Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to George Ticknor, 28 September 1821

To George Ticknor

Monticello Sep. 28. 21.

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 1st instant came to hand on the 13th and came with cordial welcome, as does every thing from you. it’s subject made it the more so, as one which I had long had in mind. and which, when the tariff was last before Congress, I had made an effort to effect thro’ the delegates of our state, and by letters to the Secretary of the Treasury. I coupled with it an endeavor to lessen the evil of ardent spirits, which are desolating our country, by encouraging by an abatement of duty, the importation of cheap wines from Europe. I knew that sound and well-bodied wines could be bought there for 2. cents the quart, by the cask, on which (instead of 11. or 12. cen[ts] the bottle then imposed) an ad valorem of 15. per cent would raise the[m] to less than 3. cents here, and thus afford, even to our laboring citize[ns] a pleasanter and cheaper beverage than the grog which brutalizes the[m,] and the taste once established by habit, would soon lead to the making th[is] ourselves. the latter proposition succeeded so far as to obtain a redu[c]tion of duty to 6. cents: but this enlarges but little the circle of those wh[o] may indulge themselves in this salutary change in their habits, and inde[ed] nothing but the ad valorem is just, or can be effectual.   the former[,] the abolition, or lowering the duty on books, failed entirely; and the Tariff proposed lately contained the Vandal attempt to raise it to 30. p.c. I repeat these rates from memory, and believe they are not materially mis-remembered. I am glad therefore to see a proposition to r[e]move this barbarism under auspices more promising, and shall cooperate cordially by whatever I can do. my colleagues, the Visitors of the Uni[ver]sity of Virginia, living some of them at the opposite extremities of the state cannot be well consulted until they meet in November. but I have no doubt they will concur, and that they will join in another measure which I refer to your consideration; that of addressing a letter, in our corporate capacity, to our delegates and senators in Congress. I have no doubt it will be respected, and engage their vote and efforts: and if this should be generally done, it will ensure a strong vote, and in addition to the sound thinkers of those bodies, may procure a majority in each house. I think much might be hoped from this, as auxiliary to the petitions.

Of the Southern and Western institutions, I can undertake to interest in this operation the College of Chapel hill in N. Carolina, that of Columbia in S. Carolina, perhaps that of Athens in Georgia (where however I have less means) and that of Transylvania in Kentucky, which are the principal institutions of those states. and, understanding from your letter that the measure is decided on with you, I have written to particular [c]haracters1 in those states, who I trust will be able to engage their insti[t]utions2 in the concurrence you desire. I inclose a copy of my let[ter]3 to them that you may understand the course in which we propose to move, and suggest any changes necessary to harmonise it with yours.   I suppose it will be thought prudent to keep these proceedings out of the public papers, lest an application in apparent combined array might excite jealousy & have ill effect. I salute you ever with affectionate friendship & respect.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on reused address cover to TJ; text along right margin lost due to polygraph misalignment, with four words rewritten by TJ; at foot of first page: “Mr Ticknor”; endorsed by TJ. Enclosure: TJ to Hutchins G. Burton, Thomas Cooper, and Samuel Brown, 28 Sept. 1821.

For TJ’s 1818 effort to modify the tariffs on books and wine, see note to his 16 Sept. 1821 letter to James Madison. The tariff proposed lately was an 1820 attempt in the United States House of Representatives to raise tariffs, which would have set the duty on imported books at 35 percent. The House of Representatives approved the bill on 4 May 1820, but the following day the Senate postponed it until the next legislative session (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 Library of Congress Digital Collections website and give the date of the debate as well as page numbers.) description ends , 16th Cong., 1st sess., 1913; JHR description begins Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States description ends , 13:485, 487, 488).

1Damaged at seal.

2Damaged at seal.

3Damaged at seal.

Index Entries

  • alcohol; spirits search
  • books; tariffs on search
  • Congress, U.S.; and tariffs search
  • Congress, U.S.; petitions to search
  • Crawford, William Harris; as secretary of the treasury search
  • Georgia, University of; and tariffs on books search
  • House of Representatives, U.S.; and taxes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; taxes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; wine search
  • North Carolina, University of; and tariffs on books search
  • schools and colleges; Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.) search
  • schools and colleges; University of Georgia search
  • schools and colleges; University of North Carolina search
  • Senate, U.S.; and tariffs search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and tariffs on books search
  • taxes; on books search
  • taxes; on wine search
  • Ticknor, George; and tariffs on books search
  • Ticknor, George; letters to search
  • Transylvania University (Lexington, Ky.); and tariffs on books search
  • Virginia, University of; Board of Visitors; petition of, to U.S. Congress search
  • Virginia, University of; Books and Library; and tariffs on books search
  • wine; tariff on search