Thomas Jefferson to James Madison
Monticello Feb. 17. 26.
that hue. they suppose themselves indeed to be whigs, because they no longer know what whiggism or republicanism means. it is in our Seminary that the Vestal flame is to be kept alive; it is thence it is to spread anew over our own and the sister-states. if we are true and vigilant in our trust, within a dozen or 20 years a majority of our own legislature will be from our school, and many disciples will have carried it's doctrines home with them to their several states, and will have leavened thus the whole mass. N. York has taken strong ground; in vindication of the constitution; S. Carolina had already done the same. Altho' I was against our leading, I am equally against omitting to follow in the same line, and backing them firmly; and I hope that yourself or some other will mark out the track to be pursued by us.
You will have seen in the newspapers some proceedings in the legislature, which have cost me much mortification. my own debts had become considerable but not beyond the effect of some lopping of property which would have been little felt, when our friend W.C.N. gave me the Coup de grace. ever since that I have been paying 1200.D a year interest on his debt, which, with my own, was absorbing so much of my annual income, as that the Maintenance of my family was making deep and rapid inroads on my capital, and had already done it. still, sales at a fair price would leave me competently provided. had crops and prices for several years been such as to maintain a steady competition of substantial bidders at market, all would have been safe. but the long succession of years of stunted crops, of reduced prices, the general prostration of the farming business, under levies for the support of manufacturers &c. with the calamitous fluctuations of value in our paper medium have kept agriculture in a state of abject depression which has peopled the Western states, by silently breaking up those on the Atlantic, & glutted the land market, while it drew off it's bidders. in such a state of things, property has lost it's character of being a resource for debts. highland in Bedford, which, in the days of our plethory, sold readily for from 50 to 100D the acre, (and such sales were many there) would not now sell for more than from 10 to 20D or 1/4 or 1/5 of their former price. reflecting on these things, the practice occurred to me, of selling, on fair valuation, and by way of lottery, often resorted to, before the revoln to effect large sales and still in constant usage, in every state, for individual, as well as corporation purposes. if it is permitted in my case, my lands here alone, with the mills &c. will pay every thing, and leave me Monticello & a farm free. if refused, I must sell every thing here, perhaps considerably in Bedford, move thither with my family, where I have not even a log-hut to put my head into, and whether ground for burial will depend on the depredations which, under the form of sales, shall have been committed on my property. the question then with me was Utrum horum? but why afflict you with these details? indeed I cannot tell, unless pains are lessened by communication with a friend. the friendship which has subsisted between us, now half a century, and the harmony of our political principles and pursuits, have been sources of constant happiness to me thro' that long period. and if I remove beyond the reach of attentions to the University, or beyond the bourne of life itself, as I soon must, it is a comfort to leave that institution under your care, and an assurance that it will not be wanting. it has also been a great solace to me, to believe that you are engaged in vindicating to posterity the course we have pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, the blessings of self-government, which we had assisted too in acquiring for them. if ever the earth has beheld a system of administration, conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. to myself, you have been a pillar of support thro' life. take care of me when dead, and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections.