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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.;
3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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3 occurrences of jefferson cyclopedia
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9034. WASHINGTON (George), Second term.—

When you first mentioned to me your
purpose of retiring from the government, though
I felt all the magnitude of the event, I was in a
considerable degree silent. I knew that, to
such a mind as yours, persuasion was idle and
impertinent; that before forming your decision
you had weighed all the reasons for and against
the measure, had made up your mind on full
view of them, and that there could be little hope
of changing the result. Pursuing my reflections,
too, I knew we were some day to try to
walk alone, and if the essay should be made
while you should be alive and looking on, we
should derive confidence from that circumstance,
and resource, if it failed. The public mind,
too, was calm and confident, and therefore in
a favorable state for making the experiment.
Had no change of circumstances intervened, I
should not, with any hopes of success, have now
ventured to propose to you a change of purpose.
But the public mind is no longer confident and
serene; and that from causes in which you are
no ways personally mixed. Though these
causes have been hackneyed in the public papers
in detail, it may not be amiss, in order to calculate
the effect they are capable of producing, to
take a view of them in the mass, giving to each
the form, real or imaginary, under which they
have been presented. It has been urged, then,
that the public debt, greater than we can possibly
pay before other causes of adding new debt
to it will occur, has been artificially created by
adding together the whole amount of the debtor
and creditor sides of accounts, instead of only
taking their balances, which could have been
paid off in a short time; that this accumulation
of debt has taken forever out of our power
those easy sources of revenue which, applied to
the ordinary necessities and exigencies of government,
would have answered them habitually,
and covered us from habitual murmurings
against taxes and taxgatherers, reserving extraordinary
calls for those extraordinary occasions
which would animate the people to meet
them; that though the calls for money have been
no greater than we must expect generally, for
the same or equivalent exigencies, yet we are
already obliged to strain the impost till it produces
clamor, and will produce evasion and
war on our own citizens to collect it, and even
to resort to an excise law of most odious character
with the people, partial in its operation,
unproductive unless enforced by arbitrary and
vexatious means, and committing the authority
of the government in parts where resistance is
most probable and coercion least practicable.
They cite propositions in Congress, and suspect
other projects on foot still to increase the mass
of debt. They say, that by borrowing at two-thirds
of the interest, we might have paid off
the principal in two-thirds of the time; but that
from this we are precluded by its being made
irredeemable but in small portions and long
terms; that this irredeemable quality was given
it for the avowed purpose of inviting its transfer
to foreign countries. They predict that this
transfer of the principal, when completed, will
occasion an exportation of three millions of
dollars annually for the interest, a drain of
coin, of which as there have been no examples,
no calculation can be made of its consequences:
that the banishment of our coin will be complicated
by the creation of ten millions of paper
money, in the form of bank bills now issuing
into circulation. They think that the ten or
twelve per cent annual profit paid to the lenders
of this paper medium taken out of the pockets
of the people, who would have had without interest
the coin it is banishing; that all the capital
employed in paper speculation is barren
and useless, producing, like that on a gaming
table, no accession to itself, and is withdrawn
from commerce and agriculture, where it
would have produced addition to the common
mass: that it nourishes in our citizens habits of
vice and idleness, instead of industry and morality;
that it has furnished effectual means of


Page 933
corrupting such a portion of the Legislature as
turns the balance between the honest voters,
whichever way it is directed: that this corrupt
squadron, deciding the voice of the Legislature,
have manifested their dispositions to get rid of
the limitations imposed by the Constitution on
the general Legislature, limitations, on the faith
of which, the States acceded to that instrument:
that the ultimate object of all this is to
prepare the way for a change from the present
republican form of government to that of a
monarchy, of which the English constitution is
to be the model: that this was contemplated by
the convention is no secret, because its partisans
have made none of it. To effect it then
was impracticable, but they are still eager after
their object, and are predisposing everything
for its ultimate attainment. So many of them
have got into the Legislature, that, aided by the
corrupt squadron of paper dealers, who are at
their devotion, they make a majority in both
houses. The republican party, who wish to preserve
the government in its present form, are
fewer in number; they are fewer even when
joined by the two, three, or half dozen anti-federalists,
who, though they dare not avow it, are
still opposed to any general government; but,
being less so to a republican than a monarchical
one, they naturally join those whom they think
pursuing the lesser evil. Of all the mischiefs
objected to the system of measures before mentioned,
none is so afflicting and fatal to every
honest hope, as the corruption of the Legislature.
As it was the earliest of these measures,
it became the instrument for producing the rest,
and will be the instrument for producing in future
a king, lords and commons, or whatever
else those who direct it may choose. Withdrawn
such a distance from the eye of their
constituents, and these so disposed as to be
inaccessible to public information, and particularly
to that of the conduct of their own representatives,
they will form the most corrupt government
on earth, if the means of their corruption
be not prevented. The only hope of safety
now hangs on the numerous representation
which is to come forward the ensuing year.
Some of the new members will be, probably,
either in principle or interest, with the present
majority; but it is expected that the great mass
will form an accession to the republican party.
They will not be able to undo all which the two
preceding Legislatures, and especially the first,
have done. Public faith and right will oppose
this. But some parts of the system may be
rightfully reformed, a liberation from the rest
unremittingly pursued as fast as right will permit,
and the door shut against similar commitments
of the nation. Should the next Legislature
take this course, it will draw upon them
the whole monarchical and paper interest; but
the latter, I think, will not go all lengths with
the former, because creditors will never, of their
own accord, fly off entirely from their debtors;
therefore, this is the alternative least likely to
produce convulsion. But should the majority of
the new members be still in the same principles
with the present, and show that we have nothing
to expect but a continuance of the same practices,
it is not easy to conjecture what would be
the result, nor what means would be resorted to
for correction of the evil. True wisdom would
direct that they should be temperate and peaceable;
but the division of sentiment and interest
happens unfortunately to be so geographical,
that no mortal man can say that what is most
wise and temperate would prevail against what
is most easy and obvious? I can scarcely contemplate
a more incalculable evil than the breaking
of the Union into two or more parts. Yet
when we consider the mass which opposed
the original coalescence; when we consider that
it lay chiefly in the Southern quarter; that the
Legislature have availed themselves of no occasion
of allaying it, but on the contrary whenever
Northern and Southern prejudices have
come into conflict, the latter have been sacrificed
and the former soothed; that the owers
of the debt are in the Southern, and the holders
of it in the Northern division: that the antifederal
champions are now strengthened in argument
by the fulfillment of their predictions;
that this has been brought about by the monarchical
federalists themselves, who, having
been for the new government merely as a stepping
stone to monarchy, have themselves adopted
the very constructions of the Constitution,
of which, when advocating its acceptance before
the tribunal of the people, they declared it
unsusceptible; that the republican federalists
who espoused the same government for its intrinsic
merits, are disarmed of their weapons;
that which they denied as prophecy, having now
become true history, who can be sure that these
things may not proselyte the small number
which was wanting to place the majority on the
other side? And this is the event at which I
tremble, and to prevent which I consider your
continuance at the head of affairs as of the last
importance. The confidence of the whole
Union is centered in you. Your being at the
helm will be more than an answer to every argument
which can be used to alarm and lead the
people in any quarter, into violence and secession.
North and South will hang together if
they have you to hang on; and if the first correction
of a numerous representation should fail
in its effect, your presence will give time for
trying others, not inconsistent with the Union
and peace of the States. I am perfectly aware
of the oppression under which your present
office lays your mind, and of the ardor with
which you pant for domestic life. But there is
sometimes an eminence of character on which
society have such peculiar claims as to control
the predilections of the individual for a particular
walk of happiness, and restrain him to
that alone arising from the present and future
benedictions of mankind. This seems to be
your condition, and the law imposed on you by
Providence in forming your character, and fashioning
the events on which it was to operate;
and it is to motives like these, and not to personal
anxieties of mine or others who have no
right to call on you for sacrifices, that I appeal,
and urge a revisal of it, on the ground of change
in the aspect of things. Should an honest majority
result from the new and enlarged representation;
should those acquiesce whose principles
or interest they may control, your wishes
for retirement would be gratified with less
danger as soon as that shall be manifest, without
awaiting the completion of the second period
of four years. One or two sessions will determine
the crisis; and I cannot but hope that you
can resolve to add more to the many years you
have already sacrificed to the good of mankind.
The fear of suspicion that any selfish motive
of continuance in office may enter into this solicitation
on my part, obliges me to declare that
no such motive exists. It is a thing of mere
indifference to the public whether I retain or
relinquish my purpose of closing my tour with
the first political renovation of the government.
I know my own measure too well to suppose that
my services contribute anything to the public
confidence, or the public utility. Multitudes
can fill the office in which you have been pleased
to place me, as much to their advantage and satisfaction.
I have, therefore, no motive to consult
but my own inclination, which is bent irresistibly
on the tranquil enjoyment of my family,


Page 934
my farm and my books. I should repose among them, it is true, in far greater security,
if I were to know that you remained at the
watch; and I hope it will be so. To the inducements
urged from a view of our domestic affairs,
I will add a bare mention, of what indeed need
only to be mentioned, that weighty motives for
your consideration are to be found in our foreign
affairs. I think it probable that both the
Spanish and English negotiations, if not completed
before your purpose is known, will be suspended
from the moment it is known, and that
the latter nation will then use double diligence
in fomenting the Indian war.—
To President Washington. Washington ed. iii, 360. Ford ed., vi, 1.
(Pa., May. 1792)