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Letter from Thomas Jefferson

Letter To Francis Eppes - Monticello, January 19, 1821

        _To Francis Eppes_
        _Monticello, January 19, 1821_


        DEAR FRANCIS, -- Your letter of the 1st came safely to hand.  I
am sorry you have lost Mr. Elliot, however the kindness of Dr. Cooper
will be able to keep you in the track of what is worthy of your time.


 
        You ask my opinion of Lord Bolingbroke and Thomas Paine.  They
were alike in making bitter enemies of the priests and pharisees of
their day.  Both were honest men; both advocates for human liberty.
Paine wrote for a country which permitted him to push his reasoning
to whatever length it would go.  Lord Bolingbroke in one restrained
by a constitution, and by public opinion.  He was called indeed a
tory; but his writings prove him a stronger advocate for liberty than
any of his countrymen, the whigs of the present day.  Irritated by
his exile, he committed one act unworthy of him, in connecting
himself momentarily with a prince rejected by his country.  But he
redeemed that single act by his establishment of the principles which
proved it to be wrong.  These two persons differed remarkably in the
style of their writing, each leaving a model of what is most perfect
in both extremes of the simple and the sublime.  No writer has
exceeded Paine in ease and familiarity of style, in perspicuity of
expression, happiness of elucidation, and in simple and unassuming
language.  In this he may be compared with Dr. Franklin; and indeed
his Common Sense was, for awhile, believed to have been written by
Dr. Franklin, and published under the borrowed name of Paine, who had
come over with him from England.  Lord Bolingbroke's, on the other
hand, is a style of the highest order.  The lofty, rhythmical,
full-flowing eloquence of Cicero.  Periods of just measure, their
members proportioned, their close full and round.  His conceptions,
too, are bold and strong, his diction copious, polished and
commanding as his subject.  His writings are certainly the finest
samples in the English language, of the eloquence proper for the
Senate.  His political tracts are safe reading for the most timid
religionist, his philosophical, for those who are not afraid to trust
their reason with discussions of right and wrong.


        You have asked my opinion of these persons, and, _to you_, I
have given it freely.  But, remember, that I am old, that I wish not
to make new enemies, nor to give offence to those who would consider
a difference of opinion as sufficient ground for unfriendly
dispositions.  God bless you, and make you what I wish you to be.