The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


I am to thank you, my dear sir, for forwarding M. D'Ivernois' book on the French Revolution. I receive everything with respect which comes from him. But it is on politics, a subject I never loved and now hate. I will not promise therefore to read it thoroughly. I fear the oligarchical executive of the French will not do. We have always seen a small council get into cabals and quarrels, the more bitter and relentless the fewer they are. We saw this in our committee of the States; and that they were from their bad passions, incapable of doing the business of their country. I think that for the prompt, clear and consistent action so necessary in an executive, unity of person is necessary as with us. …

This I hope will be the age of experiments in government, and that their basis will be founded in principles of honesty, not of mere force. We have seen no instance of this since the days of the Roman republic, nor do we read of any before that. Either force or corruption has been the principle of every modern government, unless the Dutch perhaps be excepted, and I am not well enough informed to except them absolutely. If ever the morals of a people could be made the basis of their own government, it is our case; and who could propose to govern such a people by the corruption of a legislature, before he could have one night of quiet sleep must convince himself that the human soul as well as body is mortal. I am glad to see that whatever grounds of apprehension may have appeared of a wish to govern us otherwise than on principles of reason and honesty, we are getting the better of them. I am sure from the honesty of your heart, you join me in detestation of the corruptions of the English government, and that no man on earth is more incapable than yourself of seeing that copied among us, willingly. I have been among those who have feared the design to introduce it here, and it has been a strong reason with me for wishing there was an ocean of fire between that island and us. But away politics.

to John Adams, 28 February 1796