All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external trappings of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it, beyond the lustre which may be reflected from its connection with a power of promoting human felicity.
– Letter to Catherine Macaulay Graham (9 January1790)
* It is better to offer no excuse than a bad one.
Letter to his niece, Harriet Washington (30 October 1791)
I had rather be on my farm than be emperor of the world…
* Of all the animosities which have existed among mankind, those which are caused by difference of sentiments in religion appear to be the most inveterate and distressing, and ought most to be deprecated. I was in hopes that the enlightened and liberal policy, which has marked the present age, would at least have reconciled Christians of every denomination so far that we should never again see the religious disputes carried to such a pitch as to endanger the peace of society.
Letter to Edward Newenham (20 October 1792)
* We have abundant reason to rejoice that in this Land the light of truth & reason has triumphed over the power of bigotry and superstition, and that every person may here worship God according to the dictates of his own heart. In this enlightened age & in this Land of equal liberty it is our boast, that a man’s religious tenets will not forfeit the protection of the Laws, nor deprive him of the right of attaining & holding the highest offices that are known in the United States.
“It is to be regretted, I confess, that democratical states must always feel before they can see, it is this that makes their gov. slow, but the people will be right at last.” To Lafayette July 25, 1787
“It is one of the evils, perhaps not the smallest, of democratical governments that the People must feel before they will see or act.”
To David Humphreys, March 8, 1787.
“The great mass of our citizens require only to understand matters rightly, to form right decisions.” To James Lloyd, Feb 11, 1799.
Quote on Happiness
“Happiness depends more upon the internal frame of a person’s own mind, than on the externals in the world.”
“I have accustomed myself to judge of human actions very differently, and to appreciate them, by the manner in which they are conducted, more than by the Events ; which, it is not in the power of human foresight or prudence to command.”
“Notwithstanding the jealous and contracted temper which seems to prevail in some of the States, yet I cannot but hope and believe that the good sense of the people will ultimately get the better of their prejudices; and that order and sound policy, tho’ they do not come so soon as one wou’d wish, will be produced from the present unsettled and deranged state of public affairs.” To Jonathan Trumbull, Jan 5, 1784
Quote on Slavery
The benevolence of your heart my Dr. Marqs. is so conspicuous upon all occasions, that I never wonder at any fresh proofs of it; but your late purchase of an estate in the colony of Cayenne, with a view of emancipating the slaves on it, is a generous and noble proof of your humanity. Would to God a like spirit would diffuse itself generally into the minds of the people of this country; but I despair of seeing it. Some petitions were presented to the Assembly, at its last Session, for the abolition of slavery, but they could scarcely obtain a reading. To set them afloat at once would, I really believe, be productive of much inconvenience and mischief; but by degrees it certainly might, and assuredly ought to be effected; and that too by Legislative authority. To Lafayette May 10, 1786
“I am not less ardent in my wish that you may succeed in your plan of toleration in religious matters. Being no bigot myself to any mode of worship, I am disposed to indulge the professors of Christianity in the church, that road to Heaven, which to them shall seem the most direct plainest easiest and least liable to exception.” [to Lafayette, Aug 15, 1787]
“How far I may ever be connected with its political affairs is altogether a matter of uncertainty to me. My heartfelt wishes, and, I woud fain hope, the circumstances are opposed to it. I flatter myself my countrymen are so fully persuaded of my desire to remain in private life; that I am not without hopes and expectations of being left quietly to enjoy the repose, in which I am at present. Or, in all events, should it be their wish (as you suppose it will be) for me to come again on the Stage of public affairs, I certainly will decline it, if the refusal can be made consistently with what I conceive to be the dictates of propriety and duty. For the great Searcher of human hearts knows there is no wish in mine, beyond that of living and dying an honest man, on my own farm.” [I think there is truth in this – he writes somewhere to Lafayette that L. will have to follow duty rather than desire]