The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
FOREIGN RELATIONS / SPAIN AND ENGLAND
On the question you propose, whether we can, in any form, take a
bolder attitude than formerly in favor of liberty, I can give you but
commonplace ideas. They will be but the widow's mite, and offered only
because requested. The matter which now embroils Europe, the
presumption of dictating to an independent nation the form of its
government, is so arrogant, so atrocious, that indignation, as well as
moral sentiment, enlists all our partialities and prayers in favor of
one, and our equal execrations against the other. I do not know,
indeed, whether all nations do not owe to one another a bold and open
declaration of their sympathies with the one party, and their
detestation of the conduct of the other. But farther than this we are
not bound to go; and indeed, for the sake of the world, we ought not
to increase the jealousies, or draw on ourselves the power of this
formidable confederacy. I have ever deemed it fundamental for the
United States, never to take active part in the quarrels of Europe.
Their political interests are entirely distinct from ours. Their
mutual jealousies, their balance of power, their complicated
alliances, their forms and principles of government, are all foreign
to us. They are nations of eternal war. All their energies are
expended in the destruction of the labor, pr6perty and lives of their
On our part, never had a people so favorable a chance of trying the
opposite system, of peace and fraternity with mankind, and the
direction of all our means and faculties to the purposes of
improvement instead of destruction.
While no duty, therefore, calls on us to take part in the present war
of Europe, and a golden harvest offers itself in reward for doing
nothing, peace and neutrality seem to be our duty and interest. We may
gratify ourselves, indeed, with a neutrality as partial to Spain as
would be justifiable without giving cause of war to her adversary .
... And I expect daily and confidently to hear of a spark kindled in
France, which will employ her at home, and relieve Spain from all
further apprehensions of danger.
That England is playing false with Spain cannot be doubted. Her
government is looking one way and rowing another. It is curious to
look back a little on past events. During the ascendency of Bonaparte,
the word among the herd of kings, was "
sauve qui peut." Each shifted for himself, and left his
brethren to squander and do the same as they could. After the battle
of Waterloo, and the military possession of France, they rallied and
combined in common cause, to maintain each other against any similar
and future danger.
There can be no doubt that the allies are
bound by treaty to aid England with their armies, should insurrection
take place among her people. This war is evidently that of the general
body of the aristocracy, in which England is also acting her part. "Save
but the nobles and there shall be no war," says she, masking her
measures at the same time under the form of friendship and mediation,
and hypocritically, while a party, offering herself as a judge, to
betray those whom she is not permitted openly to oppose. A fraudulent
neutrality, if neutrality at all, is all Spain will get from her. And
Spain, probably, perceives this, and willingly winks at it rather than
have her weight thrown openly into the other scale.
to James Monroe, 11 June 1823