Thomas Jefferson Papers

Benjamin Austin to Thomas Jefferson, 11 December 1815

From Benjamin Austin

Boston Decr 11 1815


Since the return of General Dearborne from his visit to monticello, I am highly gratify’d in hearing that you enjoy your health & that you are so happily situated in your domestic retirement.—During the convulsions of Europe, & the events which have taken place in our own Country, a person of your accurate observation must have experienced the most anxious solicitude for the result of those important controverceis.—As to France we are all disapointed in a termination of a revolution, which promised a releif from the tyranny of establishments,1 which are advocated (even in America) as legitimate.—But the “ways of heaven are dark & intricate,” & we are oblig’d to submit to the decrees of providence, however contrary to what we may think, are productive of the general happiness of Mankind.—As France has fallen by an Alliance of Tyrants, America must expect to rise by a Union of freemen acting in their Constitutional capacity—Their destiny is a lesson of admonition to Us.—

It must afford you the highest consolation to find, that the honor & Glory of our Country, have been promoted, by the very means which our enemies had predicted would be ruinous & destructive—nothing but the interposition of providence could have produced so much good, from what was consider’d by many, as productive of so much Evil.—The united states were compel’d into a controvercy in defence of their maritime2 rights, which if they had faild in vindicating, would probably have check’d, if not eventually have terminated their future prosperity as a nation.—at the beginning of the conflict, the prospect was gloomy & perilous: repeated disasters almost appal’d us3 in the prosecution, while the4 internal Enemy were dayly becoming formidable, by every insidious management which faction could generate—amidst these complicated difficulteis, we have succeeded in our Appeal to Heaven, & every American must feel a pride, that the energeis of an administration beset with such a Phalanx of opposition, have triumph’d, not only over the forign Enemy, but baffled the efforts of a more dangerous combination of domestic Foes.5—As the present state of our Country demands some extraordinary efforts in Congress to bring forward the Agricultural & manufacturing Interests of the united States, I am induced to mention the plea often used by the freinds of England, that the Work Shops of Europe are recommended by you, as the most proper to furnish Articles of manufactures to America.—By which they infer, that it is Your opinion, the manufactures of this Country are not proper objects for Congressional pursuits.—They frequently enlarge on this Idea, as corresponding with your sentiments, & endeavor to weaken our efforts in this particular, by quoting you as the advocate of foreign manufactures,6 to the exclusion of our own.—not that these persons are influenced by any generous or freindly motive towards you, but they think it will answer their purposes, if such sentiments can be promulgated with any appearance of respect to your opinion—I am sensible that they mean to misrepresent your real intentions, being convinced, that the latitude which these persons take with your abstract remarks on manufactures is far beyond what you orginally contemplated.7—A Nation whose feilds are abundantly covern’d with merino Sheep Flax & Cotton, it is hoped, will not long depend on Looms at 3000 miles distance, to furnish them with Cloathing, provided their ingenuity & enterprize are adequate to produce such necessary Articles from their internal resources, & industry.—

you will pardon my remarks, & excuse my writing you on this subject—but it would be an essential service at this Crizis, when the question of manufactures will come so powerfully before Congress by petitions from various important establishments, if you would condescend to explain more minutely your Idea of the Work Shops of Europe, in the supply of such articles as can be manufactur’d among ourselves.—As it could not be your intention to discourage all domestic manufactures, & render useless our raw materials,8 an explanation from you on this subject would greatly contribute to the advancement of those manufactures, which have now risen to a respectable state of maturity & improvement.9—If the general Idea shd prevail, that you prefer foreign Work Shops to domestic, the high Character you sustain among the freinds of our Country, may lead them to a discouragment of that enterprize, which is vewed by many as an essential object of our Independance—I should not have taken the freedom to suggest my Ideas, but being convinc’d of your patriotism & devotedness to the good of your Country, have urged me to make these observations.—your candor will pardon if they are incorrect.—

I should be happy in receiving a reply, for in the present state of political controvercy & intrigue, the real republicans must rely on our “long tried patriots” (among which you stand foremost) to guide & direct in the future pursuits of Goverment—Though retir’d from public life, yet your private Council is essential, & we must solicit your aid,10 to substantiate11 in Peace, what we obtaind in War.—The patriot is always call’d on Duty, while the exigencies of his Country need his advice, & his exertions are requird to carry it into operation.—We are limited but to a few years to discharge our trust as Citizens, & we must become the more active as the period shortens.12—The old patriots if not employd in navigating the Ship, yet they are vew’d as Beacons by which the helmsmen must steer to the Haven of Safety—

Your freinds in this quarter would be highly gratify’d if it sd be in your power to visit them in these “ends of the Earth”—Massachusetts once stood high, & was powerfull, but out of the Strong came forth weakness13 I remain Sir

with the highest sentiments of Respect, Your undeviating freind

Benjn Austin

PS—As I have been honord by your acceptance of a Volume of Old South, permit me to present you with the enclos’d pamphelt for your candid perusal a few corrections of the print are necessary—14

RC (DLC); at foot of text: “Honble Thomas Jefferson Monticello”; endorsed by TJ as received 21 Dec. 1815 and so recorded in SJL. Printed in Boston Independent Chronicle, 19 Feb. 1816, as a letter of 9 Dec. 1815, with only the most significant variations noted below; widely reprinted from this source in other newspapers and at least one broadside, National Utility, in opposition to Political Controversy: Addressed to the Friends of American Manufactures (Boston, [1816]). Enclosure: “Honestus” [Austin], Observations on the Pernicious Practice of the Law (Boston, 1814; Poor, Jefferson’s Library description begins Nathaniel P. Poor, Catalogue. President Jefferson’s Library, 1829 description ends , 10 [no. 593]).

Benjamin Austin (1752–1820), public official and author, was a native of Boston, where he became a merchant. He served as a Massachusetts state senator in 1787, 1789–94, and 1796. TJ appointed him commissioner of loans for Massachusetts in 1804, and he served until 1817. An ardent Republican, Austin was an advocate of a simplified legal system and had a strong following among Boston’s artisans. He wrote under a variety of pseudonyms and corresponded occasionally with TJ on political topics (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ; DAB description begins Allen Johnson and Dumas Malone, eds., Dictionary of American Biography, 1928–36, 20 vols. description ends ; TJ to Austin, 28 June 1803 [DLC]; JEP description begins Journal of the Executive Proceedings of the Senate of the United States description ends , 1:475–6, 477 [30 Nov., 11 Dec. 1804]; Boston New-England Palladium, 11 Dec. 1804; ASP, Finance, 3:249; Independent Chronicle and Boston Patriot, 6 May 1820).

The character Portius declares that the ways of heaven are dark & intricate in act 1 of Joseph Addison, Cato. A Tragedy (London, 1713), 2. TJ argued in his Notes on the State of Virginia that work shops and manufacturing were better suited to Europe than the United States (Notes, ed. Peden description begins Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, ed. William Peden, 1955 description ends , 164–5). As governor of Massachusetts, Caleb strong supported the 1814 Hartford Convention (ANB description begins John A. Garraty and Mark C. Carnes, eds., American National Biography, 1999, 24 vols. description ends ). In the Bible, sweetness came forth out of the strong, not weakness (Judges 14.14). old south was Austin’s Constitutional Republicanism, in opposition to Fallacious Federalism; as published occasionally in the Independent Chronicle, under the Signature of Old-South (Boston, 1803; Sowerby, description begins E. Millicent Sowerby, comp., Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson, 1952–59, 5 vols. description ends no. 3534).

1Remainder of sentence in Independent Chronicle reads “which have been inconsiderately advocated in the federal papers as ‘legitimate.’”

2Manuscript: “maritine.”

3Independent Chronicle: “the timid.”

4Remainder of sentence in Independent Chronicle reads “disaffected were daily attempting to counteract our national efforts, by systematic combinations, and illegitimate conventions.”

5Independent Chronicle here adds “I would not wish to be censorious, but the fact is too evident to be denied. Not that we consider every nominal federalist was thus inimical, but the artful proceedings of certain leaders urged many honest men to adopt those resolutions which have produced numberless serious evils. We can easily distinguish between the enticers and the enticed.”

6Word interlined in place of “importations.”

7Manuscript: “contenplated.” Remainder of paragraph in Independent Chronicle reads “The purity of your mind conld [could] not lead you to anticipate the perfidy of foreign nations, which has since taken place—If you had, it is impossible that you would have discouraged the manufactures of a nation, whose fields have since been abundantly covered with merino sheep, flax and cotton, or depended on looms at 3000 miles distance, to furnish the citizens with clothing, when their internal resources were adequate to produce such necessaries by their domestic industry.”

8Sentence to this point not in Independent Chronicle.

9Independent Chronicle here adds “Domestic manufacture is the object contemplated; instead of establishments under the sole controul of capitalists, our children may be educated under the inspection of their parents, while the habits of industry may be duly inculcated.”

10Independent Chronicle here adds “to help the administration.”

11Independent Chronicle here adds “by wise measures.”

12Independent Chronicle here adds “The real patriot never sacrificed principles to policy—Washington, Adams, Hancock, Madison, and yourself rose superior to such a degradation.”

13Paragraph to this point not in Independent Chronicle.

14Preceding eight words interlined. Postscript not in Independent Chronicle.

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; mentioned search
  • Addison, Joseph; Cato: A Tragedy search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); and manufacturing search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); Constitutional Republicanism search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); correspondence with TJ published search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); identified search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); letters from search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); Observations on the Pernicious Practice of the Law search
  • Austin, Benjamin (of Boston); on War of1812 search
  • Bible; Judges referenced search
  • Cato: A Tragedy (J. Addison) search
  • Constitutional Republicanism (B. Austin) search
  • Dearborn, Henry; visits Monticello search
  • France; Bourbon dynasty restored search
  • Hancock, John; praised search
  • Hartford, Conn.; Federalist convention at search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); mentioned search
  • manufacturing; encouragement of in U.S. search
  • Massachusetts; and Hartford Convention search
  • Monticello (TJ’s estate); Visitors to; Dearborn, Henry and Sarah Bowdoin search
  • National Utility, in opposition to Political Controversy: Addressed to the Friends of American Manufactures search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); and manufacturing search
  • Observations on the Pernicious Practice of the Law (B. Austin) search
  • Strong, Caleb; as governor of Mass. search
  • War of1812; B. Austin on search
  • Washington, George; praised search