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is that which produces the greatest scene of happiness to mankind, I feel it a duty to do no act which shall essentially impair that principle; and I should unwillingly be the person who, disregarding the sound precedent set by an illustrious predecessor, should furnish the first example of prolongation beyond the second term of office.
Truth also requires me to add that I am sensible of that decline which advancing years bring on; and feeling their physical, I ought not to doubt their mental effect; happy if I am the first to perceive and to obey this admonition of nature, and to solicit a retreat from cares too great for the wearied faculties of age.
For the approbation which the General Assembly of Pennsylvania has been pleased to express of the principles and measures pursued, in the management of their affairs, I am sincerely thankful : And should I be so fortunate as to carry into retirement the equal approbation and good will of my fellow-citizens generally, it will be the comfort of my future days, and will close a service of forty years with the only reward it ever wished.
THOMAS JEFFERSON. Dec. 10th, 1807.
Did the self-sufficient vanity of any man under forty or fifty years of age ever make the concessions of patriotism, and develop the unaffected good sense, which are contained in this letter?
The veto power, lodged with executives, is discussed in Chapter XIX., upon Governments, to meet occasions of unfitness and corruption with officers.
The people should make a law, giving themselves the power to veto any officer out of office, and elect another in his place at any annual election, before the commencement of the last year of his term, if the term be far more than one year. The people have the same right to put a man out as to put him into office. They will not be apt to dismiss an incumbent without cause; they will be more likely to overlook his faults than to resent them; and to be deceived by his concealment of them after he is elected, as they are too apt to be before he is appointed. This has always and everywhere been their cause.
There is a prevalent notion that the dignity of government and the character of the people require that officers and men
in power should be treated with great personal reverence, and that their motives and official acts are presumed to be just. This last proposition is an abstract rule of law required to preserve the validity of contracts and to secure the integrity of titles, but mistake or fraud will nullify any executive legislative or judicial act.
But the ridiculous and humiliating servility usually made to them springs from a sinister or cowardly propensity to crouch before men in place and power.
The men in office who have received the most cordial marks of personal respect and the largest concessions of confidence in all times have been distinguished for wisdom, purity, and unaffected simplicity of deportment.
It is the vain and the ignorant who presumptuously seek for, and demand from the public acknowledgments of official consequence.
Whenever officers are detected in official malversations, they become objects of public hatred; all their official acts are distrusted ; reproach is brought upon them, and government and the people should hold the power to dismiss them.
Impeachment for incompetency, neglect, corruption, or for any cause, is a farce. The culprits employ their accustomed intrigues, and, with the aid of their depraved and abandoned confederates, baffle and defy impeachment.
PUBLIC OPINION, CHARACTER, DUELING, AND SELF-DEFENCE.
Public opinion and character controlled by the bad-Their power hidden
-Selfish-Attack slavery-Amalgamation-Not sincere-Extort money by pretensions of charity, &c., instead of helping the weak, the idiots, &c.-Politicians-Officers-Pettifoggers-Quacks-Judges-Distinctions here and in Europe defined Judges and classes—Cases of ignorance, &c.-Arts, sophistry, and force of public opinion-Character by the Supreme Court of Pennsylvania--No escape from public opinion
-Its fatal effects—Cases-Comparisons of mind and morals-CautionCounter-plotting--Washington and a spy-&c.
OCCASIONS of great mental anguish come from causes so hidden and secondary in their character as wholly to escape the observation of all except the intelligent and experienced.
A desire to have the good opinion of others prevails with every one, either from a generous feeling towards others, or from a selfish wish for their association.
When those who have feelings of mutual benevolence concur, their happiness is invaluable. Unfortunately for them, this generous spirit is not general.
They soon discover that but few have kind sympathies, and that the world is wholly selfish and sordid.
The predominating propensities of bad men are envy, selfishness, and treachery. They capriciously dictate, and arbitrarily control “public opinion.” They hold secret dominion over the timid and retired, who are afraid to resent them, or vindicate themselves.
An analysis of these complicated subjects will not be attempted. Their general features will be grouped, and an effort will be made to mark out and expose their secret operations upon the heart.
The pain we suffer under the delusions referred to is excruciating and sometimes fatal. It constitutes a large portion of the mental and secret sources of all human misery.
A good character for ourselves and for our friends is of such
infinite value to them and us, that it frequently excites the jealousy even of those who hold a neutral position in society, if it conflicts with their interest or pride, and always provokes the envy of the wicked and the hatred of our enemies.
Those wholly indifferent to us are generally too much occupied with themselves to feel any solicitude for our welfare; on the contrary, they want our room, and if they notice us at all, it is with distrust and not with sympathy. So that this individual supervision is much more of a delusion than is supposed. Instead of our having occasion to court its favors, policy and discretion bid us keep out of its way.
But there is another portion of the world, the people, the public, who assume to themselves all the morals, religion, and respectability of society; and under these plausible pretensions of superiority they conspire to form corporations, profess patriotism, philanthropy, get up places of reformation, and monopolize the offices, dignities, honors, and wealth of the world. It is impossible to shun or avoid them.
Their selfishness and craft have no reserve; on the contrary, they mingle with, deceive, betray, and feed upon the world.
For example, they single out slavery, which has been solemnly settled in the United States for sixty years, as a pretext for sedition and revolt; because it ministers to the morbid appetites of the infatuated, ignorant mob, and enables them to delude, mislead, and plunder.
They denounce the Constitution a league with hell, because the States that made that compact were all slave States, and would not all agree that it should be abolished by a national law, when this effort was most zealously pressed and failed, because there was no right to demand or power to enforce it.
They proclaim the falsehood that the articles of the confederation, which were made by a plurality of votes, the voting being by States, could have had abolition forced into it; whereas, nothing could have been done without the consent of all the States, and nothing was done but by compromise; and if they had separated upon that point, the whole country would have been left open to anarchy and foreign subjugation.
Absurd as these doctrines are, because they excite and inflame the ignorant, this fanatical and insurrectionary faction in the North, where it is said and not denied there are no slaves, or fugitive slaves, has raised more inoney out of the infatuated rabble to pay abusive, itinerant defamers, and for the circula
tion of incendiary pamphlets, than would have bought all the slaves in the United States. This fact has been stated by men of truth, and is not denied.
It amounts to several millions of dollars. A very small part of it has been applied to the purposes for which it was raised, but it has been withheld, and used by the artful leaders of this faction for their licentious indulgences.
They hit upon a popular and sympathetic subject, and thus artfully rob the people in the name of charity and benevolence.
The poor slave, the widow, the orphan, and the pagan, have millions raised for them which they never get, and which is used by these wolves in sheep's clothing.
Thousands are supported in affluence and prodigality all their lives upon these fraudulent extortions.
Have any of these noble and devout benefactors of the human race ever had their accounts audited, or have they ever made report of what they have done with the money they get ?
So, too, the pretended encouragement and improvements given to commerce and domestic economy, by way of monopolies, banks, and insurance companies, are all of them scandalous and barefaced swindling contrivances to rob the people.
They have in the United States gleaned up, under simulations of serving the public, more than one hundred millions of its hard earnings.
These sordid and refined swindlers ever have, and ever will prevail while the masses are so stupid and cowardly as to suffer the arrogant self-love and audacious vanity of the popular rabble to delude and bewilder them by ostentatious simulations of benevolence.
It is by these means that they hold despotic sway over character” and “public opinion,” and control the popular feeling.
If they were sincere in their professions, why do they not get up these excitements and infatuations for some object of real and practical benevolence, which can be accomplished by the concurrence of good men, without conflict, agitation, or rebellion?
Why not resolutely maintain the universal example and dignified reward of temperance and order, and peremptorily punish drunkenness and swindling, and crush into the earth all rowdies and mobs ?
Why not go into the alms-houses, and wretched hovels and garrets, and bring into the chambers of Christian charity and