JEFFERSON, THOMAS, President. Autograph letter signed ("Th:Jefferson") as ex-President, to Caesar A. Rodney, Jr., of Delaware, Monticello, 10 February 1810. 2 pages, 4to, 250 x 196mm. (9.7/8 x 7 in.), integral blank neatly inlaid to a larger sheet.
A TROUBLED EX-PRESIDENT LAMENTS THE WORLD SITUATION"
Writing to the son and namesake of the noted patriot and fellow Signer of the Declaration of Independence, the retired President laments the continuing wars in Europe, rails against British maritime abuses and complains of the general decline of public morality and probity: "It has been peculiarly unfortunate for us personally that the portion in the history of mankind, at which we were called to take a share in the direction of their affairs, was such a one as history has never before presented. At any other period, the even-handed justice we have observed towards all nations, the efforts we have made to merit their esteem by every act which candour or liberality could exercise, would have preserved our peace and secured the unqualified confidence of all other nations in our faith & probity." But, he continues, the Napoleonic Wars, "the hurricane which is now blasting the world, physical & moral, has prostrated all the mounds of reason as well as right. All those calculations, which, at any other period, would have been deemed honorable, of the existence of a moral sense in man, individually and associated, of the connection which the laws of nature had established between his duties & his interestsm of a regard for honest fame & the esteem of our fellow men, have been a matter of reproach on us, as evidences of imbecility. as if it could be a folly for an honest man to suppose that others could be honest also, when it is their interest to be so. And when is this state of things to end? The death of Bonaparte would, to be sure, remove the first and chiefest apostle of the desolation of man & morals, & might withdraw the scourge of the land, but what is to restore order & safety on the ocean? The death of George III? Not at all. He is only stupid, & his ministers, however weak & profligate in morals, are ephemeral. But his nation is permanent, & it is that which is the tyrant of the ocean, The principal that force is right is become the principle of the nation itself. They would not permit an honest minister, were accident to bring such an one into power, to relax their system of lawless piracy. These were the difficulties when I was with you [i.e., a part of the government]. I know they are not lessened, and I pity you."
"It is a blessing however that our people are reasonable, that they are kept so well informed of the state of things as to judge for themselves, to see the true sources of their difficulties, and to maintain their confidence undiminished in the wisdom & integrity of their functionaries. Macte virtute therefore. Continue to go straight forward, pursuing always that which is right as the only clue which can lead us out of the labyrinth. Let nothing be spared of either reason or passion to preserve the public confidence entire, as the only rock of our safety. In times of peace the people look most to their representatives: but in war, to the Executive solely. It is visible that their confidence is even now veering in that direction: that they are looking to the Executive to give the proper direction to their affairs, with a confidence as auspicious as it is well founded."
Jefferson concludes with very warm expressions of gratitude for Rodney's "faithful co-operation in my late labours...Tho' separated from my fellow labourers in place & pursuit, my affections are with you all...God bless you."