Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from William Maclure, 3 July 1801

From William Maclure

London 3d July 1801


With much pleasure I sincerely congratulate you, on the fortunate and Opportunate Political change, that has taken Place since I left you; highly necessary to the happiness and prosperity of the United States; and involving within the circle of its advantages, the progress of civilisation and Knowledge in every part of the Globe; as it will afford a free and equall representative Government the only fair tryal its likely to have for some time.

Since my departure from America I have run thro’ Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Prussia part of Germany and France. left Paris a few weeks ago after 3 or 4 Mos. residence; where our friends Mr Volney and Mr Barlowe were in good health—the present Politics of that country are beyond the reach of my comprehention the exterior habits only, come within the sphere of my perception, and they were completely military—The agriculture has improved much scarce an acre idle consequently the situation of the farmers and Peasantry in all the comforts and conveniences of life much ameliorated few beggars or ill clothed people to be seen out of the large towns where the only bad effects of the war can be seen in the houses of the ci devant Oppulent now mostly out of repair and partly uninhabited the decrease of luxury in the cities and the Population which it supported has apparently increased the population and production of the country. but the most material change and perhaps the guarantee of all the other changes brought about by the revolution is the complete division of Property scarce any individual possesses more than seven hundred acres of land and very few so much on this base perhaps must rest the state of society and the division of Power follow the division of property however different the present state of things may appear—the Plan of a civil code of laws which has been published may give a better idea of the situation and probable consequences than any thing that has been allowed to come from the press; in the preliminary discourse much obscurity and difficulty seems to occur in laying the foundation whilst the great leading features—division of property among the children equall rights of property &c &c seems only calculated for the support of a government bottomed on the division of power in case you have not yet seen it I have forwarded a coppy by this opportunity—I shall leave this country in a few weeks for the continent shall visit part of germany and proceed towards Itally in the winter but am not decided whither thro France or the Tirole should any species of facts that may be within the reach of my observation be worth your notice or could I in any way serve you it will give me much pleasure should your more weighty avocations admit a few lines directed to the care of Mallet Freres & Co Paris or Mark Johan Jenisch Hamburg will find me wherever I may happen to be remaining with the most respectfull esteem Yours Sincerely

Wm Maclure

RC (DLC); addressed: “His Excellency Thomas Jefferson President of the United States”; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Oct. and so recorded in SJL. Enclosed in Alexander Maclure to TJ, Norfolk, 19 Sep. 1801, forwarding the letter just received from his brother, who “mentions having sent two Books for you which Books have got to New York and as soon as I receive them will forward them thro’ Governor Munro at Richmond who no doubt will find opportunity of putting them safe into your Excellency’s hand” (RC in MHi; endorsed by TJ as received 6 Oct. and so recorded in SJL).

William Maclure (1763–1840) and TJ, who had friends in common and shared an interest in science, were acquainted by 1798. A native of Scotland who had become a naturalized American citizen, Maclure retired from business in Philadelphia to devote his attention to natural science. In July 1799 he was elected to membership in the American Philosophical Society. He lived and traveled in Europe from 1799 to 1808, studying the continent’s geology, and after his return to the United States he undertook the systematic description and mapping of the geology of eastern North America. He became a benefactor of the Academy of Natural Sciences and served as its president from 1817 until his death. An advocate of educational reform, he participated in the establishment of the communal society at New Harmony, Indiana, in the 1820s. He spent the last years of his life in Mexico. In 1801 his brother Alexander was a Norfolk merchant (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, New York and Oxford, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; APS description begins American Philosophical Society description ends , Proceedings, 22, pt. 3 [1884], 283; Simmons’s Norfolk Directory [Norfolk, 1801], 22; Vol. 30:426n, 507–8, 591, 625).

Plan of a Civil Code of Laws: the Projet de Code Civil, présenté par la commission nommée par le Gouvernement, le 24 Thermidor An 8 (Paris, 1801); Sower-by, No. 2216. It was the framework of a national code of laws for France drafted by a commission created in August 1800. The final Code Civil was promulgated in 1804 (Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon description begins Jean Tulard, Dictionnaire Napoléon, Paris, 1987 description ends , 429).

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