Mexico

From Thomas Jefferson Encyclopedia

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Thomas Jefferson had a keen interest in Mexico because of its rich history and the proximity to the United States, especially as it relates to the Louisiana Purchase.

Regarding science, in 1809, Jefferson received a book from Alexander von Humboldt that Humboldt wrote resulting from a five year scientific expedition to South and Central America.

Primary Source References[1]

1787 May 4. (Jefferson to John Jay). "A little before I received the first letter of the Brasilian, a gentleman informed me there was a Mexican in Paris, who wished to have some conversion with me. He accordingly called on me. The substance of the information I drew from him was as follows...1. The natives of old Spain, possessed of most of the offices of government, and firmly attached to it. 2. The clergy equally attached to the government. 3. The natives of Mexico, generally disposed of revolt, but without instruction, without energy, and much under the dominion of their priests. 4. The slaves, mulatto, and black, the former enterprising and intelligent, the latter brave, and of very important weight, into whatever scale they throw themselves; but he thinks they will side with their masters. 5. The conquered Indians, cowardly, not likely to take any side, nor important which. 5. The free Indians, brave and formidable, should they interfere, but not likely to do so as being at a great distance. I asked him the numbers of these several classes, but he could not give them. The first he thought very inconsiderable: that the 2d. formed the body of the freemen: the 3d. equal to the two first: the 4th. to all the preceding: and as to the 5th. he could form no idea of their proportion. Indeed it appeared to me that his conjectures as to the others were on loose grounds. He said he knew from good information there were 300,000 inhabitants in the city of Mexico."[2]

1787 September 20. (Jefferson to Charles Thomson). "Patience and observation may enable us in time to solve the problem whether those who formed the scattering monuments in our Western country, were colonies sent off from Mexico, or the founders of Mexico itself? Whether both were the descendants or the progenitors of the Asiatic red men. The Mexican tradition mentioned by Dr. Robertson is an evidence, but a feeble one, in favor of the one opinion. The number of languages radically different, is a strong evidence in favor of the contrary one."[3]

1803 November 1. (Jefferson to DuPont de Nemours). "The government of Spain has protested against the right of France to transfer; and it is possible she may refuse possession, and that this may bring on acts of force. But against such neighbors as France there, and the United States here, what she can expect from so gross a compound of folly and false faith, is not to be sought in the book of wisdom. She is afraid of her enemies in Mexico; but not more than we are. Our policy will be, to form New Orleans, and the country on both sides of it on the Gulf of Mexico, into a State...This will secure both Spain and us as to the mines of Mexico, for half a century, and we may safely trust the provisions for that time to the men who shall live in it."[4]

1805 March 5. (Jefferson to John Armstrong). "I suppose Napoleon will get possession of Spain; but her colonies will deliver themselves to any member of the Bourboun family. Perhaps Mexico will choose its sovereign within itself."[5]

1809 September 21. (Jefferson to Dr. Benjamin Barton). "I learn, with pleasure, your acquisition of the pamphlet on the astronomy of the antient Mexicans. It if be antient and genuine, or modern and rational, it will be of real value. It is one of the most interesting countries of our hemisphere, and merits every attention."[6]

1816 September 6. (Jefferson to Germaine de Stael-Holstein). "This [Mexico], first of all the Spanish possessions, and superior to Spain itself in extent, fertility, population, riches and information, has nothing to fear from the pigmy power of Spain."[7]

1813 December 6. (Jefferson to Alexander von Humboldt). "The livraison of your astronomical observations, and the 6th and 7th on the subject of New Spain, with the corresponding atlases, are duly received, as had been the preceding cahiers...And Mexico, where we learn fro you that men of science are not wanting, may revolutionize itself under better auspices than the Southern provinces."[8]

1821 January 29. (Jefferson to William Davis Robinson). "I have duly recieved [sic] your letter of Dec. 28. with the volume on the Mexican revolution which you have been so kind as to send me. I shall read it with great pleasure. Observing the idle tales and contradictory statements of the newspapers on the subject of the revolutions going on in Spanish America, I have made a point to pass them over unread, except when given under a known name, because I think ignorance nearer to truth than error. Having as yet seen nothing of known character on the Mexican revolution your information will be the more welcome to a mind as yet a blank on the subject."[9]

Jefferson's Library

  • Francisco Javier Clavijero. Storia del Messico dell' Abate Clavigero. '"Sowerby, 4:269.
  • Hernando Cortes. Histoira de Neuva Espana por Hernan Cortes. 1770. Sowerby, 4:266.
  • Francisco Lopz de Gomara. Historia de Mexico con el discubrimiento de la Neuva Espana. 1554. Sowerby, 4:262.
  • Antonio de Solis. Historia de la Conquista de Mexico por de Solis. 1783-1784. Sowerby, 4:266.

Footnotes

  1. Please note that this list should not be considered comprehensive.
  2. PTJ, 11:341-342
  3. Ibid, 12: 159.
  4. L&B, 10:423.
  5. Ibid, 11: 261.
  6. Peterson, Writings, 1213.
  7. Library of Congress
  8. Peterson, Writings, 1311.
  9. Massachusetts Historical Society