96
96
Jefferson, Thomas, as Minister to France
Estimate
60,00090,000
LOT SOLD. 56,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT
96
Jefferson, Thomas, as Minister to France
Estimate
60,00090,000
LOT SOLD. 56,250 USD
JUMP TO LOT

Details & Cataloguing

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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Jefferson, Thomas, as Minister to France
Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson"), 2 1/8  pages, 4to (9 x 7 1/8 in.; 225 x 182 mm), Paris, 1 February 1785, to Richard Price, thanking him for sending his Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution; small oxidized ink spot in right margin touching 2 words, small hole on second leaf touching "obedient" in the closing, light dampstain in right margin of second leaf. Blue cloth folding-case, blue morocco spine; spine lightly sunned.
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Literature

The Papers of Thomas Jefferson 7: 630–631 (text from a copy made ca. 1903 by Walter Ashburner from the original then in his possession)

Catalogue Note

Jefferson thanks British moral philosopher, dissenter, and political pamphleteer Richard Price for his latest publication, Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution (London, 1784) which was given to him by Benjamin Franklin at Price's request. "I have read it with very great pleasure, as have done many others to whom I have communicated it. The spirit which it breathes is as affectionate as the observations themselves are wise and just. I have no doubt it will be reprinted in America and produce much good there."

"Calamity was our best physician." Jefferson then turns his attention to the current state of government in America. "The want of power in the federal head was early perceived, and foreseen to be the flaw in our constitution which might endanger its destruction. ... when I left America in July the people were becoming universally sensible of this, and a spirit to enlarge the powers of Congress was becoming general. ... The happiness of governments like ours, wherein the people are truly the mainspring, is that they are never to be despaired of. When an evil becomes so glaring as to strike them generally, they arrouse themselves, and it is redressed. He only is then the popular man and can get into office who shews the best dispositions to reform the evil. ... Calamity was our best physician. Since the peace it was observed that some nations of Europe, counting on the weakness of Congress and the little probability of a union in measure among the states, were proposing to grasp unequal advantages in our commerce ... you may be assured that this evil will be immediately redressed & redressed radically." Price was one of the few prominent Englishmen who favored reciprocity of trade with the United States, though he had already predicted to Jefferson that this would not materialize.

"My mind [is] in perfect quiet as to the ultimate fate of our union." As one of the ministers sent to obtain treaties of commerce with European nations, Jefferson's mission was to exchange America's vast resources of raw materials and food with any nation that would accord it free and equal footing, thus challenging British mercantilist supremacy. However, Jefferson noted that the disposition to treat with the United States now had considerably subsided since the peace. At first he attributed this declining enthusiasm not to the realities of the international situation but to the unfavorable reports of American anarchy spread by British design. The British press was consistently portraying the United States as riot-torn, depressed, and on the brink of collapse. Jefferson, the champion of local self-government, surprisingly expresses to Price confidence that a necessary strengthening of central government will eventually come about: "I doubt still whether in this moment they [the States] will enlarge those powers in Congress which are necessary to keep the peace among the States. I think it possible that this may be suffered to lie till some two States commit hostilities on each other, but in that moment the hand of the union will be lifted up and interposed, and the people will themselves demand a general concession to Congress of means to prevent similar mischeifs ... The apprehensions you express of danger from the want of powers in Congress, led me to note to you this character in our governments ... my mind [is] in perfect quiet as to the ultimate fate of our union; and I am sure, from the spirit which breathes thro your book, that whatever promises permanence to that will be a comfort to your mind." A few months later Jefferson wrote Madison and Monroe that only when the disposition to invest Congress with the regulation of commerce appeared to be growing was he able to discover "the smallest token of respect towards the United States in any part of Europe." (TJ to Madison, 1 September 1785, Papers of Thomas Jefferson 5:108).

The JAMES S. COPLEY LIBRARY: MAGNIFICENT AMERICAN HISTORICAL DOCUMENTS: FIRST SELECTION

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New York