Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Albert Gallatin, 15 February 1818

To Albert Gallatin

Monticello Feb. 15. 18.

Dear Sir

I take the liberty of putting under the protection of your cover a letter to Cardinal Dugnani at Rome, in the hope that thro’ the Nuncio resident at Paris it may find a sure conveyance to him. in return for this trouble I wish I could give you any news which would interest you. but, withdrawn entirely from all attention to public affairs I neither know nor enquire what Congress are doing. you will probably know this better than myself, from the newspapers, which I have ceased to read in a great degree. a single measure in my own state has interested me much. our legislature some time ago appropriated a fund of a million & a half of Dollars to a system of general education. after two or three projects proposed & put by, I have ventured to offer one which, altho’ not adopted, is printed and published for general consideration, to be taken up at the next session. it provides an elementary school in every neighborhood of 50. or 60 families, a college for the languages, mensuration, navigation & geography within a day’s ride of every man’s house, and a central university of the sciences for the whole state of 8, 10. or 12. professors. but it has to encounter ignorance, malice, egoism, fanaticism, religious, political & local perversities.     In one piece of general information, which I am sure will give you pleasure, I can add mine to the testimony of your other correspondents. Federalism is substantially defunct. opposition to the war, the Hartford Convention, the peace of Ghent, and the battle of Orleans, have revolted the body of the people who called themselves federalists, against their leaders, and these have sunk into insignificance, or acquiescence under the government. the most signal triumph is in Connecticut where it was least and last expected. as some tub however must always be thrown out to the whale, and a religious one is fittest to recall the priesthood within their proper limits the questions of Unity and Trinity are now set afloat in the Eastern states, and are occupying there all the vehemence of the genus irritabile vatum. this is food for the fools, amusement to the wise, and quiet to the patriot, while the light of the age will prevent danger from the flame it kindles. the contest too must issue in the triumph of Common sense over the unintelligible jargon of Gothic fanaticism. ever & affectionately yours

Th: Jefferson

RC (NHi: Gallatin Papers); addressed: “His Excellency Albert Gallatin Minister Plenipotentiary of the US. at Paris”; endorsed by Gallatin; with note in Daniel Brent’s hand on address cover: “Department of State, feby 19. 1818. forwarded by Mr Gallatin’s obed: servt Daniel Brent.” PoC (DLC); on reused address cover to TJ; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: TJ to Antonio Dugnani, 14 Feb. 1818. Enclosed in TJ to Brent, 15 Feb 1818 (see Brent to TJ, 19 Feb. 1818).

The Virginia General Assembly appropriated a substantial sum toward the creation of a system of general education under section 5 of “An Act appropriating the Public Revenue,” which passed into law on 24 Feb. 1816 (Acts of Assembly description begins Acts of the General Assembly of Virginia (cited by session; title varies over time) description ends [1815–16 sess.], 5–7; Foney G. Mullins, “A History of the Literary Fund as a Funding Source for Free Public Education in the Commonwealth of Virginia” [EdD diss., Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 2001], 24–6).

The proposal by TJ that had been published for general consideration was his Bill for Establishing a System of Public Education, [ca. 24 Oct. 1817]. For the literary allusion to a tub being thrown out to the whale, see note to John Wayles Eppes to TJ, 11 Dec. 1817. genus irritabile vatum: “the fretful tribe of bards” (Horace, Epistles, 2.2.102, in Fairclough, Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica description begins H. Rushton Fairclough, trans., Horace: Satires, Epistles and Ars Poetica, Loeb Classical Library, 1926, repr. 2005 description ends , 432–3).

Index Entries

  • An Act appropriating the Public Revenue (1816) search
  • Brent, Daniel; TJ sends letters through search
  • Christianity; TJ on search
  • Congress, U.S.; mentioned search
  • Connecticut; Federalists in search
  • Dugnani, Antonio; A. Gallatin forwards letter to search
  • education, collegiate; curriculum of search
  • education, collegiate; TJ on search
  • education; in Va. search
  • education; TJ on search
  • Federalist party; and War of1812 search
  • Federalist party; in Conn. search
  • Federalist party; TJ on search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and U.S. politics search
  • Gallatin, Albert; and Va. education search
  • Gallatin, Albert; conveys letters and parcels search
  • Gallatin, Albert; letters to search
  • geography; collegiate education in search
  • Ghent, Treaty of (1814); mentioned search
  • Hartford, Conn.; Federalist convention at search
  • Horace; TJ quotes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; reading habits of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; Horace search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Literary Quotes; J. Swift search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Christianity search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; education search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Federalist party search
  • language; collegiate education in search
  • mathematics; collegiate education in search
  • mathematics; geometry search
  • navigation; study of search
  • New Orleans, Battle of (1815); TJ on search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • schools and colleges; and TJ’s plans for a university search
  • schools and colleges; elementary search
  • Swift, Jonathan; TJ quotes search
  • Virginia; and education search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • War of1812; opposition to search