"I thank your Excellency for the notice, with which your letter favors me, of the liberation of France from the occupation of the Allied powers. to no one, not a native, will it give more pleasure. in the desolation of Europe to gratify the atrocious caprices of Bonaparte, France sinned much: but she has suffered more than retaliation. once relieved from the Incubus of her late oppression, she will rise like a giant from her slumbers. her soil and climate, her arts and eminent science, her central position and free constitution, will soon make her greater than she ever was. and I am a false prophet if she does not, at some future day, remind of her sufferings those who have inflicted them the most eagerly. I hope however she will be quiet for the present, and risk no new troubles. her constitution, as now amended, gives as much of self-government as perhaps she can yet bear, and will give more when the habits of order shall have prepared her to receive more. besides the gratitude which every American owes her, as our sole ally during the war of independence, I am additionally affectioned by the friendships I contracted there, by the good dispositions I witnessed, and by the courtesies I received."
"No nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage." Although the subject of Jefferson's letter may seem to change abruptly, he had in fact already mentioned France's "soil and climate" as two of her great gifts, and the topic of wine duties was a more than appropriate one to discuss with the French minister. This reasoned tribute to the health and economic benefits of wine is one of longest passages on oenology by America's first great connoisseur.
"I rejoice, as a Moralist, at the prospect of a reduction of the duties on wine, by our national legislature. it is an error to view a tax on that liquor as merely a tax on the rich. it is a prohibition of it's use to the middling class of our citizens, and a condemnation of them to the poison of whisky, which is desolating their houses. no nation is drunken where wine is cheap; and none sober, where the dearness of wine substitutes ardent spirits as the common beverage. it is in truth the only antidote to the bane of whisky. fix but the duty at the rate of other merchandise, and we can drink wine here as cheaply as we do grog: and who will not prefer it? it's extended use will carry health and comfort to a much enlarged circle. every one in easy circumstances (as the bulk of our citizens are) will prefer it to the poison to which they are now driven by their government. and the treasury itself will find that a penny apiece from a dozen is more than a groat from a single one. this reformation however will require time. our merchants know nothing of the infinite variety of cheap and good wines to be had in Europe; and particularly in France, in Italy, and the Graecian islands: as they know little also of the variety of excellent manufactures and comforts to be had any where out of England. nor will these things be known, nor of course called for here, until the native merchants of those countries, to whom they are known, shall bring them forward, exhibit & send them at the moderate profits they can afford. this alone will procure them familiarity with us, and the preference they merit in competition with corresponding articles now in use."
Jefferson brought to America from Europe both wines and grape vines for cultivation. His cellar had vintages from France, Italy, Spain, Greece, Portugal, Hungary, and Germany, and advised other chief executives on the best wines to serve at federal functions. He concludes his letter to Baron de Neuville by recalling the pleasure of their last visit together; an event at which fine wine was undoubtedly served: "Our family renews with pleasure their recollections of your kind visit to Monticello, and joins me in tendering sincere assurances of the gratification it afforded us, and of our great esteem & respectful consideration."
John Hailman's Thomas Jefferson on Wine (University Press of Mississippi, 2006) notes that "One of Jefferson's favorite topics in later life was how wine promoted sobriety," to which end he lobbied President Monroe and Treasury Secretary Alexander Dallas to lower import duties on French wine. Hailman cites a brief extract from this letter, lauding it because "it has so many quotable passages" (pp. 353-54).
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