Thomas Jefferson Papers

Isaac H. Tiffany to Thomas Jefferson, 18 March 1819

From Isaac H. Tiffany

Schoharie Bridge, N.Y. 18. March 1819.

Venerable Sir—

The accompanying is a political chart of the U.S. in 6 Tables or sheets, which is offered to your acceptance. The objects are mentioned in the printed postscript; & I will thank you for suggestions of any improvements or corrections in the plan or matter. Few copies are struck off, in its present imperfect state more than sufficient for correspondence for the purpose of improvement—The history of the Various constitutional experiments, in the different states, are briefly presented. The omissions of this, I hope to Supply in the next edition in 1821, including the notice of certain fundamental & extraordinary Statutes.

Access to the national library, where the laws of all the States are collected; intercourse with the members, during a session of congress; and travelling through the States, attending their courts & sessions of legislature to Observe the practice & effects of the laws & of political economy, would be the best mode of information, but I lack the means of doing so—

In the “Appendix” I should be happy to be enabled to annex precise & uniform signification to political terms; But none can perform the important task with so much accuracy, authority & satisfaction to the public, as those who have devoted the intellects & energies of life to the conception & accomplishment of the objects of the American revolution.—May I then presume to ask you for definitions, suited to the genius of Americans, & their political systems, of the terms—

1st Liberty.
2d Republic { Vide Federalist No 10. 39. 64. &
Mr Hamilton’s letter to Mr Pickering. 3d Niles’ Reg.
p. 148. T. Paine &ca.
3d Constitution { Notes on Virginia. Fedt No 39. 40. “Rights
of Man.” &c—
4— Government.
5— Politics.

The definitions of the 1st & 2d are more particularly interesting; at present—Whether these definitions arise from our existing Systems, or from first principles, they would not differ much.

The written standards of freedom for other countries are inaplicable here. With the amplest liberties of an European, an American would feel restricted & humiliated; with the freedom of a savage, he would feel insecure & unhappy. What, then, is that liberty which would suit him? With us, rights must be investigated. Can they be claimed, appreciated or secured, unless known; Can they be known unless defined?

If my zeal & ignorance have required too much, pray Sir, excuse it for the motive’s sake—

With the highest consideration Sir Yours—

I. H. Tiffany.

RC (DLC); dateline at foot of text; addressed (trimmed): “Thomas Jeffers[o]n, Esqr—Monticello—Virginia”; franked; inconsistently postmarked Schoharie Bridge, 18 Feb.; endorsed by TJ as received 30 Mar. 1819 and so recorded in SJL.

The political chart of the u.s., not found, was evidently sent separately under an address cover that TJ later reused for PoCs of his letters to José Corrêa da Serra of 30 June 1819 (left half) and to Arthur S. Brockenbrough of 29 June 1819 (right half). The cover is addressed: “Thomas Jefferson, Esqr Monticello, Virginia”; franked; and postmarked Schoharie Bridge, 18 Mar.

Although Alexander Hamilton admitted in his letter of 16 Sept. 1803 to Timothy Pickering that he had proposed to the 1787 Constitutional Convention that the president, United States Senate, and judges serve “during good behaviour,” his “final opinion” was that the president should hold office for “no greater duration than for three years” (Harold C. Syrett and others, eds., The Papers of Alexander Hamilton [1961–87], 26:147–9; Baltimore Weekly Register 3, no. 10 [7 Nov. 1812]: 148–9).

Tiffany sent similar letters to John Adams, 18 Mar. 1819, and John Quincy Adams, 20 Mar. 1819 (MHi: Adams Papers; DNA: RG 59, MLR).

Index Entries

  • Adams, John; and political terminology search
  • Adams, John Quincy; and political terminology search
  • books; on politics search
  • Congress, U.S.; members of search
  • Constitution, U.S.; 1787Constitutional Convention search
  • Constitution, U.S.; and term limits search
  • Hamilton, Alexander (1757–1804); constitutional ideas of search
  • Hamilton, Alexander (1757–1804); The Federalist search
  • Jay, John; The Federalist search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books and Library; works sent to search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on the State of Virginia search
  • Library of Congress; collection of state laws in search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); The Federalist search
  • newspapers; BaltimoreNiles’ Weekly Register search
  • Niles, Hezekiah; andNiles’ Weekly Register search
  • Niles’ Weekly Register (Baltimore newspaper) search
  • Notes on the State of Virginia (Thomas Jefferson); mentioned search
  • Paine, Thomas; Rights of Man search
  • Paine, Thomas; writings of search
  • Pickering, Timothy; as Federalist search
  • political economy; laws of search
  • politics; terminology used in search
  • Rights of Man (T. Paine) search
  • Senate, U.S.; and term limits search
  • The Federalist (A. Hamilton, J. Madison, and J. Jay) search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; and definitions of political terms search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; and political chart of U.S. search
  • Tiffany, Isaac Hall; letters from search
  • United States; political chart of search