Thomas Jefferson Papers

Joseph Jones Monroe to James Monroe, 23 April 1814

Joseph Jones Monroe to James Monroe

Albemarle April 23d 1814.

Dear Brother.

Altho I did not receive your letter till after the election, my conduct on that occasion, was regulated, as nearly as circumstances woud admit, by the course it pointed out. I have long been convincd, that moderation, & forbearance, is the best course one can pursue, towards his enemies, & that heat & impetuosity, will, in all public discussions, give them a vast ascendency over you.

Mr Carr having, at the preceding court, in a very rude, & unbecoming manner alluded to my conduct, I justified it, upon the principle of his being oppos’d to the admn, & asserted that I had my information, from Mr Nelson, which I had been previously authorizd to do. He then without any obliquity, was proceeding to invalidate my testimony, & I woud not suffer him to go on. Thus trammel’d he at length under many modifications, disclos’d what he had said to Mr Nelson, & threw himself on his vote at the last presidential election. I knowing that his drift, & that of his abettors, was to gull the people, coud not permit him to elude the charge in this way, & repeated the substance of Mr Nelson’s communication to me, & assurd the people that he woud at any time verify it. On the day of the election, the polling commenc’d at an unusually early hour, & I arrivd just in time to hear him deny the charge of his being inimical to the admn, & I forthwith read Mr Nelsons certificate which had been furnish’d me by Dr Everett; after which I made a few remarks, purporting, that I knew a large majority of the people, was friendly to the admn, & if the gentleman had satisfied them that he was so, I had nothing to urge agt him, but if he concur’d in political opinion, with his friend & connexion, a distinguish’d member of the Senate of the U:S from Marylan’d, who had thwarted the executive in two important cases, which had recently occurd, & who I believ’d woud ere long systematically oppose, all the measures proceeding from that quarter, I did not think him a proper representative. If I had not acted in this manner I am fully assurd, that I shoud have been stigmatiz’d as a framer of falsehood, & a base calumniator.

I am the better, satisfied with having taken the above step, since I am persuaded that it effectually settled the point as to him, & has brought out into the fair & open field of public view, the arch juggler, who was by every secret sinister, & tortuous art, & machination, endeavoring to subvert the admn. As far as I can fathom their depths their plan was to get into the next legislature, as many of their creatures as possible, who woud act as leaven upon that body, & prepare it, for ulterior & more important operations. The dismission of Granger, (combin’d with other subordinate considerations) has brot them out earlier than they had contemplated. Of this I am well assurd. You will have seen an account of a letter said to have been written by Mr Jefferson to a gentleman near Philadelphia, publish’d in the Phil: Gaz: in which he inveighs agt Mr Madison, & says that nothing but the energy & good sense of the people can rescue the nation, from the effects of the mad career of that gentleman. Every word of this is true as will ere long be made to appear1 for he has express’d himself to the post master at Milton & others, in terms unfavorable of certain recent acts of the admn,2 & is fomenting discontents, by all the means in his power. It was ascertaind at what time this letter, woud make its appearance, in the prints here, & Wilson Nicholas was to take his stand in Richmond to give it every possible eclat, if on sounding the public mind there, he found it ripe for the meditated change; if not, to denounce it as a federal fabrication, & thus for a time the matter woud rest Mr Nicholas was at his post.3 In the interim, you & Mr Madison, woud receive assurances of his most friendly & affectionate regard &c. It woud, shoud you hear of his declarations at Milton, be ask’d of you as it was on a former occasion; “Do you not know him better, than to suppose that he woud confide in such drivellers”? I believe that the destinies of the nation, are not in the hands of these people, & that they are only formidable when they act in the dark. I therefore rejoice that the curtain is drawn up, on them, & that they will be exhibited to public view in their true colors, & exact dimensions. This being done I have little doubt of the weight of the admn crushing them.

The cause assign’d by Mr Jefferson for this dereliction, is, the recommendation of the late embargo law by the president. He said that restrictive measures had been tried in their fullest extent & found nugatory & unavailing. Agt the repeal thereof, he also protests, & declaims agt the imbecility & fickleness of the president. But this is only grimace. He knows that he does not now4 direct the helm of our national affairs, is discontented, & thirsts for power. He sees in the admn, a disposition to compromise our differences with G. Britain, & that goads him to the soul. He has Sempronius like, been too open for the war, to take that ground, besides, it woud arrange him with the federalists. By & bye, however, he will descant upon the feebleness with which it has been conducted, & shoud a peace be form’d, he will rail agt it as one dishonorable to the nation. The letter which he wrote to Dr Logan denouncing the tyrant of the European Continent was ad captandum vulgus: & his present apostacy is with the same view. I have given you these crude & desultory reflections, because, I am thoroughly convinc’d of their truth: & if not fully known to you already, I conceive it, to be my duty from the many & important favors you have done me, independent of other ties, to communicate them to you. Hereafter on such topics I will be silent. That my opinions of this old gentleman, on whose acct I have been twice on the eve of a duel, & have not hesitated to express have been radically changd I frankly admit it5 whenever questiond on that subject, nor at my time of life, do I think, you ought to interdict any future development that I may think proper to make, since this change has been operated by circumstances with which You are not concern’d. But rest assur’d, that I will never wantonly, by any act of mine, give you pain or inquietude, far less cause to you deep affliction. I am most sincerely yr friend & brother.

Jo: Jo. Monroe

RC (ViU: George Carr Papers).

Peter Carr was a connexion of Samuel Smith, United States senator from Maryland, through his marriage to Smith’s sister. Smith and his fellow senatorial Tertium Quids thwarted President James Madison in his attempt to make Albert Gallatin his secretary of state in 1809 and then forced Gallatin to give up his treasury post in 1813 when he joined the peace commission in Russia.

For the supposed letter from TJ to a gentleman near philadelphia, see note to Thomas Leiper to TJ, 17 Apr. 1814. The post master at milton was Charles Vest. The fictional character sempronius spoke in favor of war with Julius Caesar in act 2 of Joseph Addison, Cato: A Tragedy (London, 1713) 18. For the wide publicity given to a short extract denouncing Napoleon taken from TJ to George Logan, 3 Oct. 1813, see Thomas Leiper to TJ, 9 Dec. 1813. ad captandum vulgus: “designed to please the crowd” (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 ).

Apparently Joseph Jones Monroe later threatened to issue a pamphlet attacking TJ, but the publication never came to fruition (James Monroe to Charles Everett, 1 June [ViU: Monroe Papers], 17 June 1814 [ViW: Jay Johns Collection], both printed in Tyler’s Historical Quarterly 4 [1923]: 407–8; Harry Ammon, James Monroe: The Quest For National Identity [1971], 352).

1Preceding eight words interlined.

2Preceding twelve words interlined.

3Preceding six words interlined.

4Preceding two words interlined.

5Preceding eight words interlined.

Index Entries

  • Addison, Joseph; Cato: A Tragedy search
  • Albemarle County, Va.; elections in search
  • Carr, Peter (TJ’s nephew); alleged opposition to J. Madison search
  • Carr, Peter (TJ’s nephew); dispute with J. J. Monroe search
  • Cato: A Tragedy (J. Addison) search
  • Embargo Act (1813); TJ’s alleged opinion on search
  • Everette, Charles; and Albemarle Co. elections search
  • Gallatin, Albert; controversy over nomination of search
  • Granger, Gideon; removed from office search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; spurious letter allegedly from search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Napoleon search
  • Logan, George; TJ’s correspondence with published search
  • Madison, James; TJ’s alleged opposition to search
  • Milton, Va.; postmaster at search
  • Monroe, James; letter to, from J. J. Monroe search
  • Monroe, Joseph Jones; accuses TJ of opposing J. Madison search
  • Monroe, Joseph Jones; dispute with P. Carr search
  • Monroe, Joseph Jones; letter from to James Monroe search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • Nelson, Hugh; and J. J. Monroe search
  • newspapers; Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette search
  • Nicholas, Wilson Cary (1761–1820); alleged opposition to Madison administration search
  • Philadelphia; Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette search
  • Relf’s Philadelphia Gazette (newspaper) search
  • Sempronius (fictional character); TJ compared to search
  • Smith, Samuel (of Maryland); as U.S. senator search
  • Vest, Charles; as postmaster at Milton search