Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 23 July 1816

To George Logan

Monticello July 23. 16.

Dear Sir

I have recieved and read with great pleasure the account you have been so kind as to send me, of the interview between the emperor Alexander and mr Clarkson, which I now return, as it is in MS. it shews great condescension of character on the part of the emperor, and power of mind also to be able to abdicate the artificial distance between himself and other good and able men, and to converse as on equal ground. this conversation too, taken with his late Christian league seems to bespeak in him something like a sectarian piety. his character is undoubtedly good, and the world, I think, may expect good effects from it. I have no doubt that his firmness in favor of France, after the deposition of Bonaparte, has saved that country from evils still more severe than she is suffering, & perhaps even from partition. I sincerely wish that the history of the secret proceedings at Vienna may become known, and may reconcile to our good opinion of him his participation in the demolition of antient and independant states, transferring them & their inhabitants, as farms & stocks of cattle at a market to other owners, and even taking a part of the spoil to himself. it is possible to suppose a case excusing this, & my partiality for his character encorages me to expect it; & to impute to others, known to have no moral scruples, the crimes of that Conclave, who, under pretence of punishing the atrocities of Bonaparte, reacted them themselves, & proved that with equal power they were equally flagitious.—but let us turn with abhorrence from these sceptered Scelerats, and, disregarding our own petty differences of opinion about men and measures, let us cling in mass to our country & to one another, & bid defiance as we can if united, to the plundering combinations of the old world. present me affectionately and respectfully to mrs Logan, and accept the assurance of my friendship and best wishes.

Th: Jefferson

RC (PHi: Logan Papers); signature, clipped, supplied from PoC; addressed: “Doctr George Logan Stenton near Philadelphia”; franked; postmarked Charlottesville, 24 July; endorsed by Logan. PoC (DLC). Enclosure: “Thomas Clarksons account of his conference with the Emperor of Russia at Paris on the 23d Sepr 1815,” in which the British abolitionist reported that during his private interview with Alexander I of Russia, the emperor declared, speaking in English, that he “had always been an enemy to the slave trade,” that he considered it “an outrage against human nature: and this alone had made him a determined enemy to the traffic,” and that “when he had seen the print of a slave ship he felt he should be unworthy the high station he held, if he had not done his utmost in all the late political conferences on the subject, to wipe away such a pestilence from the face of the earth” (pp. 3–4); that Clarkson then expressed his disappointment “in finding that the allied Sovereigns at the congress at Vienna had not proclaimed the slave trade—piracy,” to which the emperor replied that the “one great object” of the Congress was “the future safety, peace, and tranquility of Europe,” that he expected future progress in abolishing the slave trade, and that he “would not desert the cause of the injured Africans” (pp. 5–7); that Alexander also spoke of his “high regard” for the Society of Friends, whose members, in his opinion, “approached nearer the primitive Christians than any other people,” not only in their dress and manners but also in their religious doctrines, and declared that “I embrace them more than any other people, I consider myself as one of them” (p. 8); and that the emperor asserted, after Clarkson’s brief summary of the merits of the British educational system and the efforts of some British Quakers to introduce this system to other nations, that he “should be glad to promote the system in Russia” (p. 11) (Tr in PPL, on deposit PHi: Logan Family Papers; entirely in Logan’s hand; with his subjoined, signed note dated Stenton, 11 July 1815 [1816]: “The character, and sublime vews of the present Emperor of Russia, merit the serious attention of the Kings of Europe, and of the statesmen of the United States”).

The christian league, better known as the Holy Alliance, was created when Alexander joined the sovereigns of Austria and Prussia in signing at Paris a treaty of alliance on 26 Sept. 1815 pledging “to take for their sole guide the precepts of that Holy Religion, namely, the precepts of Justice, Christian Charity, and Peace, which … must have an immediate influence on the councils of Princes, and guide all their steps, as being the only means of consolidating human institutions and remedying their imperfections” (Edward Hertslet, The Map of Europe by Treaty [1875], 1:317–9). Scelerates (scelerats) are “atrociously wicked” people (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 ).

Index Entries

  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and abolition of slave trade search
  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; and Holy Alliance search
  • Alexander I, emperor of Russia; TJ on search
  • Clarkson, Thomas; efforts to abolish the slave trade search
  • Holy Alliance; and Alexander I search
  • Holy Alliance; formation of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Alexander I search
  • Logan, Deborah Norris (George Logan’s wife); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Logan, George; letters to search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; mentioned search
  • slave trade; works on search