The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


We shall know, I think, within a day or two, whether the government will risk a bankruptcy and civil war, rather than see all distinction of orders done away, which is what the Commons will push for. If the fear of the former alternative prevails, they will spin the matter into negotiation. The Commons have in their chamber almost all the talents of the nation; they are firm and bold, yet moderate. There is, indeed, among them, a number of very hot-headed members; but those of most influence are cool, temperate and sagacious. Every step of this House has been marked with caution and wisdom. The Noblesse, on the contrary, are absolutely out of their senses. They are so furious, they can seldom debate at all. They have few men of moderate talents, and not one of great, in the majority. Their proceedings have been very injudicious. The Clergy are waiting to profit by every incident to secure themselves, and have no other object in view. Among the Commons there is an entire unanimity on the great question of voting by persons. Among the Noblesse there are about sixty for the Commons, and about three times that number against them. Among the Clergy, about twenty have already come over and joined the Commons, and in the course of a few days they will be joined by many more, not, indeed, making the majority of that House, but very near it. The Bishops and Archbishops have been very successful by bribes and intrigues, in detaching the Cures from the Commons, to whom they were at first attached to a man. The Commons are about five hundred and fifty-four in number, of whom three hundred and forty-four are of the law. These do not possess an influence founded in property; but in their habits of business and acquaintance with the people, and in their means of exciting them as they please. The Cure's throughout the kingdom, form the mass of the Clergy; they are the only part favorably known to the people, because solely charged with the du4es of baptism, burial, confession, visitation of the sick, instruction of the children, and aiding the poor; they are themselves of the people, and united with them. The carriages and equipage only of the higher Clergy, not their persons, are known to the people, and are in detestation with them. The soldiers will follow their officers, that is to say, their captains, leutenants and ensigns. These are of the lower nobility, and, therefore, much divided. The colonels and higher officers are of the higher nobility, are seldom with the soldiers, little known to them, not possessing their attachment. These circumstances give them little weight in the partition of the army.

to James Madison, 18 June 1789