Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790)
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TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XI (1785-1790) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XI (1785-1790).
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TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
Mount Vernon, 15 August, 1786.
My dear Marquis,
I will not conceal, that my numerous correspondencies are daily becoming irksome to me. Yet I always receive your letters with augmenting satisfaction, and therefore rejoice with you in the measures, which are likely to be productive of a more frequent intercourse between our two nations. Thus motives of a private as well as of a public nature conspire to give me pleasure, in finding that the active policy of France is preparing to take advantage of the supine stupidity of England with respect to our commerce.
While the latter by its impolitic duties and restrictions is driving our ships incessantly from its harbors, the former seems, by the invitations it is giving, to stretch forth the friendly hand to invite them into its ports. I am happy in a conviction, that there may be established between France and the United States such a mutual intercourse of good offices and reciprocal interests, as cannot fail to be attended with the happiest consequences. Nations are not influenced, as individuals may be, by disinterested friendships; but, when it is their interest to live in amity, we have little reason to apprehend any rupture. This principle of union can hardly exist in a more distinguished manner between two nations, than it does between France and the United States. There are many articles of manufacture, which we stand absolutely in need of, and shall continue to have occasion for, so long as we remain an agricultural people, which will be while lands are so cheap and plenty, that is to say, for ages to come.
In the mean time we shall have large quantities of timber, fish, oil, wheat, tobacco, rice, indigo, &c. to dispose of. Money we have not. Now it is obvious, that we must have recourse for the goods and manufactures we may want to the nation, which will enable us to pay for them by receiving our produce in return. Our commerce with any of the great manufacturing kingdoms of Europe will, therefore, be in proportion to the facility of making remittances, which such manufacturing nations may think proper to afford us. On the other hand, France has occasion for many of our productions and raw materials. Let her judge whether it is most expedient to receive them by direct importation, and to pay for them in goods, or to obtain them through the circuitous channel of Britain, and to pay for them in money as she formerly did.
I know that Britain arrogantly expects we will sell our produce wherever we can find a market, and bring the money to purchase goods from her. I know that she vainly hopes to retain what share she pleases in our trade, in consequence of our prejudices in favor of her fashions and manufacturers. But these are illusions, which will vanish and disappoint her, as the dreams of conquest have already done. Experience is constantly teaching us, that these predilections were founded in error. We find the quality and price of the French goods we receive, in many instances, to be better than the quality and price of the English. Time, and a more thorough acquaintance with the business may be necessary to instruct your merchants in the choice and assortment of goods necessary for such a country. As to an ability for giving credit, in which the English merchants boast a superiority, I am confident it would be happy for America if the practice could be entirely abolished.
However unimportant America may be considered at present, and however Britain may affect to despise her trade, there will assuredly come a day, when this country will have some weight in the scale of empires. While connected with us as colonies only, was not Britain the first power in the world? Since the dissolution of that connexion, does not France occupy the same illustrious place? Your successful endeavors, my dear Marquis, to promote the interests of your two countries, (as you justly call them,) must give you the most unadulterated satisfaction. Be assured the measures, which have lately been taken, with regard to the two articles of oil and tobacco, have tended very much to endear you to your fellow citizens on this side of the Atlantic.
Although I pretend to no peculiar information respecting commercial affairs, nor any foresight into the scenes of futurity, yet, as the member of an infant empire, as a philanthropist by character, and, (if I may be allowed the expression,) as a citizen of the great republic of humanity at large, I cannot help turning my attention sometimes to this subject. I would be understood to mean, I cannot avoid reflecting with pleasure on the probable influence, that commerce may hereafter have on human manners and society in general. On these occasions I consider how mankind may be connected like one great family in fraternal ties. I indulge a fond, perhaps an enthusiastic idea, that, as the world is evidently much less barbarous than it has been, its melioration must still be progressive; that nations are becoming more humanized in their policy, that the subjects of ambition and causes for hostility are daily diminishing; and, in fine, that the period is not very remote, when the benefits of a liberal and free commerce will pretty generally succeed to the devastations and horrors of war.
Some of the late treaties, which have been entered into, and particularly that between the King of Prussia and the United States, seem to constitute a new era in negotiation, and to promise the happy consequences I have just now been mentioning. But let me ask you, my dear Marquis, in such an enlightened, such a liberal age, how is it possible the great maritime powers of Europe should submit to pay an annual tribute to the little piratical states of Barbary? Would to Heaven we had a navy able to reform those enemies to mankind, or crush them into non-existence. * * *