The Correspondence of Thomas Jefferson
UNITY / POLITICAL PARTIES / DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TWO MAJOR PARTIES
Amidst this mass of approbation which is given to every other part of
the work, there is a single sentiment which I cannot help wishing to
bring to what I think the correct one.
Stating in volume one,
page sixty-three, the principle of difference between the two great
political parties here, you conclude it to he, "whether the
controlling power shall be vested in this or that set of men."
That each party endeavors to get into the administration of the
government, and exclude the other from power, is true, and may be
stated as a motive of action: but this is only secondary; the primary
motive being a real and radical difference of political principle. An
honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his
Power is not alluring to pure minds, and is not, with them, the
primary principle of contest. This is my belief of it; it is that on
which I have acted; and had it been a mere contest who should be
permitted to administer the government according to its genuine
republican principles, there has never been a moment of my life in
which I should have relinquished for it the enjoyments of my family,
my farm, my friends and books.
You expected to discover the difference of our party principles in
General Washington's valedictory, and my inaugural address. Not at
all. General Washington did not harbor one principle of federalism. He
was neither an Angloman, a monarchist, nor a separatist. He sincerely
wished the people to have as much self-government as they were
competent to exercise themselves. The only point on which he and I
ever differed in opinion, was, that I had more confidence than he had
in the natural integrity and discretion of the people, and in the
safety and extent to which they might trust themselves with a control
over their government.
to John Melish, 13 January 1813