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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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7744. SECESSION, Baleful.—
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7744. SECESSION, Baleful.—

Mr. New
showed me your letter * * * which gave
me an opportunity of observing what you said
as to the effect, with you, of public proceedings,
and that it was not unwise [444] now to estimate
the separate mass of Virginia and
North Carolina, with a view to their separate
existence. It is true that we are completely
under the saddle of Massachusetts and Connecticut,
and that they ride us very hard,
cruelly insulting our feelings, as well as exhausting
our strength and subsistence. Their
natural friends, the three other Eastern
States, join them from a sort of family pride,
and they have the art to divide certain other
parts of the Union, so as to make use of them
to govern the whole. This is not new, it is
the old practice of despots; to use a part of
the people to keep the rest in order. And
those who have once got an ascendency, and
possessed themselves of all the resources of
the nation, their revenues and offices, have
immense means of retaining their advantage.
But our present situation is not a natural one.
The republicans, through every part of the
Union, say that it was the irresistible influence
and popularity of General Washington
played off by the cunning of Hamilton,
which turned the government over to anti-republican
hands, or turned the republicans
chosen by the people into anti-republicans.
He delivered it over to his successor in this
state, and very untoward events since, improved
with great artifice, have produced on
the public mind the impressions we see.
But, still, I repeat it, this is not the natural
state. Time alone would bring round an
order of things more correspondent to the
sentiments of our constituents. But, are
there no events impending, which will do it
within a few months? The crisis with England,
the public and authentic avowal of sentiments
hostile to the leading principles of our
Constitution, the prospect of a war, in which
we shall stand alone, land tax, stamp tax, increase
of public debt, &c. Be this as it may,
in every free and deliberating society, there
must, from the nature of man, be opposite
parties, and violent dissensions and discords;
and one of these, for the most part, must prevail
over the other for a longer or shorter
time. Perhaps this party division is necessary
to induce each to watch and debate to
the people the proceedings of the other. But
if on a temporary superiority of the one
party, the other is to resort to a scission of
the Union, no federal government can ever
exist. If to rid ourselves of the present rule
of Massachusetts and Connecticut, we break
the Union, will the evil stop there? Suppose
the New England States alone cut off, will
our nature be changed? Are we not men still
to the south of that, and with all the passions
of men? Immediately, we shall see a Pennsylvania
and a Virginia party arise in the
residuary confederacy, and the public mind
will be distracted with the same party spirit.
What a game, too, will the one party have in
their hands, by eternally threatening the other
that unless they do so and so, they will join
their northern neighbors. If we reduce our
Union to Virginia and North Carolina, immediately
the conflict will be established between
the representatives of these two States,
and they will end by breaking into their
simple units. Seeing, therefore, that an association
of men who will not quarrel with one another is a thing which never existed,
from the greatest confederacy of nations
down to a town meeting or a vestry; seeing
that we must have somebody to quarrel with,
I had rather keep our New England associates
for that purpose, than to see our bickerings
transferred to others. They are circumscribed
within such narrow limits, and their
population so full, that their numbers will
ever be the minority, and they are marked,
like the Jews, with such a perversity of
character, as to constitute, from that circumstance,
the natural division of our parties. A
little patience, and we shall see the reign of
witches pass over, their spells dissolved, and
the people recovering their true sight, restoring
their government to its true principles.
It is true that, in the meantime, we are suffering
deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors
of a war, and long oppressions of enormous
public debt. But who can say what would
be the evils of a scission, and when and where
they would end? Better keep together as we
are, haul off from Europe as soon as we can,
and from all attachments to any portions of
it; and if they show their power just sufficiently
to hoop us together, it will be the happiest
situation in which we can exist. If
the game runs sometimes against us at home,
we must have patience till luck turns, and
then we shall have an opportunity of winning
back the principles we have lost. For this is
a game where principles are the stake.—
To John Taylor. Washington ed. iv, 245. Ford ed., vii, 263.
(Pa., June. 1798)


A descendant of Mr. Taylor claimed that he
wrote “it is not usual now”, &c. See Ford edition.—Editor.