rsz thomas jefferson 1




Annotations in the List of Works Cited

Contributor name. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.gloss number. The Cantos Project. Web. Date of access.

Example: Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound, IV: n.13. The Cantos Project. Web. 5 September 2016.

In–text references

((Contributor name), OCCEP IV:

Example: (Bressan, OCCEP IV: n.3). If no name is indicated, the gloss was written by Roxana Preda. In this case, the citation will have this format: (OCCEP IV: n.13).

References to The Cantos

As The Cantos Project is numbering the lines of The Cantos, references to cantos already glossed will be by canto number and line(s), as standard with classical works. Example: III: 7–17.

For cantos that are not yet glossed within the project, the references will be by canto number slash page number, as standard in the research on the poem. Example: III/12. The page number refers to the American edition of The Cantos by Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1998.

© Roxana Preda. Companion to Canto XXXI, 5 November 2018.

Updated 19 April 2021.

Updated 28 November 2021.

Updated 27 November 2022.




Carroll F. Terrell. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. Berkeley: U of California P, 1993.


John Adams.


Pound, Ezra. Jefferson and/or Mussolini. London: Nott, 1935.


Preda, Roxana. The Online Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Cantos Project 2014-


Pound, Ezra. Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. Contributions to Periodicals. 11 vols. Eds. Lea Baechler, A. Walton Litz and James Longenbach. New York: Garland, 1991.


Thomas Jefferson.


Thomas Jefferson. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson. Definitive edition. Ed. Albert Ellery Bergh. 20. vols. in 10. Washington, 1907.


  1. Tempus loquendi, tempus tacendi – L. “a time to speak, a time to be silent.” Sigismondo Malatesta’s personal motto, which can be found above the tomb of Isotta degli Atti in the Tempio Malatestiano and in the Sala Malatestiana in the Gradara Castle.

    The motto is derived from the Book of Ecclesiastes 3.7, in Latin translation: “Tempus tacendi et tempus loquendi” (“A time to be silent and a time to speak”). See also Fang I: 47.

    Pound may have chosen this motto to connect back to A Draft of XXX Cantos, which had just been published by Nancy Cunard in Paris when canto XXXI was written (summer 1930). That volume had Malatesta as its most prominent protagonist - it was now time for Sigismondo (and Pound himself) to be silent so as to let another hero, Thomas Jefferson, speak for his own time. Pound’s portrait of Jefferson in this canto is drawn from his letters and employs a radical version of the documentary method first used in the portrait of Sigismondo in canto 8 and in his “postbag” of canto 9.

    See Pearlman (142-8) for an extensive alternative interpretation. tempus loquendi tempus tacendi


    TJ resized
  2. Mr. Jefferson – Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), American statesman and humanist of the Enlightenment, author of the American Declaration of Independence and third president of the United States (1801-1809). Pound’s portrait of Jefferson in the canto consists almost entirely of quotations from his letters, with the addition of three letters by John Adams and a brief cite from a memorandum by James Madison. They present Jefferson in the periods before and after his presidency (1801-1809), showing his character as well as his range of interests, opinions and influence at a time when he was acting in lesser political roles (as minister to France, 1784-89) or as a private person. Therefore, the letters used in the canto are drawn from two periods in Jefferson’s life: 1785-1801 and 1811-1824, virtually creating two textual blocks with a transition made by John Adams’ retrospective letter about an evening at Jefferson’s Paris house in Cul de Sac written in 1813 (ll.62-68). Pound chooses not to present the letters in each block in chronological order, but rather goes back and forth in time, offering a Jefferson who grows older, but does not change his humanism, opinions, or epistolary style. See letters in Sources.

  3. modern dress for your statue – quotation from a letter Jefferson wrote to General George Washington while in Paris as US Minister to France:

    “I think a modern in an antique dress as just an object of ridicule as an Hercules or Marius with a periwig and chapeau bras” (TJ to George Washington, 14 August 1787 WTJ VI: 275).
    Jefferson had suggested the French sculptor Jean Antoine Houdon for the statue, two years before, in 1785. Houdon completed the work in 1792 (Library of Virginia Education). The statue in antique dress was eventually made by Horatio Greenough in 1832, on the occasion of Washington’s centenary, and proved to be a case of national embarrassment and ridicule.


     342px George Washington Greenough statue Houdon statue of GW


  4. Congress sat at Annapolis – Jefferson continues his letter to Washington by referring to the so-called Congress of Confederation (1781-88) which met at Annapolis, Maryland in 1783-84 (C nn.4-5). “I remember having written to you while Congress sat at Annapolis on the water communications between ours and the Western country, and to have mentioned particularly the information I had received of the plain face of the country between the sources of Big Beaver and Cayohoga, which made me hope that a canal of no great expence might unite the navigations of L. Erie and the Ohio. You must since have had occasion of getting better information on this subject and, if you have, you would oblige me by a communication of it. I consider this canal, if practicable, as a very important work” (TJ to George Washington, 14 August 1787 WTJ VI: 275).

  5. water communication – TJ wrote to George Washington in August 1787 from Paris enquiring in the possibilities for building a modest but significant piece of canal work: that between the Beaver River (which flows into the Ohio about 20 miles northwest of Pittsburgh) and Cayuhoga River, which flows northwards into Lake Erie. Building this piece of canal (which TJ considered relatively easy to do, as the distance was flat “plain face”) would have connected the Lake Erie and the Ohio river.

    The map below, where Cayuhoga River is represented as the red line going northwards to Cleveland, shows that the canal was eventually built, but came into disuse because commercial transport on rivers and canals was replaced by the railways in 1840s. (Wikipedia)erie canals best picture

  6. between ours – both Washington and Jefferson were from Virginia: the distance between their estates, Mount Vernon and Monticello is ca. 100 miles. When saying “between ours and the Western country,” Jefferson refers to Virginia, which becomes clearer in his later letter exchange with Washington, which Pound mentions in the canto at l.57. Jefferson was dreaming of a canal linking the Potomac with the Ohio, and from there with Lake Erie in the north and Mississippi in the west. See map and also n. 28.

  7. Big Beaver – river in Pennsylvania, flowing into the Ohio River 20 miles north-West of Pittsburgh.Beaverriverpamap

  8. Cayohoga – Cuyahoga (Mohawk: “crooked” Seneca: “jawbone”). River in Northeast Ohio, which flows southward and then turns sharply northward to flow into Lake Erie at Cleveland. Wikipedia.riverburns cuyahogarivermap

  9. Lake Erie – the southernmost lake of the Great Lakes, which lie at the border between the United States and Canada.

  10. Ohio – the Ohio river (Seneca: “good river”) starts in Western Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh and flows southward into the Mississippi at Cairo, Illinois. It is the most important tributary of the Mississippi and by forming a natural extension of the Mason-Dixon line, it is a border between southern and northern states. choke point us ohio river valley map

  11. no slaves north of Maryland – During a land survey in 1763-67, Charles Mason and Jeremiah Dixon established the demarcation line between the states of Maryland, Pennsylvania and Delaware. This state border, since known as the Mason-Dixon line, separated the southern slave states from the northern free ones. 

    Writing to Dr. Richard Price on the slave question, TJ remarked:

    “In that part of America [north of Chesapeake Bay, Maryland, see map below], there being but few slaves, they can easily disencumber themselves of them, and emancipation is put into such a train that in a few years there will be no slaves northward of Maryland. In Maryland I do not find such a disposition to begin the redress of this enormity as in Virginia. This is the next state to which we may turn our eyes for the interesting spectacle of justice in conflict with avarice & oppression: a conflict wherein the sacred side is gaining daily recruits, from the influx into office of young men grown & growing up. These have sucked in the principles of liberty as it were with their mother’s milk; and it is to them I look with anxiety to turn the fate of this question. Be not therefore discouraged” (TJ to Richard Price 7 August 1785 WTJ V: 56).map of maryland

  12. flower found – quote from TJ’s letter to Dr. Styles, 17 July 1785 from Paris: “Mrs. Adams gives me an account of a flower found in Connecticut, which vegetates when suspended in the air. She brought one to Europe. What can be this flower? It would be a curious present to this continent” (TJ to Dr. Styles 17 July 1785 WTJ V: 38).

  13. screw more effective – quote from the same letter as above, comparing a technological device used both in the US and France:

    “When speaking of the ‘Bibliothéque Physico-économique,’ I should have observed, that since its publication, a man in this city [Paris] has invented a method of moving a vessel on the water, by a machine worked within the vessel. I went to see it. He did not know himself the principle of his own invention. It is a screw with a very broad thin worm, or rather it is a thin plate with its edge applied spirally round an axis. This being turned, operates on the air, as a screw does, and may be literally said to screw the vessel along; the thinness of the medium, and its want of resistance, occasion a loss of much of the force. The screw, I think, would be more effectual if placed below the surface of the water” (TJ to Dr. Styles 17 July 1785 WTJ V: 38). 

    David Bushnell
  14. Mr Bushnell – David Bushnell (1740-1826), American inventor from Connecticut. While studying at Yale, he invented a submarine, called “Turtle” for which he used a screw propeller. He also invented the time bomb and floating mines, using them (unsuccessfully) in the revolutionary war. Wikipedia.

    Pound emphasizes not only TJ’s encyclopaedic interests, but also his care to assign merit where due. The “Turtle” was created in 1775, so TJ is right to remark that Bushnell used the properties of the screw as propeller ten years before the date of the letter.

    “Mr. Bushnel of Connecticut, is entitled to the merit of a prior discovery of this use of the screw. I remember to have heard of his submarine navigation during the war, and, from what Colonel Humphreys now tells me, I conjecture that the screw was the power he used. He joined to this a machine for exploding under water at a given moment. If it were not too great a liberty for a stranger to take, I would ask from him a narration of his actual experiments, with or without a communication of his principle, as he should choose. If he thought proper to communicate it, I would engage never to disclose it, unless I could find an opportunity of doing it for his benefit” (TJ to Dr. Styles 17 July 1785 WTJ V: 37).

  15. earlyadams2Mr Adams – John Adams (1735-1826), American revolutionary from Massachusetts, attorney, diplomat and statesman, Founding Father and second president of the United States (1796-1800).

    Together with Jefferson and Franklin, Adams was a member of the “Committee of Five” who drafted the Declaration of Independence and presented it to Congress on 26 June 1776.

    The canto makes a brief reference to one of Adams’s major services to the revolutionary cause: his negotiating of loans for the American revolutionary war from Holland in 1781-83. Adams was a member of the Federalist Party, which was at odds with the political vision of Jefferson’s Republican Party. This fact caused friction in the relationship between Adams and Jefferson, who were estranged for many years, particularly after Adams lost his presidential re-election to Jefferson in 1800. After both retired from public affairs, they resumed contact in 1812 and maintained a correspondence which they would keep up until their deaths on the same day, on 4 July 1826. In an essay published eight years after the present canto was written, Pound called the late letter exchange “a shrine and a monument” (P&P VII: 264). In the canto, Pound quotes from three letters from Adams and two from Jefferson, written during this period (1812-1816). They are all included in Pound’s major source, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, Memorial Edition, 1903-4. They serve to illuminate common opinions and interests, but also major differences in character: Adams appears much blunter and does not care so much for social observances and epistolary etiquette as Jefferson does. He is also more pessimistic in his vision of human nature, which he believes dominated by appetites, passion, and imagination, not reason.

    196px Benjamin Franklin by Joseph Duplessis 1778
  16. Dr. Franklin – Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), American polymath, famous for his contributions to science, printing, journalism and politics. Plenipotentiary to France, 1778-1785 and co-negotiator of the Treaty of Paris ending the Revolutionary War in 1783. Together with Jefferson and Adams, Franklin was a member of the “Committee of Five” who drafted the Declaration of Independence and presented it to Congress on 26 June 1776.

  17. Portrait of Thomas Paine Laurent dabos 1792Tom Paine – Thomas Paine (1737-1809), English political philosopher, journalist and revolutionary activist. His pamphlet Common Sense (published in Philadelphia, 1776) was very influential in motivating Americans to fight for their independence from Britain.

    During the 1790s, Paine was in France and got involved in defending the French revolution in his influential treatise The Rights of Man (London, 1791). While in France, Paine published The Age of Reason in the defence of deism (1794-95).

    Jefferson, who had become president in 1801, organised Paine’s passage to the US, allowing him to retire in safety from revolutionary affairs at a time when Paine's ideas on religion and freedom were hated and when he had made enemies both in France and the US.

  18. you expressed a wish – After 1800, Paine got disenchanted with Napoleon and wished to leave France. Jefferson helped him. (Nelson 299) 

    “You expressed a wish to get a passage to this country in a public vessel. Mr. Dawson is charged with orders to the captain of the Maryland to receive and accommodate you with a passage back, if you can be ready to depart at such short warning. Robert R. Livingston is appointed Minister Plenipotentiary to the republic of France, but will not leave this till we receive the ratification of the convention by Mr. Dawson. I am in hopes you will find us returned generally to sentiments worthy of former times. In these it will be your glory to have steadily labored, and with as much effect as any man living. That you may long live to continue your useful labors, and to reap their reward in the thankfulness of nations, is my sincere prayer. Accept assurances of my high esteem and affectionate attachment” (TJ to Thomas Paine 18 March 1801 WTJ X: 224).

  19. Mr. Dawson – John Dawson (1762-1814), Virginia attorney and member of the House of Representatives. Dawson was sent to France to receive the ratification of the Convention of 1800 (or the Treaty of Mortefontaine), which ended the so-called “Quasi War” between the United States and France.

  20. English papers – in TJ’s letter to Col. Monroe, Pound found corroboration for his own conviction about the mendacity of English papers: 
    “The English papers are so incessantly repeating their lies about the tumults, the anarchy, the bankruptcies and distresses of America, that these ideas prevail very generally in Europe. At a large table where I dined the other day, a gentleman from Switzerland expressed his apprehensions for the fate of Dr. Franklin, as he said he had been informed, that he would be received with stones by the people, who were generally dissatisfied with the Revolution, and incensed against all those who had assisted in bringing it about. I told him his apprehensions were just, and that the people of America would probably salute Dr. Franklin with the same stones they had thrown at the Marquis Fayette” (TJ to James Monroe 1 August 1785 WTJ V: 99).

  21. their tobacco… too much – Pound’s summary of a long economic argument about international commerce, taxation and prices that TJ wrote to Count Vergennes in August 1785. By his own research, TJ had found that the King of France had disproportionate expenses in collecting the royal duties derived from his monopoly on tobacco in France. These expenses raised the price of tobacco to the consumer and implicitly lowered consumption. In his letter, TJ wrote a plea for free commerce and a plan for a streamlined collection of duties on tobacco which would make it possible to lower the price to the consumer, so as to make tobacco less of a luxury (TJ to Count of Vergennes 15 August 1785 WTJ V: 69).

  22. Maison Quarée – as a model for the architecture of the Capitol in Richmond, TJ proposed the Roman temple of Nîmes, called La Maison Carrée (“Square House”). His suggestion was adopted.patrimoine maison carree

    “I was written to in 1785 (being then in Paris) by directors appointed to superintend the building of a Capitol in Richmond, to advise them as to a plan, and to add to it one of a Prison. Thinking it a favorable opportunity of introducing into the State an example of architecture, in the classic style of antiquity, and the Maison Quarrie of Nismes, an ancient Roman temple, being considered as the most perfect model existing of what may be called Cubic architecture, I applied to M. Clerissault, who had published drawings of the Antiquities of Nismes, to have me a model of the building made in stucco, only changing the order from Corinthian to Ionic, on account of the difficulty of the Corinthian capitals. […] To adapt the exterior to our use, I drew a plan for the interior, with the apartments necessary for legislative, executive, and. judiciary purposes; and accommodated in their size and distribution to the form and dimensions of the building.” (Autobiography in WTJ I: 68).virginia capitol

  23. his motives – from the memo written by James Madison to TJ in April 1811 concerning Robert Smith, his own secretary of state. This long memo written to TJ after his presidency, when he was a private person may have been the reason why Pound declared in J/M that TJ governed through deputies (Madison and Monroe) even after his presidential term was over in 1809. The memo is included in the Madison Papers. (Memorandum, April 1811: 141)

    491px James Madisoncroppedc
  24. Madison – James Madison (1751-1836), American revolutionary from Virginia, statesman and fourth president of the US (1809-1817).

  25. 467px Robert Smith SecNavyRobert Smith – Robert Smith (1757-1842), secretary of the navy during TJ’s presidency (1801-1809) and secretary of state during Madison’s (1809-11). Madison fired him because of his poor conduct of business and communication (C n. 25).

    “Madison offered a laundry list of Smith’s shortcomings: he questioned Smith’s loyalty; he found Smith’s diplomatic correspondence wanting; he had been indiscreet in conversations with the British; and he had opposed the Administration’s efforts to secure concessions from Britain and France by limiting trade” (Wikipedia).

  26. that country – from a letter by TJ to Madison on 2 August 1787, characterizing the political volatility in Holland. The Netherlands was under an impending Prussian invasion, which took place a month after the letter was written.

    John Adams had negotiated a loan from the Dutch five years before (1781-83) and TJ thought he could do so again, as investing abroad would have been a good way for the Dutch to guard their wealth from war ruin. More specifically, TJ is recommending that the Dutch buy the American war debt to France as an investment. The United States was in no position to pay it at the time. Moreover, if the Dutch had bought the American debt, the infusion of funds would have served to stabilize France, which was in deep economic crisis. See nn. 27 and 28.

    “Surely it will be better to transfer these debts to Holland. So critical is the state of that country, that I imagine the moneyed men of it would be glad to place their money in foreign countries, and that Mr. Adams could borrow there for us, without a certain tax for the interest, and saving our faith too, by previous explanations on that subject” (TJ to James Madison 2 August 1787 WTJ VI: 215).

  27. This country – France. Pound continues his quotation from TJ’s letter to Madison, written in Paris in August 1787, two years before the French revolution. TJ often wrote in code when he assumed his letters would be opened.
    “This country is really supposed on the eve of a * * * * . Such a spirit has risen within a few weeks, as could not have been believed. They see the great deficit in their revenues, and the hopes of economy lessen daily” (TJ to James Madison 2 August 1787 WTJ VI: 215).

  28. Daprès Jean Marc Nattier Portrait de Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais Bibliothèque musée de la Comédie Française 001Mr. Beaumarchais – Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1732-1799), French polymath, diplomat, financier, playwright. He was an early supporter for the American Revolution and oversaw the French secret aid and intervention in the war of independence.

    “A secret agent of the king, Beaumarchais provided arms, ammunition, and supplies for the American Revolution. Such pains were taken to keep the operation under cover that Beaumarchais never got paid for war supplies he sent, and by 1787 he was threatening to make trouble if he did not receive payment. Although he was paid nothing, years later Congress finally made some settlement to his heirs” (C n.29).

    “I hear M Beaumarchais means to make himself heard” is taken from TJ’s letter to John Jay, delineating the political situation in Holland, England and France (TJ to John Jay 6 August 1787 WTJ VI: 248). Beaumarchais had sent him a memorandum to the American Congress, which TJ included in the papers to Jay, but declined to endorse personally.  At the time of TJ’s letter, the US had defaulted on the payment of its debts to France. They were resumed in 1790, after the US federal government was able to collect funds from taxation. The debt to France was paid off in 1795 (Office of the Historian. Milestones 1784-1800). However, no settlement for Beaumarchais was made until 1835, when his heirs accepted a payment of 800,000 francs. The debt of the US to Beaumarchais was calculated by Alexander Hamilton in 1793 to have been 2,280,000 francs. (Streeter Bass)

  29. Potomac – The Potomac river has its source in West Virginia and runs eastward for 405 miles, flowing into the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland.

    Washington had responded to TJ’s enquiry about the Erie-Ohio Canal on 1 January 1788 and TJ replied on 2 May 1788:

    “I am honored with your Excellency’s letter by the last packet, and thank you for the information it contains on the communication between the Cayahoga and Big Beaver. I have ever considered the opening a canal between those two water courses as the most important work in that line which the State of Virginia could undertake. It will infallibly turn through the Potomac all the commerce of Lake Erie, and the country west of that, except what may pass down the Mississippi; and it is important that it be soon done, lest that commerce should, in the meantime, get established in another channel.

    Having, in the spring of the last year, taken a journey through the southern parts of France, and particularly examined the canal of Languedoc, through its whole course, I take the liberty of sending you the notes I made on the spot, as you may find in them something, perhaps, which may be turned to account, [448] some time or other, in the prosecution of the Potomac canal” (TJ to George Washington 2 May 1788 WTJ VI: 447).

    The idea of connecting the Potomac to the Ohio and further to Lake Erie proved to be a project fraught with insurmountable difficulties. By 1850, a canal was dug only halfway to Cumberland, never reaching the Ohio River. By that time, the railway was well-established: water communication became more expensive and commercial transport was abandoned. See also map for n.5. Wikipedia: Chesapeake and Ohio Canal.

  30. not a crowned head – continuing his letter to George Washington on 2 May 1788, TJ drove home his anti-monarchic convictions:    

     “I was much an enemy to monarchies before I came to Europe. I am ten thousand times more so, since I have seen what they are. There is scarcely an evil known in these countries, which may not be traced to their king as its source, nor a good, which is not derived from the small fibres of republicanism existing among them. I can further say, with safety, there is not a crowned head in Europe, whose talents or merits would entitle him to be elected a vestryman, by the people of any parish in America. However, I shall hope, that before there is danger of this change taking place in the office of President, the good sense and free spirit of our countrymen will make the changes necessary to prevent it.” (TJ to George Washington 2 May 1788 WTJ VI: 454).

  31. 800px gilbert du motier marqui

    Lafayette – Marie Joseph Paul Yves Roch Gilbert du Motier, Marquis de Lafayette (1757-1834), French aristocrat, officer and statesman. He fought on the American side in the Revolutionary War (1775-1783) and won distinction at the battles of Brandywine (September 1777), Rhode Island (August 1778) and Yorktown (October 1781).

    After returning to France, Lafayette supported the French Revolution and with Jefferson’s assistance helped write the National Constituent Assembly’s “La Declaration des Droits de l’homme et du citoyen” (“Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen,” 1789).

    Pound refers to a meeting between Lafayette, Jefferson and the Adamses mentioned in a letter by John Adams to Jefferson in the period of their late correspondence. The meeting probably took place during the time Jefferson lived at the address mentioned in the letter, 16 October 1784-17 October 1785 (C n. 34). (JA to TJ 13 July 1813 WTJ XIII: 308).

  32. john quincy adams 1796.jpgPortrait

    John Quincy Adams – John Quincy Adams (1767-1848), American attorney, diplomat and statesman. He was John Adams’ oldest son and sixth president of the US (1825-1829). His father took him on his diplomatic missions at a young age (the first in 1777, when John Quincy was ten), as part of his education.

  33. Turgot – Anne Robert Jacques Turgot (1727-1781), French economist, a prominent advocate of Physiocracy and of liberalism in economics.

  34. La Rochefoucauld – François Alexandre Frédéric Duc de la Rochefoucauld (1747-1827), French philosopher, politician and philanthropist.

  35. Condorcet – Marie Jean Antoine Nicholas de Caritat, Marquis de Condorcet (1743-1794), French philosopher, mathematician and politician. 

  36. Mr Barlow – Joel Barlow (1754-1812), American diplomat. At the time of the letter, he was on his way to Paris to negotiate a commercial treaty with Napoleon. (TJ to Joel Barlow 16 April 1811 WTJ XIII: 45).

  37. Albert Gallatin by Gilbert StuartGallatin – Abraham Alfonse Albert Gallatin (1761-1849), American financier and statesman of Swiss descent. Gallatin was Secretary of the Treasury during Jefferson’s and Madison’s presidencies. (TJ to William Wirt 3 May 1811 WTJ XIII: 54).

  38. Adair – James Adair (1709-1783) trader in Georgia and the Carolinas, author of The History of the American Indians, where he argued that the Indians are descended from the Jews. (C n. 41).

    As will become evident from Pound’s Adams Cantos, John Adams had great sympathy for Native Americans and asked Jefferson about books that “give any account of the traditions of the Indians.” In his response, TJ made an evaluative survey of the existing literature on Native Americans, in which he included his criticism of Adair’s book.  TJ also recounted his personal experience with Native Americans, which was full of respect and affection:

    “So much in answer to your inquiries concerning Indians, a people with whom, in the early part of my life, I was very familiar, and acquired impressions of attachment and commiseration for them which have never been obliterated. Before the Revolution, they were in the habit of coming often and in great numbers to the seat of government, where I was very much with them. I knew much the great Ontasseté, the warrior and orator of the Cherokees; he was always the guest of my father, on his journeys to and from Williamsburg. I was in his camp when he made his great farewell oration to his people the evening before his departure for England. The moon was in full splendor, and to her he seemed to address himself in his prayers for his own safety on the voyage, and that of his people during his absence; his sounding voice, distinct articulation, animated action, and the solemn silence of his people at their several fires, filled me with awe and veneration, although I did not understand a word he uttered” (TJ to JA 11 June 1812 WTJ XIII: 157).

  39. public blessing – summary of Jefferson’s views on national debt, in his letter to John Wayles Eppes on 6 November 1813. The letter itself is an ample discussion, supported by TJ’s references to Hume and quotes from Adams Smith, about the supposed advantages of a national bank, public and private debt, paper money and gold reserves. TJ argued at every step against the proposals of John Law to create a national bank in the US, a proposal which had been submitted to Congress.

    “‘A public debt is a public blessing.’ That our debt was juggled from forty-three up to eighty millions, and funded at that amount, according to this opinion was a great public blessing, because the evidences of it could be vested in commerce, and thus converted into active capital, and then the more the debt was made to be, the more active capital was created. That is to say, the creditors could now employ in commerce the money due them from the public, and make from it an annual profit of five per cent., or four millions of dollars. But observe, that the public were at the same time paying on it an interest of exactly the same amount of four millions of dollars. Where then is the gain to either party, which makes it a public blessing? (TJ to J. Eppes 6 November 1813 WTJ XIII: 421)

  40. Mr Eppes – John Wayle Eppes (1773-1823), American congressman, later Senator from Virginia and Jefferson’s son-in-law. At the time of TJ’s letter, Eppes was a member of the Thirteenth Congress (1813-15).

  41. Man, a rational creature – anecdote told by Benjamin Franklin and relayed by John Adams to Jefferson in 1813 (JA to TJ 15 November 1813 WTJ XIV: 5).

  42. Gosindi’s Syntagma – Pierre Gassendi (1592-1655) French philosopher, scientist and theologian, author of Syntagma philosophiae Epicuri (“The constitution of Epicurus’ philosophy,” 1649), which was an attempt to harmonize Epicurean and Christian ethical values.

    Writing to his friend Charles Thomson, who had published a synopsis of the four evangelists, Jefferson confessed he had done something similar:

    “I, too, have made a wee-little bookfrom the same materials, which I call the Philosophy of Jesus; it is a paradigma of His doctrines, made by cutting the texts out of the book, and arranging them on the pages of a blank book, in a certain order of time or subject. A more beautiful or precious morsel of ethics I have never seen; it is a document in proof that I am a real Christian, that is to say, a disciple of the doctrines of Jesus, very different from the Platonists, who call me infidel and themselves Christians and preachers of the gospel, while they draw all their characteristic dogmas from what its Author never said nor saw. They have compounded from the heathen mysteries a system beyond the comprehension of man, of which the great Reformer of the vicious ethics and deism of the Jews, were He to return on earth, would not recognize one feature. If I had time, I would add to my little book the Greek, Latin and French texts, in columns side by side. And I wish I could subjoin a translation of Gosindi’s Syntagma of the doctrines of Epicurus, which, notwithstanding the calumnies of the Stoics and caricatures of Cicero, is the most rational system remaining of the philosophy of the ancients, as frugal of vicious indulgence, and fruitful of virtue as the hyperbolical extravagances of his rival sects” (TJ to Ch. Thomson, 9 January 1816 WTJ XIV: 385-6).

  43. 160px Epikouros BM 1843Epicurus – Epicurus (341-270) Greek ancient philosopher. For Epicurus, the purpose of philosophy was to attain the happy, tranquil life, characterized by ataraxia (peace and freedom from fear) and aponia (the absence of pain) and by living a self-sufficient life surrounded by friends. (Wikipedia)

  44. this was the state of things – quote from a letter by TJ to Benjamin Austin. TJ is defending opinions written in his Notes on the State of Virginia (1785) where he had advocated a commerce between US and Britain whereby the US could export agricultural products and receive manufactured ones. TJ emphasized that the oceans were then free for all nations and offered rich opportunities for American sailors and ships. The historical situation which was the basis of those opinions rapidly changed for the worse towards the end of the century (TJ to Benjamin Austin 9 January 1816 WTJ XIV: 390).

  45. met by agreement – Writing to Daubney Carr in 1816, TJ remembered a meeting of 1773 where several revolutionaries agreed on the necessity of coordinated action by means of a committee of correspondence:

    “My books, journals of the times, etc., being all gone, I have nothing now but an impaired memory to resort to for the more particular statement you wish. But I give it with the more confidence, as I find that I remember old things better than new. The transaction took place in the session of Assembly of March, 1773. Patrick Henry, Richard Henry Lee, Frank Lee, your father and myself, met by agreement, one evening, about the close of the session, at the Raleigh Tavern, to consult on the measures which [399] the circumstances of the times seemed to call for. We agreed, in result, that concert in the operations of the several colonies was indispensable; and that to produce this, some channel of correspondence between them must be opened; that therefore, we would propose to our House the appointment of a committee of correspondence, which should be authorized and instructed to write to the Speakers of the House of Representatives of the several colonies, recommending the appointment of similar committees on their part, who, by a communication of sentiment on the transactions threatening us all, might promote a harmony of action salutary to all” (TJ to Dabney Carr, 19 January 1816 WTJ XIV: 398-99).

  46. Patrick Henry – Patrick Henry (1736-1799), American orator and patriot.

  47. Frank Lee – Frank Lee (1734-1797), American statesman, signatory of the Declaration of Independence.

  48. Henry Lee – Henry Lee (1756-1818), American soldier and statesman from Virginia. He fought in the Revolutionary War and was then member of the Continental Congress and of the House of Representatives.

  49. D. Carr – Daubney Carr (1773-1837), American jurist and Jefferson’s nephew. Carr was justice in the Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals (1824-37).

  50. church of St Peter – the building of the Papal Basilica of St. Peter in the Vatican required massive funds and the increased sale of indulgences (which were supposed to shorten the time of penance for sins after death) all over Europe. The abuses of a “pardoner” who sold them in Germany triggered Luther’s protest in the Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 and the movement of Reformation. The church took 120 years to build (1506-1626) involving generations of the best artists of Italy, from Bramante and Raphael to Michelangelo and Bernini. Nevertheless, it was also the cause of religious schism and pan-European wars.

    Writing to Jefferson in 1816, John Adams declared:

    “To trace the commencement of the Reformation, I suspect we must go farther back than Borgia, or even Huss or Wickliffe, and I want the Acta Sanctorum to assist me in this research. That stupendous monument of human hypocrisy and fanaticism, the [424] church of St. Peter at Rome, which was a century and a half in building, excited the ambition of Leo the Xth, who believed no more of the Christian religion than Diderot, to finish it; and finding St. Peter's pence insufficient, he deluged all Europe with indulgences for sale, and excited Luther to controvert his authority to grant them. Luther, and his associates and followers, went less than half way in detecting the corruptions of Christianity, but they acquired reverence and authority among their followers almost as absolute as that of the Popes had been” (JA to TJ 2 February 1816 WTJ XIV: 423-24).st peters

  51. Human reason – In the same letter, Adams continued:

    “Your question ‘How the apostasy from national rectitude can be accounted for?’ is too deep and wide for my capacity to answer. I leave Fisher Ames to dogmatize up the affairs of Europe and mankind. I have done too much in this way. A burned child dreads the fire. I can only say at present, that it should seem that human reason, and human conscience, though I believe there are such things, are not a match for human passions, human imaginations, and human enthusiasm” (JA to TJ 2 February 1816 WTJXIV: 424).

  52. tiel leis – Discussing John Cartwright’s book on the relationship between ecclesiastic and common law, TJ draws attention to a mistranslation from Old French into English which was perpetuated for centuries: “A tiel leis qu’ils de seint eglise ont en ancien scripture covient à nous à donner credence,” was translated as “to such laws of the church as have warrant in holy scripture, our law giveth credence” TJ to John Cartwright 5 June 1824 WTJ XIV: 49).

  53. 359px Jacques Louis David The Emperor Napoleon in His Study at the Tuileries Google Art ProjectBonaparte – Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) general of revolutionary France, later Consul (1802-1804) and Emperor (1804-1814).
    In no uncertain terms, Jefferson expresses his horror of Napoleon to John Adams in 1814: 
    “The Attila of the age dethroned, the ruthless destroyer of ten millions of the human race, whose thirst for blood appeared unquenchable, the great oppressor of the rights and liberties of the world, shut up within the circle of a little island of the Mediterranean, and dwindled to the condition of an humble and degraded pensioner on the bounty of those he had most injured. How miserably, how meanly, has he closed his inflated career! What a sample of the bathos will his history present! He should have perished on the swords of his enemies, under the walls of Paris. 

    ‘Leon piagato a morte
    Sente mancar la vita, 
    Guarda la sua ferita,   
    Ne s'avilisce ancor.
    Cosi fra l'ire estrema 
    Rugge, minaccia, e freme,
    Che fa tremar morendo
    Tal volta il cacciator.’     Metast. Adriano. 

    But Bonaparte was a lion in the field only. In civil life, a cold-blooded, calculating, unprincipled usurper, without a virtue; no statesman, knowing nothing of commerce, political economy, or civil [146] government, and supplying ignorance by bold presumption. I had supposed him a great man until his entrance into the Assembly des cinq cens, eighteen Brumaire (an 8). From that date, however, I set him down as a great scoundrel only” (TJ to JA 5 July 1814 WTJ XIV: 145-6).

    Pound had mentioned Bonaparte in canto XVIII (comparing his impact on France to Basil Zaharoff’s on Britain, see OCCEP XVIII nn.10-11) and in canto XXIV (where he touched on Bonaparte’s plunder of art in his Italian campaign of 1796: He had ordered the statues of Borso and Niccolò d’Este to be melted for “cannon.” See XXIV/ll.128-40 and OCCEP XXIV: nn.65-9). Canto 44 mentions facts of Napoleon’s rule in Tuscany (1796-1814), whereas canto 50 is entirely dedicated to Napoleon. See OCCEP XLIV nn.21-46 and  OCCEP L.

  54. paupers – Jefferson’s assessment of the “eleemosinary class” in England to be about one fifth of the whole population at that date. (TJ to Thomas Cooper 10 September 1814 WTJ XIV: 181)

  55. Hic Explicit Cantus – L. “here ends the canto.”


Cantos in periodicals

A Draft of XXX Cantos

Eleven New Cantos

The Fifth Decad

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