Thomas Mann Randolph to Joseph C. Cabell
|Dear Sir,||Monticello Aug. 11. 1820.|
The trunk (of Leather) was packed and the letter with it hastily written on the day Correa left us. I had much to do on my farm (4 miles off) on that day, and intended to have set out at day break next morning for Richmond, but was stoped by letters from Richmond informing me there was nothing which required me there. I have not withdrawn the letter accompanying the leather trunk packed on that day with Books, allthough I remember but partially its contents, having been at the time of writing in a great hurry to get to my farm, upon which my affairs were, then, in a state of serious derangement. I content myself with asking of you to consider it as entirely confidential. You know my respect for General Cocke, whose private worth and capacity for public usefullness are above all cavil. But his philosophy not appearing to me entirely as unexceptionable, I have permitted myself in that letter to criticize it to you. Before I was 16 years of age I was thoroughly my own master in a foreign country, and then it was my religious opinions were settled, much more by reflection than precept or example; for religion never was a topic of discussion at Edinburg while I was there. I have all my life considered scientific pursuits as a religious occupation, and men of science, including all those engaged in it, however little they may have acquired as a sect to themselves, at least as much deserving full toleration as any other whatever. The Quakers have no ceremonial; the Unitarians believe Christ to have been an inspired man, only, without defining what inspiration means; indeed leaving every man to supply that himself; yet neither are called Atheists, as the others are. To increase our admiration of the cCreator, by studying the wonders of creation, is a sublime Religion in itself. Prayer is inconsistent with a belief that the oeconomy of the universe is unchangeable from its primitive constitution. Silent admiration is as much praise, as any Rhetoric, and is more suitable perhaps to the dignity of inconceivable greatness. All ceremony whatever partakes of the character of [. . .]. The study of Nature must be admitted as a form or mode of Religion.
P.S. I have added sinclair’ history of the British revenue andersons Hybrides and one Vol. american Philosophical transactions to the Books sent which I think you will look into with interest. This is a very good season to begin Botany’s with the syngenesia & cryptogamia it is the best.