Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George Logan, 12 November 1816

To George Logan

Poplar Forest near Lynchburg. Nov. 12. 16.

Dear Sir

I recieved your favor of Oct. 16. at this place, where I pass much of my time, very distant from Monticello. I am quite astonished at the idea which seems to have got abroad; that I propose publishing something on the subject of religion. and this is said to have arisen from a letter of mine to my friend Charles Thompson, in which certainly there is no trace of such an idea. when we see religion split into so many thousands of sects, and I may say Christianity itself divided into it’s thousands also, who are disputing, anathematising, and where the laws permit, burning and torturing one another for abstraction[s] which no one of them understand, and which are indeed1 beyond the comprehension of the human mind, into which of the chambers of this Bedlam would a man wish to thrust himself. the sum of all relig[ion], as expressed by it’s best preacher, ‘fear god and love thy neighbor,’ conta[in]s no mystery, needs no explanation. but this won’t2 do. it gives no scope to make dupes; priests could not live by it. your ideas of the moral obligations of governments are perfectly correct. the man who is dishonest as a statesman would be a dishonest man in any station. it is strangely absurd to suppose that a million of human beings collected together are not under the same moral laws which bind each of them separately. it is a great consolation to me that our government, as it cherishes most it’s duties to it’s own citizens, so is it the most exact in it’s moral conduct towards other nations. I do not believe that in the four administrations which have taken place, there has been a single instance of departure from good faith towards other nations. we may sometimes have mistaken our rights, or made an erroneous estimate of the actions of others, but no voluntary wrong can be imputed to us. in this respect England exhibits the most remarkable phaenomenon in the universe in the contrast between the profligacy of it’s government and the probity of it’s citizens. and accordingly it is now exhibiting an example of the truth of the maxim that virtue & interest are inseparable. it ends, as might have been expected, in the ruin of it’s people. but this ruin will fall heaviest, as it ought to fall, on that hereditary aristocracy which has for generations been preparing the catastrophe. I hope we shall take warning from the example and crush in it’s birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and to bid defiance to the laws of their country.   present me respectfully to mrs Logan an[d accep]t yourself my friendly & respectful salutation[s.]

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on a reused address cover from John F. Oliveira Fernandes to TJ; edge trimmed and mutilated at seal, with two words rewritten by TJ; at foot of first page: “Doctr Logan.”

Jesus, here described as religion’s best preacher, says in the Bible that people should fear god (Luke 12.5) and love thy neighbor (Matthew 5.43).

1Word interlined.

2Manuscript: “w’ont.”

Index Entries

  • banks; TJ on search
  • Bible; Luke referenced by TJ search
  • Bible; Matthew referenced by TJ search
  • Christianity; G. Logan on search
  • Christianity; TJ on search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; aristocracy search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; banks search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; British government search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Christianity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Great Britain search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Jesus search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; morality in government search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; religion search
  • Jesus; TJ on search
  • Logan, Deborah Norris (George Logan’s wife); TJ sends greetings to search
  • Logan, George; and Christian statesmen search
  • Logan, George; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • Logan, George; letters to search
  • Logan, George; on Christianity search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • religion; TJ on search
  • Thomson, Charles; and TJ’s religious beliefs search
  • United States; TJ on government of search