Extract from a Letter of John Hurford Stone to Joseph Priestley
Extract of a letter from the emperor Alexander to M. de la Harpe, a Swiss, the primary mover of the revolution in Switzerland, one of their Directory, afterwards retired to his Chateau 2 leagues from Paris. he had been chosen by the late Empress Catharine to educate the present Emperor & Constantine his brother, & was chosen not only as a man of talents, but, still more extraordinary, as a Republican. Alexander has therefore recieved a thoroughly republican education, & is by disposition & character virtuous & exemplary. he corresponded with Le Harpe (in Switzerld) during his banishmt by Paul. the letters of the prince are homilies of republican principles, not extravagant & chimerical projects of reformation, but wise & well weighed plans of government. in a late one of 8. pages to Le Harpe he says ‘to you my dear friend I owe every thing that I possess. it is from you alone that I have imbibed those principles which shall be the regulators of my conduct; whilst I fill the arduous post which Providence has assigned me, it is impossible for me ever to repay you the immense obligations which I owe. the only recompence I can ever hope to make you will be1 by reducing to practice the lessons you have taught, & by becoming an instrument of the happiness & liberty of this hitherto ill instructed and ill governed people. if I durst exact any thing more from you, it is to come hither, if your avocations will permit you to finish the education which you have begun. I know the snares by which I am surrrounded. I know also my own weakness but I shall be strong in your strength.’ La Harpe returned to Petersburgh. Alexander had already begun his reformation by publishing his Ukases for the liberty of the press & abolition of slavery.
La Harpe while residing near Paris, was intimate with mr Stone the English patriot now a refugee in France & corresponding with Dr. Priestly, in a letter to whom he communicates the above & many other particulars in the same style.
Tr (DLC: TJ Papers, 146:25396); entirely in TJ’s hand; endorsed by TJ: “Alexander Emperor of Russia.”
EXTRACT OF A LETTER: the “particulars” of a letter from John Hurford Stone that Priestley enclosed to TJ on 29 Oct. have not been found, but they may survive in the form of this copy by TJ. Writing to Priestley on 29 Nov., TJ thanked his friend for “the extract of mr Stone’s letter on the subject of Alexander.”
Frédéric César de La Harpe was a member of the directory of the Helvetic Republic from 1798 to 1800 (Jean Charles Biaudet and Françoise Nicod, eds., Correspondance de Frédéric-César de La Harpe et Alexandre Ier, 3 vols. [Neuchâtel, 1978], 1:19–20).
LATE ONE OF 8. PAGES: the quoted passage is a representation of the contents of a letter that Alexander wrote to La Harpe in French in May 1801 (same, 1:21, 240–1).
LIBERTY OF THE PRESS: Alexander loosened restrictions on dissent and publication (Derek Offord, Nineteenth-Century Russia: Opposition to Autocracy [Harlow, Eng., 1999], 13; Sergei Pushkarev, The Emergence of Modern Russia, 1801–1917, trans. Robert H. McNeal and Tova Yedlin [Edmonton, Alberta, 1985], 54.
1. Word supplied by Editors.