Thomas Jefferson Papers

Lewis Williams to Thomas Jefferson, 10 February 1821

From Lewis Williams

Washington February 10th 1821


When quite a youth I was taught to venerate and admire the principles upon which you so wisely and happily administered the government of this country—Since I attained to maturer age, and particularly since called on to participate in the affairs of legislation I have been more and more confirmed in the opinions entertained in my earlier years—

Our expenditures, it seems to me, are greater than the genius or policy of the government can justify, and lead inevitably to a system of internal taxation—when this state of things shall have been produced, (in time of profound peace) one of the brightest traits in the character of our government will be greatly obscured—with these views I have resisted as much as I could the tendency of the measures which have been adopted for some years past, and have advocated a return to the republican principles of the good old school—But it appears to be unfashionable to advert with any kind of respect to the principles of that period to which I have alluded—Debts, taxes, armies and navies to a great extent, are not now as they once were, objects formidable to men professing to be republicans—

In advocating a reduction of the army I attempted to derive authority from the course pursued under your administration—You will therefore Sir I hope pardon the liberty I take of enclosing to you the remarks I made on that occasion—

with great respect and veneration I am Sir yr obt & very Hbl Servt

Lewis Williams

RC (MoSHi: TJC-BC); at foot of text: “Thomas Jefferson Esqr.”; endorsed by TJ as received 15 Feb. 1821 and so recorded in SJL.

Lewis Williams (1786–1842), public official, was born in Surry County, North Carolina, and graduated from the University of North Carolina in 1808. He served as a tutor there, 1810–12, and as a university trustee, 1813–42. Williams represented Surry County for two terms in the North Carolina General Assembly, 1813–14, and sat in the United States House of Representatives from 1815 until his death in Washington. He supported William H. Crawford’s 1824 presidential candidacy and was in the opposition during the administrations of Andrew Jackson and Martin Van Buren. Williams chaired the claims committee for several sessions, and thanks to his lengthy congressional service he was nicknamed the “Father of the House” (William S. Powell, ed., Dictionary of North Carolina Biography [1979–96], 6:211; Sketches of the History of the University of North Carolina, together with a Catalogue of Officers and Students, 1789–1889 [1889], 70, 80, 232; Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 24 Feb. 1842).

Williams’s enclosure, not found, may have been a copy of his 8–9 Jan. 1821 speech in Congress favoring a reduction of the army. On 23 Jan. the House of Representatives passed a bill to that effect, which became law on 2 Mar. 1821 as “An Act to reduce and fix the military peace establishment of the United States” (Annals description begins Annals of the Congress of the United States: The Debates and Proceedings in the Congress of the United States … Compiled from Authentic Materials, Washington, D.C., Gales & Seaton, 1834–56, 42 vols. (All editions are undependable and pagination varies from one printing to another. Citations given below are to the edition mounted on the American Memory website of the Library of Congress and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers.) description ends , 16th Cong., 2d sess., 767–94, 936–7; U.S. Statutes at Large description begins Richard Peters, ed., The Public Statutes at Large of the United States … 1789 to March 3, 1845, 1845–67, 8 vols. description ends , 3:615–6).

Index Entries

  • Army, U.S.; reduction of search
  • Congress, U.S.; and standing army search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; works sent to search
  • politics; state of in U.S. search
  • Republican party; principles of search
  • Williams, Lewis; as U.S. representative from N.C. search
  • Williams, Lewis; identified search
  • Williams, Lewis; letter from search