Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Noah Worcester, 26 November 1817

To Noah Worcester

Nov. 26. 17.


You have not been mistaken in supposing my views and feelings to be in favor of the abolition of war. of my disposition to maintain peace until it’s condition shall be made less tolerable than that of war itself, the world has had proofs, and more perhaps than it has approved. I hope it is practicable, by improving the mind & morals of society, to lessen the disposition to war; but of it’s abolition I despair. still, on the axiom that a less degree of evil is preferable to a greater, no means should be neglected, which may add weight to the better scale. the enrollment you propose therefore, of my name, in the records of your society, cannot be unacceptable to me. it will be a true testimony of my principles and persuasion that the state of peace is that which most improves the manners and morals, the prosperity & happiness of mankind: and altho’ I dare not promise myself that it can be perpetually maintained, yet if, by the inculcations of reason or religion, the perversities of our nature can be so far corrected as sometimes to prevent the necessity either supposed or real, of an appeal to the blinder scourges of war, murder & devastation, the benevolent endeavors of the friends of peace will not be entirely without remuneration. I pray you to accept the assurance of my respect & consideration.

Th: Jefferson

RC (MWiW-C). RC (ICN: Thomas Jefferson Letters); address cover only; addressed: “Mr Noah Worcester Brighton Mass.”; franked; postmarked Lynchburg, 30 Nov.; endorsed by Worcester; with a “Statement of facts” by Worcester on verso: “From the time of the Correspondence with the hon. Mr Jefferson which was published in 1816, he has been regularly furnished with the several No’s of the Friend of Peace. Soon after the letters were received from Russia a copy of them was Sent to him with the Constitution of the Peace Society, and accompanied by an unofficial letter, which informed of the election of Prince Galitzin as an honorary member. The letter expressed The fullest confidence that Mr Jefferson’s views And feelings were in favor of the abolition of war, And a strong desire that the whole weight of his character should be thrown into the pacific scale before he should leave the world;—also a desire to Know, whether on Any Account it would be unpleasant to have his name enrolled with that of Prince Galitzin’s in the records of our Society. In answer, the following frank And friendly letter has been received.” PoC (MHi); with seven words rewritten in whole or in part by TJ to correct a polygraph misalignment; endorsed by TJ. Printed in Boston Columbian Centinel, 21 Feb. 1818, followed by a notation that “The letter from Mr. Jefferson was communicated to the Trustees of the Massachusetts Peace Society, on the day of their last Annual Meeting, and he was admitted as an honorary member. Lest some should imagine that Mr. Jefferson was not duly apprized of the character and the object of the Peace Society, when he gave his name to ‘add weight to the better scale,’ it may be proper to state—that, from the time of the correspondence which was published in 1816, the several Numbers of the Friend of Peace have been regularly sent to him; and that a copy of the Constitution of the Society was inclosed in the letter to which he replied in giving his consent to become a member.” Also printed in The Friend of Peace, No. XI (Boston, [1819?]), 28–9, and elsewhere.

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; war search
  • Massachusetts Peace Society; TJ as honorary member of search
  • peace advocacy; and Massachusetts Peace Society search
  • Worcester, Noah; as peace advocate search
  • Worcester, Noah; letters to search