TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Richmond, Jany. 9th, 1785.
My last was dated in Philada., Octr. 17. I reached this place on the 14th. day after that fixed for the meeting of the Assembly and was in time for the commencement of business. Yesterday put an end to the tedious Session. According to my promise I subjoin a brief review of its most material proceedings.
An Act for the establisht. of Courts of Assize.This act was carried through the House of Delegates against much secret repugnance, but without any direct and open opposition. It luckily happened that the latent opposition wanted both a mouth and a head. Mr. Henry had been previously elected Governor and was gone for his family. From his conversation since I surmise that his presence might have been fatal. The Act is formed precisely on the English pattern, and is nearly a transcript from the bill originally penned in 1776 by Mr. Pendleton except that writs sent blank from the Clk. of Genl. Ct. are to issue in the district, but retd. to Gl. Ct. In the Senate it became a consideration whether the Assize Courts ought not to be turned into so many Courts of independent and complete jurisdiction, and admitting an appeal only to the Court of Appeals. If the fear of endangering the bill had not checked the experiment, such a proposition would probably have been sent down to the House of Delegates, where it would have been better relished by many than the Assize plan. The objections made to the latter were that as it required the issues to be made up and the judgments to be awarded in the General Court it was but a partial relief to suitors, and might render the service of double setts of Lawyers necessary. The friends of the plan thought these inconveniences as far as they were real, outweighed by the superior wisdom & uniformity of decisions incident to the plan; not to mention the difference in the frequency of appeals incident to the different plans. In order to leave as few handles as possible for cavil the bill omitted all the little regulations which would follow of course, and will therefore need a supplement. To give time for this provision as well as by way of collecting the mind of the public, the commencement of the law is made posterior to the next Session of Assembly. The places fixed for the Assize Courts are Northumberland Court House, Williamsbg., Accomack Ct. House, Suffolk, Richmond, Petersburg, Brunswick Ct. House, King & Queen Ct. House, Prince Edwd. Ct. H., Bedford Ct H., Montgomery & Washington Ct Hs alternately, Staunton, Charlottesville, Fredericksbg, Dumfries, Winchester, and Monongalia Ct H. Besides the judicial advantages hoped from this innovation, we consider it as a means of reconciling to our Govt. the discontented extremities of the State.
An Act for opening and extending the navigation of Potowmac river.The subject of clearing these great rivers was brought forward early in the Session under the auspices of General Washington, who had written an interesting private letter on it to Govr. Harrison which the latter communicated to the Genl. Assembly. The conversation of the Genl. during a visit paid to Richmond in the course of the Session, still further impressed the magnitude of the object on sundry members. Shortly after his departure, a joint memorial from a number of Citizens of Va & Maryland, interested in the Potowmac,An Act for opening and extending the navigation of James river. was presented to the Assembly, stating the practicability and importance of the work, & praying for an act of incorporation, and grant of perpetual toll to the Undertakers of it. A bill had been prepared at the same meeting which produced the Memorial, and was transmitted to Richmond at the same time. A like memorial & bill went to Annapolis where the Legislature of Maryland were sitting. The Assembly here lent a ready ear to the project, but a difficulty arose from the height of the tolls proposed, the danger of destroying the uniformity essential in the proceedings of the two States, by altering them,—and the scarcity of time for negociating with Maryland a bill satisfactory to both States. Short as the time was however, the attempt was decided on, and the negociation committed to Genl. Washington himself. Genl. Gates who happened to be in the way and Col. Blackburn were associated with him. The latter did not act, the two former pushed immediately to Annapolis, where the sickness of Genl. Gates threw the whole agency on Genl. Washington. By his exertions in concert with Committees of the two branches of the Legislature, an amendment of the plan was digested in a few days, passed thro’ both houses in one day with nine dissenting voices only, and despatched for Richmond, where it arrived just in time for the close of the Session. A corresponding Act was immediately introduced, and passed without opposition. The scheme declares that the subscribers shall be an incorporated body, that there shall be 500 Shares, amounting to about 220,000 dollars, of which the States of Va & Maryd are each to take 50 shares, that the tolls shall be collected in three portions, at the three principal falls, and with the works vest as real estate in the members of the Company, and that the works shall be begun within one year, and finished within ten years, under the penalty of entire forfeiture.
Previous to the receipt of the Act from Annapolis a bill on a different plan had been brought in and proceeded on for clearing James River. It proposed that subscriptions should be taken by Trustees and under their management solemnly appropriated to the object in view, that they should be regarded as a loan to the State, should bear an interest of 10 per ct., and should entitle the subscriber to the double of the principal remaining undischarged at the end of a moderate period; and that the tolls to be collected should stand inviolably pledged for both principal & interest. It was thought better for the public to present this exuberant harvest to the subscribers than to grant them a perpetuity in the tolls. In the case of the Potowmac which depended on another authority as well as our own, we were less at liberty to consider what wd be best in itself. Exuberant however as the harvest appeared, it was pronounced by good judges an inadequate bait for subscriptions even from those otherwise interested in the work, and on the arrival and acceptance of the Potowmac plan, it was found advisable to pass a similar one in favor of James River. The circumstantial variations in the latter are 1. the sum to be aimed at in the first instance is 100,000 Dollars only. 2. the shares which are the same in number with those of Potowmac, are reduced to 200 dollrs each and the number of public shares raised to 100. 3. the tolls are reduced to ½ of the aggregate of the Potowmac tolls. 4. in case the falls at this place where alone tolls are to be paid, shall be first opened, the Company are permitted to receive the tolls immediately, and continue to do so till the lapse of ten years, within which the whole river is to be made navigable. 5. a right of pre-emption is reserved to the public on all transfers of shares. These acts are very lengthy, and having passed in all the precipitancy which marks the concluding stages of a Session, abound I fear with inaccuracies.
In addition to these acts joint resolutions have passed the Legislatures of Maryd & Va for clearing a road from the head of the Potowmac navigation to Cheat river or if necessary to Monongalia, & 3333⅓ Dollars are voted for the work by each State. Pennsylva is also to be applied to by the Governors of the two States for leave to clear a road thro’ her jurisdiction if it should be found necessary, from Potowmac to Yohogania; to which the Assembly here have added a proposition to unite with Maryland in representing to Pena the advantages which will accrue to a part of her citizens from opening the proposed communication with the Sea, and the reasonableness of her securing to those who are to be at the expence, the use of her waters, as a thoroughfare to & from the Country beyond her limits, free from all imposts & restrictions whatever, and as a channel of trade with her citizens free from greater imposts than may be levied on any other channel of importation. This Resolution did not pass till it was too late to refer it to Genl Washington’s negociations with Maryland. It now makes a part of the task allotted to the Coissrs who are to settle with Maryd the jurisdiction & navigation of Potowmac below tide water. By another Resolution of this State, persons are to be forthwith appd by the Executive to survey the upper parts of Jas river, the country thro’ which a road must pass to the navigable waters of New River, and these waters down to the Ohio. I am told by a member of the Assembly, who seems to be well acquainted both with the intermediate ground and with the Western waters in question, that a road of 25 or 30 miles in length will link these waters with Js river, and will strike a branch of the former which yields a fine navigation, and falls into the main stream of the Kenhawa below the only obstructions lying in this river down to the Ohio. If these be facts James River will have a great superiority over Potowmac, the road from which to Cheat river is indeed computed by Genl Washington at 20 miles only, but he thinks the expence of making the latter navigable will require a continuation of the road to Monongalia, which will lengthen it to 40 miles. The road to Yohogania is computed by the Genl at 30 miles.
By another resolution, Coissrs. are to be appd. to survey the ground for a canal between the waters of Elizabeth river and those of N. Carolina, and in case the best course for such a canal shall require the concurrence of that State, to concert a joint plan and report the same to the next Session of Assembly. Besides the trade which will flow thro’ this channel from North Carolina to Norfolk the large district of Virginia watered by the Roanoak will be doubled in its value by it.
An Act vesting in G. Washington a certain interest in the Companies for opening James & Potowmac rivers.The Treasurer is by this act directed to subscribe 50 shares in the Potowmac & 100 shares in the James River Companies which shall vest in Genl. Washington & his heirs. This mode of adding some substantial to the many honorary rewards bestowed on him was deemed least injurious to his delicacy, as well as least dangerous as a precedent. It was substituted in place of a direct pension urged on the House by the indiscreet zeal of some of his friends. Though it will not be an equivalent succour in all respects it will save the General from subscriptions which would have oppressed his finances; and if the schemes be executed within the period fixed, may yield a revenue for some years before the term of his [sic]. At all events it will demonstrate the grateful wishes of his Country and will promote the object which he has so much at heart. The earnestness with which he espouses the undertaking is hardly to be described, and shews that a mind like his, capable of great views & which has long been occupied with them, cannot bear a vacancy; and surely he could not have chosen an occupation more worthy of succeeding to that of establishing the political rights of his Country, than the patronage of works for the extensive & lasting improvement of its natural advantages; works which will double the value of half the lands within the Commonwealth, will extend its commerce, link with its interests those of the Western States, and lessen the emigration of its Citizens by enhancing the profitableness of situations which they now desert in search of better.
An Act to discharge the people of this Commonwealth from one half of the tax for the year 1775 .Our successive postponements had thrown the whole tax of 1784 on the year 1785. The remission therefore still leaves three halves to be collected. The plentiful crops on hand both of corn & tobo, and the price of the latter which is vibrating on this river between 36/. & 40/. seem to enable the Country to bear the burden. A few more plentiful years with steadiness in our Councils will put our credit on a decent footing. The payments from this State to the Continental treasury between Apl., 83, and Novr., 84, amount to £123,202 11s. 1½, Va. Curry. The printed report herewith inclosed will give you a rude idea of our finances.
An Act giving James Rumsey the exclusive privilege of constructing & navigating certain boats for a limited time.J. Rumsey by a memorial to the last Session represented that he had invented a mechanism, by which a boat might be worked with little labour at the rate of from 25 to 40 miles a day, against a stream running at the rate of 10 miles an hour, and prayed that the disclosure of his invention might be purchased by the public. The apparent extravagance of his pretensions brought a ridicule upon them, and nothing was done. In the recess of the Assembly, he exemplified his machinery to General Washington and a few other gentlemen, who gave a certificate of the reality & importance of the invention, which opened the ears of the Assembly to a second memorial. The Act gives a monopoly for ten years, reserving a right to abolish it at any time by paying £10,000. The inventor is soliciting similar Acts from other States, and will not I suppose publish the secret till he either obtains or despairs of them.
An act for punishing certain offences injurious to the tranquility of this Commonwealth.This act authorises ye surrender of a Citizen to a foreign Sovereign within whose acknowledged jurisdiction the citizen shall commit a crime, of wch. satisfactory proof shall be exhibited to Congress, and for which in the judgment of Congress the law of nations exacts such surrender. This measure was suggested by the danger of our being speedily embroiled with the nations contiguous to the U. States, particularly the Spaniards, by the licentious & predatory spirit of some of our Western people. In several instances gross outrages are said to have been already practiced. The measure was warmly patronized by Mr. Henry and most of the forensic members, and no less warmly opposed by the Speaker and some others. The opponents contended that such surrenders were unknown to the law of nations, and were interdicted by our declaration of Rights. Vattel however is express as to the case of Robbers, murderers and incendiaries. Grotius quotes various instances in which great offenders have been given up by their proper Sovereigns to be punished by the offended Sovereigns. Puffendorf only refers to Grotius. I have had no opportunity of consulting other authorities. With regard to the bill of rights, it was alleged to be no more or rather less violated by considering crimes committed agst. other laws as not falling under the notice of our own, and sending our Citizens to be tried where the cause of trial arose, than to try them under our own laws without a jury of the vicinage, and without being confronted with their accusers or witnesses; as must be the case, if they be tried at all for such offences under our own laws. And to say that such offenders could neither be given up for punishment, nor be punished within their own Country, would amount to a licence for every aggression, and would sacrifice the peace of the whole community to the impunity of the worst members of it. The necessity of a qualified interpretation of the bill of rights was also inferred from the law of the Confederacy which requires the surrender of our Citizens to the laws of other States, in cases of treason, felony or other high misdemesnors. The Act provides however for a domestic trial in cases where a surrender may not be justified or insisted upon, and in cases of aggressions on the Indians.
An act for incorporating the Protestant Episcopal Church.This act declares the Ministers & vestries who are to be triennially chosen in each parish a body corporate, enables them to hold property not exceeding the value of £800 per annum, and gives sanction to a Convention which is to be composed of the Clergy and a lay deputy from each parish, and is to regulate the affairs of the Church. It was understood by the House of Delegates that the Convention was to consist of two laymen for each clergyman, and an amendment was received for that express purpose. It so happened that the insertion of the amendment did not produce that effect, and the mistake was never discovered till the bill had passed and was in print. Another circumstance still more singular is that the act is so construed as to deprive the Vestries of the uncontrouled right of electing Clergymen, unless it be referred to them by the canons of the Convention, and that this usurpation actually escaped the eye both of the friends and adversaries of the measure, both parties taking the contrary for granted throughout the whole progress of it. The former as well as the latter appear now to be dissatisfied with what has been done, and will probably concur in a revision if not a repeal of the law. Independently of these oversights the law is in various points of view exceptionable. But the necessity of some sort of incorporation for the purpose of holding & managing the property of the Church could not well be denied, nor a more harmless modification of it now obtained. A negative of the bill too would have doubled the eagerness and the pretexts for a much greater evil, a general Assessment, which, there is good ground to believe was parried by this partial gratification of its warmest votaries. A Resolution for a legal provision for the “teachers of the Christian Religion” had early in the Session been proposed by Mr. Henry, and in spite of all the opposition that could be mustered, carried by 47 agst 32 votes. Many Petitions from below the blue ridge had prayed for such a law; and though several from the presbyterian laity beyond it were in a contrary stile, the Clergy of that Sect favored it. The other Sects seemed to be passive. The Resolution lay some weeks before a bill was brought in, and the bill some weeks before it was called for, after the passage of the incorporating act it was taken up, and on the third reading, ordered by a small majority to be printed for consideration. The bill, in its present dress proposes a tax of blank per Ct. on all taxable property for support of Teachers of the Christian Religion. Each person when he pays his tax is to name the society to which he dedicates it, and in case of refusal to do so, the tax is to be applied to the maintenance of a school in the County. As the bill stood for some time, the application in such cases was to be made by the Legislature to pious uses. In a committee of the whole it was determined by a majority of 7 or 8 that the word “Xn.” should be exchanged for the word “Religious.” On the report to the House the pathetic zeal of the late Governor Harrison gained a like majority for reinstating discrimination. Should the bill pass into a law in its present form it may & will be easily eluded. It is chiefly obnoxious on account of its dishonorable principle and dangerous tendency.
The subject of the British debts underwent a reconsideration on the motion of Mr. Jones. Though no answer had been recd. from Congress to the Resolutions passed at the last Session, a material change had evidently taken place in the mind of the Assembly, proceeding in part from a more dispassionate view of the question, in part from the intervening exchange of the ratifications of the Treaty. 1Mr. Henry was out of the way. His previous conversation I have been told, favored the reconsideration; the Speaker, the other champion at the last Session against the Treaty, was at least half a proselight. The proposition rejected interest during the period of blank and left the periods of payment blank. In this form it was recd. with little opposition and by a very great majority. After much discussion & several nice divisions the first blank was filled up with the period between the 19 of Apl., 1775, and the 3 of March 1783, the commencement and cessation of hostilities; and the second with seven annual payments. Whilst the bill was depending, some proceedings of the Glasgow merchants were submitted to the H. of D. in which they signified their readiness to receive their debts in four annual payments, with immediate security and summary recoveries at the successive periods and were silent as to the point of interest. Shortly after were presented memorials from the Merchants of this Town & Petersburg representing the advantage which a compliance with the Glasgow overtures would give the foreign over the domestic creditors. Very little attention seemed to be paid by the House to the overtures, tho’, as the Treaty was not to be literally pursued, the shadow of assent from the other party was worthy of being attended to. In the Senate the bill met with a diversity of opinions. By a majority of one voice only an attempt to put all our domestic debts on the same footing with British debts was lost. Whether this was sincere or a side blow at the bill I am unable to say. An attempt was next made to put on the same footing all those who left this Country and joined the other side, or who remained within the British territories for one year at any time since the 19 Apl., 1775, or who refused a tender of paper money before Jany, 1779. These discriminations were almost unanimously disagreed to by the H. of D. The Senate insisted. The former proposed a conference. The Senate concurred. The Conference produced a proposition from the H. of D. to which the Senate assented; but before the assent was notified an incident happened which has left the bill in a very singular situation. The delays attending this measure had spun it out to the day preceding the one prefixed for a final adjournment. Several of the members went over to Manchester in the evening, with an intention it is to be presumed of returning the next morning. The severity of the night rendered their passage back the next morning impossible. Without them there was no house. The impatience of the members was such as might be supposed. Some were for stigmatizing the absentees and adjourning. The rest were some for one thing, some for another. At length it was agreed to wait until the next day. The next day presented the same obstructions in the river. A canoe was sent over for enquiry by the Manchester party, but they did not chuse to venture themselves. The impatience increased, warm resolutions were agitated. They ended however in an agreement to wait one day more. On the morning of the third day the prospect remained the same. Patience could hold out no longer and an adjournment to the last day of March ensued. The question to be decided is whether a bill which has passed the House of Delegates, and been assented to by the Senate; but not sent down to the H. of D., nor enrolled, nor examined, nor signed by the two Speakers and consequently not of record, is or is not a law? A bill for the better regulation of the customs is in the same situation.
After the passage of the Bill for British debts through the H. of D. a bill was introduced for liquidating the depreciated payments into the Treasury, and making the debtors liable for the deficiency. A foresight of this consequential step had shewn itself in every stage of the first bill. It was opposed byGovernor Harrison principally and laid asleep by the refusal of interested members to vote on the question, and the want of a quorum without them.
Among the abortive measures may be mentioned also a proposition to authorise the collection of the impost by Congress as soon as the concurrence of twelve States should be obtained. Connecticut had set the example in this project. The proposition was made by the Speaker & supported by the late Governor. It was disagreed to by a very large majority on the following grounds 1 the appearance of a schism in the Confederacy which it would present to foreign eyes. 2. its tendency to combinations of smaller majorities of the States. 3. the channel it would open for smuggling; goods imported into Rhode Island in such case might not only be spread by land through the adjacent States, but if slipped into any neighbouring port might thence be carried duty-free to any part of the associated States. 4. the greater improbability of a union of twelve States on such new ground, than of the conversion of Rhode Island to the old one. 5 the want of harmony among the other States which would be betrayed by the miscarriage of such an experiment, and the fresh triumph & obstinacy which Rhode Island would derive from it.
The French vice Consul in this State has complained to the Assembly that the want of legal power over our Sheriffs, Goalers & prisons, both renders his decrees nugatory, and exposes his person to insults from dissatisfied litigants. The Assembly have taken no step whatever on the subject being at a loss to know what ought to be done, in compliance either with general usage or that of France in particular. I have often wondered that the proposed Convention between France and the U. S. for regulating the consular functions has never been executed. The delay may prove unfriendly both to their mutual harmony & their commerce.
Mr. Henry was elected successor to Mr. Harrison without competition or opposition. The victims to the article requiring a triennial removal of two Counsellors were Merrywether Smith & General Christian. Young Mr. Roane and Mr. Miles Selden take their places. Mr. Short’s place is filled by Mr. Joseph Jones.
Nothing has passed during the session concerning an amendment of the State Constitution. The friends of the undertaking seem to be multiplying rather than decreasing. Several Petitions from the Western side of the Blue ridge appeared in favor of it; as did some from the Western side of the Alleghany praying for a separate Government. The latter may be considered all of them as the children of A. C’s ambition. The Assize Courts and the opening of our Rivers are the best answers to them.
The Revisal has but just issued from the press. It consists of near 100 folio pages in a small type. I shall send you six copies by the first opportunity. £500 was voted at the Spring Session to each of the Acting members of the Committee, but no fund having been provided for payment, no use could be made of the warrants. I drew yours however & carried them up to Orange, where they now lye. A vote of this Session has provided a fund which gives them immediate value. As soon as I get home I shall send the dead warrants to Mr. Nichs Lewis, who may exchange them for others, and draw the money from the Treasury. Mr. Peter Carr is I hear now in Williamsburg, he did not get there so soon as I expected, but I have not heard the circumstances which delayed him. On the best enquiries I could make for a stand for his younger brother I could hear of none preferable to the Academy in Prince Edward, and accordingly recommended that in a letter to Mrs. Carr. I have rec’d no answer, but am told by Mr. Underwood her neighbour that he is at school with a very proper man who has lately opened a school very convenient to Mrs. Carr. If this is the case it will be improper to remove him.
I have not yet had the pleasure of a line from you since you left Boston, nor do I know when I shall next find a subject for another to you. As soon as I do you may be assured that you shall hear from me & that I am in the meantime with sincerest friendship
Yrs J. Madison Jr.
Present my respects to Miss Patsy & Mr. Short.
TO MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.mad. mss.
Orange, March 20th, 1785.
My Dear Sir,—
Your favour of the 15th, continued on the 17th of December came very slowly but finally safe to hand. The warm expressions of regard which it contains are extremely flattering to me; and the more so as they so entirely correspond with my own wishes for everything which may enter into your happiness.
You have not erred in supposing me out of the number of those who have relaxed their anxiety concerning the navigation of the Mississippi. If there be any who really look on the use of that river, as an object not to be sought or desired by the United States I cannot but think they frame their policy on both very narrow and very delusive foundations. It is true, if the States which are to be established on the waters of the Mississippi, were to be viewed in the same relation to the Atlantic States, as exists between the heterogeneous and hostile Societies of Europe, it might not appear strange that a distinction or even an opposition of interests should be set up. But is it true that they can be viewed in such a relation? Will the settlements which are beginning to take place on the branches of the Mississippi be so many distinct societies, or only an expansion of the same society? so many new bodies or merely the growth of the old one? Will they consist of a hostile or a foreign people, or will they not be bone of our bones and flesh of our flesh? Besides the confederal band, within which they will be comprehended, how much will the connection be strengthened by the ties of friendship, of marriage and consanguinity? ties which it may be remarked, will be even more numerous between the ultramontane and the Atlantic States than between any two of the latter. But viewing this subject through the medium least favorable to my ideas, it still presents to the U. States sufficient inducements to insist on the navigation of the Mississippi. Upon this navigation depends essentially the value of that vast field of territory which is to be sold for the benefit of the common Treasury; and upon the value of this territory when settled will depend the portion of the public burdens of which the old States will be relieved by the new. Add to this the stake which a considerable proportion of those who remain in the old States will acquire in the new by adventures in land either on their own immediate account or that of their descendants.
Nature has given the use of the Mississippi to those who may settle on its waters, as she gave to the United States their independence. The impolicy of Spain may retard the former as that of G. Britain did the latter. But as G. B. could not defeat the latter, neither will Spain the former. Nature seems on all sides to be reasserting those rights which have so long been trampled on by tyranny & bigotry. Philosophy & Commerce are the auxiliaries to whom she is indebted for her triumphs. Will it be presumptuous to say that those nations will shew most wisdom as well as acquire most glory, who instead of forcing her current into artificial channels, endeavour to ascertain its tendency and to anticipate its effects. If the United States were to become parties to the occlusion of the Mississippi they would be guilty of treason against the very laws under which they obtained & hold their national existence.
The repugnance of Spain to an amicable regulation of the Use of the Mississippi, is the natural offspring of a System, which everybody but herself has long seen to be as destructive to her interest as it is dishonorable to her character. An extensive desart seems to have greater charms in her eye than a flourishing but limited empire, nay than an extensive flourishing empire. Humanity cannot suppress the wish that some of those gifts which she abuses were placed by just means in hands that would turn them to a wiser account. What a metamorphosis wd the liberal policy of France work in a little time on the Island of N. Orleans? It would to her be a fund of as much real wealth as Potosi has been of imaginary wealth to Spain. It would become the Grand Cairo of the new World.
The folly of Spain is not less displayed in the means she employs than in the ends she prefers. She is afraid of the growth and neighbourhood of the U. States, because it may endanger the tranquility of her American possessions; and to obviate this danger she proposes to shut up the Mississippi. If her prudence bore any proportion to her jealousy she would see, that if the experiment were to succeed, it would only double the power of the U. States to disturb her, at the same time that it provoked a disposition to exert it; she would see that the only offensive weapon which can render the U. States truly formidable to her is a navy, and that if she could keep their inhabitants from crossing the Appalachian ridge, she would only drive to the Sea most of those swarms which would otherwise direct their course to the Western Wilderness. She should reflect too that as it was impossible for her to destroy the power which she dreads, she ought only to consult the means of preventing a future exertion of it. What are those means? Two & two only. The first is a speedy concurrence in such a treaty with the U. S. as will produce a harmony, & remove all pretexts for interrupting it. The second, which would in fact result from the first, consists in favouring the extension of their settlements. As these become extended the members of the Confederacy must be multiplied, and along with them the Wills which are to direct the machine. And as the wills multiply, so will the chances against a dangerous union of them. We experience every day the difficulty of drawing thirteen States into the same plans. Let the number be doubled & so will the difficulty. In the multitude of our Counsellors, Spain may be told, lies her safety.
If the temper of Spain be unfriendly to the views of the U. States, they may certainly calculate on the favorable sentiments of the other powers of Europe, at least of all such of them as favored our Independence. The chief advantages expected in Europe from that event center in the revolution it was to produce in the commerce between the new & the old World. The commerce of the U. S. is advantageous to Europe in two respects, first by the unmanufactured produce which they export; secondly by the manufactured imports which they consume. Shut up the Mississippi and discourage the settlements on its waters, and what will be the consequence? First, a greater quantity of subsistence must be raised within the ancient settlements, the culture of tobacco indigo & other articles for exportation, be proportionably diminished, and their price proportionably raised on the European consumer. Secondly the hands without land at home being discouraged from seeking it where alone it could be found, must be turned in a great degree to manufacturing, our imports proportionably diminished, and a proportional loss fall on the European Manufacturer. Establish the freedom of the Mississippi, and let our emigrations have free course, and how favorably for Europe will the consequence be reversed. First the culture of every article for exportation will be extended, and the price reduced in favor of her consumers. Secondly, Our people will increase without an increase of our Manufacturers, and in the same proportion will be increased the employment & profit of hers.
These consequences would affect France in common with the other commercial nations of Europe; but there are additional motives which promise the U. States her friendly wishes and offices. Not to dwell on the philanthropy which reigns in the heart of her Monarch and which has already adorned his head with a crown of laurels, he cannot be inattentive to the situation into which a controversy between his antient and new Allies would throw him, nor to the use which would be made of it by his watchful adversary. Will not all his councils then be employed to prevent this Controversy? will it not be seen that as the pretensions of the parties directly interfere, it can be prevented only by a dissuasive interposition on one side or the other, that on the side of the U. S. such an interposition must, from the nature of things be unavailing; or if their pretensions for a moment be lulled they wd but awake with fresh energy, and consequently that the mediating influence of France ought to be turned wholly on the side of Spain. The influence of the French Court over that of Spain is known to be great. In America it is supposed to be greater than perhaps it really is. The same may be said of the intimacy of the union between the two nations. If this influence should not be exerted, this intimacy may appear to be the cause. The United States consider Spain as the only favorite of their Ally of whom they have ground to be jealous, and whilst France continues to hold the first place in their affections they must at least be mortified at any appearance that the predilection may not be reciprocal.
The Mississippi has drawn me into such length that I fear you will have little patience left for anything else. I will spare it as much as possible. I hear nothing from Congress except that Mr. Jay has accepted his appt. and that no successr. has yet been chosen to Dr. Franklyn. Our Legislature made a decent provision for remittances due for 1785 from Virginia to the Treasy. of the U. S. and very extensive provision for opening our inland navigation. * * * Whether they passed an act for paying British debts or not they do not know themselves. Before the bill for that purpose had got through the last usual forms, the want of members broke up the House. It remains therefore in a situation which has no precedent, & without a precedent lawyers & legislators are as much at a loss as a mariner without his compass.
The subjects in which you interested yourself were all referred to the Executive with power to do what I hope they will do better than the Assembly. I understood before I left Richmd. that you wd. receive officially from the Govr. a copy of the Resolutions which I sent you. I recd. a letter a few days ago from Mr. Mercer, written in the bosom of wedlock at Mr. Sprigg’s; another at the same time from Monroe, who was well at New York. I have nothing to say of myself but that I have exchanged Richmond for Orange, as you will have seen by the above date; that I enjoy a satisfactory share of health; that I spend the chief of my time in reading, & the chief of my reading, on Law; that I shall hear with the greatest pleasure of your being far better employed; & that I am, with most affect.
Yr. Obedt. friend & Servt.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Orange March 21, 1785.
Your favor of the 1st. of Feby. did not come to hand till a day or two ago, having travelled on to Richmond, remained there during the absence of Mr. Jones & on his return, been sent to me by way of Fredg. Before I left Richmond I wrote you that the Assembly had adjourned and requested that your subsequent letters might be addressed to Orange, and if I do not forget to care of Mr Maury at Frederickbg. This letter ought to have reached you before the date of yours. I hope it has since got to hand. I also forwarded from Richmond to your care a letter for Mr. Jefferson which I hope has not miscarried. It contained a rehersal of our last legislative politics & proceedings, which I find by his letters to me are a material object of his curiosity. I shall be glad to know by your next whether you have ever recd. it, that in case of miscarriage I may endeavor to supply the loss.
I do not wonder at the paragraph which you have copied from Mr. Jay’s letter to Congress. His feelings are such as every one must possess who is worthy of the station which he holds. If the Office of foreign Affairs be a proper one & properly filled, a reference of all foreign despatches to it in the first instance, is so obvious a course, that any other disposition of them by Congress seems to condemn their own establishment, to affront the Minister in office, and to put on him a label of caution agst that respect & confidence of the Ministers of foreign powers, which are essential to his usefulness. I have always conceived the several ministerial departments of Congress, to be provisions for aiding their Counsels as well as executing their resolutions, & that consequently whilst they retain the right of rejecting the advice which may come from either of them, they ought not to renounce the opportunity of makeg. use of it. The foreign department is I am sensible, in several respects the most difficult to be regulated, but I cannot think the question arising on Mr. Jay’s letter is to be numbered among the difficulties. The practice of Congress during the administration of his predecessor was never fixed, & frequently improper, and I always suspected that his indifference to the place resulted in part at least from the mortifications to which this unsteadiness subjected him.
You will not be disappointed at the barrenness which is hence to mark the correspondence on my part. In the recess of the Legislature, few occurrences happen which can be interesting, and in my retired situation, few even of these fall within my knowledge. The situation of Mr. Jones will probably make his correspondence a more productive one. He has probably already mentioned to you the advances which Kentucky was said to be making towards an independent Govt.. It is certain that a Convention has been held, which might have been set on foot with an eye to such an event; but I learn from an intelligent person lately from that district, that its deliberations turned altogether on the pressure of certain acts of the General Assembly, & terminated in a vote of application for redress. He supposes however that the late extension of the tax on patents will give a successful handle to those who wish to accelerate a separation. This tax as it stood before was in the first class of their grievances.
You will I expect receive this from the hands of Mr. Burnley, a young gentleman of my neighborhood, who has passed with reputation through Mr. Wythe’s School & has since taken out his forensic diploma. Your civilities to him will be well placed & will confer an obligation on me. If Col. Grayson has recovered from the gout which I hear arrested him in the moment of his intended departure, and is with you, be so kind as to make my best respects to him.
I am Dear Sir with sincere regard & esteem
Your obedt friend & servant,
JAMES MONROEmad. mss.
Orange April 12 1785.
I wrote you not long since by a young gentleman who proposed to go as far as N. Y. acknowledging the rect. of your favor of Feby 1st. I have since recd that of March which I meant to have acknowledged through the same hands. But finding that ye delays which have hitherto kept back the bearer above referred to, are of uncertain continuance, & having no certain conveyance to Fredg. I embrace an opportunity of sending this to Richmond, whence it will be forwarded by Mr. Jones in the mail.
The appointment of Mr. A. to the Court of G. B. is a circumstance which does not contradict my expectations; nor can I say that it displeases me. Upon Geographical considerations N. E. will always have one of the principal appointmts, and I know of no individual from that quarter, who possesses more of their confidence, or would possess more of that of the other States; nor do I think him so well fitted for any Court of equal rank, as that of London, I hope it has removed all obstacles to the establishment of Mr. Jefferson at the Court of France. Will not Congress soon take up the subject of Consular arrangements? I should suppose them at least of equal moment at present with some of ye higher appointmts which are likely to occupy them. Our friend Mr. Maury is waiting with a very inconvenient suspension of his other plans, the event of the offer he has made of his services. I find he considers Ireland as the Station next to be desired after that of England. He conceives & I believe very justly that the commercial intercourse between that Country & this will be very considerable, and merits our particular cultivation. I suppose from your silence on the subject, that the Western posts are still in the hands of G. B. Has the subject of the vacant lands to be disposed of, been revived? what other measures are on foot or in contemplation for paying off the public debts? What paymts have been made of late into the public Treasury? It is said here that Massts is taking measures for urging R. I into the Impost, or rendering the Scheme practicable without her concurrence. Is it so? How many of the States have agreed to change the 8th. Art of ye Confederation? The Legislature of this State passed a law for complying with the provisional act of Congs for executing that article as it now stands, the operation of which confirms the necessity of changing the article. The law requires as the Act of Congs does among other things a list of the Houses. If ye list does not discriminate the several kinds of Houses, how can Congs. collect from it ye value of the improvements, how do justice to all their constituents? And how can a discrimination be made in this country, where the variety is so infinite & so unsusceptible of description? If Congs govern themselves by number alone, this Country will certainly appeal to a more accurate mode of carrying the present rule of the confederation into practice. The average value of the improvements in Virga is not ¼ perhaps not of that of ye improvements in Pena or N. Engd. Compare this difference with ye proportion between the value of Improvemts & that of the Soil, & what an immense loss shall we be taxed with? The number of buildings will not be a less unjust rule than the number of acres, for estimating the respective abilities of the States.
The only proceeding of the late Session of Assembly which makes a noise thro’ the Country is that which relates to a Genl Assessmt. The Episcopal people are generally for it, tho’ I think the zeal of some of them has cooled. The laity of the other sects are equally unanimous on the other side. So are all the Clergy except the Presbyterian who seem as ready to set up an establishmt which is to take them in as they were to pull down that which shut them out. I do not know a more shameful contrast than might be found between their memorials on the latter & former occasion.
In one of your letters recd before I left Richmond you expressed a wish for a better Cypher. Since my return to Orange I have been able to get one made out which will answer every purpose. I will either enclose it herewith or send it by the Gentleman who is already charged with a letter for you. I wish much to throw our correspondence into a more regular course. I would write regularly every week if I had a regular conveyance to Fredg. As it is I will write as often as I can find conveyances. The business of this neighborhood which used to go to Fredericksburg is in a great measure turned towards Richmd, which is too circuitous a channel. Opportunities in every direction however will be henceforward multiplied by the advance of the Season. If you are not afraid of too much loading the mail I could wish you to enclose in your letters the last N. Y. or Phila paper.
I am Dr Sir Yrs most sincerely.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Orange April 27 1785.
I have recd. your two favors of Novr 11 & Decr 8. Along with the former I recd. the two pamphlets on animal magnetism & the last aeronautic expedition, together with the phosphoretic matches. These articles were a great treat to my curiosity. As I had left Richmd before they were brought thither by Col. le Maire, I had no opportunity of attending myself to your wishes with regard to him; but I wrote immediately to Mr. Jones & desired him to watch over the necessities of le Maire. He wrote me for answer that the Executive tho’ without regular proof of his claims were so well satisfied from circumstances of the justice of them, that they had voted him £150 for his relief till the Assembly could take the whole into consideration. This information has made me easy on the subject though I have not withdrawn from the hands of Mr. Jones the provisional resource. I thank you much for your attention to my literary wants. All the purchases you have made for me, are such as I should have made for myself with the same opportunities. You will oblige me by adding to them the Dictionary in 13 vol. 4° by Felice & others, also de Thou in French. If the utility of Moreri be not superseded by some better work I should be glad to have him too. I am afraid if I were to attempt a catalogue of my wants I should not only trouble you beyond measure, but exceed the limits which other considerations ought to prescribe to me. I cannot however abridge the Commission you were so kind as to take on yourself in a former letter, of procuring me from time to time such books as may be either “old & curious or new & useful.” Under this description will fall those particularized in my former letters, to wit: treatises on the ancient or modern fœderal republics—on the law of Nations—and the history natural & political of the New World; to which I will add such of the Greek & Roman authors where they can be got very cheap, as are worth having and are not on the common list of School classics. Other books which particularly occur are the translation (French) of the Historians of the Roman Empire during its decline, by — Pascal’s Provincial letters—Don Ulloa in the Original—Linnæus best edition Ordinances Marines—Collection of Tracts in french on the Oeconomics of different nations, I forget the full title. It is much referred to by Smith on the wealth of Nations. I am told a Monsr Amelot has lately published his travels into China, which if they have any merit must be very entertaining. Of Buffon I have his original work of 31 vol. 10 vol. of Supplemt, and 16 vol. on birds. I shall be glad of the continuation as it may from time to time be published. I am so pleased with the new invented lamp that I shall not grudge two guineas for one of them. I have seen a pocket compass of somewhat larger diameter than a watch & which may be carried in the same way. It has a spring for stopping the vibration of the needle when not in use. One of these would be very convenient in case of a ramble into the Western country. In my walks for exercise or amusements, objects frequently present themselves, which it might be matter of curiosity to inspect, but which it is difficult or impossible to approach. A portable Glass would consequently be a source of many little gratifications. I have fancied that such an one might be fitted into a cane without making it too heavy. On the outside of the tube might be engraved a scale of inches &c. If such a project could be executed for a few Guineas, I should be willing to submit to the price; if not, the best substitute I suppose, will be a pocket telescope, composed of several tubes so constructed as to slide the lesser into the greater. I should feel great remorse at troubling you with so many requests, if your kind & repeated offers did not stifle it in some measure. Your proposal for my replacing here advances for me without regard to the exchange is liable to no objection except that it will probably be too unequal in my favour. I beg that you will enable me as much as you can to keep these little matters balanced. The papers from Le Grand were sent as soon as I got them to Mr. Jones with a request that he would make the use of them which you wished me to do.
Your remarks on the tax on transfers of land in a general view appear to me to be just but there were two circumstances which gave a peculiarity to the case in which our law adopted it. One was that the tax will fall much on those who are evading their quotas of other taxes by removing to Georgia & Kentucky; the other that as such transfers are more frequent among those who do not remove, in the Western than the Eastern part of the Country, it will fall heaviest where direct taxes are least collected. With regard to the tax in general on law proceedings, it cannot perhaps be justified if tried by the strict rule which proportions the quota of every man to his ability, time however will gradually in some measure equalize it, & if it be applied to ye support of the Judiciary establishment, as was the ultimate view of the periods of the tax, it seems to square very well with the Theory of taxation.
The people of Kentucky had lately a Convention which it was expected would be the mother of a separation. I am informed they proceeded no farther than to concert an Address to the Legislature on some points in which they think the laws bear unequally upon them, they will be ripe for that event at least as soon as their interest calls for it. There is no danger of a concert between them & the Counties West of the Alleghany which we mean to retain. If the latter embark in a scheme for independence it will be on their own bottom. They are more disunited in every respect from Kentucky than from Virginia.
I have not learnt with certainty whether Genl Washington will accept or decline the shares voted him by the Assembly in the Companies for opening our rivers. If he does not chuse to take to himself any benefit from the donation, he has I think a fine opportunity at once of testifying his disinterested purposes, of shewing his respect for the Assembly, and of rendering a service to his Country. He may accept the gift so far as to apply it to the scheme of opening the rivers & may then appropriate the revenue which it is hereafter to produce to some patriotic establishment. I lately dropped a hint of this sort to one of his friends & was told that such an idea had been suggested to him. The private subscriptions for Potowmac I hear amount to £10,000 Sterling. I cannot discover that those for James River deserve mention, or that the undertaking is pushed with any spirit. If those who are most interested in it let slip the present opportunity, their folly will probably be severely punished for the want of such another. It is said the undertaking on the Susquehannah by Maryland goes on with great spirit & expectations. I have heard nothing of Rumsey or his boats since he went into the Northern States. If his machinary for stemming ye current operates on the water alone, as is given out, may it not supply the great desiratum for perfecting the Balloons?
I understand that Chase & Jenifer on the part of Maryland, Mason & Henderson on the part of Virginia have had a meeting on the proposition of Virga for settling the navigation & jurisdiction of Potowmac below the falls, & have agreed to report to the two Assemblies, the establishment of a concurrent jurisdiction on that river & Chesapeak. The most amicable spirit is said to have governed the negociation.
The Bill for a Genl Assesst has produced some fermentation below the Mountains & a violent one beyond them. The contest at the next Session on this question will be a warm & precarious one. The Port bill will also undergo a fiery trial. I wish the Assize Courts may not partake of the danger. The elections as far as they have come to my knowledge are likely to produce a great proportion of new Members. In Albemarle young Mr. Fry has turned out Mr. Carter. The late Governor Harrison I hear has been baffled in his own County, but meant to be a Candidate in Surry & in case of a rebuff there to throw another die for the borough of Norfolk. I do not know how he construes the doctrine of residence. It is surmised that the machinations of tyler who fears a rivalship for the chair are at the bottom of his difficulties. Arthr. Lee is elected in prince William he is said to have paved the way by promises to overset the port bill which is obnoxious to dumfries and to prevent the removal of the Assize Court from this town to Alexandria.
I recd. a letter from the marquis fayette, dated on the eve of his embarcation which has the following paragraph I have much conferred with the General upon the Potowmac system many people think the navigation of the Mississippi is not an advantage but it may be the excess of a very good thing, viz the opening of your rivers. I fancy it has not changed your opinion but beg you will write me on the subject in the meanwhile I hope Congress will act coolly and prudently by Spain who is such a fool that allowances must be made. It is unlucky that he should have left America with such an idea as to the Mis̃sipi. It may be of the worst consequce as it is not wholly imaginary the prospect of extending the commerce of the atlantic states to the western waters having given birth to it. I can not believe that many minds are tainted with so illiberal and short-sighted a policy. I have thought it not amiss to write the marquis according to the request of his letter and have stated to him the motives and obligations which must render the U. S. inflexible on the subject of the Miipi, the folly of Spain in contesting it and our expectations from the known influence of France over Spain and her friendly dispositions toward U.S. It is but justice to the marquis to observe that in all our conversations on the Missipi he expressed with every mark of sincerity a zeal for our claims and a pointed dislike to the national character and policy of Spain and that if his zeal should be found to abate I should construe it to be the effect of a supposed revolution in the sentiments of America.
This would have been of somewhat earlier date but I postponed it that I might be able to include some information relative to your Nephews. My last informed you that your eldest was then with Mr. Maury. I was so assured by Mr. Underwood from his neighborhood, who I supposed could not be mistaken. I afterwards discovered that he was so, but could get no precise information till within a few days. One of my brothers being called into that part of Country by business, I wrote to Mrs. Carr and got him to wait on her. The answer with which I have been favored imports that “her eldest son was taken last fall with a fever which with repeated relapses kept him extremely weak & low till about the first of Jany from which time he was detained at home by delays in equipping him for Williamsbg till the 1st of April, when he set out with promises to make up his lost time—that her youngest son had also been detained at home by ill health till very lately, but that he would certainly go on to the academy as soon as a vacation on hand was over, that his time had not been entirely lost as his brother was capable of instructing him whenever his health would admit.” Mr. Maury’s School is said to be very flourishing. Mr. Wythe & the other gentlemen of the University have examined it from time to time & published their approbation of of its management. I cannot speak with the same authority as to the Academy in Prince Edward. The information which I have recd has been favorable to it. In the recommendation of these Seminaries I was much governed by the probable permanency of them; nothing being more ruinous to education than the frequent interruptions & change of masters & methods incident to the private schools of this Country.
Our winter has been full of vicissitudes, but on the whole far from being a severe one, the spring has been uncommonly cold & wet, and vegetation, of course, very backward; till within a few days during which it has been accelerated by very uncommon heat. A pocket Thermometer which stands on the second floor & the N. W. side of the House was on the 24 inst. at 4 O’Clock, at 77°, on the 25, at 78, on the 26, at 81½; to-day, 27, at 82, the Weather during this period has been fair & the wind S, the atmosphere thick N. W. Our Wheat in the ground is very unpromising throughout the Country. the price of that article on tide-water is about 6s. Corn sells in this part of the country at 10s. & under, below at 15s. and where the insect prevailed as high as 20s. It is said to have been raised by a demand for exportation. Tobo is selling on Rappahannock at 32s. & Richmd at 37s 6. It is generally expected that it will at least get up to 40s. Some of our peaches are killed & most of our Cherries. Our Apples are as yet safe. I can not say how it is with the fruit in other parts of the Country. The mischief to the Cherries &c was done on the night of the 20 when we had a severe black frost.
I can not take my leave of you without making my acknowledgemts for the very friendly invitation contained in your last. If I should ever visit Europe I should wish to do it less stinted in time than your plan proposes. This crisis too would be particularly inconvenient as it would break in upon a course of reading which if I neglect now I shall probably never resume. I have some reason also to suspect that crossing the Sea would be unfriendly to a singular disease of my constitution. The other part of your invitation has the strongest bias of my mind on its side, but my situation is as yet too dependent on circumstances to permit my embracing it absolutely. It gives me great satisfaction to find that you are looking forward to the moment which is to restore you to your native Country, though considerations of a public nature check my wishes that such an event may be expedited. Present my best respects to Mr. Short & Miss Patsy, & accept of the affectionate regards of Dear Sir your sincere friend.
What has become of the subterraneous City discovered in Siberia?
Deaths. Thompson Mason Bartholomew Dandridge Ryland Randolph Joseph Reed of Philadela.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Orange Apl 28, 1785.
I have written several letters within a little time past which were sent to you partly by the post partly by Mr. Burnley, a young Gentleman of this County. In one of the letters I inclosed a cypher, wch will serve all the purposes of our future correspondence. This covers a letter from Mr. Jefferson which you will be so good as to forwd. by the first packet or other equally eligible conveyance. Our Elections as far as I hear are likely to produce a great proportion of new members. In some counties they are influenced by the Bill for a Genl Assesst. In Culpeper Mr. Pendleton a worthy man & acceptable in his general character to the people was laid aside in consequence of his vote for the Bill, in favor of an Adversary to it. The Delegates for Albemarle are your friend Mr. W. C. Nicholas & Mr. Fry. Mr. Carter stood a poll but fell into the rear. The late Govr Harrison I am told has been baffled in his own County, meant to be a candidate for Surey & in case of a rebuff there to throw another die for the Borough of Norfolk. I do not know how he proposes to satisfy the doctrine of residence.
I hear frequent complaints of the disorders of our coin & the want of uniformity in the denominations of the States. Do not Congress think of a remedy for these evils? The regulation of weights & measure seem also to call for their attention. Every day will add to the difficulty of executing these works. If a mint be not established & a recoinage effected while the fœderal debts carry the money thro’ the hands of Congress I question much whether their limited powers will ever be able to render this branch of their prerogative effectual. With regard to the regulation of weights & measures, wd it not be highly expedient as well as honorable to the fœderal administration, to pursue the hint which has been suggested by ingenious & philosophical men, to wit, that the standard of measure sd be first fixed by the length of a pendulum vibrating seconds at the Equator or any given latitude—& that the standard of weights sd be a Cubical piece of Gold or other homogeneous body, of dimensions fixed by the standard of measure. Such a scheme appears to be easily reducible to practice; & as it is founded on the division of time which is the same at all times & in all places & proceeds on other data which are equally so, it would not only secure a perpetual uniformity throughout the U. S. but might lead to Universal standards in these matters among nations. Next to the inconveniency of speaking different languages, is that of using different & arbitrary weights & measures.
I am Dr Sir Yr affece friend.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Orange May 29 1785.
Your favor of May—came to hand a few days ago. It is fortunate that the variant ideas have been so easily accomodated touching the mode of surveying & selling the territorial fund. It will be equally so I think if you can dispossess the British of the Western posts before the land office is opened. On this event and the navigation of the Mississippi will much depend the fiscal importance of the back Country to the U. States. The amount of the proposed requisition will I fear startle those to whom it will be addressed. The use of certificates as a medium for discharging the interest of the home debt is a great evil, though I suppose a necessary one. The advantage it gives to Sharpers & Collectors, can scarcely be described, and what is more noxious, it provokes violations of public faith, more than the weight of the Burden itself. The 1,000,000 Drs to be paid in specie, and the greatest part of it to be sent abroad, will equally try the virtue of the States. If they do not flinch however they will have the satisfaction of coming out of the trial with more honour though with less money.
I have lately heard that the Kentucky Delegates will be instructed to propose to the next Session the separation of that Country from this, and its being handed over to Congress for admission into the Confederacy. If they pursue their object through this channel, they will not only accomplish it without difficulty, but set a useful example to other Western settlemts which may chuse to be lopped off from other States. My information as to this matter is not authentic, but such as I am inclined to believe true. I hear also that a State is actually set up in the back Country of N. C. that it is organized, named, and has deputed representatives to Congress.
It gives me much pleasure to observe by 2 printed reports sent me by Col. Grayson that, in the latter Congs had expunged a clause contained in the first for setting apart a district of land in each Township for supporting the Religion of the majority of inhabitants. How a regulation so unjust in itself, so foreign to the Authority of Congs, so hurtful to the sale of the public land, and smelling so strongly of an antiquated Bigotry, could have received the countenance of a Cotee is truly matter of astonishment. In one view it might have been no disadvantage to this State in case the Genl Assesst should take place, as it would have given a repellent quality to the new Country in the estimation of those whom our own encroachments on Religious Liberty would be calculated to banish to it. But the adversaries to the assesst begin to think the prospect here flattering to their wishes. The printed Bill has excited great discussion and is likely to prove the sense of the Counity to be in favor of the liberty now enjoyed. I have heard of several Counties where the late representatives have been laid aside for voting for the Bill, and not of a single one where the reverse has happened. The Presbyterian Clergy too who were in general friends to the scheme, are already in another tone, either compelled by the laity of that sect, or alarmed at the probability of further interferences of the Legislature, if they once begin to dictate in matters of Religion.
I am, Dr Sir, Yrs affecly.
The letter herewith inclosed is from Mrs. Carr sister of Mr. Jefferson.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Orange 21 June 1785.
Finding from a letter of Mr. Mazzei that you have never been furnished with a copy of the Bill for establishing the Christian Religion in this State, I now inclose one, regretting that I had taken it for granted that you must have been supplied thro’ some other channel. A very warm opposition will be made to this innovation by the people of the middle and back Counties, particularly the latter. They do not scruple to declare it an alarming usurpation on their fundamental rights and that tho’ the Genl Assembly should give it the form, they will not give it the validity of a law. If there be any limitation to the power of the Legislature, particularly if this limitation is to be sought in our Declaration of Rights or Form of Government, I own the Bill appears to me to warrant this language of the people.
A gentleman of credit lately from Kentucky tells me that he fell in with two persons on the Ohio, who were going down the River in the character of Coissrs from Georgia, authorized to demand from the Spanish Govr of N. Orleans, the posts within the limits of that State, and a settlement of the boundary in general between it and the Spanish possessions. The Gentleman did not see their commission, but entertains no doubt of their having one. He was informed that two others were joined in it who had taken a different route. Should there be no mistake in this case, you will no doubt be able to get a full account of the Embassy. I would willingly suppose that no State could be guilty either of so flagrant an outrage on the fœderal Constitution, or of so imprudent a mode of pursuing their claims against a foreign Nation.
I observe in a late Newspaper that the coercial discontents of Boston are spreading to New York and Philada. Whether they will reach Virginia or not I am unable to say. If they should, they must proceed from a different interest; from that of the planters, not that of the Merchants. The present system here is as favorable to the latter as it is ruinous to the former. Our trade was never more compleatly monopolized by G. B., when it was under the direction of the British Parliament than it is at this moment. But as our Merchants are almost all connected with that country & that only, and as we have neither ships nor seamen of our own, nor likely to have any in the present course of things, no mercantile complaints are heard. The planters are dissatisfied, and with reason, but they enter little into the science of commerce, and rarely of themselves combine in defence of their interests. If any thing could rouse them to a proper view of their situation one might expect it from the contrast of the market here with that of other States. Our staple has of late been as low as a guinea per ct. on Rappahannock, and not above 32 or 33s. on James River. The current prices in Philada during the same period have been 44s. of this currency for tobacco of the latter inspections and in like proportion for that of the former. The prices of imports of every kind in those two Markets furnish a contrast equally mortifying to us. I have not had the same information from other States northward of us, but I have little doubt that it would teach us the same lesson. Our planters cannot suffer a loss of less that 50 per ct. on the staple of the Country, if to the direct loss in the price of the staple be added their indirect loss in the price of what they purchase with their staple. It is difficult notwithstanding to make them sensible of the utility of establishing a Philada or a Baltimore among ourselves, as one indispensable step towards relief, and the difficulty is not a little increased by the pains taken by the Merchants to prevent such a reformation, and by the opposition arising from local views. I have been told that Arthur Leepaved the way to his election in Prince William by promising that, among other things he would overset the Port Bill. Mr. Jefferson writes me that the Port Bill has been published in all the Gazettes in Europe, with the highest approbation everywhere except in G. B. It would indeed be as surprising if she should be in favor of it as it is that any among ourselves should be against it. I see no possibility of engaging other nations in a rivalship with her without some such regulation of our commerce.
I am Dr Sir Yrs affecly
TO R. H. LEE.mad. mss.
Orange July 7th, 1785.
Your favor of the 30th. of May came to hand yesterday only, having lain some time in Fredg and finally came to Orange via Albemarle. I agree perfectly with you in thinking it the interest of this Country to embrace the first decent opportunity of parting with Kentucky, and to refuse with firmness to part with any more of our settlements beyond the Allegheny. It seems necessary however that this first instance of a voluntary dismemberment of a State should be conducted in such a manner as to form a salutary precedent. As it is an event which will indirectly affect the whole Confederacy, Congress ought clearly to be made a party to it, either iediately, or by a proviso that the partition act shall not take effect, till the actual admission of the new State into the Union. No interval whatever should be suffered between the release of our hold on that Country and its taking on itself the obligations of a member of the federal body. Should it be made a separate State without this precaution, it might possibly be tempted to remain so, as well with regard to the U. S. as to Virginia, by two considerations: 1. the evasion of its share of the general debt. 2. the allurement which an exemption from taxes, would prove to the Citizens of States groaning under them. It is very possible that such a policy might in the end prove a disadvantageous one, but the charms of ambition and of present interest, too often prevail against the cool remonstrances of true policy. May we not also with justice require that a reasonable portion of the particular debt of Virga should be assumed by that part of Virginia which is to set up for itself?
The arrival of Mr. Gardoqui will turn out I hope an auspicious step towards conciliating explanations & overtures with regard to the Mississippi. Besides the general motives for expediting an adjustment of this matter the prodigious effect of it on the sale of the back lands, makes it of peculiar importance. The same consideration presses for such arrangements with G. B. as will give us speedy possession of the Western posts. As to the commercial arrangements which we wish from her, I own my expectations are far from being sanguine. In fact what could she get from us by concessions which she is unwilling to make, which she does not now enjoy? I cannot speak with certainty as to all the States, but sure I am that the trade of this was never more compleatly monopolized by her when it was under the direction of her own laws than it is at this moment. Our present situation therefore precisely verifies the doctrine held out in Deanes’ intercepted letters. The revolution has robbed us of our trade with the West Indies the only one which yielded us a favorable balance, without opening any other channels to compensate for it. What makes the British monopoly the more mortifying is the abuse which they make of it. Not only the private planters who have resumed the practice of shipping their own Tobo, but many of the Merchants particularly the natives of the Country who have no connections with G. B. have recd accts of sales this season, which carry the most visible & shameful frauds in every article. In every point of view indeed the trade of this Country is in a deplorable Condition. A comparison of current prices here with those in the Northern States, either at this time or at any time since the peace, will shew that the loss direct on our produce & indirect on our imports is not less than 50 per ct. Till very lately the price of our Staple has been down at 32 & 33s. on James River & 28s. on Rappahannock. During the same period the former was selling in Philada, & I suppose in other Northern ports, at 44s. of this Currency, and the latter in proportion; tho’ it cannot be denied that Tobo in the Northern ports is intrinsically worth less than it is here, being at the same distance from its ultimate market, & burdened with the freight from this to the other States. The price of merchandize here is at least as much above as that of Tobo is below the Northern standard.
We have had throughout the month of June & until this time, very hot and very wet weather. The effect of it on upland corn has been favorable but much the reverse on that of the flats. It has given full opportunity to the planters to pitch their crops of Tobo, but tho’ many of them have repeated this operation several times the grasshoppers & other noxious insects have been so uncommonly troublesome that in many places the prospect is likely to be much abridged. Should this not be the case, the efforts of the Country must produce the greatest crop that has been seen since the peace. Our Wheat in this part of the Country is very indifferent. How it may be in others I cannot say, but believe the complaints are pretty general. With the highest esteem & regard I remain Dr. Sir,
Your obt. & very humble servt.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH.mad. mss.
Orange July 26, 1785.
My dear friend,—
Your favour of the 17th inst: inclosing a letter from Mr. Jones and a copy of the ecclesiastical Journal, came safe to hand. If I do not dislike the contents of the latter, it is because they furnish as I conceive fresh and forcible arguments against the Genl Assessment. It may be of little consequence, what tribunal is to judge of Clerical misdemesnors or how firmly the incumbent may be fastened on the parish, whilst the Vestry & people may hear & pay him or not as they like. But should a legal salary be annexed to the title, this phantom of power would be substantiated into a real monster of oppression. Indeed it appears to be so at present as far as the Glebes & donations extend. I had seen some parcels of these proceedings before I recd your letter, and had remarked the sprinklings of liberality to which you allude. My conjectures, I believe, did not err as to the quarter from which they came.
The urgency of Genl. W. in the late negociation with Maryland makes it probable I think that he will feel some chagrin at the inattention to that with Penna, which has a much nearer connection with his favorite object and was moreover suggested by himself. Shortly after the date of my last, I dropped a few lines to Col: Mason, reminding him that some report will be expected from the Commissioners by the Assembly, as well as of the real importance of the business. I have not yet recd any answer; and begin to suspect that my letter may have miscarried. Your information leads me to doubt whether he has ever been furnished with a copy of the Resolution under which he is to proceed. I will write to him again and inclose one which Mr. Jones sent me.
I have a letter from the Marquis, but dated as far back as March. It was accompanied with a Copy of a French Memorial to the Emperor which seems to have stifled the War in its birth; and an Extract from a late work of Mr. Neckar which has made him the idol of one party in France and the execration of the other. To avoid the trouble of transcribing, I send them as they came to me. You can peruse & return them by my brother who is the bearer of this, or by any future opportunity. The M. says he is doing all he can to forward our claim to the Mississippi; that the French Ministry understand the matter & are well disposed; but that they are apprehensive “Spain knows not how to give up what she once has.”
I had heard of the strictures on the incorporating Act, but without being able to pick up any of the papers in which they are published. I have desired my brother to search them out if he can. Perhaps you can refer him to the proper press & numbers.
At the instance of Col. N-l-s of A-b-le, I undertook the draught of the inclosed remonstrance agst. the Genl Asst. Subscriptions to it are on foot I believe in sundry Counties, and will be extended to others. My choice is that my name may not be associated with it. I am not sure that I know precisely your ideas on this subject; but were they more variant from mine than I take them to be I should not be restrained from a confidential communication.
I keep up my attention as far as I can command my time, to the course of reading which I have of late pursued & shall continue to do so. I am however far from being determined ever to make a professional use of it. My wish is if possible to provide a decent & independent subsistence, without encountering the difficulties which I foresee in that line. Another of my wishes is to depend as little as possible on the labour of slaves. The difficulty of reconciling these views, has brought into my thoughts several projects from which advantage seemed attainable. I have in concert with a friend here, one at present on the Anvil which we think cannot fail to yield a decent reward for our trouble. Should we persist in it, it will cost me a ride to Philada, after which it will go on without my being ostensibly concerned. I forbear to particularize till I can do it ore tenus. Should I take this ride I may possibly continue it into the Eastern States; Col Monroe having given me an invitation to take a ramble of curiosity this fall, which I have half a mind to accept, and among otther routes named this. I recollect that you talked yourself of a trip last Spring as far as Lancaster. Have you laid it aside totally? Or will your domestic endearments forbid even the trip to Bath, from which I promised myself the happiness of taking you by the hand in Orange? Give my warmest respects to Mrs. R, and be assured that I remain, with sincere affection your friend.
Was the Royal assent ever given to the act of 1769, entitled “An Act to amend an Act entitled, an Act declaring the law concerning Extions & for relief of insolvent Debtors.”
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Orange Augt 7th. 1785.
I received the day before yesterday your favour of the 26th July. I had previously recd the Report on the proposed change of the 9th. art. of the Confederation, transmitted by Col: Grayson; and in my answer to him offered such ideas on the subject as then occurred. I still think the probability of success or failure ought to weigh much with Congress in every recommendation to the States; of which probability Congress, in whom information from every State centers can alone properly judge. Viewing in the abstract the question whether the power of regulating trade, to a certain degree at least, ought to be vested in Congress, it appears to me not to admit of a doubt, but that it should be decided in the affirmative. If it be necessary to regulate trade at all, it surely is necessary to lodge the power where trade can be regulated with effect; and experience has confirmed what reason foresaw, that it can never be so regulated by the States acting in their separate capacities. They can no more exercise this power separately than they could separately carry on war, or separately form treaties of alliance or commerce. The nature of the thing therefore proves the former power, no less than the latter, to be within the reason of the fœderal Constitution. Much indeed is it to be wished, as I conceive, that no regulations of trade, that is to say, no restrictions on imposts whatever, were necessary. A perfect freedom is the System which would be my choice. But before such a System will be eligible perhaps for the U. S. they must be out of debt; before it will be attainable, all other nations must concur in it. Whilst any one of these imposes on our Vessels seamen &c. in their ports, clogs from which they exempt their own, we must either retort the distinction, or renounce not merely a just profit, but our only defence against the danger which may most easily beset us. Are we not at this moment under this very alternative? The policy of G. B. (to say nothing of other nations) has shut against us the channels without which our trade with her must be a losing one; and she has consequently the triumph, as we have the chagrin, of seeing accomplished her prophetic threats, that our independence should forfeit commercial advantages for which it would not recompence us with any new channels of trade. What is to be done? Must we remain passive victims to foreign politics, or shall we exert the lawful means which our independence has put into our hands of extorting redress? The very question would be an affront to every Citizen who loves his Country. What, then, are these means? Retaliating regulations of trade only. How are these to be effectuated? only by harmony in the measures of the States. How is this harmony to be obtained? only by an acquiescence of all the States in the opinion of a reasonable majority. If Congress as they are now constituted, can not be trusted with the power of digesting and enforcing this opinion, let them be otherwise constituted: let their numbers be encreased, let them be chosen oftener, and let their period of service be shortened; or if any better medium than Congress can be proposed by which the wills of the States may be concentered, let it be substituted; or lastly let no regulation of trade adopted by Congress be in force until it shall have been ratified by a certain proportion of the States. But let us not sacrifice the end to the means: let us not rush on certain ruin in order to avoid a possible danger. I conceive it to be of great importance that the defects of the fœderal system should be amended, not only because such amendments will make it better answer the purpose for which it was instituted, but because I apprehend danger to its very existence from a continuance of defects which expose a part if not the whole of the empire to severe distress. The suffering part, even when the minor part, can not long respect a Government which is too feeble to protect their interests: But when the suffering part comes to be the major part, and they despair of seeing a protecting energy given to the General Government, from what motives is their allegiance to be any longer expected. Should G. B. persist in the machinations which distress us; and seven or eight of the States be hindered by the others from obtaining relief by fœderal means, I own, I tremble at the antifœderal expedients into which the former may be tempted.
As to the objection against entrusting Congress with a power over trade, drawn from the diversity of interests in the States, it may be answered, 1. that if this objection had been listened to, no confederation could have ever taken place among the States, 2. that if it ought now to be listened to, the power held by Congress of forming coercial treaties, by which 9 States may indirectly dispose of the Commerce of the residue, ought to be immediately revoked, 3 that the fact is that a case can scarcely be imagined in which it would be the interest of any 2/3ds of the States to oppress the remaining 1/3d. 4. that the true question is whether the commercial interests of the States do not meet in more points than they differ. To me it is clear that they do; and if they do there are so many more reasons for, than against, submitting the commercial interest of each State to the direction and care of the Majority. Put the West India trade alone, in which the interest of every State is involved, into the scale against all the inequalities which may result from any probable regulation by nine States, and who will say that the latter ought to preponderate? I have heard the different interest which the Eastern States have as Carriers pointed out as a ground of caution to the Southern States who have no bottoms of their own agst their concurring hastily in retaliations on G. B. But will the present system of G. B. ever give the Southern States bottoms, and if they are not their own Carriers I sd suppose it no mark either of folly or incivility to give our custom to our brethren, rather than to those who have not yet entitled themselves to the name of friends.
In detailing these sentiments, I have nothing more in view than to prove the readiness with which I obey your requests. As far as they are just they must have been often suggested in the discussions of Congress on the subject. I can not even give them weight by saying that I have reason to believe they would be relished in the public Councils of this State. From the trials of which I have been a witness I augur that great difficulties will be encountered in every attempt to prevail on the Legislature to part with power. The thing itself is not only unpalatable, but the arguments which plead for it have not their full force on minds unaccustomed to consider the interests of the State as they are interwoven with those of the Confederacy much less as they may be affected by foreign politics, whilst those wch plead agst it are not only specious, but in their nature popular; and for that reason sure of finding patrons. Add to all this that the Mercantile interest which has taken the lead in rousing the public attention of other States, is in this so exclusively occupied in British Commerce that what little weight they have will be most likely to fall into the opposite scale. The only circumstance which promises a favorable hearing to the meditated proposition of Congs is that the power which it asks is to be exerted agst G. B. and the proposition will consequently be seconded by the animosities which still prevail in a strong degree agst her.
I am, My dear Sir very sincerely,
Yr. friend & servt.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Orange Aug. 20th. 1785.
Yours of the 18th of March never reached me till the 4th inst. It came by post from N. York, which it did not leave till the 21 of July. My last was dated in April, & went by Mr. Mazzei, who picked it up at N. York and promised to deliver it with his own hand.
The machinations of G. B. with regard to Commerce have produced much distress and noise in the Northern States, particularly in Boston, from whence the alarm has spread to New York & Philda. Your correspondence with Congs will no doubt have furnished you with full information on this head. I only know the general fact, and that the sufferers are everywhere calling for such augmentation of the power of Congress as may effect relief. How far the Southern States & Virginia in particular will join in this proposition cannot be foreseen. It is easy to foresee that the circumstances which in a confined view distinguish our situation from that of our brethren, will be laid hold of by the partizans of G. B, by those who are or affect to be jealous of Congress, and those who are interested in the present course of business, to give a wrong bias to our Councils. If anything should reconcile Virga to the idea of giving Congress a power over her trade, it will be that this power is likely to annoy G. B. against whom the animosities of our Citizens are still strong. They seem to have less sensibility to their commercial interests; which they very little understand, and which the mercantile class here have not the same motives if they had the same capacity to lay open to the public, as that class have in the States North of us. The price of our Staple since the peace is another cause of inattention in the planters to the dark side of our commercial affairs. Should these or any other causes prevail in frustrating the scheme of the Eastern & Middle States of a general retaliation on G. B. I tremble for the event. A majority of the States deprived of a regular remedy for their distresses by the want of a federal spirit in the minority must feel the strongest motives to some irregular experiments. The danger of such a crisis makes me surmise that the policy of G. B. results as much from the hope of effecting a breach in our Confederacy as of monopolizing our trade.
Our internal trade is taking an arrangement from which I hope good consequences. Retail Stores are spreadg all over the country, many of them carried on by native adventurers, some of them branched out from the principal Stores at the heads of navigation. The distribution of the business, however into the importing & the retail departments has not yet taken place. Should the port bill be established it will I think quickly add this amendment which indeed must in a little time follow of itself. It is the more to be wished for as it is the only radical cure for credit to the consumer which continues to be given to a degree which if not checked will turn the diffusive retail of merchandize into a nuisance. When the Shop keeper buys his goods of the wholesale merchant, he must buy at so short a credit, that he can venture to give none at all.
You ask me to unriddle the dissolution of the Commee of the States at Annapolis. I am not sure that I am myself possessed fully of the causes different members of Congress having differed in their accounts of the matter. My conception of it is that theabrupt departure of some of the Eastern delegates, which destroyed the quorum & which Dana is said to have been at the bottom of proceeded partly from irritations among the comm partly from dislike to the place of their session, and partly from an impatience to get home, which prevailed over their regard for their private characters, as well as for their public duty.
Subsequent to the date of mine in which I gave my idea of fayette I had further opportunities of penetrating his character. Though his foibles did not disappear all the favorable traits presented themselves in a stronger light on closer inspection. He certainly possesses talents which might figure in any line. If he is ambitious it is rather of the praise which virtue dedicates to merit than of the homage which fear renders to power his disposition is naturally warm & affectionate, and his attachment to the U. S. unquestionable. Unless I am grossly deceived, you will find his zeal sincere and useful, whenever it can be employed in behalf of the U. S. with [out] opposition to the essential interests of France.
The opposition to the general assessment gains ground. At the instance of some of its adversaries I drew up the remonstrance herewith inclosed. It has been sent thro’ the medium of confidential persons in a number of the upper Counties, and I am told will be pretty extensively signed. The presbyterian clergy, have at length espoused the side of the opposition, being moved either by a fear of their laity or a jealousy of the episcopalians. The mutual hatred of these sects has been much inflamed by the late Act incorporating the latter. I am far from being sorry for it, as a coalition between them could alone endanger our religious rights, and a tendency to such an event had been suspected. The fate of the Circuit Courts is uncertain. They are threatened with no small danger from the diversity of opinions entertained among the friends of some reform in that department. But the greatest danger is to be feared from those who mask a secret aversion to any reform under a zeal for such a one as they know will be rejected. The Potowmack Company are going on with very flattering prospects. Their subscriptions some time ago amounted to upwards of four-fifths of the whole sum. I have the pleasure also to find by an advertisement from the managers for James River that more than half the sum is subscribed for that undertaking, and that the subscribers are to meet shortly for the purpose of organizing themselves & going to work. I despair of seeing the Revisal taken up at the ensuing Session. The number of copies struck are so deficient (there being not above three for each County) and there has been such delay in distributing them (none of the Counties having recd them till very lately & some probably not yet, tho’ they were ready long ago,) that the principal end of their being printed has been frustrated. Our fields promise very short crops both of Corn & Tobo. The latter was much injured by the grass hopper & other insects; the former, somewhat by the bug in the Southern parts of the State, but both have suffered most from dry weather which prevails at present in this part of the Country, and has generally prevailed I understand in most other parts. It seems certain that no future weather can make a great crop of either particularly of Tobo, so great a proportion of the hills being without plants in them & so many more with plants in them which must come to nothing. Notwithstanding this prospect, its price has fallen from 36s. to 32 & 30s. on James River & 28s. on Rappahannock. The scarcity of cash is one cause. Harrison late Gov. was elected in Surry, whither he previously removed with his family a contest for the chair will no doubt ensue should he fail he will be for Congress. I have not yet recd any of the books which you have been so kind as to pick up for me, but expect their arrival daily, as you were probably soon after the date of your last apprised that I was withdrawn from the nomination which led you to suspend the forwarding them. I am invited by Col: Monroe to an option of rambles this fall, one of which is into the Eastern States. I wish much to accept so favorable an opportunity of executing the plan from which I was diverted last fall; but cannot decide with certainty whether it will be practicable or not. I have in conjunction with a friend here a project of interest on the anvil, which will carry me at least as far as Phila or New York where I shall be able to take my final resolution.
Adieu. Yrs sincerely.
TO CALEB WALLACE.mad. mss.
Orange, Augt 23d, 1785.
Your favour of the 12th of July was safely delivered to me by Mr. Craig. I accept with pleasure your proposed exchange of Western for Eastern intelligence and though I am a stranger to parental ties can sufficiently conceive the happiness of which they are a source to congratulate you on your possession of two fine sons & a Daughter. I do not smile at the Idea of transplanting myself into your wilderness. Such a change of my abode is not indeed probable yet I have no Local partialities which can keep me from any place which promises the greatest real advantages, but if such a removal was not even possible I should nevertheless be ready to communicate as you desire my Ideas towards a constitution of Government for the State in embryo. I pass over the general policy of the measure which calls for such a provision. It has been unanimously embraced by those who being most interested in it must have best considered it, & will I dare say be with equal unanimity acceded to by the other party which is to be consulted. I will first offer some general remarks on the Subject, & then answer your several queries.
1. The Legislative Department ought by all means, as I think to include a Senate constituted on such principles as will give wisdom and steadiness to legislation. The want of these qualities is the grievance complained of in all our republics. The want of fidelity in the administration of power having been the grievance felt under most Governments, and by the American States themselves under the British Government, it was natural for them to give too exclusive an attention to this primary attribute. The Senate of Maryland with a few amendments is a good model. Trial has I am told verified the expectations from it. A Similar one made a part of our constitution as it was originally proposed but the inexperience & jealousy of our then Councils, rejected it in favor of our present Senate a worse could hardly have been substituted & yet, bad as it is, it is often a useful bit in the mouth of the house of Delegates. Not a single Session passes without instances of sudden resolutions by the latter of which they repent in time to intercede privately with the Senate for their Negative. For the other branch models enough may be found care ought however to be taken against its becoming too numerous, by fixing the number which it is never to exceed. The quorum, wages, and privileges of both branches ought also to be fixed. A majority seems to be the natural quorum. The wages of the members may be made payable for — years to come in the medium value of wheat for years preceding as the same shall from period to period be rated by a respectable Jury appointed for that purpose by the Supreme Court. The privileges of the members ought not in my opinion to extend beyond an exemption of their persons and equipage from arrests during the time of their actual service. If it were possible it would be well to define the extent of the Legislative power but the nature of it seems in many respects to be indefinite. It is very practicable however to enumerate the essential exceptions. The Constitution may expressly restrain them from medling with religion—from abolishing Juries—from taking away the Habeas corpus—from forcing a citizen to give evidence against himself—from controuling the press—from enacting retrospective laws at least in criminal cases, from abridging the right of suffrage, from taking private property for public use without paying its full Value from licensing the importation of Slaves, from infringing the confederation, &c &c.
As a further security against fluctuating & indigested laws the Constitution of New York has provided a Council of Revision. I approve much of such an institution & believe it is considered by the most intelligent citizens of that State as a valuable safeguard both to public interests & to private rights. Another provision has been suggested for preserving System in Legislative proceedings which to some may appear still better. It is that a standing committee composed of a few select & skilful individuals should be appointed to prepare bills on all subjects which they may judge proper to be submitted to the Legislature at their meetings & to draw bills for them during their Sessions. As an antidote both to the jealousy & danger of their acquiring an improper influence they might be made incapable of holding any other Office Legislative, Executive, or Judiciary. I like this Suggestion so much that I have had thoughts of proposing it to our Assembly, who give almost as many proofs as they pass laws of their need of some such Assistance.
2 The Executive Department. Though it claims the 2d place is not in my estimation entitled to it by its importance all the great powers which are properly executive being transferred to the fœderal Government. I have made up no final opinion whether the first Magistrate should be chosen by the Legislature or the people at large or whether the power should be vested in one man assisted by a council or in a council of which the President shall be only primus inter pares. There are examples of each in the U. States and probably advantages & disadvantages attending each. It is material I think that the number of members should be small & that their Salaries should be either unalterable by the Legislature or alterable only in such manner as will not affect any individual in place. Our Executive is the worst part of a bad Constitution. The Members of it are dependent on the Legislature not only for their wages but for their reputation and therefore are not likely to withstand usurpations of that branch; they are besides too numerous and expensive, their organization vague & perplexed & to crown the absurdity some of the members may without any new appointment continue in Office for life contrary to one of the Articles of the Declaration of Rights.
3dThe Judiciary Department merits every care Its efficacy is Demonstrated in G. Brittain where it maintains private Right against all the corruptions of the two other departments & gives a reputation to the whole Government which it is not in itself entitled to. The main points to be attended to are 1. that the Judges should hold their places during good behavior 2. that their Salaries should be either fixed like the wages of the Representatives or not be alterable so as to affect the Individuals in office. 3 that their Salaries be liberal. The first point is obvious; without the second the independence aimed at by the first will be ideal only; without the 3d the bar will be superior to the bench which destroys all security for a Systematick administration of Justice. after securing these essential points, I should think it unadvisable to descend so far into detail as to bar any future Modification of this department which experience may recommend. An enumeration of the Principal courts with Power to the Legislature to Institute inferior Courts may suffice. The Admiralty business can never be extensive in your situation and may be referred to one of the other Courts. With regard to a Court of Chancery as distinct from a Court of Law, the reasons of Lord Bacon on the affirmative side outweigh in my Judgment those of Lord Kaims on the other side. Yet I should think it best to leave this important question to be decided by future lights without tying the hands of the Legislature one way or the other. I consider our county courts as on a bad footing and would never myself consent to copy them into another constitution.
All the States seem to have seen the necessity of providing for Impeachments but none of them to have hit on an unexceptionable Tribunal. In some the trial is referred to the Senate in others to the Executive, in others to the Judiciary department it has been suggested that a tribunal composed of members from each Department would be better than either and I entirely concur in that opinion. I proceed next to your queries.
1. “Whether is a representation according to numbers, or property, or in a joint proportion to both, the most Safe? or is a representation by counties preferable to a more equitable mode that will be difficult to adjust?” Under this question may be considered 1. the right of Suffrage. 2 the mode of suffrage. 3 the Plan of representation. As to the 1. I think the extent which ought to be given to this right a matter of great delicacy and of critical importance. To restrain it to the land holders will in time exclude too great a proportion of citizens; to extend it to all citizens without regard to property, or even to all who possess a pittance may throw too much power into hands which will either abuse it themselves or sell it to the rich who will abuse it. I have thought it might be a good middle course to narrow this right in the choice of the least popular, & to enlarge it in that of the more popular branch of the Legislature. There is an example of this Distinction in N. Carolina if in none of the other States. How it operates or is relished by the people I cannot say. It would not be surprising if in the outset at least it should offend the sense of equality which reigns in a free Country. In a general view I see no reason why the rights of property which chiefly bears the burden of Government & is so much an object of Legislation should not be respected as well as personal rights in the choice of Rulers. It must be owned indeed that property will give influence to the holder though it should give him no legal privileges and will in general be safe on that as well as on other Accounts especially if the business of legislation be guarded with the provisions hinted at 2 As to the mode of suffrage I lean strongly to that of the ballot, notwithstanding the objections which lie against it. It appears to me to be the only radical cure for those arts of Electioneering which poison the very fountain of Liberty. The States in which the Ballott has been the Standing mode are the only instances in which elections are tolerably chaste and those arts in disgrace. If it should be thought improper to fix this mode by the constitution I should think it at least necessary to avoid any constitutional bar to a future adoption of it. 3 By the Plan of representation I mean 1. the classing of the Electors 2 the proportioning of the representatives to each class. The first cannot be otherwise done than by geographical description as by Counties. The second may easily be done in the first instance either by comprising within each county an equal number of electors; or by proportioning the number of representatives of each county to its number of electors. The difficulty arises from the disproportionate increase of electors in different Counties. There seem to be two methods only by which the representation can be equalized from time to time. The 1 is to change the bounds of the counties; the 2d. to change the number of representatives allotted to them respectively, as the former would not only be most troublesome & expensive but would involve a variety of other adjustments the latter method is evidently the best. Examples of a Constitutional provision for it exists in several of the States. In some it is to be executed periodically in others, pro re nata. The latter seems most accurate and very practicable I have already intimated the propriety of fixing the number of representatives, which ought never to be exceeded I should suppose 150 or even 100, might safely be made the ne plus ultra for Kentucky.
2. “Which is to be preferred an Annual, Triennial, or Septennial Succession to Offices or frequent elections without limitations in choice or that officers when chosen should continue quamdiu se bene gesserint?” The rule ought no doubt to be different in the different Departments of power. For one part of the Legislature Annual Elections will I suppose be held indispensably though some of the ablest Statesmen & soundest Republicans in the U. States are in favor of triennial. The great Danger in departing from annual elections in this case lies in the want of some other natural term to limit the departure. For the other branch 4 or 5 years may be the period. For neither branch does it seem necessary or proper to prohibit an indefinite re-eligibility. With regard to the Executive if the elections be frequent & particularly if made as to any member of it by the people at large a re-eligibility cannot I think be objected to, if they be unfrequent, a temporary or perpetual incapacitation according to the degree of unfrequency at least in the case of the first Magistrate may not be amiss. As to the Judiciary department enough has been said & as to the Subordinate officers civil & Military nothing need be said more than that a regulation of their appointments may under a few restrictions be safely trusted to the Legislature.
3. “How far may the same person with propriety be employed in the different departments of Government in an infant country where the counsel of every individual may be needed?” Temporary deviations from fundamental principles are always more or less dangerous. When the first pretext fails, those who become interested in prolonging the evil will rarely be at a loss for other pretexts. The first precedent too familiarises the people to the irregularity, lessens their veneration for those fundamental principles, & makes them a more easy prey to ambition & self Interest. Hence it is that abuses of every kind when once established have been so often found to perpetuate themselves. In this caution I refer chiefly to an improper mixture of the three great Departments within the State. A Delegation to Congress is I conceive compatible with either.
4. “Should there be a periodical review of the Constitution?” Nothing appears more elegible in theory nor has sufficient trial perhaps been yet made to condemn it in practice. Pennsylvania has alone adopted the expedient. Her citizens are much divided on the subject of their Constitution in general & probably on this part of it in particular. I am inclined to think though am far from being certain, that it is not a favorite part even with those who are fondest of their Constitution. another plan has been thought of which might perhaps Succeed better and would at the same time be a safeguard to the equilibrium of the constituent Departments of Government. This is that a Majority of any two of the three departments should have authority to call a plenipotentiary convention whenever they may think their constitutional powers have been Violated by the other Department or that any material part of the Constitution needs amendment. In your situation I should think it both imprudent & indecent not to leave a door open for at least one revision of your first Establishment, imprudent because you have neither the same resources for supporting nor the same lights for framing a good establishment now as you will have 15 or 20 Years hence, indecent because an handful of early settlers ought not to preclude a populous Country from a choice of the Government under which they & their posterity are to live. Should your first Constitution be made thus temporary the objections against an intermediate union of offices will be proportionably lessened. Should a revision of it not be made thus necessary & certain there will be little probability of its being ever revised. Faulty as our Constitution is as well with regard to the Authority which formed it as to the manner in which it is formed the Issue of an experiment has taught us the difficulty of amending it: & although the issue might have proceeded from the unseasonableness of the time yet it may be questioned whether at any future time the greater depth to which it will have stricken its roots will not counterbalance any more auspicious circumstances for overturning it.
5 & 6 “Or will it be better unalterably to fix some leading Principles in Government and make it consistant for the Legislature to introduce such changes in lesser matters as may become expedient? can censors be provided that will impartially point out deficiencies in the Constitution & the Violations that may happen.”
Answers on these points may be gathered from what has been already said.
I have been led to offer my sentiments in this loose form rather than to attempt a delineation of such a Plan of government as would please myself not only by my Ignorance of many local circumstances & opinions which must be consulted in such a work but also by the want of sufficient time for it. At the receipt of your letter I had other employment and what I now write is in the midst of preparations for a Journey of business which will carry me as far as Philadelphia at least & on which I shall set out in a day or two.
I am sorry that it is not in my power to give you some satisfactory information concerning the Mississippi. A Minister from Spain has been with Congress for some time & is authorised as I understand to treat on whatever subjects may concern the two nations. If any explanations or propositions have passed between him & the Minister of Congress, they are as yet in the list of Cabinet Secrets. as soon as any such shall be made Public & come to my knowledge, I shall take the first opportunity of transmitting them. Wishing you & your family all happiness,
I am, Dr Sir,
Your friend & servant.
The Constitutions of the several States were printed in a small Volume a year or two ago by order of Congs a perusal of them need not be recommended to you. Having but a single copy I cannot supply you It is not improbable that you may be already possessed of one. The revisal of our laws by Jefferson, Wythe & Pendleton beside their Value in improving the legal code may suggest something worthy of being attended to in framing a Constitution.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.mad. mss.
Philada Octr 3d, 1785.
In pursuance of the plan intimated in my last I came to this city about three weeks ago, from which I continued my trip to New York. I returned last night and in a day or two shall start for Virginia. Col. Monroe had left Philada. a few days before I reached it, on his way to a treaty to be held with the Indians about the end of this month on the Wabash. If a visit to the Eastern States had been his choice, short as the time would have proved, I should have made an effort to attend him. As it is I must postpone that gratification, with a purpose however of embracing it on the first convenient opportunity. Your favour of the 11 May by Monsr. Doradour inclosing your Cypher arrived in Virga. after I left it, and was sent after me to this place. Your notes which accompanied it, remained behind, and consequently I can only now say on that subject, that I shall obey your request on my return, which my call to Richmond will give me an early opportunity of doing. During my stay at New York I had several conversations with the Virga. Delegates, but with few others, on the affairs of the confederacy. I find with much regret that these are as yet little redeemed from the confusion which has so long mortified the friends to our national honor and prosperity. Congress have kept the Vessel from sinking, but it has been by standing constantly at the pump, not by stopping the leaks which have endangered her. All their efforts for the latter purpose have been frustrated by the selfishness or perverseness of some part or other of their constituents. The desiderata most strongly urged by our past experience & our present situation are 1. a final discrimination between such of the unauthorised expences of the States as ought to be added to the common debt, and such as ought not. 2. a constitutional apportionment of the common debt, either by a valuation of the land, or a change of the article wch requires it. 3. a recognition by the States of the authority of Congress to enforce payment of their respective quotas. 4. a grant to Congress of an adequate power over trade. It is evident to me that the first object will never be effected in Congress, because it requires in those who are to decide it the spirit of impartial judges, whilst the spirit of those who compose Congress is rather that of advocates for the respective interests of their constituents. If this business were referred to a Commission filled by a member chosen by Congress out of each State, and sworn to impartiality, I should have hopes of seeing an end of it. The 2d object affords less ground of hope. The execution of the 8th art of Confederation is generally held impracticable, and R. Island, if no other State, has put its veto on the proposed alteration of it. Until the 3d. object can be obtained the Requisitions of Congress will continue to be mere calls for voluntary contributions, which every State will be tempted to evade, by the uniform experience that those States have come off best which have done so most. The present plan of federal Government reverses the first principle of all Government. It punishes not the evil-doers, but those that do well. It may be considered I think as a fortunate circumstance for the U. S. that the use of coercion, or such provision as would render the use of it unnecessary, might be made at little expence and perfect safety. A single frigate under the orders of Congress could make it the interest of any one of the Atlantic States to pay its just Quota. With regard to such of the Ultramontane States as depend on the trade of the Mississippi, as small a force would have the same effect; whilst the residue trading thro’ the Atlantic States might be wrought upon by means more indirect indeed but perhaps sufficiently effectual.
The fate of the 4th object is still suspended. The Recoendations of Congs. on this subject past before your departure, have been positively complied with by few of the States I believe; but I do not learn that they have been rejected by any. A proposition has been agitated in Congress, and will I am told be revived, asking from the States a general & permanent authority to regulate trade, with a proviso that it shall in no case be exercised without the assent of eleven States in Congress. The Middle States favor the measure, the Eastern are zealous for it, the Southern are divided. of the Virginia delegation the presidentis an inflexible adversary, Grayson unfriendly and Monroe & Hardy warm on the opposite side. If the proposition should pass Congs. its fate will depend much on the reception it may find in Virga. and this will depend much on the part which may be taken by a few members of the Legislature. The prospect of its being levelled agst G. Britain will be most likely to give it popularity. In this suspence of a general provision for our commercial interests, the more suffering States are seeking relief from partial efforts which are less likely to obtain it than to drive their trade into other channels, and to kindle heart-burnings on all sides. Massachusetts made the beginning, Penna has followed with a catalogue of duties on foreign goods & tonnage, which could scarcely be enforced against the smuggler, if N. Jersey, Delaware, & Maryland were to co-operate with her. The avowed object of these duties is to encourage domestic manufactures, and prevent the exportation of coin to pay for foreign. The Legislature had previously repealed the incorporation of the bank, as the cause of the latter & a great many other evils. S. Carolina I am told is deliberating on the distresses of her commerce and will probably concur in some general plan; with a proviso, no doubt against any restraint from importing slaves, of which they have received from Africa since the peace about twelve thousand. She is also deliberating on the emission of paper money, & it is expected she will legalize a suspension of Judicial proceedings which has been already effected by popular combinations. The pretext for these measures is the want of specie occasioned by the unfavorable balance of trade. Your introduction of Mr. T. Franklin has been presented to me. The arrival of his Grandfather has produced an emulation among the different parties here in doing homage to his character. He will be unanimously chosen president of the State and will either restore to it an unexpected quiet or lose his own. It appears from his answer to some applications that he will not decline the appointment. On my journey I called at Mount Vernon & had the pleasure of finding the Genl. in perfect health. He had just returned from a trip up the Potowmac. He grows more & more sanguine as he examines further into the practicability of opening its navigation. The subscriptions are compleated within a few shares, and the work is already begun at some of the lesser obstructions. It is overlooked by Rhumsey, the inventor of the boats which I have in former letters mentioned to you: He has not yet disclosed his secret. He had of late nearly finished a boat of proper size, wch. he meant to have exhibited, but the house which contained it & materials for others was consumed by fire. He assured the Genl. that the enlargement of his machinery did not lessen the prospect of utility afforded by the miniature experiments. The Genl. declines the shares voted him by the Assembly, but does not mean to withdraw the money from the object which it is to aid, and will even appropriate the future tolls I believe to some useful public establishment if any such can be devised that will both please himself & be likely to please the State. This is accompanied by a letter from our amiable friend Mrs. Trist to Miss Patsy. She got back safe to her friends in Augst. & is as well as she has generally been, but her cheerfulness seems to be rendered less uniform than it once was by the scenes of adversity through which fortune has led her. Mrs. House is well & charges me not to omit her respectful & affecte compliments to you.
I remain Dr Sir, Yrs &c
MEMORIAL AND REMONSTRANCE AGAINST RELIGIOUS ASSESSMENTS.
To the Honorable the General Assembly
the Commonwealth of Virginia.
A Memorial and Remonstrance.
We, the subscribers, citizens of the said Commonwealth, having taken into serious consideration, a Bill printed by order of the last Session of General Assembly, entitled “A Bill establishing a provision for Teachers of the Christian Religion,” and conceiving that the same, if finally armed with the sanctions of a law, will be a dangerous abuse of power, are bound as faithful members of a free State, to remonstrate against it, and to declare the reasons by which we are determined. We remonstrate against the said Bill,
1. Because we hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe: And if a member of Civil Society, who enters into any subordinate Association, must always do it with a reservation of his duty to the general authority; much more must every man who becomes a member of any particular Civil Society, do it with a saving of his allegiance to the Universal Sovereign. We maintain therefore that in matters of Religion, no man’s right is abridged by the institution of Civil Society, and that Religion is wholly exempt from its cognizance. True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority; but it is also true, that the majority may trespass on the rights of the minority.
2. Because if religion be exempt from the authority of the Society at large, still less can it be subject to that of the Legislative Body. The latter are but the creatures and vicegerents of the former. Their jurisdiction is both derivative and limited: it is limited with regard to the co-ordinate departments, more necessarily is it limited with regard to the constituents. The preservation of a free government requires not merely, that the metes and bounds which separate each department of power may be invariably maintained; but more especially, that neither of them be suffered to overleap the great Barrier which defends the rights of the people. The Rulers who are guilty of such an encroachment, exceed the commission from which they derive their authority, and are Tyrants. The People who submit to it are governed by laws made neither by themselves, nor by an authority derived from them, and are slaves.
3. Because, it is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties. We hold this prudent jealousy to be the first duty of citizens, and one of [the] noblest characteristics of the late Revolution. The freemen of America did not wait till usurped power had strengthened itself by exercise, and entangled the question in precedents. They saw all the consequences in the principle, and they avoided the consequences by denying the principle. We revere this lesson too much, soon to forget it. Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects? That the same authority which can force a citizen to contribute three pence only of his property for the support of any one establishment, may force him to conform to any other establishment in all cases whatsoever?
4. Because, the bill violates that equality which ought to be the basis of every law, and which is more indispensible, in proportion as the validity or expediency of any law is more liable to be impeached. If “all men are by nature equally free and independent,” all men are to be considered as entering into Society on equal conditions; as relinquishing no more, and therefore retaining no less, one than another, of their natural rights. Above all are they to be considered as retaining an “equal title to the free exercise of Religion according to the dictates of conscience.” Whilst we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us. If this freedom be abused, it is an offence against God, not against man: To God, therefore, not to men, must an account of it be rendered. As the Bill violates equality by subjecting some to peculiar burdens; so it violates the same principle, by granting to others peculiar exemptions. Are the Quakers and Menonists the only sects who think a compulsive support of their religions unnecessary and unwarantable? Can their piety alone be intrusted with the care of public worship? Ought their Religions to be endowed above all others, with extraordinary privileges, by which proselytes may be enticed from all others? We think too favorably of the justice and good sense of these denominations, to believe that they either covet pre-eminencies over their fellow citizens, or that they will be seduced by them, from the common opposition to the measure.
5. Because the bill implies either that the Civil Magistrate is a competent Judge of Religious truth; or that he may employ Religion as an engine of Civil policy. The first is an arrogant pretension falsified by the contradictory opinions of Rulers in all ages, and throughout the world: The second an unhallowed perversion of the means of salvation.
6. Because the establishment proposed by the Bill is not requisite for the support of the Christian Religion. To say that it is, is a contradiction to the Christian Religion itself; for every page of it disavows a dependence on the powers of this world: it is a contradiction to fact; for it is known that this Religion both existed and flourished, not only without the support of human laws, but in spite of every opposition from them; and not only during the period of miraculous aid, but long after it had been left to its own evidence, and the ordinary care of Providence: Nay, it is a contradiction in terms; for a Religion not invented by human policy, must have pre-existed and been supported, before it was established by human policy. It is moreover to weaken in those who profess this Religion a pious confidence in its innate excellence, and the patronage of its Author; and to foster in those who still reject it, a suspicion that its friends are too conscious of its fallacies, to trust it to its own merits.
7. Because experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries, has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy; ignorance and servility in the laity; in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution. Enquire of the Teachers of Christianity for the ages in which it appeared in its greatest lustre; those of every sect, point to the ages prior to its incorporation with Civil policy. Propose a restoration of this primitive state in which its Teachers depended on the voluntary rewards of their flocks; many of them predict its downfall. On which side ought their testimony to have greatest weight, when for or when against their interest?
8. Because the establishment in question is not necessary for the support of Civil Government. If it be urged as necessary for the support of Civil Government only as it is a means of supporting Religion, and it be not necessary for the latter purpose, it cannot be necessary for the former. If Religion be not within [the] cognizance of Civil Government, how can its legal establishment be said to be necessary to civil Government? What influence in fact have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen to erect a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established clergy convenient auxiliaries. A just government, instituted to secure & perpetuate it, needs them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of another.
9. Because the proposed establishment is a departure from that generous policy, which, offering an asylum to the persecuted and oppressed of every Nation and Religion, promised a lustre to our country, and an accession to the number of its citizens. What a melancholy mark is the Bill of sudden degeneracy? Instead of holding forth an asylum to the persecuted, it is itself a signal of persecution. It degrades from the equal rank of Citizens all those whose opinions in Religion do not bend to those of the Legislative authority. Distant as it may be, in its present form, from the Inquisition it differs from it only in degree. The one is the first step, the other the last in the career of intolerance. The magnanimous sufferer under this cruel scourge in foreign Regions, must view the Bill as a Beacon on our Coast, warning him to seek some other haven, where liberty and philanthrophy in their due extent may offer a more certain repose from his troubles.
10. Because, it will have a like tendency to banish our Citizens. The allurements presented by other situations are every day thinning their number. To superadd a fresh motive to emigration, by revoking the liberty which they now enjoy, would be the same species of folly which has dishonoured and depopulated flourishing kingdoms.
11. Because, it will destroy that moderation and harmony which the forbearance of our laws to intermeddle with Religion, has produced amongst its several sects. Torrents of blood have been spilt in the old world, by vain attempts of the secular arm to extinguish Religious discord, by proscribing all difference in Religious opinions. Time has at length revealed the true remedy. Every relaxation of narrow and rigorous policy, wherever it has been tried, has been found to assuage the disease. The American Theatre has exhibited proofs, that equal and compleat liberty, if it does not wholly eradicate it, sufficiently destroys its malignant influence on the health and prosperity of the State. If with the salutary effects of this system under our own eyes, we begin to contract the bonds of Religious freedom, we know no name that will too severely reproach our folly. At least let warning be taken at the first fruits of the threatened innovation. The very appearance of the Bill has transformed that “Christian forbearance, love and charity,” which of late mutually prevailed, into animosities and jealousies, which may not soon be appeased. What mischiefs may not be dreaded should this enemy to the public quiet be armed with the force of a law?
12. Because, the policy of the bill is adverse to the diffusion of the light of Christianity. The first wish of those who enjoy this precious gift, ought to be that it may be imparted to the whole race of mankind. Compare the number of those who have as yet received it with the number still remaining under the dominion of false Religions; and how small is the former! Does the policy of the Bill tend to lessen the disproportion? No; it at once discourages those who are strangers to the light of [revelation] from coming into the Region of it; and countenances, by example the nations who continue in darkness, in shutting out those who might convey it to them. Instead of levelling as far as possible, every obstacle to the victorious progress of truth, the Bill with an ignoble and unchristian timidity would circumscribe it, with a wall of defence, against the encroachments of error.
13. Because attempts to enforce by legal sanctions, acts obnoxious to so great a proportion of Citizens, tend to enervate the laws in general, and to slacken the bands of Society. If it be difficult to execute any law which is not generally deemed necessary or salutary, what must be the case where it is deemed invalid and dangerous? and what may be the effect of so striking an example of impotency in the Government, on its general authority.
14. Because a measure of such singular magnitude and delicacy ought not to be imposed, without the clearest evidence that it is called for by a majority of citizens: and no satisfactory method is yet proposed by which the voice of the majority in this case may be determined, or its influence secured. “The people of the respective counties are indeed requested to signify their opinion respecting the adoption of the Bill to the next Session of Assembly.” But the representation must be made equal, before the voice either of the Representatives or of the Counties, will be that of the people. Our hope is that neither of the former will, after due consideration, espouse the dangerous principle of the Bill. Should the event disappoint us, it will still leave us in full confidence, that a fair appeal to the latter will reverse the sentence against our liberties.
15. Because, finally, “the equal right of every citizen to the free exercise of his Religion according to the dictates of conscience” is held by the same tenure with all our other rights. If we recur to its origin, it is equally the gift of nature; if we weigh its importance, it cannot be less dear to us; if we consult the Declaration of those rights which pertain to the good people of Virginia, as the “basis and foundation of Government,” it is enumerated with equal solemnity, or rather studied emphasis. Either then, we must say, that the will of the Legislature is the only measure of their authority; and that in the plenitude of this authority, they may sweep away all our fundamental rights; or, that they are bound to leave this particular right untouched and sacred: Either we must say, that they may controul the freedom of the press, may abolish the trial by jury, may swallow up the Executive and Judiciary Powers of the State; nay that they may despoil us of our very right of suffrage, and erect themselves into an independant and hereditary assembly: or we must say, that they have no authority to enact into law the Bill under consideration. We the subscribers say, that the General Assembly of this Commonwealth have no such authority: And that no effort may be omitted on our part against so dangerous an usurpation, we oppose to it, this remonstrance; earnestly praying, as we are in duty bound, that the Supreme Lawgiver of the Universe, by illuminating those to whom it is addressed, may on the one hand, turn their councils from every act which would affront his holy prerogative, or violate the trust committed to them: and on the other, guide them into every measure which may be worthy of his [blessing, may re]dound to their own praise, and may establish more firmly the liberties, the prosperity, and the Happiness of the Commonwealth.
TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
Richmond Novr 11, 1785.
I recd. your favor of the 29th. Ult: on thursday. That by Col. Lee had been previously delivered. Your letter for the Assembly was laid before them yesterday. I have reason to believe that it was received with every sentiment which could correspond with yours. Nothing passed from which any conjecture could be formed as to the objects which would be most pleasing for the appropriation of the fund. The disposition is I am persuaded much stronger to acquiesce in your choice whatever it may be than to lead or anticipate it; and I see no inconveniency in your taking time for a choice that will please yourself. The letter was referred to a committee which will no doubt make such a report as will give effect to your wishes.
Our Session commenced very inauspiciously with a contest for the chair, which was followed by a rigid scrutiny into Mr. Harrison’s election in his county. He gained the chair by a majority of 6 votes and retained his seat by a majority of still fewer. His residence was the point on which the latter question turned. Doct Lee’s election was questioned on a similar point, and was also established; but it was held to be vacated by his acceptance of a lucrative post under the United States. The House have engaged with some alacrity in the consideration of the Revised Code prepared by Mr. Jefferson Mr. Pendleton & Mr. Wythe. The present temper promises an adoption of it in substance. The greatest danger arises from its length compared with the patience of the members. If it is persisted in it must exclude several matters which are of moment, but I hope only for the present Assembly. The pulse of the H. of D. was felt on thursday with regard to a general manumission, by a petition presented on that subject. It was rejected without dissent, but not without an avowed patronage of its principle by sundry respectable members. A motion was made to throw it under the table, which was treated with as much indignation on one side as the petition itself was on the other. There are several petitions before the House against any step towards freeing the Slaves, and even praying for a repeal of the law which licences particular manumissions. The Merchants of several of our Towns have made representations on the distress of our commerce, which have raised the question whether relief shall be attempted by a reference to Congs, or by measures within our own compass. On a pretty full discussion it was determined by a large majority that the power over trade ought to be vested in Congress, under certain qualifications. If the qualifications suggested & no others should be annexed, I think they will not be subversive of the principle tho’ they will, no doubt, lessen its utility. The Speaker, Mr. M. Smith & Mr. Braxton, are the champions against Congress. Mr. Thurston & Mr. White have since come in, and I fancy I may set down both as auxiliaries. They are, however not a little puzzled by the difficulty of substituting any practicable regulations within ourselves. Mr. Braxton proposed two that did not much aid his side of the question: the 1. was that all British vessels from the W. Indies should be excluded from our ports; the 2. that no Merchant should carry on trade here until he sd have been a resident — years. Unless some plan free from objection can be devised for this State, its patrons will be reduced clearly to the dilemma of acceding to a general one, or leaving our trade under all its present embarrassments. There was some little skirmishing on the ground of public faith, which leads me to hope that its friends have less to fear than was surmised. The Assize & Port Bills have not yet been awakened. The Senate will make a House to-day for the first time.
With the greatest respect & regard I have the honor to be Dr Sir
Yr Obedt & very le Servt.
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Richd. Novr. 18, 1785.
I rcd yrs by Capt. Barbour who I hope will enquire as to Turpin in the land office. I wish you rather to confide such business to friends coming here who can be relied on than to refer it to me. I am so little master of my time and the office is removed so far out of the way that I cannot be relied on. I will endeavor to get the Journals for you soon. The price of Tobo forbids the sale of your Hhd. The Assembly have made some progress in the Revisal, and I hope will go thro’ it. Public credt seems to have more friends and paper money more adversaries than I had expected.—Delegates to Congs for 1786. R. H. Lee, Wm. Grayson Js. Monroe, H. Lee Jr. Edwd. Carrington Councilor Carter Bratton.
Yr affe son
J. Madison Jr.
Genl. regl. necessary whether the object be to
1. counteract foreign plans
2. encourage ships & seamen
3. — — —— manufactures
5. frugality. [articles of luxury most easily run from State to State]
necessary to prevent contention amg States.
2. Case of Massts. & Cont.
3. Case of N. Y. & N. J.
4. Pa & Delaware
5. Va. & Maryd. late regulation
6. Irish propositions
necessary to Justice & true Policy
1. Cont & N Hamp:
2. N. J.
3. N. C.
4. Western Country.
Necessary as a system convenient & intelligible to foreigners trading to U. S. Necessary as within reason of federal constitution, the regulation of trade being as imposãble by states as peace, war, ambrs &c.
Treaties of coerce ineffectual without it
Safe with regd to the liberties of the States.
1. Congs may be trusted with trade as well as war &c
2. power of Treaties involve the danger if any—
3. Controul of States over Congs.
4. example of amphyctionic league, achean do. Switzerld., Holland, Germany.
5. peculiar situation of U. S. increase the repellant power of the States. Essential to preserve fedl Constitution.
1. declension of fedl Govt.
2. inadequacy to end, must lead states to substitute some other policy no institution remaining long when it ceases to be useful, &c.
3. policy of G. B. to weaken union.
Consequences of dissolution of confederacy. 1. Appeal to sword in every petty squabble. 2. Standing armies beginning with weak & jealous states. 3. perpetual taxes. 4. sport of foreign politics. 5, 6. blast glory of Revolution.
TO GENERAL WASHINGTON.wash. mss.
Richmond Decr 9, 1785.
Your favor of the 30 Novr. was received a few days ago. This would have followed much earlier the one which yours acknowledges had I not wished it to contain some final information relative to the commercial propositions. The discussion of them has consumed much time and though the absolute necessity of some such general system prevailed over all the efforts of its adversaries in the first instance, the stratagem of limiting its duration to a short term has ultimately disappointed our hopes. I think it better to trust to further experience and even distress, for an adequate remedy, than to try a temporary measure which may stand in the way of a permanent one, and confirm that transatlantic policy which is founded on our supposed distrust of Congress and of one another. Those whose opposition in this case did not spring from illiberal animosities towards the Northern States, seem to have been frightened on one side at the idea of a perpetual and irrevocable grant of power, and on the other flattered with a hope that a temporary grant might be renewed from time to time, if its utility should be confirmed by the experiment. But we have already granted perpetual and irrevocable powers of a more extensive nature than those now proposed and for reasons not stronger than the reasons which urge the latter. And as to the hope of renewal it is the most visionary one that perhaps ever deluded men of sense. Nothing but the peculiarity of our circumstances could ever have produced those sacrifices of sovereignty on which the federal Government now rests. If they had been temporary, and the expiration of the term required a renewal at this crisis, pressing as the crisis is, and recent as is our experience of the value of the confederacy, sure I am that it would be impossible to revive it. What room have we then to hope that the expiration of temporary grants of commercial powers would always find a unanimous disposition in the States to follow their own example. It ought to be remembered too that besides the caprice, jealousy, and diversity of situations, which will be certain obstacles in our way, the policy of foreign nations may hereafter imitate that of the Macedonian Prince who effected his purposes against the Grecian confederacy by gaining over a few of the leading men in the smaller members of it. Add to the whole, that the difficulty now found in obtaining a unanimous concurrence of the States in any measure whatever must continually increase with every increase of their number, and perhaps in a greater ratio, as the Ultramontane States may either have or suppose they have a less similitude of interests to the Atlantic States than these have to one another.—The propositions however have not yet received the final vote of the House, having lain on the table for some time as a report from the Come of the whole. The question was suspended in order to consider a proposition which had for its object a meeting of Politico-commercial Coissrs from all the States for the purpose of digesting and reporting the requisite augmentation of the power of Congress over trade. What the event will be cannot be foreseen. The friends of the original propositions are I am told rather increasing, but I despair of a majority, in any event for a longer term than 25 years for their duration. The other scheme will have fewer enemies and may perhaps be carried. It seems naturally to grow out of the proposed appointment of Cosrs for Virga. & Maryd. concerted at Mount Vernon, for keeping up harmony in the commercial regulations of the two States. Maryd has ratified the report, but has invited into the plan Delaware & Pena, who will naturally pay the same compliment to their neighbours &c. &c. Besides the general propositions on the subject of trade, it has been proposed that some intermediate measures should be taken by ourselves, and a sort of navigation Act will I am apprehensive be attempted. It is backed by the mercantile interest of most of our towns except Alexandria, which alone seems to have liberality or light on the subject. It was refused even to suspend the measure on the concurrence of Maryd. or N. Carolina. This folly however cannot one would think brave the ruin which it threatens to our Merchts, as well as people at large, when a final vote comes to be given.
We have got thro’ a great part of the revisal, and might by this time have been at the end of it had the time wasted in disputing whether it could be finished at this Session been spent in forwarding the work. As it is we must content ourselves with passing a few more of the important bills, leaving the residue for our Successors of the next year. As none of the bills passed are to be in force till Jany., 1787, and the residue unpassed will probably be least disputable in their nature, this expedient, though little eligible, is not inadmissible. Our public credit has had a severe attack and a narrow escape. As a compromise it has been necessary to set forward the half tax till March; and the whole tax of Sepr next till Novr. ensuing. The latter postponement was meant to give the planters more time to deal with the Mercht. in the sale of their Tobo., and is made a permanent regulation. The Assize bill is now depending. It has many enemies and its fate is precarious. My hopes however prevail over my apprehensions. The fate of the Port bill is more precarious. The failure of an interview between our Cossrs and Comssrs on the part of N. Carolina has embarrassed the projected Canal between the waters of the two States. If N. C. were entirely well disposed the passing an Act suspended on & referred to her legislature would be sufficient, and this course must I suppose be tried, though previous negociation would have promised more certain success.—Kentucky has made a formal application for independence. Her memorial has been considered and the terms of separation fixed by a Come. of the whole. The substance of them is that all private rights & interests derived from the laws of Virginia shall be secured that the unlocated lands shall be applied to the objects to which the laws of Va. have appropriated them—that nonresidents shall be subjected to no higher taxes than residents—that the Ohio shall be a comon highway for Citizens of the U. S. and the jurisdiction of Kentucky & Virga., as far as the remaining territory of the latter will lie thereon, be concurrent only with the new States on the opposite Shore—that the proposed State shall take its due share of our State debts—and that the separation shall not take place unless these terms shall be approved by a Convention to be held to decide the question, nor untill Congs shall assent thereto, and fix the terms of their admission into the Union. The limits of the proposed State are to be the same with the present limits of the district. The apparent coolness of the Representatives of Kentucky as to a separation since these terms have been defined indicates that they had some views which will not be favored by them. They disliked much to be hung up on the will of Congress.
I am Dr. Sir with the highest esteem and
unfeigned regard Yr. Obedt. & hble. Servt.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Richd, Decr 9, 1785.
Supposing that you will be at New York by the time this reaches it I drop a few lines for the post of to-day. Mr. Jones tells me he informed you that a substitute had been brought forward to the commercial propositions which you left on the carpet. The subject has not since been called up. If any change has taken place in the mind of the House, it has not been unfavorable to the idea of confiding to Congress a power over trade. I am far from thinking however that a perpetual power can be made palatable at this time. It is more probable that the other idea of a Convention of Commissrs. from the States for deliberating on the state of commerce and the degree of power which ought to be lodged in Congress, will be attempted. Should it fail in the House, it is possible that a revival of the printed propositions with an extension of their term to twentyfive years, will be thought on by those who contend that something of a general nature ought to be done. My own opinion is unaltered. The propositions for a State effort have passed and a bill is ordered in, but the passage of the bill will be a work of difficulty & uncertainty; many having acquiesced in the preliminary stages who will strenuously oppose the measure in its last stages. No decisive vote has been yet taken on the Assize bill. I conceive it to be in some danger, but that the chance is in its favour. The case of the British debts will be introduced in a day or two. We have got through more than half of the Revisal. The Criminal bill has been assailed on all sides. Mr. Mercer has proclaimed unceasing hostility against it. Some alterations have been made & others probably will be made, but I think the main principle of it will finally triumph over all opposition. I had hoped that this Session wd have finished the code, but a vote agst. postponing the further consideration of it till the next, was carried by so small a Majority that I perceive it will be necessary to contend for nothing more than a few of the more important bills leaving the residue of them for another year. My proposed amendment to the report on the Memorial of Kentucky, was agreed to in a Coittee of the whole without alteration, and with very few dissents. It lies on the table for the ratification of the House. The members from that district have become extremely cold on the subject of an immediate separation. The half tax is postponed till March & the Septr. tax till Novr. next. Not a word has passed in the House as to a paper emission. I wish to hear from you on your arrival at N. Y. and to receive in particular whatever you may be at liberty to disclose with regard to the Treaty of peace, &c with G. B. Mr. Jones wishes you to accept this as on his acct. as well as mine. he sent C. Griffins order on the bank by the last post and hopes you recd. it at Fredg. Col. Grayson will no doubt have left you. I have omitted for some time writing to him on a supposition that I should be too late.
I am Dr. Sir
TO AMBROSE MADISON.
Richmond, Decr. 15, 1785.
I wrote to my father a day or two ago by Col: Burnley to which I refer. The principal step since taken by the H. of Delegates has been the rejection of a bill on which the assize scheme depended. The majority consisted of 63 agst. 49. Yesterday the vote of the Speaker decided in the affirmative a resolution to repeal the act which permits masters to free their slaves. I hope the bill which must follow on the subject may be less successful. Many who concurred in the Resolution will probably be content finally with some amendment of the law in favor of creditors. Should it prove otherwise this retrograde step with regard to an emancipation will not only dishonor us extremely but hasten the event which is dreaded by stimulating the efforts of the friends to it. The residue of the Revisal from No. 65 will be put off, except the Religious Bill and a few others. Leave was given yesterday for a bill in favor of British Creditors, but not without proofs that it will be opposed in every stage of its progress thro’ the House. The price of Tobo. is not much, if at all changed. . . .
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Richmond, Decr. 17, 1785.
Since my last by the preceding post the fate of the assize laws has been determined by a negative in the H. of Delegates on the Bill on which its execution depended. The majority consisted of 63 agst 49. A reform of the County Courts is the substitute proposed by the adversaries of the Assize, and if it can be put into any rational shape will be received by the other side as auxiliary to the Assize plan which may be resumed at another Session. It is surmised that the Senate will not part with this plan in any event, and as the law passed at the last Session, unless repealed or suspended, stops the proceedings of the Genl. Court after the 1st. day of Jany. A bill must be sent to the Senate which will give them an opportunity of proposing some amendment which may revive the question at the present Session. Our progress in the Revisal has been stopped by the waste of time produced by the inveterate and prolix opposition of its adversaries, & the approach of Christmas. The Bill proportioning crimes & punishments was the one at which we stuck after wading thro’ the most difficult parts of it. A few subsequent bills however were excepted from the postponement. Among these was the Bill for establishing Religious freedom, which has got thro’ the H. of Delegates without alteration, though not without warm opposition. Mr. Mercer & Mr. Corbin were the principal Combatants against it. Mr. Jones is well. With sincerity, I am
Yr. affc friend.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Richmond, Decr 24, 1785.
The proceedings of the Assembly since my last, dated this day week have related 1. to the Bill for establishing Religious freedom in the Revisal. 2. a Bill concerning British debts. 3. a Bill concerning the Proprietary interest in the Northern Neck. 4. for reforming the County Courts. The first employed the H. of Delegates several days; The preamble being the principal subject of contention. It at length passed without alteration. The Senate I am told have exchanged after equal altercation, the preamble of the revisal for the last clause in the Declaration of Rights; an exchange wch. was proposed in the H. of D. and negatived by a considerable majority. I do not learn that they have made or will make any other alteration. The Bill for the payment of British debts is nearly a transcript of that which went thro’ the two Houses last year, except that it leaves the periods of instalment blank, and gives the Creditor an opportunity of taking immediate execution for the whole debt, if the debtor refuses to give security for complying with the instalments. The Bill was near being put off to the next Session on the second reading. A majority were for it, but having got inadvertently into a hobble, from the manner in which the question was put, the result was that Monday next should be appointed for its consideration. The arrival & sentiments of Col: Grayson will be favorable to some provision on the subject. A clause is annexed to the Bill, authorising the Executive to suspend its operation, in case Congs. shall signify the policy of so doing. The general cry is that the Treaty ought not to be executed here until the posts are surrendered, and an attempt will be made to suspend the operation of the Bill on that event or at least on the event of a positive declaration from Congs. that it ought to be put in force. The last mode will probably be fixed on, notwithstanding its departure from the regular course of proceeding, and the embarrassment in which it may place Congress.
The bill for reforming the County Courts proposes to select five Justices, who are to sit quarterly, be paid scantily, and to possess the Civil Jurisdiction of the County Courts, and the Criminal jurisdiction of the Genl. Court under certain restrictions. It is meant as a substitute for the Assize system, to all the objections against which it is liable, without possessing its advantages. It is uncertain whether it will pass at all or what form it will finally take. I am inclined to think it will be thrown out. The Bill relating to the N. Neck passed the H. of D. yesterday. It removes the records into the Land office here, assimilates locations of surplus land to the general plan, and abolishes the Quitrent. It was suggested that the latter point was of a judiciary nature, that it involved questions of fact, of law, and of the Treaty of peace, and that the Representatives of the late proprietor ought at least to be previously heard according to the request of their Agent. Very little attention was paid to these considerations, and the bill passed almost unanimously. With sincere affection
I am your friend & servt
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Richmond Decr. 24. 1785.
My last informed you of the miscarriage of the Assize scheme. It has been followed with an attempt to reform the County Courts, which will probably end in the appointment of four months in which the Courts shall be confined to Docket business & compelled to dispatch it. A Bill is depending for the payment of British debts, nearly on the model of that which fell thro’ last year. It is extremely grating and will be rejected unless the prospect of an accomodation with G. B. on the subject of the posts & the negroes, or the apprehensions of being saddled with worse terms by delay, should overcome the disinclination. The port bill has not been yet taken up. It will be severely attacked. We have a variety of orders of the day which will consume time, and other bills are to be brought in. Of course the end of the Session is remote, unless impatience should produce the same effect as a conclusion of the business. The petition of the little fork has been justly rejected, by a general vote. I have not yet disposed of your Tobo. The price has not latterly exceeded I believe four dollars, and I am told to day that 20/1, is talked of. I have never yet had it in my power to make the enquiries at the land office, or to get out your patents. Capt. Barbour tells me he has been there and could not get the information relative to Turpin without a knowledge of some dates which you have not mentioned to him or to me. If you have any unliquidated claims agst. the U. S. that can be settled by the Comisss. before the 1st. day of Jany or loan office certificates issued from the Cont. officer here the interest up to Decr. 1782 will be paid at the Treasy in specie. Let this circumstance be known if you please, tho’ I suppose it will be too late. It may be of the less consequence, as such warrants for interest will in future be receivable in taxes. The Quitrents for the Northern Neck are abolished by a bill which is gone up to the Senate. The Bill for establishing Religious freedom passed the H. of Delegates as it stands in the Revised Code. The Senate have disagreed to the preamble and substituted the last Article of the Declaration of Rights. Which house is to recede, is uncertain. Both are much attached to their respective ideas. Capt: Barbour tells me Payne has engaged his brother Js. B. to pay the money due to you. I wish you could let Majr. Moore have about £ 18 of it, the amount of his interest on the certificate obtained from Dunscomb by Mr. Hubbard Taylor, & left with me. Let me know whether such an arrangement will be practicable. Be kind eno’ also to let Capt. Walker & my brother F. know that I am called on for their balances to the Steward of Hampden Sidney by a man here who has an order on me for them. present my regards to the family and believe me to be your Affecn. son—
TO JAMES MADISON.mad. mss.
Richmond Decr. 27, 1785.
Mr. Js. Davis has just handed your favor of the 24. inst. It is too late to revise the proceedings relative to the Trustees of Beverley. The Act authorizes the Cossrs who are to settle your accounts to make a reasonable allowance for your trouble. I cannot get a copy of the act without paying the £10. Capt. P. Barbour will inform you of Dean’s answer to his application. He carried a letter from me giving you an acct. of the latest proceedings of the Assembly. Nothing of consequence has been done since. It is uncertain when we shall rise. If an opportunity should offer, I shall be glad of the fresh butter at all events.
I am with best regards to ye family yr afft son.
TO JAMES MONROE.mad. mss.
Richmond Decr. 30, 1785.
The past week has been rendered important by nothing but some discussions on the subject of British debts. The bill brought in varied from that which miscarried last year 1. by adding provision in favor of the Creditors for securing payment at the dates of the instalments 2. by annexing a clause empowering the Executive to suspend the operation of the Act in case Congress should notify their wish to that effect. Great difficulty was found in drawing the House into Comte on the subject. It was at length effected on Wednesday. The changes made in the Bill by the Comittee are 1. striking out the clause saving the Creditors from the act of limitation which makes the whole a scene of Mockery—2. striking out the provision for securities—3. Converting the clause authorizing Congs. to direct a suspension of the Act into a clause suspending it, until Congs. should notify to the Executive that G. B. had complyed with the Treaty on her part, or that they were satisfied with the steps taken by her for evacuating the posts, paying for Negroes and for a full compliance with the Treaty. The sentence underlined was proposed as an amendment to the amendment and admitted by a very small majority only. 4. exonerating the public from responsibility for the payments into the Treasury by British debtors beyond the real value of the liquidated paper. Since these proceedings of the Committee of the whole, the subject has slept on the table, no one having called for the report. Being convinced myself that nothing can be now done that will not extremely dishonor us, and embarrass Congs., my wish is that the report may not be called for at all.
In the course of the debates no pains were spared to disparage the Treaty by insinuations agst. Congs., the Eastern States, and the negociators of the Treaty, particularly J. Adams. These insinuations & artifices explain perhaps one of the motives from which the augmeion of the fœderal powers & respectability has been opposed. The Reform of the County Courts has dwindled into directions for going thro’ the docket quarterly, under the same penalties as now oblige them to do their business monthly. The experiment has demonstrated the impracticability of rendering these courts fit instruments of Justice; and if it had preceded the Assize Question would I think have ensured its success. Some wish to renew this question in a varied form, or at least under a varied title; but the Session is too near its period for such an attempt. When it will end I know not. The business depending wd. employ the House till March. A system of navigation and commercial regulations for this State alone is before us and comprises matter for a month’s debate. The Compact with Maryd. has been ratified. It was proposed to submit it to Congs. for their sanction, as being within the word Treaty used in the Confederation. This was oppd. It was then attempted to transmit it to our Delegates to be by them simply laid before Congs. Even this was negatived by a large Majority. I can add no more without risking the opportunity by the post except that I remain Yr affec. friend