Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Lewis Williams, 18 February [1821]

To Lewis Williams

Monticello Feb. 18. 20 [1821]

I thank you, Sir, for the able pamphlet inclosed in your favor of the 10th and still more for the kind expressions of that letter. the principle espoused of keeping our expences within our income, in public as well as in private affairs, is of a correctness which cannot be questioned. but of details I am not a judge: having withdrawn myself from all such cares in perfect confidence that Congress and the Administration will take good care of us. I read no newspaper now but a single one, and that chiefly for the advertisements. the war has, no doubt, left us with debts & numerou[s] agents, of which it is difficult to debarras ourselves suddenly, and without a struggle between our feelings and necessities. with respect to debts, whether to be met by loans or taxes, there are two laws of finance which I think should be rigorously adhered to. 1. never to borrow without laying a tax sufficient to pay principal and interest within a fixed period, and I would fix that period at 10. years, & that tax should be solemnly pledged to the lenders. 2. never to borrow or tax without appropriating the money to it’s specific1 object. these rules have been invariably observed by the English parliament and are considered by them as fundamental. but, disposed to do right, as I am sure Congress is, their differences of opinion will, by collision strike out what is right; and if they do not, the people, when they percieve it, will overhaul your proceedings, & bring you to rights. this is our ultimate safety; and with a good [d]egree2 of confidence that it will not fail us, I tender you the assurance of my great respect & esteem

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC: TJ Papers, 217:38713); misdated; edge trimmed; at foot of text: “honble Lewis Williams.” Mistakenly recorded in SJL as a letter of 17 Feb. 1821.

debarras: “To disembarrass; to disencumber from anything that embarrasses” (OED description begins James A. H. Murray, J. A. Simpson, E. S. C. Weiner, and others, eds., The Oxford English Dictionary, 2d ed., 1989, 20 vols. description ends ).

1Manuscript: “it’specific.”

2Word faint.

Index Entries

  • Army, U.S.; reduction of search
  • Congress, U.S.; and national debt search
  • Congress, U.S.; TJ on search
  • Great Britain; parliament of search
  • Great Britain; taxes in search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; and newspaper subscriptions search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; receives works search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; government finance search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; taxes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. Congress search
  • newspapers; TJ on search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); TJ subscribes to search
  • taxes; TJ on search
  • Williams, Lewis; as U.S. representative from N.C. search
  • Williams, Lewis; letter to search