Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Joseph Milligan, [ca. 25 October 1818]

To Joseph Milligan

[ca. 25 Oct. 1818]


I now return you, according to promise, the translation of M. Destutt Tracy’s treatise on Political economy, which I have carefully revised and corrected. the numerous corrections of sense in the translation have necessarily destroyed uniformity of style, so that all I may say on that subject is that the sense of the author is every where now faithfully expressed. it would be difficult to do justice, in any translation, to the style of the original, in which no word is unnecessary, no word can be changed for the better, and severity of logic results in that brevity, to which we wish all science reduced. the merit of this work will, I hope, place it in the hands of every reader in our country. by diffusing sound principles of Political economy, it will protect the public industry from the parasite institutions now consuming it, and lead us to that just and regular distribution of the public burthens from which we have sometimes strayed. it goes forth therefore with my hearty prayers that while the Review of Montesquieu, by the same author, is made with us the1 elementary book of instruction in the principles of civil2 government, so the present work may be in3 the particular branch of Political economy.

Th: Jefferson

RC (Anonymous, Keswick, Va., 2008); undated; words at beginning of several sentences capitalized by Milligan, with TJ’s lowercasing retained above; at foot of text: “Mr Millegan.” PoC (MHi); on verso of PoC of covering letter and address cover of James Oldham to TJ, 15 June 1818; edge trimmed. Printed in Destutt de Tracy, Treatise on Political Economy description begins Destutt de Tracy, A Treatise on Political Economy; to which is prefixed a supplement to a preceding work on the understanding, or Elements of Ideology, Georgetown, 1817 [1818]; Poor, Jefferson’s Library, 11 (no. 700) description ends , dated Monticello, 25 Oct. 1818, and again with that date in American Beacon and Norfolk & Portsmouth Daily Advertiser, 16 Dec. 1818, and Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 31 Dec. 1818. Undated extract consisting of last three sentences printed in Richmond Enquirer, 21 Dec. 1818. Enclosed in TJ to Milligan, 25 Oct. 1818.

1Manuscript: “the the.”

2Word interlined.

3Manuscript: “in in.”

Index Entries

  • A Treatise on Political Economy (Destutt de Tracy) search
  • Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws (Destutt de Tracy); TJ on search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; A Treatise on Political Economy search
  • Destutt de Tracy, Antoine Louis Claude; Commentary and Review of Montesquieu’s Spirit of Laws search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; translates Destutt de Tracy’s works search
  • Milligan, Joseph; and Destutt de Tracy’sTreatise on Political Economy search
  • Milligan, Joseph; letters to search
  • political economy; works on search