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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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154. ADMIRALTY COURTS, Decisions of British.—
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154. ADMIRALTY COURTS, Decisions of British.—

I thank you for the case of
Demsey vs. the Insurers, which I have read
with great pleasure, and entire conviction.
Indeed it is high time to withdraw all respect
from courts acting under the arbitrary orders
of governments who avow a total disregard of
those moral rules which have hitherto been
acknowledged by nations, and have served
to regulate and govern their intercourse. I
should respect just as much the rules of
conduct which governed Cartouche or Blackbeard,
as those now acted on by France or
England. If your argument is defective in
anything, it is in having paid to the antecedent
decisions of the British Courts of Admiralty
the respect of examining them on grounds of
reason; and not having rested the decision
at once on the profligacy of those tribunals,


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and openly declared against permitting their
sentences to be ever more quoted or listened
to until those nations return to the practice
of justice, to an acknowledgment that there
is a moral law which ought to govern mankind,
and by sufficient evidences of contrition
for their present flagitiousness, make it safe
to receive them, again into the society of civilized
nations. I hope this will be done on a
proper occasion. Yet knowing that religion
does not furnish grosser bigots than law, I
expect little from old judges. Those now at
the bar may be bold enough to follow reason
rather than precedent, and may bring that
principle on the bench when promoted to
it; but I fear this effort is not for my day.
It has been said that when Harvey discovered
the circulation of the blood, there was not
a physician of Europe of forty years of age,
who assented to it. I fear you will experience
Harvey's fate; but it will become law
when the present judges are dead.—
To Thomas Cooper. Washington ed. v, 531.
(M. 1810)