The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


The President is not yet arrived, but we expect him the day after tomorrow. He has probably protracted his journey so as to avoid the ceremonies of to-morrow. We expect daily to hear the events of the expedition under General Scott into the Indian country. Perhaps you will hear it sooner than we shall. Having nothing to communicate in the line of public news I will state something personal. You will observe by the enclosed and preceding papers that I am mentioned on the subject of Paine's pamphlet on the Rights of Man; and you will have seen a note of mine prefixed to that pamphlet whence it has been inferred that I furnished the pamphlet to the printer and procured its publication. This is not true. The fact was this: Mr. Beckley had the only copy of that pamphlet in town. He lent it to Mr. Madison, who lent it to me under the injunction to return it to Mr. Beckley within the day. Beckley came for it before I had finished reading it and desired as soon as I had done I would send it to a Mr. Jonathan B. Smith whose brother was to reprint it. Being an utter stranger to Mr. J. B. Smith I explained to him in a note that I sent the pamphlet to him by order of Mr. Beckley, and to take off somewhat of the dryness of the note I added that I was glad to find it was to he reprinted here, etc., as you have seen in the printed note. I thought so little of this note that I did not even retain a copy of it; and without the least information or suspicion that it would be published, out it comes the next week at the head of the pamphlet. I knew immediately that it would give displeasure to some gentlemen just by the chair of government who were in sentiment with Burke and as much opposed to the sentiments of Paine.

I could not disavow my note, because I had written it. I could not disavow my approbation of the pamphlet, because I was fully in sentiment with it, and it would have been trifling to have disavowed merely the publication of the note approving at the same time of the pamphlet. I determined, therefore, to be utterly silent except so far as verbal explanations could be made.

to T.M. Randolph, 3 July 1791