Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson’s Recommendation of John Taylor’s Construction Construed, [ca. 27 June 1821]

Recommendation of John Taylor’s Construction Construed

[ca. 27 June 1821]

Extract of a letter from Th Jefferson1 to ———2

I have read3 Colo Taylor’s book of ‘Constructions construed’4 with great satisfaction, and, I will say, with edification; for I acknolege it has corrected some errors of opinion into which I had slidden, without sufficient examination. it is the most logical retraction of our governments to the original and true principles of the constitution creating them which has appeared since the adoption of that instrument.5 I may not perhaps concur in all it’s opinions, great & small; for no two men ever thought alike on so many points. but on all it’s important questions, it contains the true political faith, to which every catholic republican should stedfastly hold. it should be put into the hands of all our functionaries, authoritatively, as a standing instruction, & true exposition of our constitution, as understood at the time we agreed to it. it is a fatal heresy to suppose that either our state-governments are superior to the federal, or the federal to the states. the people, to whom all authority belongs, have divided the powers of government into two distinct departments, the leading characters of which are foreign and domestic, & they have appointed for each a distinct set of functionaries. these they have made co-ordinate, checking & balancing each other, like the three cardinal departments, in the individual states: each equally supreme as to the powers delegated to itself, and neither authorised ultimately to decide what belongs to itself, or to it’s Coparcenor in government. as independant in fact as different nations. a spirit of forbearance and compromise therefore, & not of encroachment & usurpation, is the healing balm of such a constitution: and each party should prudently shrink from all approach to the line of demarcation, instead of rashly overleaping it, or throwing grapples ahead to haul to hereafter. but finally the peculiar happiness of our blessed system is that in differences of opinion between these different sets of servants, the appeal is to neither, but to their employers peaceably assembled by their representatives in Convention. this is more rational than the jus fortioris, or the Cannon’s mouth, the ultima et sola ratio regum.—

MS (PPAmP: Sol Feinstone Collection, David Library of the American Revolution); on a sheet folded to form four pages, with covering letter to Spencer Roane on p. 1, this document on p. 3, and Roane’s endorsement of covering letter on p. 4; mutilated at folds, with missing text supplied from PoC; some text loss due to polygraph misalignment, with one word ending rewritten by TJ; undated. PoC (DLC); on verso of PoC of covering letter. Tr (ViU: TJP); extracts in Nicholas P. Trist’s hand; dated 27 June 1821. Enclosed in TJ to Thomas Mann Randolph, 27 June [1821], and TJ to Roane, 27 June 1821. Printed in Richmond Enquirer, 17 July 1821, Washington Daily National Intelligencer, 20 July 1821, and elsewhere.

jus fortioris: “the law of the stronger.” ultima et sola ratio regum (“final and only argument of kings”) is a variation on “Ratio ultima Regum” (“the final argument of kings”), a phrase that Louis XIV placed on French royal cannons (Louis Pierre Anquetil, Louis XIV, Sa Cour, et Le Régent [Paris, 1789], 2:132).

1Name, clipped in RC, supplied from PoC.

2Text to this point in Tr reads: “<To Judge Roane> To             .”

3Instead of preceding three words, Tr reads “Speaking of.”

4Tr ends here.

5Tr resumes here.

Index Entries

  • books; on U.S. Constitution search
  • books; TJ recommends on U.S. Constitution search
  • Constitution, U.S.; books on search
  • Constitution, U.S.; TJ on search
  • Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated (J. Taylor [of Caroline]) search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books &amp; Library; recommends books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; J. Taylor’sConstruction Construed search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; state versus federal authority search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. Constitution search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Recommendation of John Taylor’sConstruction Construed search
  • Louis XIV, king of France; reign of search
  • National Intelligencer (Washington newspaper); prints TJ’s correspondence search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints TJ’s correspondence search
  • Taylor, John (of Caroline); Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated search
  • United States; state versus federal authority search