Thomas Jefferson Papers

Nathaniel Macon to Thomas Jefferson, 20 October 1821

From Nathaniel Macon

Buck Spring 20 Octr 1821


I did not receive your letter of the 19–ultimo, untill yesterday, it had no doubt been at Warrenton some time; but I live twelve miles from it & seldom go there

The letter with the copy of one enclosed, will not be seen by any person during my life, without your direction, though I incline to the opinion, that much good might be done, by a few well tried friends reading them; If I should live longer than you, am I to understand that after your death, you now have no objection to their publication then, this is my impression, and without being advised to the contrary, will be done; They will be immediately put under cover & sealed, directed to a friend, remain, in my possession, to be delivered after my death, and not to be opened during your life

Will you pardon, my stating to you, that I have long thought, many of the letters written to you, were written by persons who either knew or had heard of your candor & frankness, and calculated that the answer might possibly be made useful to them or their friends in their private affairs, & often mentioned to some of our Virginia friends, that I wished, they would communicate the opinion to you, in the most easy and friendly manner; Nothing prevented my doing it, but the great aversion, I knew you had to being plagued with letters, beside I thought it rather too froward to write to you, about your private concerns, and it seemed not unlike, the frog trying to equal the ox

No one thinks higher, of the two books, written by Col Taylor than I do, I however almost fear, it is too late for them to do the great majority of the people any good; too many persons have lived so long & so well on the public debt & Bank stock & by bank & other swindling, that it will be almost impossible for the honesty & the industry of the nation to get clear of them; The news papers are generally on the paper & idle side, and they are generally as much depreciated as the bank bills

I mentioned to you in a letter some years past, that the principles which turned the federalists out of1 power, were not fashionable at Washington, nor is there much probability of their being shortly; for two years past, the U-S, have borrowed money in time of peace, to keep their vessels cruising on every sea, & to pay an army; but G-Britain does the same; and if we continue to follow her example, debt, taxes & grinding the poor are the certain consequences

After it was known; that President Madison, one of our best & most worthy men would sign the act, to establish the present bank of the US-; all who were tired of the principles, which put them into power; immediately laid them aside, and went farther into constructive and implied powers, than had been done at any time before; new converts always go beyond those who held the opinions before them; believe me I have not mentioned Mr Madison, with an intent to injure him; and if I was desirous to do so, I could not calculate to succeed with you, no man respects him more than I do; but the errors of a great & good man often do much mischief

I am almost ashamed of the length of this letter, & yet it requires some exertion to stop, whenever one of the few, who maintain the old & safe principles, writes to me; I fear that I am apt to make the answer too long & perhaps tedious; that the evening of your life may be as happy as the morning has been useful to your country is the sincere wish of your friend

Nathl Macon

RC (DLC); endorsed by TJ as received 20 Nov. 1821 and so recorded in SJL; with Dft of TJ to Macon, 23 Nov. 1821, beneath endorsement. RC: top half of address cover only (DLC), with FC of TJ to Thomas Magruder, 26 Feb. 1823, on verso; bottom half of address cover only (MHi), with FC of TJ to William Radford, 27 Feb. 1823, on verso; addressed: “Mr Thomas Jefferson Monticello near Milton Virginia”; stamped; postmarked Monroe, N.C., 29 Oct. 1821.

TJ’s letter to Macon was dated 19 Aug. 1821, not 19–ultimo. In a fable attributed to Aesop, a frog trying to equal the ox in size inflates itself until it bursts.

1Manuscript: “off.”

Index Entries

  • Aesop; referenced by N. Macon search
  • An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States (J. Taylor [of Caroline]) search
  • Army, U.S.; funding for search
  • Bank of the United States, Second; Republican support for search
  • Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated (J. Taylor [of Caroline]) search
  • debt, public; N. Macon on search
  • Federalist party; principles of search
  • Great Britain; financial system of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; requests to circulate TJ’s letters search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and politics search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and public debt search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and TJ’s correspondence search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; letters from search
  • Madison, James (1751–1836); and Second Bank of U.S. search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; and partisanship search
  • newspapers; and public debt search
  • Republican party; and Second Bank of U.S. search
  • Taylor, John (of Caroline); An Inquiry into the Principles and Policy of the Government of the United States search
  • Taylor, John (of Caroline); Construction Construed, and Constitutions Vindicated search
  • United States; national debt search