A Great Friendship

—Thomas Jefferson and James Madison

Thomas Jefferson and James Madison met in 1776. Could it have been any other year? They worked together starting then to further the American Revolution and later to shape the new scheme of government. From that work sprang a friendship perhaps incomparablein intimacy and the trustfulness of collaboration and indurations. It lasted 50 years. It included pleasure and utility but over and above them, there were shared purpose, a common end and an enduring goodness on both sides. Four and a half months before he died, when he was ailing, debt-ridden, and worried about his impoverishedfamily, Jefferson wrote to his longtime friend. His words and Madison's reply remind us that friends are friends until death. They also remind us that sometimes a friendship has a bearing on things larger than the friendship itself, for has there ever been a friendship of greater public consequence than this one?
托马斯·杰斐逊和詹姆斯·麦迪逊相识于1776年。为什么偏偏是这一年呢?当时他们开始共同努力推动美国 革命,后来又一同为政府拟订新草案。在这些合作中孕育出的友谊是亲密无间、信诚以托、坚不可摧的。这份友谊维持了五十年。当中包含有欢乐,有协作,他们更 志同道合地朝共同的目标迈进,历经多年从不间断地令彼此受益。在离开人世前四个半月时,杰斐逊重病在身,债台高筑,并为家庭的贫困感到忧心如焚,于是他提 笔给这位知交好友写了封信。从他的信以及麦迪逊的回复中,我们可以看到:这两个朋友是一生之交;并且有时候,他们之间的友情意义之大更超越了友情本身,这 份友谊给大众带来的深远影响是前所未有的。

"The friendship which has subsisted between us now half a century, the harmony of our political principles and pursuits have been sources of constant happiness to me through that long period. It's also been a great solace to me to believe that you're engagedin vindicating to posterity the course that we've pursued for preserving to them, in all their purity, their blessings of self-government, which we had assisted in acquiring for them. If ever the earth has beheld a system of administration conducted with a single and steadfast eye to the general interest and happiness of those committed to it, one which, protected by truth, can never know reproach, it is that to which our lives have been devoted. Myself, you have been a pillar of support throughout life. Take care of me when dead and be assured that I shall leave with you my last affections." (Feb 17, 1826)
“你我之间的友谊迄今已经走过了半个世纪,我们在政治原则与追求上取得的协调在过去的漫漫岁月中为我带来 了源源不断的快乐。我感到一大安慰的是,我相信你还在兢兢业业地致力于造福子孙后代的事业——这份事业我们曾为他们争取过,我们也努力要把他们透明自治的 优良体制流传下去。希望这世界上有一种治理制度,在执行的时候专门有坚定不移的一只眼睛来审视它,监护大众利益和为之奋斗者的幸福,建立在真理基础上的制 度将永远与责难无缘,我们一生所致力的也正在这里。我自己,还有你,毕生都为此鼎力支持。请你照顾我的身后之事,也请相信,我的友情永远和你同在。” (1826年2月17日)

A week later Madison replied--

"You cannot look back to the long period of our private friendship and political harmony with more affecting recollections than I do. If they are a source of pleasure to you, what aren't they not to be to me? We cannot be deprived of the happy consciousness of the pure devotion to the public good with which we discharge the trust committed to us and I indulgea confidence that sufficient evidence will find its way to another generation to ensure, after we are gone, whatever of justice may be withheld whilst we are here."
“在过去的漫长岁月中,你我的友谊与一致的政治观,总令我在回想时心中无比感动。它们为你带来欢乐,对我 又何尝不是如此?我们肩负人民的信任,为大众福利鞠躬尽瘁,从中获得的幸福感是难以泯灭的。我坚信,无论当前对我们的评判怎样,我们的一切贡献,身后的下 一代人必将给予公断。”