJL TJ’s last letter to Mason, now missing, was dated 22 May.

Deciding to return: the agreement by which John H. Craven leased 500 acres from TJ is dated 22 Aug. 1800. Very good man: Craven Peyton (Indenture with Craven Peyton for the Lease of Fields at Shadwell, 1 Oct. 1799).

TJ did not yet know of the defeat of Coalition forces in Switzerland and Holland (see the letter from Joseph Barnes at 25 Oct. above). For the misfortunes of the French since the formation of the Second Coalition and the revival of war between France and Austria in March, see Tench Coxe to TJ, 21 June 1799. During June and July, most notably in the coup of 30 Prairial on 18 June, power shifted from the Directory to the legislative councils, but the government still seemed unable to solve the country’s economic problems, deal with internal dissent, or consolidate political power (Stewart, French Revolution, description begins John H. Stewart, A Documentary Survey of the French Revolution, New York, 1951 description ends 740–52; D. M. G. Sutherland, France 1789–1815: Revolution and Counterrevolution [New York, 1986], 320–9; Georges Lefebvre, The Thermidorians and the Directory: Two Phases of the French Revolution, trans. Robert Baldick [New York, 1964], 427–42).

1TJ first wrote “Pennsylvanians,” and then interlined “republicans” and revised the words to read as above.

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