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When the following sheets were nearly printed, the author felt it his duty to send Mr. Madison, pursuant to an intention long before declared to him, a copy of the preceding dedication; and to spare him the trouble of an answer, he was told that the paper, if not objected to, would be printed in that form. He, however, decided on answering it, and merely postponed it from time to time by the persuasion of those around him: but on Monday the 27th of June, he was peremptory on the subject, saying there was no time to lose, and then dictated with great care, but not without much effort, to Mr. Payne, his amanuensis, the subjoined letter, which, after he had with difficulty signed, he insisted also on franking. This last act of his pen was about thirteen hours before his decease. Under circumstances so peculiar and interesting, it was deemed proper to publish the dedication in the form submitted to him, together with the sanction he had thought proper to give to its contents.
Montpellier, June 27, 1836. My dear Sir,
I have received your letter of June 17th, with the paper inclosed in it.
Apart from the value put on such a mark of respect from you, in a dedication of your “Life of Mr. Jefferson” to me, I could only be governed in accepting it, by my confidence in your capacity to do justice to a character so interesting to this country, and to the world; and I may be permitted to add, with whose principles of liberty and political career mine have been so extensively congenial.
It could not escape me that a feeling of personal friendship has mingled itself greatly with the credit you allow to my public services. I am at the same time justified by my consciousness in saying, that an ardent zeal was always felt to make up for deficiencies in them, by a sincere and steadfast co-operation in promoting such a reconstruction of our political system as would provide for the permanent liberty and happiness of the United States; and that of the many good fruits it has produced, which have well rewarded the efforts and anxieties that led to it, no one has been a more rejoicing witness than myself.
With cordial salutations on the near approach to the end of your undertaking,
JAMES MADISON. PROFESSOR TUCKER.
It was the fate of Thomas Jefferson to be at once more loved and praised by his friends, and more hated and reviled by his adversaries, than any of his compatriots. Time has produced less abatement of these feelings towards him than is usual ; and, contrary to the maxim which invokes charity for the dead, the maledictions of his enemies have of late years been more frequent and loud than the commendations of his friends.
The author was therefore aware that in undertaking to write the life of one, who was the object of such lively and opposite sentiments, he engaged in a hazardous task. He knew that with one portion of the public, any praise would be distasteful; and that with another portion, nothing less than one unvarying strain of eulogy would prove satisfactory. But, in spite of these discouraging circumstances, he was induced to venture on the work by the following considerations. He thought that, of all our public men, the greatest injustice had been done to Mr. Jefferson; that the prejudice felt towards him would be naturally extended to his opinions; and that in the vehemence, perseverance and ability with which he had been assailed, injury was likely to be done to the cause of political truth and sound principles of government. He believed, that the characters of the two great parties, which had divided this country for the first thirty years after the present constitution was adopted, had not been fairly exhibited to the world, and that the biography of Mr. Jefferson, the acknowledged head of the republican party, presented a fit occasion for vindicating that party, in the purity of their motives, the justness of their views, and the wisdom of their policy, from some of the criminations to which they have been subjected. He flattered himself, moreover, that both parties, on a cool retrospect of their early conflicts, as exhibited in an honest and dispassionate narrative, might be taught some useful lessons ; that at least the more reflecting and unprejudiced portion might learn to feel less intolerance towards their opponents, as well as less confidence in their own exclusive integrity and wisdom; and acquire more skill in detecting self-interest or ambition when they assume the mask of patriotism.
The author found a further motive in the publication, which has been made since Mr. Jefferson's death, of some of his papers and correspondence. From the want of caution in making that publication, owing, it is presumed, to a mistaken opinion of the claims of the public, the ill-will which had been felt against Mr. Jefferson, as the leader of his party, received a fresh impetus, and was in some measure imparted to a new generation. In the warmth of their resentment, his unreserved communications to con
fidential friends have been regarded as if they had been deliberately written by him for the press ; and the ebullitions of feeling, uttered when the fever of party excitement was at its height, and when he was goaded by every species of provocation, have been considered as the settled convictions of his mind.
His sentiments on these occasions have been compared with those of his cooler moments, to charge him with inconsistency; and contradictions made by his enemies or avowed partisans, or on vague recollections, have been taken as undeniable truths, to prove him guilty of wilful misrepresentation. To excuse a course so obviously unfair, it has been said, that by leaving his papers for publication he has shown, that he still retained the same sentiments; and it has even been asserted, that the letters actually published were especially selected by him. But the imputation is altogether unfounded. Mr. Jefferson left his papers of every description to his grandson and executor, Thomas Jefferson Randolph, subject to his entire control.
The anecdotes collected under the title Ana were, indeed, arranged by him, and intended no doubt to be one day published, in defence of himself and his party, at the discretion of his executor. But, for the selection of the letters for publication from the mass of his voluminous correspondence, Mr. Randolph and the friends he consulted are alone responsible. Mr. Jefferson gave no directions concerning it, and no one can suppose, that the letters which he desired to be destroyed as soon as read, or which he wrote in cipher,