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Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) to John W. Eppes

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00148 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 January 1799 Pagination: 2 p. : free frank ; 25 x 20 cm.

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Gilder Lehrman Collection #: GLC00148 Author/Creator: Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826) Place Written: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Type: Autograph letter signed Date: 21 January 1799 Pagination: 2 p. : free frank ; 25 x 20 cm.

Summary of Content: Written as Vice-President to his son-in-law. Jefferson discusses the Logan incident, in which George Logan, a Philadelphia Quaker, attempted to negotiate differences between the United States and the French Directory on his own initiative (the Logan Act of 1799 made it illegal). Jefferson thinks the Federalists forged documents "to ensnare Logan" in order to pass the act (he later in this letter writes that Logan's "enthusiastic enterprise" prevented war). Jefferson turns to revenue and expenses, which he lists, in order to show that additional army and navy will consume any budget surplus. He concludes with a discussion of foreign relations with France (Gerry's discussions with Talleyrand), Napoleon Bonaparte's military ventures in Egypt and (his incorrect estimate of) the Irish rebellion. Eppes had married Jefferson's youngest daughter Maria. George Logan, a Philadelphia Quaker, attempted to negotiate differences between the United States and the French Directory on his own initiative. The Logan Act, enacted 30 January 1799, forbade any private citizen from undertaking diplomatic negotiations without official sanction. Jefferson's guess about Napoleon Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition proved accurate, but his belief about the strength of the Irish rebellion was false.

Background Information: This letter by Jefferson offer insights into how a key American political leader and thinker viewed the critical events taking place across the seas: Napoleon's rise to power and the ...global war between France and Britain. Jefferson links his domestic concerns about a standing army, a large debt, and suppression of dissent to his assessment of the British-French struggles in Europe and Asia. Despite Napoleon's actions in Egypt, Jefferson sympathizes with the French as fellow republicans. Although he knows about the XYZ Affair, when French officials requested bribes before negotiating with American diplomats, Jefferson sees the flexibility of Minister Talleyrand in a positive light.See More

Full Transcript: Philadelphia Jan. 21. 99
My dear Sir
I wrote to my dear Maria on the 1st inst. and covered it in one to yourself on the 3d. I have not yet recieved [...sic] any letters either from you or Monticello since I left home, now five weeks -? you will have seen the debates on Logan's law, as it is called. The forged paper they endeavored to palm on the H. of R. as [inserted above: if] written & presented by Logan to the French directory, being made appear to have been written by a mr. Codman of Paris, a friend and correspondent of His, who pressed Logan to present it, but was refused, begins now to be thought a contrivance from this side [of] the water to ensnare Logan. Yet they had the audacity to send the paper here and to bring it forward as genuine. They were however completely discomfited & disgraced by the detection. Still they brazened the law through by their majority, & it will probably pass the Senate as fast as forms will admit. On the Reports from the Secretary of the navy, purging the statement of revenue & expense from articles not permanent, the regular revenue appears to be (in round numbers) Impost 7 1/2 Millions of dollars, Excise, auctions licenses, & carriages 1/2 million, residuary taxes about 1/8 of a million, making 8 1/8 million. The stamp act will probably bring in enough to pay the expence of collecting the direct tax, so that we may state these two at two millions, it making in the whole 10 1/8 millions. The expenses are as follows, annually
the civil list 3/4 million
foreign intercourse 1/2 million
interest on the public debt 4 millions
the existing navy 2 1/2 millions
the existing army (5000 men) 1 1/2 millons
9 1/4
so that there is a surplus of near a million. But the additional army to be raised (about 9000 men) will add 2 1/2 millions, & the additional navy proposed by the Secretary 3 millions, so that when they are complete these will be wanting for annual expenses 4 1/2 millions of dollars to be raised by new taxes [inserted above: to which add half a million nearly for the interest of the new loan.] The existing taxes are 2 1/2 dollars ahead on a population of four [2] millions. With the future they will be 3 3/4 D. a head. -? We are now reading Gerry's communication of what passed between him & Talleyrand after the departure of his colleagues. They show the most anxious desire & earnest endeavors of that government to prevent a breach with us, and Gerry gives it explicitly as his opinion that a just treaty could have been obtained from them at any time before his departure. Logan's enthusiastic enterprise was fortunate, as it prevented the effect which our actual hostilities on their vessels would have produced. Whether they will be able to stand the regular cruises now established by us [strikeout] about their islands & fixed there is questionable. Gerry's communications are now in the press & I will send you a copy when done. They have opened a loan for money to raise the army & build the navy of 5 millions at 8 per cent. So it is that folly begets folly. Every newspaper kills Buonaparte in a different form but the news of London, Vienna & Constantinople is merely fabricated to keep up the spirits of their own people. The last rational accounts from Buonaparte, showed him in a very firm position. I do not believe he was destined to proceed further than Egypt. The London accounts of Irish affairs are thought equally fabulous. That rebellion is probably strong & organised. The French have certainly sustained considerable losses in endeavoring to assist them; but still in the long [struck] nights of the winter, they will be probably able to throw in considerable reinforcements. I expect to hear from you soon in answer to my letter of the 3d. relative to your lands at the Hundred. My tenderest love to Maria and affectionate salutations to yourself. The same to the family at Eppington.
Th: Jefferson
[Address leaf:]
free
Th: Jefferson
John W. Eppes
near Petersburg





See More

People: Epps, John Wayles
Bonaparte, Napoleon, 1769-1821
Jefferson, Thomas, 1743-1826

Historical Era: The New Nation, 1783-1815

Subjects: QuakersFranceGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyGlobal History and US Foreign PolicyFederalistsTreatyPoliticsTaxes or TaxationStanding ArmyNavyMilitary HistoryMiddle EastRebellionLawGovernment and CivicsQuasi-warCorruption and ScandalPresidentVice President

Sub Era: The Early Republic

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