Thomas Jefferson Papers

Thomas Jefferson to James Monroe, 19 March 1822

To James Monroe

Monticello Mar 19. 22.

Dear Sir

Your favor of Mar. 14. has been duly recieved. in that you ask if my letter to mr Morse may be communicated to the gentlemen of the administration and other friends. in the first place the former are entitled to it’s communication from mr Morse as named members of his society. but independantly of that, a letter addressed to a society of 6. or 8000 people is de facto made public. I had supposed it possible indeed that the society or some of it’s members might perhaps publish it as the only practicable means of communicating it to so extensive an association. this would be best, because mr Morse might otherwise consider it as done by myself, and that it was a gauntlet1 thrown down to challenge him into the Arena of the public papers; and should he take it up, I should certainly [pro]ve a recreant knight, and never meet him in that field. but do in this whatever you please. I abandon the letter to any good it may answer.

With respect to Spanish2 America I think you have taken the exact point of time for recognising it’s independance, neither sooner nor later. I give whatever credit they merit to those who are glorifying themselves on their premature advice to have done it 3. or 4. years ago. we have preserved the approbation of nations, and yet taken the station we were entitled to of being the first to recieve & welcome them as brothers into the family of nations. affectionate & respectful salutations

Th: Jefferson

PoC (DLC); on verso of reused address cover of Andrew Stevenson to TJ, 11 Nov. 1819; torn at seal, with one word partially rewritten by TJ; at foot of text: “The President of the US.”; endorsed by TJ: “Monroe Presidt Mar. 19. 22.” Tr (Lb in MHi: Adams Papers); at head of text: “Copy of a Letter from T Jefferson to James Monroe P.U.S.”

TJ’s letter to mr morse of 6 Mar. 1822 apparently went unpublished until it appeared in the Richmond Enquirer on 5 Feb. 1828, prefaced by a notice to the editors explaining that the letter, “now for the first time given to the world,” was “intended for a Society, now no more,” but noting that the contents applied “with great, if not greater, force to the Colonization Society.” This was followed four days later in the same newspaper by a letter to the editors from “A VIRGINIAN” stating that he had supplied the copy of TJ’s letter to Morse and explaining that “A copy of this letter was sent by Mr. Jefferson to a friend in Washington,” that “Mr. Jefferson’s friend was urged to apply to him for permission to use it, as circumstances might require,” and that TJ had given such permission. “What the effect of Mr. Jefferson’s letter to Dr. Morse was,” the writer continued, “cannot be positively affirmed. But one fact is certain. The scheme of a grand Society, for the civilization and improvement of the Indians, fell immediately, to rise no more.”

1Manuscript: “guantlet.”

2Word interlined in place of “S.”

Index Entries

  • American Colonization Society search
  • American Society for promoting the civilization and general improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States; criticism of search
  • American Society for promoting the civilization and general improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States; dissolution of search
  • Jefferson, Thomas; Correspondence; publication of papers search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); and Latin American affairs search
  • Monroe, James (1758–1831); letters to search
  • Morse, Jedidiah; and American Society for promoting the civilization and general improvement of the Indian Tribes within the United States search
  • Richmond Enquirer (newspaper); prints TJ’s correspondence search
  • South America; TJ on independence movement in search
  • Spain; colonies of search
  • United Provinces of South America; independence of search