Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Lakanal, 30 July 1816

To Joseph Lakanal

Monticello July 30. 16.


Your favor of June 1. with the letters it covered was recieved a few days ago only; and had your worth been less known, the testimony of my friend La Fayette would have been a sufficient passport to my esteem and services. the affliction of such a change of scene as that of Paris for the banks of Ohio, I can well concieve. but the wise man is at home every where, and the mind of the Philosopher never wants occupation. I weep indeed for your country; because, altho’ it has sinned much, (for we impute of necessity to a whole nation the wrongs of which it permits an individual to make it the instrument) yet it’s sufferings are beyond it’s sins; and their excesses are now become crimes in those committing them. we revolt against them the more too, when we see a nation equally guilty wielding the scourge, instead of writhing under it’s inflictions, at the same stake. but this cannot last. there is a day of judgment for that nation, and of resurrection for yours. my greatest fear is of premature efforts. it is an affliction the less for you, that you now see them from a safe shore: for to remain amidst sufferings which we cannot succour is useless pain.     I am happy that in your retirement the subject to which you propose to avert your mind is an interesting one to us. we have not as yet a good history of our country, since it’s regenerated government. Marshall’s is a mere party diatribe, and Botta’s only as good as could have been expected from such a distance. I fear your distance from the depositories of authentic materials will give you trouble. it may perhaps oblige you at times to travel in quest of them. should your researches bring you into this section of the country, and any thing here be worth your notice, we shall be glad to recieve you as a guest at Monticello, and to communicate freely any thing possessed here. with every wish for your happiness in the new situation in which you are placed, I salute you with perfect esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson

RC (RHi, 1978); addressed: “Monsr Lakanal of the Institute of France and Legion of honor near Vevay, Indiana”; frank clipped; postmarked Milton, 1 Aug. PoC (DLC).

the wise man is at home every where is from Seneca, De Consolatione ad Helviam, 9.7 (Seneca, Moral Essays, trans. John W. Basore, Loeb Classical Library [1932; repr. 1970], 2:446–7).

your country: France. The nation equally guilty was Great Britain.

Index Entries

  • American Revolution; books on search
  • books; biographical search
  • books; on American Revolution search
  • Botta, Carlo Giuseppe Guglielmo; Storia della Guerra dell’ Independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America search
  • De Consolatione ad Helviam (Seneca) search
  • France; TJ on search
  • immigration; from France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Seneca search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; C. G. G. Botta’sStoria della Guerra dell’ Independenza search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; France search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Great Britain search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Marshall’sLife of George Washington search
  • Kentucky; French émigrés settle in search
  • Lafayette, Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, marquis de; introduces J. Lakanal search
  • Lakanal, Joseph; introduced by Lafayette search
  • Lakanal, Joseph; letter to search
  • Lakanal, Joseph; moves to Ky. search
  • Lakanal, Joseph; proposed book of search
  • Life of George Washington (J. Marshall); TJ on search
  • Marshall, John; Life of George Washington search
  • Seneca, Lucius Annaeus, the younger; De Consolatione ad Helviam search
  • Storia della Guerra dell’ Independenza degli Stati Uniti d’America (C. G. G. Botta) search