The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


I have read your book with infinite satisfaction and improvement. It will do great good in America. Its learning and its good sense will, I hope, make it an institute for our politicians, old as well as young. There is one opinion in it, however, which I will ask you to reconsider, because it appears to me not entirely accurate, and not likely to do good. Page 362, "Congress is not a legislative, but a diplomatic assembly." Separating into parts the whole sovereignty of our States, some of these parts are yielded to Congress. Upon these I should think them both legislative and executive, and that would have been judiciary also, had not the confederation required them for certain purposes to appoint a judiciary. It has accordingly been the decision of our courts that the confederation is a part of the law of the land, and superior in authority to the ordinary laws, because it cannot be altered by the legislature of any one State. I doubt whether they are at all a diplomatic assembly.

to John Adams, 23 February 1787