Thomas Jefferson Papers

To Thomas Jefferson from “The Voice of A Sybil,” [before 6 November 1801]

From “The Voice of A Sybil”

[before Nov. 6. 1801]

Great Sir,

In my travels, through several countys of the state of Pennsylvania, three different, political sentiments obtruded themeselvs upon my observations. the first was a very impatient desire to see Your speak, to the insuing Congress—the scecond was, an Extreem apprehention, least federalism, and the Constitution should fall together—and a new one be formed by the present government—And the third was, that, an absolite Equality is the only Object of Democracy. those prevail, in general, among the people in the Country, who voted for a continuation, of the former administeration—

Those only can speak to all!—

Who are at the head of Mankind!—

The tyranical Pride of the Roman Tarquin instigated him to treat the greater part of the Sybilline Books with contempt, And drive the sacred Maid away—

But You are no tyrant! No Tarquin!

the voice of A Sybil

RC (DLC); undated; endorsed by TJ as received from “Anonymous” on 6 Nov. and so recorded in SJL.

Pride of the Roman Tarquin: Tarquin the Proud (Lucius Tarquinius Superbus), sixth century B.C., said by tradition to be the seventh and last king of Rome, was offered nine books of prophecy by a sibyl (prophetess). When Tarquin refused to pay the exorbitant price she demanded, the sibyl burned three of the books, then offered the remaining six to the king at the same price. He again refused, and the prophetess burned three more books before Tarquin relented and purchased the surviving three books at the original price (The Roman Antiquities of Dionysius Halicarnassensis, Edward Spelman, trans., 4 vols. [London, 1758], 2:228–9, 261–2; H. W. Parke, Sibyls and Sibylline Prophecy in Classical Antiquity [New York, 1988], 76–8).

TJ would receive at least two more communications from the author of the above letter. On 13 May 1802, he received an undated letter from “A Sybilline Voice,” reporting complaints over reductions in the military establishment. Another undated letter, signed “A Sybill leafe” and received on 5 Oct. 1802, warned the president not to meddle in religious and other concerns that might jeopardize his impartiality.

Index Entries