Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis, 13 July 1803

To Pierre Jean Georges Cabanis

Washington July 13. 1803.

Dear Sir

I lately recieved your friendly letter of 28. Vendem. an. 11. with the two volumes on the relations between the Physical & moral faculties of man. this has ever been a subject of great interest to the inquisitive mind, and it could not have got into better hands for discussion than yours. that thought may be a faculty of1 our material organisation, has been believed in the gross: and tho’ the modus agendi of nature in this as in most other cases, can never be2 developed and demonstrated to beings limited as we are,3 yet I feel confident you will have conducted us as far on the road as we can go, and have lodged us within reconnoitring distance of the citadel itself.   while here, I have time to read nothing. but our annual recess for the months of August & September is now approaching, during which I shall be at Monticello, where I anticipate great satisfaction in the perusal of these volumes.   It is with great satisfaction too I recollect the agreeable hours I have passed with yourself and M. de la Roche, at the house of our late excellent friend Madame Helvetius, & elsewhere: and I am happy to learn you continue your residence there. Auteuil always appeared to me a delicious village, & Madame Helvetius’s the most delicious spot in it. in those days how sanguine we were! and how soon were the virtuous hopes and confidence of every good man blasted! how many excellent friends have we lost in your efforts towards self-government, et cui bono? but let us draw a veil over the dead, and hope the best for the living. if the heroe, who has saved you from a combination of enemies, shall also be the means of giving you as great a portion of liberty4 as the opinions, habits, & character of the nation are prepared for, progressive preparation may fit you for progressive portions of that first of blessings, and you may in time attain what we erred in supposing could be hastily siesed & maintained, in the present state of political information among your citizens at large. in this way all may end well.

You are again at war I find. But we, I hope, shall be permitted to run the race of peace. your government has wisely removed what certainly endangered collisions between us.5 I now see nothing which need ever interrupt the friendship between France and this country.6 twenty years of peace, & the prosperity so visibly flowing from it, have but strengthened our7 attachment to it8 & the blessings it brings, and we do not despair of being always a peaceable nation. we think that peaceable means may be devised of keeping nations in the path of justice9 towards us, by making justice their interest, and injuries to react on themselves. our distance enables us to pursue a course which the crowded situation of Europe renders perhaps impracticable there.

Be so good as to accept for yourself and M. de la Roche, my friendly salutations, and assurances of great consideration & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PWacD: Feinstone Collection, on deposit PPAmP); at foot of first page: “M. Cabanis”; endorsed. PrC (DLC). Dft (DLC). Probably enclosed in TJ to Tobias Lear, 14 July.

With his letter of 28 Vendémiaire Year 11 (20 Oct. 1802), Cabanis sent TJ the two volumes of his Rapports du physique et du moral de l’homme (Vol. 38:524-5).

1Here in Dft TJ canceled “matter.”

2Here in draft TJ canceled “scrutinised.”

3Preceding four words interlined in Dft in place of “with our faculties only.”

4Word interlined in Dft in place of “self govmt.”

5In Dft TJ first wrote “removed the only stumbling block between us.”

6Here in Dft TJ canceled “we shall certainly cherish it with sincere” and “we rejoice <under> <at our relief> that we are relieved from the danger we apprehended from.”

7Here in Dft TJ canceled “desires.”

8Preceding two words interlined in Dft in place of “to peace & it’s good.”

9In Dft TJ first wrote “the blessings profusely flowing from it: and we do not despair of peaceable means of keeping nations in the path of justice” before altering the passage to read as above. Also in Dft he canceled “justice” and substituted “friendship.”

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