History May Condemn Our Loathsome Tyrant

Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Duane, 4 April 1813

“It is true that I am tired of practical politics, and happier while reading the history of antient, than of modern times. the total banishment of all moral principle from the Code which governs the intercourse of nations, the melancholy reflection that after the mean, wicked and cowardly cunning of the Cabinets of the age of Machiavel had given place to the integrity and good faith which dignified the succeeding one of a Chatham and Turgot, that this is to be swept away again by the daring profligacy, and avowed destitution of all moral principle of a Cartouche and a Blackbeard, sickens my soul unto death. I turn from the contemplation with loathing, and take refuge in the histories of other times, where if they also furnished their Tarquins, their Catilines & Caligulas, their stories are handed to us under the brand of a Livy, a Sallust and a Tacitus, and we are comforted with the reflection that the condemnation of all succeeding generations has confirmed the censures of the historian, and consigned their memories to everlasting infamy, a solace we cannot have with the Georges & Napoleons, but by anticipation.”

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