Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Samuel Brown, 14 July 1813

To Samuel Brown

Monticello July 14. 13.

Dear Sir

Your favors of May 25. and June 13. have been duly recieved as also the 1st supply of Capsicum, and the 2d of the same article with other seeds. I shall set great store by the Capsicum if it is hardy enough for our climate the species we have heretofore tried, being too tender. the Galavanic too will be particularly attended to, as it appears very different from what we cultivate by that name. I have so many grand children & others who might be endangered by the poison plant, that I think the risk1 over balances the curiosity of trying it. the most elegant thing of that kind known is a preparation of the Jamestown weed, Datura-Stramonium, invented by the French in the time of Robespierre. every man of firmness carried it constantly in his pocket to anticipate the Guillotine.2 it brings on the sleep of death as quietly as fatigue does the ordinary sleep, without the least struggle or motion. Condorcet, who had recourse to it was found lifeless on his bed, a few minutes after his land lady had left him there, and even the slipper which she had observed half suspended on his foot, was not shaken off. it seems far preferable to the venesection of the Romans, the Hemlock of the Greeks, and the Opium of the Turks. I have never been able to learn what the preparation is, other than a strong concentration of it’s lethiferous principle. could such a medicament be restrained to self-administration, it ought not to be kept secret. there are ills in life, as desperate as intolerable, to which it would be the rational relief: e.g. the inveterate cancer. as a relief from tyranny indeed, for which the Romans recurred to it in the times of the emperors, it has been a wonder to me that they did not consider a poignard in the breast of the tyrant as a better remedy.

I am sorry to learn that a banditti from our country, are taking part in the domestic contests of the country adjoining you: and the more so as from the known laxity of execution in our laws they cannot be punished, altho the law has provided punishment. it will give a wrongful hue to the rightful act of taking possession of Mobile and will be imputed to the national authority as Miranda’s enterprize was, because not punished by it. I fear too that the Spaniards are too heavily oppressed by ignorance & superstition for self-government, and whether a change from foreign to domestic despotism will be to their advantage remains to be seen.

We have been unfortunate in our first military essays by land. our men are good, but our generals unqualified. every failure we have incurred has been the fault of the general, the men evincing courage in every instance. at sea we have rescued our character; but the chief fruit of our victories there is to prove to those who have fleets that the English are not invincible at sea, as Alexander has proved that Bonaparte is not invincible by land. how much to be lamented that the world cannot unite and destroy these two land and sea-monsters! the one drenching the earth with human gore, the other ravaging the ocean with lawless piracies and plunder. Bonaparte will die, and the nations of Europe will recover their independance with, I hope, better governments. but the English government never dies, because their king is no part of it. he is a mere formality, and the real government in the aristocracy of the country, for their house of commons is of that class. their aim is to claim the dominion of the ocean by conquest, and to make every vessel navigating it pay a tribute to the support of the fleet necessary to maintain that dominion, to which their own resources are inadequate. I see no means of terminating their maritime dominion & tyranny but in their own bankruptcy which I hope is approaching. but I turn from these painful contemplations to the more pleasing one of my constant friendship & respect for you.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Doctr Saml Brown.”

galavanic: garavance; garbanzo or chickpea (Betts, Garden Book, 527). lethiferous: deadly (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ). poignard: “poniard.” For the operations of the banditti of the American Southwest and the seizure of Mobile by forces under the command of General James Wilkinson, see Stagg, Borderlines in Borderlands, 131, 134–68. For Francisco de Miranda’s 1806 enterprize against Spanish control of Venezuela, see TJ to Valentín de Foronda, 4 Oct. 1809, and note.

1TJ here interlined and canceled “of it outdist.”

2TJ here canceled “it extinguishes.”

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and Napoleon’s defeat in Russia search
  • beans; chickpea search
  • bird pepper search
  • Brown, Samuel; and American filibustering expeditions search
  • Brown, Samuel; and seeds for TJ search
  • Brown, Samuel; letters to search
  • chickpea (garavance; garbanzo bean) search
  • Condorcet, Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de; death of search
  • food; chickpeas search
  • French Revolution; suicide during search
  • Great Britain; House of Commons search
  • Great Britain; TJ on war with search
  • Great Britain; “algerine system” of search
  • health; cancer search
  • hemlock search
  • Jamestown weed (jimsonweed) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with grandchildren search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Great Britain search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; regicide search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; self-government of Spanish colonies search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; suicide search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. seizure of Mobile search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war with Great Britain search
  • Miranda, Francisco de search
  • Mobile, W. Fla. (later Ala.); seized by U.S. forces search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; defeated in Russia search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • opium; used to commit suicide search
  • pepper; bird search
  • Robespierre, Maximilien François Marie Isidore de; leader of French Revolution search
  • Russia; Napoleon defeated in search
  • spices; bird pepper search
  • suicide; plants used to commit search
  • suicide; TJ on search
  • suicide; venesection search
  • Texas (Spanish colony); American filibustering expeditions against search
  • War of1812; TJ on search
  • Wilkinson, James; War of1812service of search