Thomas Mann Randolph to Nicholas P. Trist

Dear Sir,

Your very acceptable favor of the 2d ult. has lain long unanswered from many causes, which I omitt to enumerate from my confidence in the stability of your friendly sentiments, and the consciousness of a permanent reciprocation of them in myself. General Lallemands proposals to publish his treatise on Artillery translated into English is a subject of interest to the whole union. It will be recommended to the officers of Artilley of the Virginia Militia, in the preface to the collection of Laws, Rules, &c annually published for the information of the Militia generally; which I have a hope will produce some good effect by the exhortation to read Books, on the science of War, and the indication of good Books, which it will this year contain. Nothing in my power will be neglected to procure subscriptions to the Work. I should for myself prefer the french, from a dislike to translations, which is with me a very old and rooted prejudice, yet I will with pleasure take it on this occasion.

The Science of Gunnery as the English used to call it, is probably of more use to civilized man than any other which he cultivates. Agriculture, and the Arts, and Physical and Geometrical knowledge, would be of little avail to his comfort his happiness, and improvement, if the safety of Cities could not be better secured than formerly. No means known to the Ancients could have been as effectual as the modern Artillery for that purpose. In allmost any situation assault may be rendered hopeless by science; and Blockade is not a mode for Barbarian multitudes: which the World will inevitably again see, some time or other, if the new morality which tolerates perpetuity of Slavery, and the new doctrine of the Civil benefit, supposed to be derived from that system, should unfortunately prevail. Slaves increase much faster than their Masters, and must be kept in a state of barbarous ignorance to insure a submission never to cease. The ideas which prevailed, even in Congress, last Winter, upon that subject, must fill every prudent and liberal mind with very gloomy apprehensions. Even Pinckney declared, that injustice, however great, might be perpetuated for the benefit of society;

The word means, as used in the slave states: the Aristocracy; which that body still may narrow in at Will, disregarding Colour if they please.

& asked if it could ever be contemplated seriously to restore the land to the Indians which had been taken from them by force, or procured from their imbecillity for an inadequate consideration. It was hinted that it would be equally absurd to think of restoring the Blacks to liberty, at any time, or in any Manner. The analogy is as unsound as it is ungratefull to all humane and liberal feelings. All the Nations of the Earth have a share in the unemployed part of the Surface of the Earth, and of course have a right to require something like a fair distribution. But all men have a right to liberty, and if forced to yield it in exchange for life at one time may legitimately resume it, whenever an opportunity offers without commission of crime. It is impossible that the slave system should continue, without some check on their increase, and not in the end produce a great, long, and obstinate struggle. I shall not live to see it; but I had much rather it should happen in my time than in that of my descendants, when they have multiplied as much as is common in our Country, from the begining I have made.

If there is to be a dissolution of the union, and a Civil War in consequence, I should prefer seeing it myself. I have fondness enough for the art of War to desire to take part in any kind of War, if it be but inevitable: allthough I would unquestionably use all the means I could in any way command, in aid of those who should be sincerely endeavouring to prevent [. . .] with a foreign enemy as among ourselves.

I left your Grandmother well a fortnight since, and your Brother, and all our friends, as numerous as they are. That is a happy Canton of our state in which they reside. To the immense natural advantages it possesses, an increase of wealth is about to be added, I hope, by an increasing population, which will give a better market for the products of agriculture. Science and Literature, and a more general diffusion of refinement will without doubt be the early fruits of the University of Virginia, which is rapidly advancing now, towards a fructifying stage of growth.

I am most sincerely your friend
Th: M. Randolph
RC (NcU: NPT); addressed: “Nicholas P. Trist of the Corps of Cadets West Point”; stamped; postmarked Richmond, 6 June; endorsed by Trist: “Randolph (Thos. Mann) June 5, 1820.”

A treatise on artillery: to which is added, a Summary of Military Reconnoitring, of Fortification, of the Attack and Defence of Places, and of Castrametation, by Henri Dominique Lallemand and translated by James Renwick, was published in 1820.

nike