Thomas Jefferson Papers

George Hay to Thomas Jefferson, 8 March 1815

From George Hay

Richmond. March 8. 1815


I ought to ask your pardon and I do ask it, for not having returned long ago, the book which you were so good as to lend me. M. Rayneval has been of Service to me, on more occasions than one: he has more liberality than Some of his predecessors: but the Science of public law appears to me to be far, very far from that point, to which Some very obvious principles are capable of conducting it.

Scotts bill was dismissed in June last, and the Execution for the Costs was delivered in October to Mr Wirt. I did believe until the receipt of your late letter that I had duly informed you of the decision.

I have Some rough notes on the Subject of party Spirit. My object is to trace it step by step to its real origin in the human heart. Humes essay on parties in general is unworthy of the subject and of himself. I think that I may venture, tho’ I know not exactly when, to publish my reflections on this very interesting topic, about which however I have no books to consult. If you recollect any, from which you conceive any aid can be derived, I should deem1 myself honored & obliged, by your taking the trouble to point them out.

I am with great respect yr mo. ob. Se.

Geo: Hay.

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 10 Mar. 1815 and so recorded in SJL.

For the work by Joseph Matthias Gérard de rayneval probably enclosed herein, see note to TJ to Hay, 26 Feb. 1815.

David Hume’s essay on parties in general first appeared in his Essays, Moral and Political (Edinburgh, 1741), 105–18. In it he argues that the founders of sects and factions ought “to be detested and hated; because the Influence of Factions is directly contrary to that of Laws. Factions subvert Government; render Laws impotent, and beget the fiercest Animosities among Men of the same Nation”; contends that parties “rise more easily, and propagate themselves faster in free Governments”; posits that they may be divided into two categories, the personal and those based “on some real Difference of Sentiment or Interest”; states that within the latter, those concerned with “abstract speculative Principles” are particularly dangerous to the body politic; gives as an example the often bloody disputes over theology; and accuses religious parties of being “more furious and enrag’d than the most cruel Factions, that ever arose from Interest or Ambition.”

1Manuscript: “deemed.”

Index Entries

  • books; on natural law search
  • books; on politics search
  • Gérard de Rayneval, Joseph Mathias; Institutions du Droit de la Nature et des Gens search
  • Hay, George; and books borrowed from TJ search
  • Hay, George; and Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison search
  • Hay, George; letters from search
  • Hay, George; on party spirit search
  • Hume, David; criticized search
  • Hume, David; political opinions of search
  • Institutions du Droit de la Nature et des Gens (J. M. Gérard de Rayneval) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; loans books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Business & Financial Affairs; dispute with S. Scott search
  • law; books on search
  • natural law; books on search
  • politics; D. Hume’s essay on political parties search
  • Scott, Samuel; TJ’s land dispute with search
  • Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison; case dismissed search
  • Scott v. Jefferson and Harrison; court costs in search
  • Wirt, William; and TJ’s land dispute with S. Scott search