The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson

By Subject


I find I am losing sight of the progress of the world of letters. Here we talk but of rains and droughts, of blights and frosts, of our ploughs and cattle; and if the topic changes to politics I meddle little with them. In truth, I never had a cordial relish for them, and abhor the contentions and strife they generate. You know what were the times which forced us both from our first loves, the natural sciences. The interest I have taken in the success of the experiment, whether a government can be contrived which shall secure man in his rightful liberties and acquirements, has engaged a longer portion of my life than I had ever proposed: and certainly the experiment could never have fallen into more inauspicious times, when nations have openly renounced all obligations of morality, and shamelessly assume the character of robbers and pirates. In any other time our experiment would have been more easy; and if it can pass safely through the ordeal of the present trial, we may hope we have set an example which will not be without consequences favorable to human happiness. May we not hope that when the robbers of Copenhagen [the British], and the ravagers of Spain [the French] shall be arrested in their course by those means which Providence has always in reserve for the restoration of order among his works, the pendulum will vibrate the more strongly in the opposite direction, and that nations will return to the reestablishment of moral law with an enthusiasm which shall more solidly confirm its future empire.

to Benjamin Rush, 22 September 1809