Extract from Thomas Jefferson to William Short
|Monticello Apr. 13. 20.|
Altho’ I had laid down, as a law to myself, never to write, talk, or even think of politics, to know nothing of public affairs & therefore had ceased to read newspapers. yet the Missouri question arroused and filled me with alarm. the old schism of federal & republican, threatened nothing, because it existed in every state, and united them together by the fraternism of party. but the coincidence of a marked principle, moral & political, with a geographical line, once concieved, I feared would never more be obliterated from the mind; that it would be recurring on every occasion & renewing irritations, until it would kindle such mutual & mortal hatred, as to render separation preferable to eternal discord. I have been among the most sanguine in believing that our Union would be of long duration. I now doubt it much, and see the event at no great distance, and the direct consequence of this question: not by the line which has been so confidently counted on. the laws of nature controul this: but by the Potomak Ohio, and Missouri, or more probably the Missisipi upwards to our Northern boundary. my only comfort & confidence is that I shall not live to see this: and I envy not the present generation the glory of throwing away the fruits of their fathers sacrifices of life & fortune, and of rendering desperate the experiment which was to decide ultimately whether man is capable of self government? this treason against human hope will signalize their epoch in future history, as the counterpart of the medal of their predecessors.