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The Jeffersonian cyclopedia;

a comprehensive collection of the views of Thomas Jefferson classified and arranged in alphabetical order under nine thousand titles relating to government, politics, law, education, political economy, finance, science, art, literature, religious freedom, morals, etc.;
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Reply to Lord North's Conciliatory Proposition  959 
Committees of Correspondence  961 
A Summary View of the Rights of British America  963 
Declaration of Independence  969 
Preamble to the Virginia Constitution  972 
Debates on the Articles of Confederation  973 
A Bill for Establishing Religious Freedom  976 
Kentucky Resolutions  977 
First Inaugural Address  980 
Second Inaugural Address  982 
Address to the General Assembly of Virginia  984 
Address to the Inhabitants of Albemarle Co., in Virginia  985 
Declaration and Protest of the Commonwealth of Virginia  986 
Estrangement and Reconciliation of Jefferson and Adams  988 

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Page 959


The Congress proceeding to take into their consideration a resolution of the House of
Commons of Great Britain, referred to them by the several Assemblies of New Jersey, Pennsylvania,
and Virginia, which resolution is in these words: “That it is the opinion, &c.,” are of

That the Colonies of America possess the exclusive privilege of giving and granting their
own money; that this involves the right of deliberating whether they will make any gift, for
what purposes it shall be made, and what shall be the amount of the gift; and that it is a high
breach of this privilege for any body of men, extraneous to their constitutions, to prescribe the
purposes for which money shall be levied on them; to take to themselves the authority of
judging of their conditions, circumstances, and situation, of determining the amount of the
contribution to be levied:

That, as they possess a right of appropriating their gifts, so are they entitled at all times
to inquire into their application, to see that they be not wasted among the venal and corrupt
for the purpose of undermining the civil rights of the givers, nor yet be diverted to the support
of standing armies, inconsistent with their freedom, and subversive of their quiet. To propose,
therefore, as this resolution does, that the moneys, given by the Colonies, shall be subject to
the disposal of Parliament alone, is to propose, that they shall relinquish this right of inquiry,
and put it in the power of others, to render their gifts ruinous, in proportion as they are

That this privilege of giving, or withholding our moneys, is an important barrier against
the undue exertion of prerogative, which, if left altogether without control, may be exercised
to our great oppression; and all history shows how efficacious its intercession for redress of
grievances, and reestablishment of rights, and how improvident would be the surrender of so
powerful a mediator.

We are of opinion:

That the proposition contained in this resolution is unreasonable and insidious; unreasonable,
because if we declare we accede to it, we declare without reservation we will purchase
the favor of Parliament, not knowing, at the same time, at what price they will please to
estimate their favor. It is insidious, because individual colonies, having bid and bidden again,
till they find the avidity of the seller unattainable by all their powers, are then to return into
opposition, divided from their sister Colonies, whom the minister will have previously detached
by a grant of easier terms, or by an artful procrastination of a definitive answer:

That the suspension of the exercise of their pretended power of taxation being expressly
made commensurate with the continuing of our gifts, these must be perpetual to make that so;
whereas no experience has shown that a gift of perpetual revenue secures a perpetual return of
duty, or of kind dispositions. On the contrary, the Parliament itself, wisely attentive to this
observation, are in the established practice of granting their own money from year to year only.

Though desirous and determined to consider, in the most dispassionate view every advance
towards reconciliation, made by the British Parliament, let our brethren of Britain reflect what
could have been the sacrifice to men of free spirits, had even fair terms been proffered by freemen
when attended as these were, with circumstances of insult and defiance. A proposition to
give our money, when accompanied with large fleets and armies, seems addressed to our fears,
rather than to our freedom. With what patience, would they have received articles of treaty,
from any power on earth, when borne on the point of the bayonet, by military plenipotentiaries?

We think the attempt unnecessary and unwarrantable to raise upon us, by force or by
threats, our proportional contributions to the common defence, when all know, and themselves
acknowledge, we have fully contributed, whenever called to contribute, in the character of freemen.

We are of opinion it is not just that the Colonies should be required to oblige themselves to
other contributions, while Great Britain possesses a monopoly of their trade. This does of itself
lay them under heavy contribution. To demand, therefore, an additional contribution in the
form of a tax, is to demand the double of their equal proportion. If we are to contribute
equally with the other parts of the empire, let us equally with them enjoy free commerce with
the whole world. But while the restrictions on our trade shut to us the resources of wealth,
is it just we should bear all other burthens, equally with those to whom every resource is

We conceive, that the British Parliament has no right to intermeddle with our provisions
for the support of civil government, or administration of justice; that the provisions we have
made are such as please ourselves. They answer the substantial purposes of government,
and of justice; and other purposes than these should not be answered. We do not mean that


Page 960
our people shall be burthened with oppressive taxes to provide sinecures for the idle or wicked,
under color of providing for a civil list. While Parliament pursue their plan of civil government
within their own jurisdiction, we hope, also, to pursue ours without molestation.

We are of opinion the proposition is altogether unsatisfactory because it imports only
a suspension, not a renunciation of the right to tax us; because, too, it does not propose to
repeal the several acts of Parliament, passed for the purposes of restraining the trade, and
altering the form of government of one of the Eastern Colonies; extending the boundaries,
and changing the government and religion of Quebec; enlarging the jurisdiction of the Courts
of Admiralty and Vice-admiralty; taking from us the rights of trial by jury of the vicinage in
cases affecting both life and prosperity; transporting us into other countries to be tried for
criminal offences; exempting, by mock trial, the murderers of Colonists from punishment; and
for quartering soldiers upon us, in times of profound peace. Nor do they renounce the power
of suspending our own legislatures, and of legislating for us themselves in all cases whatsoever.
On the contrary, to show they mean no discontinuance of injury, they pass acts, at the very
time of holding out this proposition, for restraining the commerce and fisheries of the Province
of New England; and for interdicting the trade of the other Colonies, with all foreign nations.
This proves unequivocally, they mean not to relinquish the exercise of indiscriminate legislation
over us.

Upon the whole, this proposition seems to have been held up to the whole world to deceive
it into a belief that there is no matter in dispute between us but the single circumstance
of the mode of levying taxes, which mode they are so good as to give up to us, of course that
the Colonies are unreasonable if they are not, thereby, perfectly satisfied; whereas, in truth,
our adversaries not only still claim a right of demanding ad libitum, and of taxing us themselves
to the full amount of their demands if we do not fulfil their pleasure, which leaves us
without anything we can call property, but, what is of more importance, and what they keep
in this proposal out of sight, as if no such point was in contest, they claim a right of altering
our charters, and established laws which leave us without the least security for our lives or

The proposition seems, also, calculated more particularly to lull into fatal security our
well-affected fellow subjects on that other side of the water, till time should be given for the
operation of those arms which a British minister pronounced would instantaneously reduce
the “cowardly” sons of America to unreserved submission. But, when the world reflects
how inadequate to justice are the vaunted terms, when it attends to the rapid and bold succession
of injuries, which, during a course of eleven years, have been aimed at these Colonies,
when it reviews the pacific and respectful expostulations, which, during that whole time, have
been made the sole arms we oppose to them, when it observes, that our complaints were either
not heard at all, or were answered with new and accumulated injuries; when it recollects,
that the minister himself declared on an early occasion, “that he would never treat with
America, till he had brought her to his feet”; and that an avowed partisan of ministry has,
more lately, denounced against America the dreadful sentence “Delenda est Carthago”; and
that this was done in the presence of a British senate, and being unreproved by them, must
be taken to be their own sentiments, when it considers the great armaments with which they
have invaded us and the circumstances of cruelty, with which these have commenced and prosecuted
hostilities; when these things, we say, are laid together, and attentively considered, can
the world be deceived into an opinion that we are unreasonable, or can it hesitate to believe
with us, that nothing but our own exertions, may defeat the ministerial sentence of death, or
submission? [520]
Ford ed., i, 476. (July 25, 1775.)


This is Jefferson's draft. Congress made several verbal alterations.—Editor.


Page 961


A court of inquiry held in Rhode Island in 1762, with a power to send persons to England
to be tried for offiences committed here, [521] was considered at our session [Virginia House of
Burgesses] of the spring of 1773, as demanding attention. Not thinking our old and leading
members up to the point of forwardness and zeal which the times required, Mr. [Patrick] Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Francis L. Lee, Mr. [Dabney] Carr and myself agreed to meet
in the evening, in a private room of the Raleigh [tavern], to consult on the state of things.
* * * We were all sensible that the most urgent of all measures was that of coming to an
understanding with all the other Colonies to consider the British claims as a common cause
to all, and to produce a unity of action; and, for this purpose, that a Committee of Correspondence
in each Colony would be the best instrument for intercommunication; and that their
first measure would probably be, to propose a meeting of deputies from every Colony, at some
central place, who should be charged with the direction of the measures which should be taken
by all. * * * The consulting members proposed to me to move * * * [the resolutions
agreed upon], but I urged that it should be done by Mr. [Dabney] Carr, my friend and brother-in-law,
then a new member, to whom I wished an opportunity should be given of making known
to the house his great worth and talents. It was so agreed; he moved them, they were agreed
to nem. con., and a Committee of Correspondence appointed, of whom Peyton Randolph, the
Speaker, was chairman. The Governor (then Lord Dunmore) dissolved us, but the Committee
met the next day, prepared a circular letter to the Speakers of the other Colonies, enclosing
to each a copy of the resolutions, and left it in charge with their chairman to forward them
by expresses.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 5. Ford ed., 7. (1821)

The next event which excited our sympathies for Massachusetts, was the Boston port bill,
by which that port was to be shut up on the 1st of June, 1774. This arrived while we [Virginia
House of Burgesses] were in session in the spring of that year. The lead in the House, on
these subjects, being no longer left to the old members, Mr. Henry, R. H. Lee, Francis L.
Lee, three or four other members, whom I do not recollect, and myself, agreeing that we must
boldly take an unequivocal stand in the line with Massachusetts, determined to meet and consult
on the proper measures in the council chamber, for the benefit of the library in that room.
We were under conviction of the necessity of arousing our people from the lethargy into
which they had fallen, as to passing events; and thought that the appointment of a day of
general fasting and prayer would be most likely to call up and alarm their attention. No example
of such a solemnity had existed since the days of our distresses in the war of '55, since
which a new generation had grown up. With the help, therefore, of Rushworth, whom we
rummaged over for the revolutionary precedents and forms of the Puritans of that day, preserved
by him, we cooked up a resolution, somewhat modernizing their phrases, for appointing
the 1st day of June, on which the port bill was to commence, for a day of fasting, humiliation,
and prayer, to implore Heaven to avert from us the evils of civil war, to inspire us with firmness
in support of our rights, and to turn the hearts of the King and Parliament to moderation and
justice. To give greater emphasis to our proposition, we agreed to wait the next morning on
Mr. [Robert Carter] Nicholas, whose grave and religious character was more in unison with
the tone of our resolution, and to solicit him to move it. We accordingly went to him in the
morning. He moved it the same day; the 1st of June was proposed; and it passed without
opposition. The Governor dissolved us as usual. * * * We returned home, and in our
several counties invited the clergy to meet assemblies of the people on the 1st of June, [522] to
perform the ceremonies of the day, and to address to them discourses suited to the occasion.
The people met generally, with anxiety and alarm in their countenances, and the effect of the
day, through the whole colony, was like a shock of electricity, arousing every man, and placing
him erect and solidly on his centre.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 6. Ford ed., i, 9. (1821)

The Governor dissolved us as usual. We retired to the Apollo, agreed to an association,
and instructed the Committee of Correspondence to propose to the corresponding committees of
the other Colonies, to appoint deputies to meet in Congress at such place, annually, as should
be convenient, to direct, from time to time, the measures required by the general interest: and
we declared that an attack on any one Colony, should be considered as an attack on the whole.
This was in May [27, 1774]. We further recommended to the several counties to elect deputies
to meet at Williamsburg, the 1st of August, ensuing, to consider the state of the Colony, and
particularly to appoint delegates to a general Congress, should that measure be acceded to by
the committees of correspondence generally. It was acceded to; Philadelphia was appointed for
the place, and the 5th of September for the time of meeting.—
Autobiography. Washington ed. i, 7. Ford ed., i, 11. (1821)

Respecting the question, whether Committees of Correspondence originated in Virginia or
Massachusetts? * * * You suppose me to have claimed it for Virginia; but certainly I have
never made such a claim. The idea, I suppose, has been taken up from what is said in
Wirt's Life of Patrick Henry, page 87, and from an inexact attention to its precise terms. It
is there said, “this House (of Burgesses, of Virginia) had the merit of originating that powerful
engine of resistance, Corresponding Committees between the Legislatures and the different
”. That the fact, as here expressed is true, your letter bears witness, when it says,
that the resolutions of Virginia, for this purpose, were transmitted to the speakers of the different
assemblies, and by that of Massachusetts, was laid, at the next session, before that body,
who appointed a committee for the specified object: adding, “thus, in Massachusetts, there
were two Committees of Correspondence, one chosen by the people, the other appointed by the
House of Assembly; in the former, Massachusetts preceded Virginia; in the latter, Virginia
preceded Massachusetts”. To the origination of committees for the interior correspondence
between the counties and towns of a State, I know of no claim on the part of Virginia; and [523]


Page 962
certainly none was ever made by myself. I perceive, however, one error, into which memory
had led me. Our Committee for national correspondence, was appointed in March, '73, and I
well remember, that going to Williamsburg, in the month of June following, Peyton Randolph,
our chairman, told me that messengers bearing dispatches between the two States, had crossed
each other by the way, that of Virginia carrying our propositions for a committee of national
correspondence, and that of Massachusetts, bringing, as my memory suggested, a similar proposition.
But here I must have misremembered; and the resolutions brought us from Massachusetts,
were probably those you mention of the town-meeting of Boston, on the motion of
Mr. Samuel Adams, appointing a committee “to state the rights of the colonists, and of that
province in particular, and the infringements of them; to communicate them to the several
towns, as the sense of the town of Boston, and to request, of each town, a free communication
of its sentiments on the subject.” I suppose, therefore, that these resolutions were not received,
as you think, while the House of Burgesses was in session in March, 1773, but a few days after
we rose, and were probably what was sent by the messenger, who crossed ours by the way.
They may, however, have been still different. I must, therefore, have been mistaken in supposing,
and stating to Mr. Wirt, that the proposition of a committee for national correspondence
was nearly simultaneous in Virginia and Massachusetts.—To Samuel A. Wells. i, 115. Ford
ed., x, 127. (M., 1819.)


This was the famous “Gaspee” inquiry, the date being a slip for 1772.—Note in Ford edition.


The invitation read June 23d.


The name of a public room in the Raleigh tavern.


Page 963



That it be an instruction to the said deputies, when assembled in General Congress,
with the deputies from the other States of British America, to propose to the said Congress,
that an humble and dutiful address be presented to his Majesty, begging leave to lay
before him, as Chief Magistrate of the British Empire, the united complaints of his Majesty's
subjects in America: complaints which are excited by many unwarrantable encroachments and
usurpations, attempted to be made by the legislature of one part of the empire, upon the rights
which God, and the laws have given equally and independently to all. To represent to his
Majesty that these, his States, have often individually made humble application to his imperial
throne, to obtain, through its intervention, some redress of their injured rights; to none of which
was ever even an answer condescended. Humbly to hope that this, their joint address, penned in
the language of truth, and divested of those expressions of servility, which would persuade his
Majesty that we are asking favors, and not rights, shall obtain from his Majesty a more respectful
acceptance: and this his Majesty will think we have reason to expect, when he reflects that
he is no more than the chief officer of the people, appointed by the laws, and circumscribed
with definite powers, to assist in working the great machine of government, erected for
their use, and, consequently, subject to their superintendence; and, in order that these, our
rights, as well as the invasions of them, may be laid more fully before his Majesty, to take a
view of them, from the origin and first settlement of these countries.

To remind him that our ancestors, before their emigration to America, were the free inhabitants
of the British dominions in Europe, and possessed a right, which nature has given to all
men, of departing from the country in which chance, not choice, has placed them of going in quest
of new habitations, and of there establishing new societies, under such laws and regulations as,
to them, shall seem most likely to promote public happiness. That their Saxon ancestors had,
under this universal law, in like manner, left their native wilds and woods in the North of
Europe, had possessed themselves of the Island of Britain, then less charged with inhabitants,
and had established there that system of laws which has so long been the glory and protection of
that country. Nor was ever any claim of superiority or dependence asserted over them, by that
mother country from which they had migrated; and were such a claim made, it is believed his
Majesty's subjects in Great Britain have too firm a feeling of the rights derived to them from
their ancestors, to bow down the sovereignty of their State before such visionary pretensions.

And it is thought that no circumstance has occurred to distinguish, materially, the British
from the Saxon emigration. America was conquered, and her settlements made and firmly
established, at the expense of individuals, and not of the British public. Their own blood was
spilt in acquiring lands for their settlement, their own fortunes expended in making that
settlement effectual. For themselves they fought, for themselves they conquered, and for themselves
alone they have right to hold. No shilling was ever issued from the public treasures of
his Majesty, or his ancestors, for their assistance, till of very late times, after the Colonies had
become established on a firm and permanent footing. That then, indeed, having become valuable
to Great Britain for her commercial purposes, his Parliament was pleased to lend them
assistance against an enemy who would fain have drawn to herself the benefits of their commerce,
to the great aggrandizement of herself, and danger of Great Britain. Such assistance, and in
such circumstances, they had often before given to Portugal and other allied States, with whom
they carry on a commercial intercourse. Yet these States never supposed, that by calling in
her aid, they thereby submitted themselves to her sovereignty. Had such terms been proposed,
they would have rejected them with disdain, and trusted for better, to the moderation of their
enemies, or to a vigorous exertion of their own force. We do not, however, mean to underrate
those aids, which, to us, were doubtless valuable, on whatever principles granted; but we would
show that they cannot give a title to that authority which the British Parliament would arrogate
over us; and that may amply be repaid by our giving to the inhabitants of Great Britain such
exclusive privileges in trade as may be advantageous to them, and, at the same time, not too
restrictive to ourselves. That settlement having been thus effected in the wilds of America, the
emigrants thought proper to adopt that system of laws, under which they had hitherto lived
in the mother country, and to continue their union with her, by submitting themselves to the
same common sovereign, who was thereby made the central link, connecting the several parts of
the empire thus newly multiplied.

But that not long were they permitted, however far they thought themselves removed from
the hand of oppression, to hold undisturbed the rights thus acquired at the hazard of their lives
and loss of their fortunes. A family of princes was then on the British throne, whose treasonable
crimes against their people, brought on them, afterwards, the exertion of those sacred and
sovereign rights of punishment, reserved in the hands of the people for cases of extreme
necessity, and judged by the constitution unsafe to be delegated to any other judicature. While
every day brought forth some new and unjustifiable exertion of power over their subjects on
that side of the water, it was not to be expected that those here, much less able at that time to
oppose the designs of despotism, should be exempted from injury. Accordingly, this country
which had been acquired by the lives, the labors, and fortunes of individual adventurers, was by
these Princes, several times, parted out and distributed among the favorites and followers of
their fortunes; and, by an assumed right of the Crown alone, were erected into distinct and
independent governments; a measure which, it is believed, his Majesty's prudence and understanding
would prevent him from imitating at this day; as no exercise of such power, of dividing


Page 964
and dismembering a country, has ever occurred in his Majesty's realm of England, though now
of very ancient standing; nor could it be justified or acquiesced under there, or in any part of
his Majesty's empire.

That the exercise of a free trade with all parts of the world, possessed by the American
colonists, as of natural right, and which no law of their own had taken away or abridged, was
next the object of unjust encroachment. Some of the colonies having thought proper to continue
the administration of their government in the name and under the authority of his Majesty,
King Charles the First, whom, notwithstanding his late deposition by the Commonwealth of
England, they continued in the sovereignty of their State, the Parliament, for the Commonwealth,
took the same in high offence, and assumed upon themselves the power of prohibiting their trade
with all other parts of the world except the Island of Great Britain. This arbitrary act, however,
they soon recalled, and by solemn treaty entered into on the 12th day of March, 1651, between the
said Commonwealth, by their Commissioners, and the colony of Virginia by their House of
Burgesses, it was expressly stipulated by the eighth article of the said treaty, that they should
have “free trade as the people of England do enjoy to all places and with all nations, according
to the laws of that Commonwealth”? But that, upon the restoration of his Majesty, King
Charles the Second, their rights of free commerce fell once more a victim to arbitrary power;
and by several acts of his reign, as well as of some of his successors, the trade of the colonies
was laid under such restrictions, as show what hopes they might form from the justice of a
British Parliament, were its uncontrolled power admitted over these States. [525] History has
informed us, that bodies of men as well as individuals, are susceptible of the spirit of tyranny.
A view of these acts of Parliament for regulation, as it has been affectedly called, of the American
trade, if all other evidences were removed out of the case, would undeniably evince the truth
of this observation. Besides the duties they impose on our articles of export and import, they
prohibit our going to any markets Northward of Cape Finisterre, in the kingdom of Spain, for
the sale of commodities which Great Britain will not take from us, and for the purchase of others,
with which she cannot supply us; and that, for no other than the arbitrary purpose of purchasing
for themselves, by a sacrifice of our rights and interests, certain privileges in their commerce
with an allied State, who, in confidence, that their exclusive trade with America will be continued,
while the principles and power of the British Parliament be the same, have indulged themselves
in every exorbitance which their avarice could dictate or our necessity extort; have raised their
commodities called for in America, to the double and treble of what they sold for, before such
exclusive privileges were given them, and of what better commodities of the same kind would
cost us elsewhere; and, at the same time, given us much less for what we carry thither, than
might be had at more convenient ports. That these acts prohibit us from carrying, in quest of
other purchasers, the surplus of our tobaccos, remaining after the consumption of Great Britain
is supplied; so that we must leave them with the British merchant, for whatever he will please
to allow us, to be by him re-shipped to foreign markets, where he will reap the benefits of making
sale of them for full value.

That, to heighten still the idea of Parliamentary justice, and to show with what moderation
they are like to exercise power, where themselves are to feel no part of its weight, we take leave
to mention to his Majesty, certain other acts of the British Parliament, by which they would prohibit
us from manufacturing, for our own use, the articles we raise on our own lands, with our
own labor. By an act passed in the fifth year of the reign of his late Majesty, King George the
Second, an American subject is forbidden to make a hat for himself, of the fur which he has
taken, perhaps, on his own soil; an instance of despotism, to which no parallel can be produced in
the most arbitrary ages of British history. By one other act, passed in the twenty-third year of
the same reign, the iron which we make, we are forbidden to manufacture; and, heavy as
that article is, and necessary in every branch of husbandry, besides commission and insurance,
we are to pay freight for it to Great Britain, and freight for it back again, for the purpose
of supporting, not men, but machines, in the island of Great Britain. In the same spirit of
equal and impartial legislation, is to be viewed the act of Parliament, passed in the fifth year
of the same reign, by which American lands are made subject to the demands of British creditors,
while their own lands were still continued unanswerable for their debts; from which,
one of these conclusions must necessarily follow, either that justice is not the same thing in
America as in Britain, or else, that the British Parliament pay less regard to it here than there.
But, that we do not point out to his Majesty the injustice of these acts, with intent to rest
on that principle the cause of their nullity; but to show that experience confirms the propriety
of those political principles, which exempt us from the jurisdiction of the British Parliament.
The true ground on which we declare these acts void, is, that the British Parliament has no
right to exercise authority over us.

That these exercises of usurped power have not been confined to instances alone, in which
themselves were interested; but they have also intermeddled with the regulation of the internal
affairs of the Colonies. The act of the 9th of Anne for establishing a post office in America,
seems to have had little connection with British convenience, except that of accommodating his
Majesty's ministers and favourites with the sale of a lucrative and easy office.

That thus have we hastened through the reigns which preceded his Majesty's, during which
the violations of our rights were less alarming, because repeated at more distant intervals,
than that rapid and bold succession of injuries, which is likely to distinguish the present from
all other periods of American story. Scarcely have our minds been able to emerge from the
astonishment into which one stroke of Parliamentary thunder has involved us, before another
more heavy and more alarming is fallen on us. Single acts of tyranny may be ascribed to the
accidental opinion of a day; but a series of oppressions, begun at a distinguished period, and
pursued unalterably through every change of ministers, too plainly prove a deliberate, systematical
plan of reducing us to slavery.


Page 965

That the act passed in the fourth year of his Majesty's reign, entitled “An Act Act for granting
Stamp act.
Act declaring
right of Parliament
the Colonies.
Act for granting
duties on
paper, tea, &c.
Act suspending
of New York.

One other act passed in the fifth year of his reign entitled “An Act

One other act passed in the sixth year of his reign, entitled “An Act

And one other act, passed in the seventh year of his reign, entitled “An Act

From that connected chain of Parliamentary usurpation, which has already
been the subject of frequent application to his Majesty, and the Houses of
Lords and Commons of Great Britain; and, no answers having yet been condescended
to any of these, we shall not trouble his Majesty with a repetition of the
matters they contained.

But that one other act passed in the same seventh year of his reign, having
been a peculiar attempt, must ever require peculiar mention. It is entitled
“An Act

One free and independent Legislature, hereby takes upon itself to suspend the powers of
another, free and independent as itself; thus exhibiting a phenomenon unknown in nature, the
creator and creature of its own power. Not only the principles of common sense, but the common
feelings of human nature must be surrendered up, before his Majesty's subjects here,
can be persuaded to believe that they hold their political existence at the will of a British Parliament.
Shall these governments be dissolved, their property annihilated, and their people
reduced to a state of nature, at the imperious breath of a body of men whom they never saw,
in whom they never confided, and over whom they have no powers of punishment or removal,
let their crimes against the American public be ever so great? Can any one reason be assigned,
why one hundred and sixty thousand electors in the island of Great Britain, should give law
to four millions in the States of America, every individual of whom is equal to every individual
of them in virtue, in understanding, and in bodily strength? Were this to be admitted, instead
of being a free people, as we have hitherto supposed, and mean to continue ourselves, we should
suddenly be found the slaves, not of one, but of one hundred, and sixty thousand tyrants;
distinguished, too, from all others, by this singular circumstance, that they are removed from
the reach of fear, the only restraining motive which may hold the hand of a tyrant.

That, by “An Act [14 G. 3.] to discontinue in such manner, and for such time as are
therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping of goods, wares and merchandise,
at the town and within the harbor of Boston, in the province of Massachusetts Bay,
in North America', which was passed at the last session of the British Parliament, a large and
populous town, whose trade was their sole subsistence, was deprived of that trade, and involved
in utter ruin. Let us for a while, suppose the question of right suspended, in order to examine
this act on principles of justice. An act of Parliament had been passed, imposing duties on
teas, to be paid in America, against which act the Americans had protested, as inauthoritative.
The East India Company, who, till that time, had never sent a pound of tea to America on
their own account, step forth on that occasion, the asserters of Parliamentary right, and send
hither many shiploads of that obnoxious commodity. The masters of their several vessels,
however, on their arrival in America, wisely attended to admonition, and returned with their
cargoes. In the province of New England alone, the remonstrances of the people were disregarded,
and a compliance, after being many days waited for, was flatly refused. Whether in
this, the master of the vessel was governed by his obstinacy, or his instructions, let those who
know, say. There are extraordinary situations which require extraordinary interposition.
An exasperated people, who feel that they possess power, are not easily restrained within
limits strictly regular. A number of them assembled in the town of Boston, threw the tea into
the ocean, and dispersed without doing any other act of violence. If in this they did wrong,
they were known, and were amenable to the laws of the land; against which, it could not be
objected, that they had ever, in any instance, been obstructed or diverted from the regular
course, in favor of popular offenders. They should, therefore, not have been distrusted on this
occasion. But that ill-fated colony had formerly been bold in their enmities against the house
of Stuart, and were now devoted to ruin, by that unseen hand which governs the momentous
affairs of this great empire. On the partial representations of a few worthless ministerial dependants,
whose constant office it had been to keep that government embroiled, and who, by
their treacheries, hope to obtain the dignity of British knighthood, without calling for a party
accused, without asking a proof, without attempting a distinction between the guilty and the
innocent, the whole of that ancient and wealthy town, is in a moment reduced from opulence
to beggary. Men who had spent their lives in extending the British commerce, who had invested,
in that place, the wealth their honest endeavors had merited, found themselves and
their families, thrown at once on the world for subsistence by its charities. Not the hundredth
part of the inhabitants of that town, had been concerned in the act complained of; many of
them were in Great Britain, and in other parts beyond sea; yet all were involved in one
indiscriminate ruin, by a new executive power, unheard of till then, that of a British Parliament.
A property of the value of many millions of money, was sacrificed to revenge, not repay, the
loss of a few thousands. This is administering justice with a heavy hand indeed! And when
is this tempest to be arrested in its course? Two wharves are to be opened again when his
Majesty shall think proper; the residue, which lined the extensive shores of the bay of Boston,
are forever interdicted the exercise of commerce. This little exception seems to have been
thrown in for no other purpose, than that of setting a precedent for investing his Majesty with
legislative powers. If the pulse of his people shall beat calmly under this experiment, another
and another will be tried, till the measure of despotism be filled up. It would be an insult on
common sense, to pretend that this exception was made, in order to restore its commerce to
that great town. The trade, which canot be received at two wharves alone, must of necessity
be transferred to some other place; to which it will soon be followed by that of the two wharves.
Considered in this light, it would be an insolent and cruel mockery at the annihilation of the
town of Boston.

By the act for the suppression of riots and tumults in the town of Boston [14 G. 3.], passed
also in the last session of Parliament, a murder committed there, is, if the Governor pleases,
to be tried in the court of King's Bench, in the island of Great Britain, by a jury of Middlesex.
The witnesses, too, on receipt of such a sum as the Governor shall think it reasonable for them


Page 966
to expend, are to enter into recognizance to appear at the trial. This is, in other words, taxing
them to the amount of their recognizance; and that amount may be whatever a governor
pleases. For who, does his Majesty think, can be prevailed on to cross the Atlantic for the
sole purpose of bearing evidence to a fact? His expenses are to be borne, indeed, as they shall
be estimated by a governor; but who are to feed the wife and children whom he leaves behind,
and who have had no other subsistence but his daily labor? Those epidemical disorders, too,
so terrible in a foreign climate, is the cure of them to be estimated among the articles of
expense, and their danger to be warded off by the almighty power of a Parliament? And the
wretched criminal, if he happen to have offended on the American side, stripped of his privilege
of trial by peers of his vicinage, removed from the place where alone full evidence could be
obtained, without money, without counsel, without friends, without exculpatory proof, is tried
before judges predetermined to condemn. The cowards who would suffer a countryman to be
torn from the bowels of their society, in order to be thus offered a sacrifice to Parliamentary
tyranny, would merit that everlasting infamy now fixed on the authors of the act! A clause,
for a similar purpose, had been introduced into an act passed in the twelfth year of his Majesty's
reign, entitled, “An Act for the better securing and preserving his Majesty's dockyards, magazines,
ships, ammunition and stores”; against which, as meriting the same censures, the several
Colonies have already protested.

That these are the acts of power, assumed by a body of men foreign to our constitutions,
and unacknowledged by our laws; against which we do, on behalf of the inhabitants of British
America, enter this, our solemn and determined protest. And we do earnestly entreat his
Majesty, as yet the only mediatory power between the several States of the British empire, to
recommend to his Parliament of Great Britain, the total revocation of these acts, which, however
nugatory they may be, may yet prove the cause of further discontents and jealousies
among us.

That we next proceed to consider the conduct of his Majesty, as holding the executive
powers of the laws of these States, and mark out his deviations from the line of duty. By the
Constitution of Great Britain, as well as of the several American States, his Majesty possesses
the power of refusing to pass into a law, any bill which has already passed the other two
branches of the Legislature. His Majesty, however, and his ancestors, conscious of the impropriety
of opposing their single opinion to the united wisdom of two Houses of Parliament,
while their proceedings were unbiased by interested principles, for several ages past, have
modestly declined the exercise of this power, in that part of his empire called Great Britain.
But, by change of circumstances, other principles than those of justice simply, have obtained
an influence on their determinations. The addition of new States to the British empire has
produced an addition of new, and, sometimes, opposite interests. It is now, therefore, the
great office of his Majesty to resume the exercise of his negative power, and to prevent the
passage of laws by any one legislature of the empire, which might bear injuriously on the rights
and interests of another. Yet this will not excuse the wanton exercise of this power, which
we have seen his Majesty practice on the laws of the American Legislature. For the most
trifling reasons, and, sometimes for no conceivable reason at all, his Majesty has rejected laws
of the most salutary tendency. The abolition of domestic slavery is the great object of desire
in those Colonies, where it was, unhappily, introduced in their infant state. But previous to
the enfranchisement of the slaves we have, it is necessary to exclude all further importations
from Africa. Yet our repeated attempts to effect this, by prohibitions, and by imposing duties
which might amount to a prohibition, having been hitherto defeated by his Majesty's negative;
thus preferring the immediate advantages of a few British corsairs, to the lasting interests
of the American States, and to the rights of human nature, deeply wounded by this infamous
practice. Nay, the single interposition of an interested individual against a law was scarcely
ever known to fail of success, though, in the opposite scale, were placed the interests of a whole
country. That this is so shameful an abuse of a power, trusted with his Majesty for other
purposes, as if, not reformed, would call for some legal restrictions.

While equal inattention to the necessities of his people here, has his Majesty permitted our
laws to lie neglected, in England, for years, neither confirming them by his assent, nor annulling
them by his negative; so that, such of them as have no suspending clause, we hold on the
most precarious of all tenures, his Majesty's will; and such of them as suspend themselves till
his Majesty's assent be obtained, we have feared might be called into existence at some future
and distant period, when time and change of circumstances shall have rendered them destructive
to his people here. And, to render this grievance still more oppressive, his Majesty, by
his instructions, has laid his Governors under such restrictions, that they can pass no law, of
any moment, unless it have such suspending clause; so that, however immediate may be the
call for legislative interposition, the law cannot be executed, till it has twice crossed the Atlantic,
by which time the evil may have spent its whole force.

But in what terms reconcilable to Majesty, and at the same time to truth, shall we
speak of a late instruction to his Majesty's Governor of the Colony of Virginia, by which
he is forbidden to assent to any law for the division of a county, unless the new county will
consent to have no representative in Assembly? That Colony has as yet affixed no boundary
to the westward. Their western counties, therefore, are of an indefinite extent. Some of them
are actually seated many hundred miles from their eastern limits. Is it possible, then, that
his Majesty can have bestowed a single thought on the situation of those people, who, in order
to obtain justice for injuries, however great or small, must, by the laws of that Colony, attend
their county court at such a distance, with all their witnesses, monthly, till their litigation
be determined? Or does his Majesty seriously wish, and publish it to the world, that his subjects
should give up the glorious right of representation, with all the benefits derived from
that, and submit themselves the absolute slaves of his sovereign will? Or is it rather meant to
confine the legislative body to their present numbers, that they may be the cheaper bargain,
whenever they shall become worth a purchase?

One of the articles of impeachment against Tresilian, and the other Judges of Westminster
Hall, in the reign of Richard the Second, for which they suffered death, as traitors to their
country, was, that they had advised the King, that he might dissolve his Parliament at any time;


Page 967
and succeeding kings have adopted the opinion of these unjust judges. Since the establishment,
however, of the British constitution, at the glorious Revolution, on its free and ancient
principles, neither his Majesty, nor his ancestors, have exercised such a power of dissolution
in the island of Great Britain; [526] and when his Majesty was petitioned by the united voice
of his people there, to dissolve the present Parliament, who had become obnoxious to them,
his ministers were heard to declare, in open Parliament, that his Majesty possessed no such
power by the constitution. But how different their language, and his practice, here! To declare,
as their duty required, the known rights of their country, to oppose the usurpation of
every foreign judicature, to disregard the imperious mandates of a minister or governor, have
been the avowed causes of dissolving Houses of Representatives in America. But if such
powers be really vested in his Majesty, can he suppose they are there placed to awe the members
from such purposes as these? When the representative body have lost the confidence of their
constituents, when they have notoriously made sale of their most valuable rights, when they
have assumed to themselves powers which the people never put into their hands, then, indeed,
their continuing in office becomes dangerous to the State, and calls for an exercise of the
power of dissolution. Such being the cause for which the representative body should, and
should not, be dissolved, will it not appear strange, to an unbiased observer, that that of Great
Britain was not dissolved, while those of the Colonies have repeatedly incurred that sentence?

But your Majesty, or your Governors, have carried this power beyond every limit known
or provided for by the laws. After dissolving one House of Representatives, they have refused
to call another, so that, for a great length of time, the Legislature provided by the laws, has
been out of existence. From the nature of things, every society must, at all times, possess
within itself the sovereign powers of legislation. The feelings of human nature revolt against
the supposition of a State so situated, as that it may not, in any emergency, provide against
dangers which, perhaps, threaten immediate ruin. While those bodies are in existence to
whom the people have delegated the powers of legislation, they alone possess, and may exercise,
those powers. But when they are dissolved, by the lopping off of one or more of their branches,
the power reverts to the people, who may use it to unlimited extent, either assembling together
in person, sending deputies, or in any other way they may think proper. We forbear to trace
consequences further; the dangers are conspicuous with which this practice is replete.

That we shall, at this time also, take notice of an error in the nature of our land holdings,
which crept in at a very early period of our settlement. The introduction of the Feudal tenures
into the kingdom of England, though ancient, is well enough understood to set this matter
in a proper light. In the earlier ages of the Saxon settlement, feudal holdings were certainly
altogether unknown, and very few, if any, had been introduced at the time of the Norman
Conquest. Our Saxon ancestors held their lands, as they did their personal property, in absolute
dominion, disencumbered with any superior, answering nearly to the nature of those possessions
which the feudalist termed allodial. William the Norman, first introduced that system
generally. The lands which had belonged to those who fell in the battle of Hastings, and in
the subsequent insurrections of his reign, formed a considerable proportion of the lands of the
whole kingdom. These he granted out, subject to feudal duties, as did he also those of a great
number of his new subjects, who, by persuasions or threats, were induced to surrender them
for that purpose. But still, much was left in the hands of his Saxon subjects, held of no superior,
and not subject to feudal conditions. These, therefore, by express laws, enacted to render uniform
the system of military defence, were made liable to the same military duties as if they had
been feuds; and the Norman lawyers soon found means to saddle them, also, with the other
feudal burthens. But still they had not been surrendered to the king, they were not derived
from his grant, and therefore they were not holden of him. A general principle was introduced,
that “all lands in England were held either mediately or immediately of the Crown”; but this
was borrowed from those holdings which were truly feudal, and only applied to others for the
purposes of illustration. Feudal holdings were, therefore, but exceptions out of the Saxon
laws of possession, under which all lands were held in absolute right. These, therefore, still
form the basis or groundwork of the Common law, to prevail wheresoever the exceptions have
not taken place. America was not conquered by William the Norman, nor its lands surrendered
to him or any of his successors. Possessions there are, undoubtedly, of the allodial
nature. Our ancestors, however, who migrated hither, were laborers, not lawyers. The fictitious
principle, that all lands belong originally to the king, they were early persuaded to
believe real, and accordingly took grants of their own lands from the Crown. And while the
Crown continued to grant for small sums and on reasonable rents, there was no inducement
to arrest the error, and lay it open to public view. But his Majesty has lately taken on him
to advance the terms of purchase and of holding, to the double of what they were; by which
means, the acquisition of lands being rendered difficult, the population of our country is likely
to be checked. It is time, therefore, for us to lay this matter before his Majesty, and to declare,
that he has no right to grant lands of himself. From the nature and purpose of civil
institutions, all the lands within the limits, which any particular party has circumscribed
around itself, are assumed by that society, and subject to their allotment; this may be done by
themselves assembled collectively, or by their legislature, to whom they may have delegated
sovereign authority; and, if they are allotted in neither of these ways, each individual of the
society, may appropriate to himself such lands as he finds vacant, and occupancy will give him

That, in order to enforce the arbitrary measures before complained of, his Majesty has,
from time to time, sent among us large bodies of armed forces, not made up of the people
here, nor raised by the authority of our laws. Did his Majesty possess such a right as this,
it might swallow up all our other rights, whenever he should think proper. But his Majesty
has no right to land a single armed man on our shores; and those whom he sends here are


Page 968
liable to our laws, for the suppression and punishment of riots, routs, and unlawful assemblies,
or are hostile bodies invading us in defiance of law. When, in the course of the late war, it
became expedient that a body of Hanoverian troops should be brought over for the defence
of Great Britain, his Majesty's grandfather, our late sovereign, did not pretend to introduce
them under any authority he possessed. Such a measure would have given just alarm to his
subjects of Great Britain, whose liberties would not be safe if armed men of another country,
and of another spirit, might be brought into the realm at any time, without the consent of
their legislature. He, therefore, applied to Parliament, who passed an act for that purpose,
limiting the number to be brought in, and the time they were to continue. In like manner is his
Majesty restrained in every part of the empire. He possesses indeed the executive power of
the laws in every State; but they are the laws of the particular State, which he is to administer
within that State, and not those of any one within the limits of another. Every State must
judge for itself, the number of armed men which they may safely trust among them, of whom
they are to consist, and under what restrictions they are to be laid. To render these proceedings
still more criminal against our laws, instead of subjecting the military to the civil power, his
Majesty has expressly made the civil subordinate to the military. But can his Majesty thus put
down all law under his feet? Can he erect a power superior to that which erected himself?
He has done it indeed by force; but let him remember that force cannot give right.

That these are our grievances, which we have thus laid before his Majesty, with that freedom
of language and sentiment which becomes a free people, claiming their rights as derived
from the laws of nature, and not as the gift of their Chief Magstrate. Let those flatter, who
fear; it is not an American art. To give praise where it is not due might be well from the
venal, but it would ill beseem those who are asserting the rights of human nature. They know,
and will, therefore, say, that kings are the servants, not the proprietors of the people. Open
your breast, Sire, to liberal and expanded thought. Let not the name of George the Third, be a
blot on the page of history. You are surrounded by British counsellors, but remember that
they are parties. You have no ministers for American affairs, because you have none taken
from among us, nor amenable to the laws on which they are to give you advice. It behooves
you, therefore, to think and to act for yourself and your people. The great principles of right
and wrong are legible to every reader; to pursue them, requires not the aid of many counsellors.
The whole art of government consists in the art of being honest. Only aim to do
your duty, and mankind will give you credit where you fail. No longer persevere in sacrificing
the rights of one part of the empire to the inordinate desires of another; but deal out to all
equal and impartial right. Let no act be passed by any one legislature which may infringe on
the rights and liberties of another. This is the important post in which fortune has placed
you, holding the balance of a great, if a well-poised empire. This, Sire, is the advice of your great
American council, on the observance of which may perhaps depend your felicity and future fame,
and the preservation of that harmony which alone can continue, both to Great Britain and
America, the reciprocal advantages of their connection. It is neither our wish nor our interest
to separate from her. We are willing, on our part, to sacrifice everything which reason can
ask, to the restoration of that tranquillity for which all must wish. On their part, let them be
ready to establish union on a generous plan. Let them name their terms, but let them be just.
Accept of every commercial preference it is in our power to give, for such things as we can
raise for their use, or they make for ours. But let them not think to exclude us from going
to other markets to dispose of those commodities which they cannot use, nor to supply those
wants which they cannot supply. Still less, let it be proposed, that our properties, within our
territories, shall be taxed or regulated by any power on earth, but our own. The God who
gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time; the hand of force may destroy, but cannot disjoin

This, Sire, is our last, our determined resolution. And that you will be pleased to interpose,
with that efficacy which your earnest endeavors may insure, to procure redress of these
our great grievances, to quiet the minds of your subjects in British America against any apprehensions
of future encroachment, to establish fraternal love and harmony through the whole
empire, and that that may continue to the latest ages of time, is the fervent prayer of all British
i, 124. Ford ed., i, 426. 1774.


The Summary View was not written for publication. It was a draft I had prepared for a petition to
the King, which I meant to propose in my place as a member of the convention of 1774. Being stopped on
the road by sickness, I sent it on to the Speaker, who laid it on the table for the perusal of the members.
It was thought too strong for the times, and to become the act of the convention, but was printed by subscription
of the members, with a short preface written by one of them. If it had any merit, it was that of
first taking our true ground, and that which was afterwards assumed and maintained.—
To John W. Campbell.v, 465. Ford ed., ix, 258. (M., Aug. 1809.)


12 C. 2 c. 18. 15 C. 2 c. 11. 25 C. 2 c. 7. 7. 8 W. M. c. 22. 11 W. 34 Anne. 6 C. 2 c. 13.—Note by Jefferson.


On further inquiry, I find two instances of dissolutions before the Parliament would, of itself, have been
at an end, viz.: the Parliament called to meet August 24, 1698, was dissolved by King William, December
19, 1700, and a new one was called to meet February 6, 1701, which was also dissolved, November 11, 1701, and
a new one met December 30, 1701.—Note by Jefferson.


Page 969


A Declaration by the Representatives of the United States of America, in General Congress assembled.

When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people
to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and
to assume among the powers of the earth the separate and equal station to
which the laws of nature and of nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to
the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which
impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men are created equal;
that they are endowed by their creator with [inherent and] certain inalienable rights;
that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure
these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers
from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government
becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to
abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such
principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most
likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that
governments long established should not be changed for light and transient
causes; and accordingly all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed
to suffer while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing
the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and
usurpations, [begun at a distinguished period and] pursuing invariably the
same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is
their right, it is their duty to throw off such government, and to provide new
guards for their future security. Such has been the patient sufferance of
these colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to [expunge] alter their former systems of government. The history of the present king
of Great Britain is a history of [unremitting] repeated injuries and usurpations [among
which appears no solitary fact to contradict the uniform tenor of the rest, but
all have
] all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over these
states. To prove this, let facts be submitted to a candid world [for the truth
of which we pledge a faith yet unsullied by falsehood.

He has refused his assent to laws the most wholesome and necessary for the
public good.

He has forbidden his governors to pass laws of immediate and pressing importance,
unless suspended in their operation till his assent should be obtained;
and, when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other laws for the accommodation of large districts
of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of representation in
the legislature, a right inestimable to them, and formidable to tyrants only.

He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable,
and distant from the depository of their public records, for the sole purpose
of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.

He has dissolved representative houses repeatedly [and continually] for
opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.

He has refused for a long time after such dissolutions to cause others to be
elected, whereby the legislative powers, incapable of annihilation, have returned
to the people at large for their exercise, the state remaining, in the
meantime, exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without and convulsions

He has endeavored to prevent the population of these states; for that purpose
obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners, refusing to pass


Page 970
others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new
appropriations of lands.

He has [suffered] obstructed the administration of justice [totally to cease in some
of these states
] by refusing his assent to laws for establishing judiciary powers.

He has made [our] judges dependent on his will alone for the tenure of
their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.

He has erected a multitude of new offices [by a self-assumed power], and
sent hither swarms of officers to harass our people and eat out their substance.

He has kept among us in times of peace standing armies [and ships of war] without the consent of our legislatures.

He has affected to render the military independent of, and superior to, the
civil power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our
constitutions and unacknowledged by our laws, giving his assent to their acts
of pretended legislation for quartering large bodies of armed troops among
us; for protecting them by a mock trial from punishment for any murders
which they should commit on the inhabitants of these States; for cutting off
our trade with all parts of the world; for imposing taxes on us without our
consent; for depriving us in many cases of the benefits of trial by jury; for transporting
us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences; for abolishing the free
system of English laws in a neighboring province, establishing therein an arbitrary
government, and enlarging its boundaries, so as to render it at once an
example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these
[states] colonies; for taking away our charters, abolishing our most valuable laws,
and altering fundamentally the forms of our governments; for suspending
our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate
for us in all cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated government here [withdrawing his governors, and declaring
us out of his allegiance and protection
] by declaring us out of his protection, and waging war against us.

He has plundered our seas, ravaged our coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed
the lives of our people.

He is at this time transporting large armies of foreign mercenaries to complete
the works of death, desolation and tyranny already begun with circumstances
of cruelty and perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the head of a civilized nation.

He has constrained our fellow citizens taken captive on the high seas, to
bear arms against their country, to become the executioners of their friends
and brethren, or to fall themselves by their hands.

He has excited domestic insurrection among us, and has endeavored to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the
merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished
destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions [of existence].

[He has incited treasonable insurrections of our fellow citizens, with the
allurements of forfeiture and confiscation of our property.

He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most
sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never
offended him, captivating and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere,
or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical
warfare, the opprobrium of
INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN
king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN
should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing
every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce.
And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished dye,
he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase
that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people upon whom
he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the
LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against
LIVES of another].

In every stage of these oppressions we have petitioned for redress in the
most humble terms: our repeated petitions have been answered only by repeated

A prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a
tyrant is unfit to be the ruler of a free people [who mean to be free. Future
ages will scarcely believe that the hardiness of one man adventured, within the
short compass of twelve years only, to lay a foundation so broad and undisguised
for tyranny over a people fostered and fixed in principles of freedom

Nor have we been wanting in attentions to our British brethren. We have
warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend a an unwarantable jurisdiction over [these our states] us. We have reminded them of the circumstances
of our emigration and settlement here [no one of which could warrant
so strange a pretension: that these were effected at the expense of our own blood
and treasure, unassisted by the wealth or the strength of Great Britain; that in
constituting indeed our several forms of government, we had adopted one common


Page 971
king, thereby laying a foundation for perpetual league and amity with
them; but that submission to their parliament was no part of our constitution,
nor ever in idea, if history may be credited: and
], we have appealed to their
native justice and magnanimity [as well as to] and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred
to disavow these usurpations which [were likely to] would inevitably interrupt our connection
and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of
consanguinity [and when occasions have been given them, by the regular
course of their laws, of removing from their councils the disturbers of our
harmony, they have, by their free election, re-established them in power. At
this very time too, they are permitting their chief magistrate to send over not
only soldiers of our common blood, but Scotch and foreign mercenaries to
invade and destroy us. These facts have given the last stab to agonizing
affection, and manly spirit bids us to renounce forever these unfeeling brethren.
We must endeavor to forget our former love for them, and hold them
as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends. We might
have been a free and a great people together; but a communication of grandeur
and of freedom, it seems, is below their dignity. Be it so, since they will have
it. The road to happiness and to glory is open to us too. We will tread it
apart from them, and
], we must therefore acquiesce in the necessity which denounces our [eternal] separation and hold them
as we hold the rest of mankind, enemies in war, in peace friends!

We, therefore, the representatives of the
United States of America in General Congress
assembled, do in the name, and by the authority
of the good people of these [states reject
and renounce all allegiance and subjection to
the kings of Great Britain and all others who
may hereafter claim by, through or under
them; we utterly dissolve all political connection
which may heretofore have subsisted between
us and the people or parliament of
Great Britain: and finally we do assert and
declare these colonies to be free and independent
], and that as free and independent
states, they have full power to levy
war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish
commerce, and to do all other acts and
things which independent states may of right
We, therefore, the representatives of the
United States of America in General Congress
assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions,
do in the name, and by the authority
of the good people of these colonies, solemnly
publish and declare, that these united colonies
are, and of right ought to be free and independent
states; that they are absolved from
all allegiance to the British crown, and that
all political connection between them and the
state of Great Britain is, and ought to be,
totally dissolved; and that as free and independent
states, they have full power to levy
war, conclude peace, contract alliances, establish
commerce, and to do all other acts and
things which independent states may of right
And for the support of this declaration,
we mutually pledge to each other our lives,
our fortunes, and our sacred honor 
And for the support of this declaration,
with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine
Providence, we mutually pledge to each
other our lives, our fortunes, and our sacred
i, 19. Ford ed., ii, 42.  

The parts struck out by Congress are printed in italics and enclosed in brackets
those inserted by Congress are placed in the margin, In paragraph 2, line 2, the edition of
Jefferson's Writings, printed by Congress, and also the Ford edition give “ inalienable
” as the text in the engrossed copy of the Declaration. In the first draft of the
instrument Jefferson wrote “unalienable”, which he changed to “inalienable” in the draft
reported to Congress. In the United States Statutes At Large the word is “unalienable”.
The Hon. John Hay, Secretary of State, gives a certification of the text in the following

John P. Foley, Esq.,
Brooklyn, N. Y.:

Sir—In response to your letter, * * * I have to advise you that the text of the Declaration
of Independence (the original MS.) as signed by the delegates, reads, at the point
of your inquiry—“unalienable rights”, while the text of Jefferson's MS. draft, as amended
in committee by Franklin and Adams, reads “inalienable rights”. The latter is the paper
printed in Ford's edition of Jefferson's Writings, in fac simile. * * *




Page 972


Whereas, the delegates and representatives of the good people of Virginia, in convention
assembled, on the twenty-ninth day of June, in the year of our Lord one thousand seven
hundred and seventy-six, reciting and declaring, that whereas George the Third, King of
Great Britain and Ireland, and Elector of Hanover, before that time intrusted with the
exercise of the kingly office in the government of Virginia, had endeavored to pervert the
same into a detestable and insupportable tyranny, by putting his negative on laws the most
wholesome and necessary for the public good; by denying his governors permission to pass
laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation for his assent,
and when so suspended, neglecting to attend to them for many years; by refusing to pass
certain other laws unless the persons to be benefited by them would relinquish the inalienable
right of representation in the legislature; by dissolving legislative assemblies, repeatedly and
continually, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions of the rights of the people; when
dissolved by refusing to call others for a long space of time, thereby leaving the political
system without any legislative head; by endeavoring to prevent the population of our country,
and for that purpose obstructing the laws for naturalization of foreigners; by keeping among
us, in time of peace, standing armies and ships of war; by affecting to render the military
independent of and superior to the civil power; by combining with others to subject us to a
foreign jurisdiction giving his assent to their pretended acts of legislation for quartering
large bodies of armed troops among us; for cutting off our trade with all parts of the world;
for imposing taxes on us without our consent; for depriving us of the benefit of trial by
jury; for transporting us beyond the seas for trial for pretended offences; for suspending
our own legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all
cases whatsoever; by plundering our seas, ravaging our coasts, burning our towns, and destroying
the lives of our people; by inciting insurrection of our fellow-subjects with the
allurements of forfeiture and confiscation; by prompting our negroes to rise in arms among
us—those very negroes whom, by an inhuman use of his negative, he had refused us permission
to exclude by law; by endeavoring to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers the
merciless Indian savages, whose known rule of warfare is an undistinguished destruction of
all ages, sexes and conditions of existence; by transporting hither a large army of foreign
mercenaries to complete the work of death, desolation and tyranny, then already begun, with
circumstances of cruelty and perfidy unworthy the head of a civilized nation; by answering
our repeated petitions for redress with a repetition of our injuries; and finally, by abandoning the
helm of government and declaring us out of his allegiance and protection—by which several
acts of misrule, the government of this country, as before exercised under the crown of
Great Britain, was totally dissolved—did, therefore, having maturely considered the premises,
and viewing with great concern the deplorable condition to which this once happy country
would be reduced unless some regular, adequate mode of civil policy should be speedily
adopted, and in compliance with the recommendation of the general Congress, ordain and
declare a form of government of Virginia.

—Poore's Federal and State Constitutions.


Page 973


On Friday, July 12 [1776], the committee appointed to draw the Articles of Confederation
reported them, and, on the 22d, the House resolved themselves into a committee to take them
into consideration. On the 30th and 31st of that month, and 1st of the ensuing, those articles
were debated which determined the proportion, or quota, of money which each state should
furnish to the common treasury, and the manner of voting in Congress. The first of these
articles was expressed in the original draught in these words. “Art. XI. All charges of war and
all other expenses that shall be incurred for the common defence, or general welfare, and allowed
by the United States assembled, shall be defrayed out of a common treasury, which shall
be supplied by the several colonies in proportion to the number of inhabitants of every age, sex,
and quality, except Indians not paying taxes, in each colony, a true account of which, distinguishing
the white inhabitants, shall be triennially taken and transmitted to the Assembly
of the United States.”

Mr. Chase moved that the quotas should be fixed, not by the number of inhabitants of every
condition, but by that of the “white inhabitants.” He admitted that taxation should be always
in proportion to property, that this was, in theory, the true rule; but that, from a variety of difficulties,
it was a rule which could never be adopted in practice. The value of the property in
every State, could never be estimated justly and equally. Some other measure for the wealth
of the State must therefore be devised, some standard referred to, which would be more simple.
He considered the number of inhabitants as a tolerably good criterion of property, and that this
might always be obtained. He therefore thought it the best mode which we could adopt, with
one exception only: he observed that negroes are property, and as such, cannot be distinguished
from the lands or personalties held in those States where there are few slaves; that the surplus
of profit which a Northern farmer is able to lay by, he invests in cattle, horses, &c., whereas a
Southern farmer lays out the same surplus in slaves. There is no more reason, therefore, for
taxing the Southern States on the farmer's head, and on his slave's head, than the Northern ones
on their farmer's heads and the heads of their cattle; that the method proposed would, therefore,
tax the Southern States according to their numbers and their wealth conjunctly, while the
Northern would be taxed on numbers only; that negroes, in fact, should not be considered as
members of the State, more than cattle, and that they have no more interest in it.

Mr. John Adams observed, that the numbers of people were taken by this article, as an index
of the wealth of the State, and not as subjects of taxation; that, as to this matter, it was of no
consequence by what name you called your people, whether by that of freemen or of slaves; that
in some countries the laboring poor were called freemen, in others they were called slaves; but
that the difference as to the state was imaginary only. What matters it whether a landlord, employing
ten laborers on his farm, gives them annually as much money as will buy them the
necessaries of life, or gives them those necessaries at short hand? The ten laborers add as much
wealth annually to the State, increase its exports as much in the one case as the other. Certainly
five hundred freemen produce no more profits, no greater surplus for the payment of taxes,
than five hundred slaves. Therefore, the State in which are the laborers called freemen, should
be taxed no more than that in which are those called slaves. Suppose by an extraordinary
operation of nature or of law, one-half the laborers of a State could in the course of one night
be transformed into slaves; would the State be made the poorer or the less able to pay taxes?
That the condition of the laboring poor in most countries, that of the fishermen particularly of
the Northern States, is as abject as that of slaves. It is the number of laborers which produces
the surplus for taxation, and numbers, therefore, indiscriminately, are the fair index of wealth;
that it is the use of the word “property” here, and its application to some of the people of the
State, which produces the fallacy. How does the Southern farmer procure slaves? Either by
importation or by purchase from his neighbor. If he imports a slave, he adds one to the number
of laborers in his country, and proportionably to its profits and abilities to pay taxes; if he buys
from his neighbor, it is only a transfer of a laborer from one farm to another, which does not
change the annual produce of the State, and therefore, should not change its tax: that if a
Northern farmer works ten laborers on his farm, he can, it is true, invest the surplus of ten
men's labor in cattle; but so may the Southern farmer, working ten slaves; that a State of
one hundred thousand freemen can maintain no more cattle, than one of one hundred thousand
slaves. Therefore, they have no more of that kind of property; that a slave may indeed, from
the custom of speech, be more properly called the wealth of his master, than the free laborer
might be called the wealth of his employer; but as to the State, both were equally its wealth,
and should, therefore, equally add to the quota of its tax.

Mr. Harrison proposed, as a compromise, that two slaves should be counted as one freeman.
He affirmed that slaves did not do as much work as freemen, and doubted if two effected more
than one; that this was proved by the price of labor; the hire of a laborer in the Southern colonies
being from 8 to £12, while in the Northern it was generally £24.

Mr. Wilson said, that if this amendment should take place, the Southern colonies would
have all the benefit of slaves, whilst the Northern ones would bear the burthen: that slaves
increase the profits of a State, which the Southern States mean to take to themselves; that they
also increase the burthen of defence, which would of course fall so much the heavier on the
Northern: that slaves occupy the places of freemen, and eat their food. Dismiss your slaves,
and freemen will take their places. It is our duty to lay every discouragement on the importation
of slaves; but this amendment would give the jus trium liberorum to him who would
import slaves; that other kinds of property were pretty equally distributed through all the
colonies: there were as many cattle, horses and sheep, in the North as the South, and South as
the North; but not so as to slaves: that experience has shown that those colonies have been
always able to pay most, which have the most inhabitants, whether they be black or white; and
the practice of the Southern colonies has always been to make every farmer pay poll taxes
upon all his laborers, whether they be black or white. He acknowledges, indeed, that freemen
work the most; but they consume the most also. They do not produce a greater surplus for
taxation. The slave is neither fed nor clothed so expensively as a freeman. Again, white


Page 974
women are exempted from labor generally, but negro women are not. In this, then, the
Southern States have an advantage as the article now stands. It has sometimes been said, that
slavery is necessary, because the commodities they raise would be too dear for market if
cultivated by freemen; but now it is said that the labor of the slave is the dearest.

Mr. Payne urged the original resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas of the States
to the number of souls.

Dr. Witherspoon was of opinion, that the value of lands and houses was the best estimate
of the wealth of a nation, and that it was practicable to obtain such a valuation. This is the true
barometer of wealth. The one now proposed is imperfect in itself, and unequal between the
States. It has been objected that negroes eat the food of freemen, and, therefore, should be
taxed; horses also eat the food of freemen; therefore they also should be taxed. It has been
said too, that in carrying slaves into the estimate of the taxes the State is to pay, we do no more
than those States themselves do, who always take slaves into the estimate of the taxes the
individual is to pay. But the cases are not parallel. In the Southern colonies slaves pervade
the whole colony; but they do not pervade the whole continent. That as to the original
resolution of Congress, to proportion the quotas according to the souls, it was temporary only,
and related to the moneys heretofore emitted: whereas we are now entering into a new compact,
and therefore stand on original ground.

August 1. The question being put, the amendment proposed was rejected by the votes of
New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, and
Pennsylvania, against those of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North and South Carolina.
Georgia was divided.

The other article was in these words. “Art. XVII. In determining questions, each colony
shall have one vote.”

July 30, 31, August 1. Present forty-one members. Mr. Chase observed this article was the
most likely to divide us, of any one proposed in the draught then under consideration: that the
larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all, if their weight in Congress
should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the confederacy; while the smaller
ones declared against a union, if they did not retain an equal vote for the protection of their
rights. That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together, as, should we
sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different States
will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and
bloodshed, which in such a state of separation and independence, would render us a miserable
people. That our importance, our interests, our peace required that we should confederate,
and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question. He
was of opinion, the smaller colonies would lose their rights, if they were not in some instances
allowed an equal vote; and, therefore, that a discrimination should take place among the
questions which would come before Congress. That the smaller States should be secured in all
questions concerning life or liberty, and the greater ones, in all respecting property. He
therefore, proposed, that in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned
to the number of its inhabitants.

Dr. Franklin thought, that the votes should be so proportioned in all cases. He took notice
that the Delaware counties had bound up their delegates to disagree to this article. He thought
it a very extraordinary language to be held by any State, that they would not confederate with us,
unless we would let them dispose of our money. Certainly, if we vote equally, we ought to pay
equally; but the smaller States will hardly purchase the privilege at this price. That had he
lived in a State where the representation, originally equal, had become unequal by time and
accident, he might have submitted rather than disturb government; but that we should be very
wrong to set out in this practice, when it is in our power to establish what is right. That at the
time of the Union between England and Scotland, the latter had made the objection which the
smaller States now do; but experience had proved that no unfairness had ever been shown them:
that their advocates had prognosticated that it would again happen, as in times of old, that the
whale would swallow Jonas, but he thought the prediction reversed in event, and that Jonas had
swallowed the whale; for the Scotch had in fact got possession of the government, and gave laws
to the English. He reprobated the original agreement of Congress to vote by colonies, and,
therefore, was for their voting, in all cases, according to the number of taxables.

Dr. Witherspoon opposed every alteration of the article. All men admit that a confederacy
is necessary. Should the idea get abroad that there is likely to be no union among us, it will
damp the minds of the people, diminish the glory of our struggle, and lessen its importance;
because it will open to our view future prospects of war and dissension among ourselves. If an
equal vote be refused, the smaller States will become vassals to the larger; and all experience
has shown that the vassals and subjects of free States are the most enslaved. He instanced
the Helots of Sparta, and the provinces of Rome. He observed that foreign powers, discovering
this blemish, would make it a handle for disengaging the smaller States from so unequal a
confederacy. That the colonies should in fact be considered as individuals; and that, as such,
in all disputes, they should have an equal vote; that they are now collected as individuals
making a bargain with each other, and, of course, had a right to vote as individuals. That in
the East India Company they voted by persons, and not by their proportion of stock. That the
Belgic confederacy voted by provinces. That in questions of war the smaller States were as
much interested as the larger, and therefore, should vote equally; and indeed, that the larger
States were more likely to bring war on the confederacy, in proportion as their frontier was more
extensive. He admitted that equality of representation was an excellent principle, but then it
must be of things which are co-ordinate; that is, of things similar, and of the same nature: that
nothing relating to individuals could ever come before Congress; nothing but what would
respect colonies. He distinguished between an incorporating and a federal union. The union
of England was an incorporating one; yet Scotland had suffered by that union; for that its
inhabitants were drawn from it by the hopes of places and employments: nor was it an instance
of equality of representation; because, while Scotland was allowed nearly a thirteenth of representation,
they were to pay only one-fortieth of the land tax. He expressed his hopes, that in
the present enlightened state of men's minds, we might expect a lasting confederacy, if it was
founded on fair principles.


Page 975

John Adams advocated the voting in proportion to numbers. He said that we stand here
as the representatives of the people: that in some States the people are many, in others they are
few; that therefore, their vote here should be proportioned to the numbers from whom it comes.
Reason, justice and equity never had weight enough on the face of the earth, to govern the
councils of men. It is interest alone which does it, and it is interest alone which can be trusted:
that therefore the interests within doors, should be the mathematical representatives of the
interests without doors: that the individuality of the colonies is a mere sound. Does the
individuality of a colony increase its wealth or numbers? If it does, pay equally. If it does
not add weight in the scale of the confederacy, it cannot add to their rights, nor weigh in
argument. A. has £ 50, B. £ 500, C. £ 1000 in partnership. Is it just they should equally
dispose of the moneys of the partnership? It has been said, we are independent individuals
making a bargain together. The question is not what we are now, but what we ought to be
when our bargain shall be made. The confederacy is to make us one individual only; it is to
form us like separate parcels of metal, into one common mass. We shall no longer retain our
separate individuality, but become a single individual as to all questions submitted to the confederacy.
Therefore, all those reasons, which prove the justice and expediency of equal representation
in other assemblies, hold good here. It has been objected that a proportional vote
will endanger the smaller States. We answer that an equal vote will endanger the larger.
Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts, are the three greater colonies. Consider their distance,
their difference of produce, of interests, and of manners, and it is apparent they can never
have an interest or inclination to combine for the oppression of the smaller: that the smaller
will naturally divide on all questions with the larger. Rhode Island, from its relation, similarity
and intercourse, will generally pursue the same objects with Massachusetts; Jersey, Delaware,
and Maryland, with Pennsylvania.

Dr. Rush took notice, that the decay of the liberties of the Dutch republic proceeded from
three causes. 1. The perfect unanimity requisite on all occasions. 2. Their obligation to consult
their constituents. 3. Their voting by provinces. This last destroyed the equality of representation,
and the liberties of Great Britain also are sinking from the same defect. That a
part of our rights is deposited in the hands of our legislatures. There, it was admitted, there
should be an equality of representation. Another part of our rights is deposited in the hands
of Congress: why is it not equally necessary there should be an equal representation there?
Were it possible to collect the whole body of the people together, they would determine the questions
submitted to them by their majority. Why should not the same majority decide when
voting here, by their representatives? The larger colonies are so providentially divided in situation,
as to render every fear of their combining visionary. Their interests are different, and
their circumstances dissimilar. It is more probable they will become rivals, and leave it in the
power of the smaller States to give preponderance to any scale they please. The voting by the
number of free inhabitants, will have one excellent effect, that of inducing the colonies to discourage
slavery, and to encourage the increase of their free inhabitants.

Mr. Hopkins observed, there were four larger, four smaller, and four middle-sized colonies.
That the four largest would contain more than half the inhabitants of the confederated States,
and therefore, would govern the others as they should please. That history affords no instance
of such a thing as equal representation. The Germanic body votes by States. The Helvetic
body does the same; and so does the Belgic confederacy. That too little is known of the
ancient confederations, to say what was their practice.

Mr. Wilson thought, that taxation should be in proportion to wealth, but that representation
should accord with the number of freemen. That government is a collection or result of the
wills of all: that if any government could speak the will of all, it would be perfect; and that,
so far as it departs from this, it becomes imperfect. It has been said that Congress is a representation
of States, not of individuals. I say, that the objects of its care are all the individuals
of the States. It is strange that annexing the name of “State” to ten thousand men, should
give them an equal right with forty thousand. This must be the effect of magic, not of reason.
As to those matters which are referred to Congress, we are not so many States; we are one large
State. We lay aside our individuality, whenever we come here. The Germanic body is a
burlesque on government; and their practice, on any point, is a sufficient authority and proof that
it is wrong. The greatest imperfection in the constitution of the Belgic confederacy is their
voting by provinces. The interest of the whole is constantly sacrificed to that of the small States.
The history of the war in the reign of Queen Anne sufficiently proves this. It is asked, shall
nine colonies put it into the power of four to govern them as they please? I invert the question,
and ask, shall two millions of people put it in the power of one million to govern them as they
please? It is pretended, too, that the smaller colonies will be in danger from the greater.
Speak in honest language and say, the minority will be in danger from the majority. And is
there an assembly on earth, where this danger may not be equally pretended? The truth is, that
our proceedings will then be consentaneous with the interests of the majority, and so they
ought to be. The probability is much greater, that the larger States will disagree, than that they
will combine. I defy the wit of man to invent a possible case, or to suggest any one thing on
earth, which shall be for the interests of Virginia, Pennsylvania and Massachusetts, and which
will not also be for the interest of the other States.

These articles, reported July 12, '76, were debated from day to day, and time to time, for two
years, were ratified July 9, '78, by ten States, by New Jersey on the 26th of November of the
same year, and by Delaware on the 23d of February following. Maryland alone held off two
years more, acceding to them March 1, '81, and thus closing the obligation.—
i, 26. Ford ed., i, 38.


Page 976


Section I.

Well aware that the opinions and belief of men depend not on their own will,
but follow involuntarily the evidence proposed to their minds; that Almighty God hath created
the mind free, and manifested His supreme will that free it shall remain by making it altogether
insusceptible of restraint: that all attempts to influence it by temporal punishments or burthens,
or by civil incapacitations, tend only to beget habits of hypocrisy and meanness, and are a
departure from the plan of the Holy Author of our religion, who being Lord both of body and
mind, yet chose not to propagate it by coercions on either, as was in his Almighty power to
do, but to exalt it by its influence on reason alone: that the impious presumption of legislature
and ruler, civil as well as ecclesiastical, who, being themselves but fallible and uninspired men,
have assumed dominion over the faith of others, setting up their own opinions and modes of
thinking as the only true and infallible, and as such endeavoring to impose them on others,
hath established and maintained false religions over the greatest part of the world, and through
all time: That to compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions
which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical; that even the forcing him to
support this or that teacher of his own religious persuasion, is depriving him of the comfortable
liberty of giving his contributions to the particular pastor whose morals he would make
his pattern, and whose powers he feels most persuasive to righteousness; and is withdrawing
from the ministry those temporary rewards, which, proceeding from an approbation of their
personal conduct, are an additional incitement to earnest and unremitting labors for the instruction
of mankind, that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any
more than our opinions in physics or geometry; and therefore the proscribing any citizen as
unworthy the public confidence by laying upon him an incapacity of being called to office of
trust or emolument, unless he profess or renounce this or that religious opinion, is depriving
him injudiciously of those privileges and advantages to which, in common with his fellow citizens,
he has a natural right; that it tends also to corrupt the principles of that very religion
it is meant to encourage, by bribing with a monopoly of worldly honors and emoluments, those
who will externally profess and conform to it; that though indeed these are criminals who do
not withstand such temptation, yet neither are those innocent who lay the bait in their way;
that the opinions of men are not the object of civil government nor under its jurisdiction;
that to suffer the civil magistrate to intrude his powers into the field of opinion, and to restrain
the profession or propagation of principles on supposition of their ill tendency is a dangerous
fallacy which at once destroys all religious liberty, because, he being of course judge of that
tendency, will make his opinions the rule of judgment, and approve or condemn the sentiments
of others only as they shall square with or differ from his own; that it is time enough
for the rightful purposes of civil government for its officers to interfere when principles break
out into overt acts against peace and good order; and finally, that truth is great and will
prevail if left to herself; that she is the proper and sufficient antagonist to error, and has
nothing to fear from the conflict unless, by human interposition, disarmed of her natural
weapons, free argument and debate; errors ceasing to be dangerous when it is permitted freely
to contradict them:

Sect. II.

We, the General Assembly of Virginia, do enact that no man shall be compelled
to frequent or support any religious worship, place, or ministry whatsoever, nor shall be enforced,
restrained, molested, or burthened in his body or goods, or shall otherwise suffer on account
of his religious opinions or belief; but that all men shall be free to profess, and by argument to
maintain, their opinions in matters of religion, and that the same shall in no wise diminish,
enlarge, or affect their civil capacities.

Sect. III.

And though we well know that this Assembly, elected by the people for the
ordinary purposes of legislation only, have no power to restrain the acts of succeeding Assemblies,
constituted with powers equal to our own, and that, therefore, to declare this act to be
irrevocable would be of no effect in law; yet we are free to declare, and do declare, that the
rights hereby asserted are of the natural rights of mankind, and that if any act shall be hereafter
passed to repeal the present or to narrow its operations, such act will be an infringement
of natural right.—
viii, 454. Ford ed., ii, 237. 1786.


Page 977


1. Resolved,

That the several States composing the United States of America, are not
united on the principle of unlimited submission to their General Government; but that, by a
compact under the style and title of a Constitution for the United States, and of Amendments
thereto, they constituted a General Government for special purposes,—delegated to that government
certain definite powers, reserving, each State to itself, the residuary mass of right to their
own self-government; and that whensoever the General Government assumes undelegated powers,
its acts are unauthoritative, void, and of no force: that to this compact each State acceded as
a State, and is an integral party, its co-States forming, as to itself, the other party: that the
Government created by this compact was not made the exclusive or final judge of the extent
of the powers delegated to itself; since that would have made its discretion, and not the Constitution,
the measure of its powers: but that, as in all other cases of compact among powers
having no common judge, each party has an equal right to judge for itself, as well of infractions
as of the mode and measure of redress.

2. Resolved, That the Constitution of the United States, having delegated to Congress a
power to punish treason, counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States,
piracies, and felonies committed on the high seas, and offences against the law of nations, and
no other crimes whatsoever; and it being true as a general principle, and one of the amendments
to the Constitution having also declared, that “the powers not delegated to the United States
by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or
to the people”, therefore the act of Congress, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, and intituled
“An Act in addition to the act intituled `An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against
the United States”', as also the act passed by them on the—day of June, 1789, intituled “An
Act to punish frauds committed on the Bank of the United States” (and all their other acts
which assume to create, define, or punish crimes, other than those so enumerated in the Constitution ),
are altogether void, and of no force: and that the power to create, define, and punish
such other crimes is reserved, and, of right, appertains solely and exclusively to the respective
States, each within its own territory.

3. Resolved, That it is true as a general principle, and is also expressly declared by one of
the amendments to the Constitution, that “the powers not delegated to the United States by the
Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the
people”; and that no power over the freedom of religion, freedom of speech, or freedom of the
press being delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States,
all lawful powers respecting the same did of right remain, and were reserved to the States or
the people; that thus was manifested their determination to retain to themselves the right of
judging how far the licentiousness of speech and of the press may be abridged without lessening
their useful freedom, and how far those abuses which cannot be separated from their use should
be tolerated, rather than the use be destroyed. And thus also they guarded against all abridgment
by the United States of the freedom of religious opinions and exercises, and retained to
themselves the right of protecting the same, as this State, by a law passed on the general demand
of its citizens, had already protected them from all human restraint or interference. And that
in addition to this general principle and express declaration, another and more special provision
has been made by one of the amendments to the Constitution, which expressly declares,
that “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the
free exercise thereof, or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press”; thereby guarding in
the same sentence, and under the same words, the freedom of religion, of speech, and of the
press: insomuch, that whatever violated either, throws down the sanctuary which covers the
others, and that libels, falsehoods, and defamation, equally with heresy and false religion, are
withheld from the cognizance of Federal tribunals. That, therefore, the act of Congress of the
United States, passed on the 14th day of July, 1798, intituled “An Act in addition to the act
intituled `An Act for the punishment of certain crimes against the United States”' which does
abridge the freedom of the press, is not law, but is altogether void, and of no force.

4. Resolved, That alien friends are under the jurisdiction and protection of the laws of the
State wherein they are; that no power over them has been delegated to the United States, nor
prohibited to the individual States, distinct from their power over citizens. And it being true
as a general principle, and one of the amendments to the Constitution having also declared, that
“the powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the
States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people”, the act of the Congress of the
United States, passed on the—day of July, 1798, intituled “An Act concerning aliens”,
which assumes powers over alien friends, not delegated by the Constitution, is not law, but is
altogether void, and of no force.

5. Resolved, That in addition to the general principle, as well as the express declaration,
that powers not delegated are reserved, another and more special provision, inserted in the
Constitution from abundant caution, has declared that “the migration or importation of such
persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited
by the Congress prior to the year 1808”: that this Commonwealth does admit the migration
of alien friends, described as the subject of the said act concerning aliens: that a provision
against prohibiting their migration, is a provision against all acts equivalent thereto, or it would
be nugatory: that to remove them when migrated, is equivalent to a prohibition of their migration,
and is, therefore, contrary to the said provision of the Constitution, and void.

6. Resolved, That the imprisonment of a person under the laws of this Commonwealth, on
his failure to obey the simple order of the President to depart out of the United States, as is
undertaken by said act intituled “An Act concerning aliens” is contrary to the Constitution,
one amendment to which has provided that “no person shall be deprived of liberty without
due process of law”; and that another having provided that “in all criminal prosecutions the
accused shall enjoy the right to public trial by an impartial jury, to be informed of the nature
and cause of the accusation, to be confronted with the witnesses against him, to have compulsory
process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his


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defence”, the same act, undertaking to authorize the President to remove a person out of the
United States, who is under the protection of the law, on his own suspicion, without accusation,
without jury, without public trial, without confrontation of the witnesses against him, without
hearing witnesses in his favor, without defence, without counsel, is contrary to the provision also
of the Constitution, is therefore not law, but utterly void, and of no force: that transferring the
power of judging any person, who is under the protection of the laws, from the courts to the
President of the United States, as is undertaken by the same act concerning aliens, is against
the article of the Constitution which provides that “the judicial power of the United States shall
be vested in courts, the judges of which shall hold their offices during good behavior”; and that
the said act is void for that reason also. And it is further to be noted, that this transfer of
judiciary power is to that magistrate of the General Government who already possesses all the
Executive and a negative on all Legislative powers.

7. Resolved, That the construction applied by the General Government (as is evidenced by
sundry of their proceedings) to those parts of the Constitution of the United States which
delegate to Congress a power “to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the
debts, and provide for the common defence and general welfare of the United States”, and “to
make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution the powers vested
by the Constitution in the government of the United States, or in any department or officer
thereof”, goes to the destruction of all limits prescribed to their power by the Constitution:
that words meant by the instrument to be subsidiary only to the execution of limited powers,
ought not to be so construed as themselves to give unlimited powers, nor a part to be so taken
as to destroy the whole residue of that instrument: that the proceedings of the General Government
under color of these articles, will be a fit and necessary subject of revisal and correction,
at a time of greater tranquillity, while those specified in the preceding resolution call for
immediate redress.

8. Resolved, That a committee of conference and correspondence be appointed, who shall
have in charge to communicate the preceding resolutions to the Legislatures of the several
States: to assure them that this Commonwealth continues in the same esteem of their friendship
and union which it has manifested from that moment at which a common danger first suggested
a common union: that it considers union, for specified national purposes, and particularly to those
specified in their late Federal compact, to be friendly to the peace, happiness and prosperity of all
the States: that faithful to that compact, according to the plain intent and meaning in which it
was understood and acceded to by the several parties, it is sincerely anxious for its preservation:
that it does also believe, that to take from the States all the powers of self-government and
transfer them to a general and consolidated government, without regard to the special delegations
and reservations solemnly agreed to in that compact, is not for the peace, happiness or
prosperity of these States; and that, therefore, this Commonwealth is determined, as it doubts
not its co-States are, to submit to undelegated, and consequently unlimited powers in no man, or
body of men on earth: that in cases of an abuse of the delegated powers, the members of the
General Government, being chosen by the people, a change by the people would be the constitutional
remedy; but, where powers are assumed which have not been delegated, a nullification of
the act is the rightful remedy; that every State has a natural right in cases not within the
compact (casus non fœderis), to nullify of their own authority all assumptions of power by others
within their limits: that without this right, they would be under the dominion, absolute and
unlimited, of whosoever might exercise this right of judgment for them: that nevertheless, this
Commonwealth, from motives of regard and respect for its co-States, has wished to communicate
with them on the subject: that with them alone it is proper to communicate, they alone being
parties to the compact, and solely authorized to judge in the last resort of the powers exercised
under it, Congress being not a party, but merely the creature of the compact, and subject as to
its assumptions of power to the final judgment of those by whom, and for whose use itself and
its powers were all created and modified: that if the acts before specified should stand, these
conclusions would flow from them; that the General Government may place any act they think
proper on the list of crimes, and punish it themselves whether enumerated or not enumerated by
the Constitution as cognizable by them; that they may transfer its cognizance to the President,
or any other person, who may himself be the accuser, counsel, judge, and jury, whose suspicions may be the evidence, his order the sentence, his officer the executioner, and his breast the sole
record of the transaction: that a very numerous and valuable description of the inhabitants of
these States being, by this precedent, reduced, as outlaws, to the absolute dominion of one man,
and the barrier of the Constitution thus swept away from us all, no rampart now remains against
the passions and the powers of a majority in Congress to protect from a like exportation, or other
more grievous punishment, the minority of the same body, the legislatures, judges, governors, and
councillors of the States, nor their other peaceable inhabitants, who may venture to reclaim the
constitutional rights and liberties of the States and people, or who for other causes, good or bad,
may be obnoxious to the views, or marked by the suspicions of the President, or be thought
dangerous to his or their election, or other interests, public or personal: that the friendless alien
has indeed been selected as the safest subject of a first experiment; but the citizen will soon follow,
or rather, has already followed, for already has a Sedition Act marked him as its prey; that
these and successive acts of the same character, unless arrested at the threshold, necessarily drive
these States into revolution and blood, and will furnish new calumnies against republican government,
and new pretexts for those who wish it to be believed that man cannot be governed but by
a rod of iron; that it would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in the men of our choice
to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of
despotism—free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence: it is jealousy and not
confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to
trust with power: that our Constitution has accordingly fixed the limits to which, and no further,
our confidence may go; and let the honest advocate of confidence read the Alien and Sedition
Acts, and say if the Constitution has not been wise in fixing limits to the government it created,
and whether we should be wise in destroying those limits. Let him say what the government
is, if it be not a tyranny, which the men of our choice have conferred on our President, and the
President of our choice has assented to, and accepted over the friendly strangers to whom the


Page 979
mild spirit of our country and its laws have pledged hospitality and protection: that the men of
our choice have more respected the bare suspicions of the President, than the solid right of innocence,
the claims of justification, the sacred force of truth, and the forms and substance of law
and justice. In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him
down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution. That this Commonwealth does, therefore,
call on its co-States for an expression of their sentiments on the acts concerning aliens, and for
the punishment of certain crimes herein before specified, plainly declaring whether these acts
are or are not authorized by the Federal compact. And it doubts not that their sense will be
so announced as to prove their attachment unaltered to limited government, whether general
or particular. And that the rights and liberties of their co-States will be exposed to no dangers
by remaining embarked in a common bottom with their own. That they will concur with this
Commonwealth in considering the said acts as so palpably against the Constitution as to amount
to an undisguised declaration that that compact is not meant to be the measure of the powers
of the General Government, but that it will proceed in the exercise over these States, of all
powers whatsoever: that they will view this as seizing the rights of the States, and consolidating
them in the hands of the General Government, with a power assumed to bind the States (not
merely in the cases made Federal (casus fæderis) but in all cases whatsoever, by laws made,
not with their consent, but by others against their consent; that this would be to surrender the
form of government we have chosen, and live under one deriving its powers from its own will,
and not from our authority; and that the co-States, recurring to their natural right in cases not
made Federal, will concur in declaring these acts void, and of no force, and will each take
measures of its own for providing that neither these acts, nor any others of the General Government
not plainly and intentionally authorized by the Constitution, shall be exercised within their
respective territories.

9. Resolved, That the said committee be authorized to communicate by writing or personal
conferences, at any times or places whatever, with any person or persons who may be appointed
by any one or more co-States to correspond or confer with them; and that they lay their proceeding
before the next session of Assembly.—ix, 464.
Ford ed., vii, 289. 1798.


Page 980


Friends and fellow-citizens:

Called upon to undertake the duties of the first executive office of our country, I avail myself
of the presence of that portion of my fellow-citizens which is here assembled, to express my
grateful thanks for the favor with which they have been pleased to look toward me, to declare a
sincere consciousness that the task is above my talents, and that I approach it with those anxious
and awful presentiments which the greatness of the charge and the weakness of my powers so
justly inspire. A rising nation, spread over a wide and fruitful land; traversing all the seas
with the rich productions of their industry; engaged in commerce with nations who feel power
and forget right; advancing rapidly to destinies beyond the reach of mortal eye,—when I contemplate
these transcendent objects, and see the honor, the happiness, and the hopes of this
beloved country committed to the issue and the auspices of this day, I shrink from the contemplation,
and humble myself before the magnitude of the undertaking. Utterly, indeed, should
I despair, did not the presence of many whom I here see remind me that in the other high
authorities provided by our Constitution I shall find resources of wisdom, of virtue, and of zeal,
on which to rely under all difficulties. To you, then, gentlemen, who are charged with the
sovereign functions of legislation, and to those associated with you, I look with encouragement
for that guidance and support which may enable us to steer with safety the vessel in which we
are all embarked, amid the conflicting elements of a troubled world.

During the contest of opinion through which we have passed, the animation of discussion
and of exertions has sometimes worn an aspect which might impose on strangers, unused to think
freely, and to speak and to write what they think; but, this being now decided by the voice of
the nation, announced according to the rules of the Constitution, all will, of course, arrange themselves
under the will of the law, and unite in common efforts for the common good. All, too,
will bear in mind this sacred principle, that, though the will of the majority is in all cases to
prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal
rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression. Let us, then,
fellow-citizens, unite with one heart and one mind; let us restore to social intercourse that
harmony and affection without which liberty and even life itself are but dreary things. And let
us reflect that having banished from our land that religious intolerance under which mankind
so long bled and suffered, we have yet gained little if we countenance a political intolerance
as despotic, as wicked, and capable of as bitter and bloody persecutions. During the throes
and convulsions of the ancient world, during the agonizing spasms of infuriated man, seeking
through blood and slaughter his long-lost liberty, it was not wonderful that the agitation of the
billows should reach even this distant and peaceful shore; that this should be more felt and
feared by some and less by others; that this should divide opinions as to measures of safety.
But every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle. We have called by different
names brethren of the same principle. We are all republicans; we are all federalists. If there
be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union, or to change its republican form, let
them stand, undisturbed, as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be
tolerated where reason is left free to combat it. I know, indeed, that some honest men fear that
a republican government cannot be strong; that this Government is not strong enough. But
would the honest patriot, in the full tide of successful experiment, abandon a Government
which has so far kept us free and firm, on the theoretic and visionary fear that this Government,
the world's best hope, may, by possibility, want energy to preserve itself? I trust not. I
believe this, on the contrary, the strongest Government on earth. I believe it is the only one
where every man, at the call of the law, would fly to the standard of the law, and would meet
invasions of the public order as his own personal concern. Sometimes it is said that man cannot
be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then, be trusted with the government of
others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer
this question.

Let us, then, with a courage and confidence, pursue our own federal and republican principles,
our attachment to our Union and representative government. Kindly separated by nature
and a wide ocean from the exterminating havoc of one quarter of the globe; too high-minded
to endure the degradations of the others; possessing a chosen country, with room enough for our
descendants to the hundredth and thousandth generation; entertaining a due sense of our equal
right to the use of our own faculties, to the acquisitions of our industry, to honor and confidence
from our fellow-citizens, resulting not from birth but from our actions, and their sense of them;
enlightened by a benign religion, professed, indeed, and practiced in various forms, yet all of
them inculcating honesty, truth, temperance, gratitude, and the love of man; acknowledging and
adoring an overruling Providence, which, by all its dispensations, proves that it delights in the
happiness of man here, and his greater happiness hereafter; with all these blessings, what more
is necessary to make us a happy and prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow-citizens,—
a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall
leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall
not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government,
and this is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

About to enter, fellow-citizens, on the exercise of duties which comprehend every thing dear
and valuable to you, it is proper that you should understand what I deem the essential principles
of our Government, and, consequently, those which ought to shape its administration. I will
compress them within the narrowest compass they will bear, stating the general principle, but not
all its limitations. Equal and exact justice to all men, of whatever state or persuasion, religious
or political; peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with
none; the support of the State governments in all their rights, as the most competent administrations
for our domestic concerns, and the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies;
the preservation of the General Government in its whole constitutional vigor, as the sheet-anchor
of our peace at home and safety abroad; a jealous care of the right of election by the people,—


Page 981
a mild and safe corrective of abuses which are lopped by the sword of revolution, where peaceable
remedies are unprovided; absolute acquiescence in the decisions of the majority,—the vital principle
of republics, from which is no appeal but to force, the vital principle and immediate parent
of despotism; a well-disciplined militia,—our best reliance in peace and for the first moments
of war, till regulars may relieve them; the supremacy of the civil over the military authority;
economy in the public expense, that labor may be lightly burdened; the honest payment of our
debts and sacred preservation of the public faith; encouragement of agriculture, and of commerce
as its handmaid; the diffusion of information and arraignment of all abuses at the bar of public
reason; freedom of religion; freedom of the press; freedom of person under the protection of the
habeas corpus; and trial by juries impartially selected. These principles form the bright constellation
which has gone before us, and guided our steps through an age of revolution and
reformation. The wisdom of our sages and the blood of our heroes have been devoted to their
attainment. They should be the creed of our political faith, the text of civic instruction, the
touch-stone by which to try the services of those we trust; and should we wander from them in
moments of error or of alarm, let us hasten to retrace our steps, and to regain the road which
alone leads to peace, liberty, and safety.

I repair, then, fellow-citizens, to the post you have assigned me. With experience enough
in subordinate offices to have seen the difficulties of this, the greatest of all, I have learned to
expect that it will rarely fall to the lot of imperfect man to retire from this station with the
reputation and the favor which bring him into it. Without pretensions to that high confidence
reposed in our first and greatest revolutionary character, whose pre-eminent services had entitled
him to the first place in his country's love, and destined for him the fairest page in the volume
of faithful history, I ask so much confidence only as may give firmness and effect to the legal
administration of your affairs. I shall often go wrong, through defect of judgment. When
right, I shall often be thought wrong by those whose positions will not command a view of the
whole ground. I ask your indulgence for my own errors, which will never be intentional; and
your support against the errors of others, who may condemn what they would not if seen in all
its parts. The approbation implied by your suffrage is a consolation to me for the past; and
my future solicitude will be to retain the good opinion of those who have bestowed it in advance,
to conciliate that of others by doing them all the good in my power, and to be instrumental
to the happiness and freedom of all.

Relying, then, on the patronage of your good will, I advance with obedience to the work,
ready to retire from it whenever you become sensible how much better choice it is in your
power to make. And may that Infinite Power which rules the destinies of the universe, lead
our councils to what is best, and give them a favorable issue for your peace and prosperity.—
viii, 1. Ford ed., viii, 1. (March 4, 1801.)


Page 982


Proceeding, fellow-citizens, to that qualification which the Constitution requires before
my entrance on the charge again conferred upon me, it is my duty to express the deep sense I
entertain of this new proof of confidence from my fellow-citizens at large, and the zeal with
which it inspires me so to conduct myself as may best satisfy their just expectations.

On taking this station, on a former occasion, I declared the principles on which I believed
it my duty to administer the affairs of our commonwealth. My conscience tells me that I have,
on every occasion, acted up to that declaration, according to its obvious import, and to the understanding
of every candid mind.

In the transaction of your foreign affairs, we have endeavored to cultivate the friendship
of all nations, and especially of those with which we have the most important relations. We
have done them justice on all occasions, favor where favor was lawful, and cherished mutual
interests and intercourse on fair and equal terms. We are firmly convinced, and we act on
that conviction, that with nations, as with individuals, our interests soundly calculated, will
ever be found inseparable from our moral duties; and history bears witness to the fact, that
a just nation is taken on its word, when recourse is had to armaments and wars to bridle others.

At home, fellow-citizens, you best know whether we have done well or ill. The suppression
of unnecessary offices, of useless establishments and expenses, enabled us to discontinue
our internal taxes. These, covering our land with officers, and opening our doors to their intrusions,
had already begun that process of domiciliary vexation, which, once entered, is scarcely
to be restrained from reaching, successively, every article of produce and property. If, among
these taxes some minor ones fell which had not been inconvenient, it was because their amount
would not have paid the officers who collected them, and because, if they had any merit, the
State authorities might adopt them instead of others less approved.

The remaining revenue, on the consumption of foreign articles, is paid cheerfully by those
who can afford to add foreign luxuries to domestic comforts. Being collected on our seaboard
and frontiers only, and incorporated with the transactions of our mercantile citizens, it May
be the pleasure and pride of an American to ask, what farmer, what mechanic, what laborer,
ever sees a tax-gatherer of the United States? These contributions enable us to support the
current expenses of the Government; to fulfil contracts with foreign nations; to extinguish
the native right of soil within our limits; to extend those limits; and to apply such a surplus
to our public debts as places at a short day their final redemption; and, that redemption once
effected, the revenue thereby liberated may, by a just repartition among the States, and a corresponding
amendment of the Constitution, be applied, in time of peace, to rivers, canals, roads,
arts, manufactures, education, and other great objects, within each State. In time of war, if injustice
by ourselves or others must sometimes produce war increased, as the same revenue
will be increased by population and consumption, and aided by other resources reserved for
that crisis, it may meet, within the year all the expenses of the year, without encroaching on
the rights of future generations, by burdening them with the debts of the past. War will then
be but a suspension of useful works; and a return to a state of peace, a return to the progress
of improvement.

I have said, fellow-citizens, that the income reserved had enabled us to extend our limits;
but that extension may possibly pay for itself before we are called on, and, in the mean time,
may keep down the accruing interest; in all events, it will repay the advances we have made. I
know that the acquisition of Louisiana has been disapproved by some, from a candid apprehension
that the enlargement of our territory would endanger its union. But who can limit the
extent to which the federative principle may operate effectively? The larger our association,
the less will it be shaken by local passions; and, in any view, is it not better that the opposite
bank of the Mississippi should be settled by our own brethren and children, than by strangers
of another family? With which shall we be most likely to live in harmony and friendly intercourse?

In matters of religion, I have considered that its free exercise is placed by the Constitution
independent of the powers of the General Government. I have therefore undertaken,
on no occasion, to prescribe the religious exercises suited to it, but have left them as the Constitution
found them, under the direction and discipline of State and Church authorities acknowledged
by the several religious societies.

The aboriginal inhabitants of these countries I have regarded with the commiseration
their history inspires. Endowed with the faculties and the rights of men, breathing an ardent
love of liberty and independence, and occupying a country which left them no desire but to
be undisturbed, the stream of overflowing population from other regions directed itself on these
shores. Without power to divert, or habits to contend against, they have been overwhelmed
by the current, or driven before it. Now reduced within limits too narrow for the hunter
state, humanity enjoins us to teach them agriculture and the domestic arts, to encourage them
to that industry which alone can enable them to maintain their place in existence, and to
prepare them, in time, for that state of society which to bodily comforts adds the improvement
of the mind and morals. We have, therefore, liberally furnished them with the implements
of husbandry and household use; we have placed among them instructors in the arts of first
necessity; and they are covered with the ægis of the law against aggressors from among ourselves.

But the endeavors to enlighten them on the fate which awaits their present course of life,
to induce them to exercise their reason, follow its dictates, and change their pursuits with
the change of circumstances, have powerful obstacles to encounter. They are combated by
the habits of their bodies, prejudice of their minds, ignorance, pride, and the influence of
interested and crafty individuals among them, who feel themselves something in the present
order of things, and fear to become nothing in any other. These persons inculcate a sanctimonious
reverence for the customs of their ancestors; that whatsoever they did must be done


Page 983
through all time; that reason is a false guide, and to advance under its counsel in their physical,
moral, or political conditions, is perilous innovation; that their duty is to remain as their
Creator made them—ignorance being safety, and knowledge full of danger. In short, my
friends, among them is seen the action and counteraction of good sense and bigotry. They,
too, have their anti-philosophers, who find an interest in keeping things in their present state,
who dread reformation, and exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendency of habit over
the duty of improving our reason and obeying its mandates.

In giving these outlines, I do not mean, fellow-citizens, to arrogate to myself the merit
of the measures; that is due, in the first place, to the reflecting character of our citizens at
large, who, by the weight of public opinion, influence and strengthen the public measures.
It is due to the sound discretion with which they select from among themselves those to whom
they confide the legislative duties. It is due to the zeal and wisdom of the characters thus
selected, who lay the foundations of public happiness in wholesome laws, the execution of
which alone remains for others. And it is due to the able and faithful auxiliaries whose
patriotism has associated with me in the executive functions.

During this course of administration, and in order to disturb it, the artillery of the press
has been levelled against us, charged with whatsoever its licentiousness could devise or dare.
These abuses of an institution so important to freedom and science are deeply to be regretted,
inasmuch as they tend to lessen its usefulness and to sap its safety. They might, indeed, have
been corrected by the wholesome punishments reserved and provided by the laws of the several
States against falsehood and defamation; but public duties more urgent press on the time of
public servants, and the offenders have therefore been left to find their punishment in the public

Nor was it uninteresting to the world, that an experiment should be fairly and fully
made, whether freedom of discussion, unaided by power, is not sufficient for the propagation
and protection of truth? Whether a government, conducting itself in the true spirit of its
constitution, with zeal and purity, and doing no act which it would be unwilling the whole
world should witness, can be written down by falsehood and defamation? The experiment
has been tried. You have witnessed the scene. Our fellow-citizens have looked on cool and
collected. They saw the latent source from which these outrages proceeded. They gathered
around their public functionaries; and, when the Constitution called them to the decision
by suffrage, they pronounced their verdict, honorable to those who had served them, and consolatory
to the friend of man, who believes he may be intrusted with his own affairs.

No inference is here intended that the laws provided by the State against false and defamatory
publications should not be enforced. He who has time, renders a service to public
morals and public tranquillity in reforming these abuses by the salutary coercions of the law.
But the experiment is noted to prove that, since truth and reason have maintained their ground
against false opinions, in league with false facts, the press, confined to truth, needs no other
legal restraint. The public judgment will correct false reasonings and opinions, on a full
hearing of all parties; and no other definite line can be drawn between the inestimable liberty
of the press and its demoralizing licentiousness. If there be still improprieties which this
rule would not restrain, its supplement must be sought in the censorship of public opinion.

Contemplating the union of sentiment now manifested so generally, as auguring harmony
and happiness to our future course, I offer to our country sincere, congratulations. With
those, too, not yet rallied to the same point, the disposition to do so is gaining strength.
Facts are piercing through the veil drawn over them; and our doubting brethren will at length
see that the mass of their fellow-citizens, with whom they cannot yet resolve to act, as to
principles and measures, think as they think, and desire what they desire; that our wish, as
well as theirs, is, that the public efforts may be directed honestly to the public good, that
peace be cultivated, civil and religious liberty unassailed, law and order preserved, equality
of rights maintained, and that state of property, equal or unequal, which results to every man
from his own industry, or that of his father's. When satisfied of these views, it is not in human
nature that they should not approve and support them. In the meantime, let us cherish them
with patient affection; let us do them justice, and more than justice, in all competitions of
interest,—and we need not doubt that truth, reason, and their own interests, will at length
prevail—will gather them into the fold of their country, and will complete their entire union
of opinion which gives to a nation the blessing of harmony, and the benefit of all its strength.

I shall now enter on the duties to which my fellow-citizens have again called me, and
shall proceed in the spirit of those principles which they have approved. I fear not that any
motives of interest may lead me astray. I am sensible of no passion which could seduce me,
knowingly, from the path of justice; but the weaknesses of human nature, and the limits
of my own understanding, will produce errors of judgment sometimes injurious to your interests.
I shall need, therefore, all the indulgence I have heretofore experienced, the
want of it will certainly not lessen with increasing years. I shall need, too, the favor of that
Being in whose hands we are; who led our forefathers, as Israel of old, from their native land,
and planted them in a country flowing with all the necessaries and comforts of life; who has
covered our infancy with His providence, and our riper years with His wisdom and power; and to
whose goodness I ask you to join with me in supplications, that He will so enlighten the minds
of your servants, guide their councils, and prosper their measures, that whatsoever they do
shall result in your good, and shall secure to you the peace, friendship, and approbation of all
viii, 40. Ford ed., viii, 341. (March 4, 1805.)


Page 984


The “Valedictory Address of the General Assembly of Virginia”, which was agreed to on
the 7th of February, 1809, gives a good idea of the high estimation in which Jefferson was held
by his party, and the great majority of his countrymen, when he retired from the Presidency.
It is as follows:—

“Sir.—The General Assembly of your native State cannot close their session, without
acknowledging your services in the office which you are just about to lay down, and bidding
you a respectful and affectionate farewell.

“We have to thank you for the model of an administration conducted on the purest principles
of republicanism; for pomp and state laid aside; patronage discarded; internal taxes
abolished; a host of superfluous officers disbanded; the monarchic maxim that `a national debt
is a national blessing', renounced, and more than thirty-three millions of our debt discharged;
the native right to nearly one hundred millions of acres of our national domain extinguished;
and, without the guilt or calamities of conquest, a vast and fertile region added to our country,
far more extensive than her original possessions, bringing along with it the Mississippi and
the port of Orleans, the trade of the West to the Pacific ocean, and in the intrinsic value of
the land itself, a source of permanent and almost inexhaustible revenue. These are points in
your administration which the historian will not fail to seize, to expand, and teach posterity
to dwell upon with delight. Nor will he forget our peace with the civilized world, preserved
through a season of uncommon difficulty and trial; the good will cultivated with the unfortunate
aborigines of our country, and the civilization humanely extended among them; the lesson
taught the inhabitants of the coast of Barbary, that we have the means of chastising their
piratical encroachments, and awing them into justice; and that theme, on which, above all
others, the historic genius will hang with rapture, the liberty of speech and of the press, preserved
inviolate, without which genius and science are given to man in vain.

“In the principles on which you have administered the government, we see only the
continuation and maturity of the same virtues and abilities, which drew upon you in your
youth the resentment of Dunmore. From the first brilliant and happy moment of your resistance
to foreign tyranny, until the present day, we mark with pleasure and with gratitude the
same uniform, consistent character, the same warm and devoted attachment to liberty and the
Republic, the same Roman love of your country, her rights, her peace, her honor, her prosperity.

“How blessed will be the retirement into which you are about to go! How deservedly
blessed will it be! For you carry with you the richest of all rewards, the recollection of a life
well spent in the service of your country, and proofs the most decisive, of the love, the gratitude,
the veneration of your countrymen.

“That your retirement may be as happy as your life has been virtuous and useful; that
our youth may see, in the blissful close of your days, an additional inducement to form themselves
on your model, is the devout and earnest prayer of your fellow-citizens who compose the
General Assembly of Virginia.”—
Rayner's Life of Jefferson,p. 494.


Page 985


Returning to the scenes of my birth and early life, to the society of those with whom I
was raised, and who have been ever dear to me, I receive, fellow-citizens and neighbors, with
inexpressible pleasure, the cordial welcome you were so good as to give me. Long absent on
duties which the history of a wonderful era made incumbent on those called to them, the pomp,
the turmoil, the bustle and splendor of office; have drawn but deeper sighs for the tranquil and
irresponsible occupations of private life, for the enjoyment of an affectionate intercourse with
you, my neighbors and friends, and the endearments of family love, which nature has given
us all, as the sweetner of every hour. For these I gladly lay down the distressing burthen of
power, and seek, with my fellow-citizens, repose and safety under the watchful cares, the
labors and perplexities of younger and abler minds. The anxieties you express to administer
to my happiness, do, of themselves, confer that happiness; and the measure will be complete,
if any endeavors to fulfil my duties in the several public stations to which I have been called,
have obtained for me the approbation of my country. The part which I have acted on the
theatre of public life, has been before them; and to their sentence I submit it; but the testimony
of my native county, of the individuals who have known me in private life, to my conduct
in its various duties and relations, is the more grateful, as proceeding from eye-witnesses
and observers, from triers of the vicinage. Of you, then, my neighbors, I may ask, in
the face of the world, “whose ox have I taken, or whom have I defrauded? Whom have I
oppressed, or of whose hand have I received a bribe to blind mine eyes therewith”? On your
verdict I rest with conscious security. Your wishes for my happiness are received with just
sensibility, and I offer sincere prayers for your own welfare and prosperity.—To the Inhabitants
of Albemarle County, Va.
v, 439. Ford ed., ix, 250. (M., April 3, 1809.)


Page 986


We, the General Assembly of Virginia, on behalf, and in the name of the people thereof,
do declare as follows:

The States of North America which confederated to establish their independence of the
government of Great Britain, of which Virginia was one, became, on that acquisition free
and independent States, and as such, authorized to constitute governments, each for itself, in
such form as it thought best.

They entered into a compact (which is called the Constitution of the United States of
America), by which they agreed to unite in a single government as to their relations with
each other, and with foreign nations, and as to certain other articles particularly specified.
They retained at the same time, each to itself, the other rights of independent government,
comprehending mainly their domestic interests.

For the administration of their Federal branch, they agreed to appoint, in conjunction,
a distinct set of functionaries, legislative, executive and judiciary, in the manner settled in
that compact; while to each, severally, and of course remained its original right of appointing,
each for itself, a separate set of functionaries, legislative, executive and judiciary, also,
for administering the domestic branch of their respective governments.

These two sets of officers, each independent of the other, constitute thus a whole of government,
for each State separately; the powers ascribed to the one, as specifically made
federal, exercised over the whole, the residuary powers, retained to the other, exercisable exclusively
over its particular State, foreign herein, each to the others, as they were before the
original compact.

To this construction of government and distribution of its powers, the Commonwealth of
Virginia does religiously and affectionately adhere, opposing, with equal fidelity and firmness,
the usurpation of either set of functionaries of the rightful powers of the other.

But the Federal branch has assumed in some cases, and claimed in others, a right of
enlarging its own powers by constructions, inferences, and indefinite deductions from those
directly given, which this Assembly does declare to be usurpations of the powers retained to
the independent branches, mere interpolations into the compact, and direct infractions of it.

They claim, for example, and have commenced the exercise of a right to construct roads,
open canals, and effect other internal improvements within the territories and jurisdictions exclusively
belonging to the several States, which this Assembly does declare has not been given
to that branch by the constitutional compact, but remains to each State among its domestic
and unalienated powers, exercisable within itself and by its domestic authorities alone.

This Assembly does further disavow and declare to be most false and unfounded, the
doctrine that the compact, in authorizing its Federal branch to lay and collect taxes, duties,
imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defence and general welfare
of the United States, has given them thereby a power to do whatever they may think,
or pretend, would promote the general welfare, which construction would make that, of itself,
a complete government, without limitation of powers; but that the plain sense and obvious
meaning were, that they might levy the taxes necessary to provide for the general welfare, by the
various acts of power therein specified and delegated to them, and by no others.

Nor is it admitted, as has been said, that the people of these States, by not investing
their Federal branch with all the means of bettering their condition, have denied to themselves
any which may effect that purpose; since, in the distribution of these means they have
given to that branch those which belong to its department, and to the States have reserved
separately the residue which belong to them separately. And thus by the organization of the
two branches taken together, have completely secured the first object of human association,
the full improvement of their condition, and reserved to themselves all the faculties of multiplying
their own blessings.

Whilst the General Assembly thus declares the rights retained by the States, rights which
they have never yielded, and which this State will never voluntarily yield, they do not mean
to raise the banner of dissatisfaction, or of separation from their sister States, co-parties with
themselves to this compact. They know and value too highly the blessings of their Union as to
foreign nations and questions arising among themselves, to consider every infraction as
to be met by actual resistance. They respect too affectionately the opinions of those possessing
the same rights under the same instrument, to make every difference of construction
a ground of immediate rupture. They would, indeed, consider such a rupture as among the
greatest calamities which could befall them; but not the greatest. There is yet one greater,
submission to a government of unlimited powers. It is only when the hope of avoiding this
shall have become absolutely desperate, that further forbearance could not be indulged. Should
a majority of the co-parties, therefore, contrary to the expectation and hope of this Assembly,
prefer, at this time, acquiescence in these assumptions of power by the Federal member of
the government, we will be patient and suffer much, under the confidence that time, ere it be
too late, will prove to them also the bitter consequences in which that usurpation will involve
us all. In the meanwhile, we will breast with them, rather than separate from them, every
misfortune, save that only of living under a government of unlimited powers. We owe
every other sacrifice to ourselves, to our federal brethren, and to the world at large, to pursue
with temper and with perseverance the great experiment which shall prove that man is capable
of living in society, governing itself by laws self-imposed, and securing to its members the
enjoyment of life, liberty, property, and peace; and further to show, that even when the government


Page 987
of its choice shall manifest a tendency to degeneracy, we are not at once to despair but that the will and the watchfulness of its sounder parts will reform its aberrations, recall it to
original and legitimate principles, and restrain it within the rightful limits of self-government.
And these are the objects of this Declaration and Protest.

Supposing, then, that it might be for the good of the whole, as some of its co-States seem
to think, that the power of making roads and canals should be added to those directly given
to the Federal branch, as more likely to be systematically and beneficially directed, than by the
independent action of the several States, this Commonwealth, from respect to these opinions,
and a desire of conciliation with its co-States, will consent, in concurrence with them, to make
this addition, provided it be done regularly by an amendment of the compact, in the way
established by that instrument, and provided also, it be sufficiently guarded against abuses,
compromises, and corrupt practices, not only of possible, but of probable occurrence.

And as a further pledge of the sincere and cordial attachment of this Commonwealth to
the Union of the whole, so far as has been consented to by the compact called “The Constitution
of the United States of America” (constructed according to the plain and ordinary
meaning of its language, to the common intendment of the time, and of those who framed
it); to give also to all parties and authorities, time for reflection and consideration, whether,
under a temperate view of the possible consequences, and especially of the constant obstructions
which an equivocal majority must ever expect to meet, they will still prefer the assumption
of this power rather than its acceptance from the free will of their constituents; and to
preserve peace in the meanwhile, we proceed to make it the duty of our citizens, until the
Legislature shall otherwise and ultimately decide, to acquiesce under those acts of the Federal
branch of our government which we have declared to be usurpations, and against which, in
point of right, we do protest as null and void, and never to be quoted as precedents of right.

We, therefore, do enact, and Be It Enacted by the General Assembly of Virginia, That all
citizens of this Commonwealth, and persons and authorities within the same, shall pay full
obedience at all times to the acts which may be passed by the Congress of the United States,
the object of which shall be the construction of post roads, making canals of navigation, and
maintaining the same in any part of the United States, in like manner as if said acts were
totidem verbis, passed by the Legislature of this Commonwealth.—
ix, 496. Ford ed., x, 349. (Dec. 24, 1825.)


This paper was entitled by Jefferson, “The Solemn Declaration and Protest of the Commonwealth
of Virginia, on the Principles of the Constitution of the United States of America, and on the violations of
them”. Jefferson sent it to Madison in December, 1825, with an explanatory letter
(vii, 422. Ford ed., x, 348) in which he said: “It may intimidate the wavering. It may break the western coalition, by offering the
same thing in a different form. It will be viewed with favor in contrast with the Georgia opposition, and
fear of strengthening that. It will be an example of a temperate mode of opposition in future and similar


Page 988


[To Mrs. John Adams.]

Dear Madam,—The affectionate sentiments which you have had the goodness to express
in your letter of May 20, towards my dear departed daughter, have awakened in me sensibilities
natural to the occasion, and recalled your kindness to her, which I shall ever remember with
gratitude and friendship. I can assure you with truth, they had made an indelible impression
on her mind, and that to the last, on our meetings after long separations, whether I had heard
lately of you, and how you did, were among the earliest of her enquiries. In giving you this
assurance I perform a sacred duty for her, and, at the same time, am thankful for the occasion
furnished me, of expressing my regret that circumstances should have arisen, which have
seemed to draw a line of separation between us. The friendship with which you honored me
has ever been valued, and fully reciprocated; and although events have been passing which
might be trying to some minds, I never believed yours to be of that kind, nor felt that my
own was. Neither my estimate of your character, nor the esteem founded in that, has ever
been lessened for a single moment, although doubts whether it would be acceptable may have
forbidden manifestations of it.

Mr. Adams's friendship and mine began at an earlier date. It accompanied us through
long and important scenes. The different conclusions we had drawn from our political reading
and reflections, were not permitted to lessen personal esteem; each party being conscious they
were the result of an honest conviction in the other. Like differences of opinion existing among
our fellow citizens, attached them to one or the other of us, and produced a rivalship in their
minds which did not exist in ours. We never stood in one another's way; for it either
had been withdrawn at any time, his favorers would not have gone over to the
other, but would have sought for some one of homogeneous opinions. This consideration
was sufficient to keep down all jealousy between us, and to guard our friendship
from any disturbance by sentiments of rivalship; and I can say with truth, that
one act of Mr. Adams's life, and one only, ever gave me a moment's personal displeasure.
I did consider his last appointments to office as personally unkind. They were from among
my most ardent political enemies, from whom no faithful cooperation could ever be expected;
and laid me under the embarrassment of acting through men whose views were to defeat mine,
or to encounter the odium of putting others in their places. It seemed but common justice to
leave a successor free to act by instruments of his own choice. If my respect for him did not
permit me to ascribe the whole blame to the influence of others, it left something for friendship
to forgive, and after brooding over it for some little time, and not always resisting the
expressing of it, I forgave it cordially, and returned to the same state of esteem and respect
for him which had so long subsisted. Having come into life a little later than Mr. Adams,
his career has preceded mine, as mine is followed by some other; and it will probably be closed
at the same distance after him which time originally placed between us. I maintain for him,
and shall carry into private life, an uniform and high measure of respect and good will, and for
yourself a sincere attachment. * * *—
To Mrs. John Adams. iv, 545. Ford ed., viii, 306. (W., June 1804.)

[To Mrs. John Adams.]

Dear Madam,—Your favor of the 1st inst. was duly received, and I would not have again
intruded on you, but to rectify certain facts which seem not to have been presented to you under
their true aspects. [529] My charities to Callender are considered as rewards for his calumnies. As
early, I think, as 1796, I was told in Philadelphia that Callender, the author of the “Political
Progress of Britain”, was in that city, a fugitive from persecution for having written that book,
and in distress. I had read and approved the book; I considered him as a man of genius, unjustly
persecuted. I knew nothing of his private character, and immediately expressed my readiness
to contribute to his relief, and to serve him. It was a considerable time after, that, on application
from a person who thought of him as I did, I contributed to his relief, and afterwards
repeated the contribution. Himself I did not see till long after, nor ever more than two or
three times. When he first began to write, he told some useful truths in his coarse way;
but nobody sooner disapproved of his writing than I did, or wished more that he would be
silent. My charities to him were no more meant as encouragements to his scurrilities, than
those I give to the beggar at my door are meant as rewards for the vices of his life, and to
make them chargeable to myself. In truth, they would have been greater to him, had he never
written a word after the work for which he fled from Britain. * * *

But another fact is, that “I liberated a wretch who was suffering for a libel against Mr.
Adams”. I do not know who was the particular wretch alluded to; but I discharged every
person under punishment or prosecution under the Sedition law, because I considered, and now
consider, that law to be a nullity, as absolute and as palpable as if Congress had ordered us to
fall down and worship a golden image; and that it was as much my duty to arrest its execution
in every stage, as it would have been to have rescued from the fiery furnace those who
should have been cast into it for refusing to worship the image. It was accordingly done in
every instance, without asking what the offenders had done, or against whom they had offended,
but whether the pains they were suffering were inflicted under the pretended Sedition law.
It was certainly possible that my motives for contributing to the relief of Callender, and
liberating sufferers under the Sedition law, might have been to protect, encourage, and reward
slander; but they may also have been those which inspire ordinary charities to objects
of distress, meritorious or not, or the obligation of an oath to protect the Constitution, violated
by an unauthorized act of Congress. Which of these were my motives, must be decided by a [530]


Page 989
regard to the general tenor of my life. On this I am not afraid to appeal to the nation at large,
to posterity, and still less to that Being who sees Himself our motives, who will judge us from
His own knowledge of them, and not on the testimony of “Porcupine” or Fenno.

You observe, there has been one other act of my administration personally unkind, and
suppose it will readily suggest itself to me. I declare on my honor, Madam, I have not the
least conception what act is alluded to. I never did a single one with an unkind intention.

* * *—
To Mrs. John Adams. iv, 555. Ford ed., viii, 308. (July 1804.)


Mrs. Adams, in replying to the preceding letter, put forward Jefferson's patronage of Editor Callender
as an offset to the midnight appointments. See Callender.—Editor.


Quotation 59 gives the part of the letter omitted at this point.—Editor.

[To Mrs. John Adams.]

Your letter, Madam, of the 18th of August, has been some days received, but a press of
business has prevented the acknowledgment of it; perhaps, indeed, I may have already trespassed
too far on your attention. With those who wish to think amiss of me, I have learned
to be perfectly indifferent; but where I know a mind to be ingenuous, and to need only truth
to set it to rights, I cannot be as passive. The act of personal unkindness alluded to in your
former letter, is said in your last to have been the removal of your eldest son from some office
to which the judges had appointed him. I conclude, then, he must have been a commissioner
of bankruptcy. But I declare to you, on my honor, that this is the first knowledge
I have ever had that he was so. It may be thought, perhaps, that I ought to have enquired
who were such, before I appointed others. But it is to be observed, that the former law
permitted the judges to name commissioners occasionally only, for every case as it arose,
and not to make them permanent officers. Nobody, therefore, being in office, there could
be no removal. The judges, you well know, have been considered as highly federal; and
it was noted that they confined their nominations exclusively to federalists. The Legislature,
dissatisfied with this, transferred the nomination to the President, and made the
offices permanent. The very object in passing the law was, that he should correct, not
confirm, what was deemed the partiality of the judges. I thought it, therefore, proper to
inquire, not whom they had employed, but whom I ought to appoint to fulfil the intentions
of the law. In making these appointments, I put in a proportion of federalists, equal, I
believe, to the proportion they bear in numbers through the Union generally. Had I known
that your son had acted, it would have been a real pleasure to me to have preferred him
to some who were named in Boston, in what was deemed the same line of politics. To this
I should have been led by my knowledge of his integrity, as well as my sincere dispositions
towards yourself and Mr. Adams [531] . * * * The candor manifested in your letter,
and which I ever believed you to possess, has alone inspired the desire of calling your
attention, once more, to those circumstances of fact and motive by which I claim to be
judged. I hope you will see these intrusions on your time to be, what they really are, proofs
of my great respect for you. I tolerate with the utmost latitude the right of others to differ
from me in opinion without imputing to them criminality. I know too well the weakness
and uncertainty of human reason to wonder at its different results. Both of our political
parties, at least the honest part of them, agree conscientiously in the same object—the public
good; but they differ essentially in what they deem the means of promoting that good.
One side believes it best done by one composition of the governing powers; the other, by a
different one. One fears most the ignorance of the people; the other, the selfishness of rulers
independent of them. Which is right, time and experience will prove. We think that one
side of this experiment has been long enough tried, and proved not to promote the good of
the many; and that the other has not been fairly and sufficiently tried. Our opponents
think the reverse. With whichever opinion the body of the nation concurs, that must
prevail. My anxieties on this subject will never carry me beyond the use of fair and honorable
means, of truth and reason; nor have they ever lessened my esteem for moral worth,
nor alienated my affections from a single friend, who did not first withdraw himself. Whenever
this has happened, I confess I have not been insensible to it; yet have ever kept myself
open to a return of their justice. I conclude with sincere prayers for your health and
happiness, that yourself and Mr. Adams may long enjoy the tranquillity you desire and merit,
and see in the prosperity of your family what is the consummation of the last and warmest
of human wishes.—
To Mrs. John Adams.iv, 560. Ford ed., viii, 310. (M., Sep. 11, 1804.)


The part of the letter omitted here is printed in this volume under the title, Sedition Law, Executive
vs. Judiciary.—Editor.

[To Dr. Benjamin Rush.]

I receive with sensibility your observations on the discontinuance of friendly correspondence
between Mr. Adams and myself, and the concern you take in its restoration. This discontinuance
has not proceeded from me, nor from the want of sincere desire and of effort on my
part, to renew our intercourse. You know the perfect coincidence of principle and of action,
in the early part of the Revolution, which produced a high degree of mutual respect and
esteem between Mr. Adams and myself. Certainly no man was ever truer than he was, in
that day, to those principles of rational republicanism which, after the necessity of throwing
off our monarchy, dictated all our efforts in the establishment of a new government. And
although he swerved, afterwards, towards the principles of the English constitution, our
friendship did not abate on that account [532] . * * *

You remember the machinery which the federalists played off, about that time, to beat
down the friends to the real principles of our Constitution, to silence by terror every expression
in their favor, to bring us into war with France and alliance with England, and
finally to homologize our Constitution with that of England. Mr. Adams, you know, was
overwhelmed with feverish addresses, dictated by the fear, and often by the pen, of the
bloody buoy, and was seduced by them into some open indications of his new principles of


Page 990
government, and in fact, was so elated as to mix with his kindness a little superciliousness
towards me. Even Mrs. Adams, with all her good sense and prudence, was sensibly flushed.
And you recollect the short suspension of our intercourse, and the circumstance which gave
rise to it which you were so good as to bring to an early explanation, and have set to rights,
to the cordial satisfaction of us all [533] . * * *

Two or three years after, having had the misfortune to lose a daughter, between whom
and Mrs. Adams there had been a considerable attachment, she made it the occasion of writing
me a letter, in which, with the tenderest expression of concern at this event, she carefully
avoided a single one of friendship towards myself, and even concluded it with the wishes “of
her who once took pleasure in subscribing herself your friend, Abigail Adams”. Unpromising
as was the complexion of this letter, I determined to make an effort towards removing the
cloud from between us. This brought on a correspondence which I now enclose for your
perusal, after which be so good as to return it to me, as I have never communicated it to
any mortal breathing, before. I send it to you, to convince you I have not been wanting
either in the desire, or the endeavor to remove this misunderstanding. Indeed, I thought
it highly disgraceful to us both, as indicating minds not sufficiently elevated to prevent a
public competition from affecting our personal friendship. I soon found from the correspondence
that conciliation was desperate, and yielding to an intimation in her last letter, I ceased
from further explanation [534] . * * *

I have gone into these details, that you might know everything which had passed between
us, might be fully possessed of the state of facts and dispositions, and judge for yourself whether
they admit a revival of that friendly intercourse for which you are so kindly solicitous. I
shall certainly not be wanting in anything on my part which may second your efforts, which
will be the easier with me, inasmuch as I do not entertain a sentiment of Mr. Adams, the expression
of which could give him reasonable offence.—To Dr. Benjamin Rush. v, 558. Ford
ed., ix, 299. (M., Jan. 1811.)


For omitted clause, see quotation 89.—Editor.


Quotations 77, 78; 83 and 88 give the continuation of the text.—Editor.


Quotations 72 and 60, read consecutively, supply the omission in the text.—Editor.

[To Dr. Benjamin Rush.]

I communicated to you the correspondence which had parted Mrs. Adams and myself, in
proof that I could not give friendship in exchange for such sentiments as she had recently
taken up towards myself, and avowed and maintained in her letters to me. Nothing but a
total renunciation of these could admit a reconciliation, and that could be cordial only in proportion
as the return to ancient opinions was believed sincere. In these jaundiced sentiments
of hers I had associated Mr. Adams, knowing the weight which her opinions had with him,
and notwithstanding she declared in her letters that they were not communicated to him. A
late incident has satisfied me that I wronged him as well as her, in not yielding entire confidence
to this assurance on her part. Two of the Mr.——, my neighbors and friends,
took a tour to the northward during the last summer. In Boston they fell into company with
Mr. Adams, and * * * passed a day with him at Braintree. He spoke out to them everything
which came uppermost, * * * and seemed most disposed to dwell on those things
which happened during his own administration. He spoke of his masters, as he called his
Heads of departments, as acting above his control, and often against his opinions. Among
many other topics, he adverted to the unprincipled licentiousness of the press against myself,
adding, “I always loved Jefferson, and still love him”.

This is enough for me. I only needed this knowledge to revive towards him all the affections
of the most cordial moments of our lives. Changing a single word only in Dr. Franklin's
character of him, I knew him to be always an honest man, often a great one, but sometimes
incorrect and precipitate in his judgments; and it is known to those who have ever heard me
speak of Mr. Adams, that I have ever done him justice myself, and defended him when, assailed
by others, with the single exception as to political opinions. But with a man possessing
so many other estimable qualities, why should we be dissocialized by mere differences of
opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, or anything else? His opinions are as honestly
formed as my own. Our different views of the same subject are the result of a difference
in our organization and experience. I never withdrew from the society of any man on this
account, although many have done it from me; much less should I do it from one with whom
I had gone through, with hand and heart, so many trying scenes. I wish, therefore, but for
an apposite occasion to express to Mr. Adams my unchanged affections for him. There is an
awkwardness which hangs over the resuming a correspondence so long discontinued, unless
something could arise which should call for a letter. Time and chance may perhaps generate
such an occasion, of which I shall not be wanting in promptitude to avail myself. From this
fusion of mutual affections, Mrs. Adams is, of course, separated. It will only be necessary
that I never name her. In your letters to Mr. Adams, you can, perhaps suggest my continued
cordiality towards him, and knowing this, should an occasion of writing first present itself to
him, he will, perhaps, avail himself of it, as I certainly will, should it first occur to me. No
ground for jealousy now existing, he will certainly give fair play to the natural warmth of his
To Dr. Benjamin Rush. Washington ed., vi, 30. Ford ed., ix, 299. (P.F., Dec. 1811.)