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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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5566. MOURNING, Official.—
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5566. MOURNING, Official.—

No one
would more willingly than myself pay the just
tribute due to the services of Captain [John] Barry, by writing a letter of condolence to his
widow, as you suggest. But when one undertakes
to administer justice, it must be with an
even hand, and by rule; what is done for one,
must be done for every one in equal degree.
To what a train of attentions would this draw a
President. How difficult it would be to draw
the line between that degree of merit entitled
to such a testimonial of it, and that not so
entitled? If drawn in a particular case differently
from what the friends of the deceased
would judge right, what offence would it give,
and of the most tender kind? How much offence
would be given by accidental inattentions,
or want of information? The first step into
such an undertaking ought to be well weighed.
On the death of Dr. Franklin, the King and
Convention of France went into mourning.
So did the House of Representatives of the
United States. The Senate refused. I proposed
to General Washington that the Executive
department should wear mourning. He
declined it, because he said he should not know
where to draw the line, if he once began that
ceremony. Mr. Adams was then Vice-President,
and I thought General Washington had
his eye on him, whom he certainly did not love.
I told him the world had drawn so broad a
line between himself and Dr. Franklin, on the
one side, and the residue of mankind, on the
other, that we might wear mourning for them,
and the question still remain new and undecided
as to all others. He thought it best, however,
to avoid it. On these considerations
alone, however well affected to the merit of
Commodore Barry, I think it prudent not to
engage myself in a practice which may become
To Dr. Benjamin Rush. Washington ed. iv, 507. Ford ed., viii, 264.
(W. 1803)