Thomas Jefferson Papers

From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas Leiper, 21 January 1809

Washington Jan. 21. 09.

Dear Sir

Your letter of the 15th. was duly recieved, and before that Tower’s book, which you had been so kind as to send me, had come to hand, for which I pray you to recieve my thanks. you judge rightly that here, I have no time to read. a cursory view of the book shews me that the author is a man of much learning in his line. I have heard of some other late writer (the name I forget) who has undertaken to prove contrary events from the same sources; and particularly that England is not to be put down; and that this is the favorite author in that country. as to myself, my religious reading has long been confined to the moral branch of religion, which is the same in all religions; while in that branch which consists of dogmas, all differ, all have a different set. the former instructs us how to live well and worthily in society; the latter are made to interest our minds in the support of the teachers who inculcate them. hence for one sermon on a moral subject, you hear ten on the dogmas of the sect. however, religion is not the subject for you & me. neither of us knows the religious opinions of the other. that is a matter between our maker & ourselves. we understand one another better in politics, to which therefore I will proceed. the H. of Representatives passed last night a bill for a meeting of Congress on the 22d. of May. this substantially decides the course they mean to pursue. that is, to let the embargo continue till then, when it will cease, and letters of marque & reprisal be issued against such nations as shall not then have repealed their obnoxious edicts. the great majority seem to have made up their minds on this, while there is considerable diversity of opinion on the details of preparation, to wit naval force, volunteers, army, non–intercourse Etc. I write freely to you, because I know that in stating facts, you will not quote names. you know that every syllable uttered in my name becomes a text for the federalists to torment the public mind on by their paraphrases & perversions. I have lately inculcated the encouragement of manufactures to the extent of our own consumption at least, in all articles of which we raise the raw material. on this the federal papers & meetings have sounded the alarm of Chinese policy, destruction of commerce Etc. that is to say, the iron which we make must not be wrought here into ploughs, axes, hoes Etc in order that the ship owner may have the profit of carrying it to Europe & bringing it back in a manufactured form. as if, after manufacturing our own raw materials for our own use, there would not be a surplus produce sufficient to employ a due proportion of navigation in carrying it to market & exchanging it for those articles of which we have not the raw material. yet this absurd hue & cry has contributed much to federalize New England. their doctrine goes to the sacrificing agriculture & manufactures to commerce; to the calling all our people from the interior country to the seashore to turn merchants, and to convert this great agricultural country into a city of Amsterdam. but I trust the good sense of our country will see that it’s greatest prosperity depends on a due balance between agriculture, manufactures & commerce, and not in this protuberant navigation which has kept us in hot water from the commencement of our government, and is now engaging us in war. that this may be avoided, if it can be done without a surrender of rights is my sincere prayer—Accept the assurances of my constant esteem & respect.

Th: Jefferson


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