Friday, March 5, 2010

march 5, 1810 (mon.)

Politics will follow Mr. Jefferson, even into his retirement haven. But he keeps his optimism, and his serenity. To Walter Jones he observes that the difficulties and infighting of the U. S. government, compared to the difficulties of European nations "are the joys of Paradise."

As for the threat of Napoleon (Waterloo is, in 1810, still five years in the unknown future), it would seem logical that he would try to conquer Egypt, and India, and the rich countries of South America before even thinking about the relatively poor United States. So he's not an urgent problem, Jefferson writes to John Langdon, whom he has known since the days of the Revolution.

This letter also contains Mr. Jefferson's wonderful description of the degeneration of European royalty:

"Now, take any race of animals, confine them in idleness and inaction, whether in a stye, a stable, or a state room, pamper them with high diet, gratify all their sexual appetites, immerse them in sensualities, nourish their passions, let every thing bend before them, and banish whatever might lead them to think, and in a few generations they become all body and no mind: and this, too, by a law of nature, by that very law by which we are in the constant practice of changing the characters and propensities of the animals we raise for our own purposes. Such is the regimen in raising Kings, and in this way they have gone on for centuries. While in Europe, I often amused myself with contemplating the characters of the then reigning sovereigns of Europe. Louis the XVI. was a fool, of my own knowledge, and in despite of the answers made for him at his trial. The King of Spain was a fool, and of Naples the same. ... The King of Sardinia was a fool. ... The Queen of Portugal, a Braganza, was an idiot by nature. And so was the King of Denmark. ... The King of Prussia, successor to the great Frederick, was a mere hog in body as well as in mind. Gustavus of Sweden, and Joseph of Austria, were really crazy, and George of England you know was in a straight waistcoat. ... And so endeth the book of Kings, from all of whom the Lord deliver us, ..."

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