Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Knox, 12 February 1810

To Samuel Knox

Monticello Feb. 12. 10.


Your favor of Jan. 22. loitered on the way somewhere so as not to come to my hand until the 5th inst. the title of the tract of Buchanan which you propose to translate was familiar to me, & I possessed the tract; but no circumstance had ever led me to look into it. yet I think nothing more likely than that, in the free spirit of that age and state of society, principles should be avowed, which were felt & followed, altho’ unwritten in the Scottish constitution. undefined powers had been entrusted to the crown, undefined rights retained by the people, and these depended for their maintenance on the spirit of the people, which, in that day, was dependance sufficient. I shall certainly, after what you say of it, give it a serious reading. his latinity is so pure as to claim a place in school reading, & the sentiments which have recommended the work to your notice, are such as ought to be instilled into the minds of our youth on their first opening. the boys of the rising generation are to be the men of the next, and the sole guardians of the principles we deliver over to them. that I have acted thro life on those of sincere republicanism I feel in every fibre of my constitution. and when men, who feel like myself bear witness in my favor, my satisfaction is compleat. the testimony of approbation implied in the desire you express of coupling my name with Buchanan’s work, & your translation of it, cannot but be acceptable & flattering; & the more so as coming from one of whom a small acquaintance had inspired me with a great esteem. this I am now happy in finding an occasion to express. the times which brought us within mutual observation were awfully trying. but truth & reason are eternal. they have prevailed. and they will eternally prevail, however, in times & places, they may be overborne for a while by violence military, civil, or ecclesiastical. the preservation of the holy fire is confided to us by the world, and the sparks which will emanate from it will ever serve to rekindle it in other quarters of the globe, numinibus secundis.

Amidst the immense mass of detraction which was published against me when my fellow citizens proposed to entrust me with their concerns, & the efforts of more candid minds to expose their falsehood, I retain a remembrance of the pamphlet you mention. but I never before learned who was it’s author; nor was it known to me that mr Pechin had ever published a copy of the Notes on Virginia. but had all this been known, I should have seen myself with pride by your side. wherever you lead, we may all safely follow, assured that it is in the path of truth & liberty. mr Pechin knew well that your introduction would plead for his author, and only erred in not asking your leave. wishing every good effect which may follow your undertaking, I tender you the assurances of my high esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “revd Mr Knox.”

numinibus secundis: “in accordance with God’s will.”

Index Entries

  • A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson (Knox) search
  • Buchanan, George; De Jure Regni Apud Scotos search
  • De Jure Regni Apud Scotos (Buchanan) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; G. Buchanan’s Latin search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; truth and reason search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Knox, Samuel; and De Jure Regni Apud Scotos (Buchanan) search
  • Knox, Samuel; A Vindication of the Religion of Mr. Jefferson search
  • Knox, Samuel; letters to search
  • Knox, Samuel; TJ on search
  • Latin; of G. Buchanan search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); W. Pechin’s edition search
  • Pechin, William; publishes Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Scotland; constitution of search