Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Henry Dearborn, 17 May 1818

To Henry Dearborn

Monticello May 17. 18.

Dear Sir

I duly recieved,1 on my late return to this place your acceptable favor2 of Apr. 22.   in looking back on past life the greatest pleasure I feel, is in recollections of the friends who have been my fellow-laborers, & my greatest happiness in the harmony and affection in which I lived & parted with them. of the manner in which your command in the army was made to cease, no one felt stronger disapprobation than myself. but it did not injure you. it was seen to proceed from the dominion of passion over a mind of much strength generally, but of more weakness in that particular. the sense of your services is deeply engraven on the public mind, & before that tribunal, you were not the suffering party.   of the latter circumstance, mentioned in your letter, I never before heard; nor can I account for it. it may have been inattention in a croud of business; I am sure it was not a want of friendship; for I have heard from the then President expressions of the deepest regret & indignation at the manner of the3 former transaction.

That federal fortress which we had to storm, & to enter first the breach effected is now compleatly mastered, and all, within & without, is quiet. what is next? what are to be our future parties? for parties must be wherever men are free, and wherever their minds & faces are unlike. I confess I am puzzled with this question. there seems to be a strange jumble at present. Duane is making common cause with the federalists. Randolph is federal by nature & by his passions. Clay is on the start somewhere. I do not know where the Clintons are; of such medley complexion are the parties of that state. I suspect the new division will be between those who wish to strengthen the legislative branch, and the partisans of Executive power: or, in other words, they will step into the shoes of the original whigs & tories of England. the last will derive vast aid from the 150. lawyers in Congress. such a multitude, whose trade is talking, renders Congress incapable of getting on with the business of the nation, and forces it to transfer it’s functions to the Executive. this singular circumstance, unforeseen by the framers of the constitution, threatens to make that, in experience, an impracticable government, which the soundest theory had pronounced the wisest work of man.4 the never-ending debates of Congress make me almost willing to try Bonaparte’s dumb legislature. however it will last my time as it is, and perhaps yours, altho’ you have a long course to run before you reach my term. and I sincerely wish it may be as long as you please, & as happy as you please. we all retain an affectionate remembrance of mrs Dearborne, and great pleasure at having been favored with the opportunity of making her acquaintance. on this subject mrs Randolph dwells with undiminished pleasure, and, in imagination, places herself often in Boston, while her 11. children (for she has now reached that number) chain her physically at home. but wherever we are, there is but one prayer among us, that mrs Dearborne and yourself may have the full measure of the poet’s wish for

Th: Jefferson

RC (CtY); fragment, lacking dateline, salutation, much of first page, and signature, with missing text supplied from PoC. PoC (DLC); on reused address cover to TJ; torn and damaged at seal; at foot of first page: “Genl Dearborne”; endorsed by TJ.

John Armstrong possessed a mind of much strength generally. The then president was James Madison. Members of Napoleon’s dumb legislature lacked the right to speak but could vote by throwing a black or white ball into an urn (William Barré, History of the French Consulate, under Napoleon Buonaparte [London, 1804], 366). Different versions of a 1723 poem by Alexander Pope, “To Mrs. M. B. on her Birth-day,” give variations of the phrase long life, long health, long pleasures and a friend (Pope, Minor Poems, ed. Norman Ault and John Butt [1954], 244–7).

1RC trimmed following first two letters of word.

2RC resumes here.

3RC ends here.

4RC resumes here.

Index Entries

  • Armstrong, John; as secretary of war search
  • Clay, Henry; as U.S. representative from Ky. search
  • Clinton, DeWitt; and party politics search
  • Constitution, U.S.; TJ on search
  • Dearborn, Henry; letters to search
  • Dearborn, Henry; on national politics search
  • Dearborn, Henry; removed from military command search
  • Dearborn, Sarah Bowdoin (James Bowdoin’s widow; Henry Dearborn’s third wife); greetings sent to search
  • Duane, William; as editor of PhiladelphiaAurora search
  • Federalist party; TJ on search
  • Great Britain; TJ compares with U.S. search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; legal profession search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; political divisions search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. Congress search
  • law; legal profession search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); presidency of search
  • Napoleon I, emperor of France; TJ on search
  • politics; factionalism search
  • politics; state of in U.S. search
  • Pope, Alexander; TJ quotes search
  • Randolph, John (of Roanoke); political beliefs of search
  • Randolph, John (of Roanoke); TJ on search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); children of search