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"But the true barriers of liberty in this country are our state governments; and the wisest conservative power ever contrived by man is that of which our revolution and present government found us possessed. Seventeen distinct states, amalgamated into one, as to their foreign concerns, but single and independent as to their internal administration, regularly organized with a legislature and governor resting on the choice of the people, and enlightened by a free press, can never be so fascinated by the arts of one man, as to submit voluntarily to his usurpation. Nor can they be constrained to it by any force he can possess. While they may paralyze the single state in which it happens to be encamped, sixteen others, spread over a country of two thousand miles diameter, rise up on every side, ready organized for deliberation by a constitutional legislature, and for action by their governor, constitutionally the commander of the militia of the state — that is to say, of every man in it able to bear arms — and that militia, too, regularly formed into regiments and battalions, into infantry, cavalry and artillery, trained under officers, general and subordinate, legally appointed, always in readiness, and to whom they are already in habits of obedience. The republican government of France was lost without a struggle, because the party of 'un et indivisible' had prevailed, no provincial organizations existed to which the people might rally, under authority of the laws, the seats of the directory were virtually vacant, and a small force was sufficient to turn the legislature out of their chamber, and to salute its leader chief of the nation."
In "Jefferson and His Political Philosophy,” by Mary Plate Parmelee, she says of Jefferson's great and restless mind, that "it was a laboratory and not a storehouse," and that, “He believed that the ideal government should be framed not so much to restrain the popular will as to express it; not to obstruct, but to execute it.”
We can only wonder that the hatred of Jefferson was • not greater. He offended in turn each entrenched
class. Take that one expression of his: “I tremble for my country when I think of the negro and know that God is just.” These are words uttered by Thomas Jefferson in Virginia — by a slaveholder in the midst of slaveholders — and not by Lincoln in Illinois, nor by Garrison or Sumner in Massachusetts, where they would have been popular!
JEFFERSON'S INFLUENCE AS A DIPLOMAT
THERE is no use for my purpose in detailing dates and circumstances of Jefferson's being sent to France. He is there first with two colleagues, John Adams and Benjamin Franklin, as Envoys Extraordinary, and subsequently alone as Minister to France. He was not only lucky in having succeeded Mr. Franklin as Minister, but he was lucky in this: that America was then itself, as Franklin was, a sort of fad in Paris with litterateurs, and even with courtiers.
There was not much for Jefferson to do in France of weighty concern to our prosperity. He did obtain the admission of our products on favorable terms, as compared with those of other nations, and a mitigation of the Government tobacco monopoly. In fact, considering how the ghost of the mercantile theory still had its fingers around the throats of all the ruling spirits in nearly every nation, he did a good deal. He gave a sensible stimulus to our policy of Reciprocity. In his diplomatic correspondence he shows himself fully in possession of those economical principles the soundness of which Adam Smith was demonstrating.
He writes to the French Premier that France “could not expect America to come to her to purchase, when she did not take American commodities in return," thus impressing the great economical truth, that, after
all, commodities are somehow, somewhere, paid for with other commodities.
Finally, before he left he had a battle royal with the protective system, which was shutting the ports of France against food when Frenchmen were dying for the lack of it; "and spent his last days, even his last hours, in Paris, in trying to persuade the Ministry to permit the importation of salted provisions from the United States,” and failed! Parton epitomizes the interview delightfully. “Salt beef,” objected the Count de Montmorin, “will give the people scurvy.” “No," replied Jefferson, “we eat it in America and we don't have the scurvy.” “The salt tax will fall off,” said the Minister. Jefferson could not deny that it might a little; but, on the other hand, “it would relieve the Government from the necessity of keeping the price of bread below its value.” “But,” resumed the Count, “the people of France will not buy salt meat.” “Then,” replied Jefferson, “the merchants won't import it, and no harm will be done.” “And you cannot make a good soup out of it,” urged the Count. “True," said Jefferson, “but it gives a delightful flavor to vegetables. Besides it will cost only half the price of fresh meat.”
Ridiculous, isn't it? But this last year our people were paying three prices for Irish potatoes, and yet Congress could not be prevailed upon to suspend the import duty!
Nothing, however, done by Jefferson in France as Envoy or as Minister can be said to have permanently affected our International Relations unless it be the so-called Model Treaty, which Franklin, Adams and
he put in shape to be proffered by us to all nations. James Parton says of this celebrated "model draft of a treaty”: “What an amiable, harmless, useless document it seems! But it was the first serious attempt ever made to conduct the intercourse of nations on Christian principles; and it was made by three men to whom ignorance has sometimes denied the name of Christians." This is a partial error. The instructions to our Ministers abroad, drawn by Jefferson, when he was a member of the Continental Congress, was the “first attempt” of this sort, and "the model treaty” and it are so much alike that plainly the latter is based on the former. I expect, if I live to the Scriptural limit of age, to see the main provisions of that treaty adopted by the civilized nations of the earth in their intercourse with one another, thereby confining the evils of war — always unnecessary and barbarous — within as narrow limits as possible. Already privateering has been abolished, which was one of the things the authors of "the model treaty” sought. The whole world admits, that there ought to be no confiscation of neutral property — another thing they sought. I hope the day is not far distant, when war will bring "no molestation to fishermen, farmers,” and other noncombatants, and “no useless ravaging of the enemy's coast at a point where the enemy has no ships or arms," which constituted another of their aims.
Another of their objects was that there should be, "no crowding of prisoners of war into unwholesome places." Already this example had been set by Jefferson's advice and active aid among “the sweet hills of Albemarle,” where nearly a whole county and the open air had