Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to John Wayles Eppes, 23 October 1821

To John Wayles Eppes

Poplar Forest Oct. 23[. 21.]

Dear Sir

I receive here your favor of the 15th and am gl[ad] you approve of the course proposed for Francis to confine his pur[s]uits to the important sciences exclusively. he may in the present year make such progress in them as to be able to pursue them to ad[v]antage [th]ereafter by himself. and if he can, for 2. or 3. years avoid the common error of premature marriage, he has s[t]ill time to make himself eminent in the course of life he may chuse.1 I have no[t] your fear that he needs the stimulus of a diploma to excite him to industry. I have at all times, as well while with Stack, as on his visits to Monticello, found him very assiduou[s]2 [in] his studies, and sensible he has no time to lose. I regrette[d]3 equally with y[ou]rself that we missed the pleasure of seeing yo[u]4 as you past this place in going to & returning from the springs. Martha was with me and would have participated si[nc]erely in the gratification: for I join you in sentiment that the decays5 of the body do not reach the affections of the mind. on [the con]trary the oldest of these are the sweetest. ours towards [y]o[u] began with your birth and have been strengthened through life by endearing incidents. political condolances however had little share in the motives of regret for the loss of your visit. I am weaned from Politics, and know so little of what passes in that field, as to be incapable of judging whether matt[ers] there are going on soundly or sorely. I hear indeed from others of things I did [not expect:] of the adoption by republicans of the federal [doctrine]6 that the powers [of Con]gress go to every thing which [is for the general welfare]7 of the states and that all the special li[mitations] meant nothing, of bank and bankrupt laws, of a navy roaming over the ocean to pick quar[re]ls and engender wars, of ordinary expences exceeding the ordinary revenue, and of the prospect of a perpetuation of the public debt. errors however which proceed from Congresses or President[s] do not alarm me much. because subject to election at short periods, when they get far enough wrong to arrouse the people, the floors of the Capitol and Government house will be swept as in 1800. and repeopled with other tenants, of correcter principles. it is the Judiciary I fear. independant as they feel themselves of the nation and all it’s authorities they already openly avow the daring and impudent principle of consolidation & arrogate to themselves the authority of ultimately construing the constitution for all the other departments and for the nation itself. it is that body which is to sap8 the independance of the states, to generalize first and then to monarchise the federal authority. the Cohens decision, that insult to human reason, goes fully to Consolidation.9 let them be appointed for the Senatorial term of 6 years reappointable by the President with the approbation of both houses. their official doctrines will then be reviewed every six years their conduct undergo the ordeal of debate[,] and if they pass examination they will have heard strictures and criticisms warning them to keep straight. but who are w[e] to have next? if these things have grown up under the administration of Presidents whose every fibre was honor & republicanism, what are we to expect from the selfish morals and pliant politics of the East? for the exclusion of all South of the Patomak and Ohio was sealed by the Missouri confederacy of which this was the real object. it was a project of federalism, which finding it’s resurrection, with the same body, desperate, devised this decoy to draw off the weak and the wicked from the republican ranks. they have succeeded. the East is replaced in the saddle of government, and the middle states are to be the cattle yoked to their car. these important states, who hold the balance of the Union, from being the head of an honest majority make themselves the tail of a government of Egoism, of which place and plunder will be the ruling principle. my hope and confidence however is that the good sense of their people will soon percieve that they have been duped to become the catspaws of cunninger associates, and that they will retrace their steps back to their honester brethren of the South and West.

I am too old to begin any serious work. it had always been my intention to commit to writing some notes and explanations of particular and leading transactions which history should know. but, in parting with my library to Congress, I parted with my whole collection of newspapers, journals, state-papers, documents Etc. without the aid of which I have been afraid to trust my memory. if you can lend me the collection mentioned in your letter for a winter or two, I will immediately proceed to do what I think most material. if you can spare them, I will send a cart for them and return them in the same way, but with an injunction that the knolege of this shall remain with you and myself only, not willing to be understood as writing any thing.

I tender sincere prayers for your health & happiness.

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); faint; at foot of first page: “John W. Eppes esq”; endorsed by TJ as a letter of 22 Oct., but recorded in SJL as written 23 Oct. 1821.

TJ had in fact recently prepared some notes and explanations of particular and leading transactions, printed above at 29 July 1821 as Notes on Early Career.

1Omitted period at right margin editorially supplied.

2Edge trimmed.

3Edge trimmed.

4Edge trimmed.

5Edge trimmed, with word ending rewritten by TJ.

6Word, faint, supplied from partial transcription of missing RC in Stan. V. Henkels auction catalogue no. 1049, Extraordinary Collection of Autograph Letters, Historical Documents, and Literary Manuscripts (26 Feb. 1912), lot 149, pp. 18–9.

7Phrase, faint, supplied from Henkels catalogue.

8Word interlined in place of “destroy.”

9Sentence interlined.

Index Entries

  • bankruptcy; legislation on search
  • Charlottesville Academy; and F. W. Eppes search
  • Cohens v. Virginia search
  • Congress, U.S.; and bankruptcy law search
  • Constitution, U.S.; interpretation of search
  • debt, public; TJ on search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at Monticello search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, at South Carolina College search
  • Eppes, Francis Wayles (TJ’s grandson); education of, in Charlottesville search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); letters to search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); library of search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with son search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); relationship with TJ search
  • Eppes, John Wayles (TJ’s son-in-law); urges TJ to write history search
  • Federalist party; principles of search
  • Federalist party; TJ on search
  • history; TJ asked to write search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Books & Library; borrows books search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Family & Friends; relations with J. W. Eppes search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; elections search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Federalist party search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; federal judiciary search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; Missouri question search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; northern political influence search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; U.S. Navy search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Writings; Notes on Early Career (the so-called “Autobiography”) search
  • judiciary, U.S.; TJ on search
  • Library of Congress; TJ sells personal library to search
  • Missouri question; TJ on search
  • Navy Department, U.S.; TJ on search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); and J. W. Eppes search
  • Randolph, Martha Jefferson (Patsy; TJ’s daughter; Thomas Mann Randolph’s wife); visits Poplar Forest search
  • Republican party; principles of search
  • South Carolina College (later University of South Carolina); and F. W. Eppes search
  • Stack, Gerard E.; and Charlottesville Academy search
  • Supreme Court, U.S.; andCohens v. Virginia search
  • United States; national debt search