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BANKS OF THE OCCOQUAN,
August 31, 1801.
IN frequent journeyings through your country, I have made remarks on the character, the customs and manners of the people ; these remarks I purpose to systematize into a Volume, and to you I should be happy to be allowed the honour of dedicating them. The object of my speculations has been Human Nature; spe. culations that will lead the reader to the contemplation of his own manners, and enable him to compare his condition with that of other men.
In my uncertain peregrinations, I have entered with equal interest the mud-hut of the negro, and the log-house of the planter ; I have alike communed with the slave who wields the hoe, and the task-master who imposes his labour. My motto has been invariably, Homo sum! humani nihil a me alienum puto ; and after saying this, whatever I were to say more, would be idle declamation.
I am, SIR,
Your most obedient, most humble Servant,
THOMAS JEFFERSON, Esq.
MONTICELLO, September 9, 1801.
I received duly your letter of August 31, in which you do me the honour to propose to dedicate to me the work you are about to publish. Such a testimony of respect from an enlightened Foreigner cannot but be flattering to me, and I have only to regret that the choice of the patron will be little likely to give circulation to the work : its own merit however will supply that defect.
Should you in your journeyings have been led to remark on the same objects on which I gave crude notes some years ago, I shall be happy to see them confirmed or corrected by a more accurate observer,
1 pray you to accept the assurances of
my respect and consideration.
MR. DAVIS, Occoquan, Virginia,
Having employed four years and a half in travelling through the Southern States of North America, I was about to return home content with regulating imagination by reality, when the accidental perusal of those Travellers who had journeyed over the same ground, determined me to become a publisher. Of these some want taste, and others literature ; some incapable of observation, count with profound gravity the number of miles from place to place; and others, intent only upon feeding, supply a bill of fare. A family likeness prevails through the whole. Their humour bears no proportion to their morbid drowsiness. seldom relieved from the langour of indifference, or the satiety of disgust; but in toiling through volumes of diffusive mediocrity, the reader commonly terminates his career by falling asleep with the writer,
In comparing this Volume with the volumes of my predecessors, the reader will find himself exempt from various persecutions,
1. I make no mention of my dinner, whether it was fish or flesh, boiled or roasted, hot or cold.
2. I never complain of my bed, nor fill the imagination of the reader with mosquitoes, fleas, bugs, and other nocturnal pests,
3. I make no drawings of old castles, old churches, old pent-houses, and old walls, which, undeserving of repair, have been abandoned by their possessors. Let them be sacred to the Welch Tourist, the Scotch Tourist, and id genus omne.
4. In treating common subjects, I do not accumulate magnificent epithets, and lose myself in figures.
That this Volume will regale curiosity while man continues to be influenced by his senses and affections, I have very little doubt. It will be recurred to with equal interest on the banks of the Thames, and those of the Ohio. There is no man who is not pleased in being told by another what he thought of the world, and what the world thought of him. This kind of biography, when characterized by simplicity and truth, has more charms for the multitude than a pompous history of the intrigues of courts, the negotiations of statesmen, and the devastation of armies.
The Memoirs of Franklin the printer, come more home to my feelings than the History of Sir Robert Walpole's Administration. I behold the concluding page of the one with the same eye of sorrow, that the Traveller in the woods of America casts upon the sun's departing ray ; but the other is task-reading, and, in perusing it, I consult more the taste of the public, than my own dis. position. Yet even Franklin studied his ease in with. holding his Memoirs from the world till he was beyond the reach of its censure; and I know no writers of emi. nence who have ventured to encounter the malice of ridicule by the publication of their own biography, but Wakefield whose loss the sons of learning are yet deploring, and Kotzebue who is still holding the mirror up to nature.
There are some who would conceal the situation to which my exigencies reduced me in America ; but I should blush to be guilty of such ridiculous pride ;
and let the insolence of those who scorn an honest calling be repressed by remembering, that the time is not very remote when all conditions will be levelled; when the