Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to Nathaniel Macon, 23 November 1821

To Nathaniel Macon

Monticello Nov. 23. 21.

Dear Sir

Absence at an occasional, but distant residence prevented my recieving your friendly letter of Oct. 20. till three days ago. a line from my good old friends is like balm to my soul. you ask me what you are to do with my letter of Sep. 19. I wrote it, my dear Sir, with no other view than to pour my thoughts1 into your bosom. I knew they would be safe there, and I believed they would be welcome. but if you think, as you say, that ‘good may be done by shewing it to a few well tried friends’ I have no objection to that. but ultimately you cannot do better than to throw it into the fire.

My confidence, as you kindly observed, has been often abused by the publication of my letters for the purposes of interest or vanity; and it has been to me the source of much2 pain to be exhibited before the public in forms not meant for them. I recieve letters expressed in the most friendly and even affectionate terms, sometimes perhaps asking my opinion on some subject. I cannot refuse to answer such letters, nor can I do it dryly and suspiciously. among a score or two of such correspondents, one perhaps betrays me. I feel it mortifyingly; but conclude I had better incur one treachery, than offend3 a score or two of good people. I sometimes expressly desire that my letter may not be published; but this is so like requesting a man not to steal or cheat, that I am ashamed of it after I have done it.4

Our government is now taking so steady a course, as to shew by what road it will pass to destruction,5 to wit, by consolidation first, and then corruption, it’s necessary consequence.6 the engine of consolidation will be the Federal Judiciary; the two other branches the corrupting and corrupted instruments.7 I fear an explosion in our state8 legislature. I wish they may restrain themselves to a strong but temperate9 Protestation. Virginia is not at present in favor with her co-states. an opposition headed by her would determine all the Anti-Missouri10 states to take the contrary side. she had better lie by therefore till the shoe shall pinch an Eastern state. let the cry be first raised from that quarter, & we may fall into it with effect. but I fear our Eastern associates wish for consolidation, in which they would be joined by the smaller states generally.11—but, with one foot in the grave,—I have no right to meddle with these things. ever & affectionately


Th: Jefferson

RC (O. O. Fisher, Detroit, 1950; photocopy in ViU: TJP); mutilated, with missing text supplied from PoC. PoC (DLC); at foot of first page: “Nathanl Macon.” Dft (DLC); on verso of final page of RC of Macon to TJ, 20 Oct. 1821. Tr (ViU: TJP); extract in Nicholas P. Trist’s hand.

1Word interlined in Dft in place of “sentiments.”

2Word interlined in Dft in place of “considerable.”

3Word interlined in Dft in place of “disoblige.”

4Tr begins here.

5Preceding six words interlined in Dft in place of “way it is to be destroyed.”

6In Dft preceding three words are reworked from “the consequence of consolidn” and interlined in place of “and that.”

7Word interlined in Dft in place of “powers.”

8Word interlined in Dft in place of “ensuing.”

9Word interlined in Dft in place of “pacific.”

10Reworked in Dft from “the Missouri.”

11Tr ends here.

Index Entries

  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; requests to circulate TJ’s letters search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; federal judiciary search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; friendship search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Opinions on; sectionalism search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and separation of powers search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; and TJ’s correspondence search
  • Macon, Nathaniel; letters to search
  • Missouri question; and opposition to Missouri Compromise search
  • New England; and federal judiciary search
  • Poplar Forest (TJ’s Bedford Co. estate); TJ visits search
  • United States; sectional divisions in search
  • Virginia; General Assembly search
  • Virginia; relations with other states search