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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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5144. MAZZEI (Philip), Jefferson's letter to.—
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5144. MAZZEI (Philip), Jefferson's letter to.—

[Respecting] the letter to Mazzei
imputed to me in the papers, the general substance
is mine, though the diction has been considerably
varied in the course of its translations
from English into. Italian, from Italian into
French, and from French into English. I first
met with it at Bladensburg, and for a moment
conceived I must take the field of the public
papers. I could not disavow it wholly, because
the greatest part of it was mine, in
substance though not in form. I could not
avow it as it stood, because the form was not
mine, and, in one place, the substance very
materially falsified. This, then, would render
explanations necessary; nay, it would render
proofs of the whole necessary, and draw me at
length into a publication of all (even the secret)
transactions of the administration [of Washington] while I was of it; and embroil me personally
with every member of the Executive,
with the Judiciary, and with others still. I
soon decided in my own mind, to be entirely
silent. I consulted with several friends at Philadelphia,
who, every one of them, were clearly
against my avowing or disavowing, and some
of them conjured me most earnestly to let nothing
provoke me to it. I corrected, in conversation
with them, a substantial misrepresentation
in the copy published. The original has a sentiment
like this (for I have it not before me),
“they are endeavoring to submit us to the substance,
as they already have to the forms of the
British government”; meaning by forms, the
birth-days, levees, processions to parliament, inauguration
pomposities, &c. But the copy published
says, “as they have already submitted us
to the form of the British”, &c., making me
express hostility to the form of our government,
that is to say, to the Constitution itself.
For this is really the difference of the word
form, used in the singular or plural, in that
phrase, in the English language. Now, it
would be impossible for me to explain this publicly,


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without bringing on a personal difference between General Washington and myself, which
nothing before the publication of this letter
has ever done. It would embroil me also with
all those with whom his character is still popular,
that is to say, nine-tenths of the people of
the United States; and what good would be obtained
by avowing the letter with the necessary
explanations? Very little indeed, in my opinion,
to counterbalance a good deal of harm.
From my silence in this instance, it can never
be inferred that I am afraid to own the general
sentiments of the letter. If I am subject
to either imputation, it is to that of avowing
such sentiments too frankly both in private and
public, often when there is no necessity for it,
merely because I disdain everything like duplicity.
Still, however, I am open to conviction.
Think for me, * * * advise me what to
do, and confer with Colonel Monroe.—
To James Madison. Washington ed. iv, 193. Ford ed., vii 164.
(M. Aug. 1797)