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1790. - 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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SPEECH TO BOTH HOUSES OF CONGRESS, JANUARY 8TH, 1790.
Fellow-Citizens of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I embrace with great satisfaction the opportunity, which now presents itself, of congratulating you on the present favorable prospects of our public affairs. The recent accession of the important State of North Carolina to the constitution of the United States (of which official information has been received), the rising credit and respectability of our country, and the general and increasing good will towards the government of the Union, and the concord, peace, and plenty, with which we are blessed, are circumstances auspicious, in an eminent degree, to our national prosperity.
In resuming your consultations for the general good, you cannot but derive encouragement from the reflection, that the measures of the last session have been as satisfactory to your constituents, as the novelty and difficulty of the work allowed you to hope. Still further to realize their expectations, and to secure the blessings, which a gracious Providence has placed within our reach, will, in the course of the present important session, call for the cool and deliberate exertion of your patriotism, firmness, and wisdom.
Among the many interesting objects, which will engage your attention, that of providing for the common defence will merit particular regard. To be prepared for war is one of the most effectual means of preserving peace.
A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require, that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent on others for essential, particularly for military, supplies.
The proper establishment of the troops, which may be deemed indispensable, will be entitled to mature consideration. In the arrangements which may be made respecting it, it will be of importance to conciliate the comfortable support of the officers and soldiers with a due regard to economy.
There was reason to hope, that the pacific measures, adopted with regard to certain hostile tribes of Indians, would have relieved the inhabitants of our southern and western frontiers from their depredations. But you will perceive, from the information contained in the papers, which I shall direct to be laid before you, (comprehending a communication from the commonwealth of Virginia,) that we ought to be prepared to afford protection to those parts of the Union, and, if necessary, to punish aggressors.
The interest of the United States requires, that our intercourse with other nations should be facilitated by such provisions as will enable me to fulfil my duty in that respect, in the manner which circumstances may render most conducive to the public good; and, to this end, that the compensations, to be made to the persons who may be employed, should, according to the nature of their appointments, be defined by law, and a competent fund designated for defraying the expenses incident to the conduct of our foreign affairs.
Various considerations also render it expedient, that the terms, on which foreigners may be admitted to the rights of citizens, should be speedily ascertained by a uniform rule of naturalization.
Uniformity in the currency, weights, and measures of the United States is an object of great importance, and will, I am persuaded, be duly attended to.
The advancement of agriculture, commerce, and manufactures, by all proper means, will not, I trust, need recommendation. But I cannot forbear intimating to you the expediency of giving effectual encouragement, as well to the introduction of new and useful inventions from abroad, as to the exertions of skill and genius in producing them at home; and of facilitating the intercourse between the distant parts of our country by a due attention to the post-office and post-roads.
Nor am I less persuaded, that you will agree with me in opinion, that there is nothing which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of science and literature. Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness. In one, in which the measures of government receive their impression so immediately from the sense of the community, as in ours, it is proportionably essential. To the security of a free constitution it contributes in various ways; by convincing those who are intrusted with the public administration, that every valuable end of government is best answered by the enlightened confidence of the people; and by teaching the people themselves to know, and to value their own rights; to discern and provide against invasions of them; to distinguish between oppression and the necessary exercise of lawful authority, between burthens proceeding from a disregard to their convenience and those resulting from the inevitable exigencies of society; to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last, and uniting a speedy but temperate vigilance against encroachments, with an inviolable respect to the laws.
Whether this desirable object will be the best promoted by affording aids to seminaries of learning already established, by the institution of a national university, or by any other expedients, will be well worthy of a place in the deliberations of the legislature.
Gentlemen of the House of Representatives:
I saw with peculiar pleasure, at the close of the last session, the resolution entered into by you, expressive of your opinion, that an adequate provision for the support of the public credit is a matter of high importance to the national honor and prosperity. In this sentiment I entirely concur. And to a perfect confidence in your best endeavors to devise such a provision as will be truly consistent with the end, I add an equal reliance on the cheerful co-operation of the other branch of the legislature. It would be superfluous to specify inducements to a measure, in which the character and permanent interests of the United States are so obviously and so deeply concerned, and which has received so explicit a sanction from your declaration.
Gentlemen of the Senate and House of Representatives:
I have directed the proper officers to lay before you respectively such papers and estimates as regard the affairs particularly recommended to your consideration, and necessary to convey to you that information of the State of the Union, which it is my duty to afford.
The welfare of our country is the great object to which our cares and efforts ought to be directed; and I shall derive great satisfaction from a co-operation with you in the pleasing though arduous task of insuring to our fellow-citizens the blessings which they have a right to expect from a free, efficient, and equal government.
TO CATHARINE MACAULAY GRAHAM.
New York, 9 January, 1790.
Your obliging letter dated in October last has been received, and, as I do not know when I shall have more leisure than at present to throw together a few observations in return for yours, I take up my pen to do it by this early occasion.
In the first place I thank you for your congratulatory sentiments on the event, which has placed me at the head of the American government, as well as for the indulgent partiality, which it is to be feared, however, may have warped your judgment too much in my favor. But you do me no more than justice in supposing, that, if I had been permitted to indulge my first and fondest wish, I should have remained in a private station.
Although neither the present age nor posterity may possibly give me full credit for the feelings, which I have experienced on this subject, yet I have a consciousness that nothing short of an absolute conviction of duty could ever have brought me upon the scenes of public life again. The establishment of our new government seemed to be the last great experiment for promoting human happiness by a reasonable compact in civil society. It was to be in the first instance, in a considerable degree, a government of accommodation as well as a government of laws. Much was to be done by prudence, much by conciliation, much by firmness. Few, who are not philosophical spectators, can realize the difficult and delicate part, which a man in my situation had to act. All see, and most admire, the glare which hovers round the external happiness of elevated office. To me there is nothing in it beyond the lustre, which may be reflected from its connexion with a power of promoting human felicity.
In our progress towards political happiness my station is new, and, if I may use the expression, I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely an action, the motive to which may not be subject to a double interpretation. There is scarcely any part of my conduct, which may not hereafter be drawn into precedent. Under such a view of the duties inherent to my arduous office, I could not but feel a diffidence in myself on the one hand, and an anxiety for the community, that every new arrangement should be made in the best possible manner, on the other. If, after all my humble but faithful endeavors to advance the felicity of my country and mankind, I may indulge a hope that my labors have not been altogether without success, it will be the only real compensation I can receive in the closing scenes of life.
On the actual situation of this country under its new government, I will, in the next place, make a few remarks. That the government, though not actually perfect, is one of the best in the world, I have little doubt. I always believed, that an unequivocally free and equal representation of the people in the legislature, together with an efficient and responsible executive, were the great pillars on which the preservation of American freedom must depend. It was indeed next to a miracle, that there should have been so much unanimity in points of such importance among such a number of citizens, so widely scattered, and so different in their habits in many respects, as the Americans were. Nor are the growing unanimity and increasing good will of the citizens to the government less remarkable, than favorable circumstances. So far as we have gone with the new government, (and it is completely organized and in operation,) we have had greater reason, than the most sanguine could expect, to be satisfied with its success. Perhaps a number of accidental circumstances have concurred with the real effects of the government to make the people uncommonly well pleased with their situation and prospects. The harvests of wheat have been remarkably good, the demand for that article from abroad is great, the increase of commerce is visible in every port, and the number of new manufactures introduced in one year is astonishing. I have lately made a tour through the eastern States. I found the country in a great degree recovered from the ravages of war; the Towns flourishing, and the people delighted with a government instituted by themselves, and for their own good. The same facts I have also reason to believe, from good authority, exist in the southern States.
By what I have just observed, I think you will be persuaded, that the ill-boding politicians, who prognosticated that America never would enjoy any fruits from her independence, and that she would be obliged to have recourse to a foreign power for protection, have at least been mistaken. I shall sincerely rejoice to see, that the American revolution has been productive of happy consequences on both sides of the Atlantic. The renovation of the French constitution is indeed one of the most wonderful events in the history of mankind, and the agency of the Marquis de Lafayette in a high degree honorable to his character. My greatest fear has been, that the nation would not be sufficiently cool and moderate in making arrangements for the security of that liberty, of which it seems to be fully possessed.
Mr. Warville, the French gentleman you mention, has been in America and at Mount Vernon, but has returned some time since to France. Mrs. Washington is well, and desires her compliments may be presented to you. We wish the happiness of your fireside, as we also long to enjoy that of our own at Mount Vernon. Our wishes, you know were limited, and I think that our plans of living will now be deemed reasonable by the considerate part of our species. Her wishes coincide with my own, as to simplicity of dress, and every thing which can tend to support propriety of character, without partaking of the follies of luxury and ostentation. I am with great regard, &c.
TO CHARLES PINCKNEY, GOVERNOR OF SOUTH CAROLINA.
New York, 11 January, 1790.
Although it is not in my power to enter so fully as I could wish into an investigation of the interesting subjects, discussed in your letter of the 14th of last month, yet I would not deny myself the satisfaction of acknowledging the receipt of it, and of expressing my obligations for the sentiments, which your Excellency has been pleased to suggest.1
A new monarch having succeeded to the throne of Spain, it remains to be ascertained how far his court may insist upon those exclusive claims to the navigation of the Mississippi, which have hitherto prevented the conclusion of a treaty between the United States and that nation. Mr. Gardoqui went to Spain some time ago; nor have we received any thing official from thence since his departure. A private gentleman, (a man of good intelligence,) lately returned from Spain to America, mentions a report was believed when he sailed, that the Americans of the United States had formed a successful expedition against the Spanish territory in their neighborhood, and that the report had occasioned great sensations in the kingdom. Whatever may be the future policy of that nation, I am disposed to become as well acquainted with the merits of the subjects, which have been agitated between them and us since the war, as my other duties and avocations will admit. For this reason, in particular, I thank your Excellency for your confidential communication.
As to the subject of Indian affairs, I can only say in general, that your sentiments on the expediency of entering into treaties with those nations, upon just terms, perfectly coincide with my own. From the official report of the late commissioners for treating with the Creeks, &c., it seems almost certain, that the connexion of Mr. McGillivray with Spain was the principal cause for preventing the conclusion of the proposed treaty. Their report, (which is this day to be delivered by the Secretary at War to the Senate,) will indicate fully the progress and issue of that business, and the executive will probably be possessed of such documents, as may be useful in taking ulterior measures.1 For my own part, I am entirely persuaded, that the present general government will endeavor to lay the foundation for its proceedings in national justice, faith, and honor. But should the government, after having attempted in vain every reasonable pacific measure, be obliged to have recourse to arms for the defence of its citizens, I am also of opinion, that sound policy and good economy will point to a prompt and decisive effort, rather than to defensive and lingering operations.
Should your Excellency, after the expiration of your office, prosecute your proposed voyage to France, you will find, I presume, most extraordinary events have taken place in that kingdom. Although all their political arrangements are not yet settled, I hope they will be happily, before the period to which you allude.
My late tour through the eastern States has been of salutary consequence in confirming my health. I have likewise had an opportunity of seeing how far the country is recovered from the ravages of war, and how well the inhabitants are disposed to support the general government.
Not being master of my own time, nor accustomed to make personal engagements, which from contingency might become impracticable, I can only say in regard to the last paragraph of your letter, that nothing would give me greater pleasure than to have it in my power to visit all the southern States. With sentiments of the highest respect, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THOMAS JEFFERSON.
New York, 21 January, 1790.
I had the pleasure to receive duly your letter, dated the 15th of December last; but I thought proper to delay answering or mentioning the contents of it, until after the arrival of Mr. Madison, who, I understood, had been with you. He arrived yesterday; and I now take the earliest opportunity of mentioning to you the result of my reflections, and the expediency of your deciding, at as early a period as may consist with your convenience, on the important subject before you.
Previous to any remarks on the nature of the office, to which you have been recently appointed, I will premise that I feel such delicacy and embarrassment, in consequence of the footing on which you have placed your final determination, as to make it necessary for me to recur to the first ground on which I rested the matter. In confidence, therefore, I will tell you plainly, that I wish not to oppose your inclinations, and that, after you shall have been made a little farther acquainted with the light in which I view the office of Secretary of State, it must be at your option to determine relative to your acceptance of it, or continuance in your office abroad.1
I consider the successful administration of the general government, as an object of almost infinite consequence to the present and future happiness of the citizens of the United States. I consider the office of secretary for the department of state very important on many accounts, and I know of no person, who in my judgment could better execute the duties of it than yourself. Its duties will probably be not quite so arduous and complicated in their execution, as you might have been led at the first moment to imagine. At least, it was the opinion of Congress, that, after the division of all the business of a domestic nature between the departments of the treasury, war, and state, those which would be comprehended in the latter might be performed by the same person, who should have the charge of conducting the department of foreign affairs. The experiment was to be made; and, if it shall be found, that the fact is different, I have little doubt that a farther arrangement or division of the business in the office of the department of state will be made in such manner as to enable it to be performed, under the superintendence of one man, with facility to himself, as well as with advantage and satisfaction to the public. Those observations, however, you will be pleased to remark, are merely matters of opinion. But, in order that you may be the better prepared to make your ultimate decision on good grounds, I think it necessary to add one fact, which is this, so far as I have been able to obtain information from all quarters, your late appointment has given very extensive and very great satisfaction to the public. My original opinion and wish may be collected from my nomination.
As to what you mention in the latter part of your letter, I can only observe, I do not know that any alteration is likely to take place in the commission from the United States to the court of France. The necessary arrangements, with regard to our intercourse with foreign nations, have never yet been taken up on a great scale by this government, because the department, which comprehended affairs of that nature, has never been properly organized, so as to bring the business well and systematically before the executive. If you should finally determine to take upon yourself the duties of the department of state, it would be highly requisite for you to come on immediately, as many things are required to be done while Congress is in session, rather that at any other time, and as in that case your presence might doubtless be much better dispensed with after a little time than at the present moment. Or, in all events, it will be essential that I should be informed of your conclusive option, so that, if you return to France, another person may be, at as early a day as possible, nominated to fill the department of state.
With sentiments of the highest regard and esteem, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO EDMUND RANDOLPH, ATTORNEY-GENERAL.
New York, 11 February, 1790.
I have weighed with deliberate attention the contents of your letter of yesterday; and, although that consideration may result in an approbation of the ideas therein suggested, yet I do not at present feel myself authorized to give a sanction to the measures which you propose. For, as the constitution of the United States and the laws made under it must mark the line of my official conduct, I could not justify my taking a single step in any matter, which appeared to me to require their agency, without its being first obtained; and, so far as I have been able to form a judgment upon the objects held up to view in your letter, they cannot be effected without the operation of a law.
As an act must necessarily be passed to extend the judicial power of the United States to the State of North Carolina, it appears to me that a clause might be there introduced to establish that uniformity and precision in the business of the United States in each district, which you observe is highly proper to be effected, and to make such other regulations as may be thought necessary. I however only suggest this idea to you, that you may, if you think proper, mention it to such members of the Senate and House of Representatives as are acquainted with the subject, and thereby have the matter brought to view whenever the abovementioned act shall be under consideration. I am, with great esteem, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
New York, 28 March, 1790.
* * * * * *
I am sorry such jealousies as you speak of should be gaining ground, and are poisoning the minds of the southern people;1 but admit the fact, which is alleged as the cause of them, and give it full scope, does it amount to more than what was known to every man of information before, at, and since the adoption of the constitution? Was it not always believed, that there are some points which peculiarly interest the eastern States? And did any one, who reads human nature, and more especially the character of the eastern people, conceive that they would not pursue them steadily by a combination of their force? Are there not other points, which equally concern the southern States? If these States are less tenacious of their interest, or if, whilst the eastern move in a solid phalanx to effect their views, the southern are always divided, which of the two is most to be blamed? That there is a diversity of interests in the Union none has denied. That this is the case, also, in every State is equally certain; and that it even extends to the counties of individual States can be as readily proved. Instance the southern and northern parts of Virginia, the upper and lower parts of South Carolina, &c. Have not the interests of these always been at variance? Witness the county of Fairfax. Have not the interests of the people of that county varied, or the inhabitants been taught to believe so? These are well known truths, and yet it did not follow, that separation was to result from the disagreement.
To constitute a dispute there must be two parties. To understand it well, both parties, and all the circumstances, must be fully heard; and, to accommodate differences, temper and mutual forbearance are requisite. Common danger brought the States into confederacy, and on their union our safety and importance depend. A spirit of accommodation was the basis of the present constitution. Can it be expected, then, that the southern or the eastern parts of the empire will succeed in all their measures? Certainly not. But I will readily grant, that more points will be carried by the latter than the former, and for the reason which has been mentioned, namely, that, in all great national questions, they move in unison, whilst the others are divided. But I ask again, which is most blameworthy, those who see, and will steadily pursue their interest, or those who cannot see, or, seeing, will not act wisely? And I will ask another question, of the highest magnitude in my mind, to wit, if the eastern and northern States are dangerous in union, will they be less so in separation? If self-interest is their governing principle, will it forsake them, or be less restrained by such an event? I hardly think it would. Then, independent of other considerations, what would Virginia, (and such other States as might be inclined to join her,) gain by a separation? Would they not, most unquestionably, be the weaker party?
Men, who go from hence without feeling themselves of so much consequence as they wished to be considered, and disappointed expectants, added to malignant, designing characters, who miss no opportunity of aiming a blow at the constitution, paint highly on one side, without bringing into view the arguments, which are offered on the other.
It is to be lamented, that the editors of the different gazettes in the Union do not more generally and more correctly (instead of stuffing their papers with scurrility and nonsensical declamation, which few would read if they were apprized of the contents,) publish the debates in Congress on all great national questions. And this, with no uncommon pains, every one of them might do. The principles upon which the difference of opinion arises, as well as the decisions, would then come fully before the public, and afford the best data for its judgment.
Mr. Madison on the question of discrimination was actuated, I am convinced, by the purest motives and most heart-felt conviction; but the subject was delicate, and perhaps had better never been stirred.
The assumption of the State debts by the United States is another subject, that has given rise to long and labored debates, without having yet taken a final form.
The memorial of the Quakers (and a very malapropos one it was) has at length been put to sleep, and will scarcely awake before the year 1808.1
I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LA LUZERNE.1
New York, 29 April, 1790.
Your letter of the 17th of January, replete with politeness to myself and useful informations respecting public affairs, has but lately been received.2
In making my acknowledgments for the distinguished place I hold in your remembrance, and for the obliging terms in which you allude to my conduct in war and peace, I should do injustice to conceal the favorable sentiments, which were always entertained by myself and my countrymen of your private deportment and ministerial agency, while you resided in America. Those times, in which we always found you a sincere friend, were truly times of peril and distress. Now our situation is indeed much more eligible, and our prospects perhaps as good as could reasonably have been expected. We are recovering slowly from the calamities and burdens, with which we were almost overwhelmed by a long and expensive war. Our crops the year past have been more abundant, and our markets much better, than usual. These circumstances will assist in enabling our citizens to extricate themselves from their private and public debts. I hope a disposition will be found to prevail among us for doing justice, as far as the nature of the case will admit, to all who afforded us their assistance in the hour of adversity. In the arrangement of such new and complicated business, as must inevitably come before our general government, it is reasonably to be expected, that the proceedings will be slow. It is devoutly to be wished, that they may terminate in such just and wise measures, as will fully establish our happiness at home and credit abroad. I am much pleased with the interest you take in our national reputation, and the information you give that our credit is becoming so respectable in Europe, under the influence of our new government.
You are right in conceiving, that nothing can be indifferent to me, which regards the welfare of the French nation. So far removed from that great theatre of political action, and so little acquainted with many of the minute circumstances, which may induce important decisions, as I am, it would be imprudent for me to hazard opinions, which might possibly be unfounded. Indeed, the whole business is so extraordinary in its commencement, so wonderful in its progress, and may be so stupendous in its consequences, that I am almost lost in the contemplation. Of one thing, however, you may rest perfectly assured, that nobody is more anxious for the happy issue of that business, than I am; as nobody can wish more sincerely for the prosperity of the French nation, than I do. Nor is it without the most sensible pleasure I learn, that our friend the Marquis de Lafayette has, in acting the arduous part which has fallen to his share, conducted himself with so much wisdom and apparently to such general satisfaction.
We, at this great distance from the northern parts of Europe, hear of wars and rumors of wars, as if they were the events or reports of another planet. What changes the death of the Emperor will occasion in the other cabinets of Europe, time is yet to inform us. A spirit for political improvements seems to be rapidly and extensively spreading through the European countries. I shall rejoice in seeing the condition of the human race happier than ever it has hitherto been. But I should be sorry to see, that those, who are for prematurely accelerating those improvements, were making more haste than good speed in their innovations. So much prudence, so much perseverance, so much disinterestedness, and so much patriotism are necessary among the leaders of a nation, in order to promote the national felicity, that sometimes my fears nearly preponderate over my expectations. Better, however, will it be for me to leave such foreign matters to those, who are more competent to manage them, and to do as much good as I can, in the little sphere where I am destined to move at present. With sentiments of the highest esteem and consideration, I have the honor to be, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New York, 3 June, 1790.
My dear Marquis,
Your kind letter of the 12th of January is, as your letters always are, extremely acceptable to me. By some chance its arrival had been retarded to this time. Conscious of your friendly dispositions for me, and realizing the enormous burden of public business with which you was oppressed, I felt no solicitude but that you should go directly forward, and happily effect your great undertakings. How much, how sincerely am I rejoiced, my dear Marquis, to find that things are assuming so favorable an aspect in France. Be assured, that you always have my best and most ardent wishes for your success; and that, if I have not troubled you with letters of late, it was because I had nothing, which it was very essential to communicate, and because I knew how much better your time was employed, than in answering letters merely of a private nature.
You have doubtless been informed, from time to time, of the happy progress of our affairs. The principal difficulties, which opposed themselves in any shape to the prosperous execution of our government, seem in a great measure to have been surmounted. A good temper prevails among our citizens. Rhode Island has just now acceded to the constitution, and has thus united under the general government all the States of the original confederacy.1 Vermont we hope will soon come within the pale of the Union. Two new States exist under the immediate direction of the general government, viz., that at the head of which is General St. Clair, and that which consists of the territory lately ceded by the State of North Carolina.
Our government is now happily carried into operation. Although some thorny questions still remain, it is to be hoped that the wisdom of those concerned in the national legislature will dispose of them prudently. A funding system is one of the subjects, which occasions most anxiety and perplexity. Yet our revenues have been considerably more productive than it was imagined they would be. In the last year the plentiful crops and great prices of grain have vastly augmented our remittances. The rate of exchange is also much in our favor. Importations of European goods have been uncommonly extensive, and the duties payable into the public treasury proportionably so. Our trade to the East Indies flourishes. The profits to individuals are so considerable, as to induce more persons to engage in it continually. A single vessel, just arrived in this port, pays thirty thousand dollars to government. Two vessels, fitted out for the fur trade to the northwest coast of America, have succeeded well. The whole outfits of vessels and cargoes cost but seven thousand pounds. One is returning home, loaded with India produce, the other going back to the coast of America, and they have deposited one hundred thousand dollars of their profits in China. I mention this to show the spirit of enterprise that prevails. I hope and trust our commerce with the West India Islands, belonging to different nations, which is at present of no great consequence, will shortly be placed upon a better footing. As the people of this country are sensible of the generous conduct of the French nation, I can with great satisfaction give it as my decided opinion that the most friendly dispositions prevail on our side of the water towards that nation.
Many of your old acquaintances and friends are concerned with me in the administration of this government. By having Mr. Jefferson at the head of the Department of State, Mr. Jay of the Judiciary, Hamilton of the Treasury, and Knox of that of War, I feel myself supported by able coadjutors, who harmonize extremely well together. I believe that these and the other appointments generally have given perfect satisfaction to the public. Poor Colonel Harrison, who was appointed one of the judges of the Supreme Court, and declined, is lately dead.1
I have a few days since had a severe attack of the peripneumony kind; but am now recovered, except in point of strength. My physicians advise me to more exercise and less application to business. I cannot, however, avoid persuading myself, that it is essential to accomplish whatever I have undertaken, though reluctantly, to the best of my abilities. But it is thought Congress will have a recess this summer, in which case I propose going for a while to Mount Vernon. With sentiments of the sincerest affection, I am, my dear Marquis, &c.
TO DAVID STUART.
New York, 15 June, 1790.
Your letter of the 2d instant came duly to hand. If there are any gazettes among my files at Mount Vernon, which can be of use to you, they are at your service.
Your description of the public mind in Virginia gives me pain. It seems to be more irritable, sour, and discontented, than, (from the information I receive,) it is in any other State in the Union, except Massachusetts, which, from the same causes, but on quite different principles, is tempered like it.1
That Congress does not proceed with all that despatch, which people at a distance expect, and which, were they to hurry business, they possibly might, is not to be denied. That measures have been agitated, which are not pleasing to Virginia, and others, pleasing perhaps to her, but not so to some other States, is equally unquestionable. Can it well be otherwise in a country so extensive, so diversified in its interests? And will not these different interests naturally produce in an assembly of representatives, who are to legislate for and to assimilate and reconcile them to the general welfare, long, warm, and animated debates? Most assuredly they will; and if there was the same propensity in mankind for investigating the motives, as there is for censuring the conduct of public characters, it would be found, that the censure so freely bestowed is oftentimes unmerited and uncharitable. For instance, the condemnation of Congress for sitting only four hours in the day. The fact is, by the established rules of the House of Representatives, no committee can sit whilst the House is sitting; and this is and has been for a considerable time from ten o’clock in the forenoon until three, often later, in the afternoon; before and after which the business is going on in committees. If this application is not as much as most constitutions are equal to, I am mistaken.
Many other things, which undergo malignant constructions, would be found, upon a candid examination, to wear better faces than is given to them. The misfortune is, that the enemies to the government, always more active than its friends, and always upon the watch to give it a stroke, neglect no opportunity to aim one. If they tell truth, it is not the whole truth, by which means one side only of the picture is exhibited; whereas, if both sides were seen, it might and probably would assume a different form, in the opinion of just and candid men, who are disposed to measure matters by a Continental scale.
I do not mean, however, from what I have here said, to justify the conduct of Congress in all its movements; for some of these movements, in my opinion, have been injudicious, and others unseasonable; whilst the questions of assumption, residence, and other matters have been agitated with a warmth and intemperance, with prolixity and threats, which it is to be feared has lessened the dignity of that body, and decreased that respect, which was once entertained for it. And this misfortune is increased by many members, even among those who wish well to the government, ascribing in letters to their respective States, when they are defeated in a favorite measure, the worst motives for the conduct of their opponents; who, viewing matters through another medium, may and do retort in their turn, by which means jealousies and distrusts are spread most impolitically far and wide, and will, it is to be feared, have a most unhappy tendency to injure our public affairs, which if wisely managed might make us, as we are now by Europeans thought to be, the happiest people upon earth. As a proof of it, our reputation has risen in every part of the globe, and our credit, especially in Holland (above par, where our funds are), has got higher than that of any nation in Europe, as appears by official advices just received. But the conduct we seem to be pursuing must soon bring us back to our former disreputable condition. The introduction of the Quaker memorial respecting slavery was, to be sure, not only ill-timed, but occasioned a great waste of time. The final decision, however, thereon, was as favorable as the proprietors of this species of property could well have expected, considering the light in which slavery is viewed by a large part of this Union.
The question of assumption has occupied a great deal of time, and no wonder, for it is certainly a very important question; and, under proper restrictions and scrutiny into accounts, will be found, I conceive, to be a just one. The cause, in which the expenses of the war were incurred, was a common cause. The States (in Congress) declared it so at the beginning, and pledged themselves to stand by each other. If, then, some States were harder pressed than others, or from particular and local circumstances contracted heavier debts, it is but reasonable, when this fact is clearly ascertained, though it is a sentiment which I have not communicated here, that an allowance ought to be made them. Had the invaded and hard pressed States believed the case would have been otherwise, opposition would very soon, I believe, have changed to submission in them, and given a different termination to the war.1
In a letter of last year, to the best of my recollection, I informed you of the motives, which compelled me to allot a day for the reception of idle and ceremonious visits, (for it never has prevented those of sociability and friendship in the afternoon, or at any other time;) but, if I am mistaken in this, the history of this business is simply and shortly as follows. Before the custom was established, which now accommodates foreign characters, strangers, and others, who, from motives of curiosity, respect to the Chief Magistrate, or any other cause, are induced to call upon me, I was unable to attend to any business whatsoever; for gentlemen, consulting their own convenience rather than mine, were calling from the time I rose from breakfast, often before, until I sat down to dinner. This, as I resolved not to neglect my public duties, reduced me to the choice of one of these alternatives, either to refuse them altogether, or to appropriate a time for the reception of them. The former would, I well knew, be disgusting to many; the latter I expected would undergo animadversion and blazoning from those, who would find fault with or without cause. To please everybody was impossible. I therefore adopted that line of conduct, which combined public advantage with private convenience, and which in my judgment was unexceptionable in itself. That I have not been able to make bows to the taste of poor Colonel Bland, (who, by the by, I believe never saw one of them), is to be regretted, especially too, as (upon those occasions,) they were indiscriminately bestowed, and the best I was master of, would it not have been better to throw the veil of charity over them, ascribing their stiffness to the effects of age, or to the unskillfulness of my teacher, than to pride and dignity of office, which God knows has no charms for me? For I can truly say, I had rather be at Mount Vernon with a friend or two about me, than to be attended at the seat of government by the officers of state and the representatives of every power in Europe.
These visits are optional. They are made without invitation. Between the hours of three and four every Tuesday I am prepared to receive them. Gentlemen, often in great numbers, come and go, chat with each other, and act as they please. A porter shows them into the room, and they retire from it when they please, and without ceremony. At their first entrance, they salute me, and I them, and as many as I can talk to, I do. What pomp there is in all this, I am unable to discover. Perhaps it consists in not sitting. To this, two reasons are opposed: first, it is unusual; secondly, which is a more substantial one, because I have no room large enough to contain a third of the chairs, which would be sufficient to admit it. If it is supposed, that ostentation, or the fashions of courts (which, by the by, I believe originate oftener in convenience, not to say necessity, than is generally imagined), gave rise to this custom, I will boldly affirm, that no supposition was ever more erroneous; for, if I was to give indulgence to my inclinations, every moment that I could withdraw from the fatigue of my station should be spent in retirement. That they are not, proceeds from the sense I entertain of the propriety of giving to every one as free access, as consists with that respect, which is due to the chair of government; and that respect, I conceive, is neither to be acquired nor preserved but by observing a just medium between much state and too great familiarity.
Similar to the above, but of a more sociable kind, are the visits every Friday afternoon to Mrs. Washington, where I always am. These public meetings, and a dinner once a week to as many as my table will hold, with the references to and from the different departments of state, and other communications with all parts of the Union, are as much, if not more, than I am able to undergo; for I have already had within less than a year, two severe attacks, the last worse than the first. A third, more than probable, will put me to sleep with my fathers. At what distance this may be I know not. Within the last twelve months I have undergone more and severer sickness, than thirty preceding years afflicted me with. Put it all together I have abundant reason, however, to be thankful, that I am so well recovered; though I still feel the remains of the violent affection of my lungs; the cough, pain in my breast, and shortness in breathing not having entirely left me. I propose in the recess of Congress to visit Mount Vernon; but when this recess will happen is beyond my ken, or the ken I believe of any of its members.
I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO CLEMENT BIDDLE.
New York, 20 July, 1790.
The first request of this letter is that you would burn it as soon as you have read it, and keep the contents to yourself; at least for the present.
Some months ago farms lately in the tenure of Mr. Abel James were advertised for sale by you and Mr. Henry Drinker. These farms I have seen; but not, it is to be acknowledged with the eyes of a Purchaser. The one near Frankfort you inform the public contains 284 acres, that another called Callender’s contains 79 acres, and a third, near the last, contains upwards of 60 acres.
Let me now ask if all or any of these are yet for sale? What is the lowest price that would be taken for each? and whether payment would be received in valuable lands, improved, in the counties of Fayette and Washington in the State of Pennsylvania.
One tract of which in Fayette-county, contains between sixteen and 1700 acres on the great road from Fort Cumberland to Pittsburg, distant 75 miles from the former and 40 from the latter place; equal in quality to any tract in that country, with what has been a very valuable mill and iron ore adjoining, but which is now much out of repair. The other tract (containing upwards of 3000 acres) lyes about sixteen miles from Pittsburg and is also good in quality, and more level than usual.
I shall candidly declare that to pay money is out of the question with me—I have none and would not if it was to be had, run in debt to borrow—nor would it do for me to dispose of real property to obtain it, when that species of property is brought to low ebb and dull market.1 An exchange, as proposed, if ready money is not indispensable, might be mutually advantageous to both parties, in as much as the probability is, that the price of the exterior will increase in a full ratio with that of the interior lands.
If the farms advertised by you and Mr. Drinker are sold, or if they are not now for sale, let me next ask if they will be to be rented? and for what? I ask these questions however more from motives of curiosity than from any expectation of becoming the Renter of either of them; because the principal buildings (which would be of little value to me, in this case) might considerably enhance the rent, and because my objects being for the amusement of farming, and for the benefit arising from exercise (the distance from the city being convenient for the latter), I should not incline to lay out much money upon a rented farm, for a short tenure; and for a long one I should have no occasion for a place in that way. Having communicated the matter thus far to you, I will, in a few words add, as my own opinion, strengthened by those of my Physicians, that my late change from active scenes, to which I had been accustomed, and in which the mind has been agreeably amused, to the one of inactivity which I now lead, and where the thoughts are continually on the stretch, has been the cause of more illness and severe attacks of my constitution within the last twelve months, than I had undergone in 30 years preceding put together. A deviation therefore is necessary. I have not, because you were one from whom the terms of sale of James’s lands were to be known, scrupled to make these communications at the moment that I ask the lowest price that would be taken for each of these farms. Frankly, I declare it to be my intention not to give a high price for either of them (depreciated as real property is) nor will I higgle about the price. If it is moderate and I am dealt with candidly, I will say in a word whether it will suit me to become a purchaser—chaffering I shall avoid. The largest farm would be most congenial to my wishes—perhaps one of the others might do. I am, &c.
TO THE MARQUIS DE LAFAYETTE.
New York, 11 August, 1790.
My dear Marquis,
I have received your affectionate letter of the 17th of March by one conveyance, and the token of victory1 gained by liberty over despotism by another, for both which testimonials of your friendship and regard I pray you to accept my sincerest thanks. In this great subject of triumph for the new world, and for humanity in general, it will never be forgotten how conspicuous a part you bore, and how much lustre you reflected on a country in which you made the first displays of character.1
Happy am I, my good friend, that, amidst all the tremendous tempests, which have assailed your political ship, you have had address and fortitude enough to steer her hitherto safely through the quicksands and rocks which threatened instant destruction on every side, and that your young King in all things seems so well disposed to conform to the wishes of the nation. In such an important, such a hazardous voyage, when every thing dear and sacred is embarked, you know full well my best wishes have never left you for a moment. Yet I will avow that the accounts we received through the English papers, which were sometimes our only channels for information, caused our fears of a failure almost to exceed our expectations of success.
How much will the concerned be indebted to the exertions of the principal pilot, when the ship shall, at the end of her dangerous course, be securely harbored in the haven of national tranquillity, freedom, and glory, to which she is destined, and which I hope she is near attaining.
Congress, after having been in session ever since last fall, are to adjourn in two or three days. Though they have been much perplexed and delayed in their proceedings on some questions of a local and intricate nature, yet they have done a great deal of important business, and will leave the public affairs in as satisfactory a state as could reasonably have been expected. One of the last acts of the executive has been the conclusion of a treaty of peace and friendship with the Creek nation of Indians, who have been considerably connected with the Spanish provinces, and hostile to the Georgian frontiers since the war with Great Britain.1 McGillivray and about thirty of the kings and head men are here. This event will leave us in peace from one end of our borders to the other, except where it may be interrupted by a small refugee banditti of Cherokees and Shawnees, who can be easily chastised, or even extirpated, if it shall become necessary. But this will only be done in an inevitable extremity, since the basis of our proceedings with the Indian nations has been, and shall be, justice during the period in which I have any thing to do with the administration of this government.
Our negotiations and transactions, though many of them are on a small scale as to the objects, ought to be governed by the immutable principles of equity, as much as your European politics, which are more extended in their compass. How your wars proceed in the north, or in whose favor they are likely to terminate, what probability there may be, that the misunderstandings between Britain and Spain should issue in an open rupture, and what other powerful nations, in that event, will be drawn in to take an active part on one side or the other, are subjects of vast magnitude, on which we, in these distant regions, must abstain from deciding positively, even in our minds, until we shall have more unequivocal data to go upon. It seems to be our policy to keep in the situation, in which nature has placed us, to observe a strict neutrality, and to furnish others with those good things of subsistence, which they may want, and which our fertile land abundantly produces, if circumstances and events will permit us so to do.1
This letter is committed to Colonel Humphreys to carry to London, whither he is going. Should he by any accident be in France, he will be able to give you a full state of our affairs and prospects. Gradually recovering from the distresses in which the war left us, patiently advancing in our task of civil government, unentangled in the crooked policies of Europe, wanting scarcely any thing but the free navigation of the Mississippi (which we must have, and as certainly shall have as we remain a nation), I have supposed, that, with the undeviating exercise of a just, steady, and prudent national policy, we shall be the gainers, whether the powers of the old world may be in peace or war, but more especially in the latter case. In that case, our importance will certainly increase, and our friendship be courted. Our dispositions would not be indifferent to Britain or Spain. Why will not Spain be wise and liberal at once? It would be easy to annihilate all causes of quarrels between that nation and the United States at this time. At a future period, that may be far from being a fact. Should a war take place between Great Britain and Spain, I conceive, from a great variety of concurring circumstances, there is the highest probability that the Floridas will soon be in the possession of the former. Adieu, my dear Marquis. Believe me to be assuredly and affectionately your friend, &c.
P. S. Not for the value of the thing, my dear Marquis, but as a memorial, and because they are the manufacture of this city, I send you herewith a pair of shoe-buckles.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
New York, 13 August, 1790.
The session of Congress having closed, and it being my intention to go to Virginia as soon as the public business will permit, and wishing, during my absence from the seat of government, to have my mind as free from public cares as circumstances will allow, I am desirous of having such matters as may, by law or otherwise, require the agency or sanction of the President of the United States, brought to view before my departure. I therefore request, that you will cause such business, within your department, as may be necessary to receive the aid or approbation of the President, to be submitted to me, as soon as its nature will permit; particularly regulations for trade and intercourse with the Indian tribes, agreeably to the act; and information and opinions on the following points—
Whether any other and what steps shall be taken with them to restrain their hostilities.
Whether the orders given, and measures adopted, are adequate to the peace of the western frontiers. If not, what further is to be done for this purpose?
Upon the expediency and policy of a proclamation forbidding encroachments upon the territory of the Indians, or treating with them contrary to the law lately passed. Instructions for the governor of the ceded territory south of the Ohio. Where ought the governor to reside? What notice should be taken of the insult offered to Major Doughty? What steps should be taken with respect to his recommendation of a post at the mouth of the Tennessee?
Other measures than those pursued by the present contractors for supplying the western posts ought to be adopted, that the troops in that country may be more efficiently employed in sudden emergencies, and the posts better secured. Have any orders been given concerning the condemned soldiers? I am, Sir, &c.1
TO ALEXANDER HAMILTON, SECRETARY OF THE TREASURY.
Mount Vernon, 10 October, 1790.
Your letter of the 30th ultimo duly came to hand with its enclosures. For the information contained in it I thank you. The motives, however, by which the author of the communication to you was actuated, although they may have been pure, and in that case praiseworthy, do also (but it may be uncharitable to harbour the suspicion) admit of a different interpretation, and by an easy and pretty direct clue may be developed.1
We are approaching the first Monday in December by hasty strides. I pray you, therefore, to revolve in your mind such matters as may be proper for me to lay before Congress, not only in your own department, (if any there be,) but such others of a general nature, as may happen to occur to you, that I may be prepared to open the session with such communications, as shall appear to merit attention. With sincere regard, I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO TOBIAS LEAR.
Mount Vernon, 14 November, 1790.
Having wrote two letters to you on the subject of Page’s stage coach one or the other of which if not both, it is presumable have got to hand before this can, I shall add nothing more thereto than that Page’s coach is now [my] dependence.
1 I am, I must confess, exceedingly unwilling to go into any house without first knowing on what terms I do it, and wish that this sentiment could be again hinted, in delicate terms, to the parties concerned with me. I cannot, if there are no latent motives which govern in this case, see any difficulty in the business.2Mr. Morris has most assuredly formed an idea of what ought, in equity, to be the rent of the tenement in the condition he left it; and with this aid the committee ought, I conceive, to be as little at a loss in determining what it should rent for, with the additions and alterations, which are about to be made, and which ought to be done in a plain and neat, not by any means in an extravagant style; because the latter is not only contrary to my wish, but would really be detrimental to my interest and convenience, principally because it would be the means of keeping me out of the use and comforts of the house to a late period, and because the furniture, and every thing else, would require to be accordant therewith; besides it ’s making me pay an extravagant price, perhaps accommodate the alterations to the taste of another, or to the exorbitant rates of workmen or their blended performances in the two houses.
I do not know, nor do I believe, that any thing unfair is intended by either Mr. Morris or the committee; but let us for a moment suppose, that the rooms (the new ones I mean) was to be hung with tapestry, or a very rich and costly paper, neither of which would suit my present furniture; that costly ornaments for the bow windows, extravagant chimney-pieces, &c., &c., were to be provided; that workmen, from extravagance of the times, for every twenty shillings’ worth of work would charge forty shillings; and that advantage should be taken of the occasion to new paint every part of the house, buildings, &c.; would there be any propriety in adding ten or twelve and a half per cent. for all this to the rent of the house in its original state for the two years that I am to hold it? If the solution of these questions is in the negative, wherein lies the difficulty of determining, that the houses and lots when finished according to the proposed plan ought to rent for so much? When all is done that can be done thereto the residence will not be so commodious as the house I left in New York; (with the additional buildings made there) for there (and the want of it will be found a real inconvenience at Mr. Morris’s) my office was in a front room below, where persons on business were at once admitted; whereas now they will have to ascend two pair of stairs, and to pass by the public rooms to get to it. Notwithstanding which, I am willing to allow as much as was paid to Mr. Macomb, and shall say nothing if more is demanded, unless there is apparent extortion.—Extortion if it should be intended by delay is to see to what height rents will rise, I should be unwilling to—and to take it at the expense of any public body, I will not.1 There is one expression in your letter of the 4th the meaning of which I do not clearly understand, viz.: “the additions, repairs, &c., of the house in which Mr. Morris now lives are likewise to be comprehended in the expenditure to be refunded by the rent of the house.” Is it meant by this that the rent of the house you are now in is to be increased by the expenditures on the one Mr. Morris has removed to, or is no more meant by it than that the rent of the former is intended as security for the refund. The latter may be very proper, but the former could be submitted to on no other ground than that of dire necessity.
I had rather have heard, that my repaired coach was plain and elegant, than rich and elegant.
I am, dear Sir, &c.
TO HENRY KNOX, SECRETARY OF WAR.
Mount Vernon, 19 November, 1790.
My dear Sir,
I have received your letter of the 10th inst., and will declare to you without reserve that my forebodings with respect to the Expedition against the Wabash Indians are of disappointment; and a disgraceful termination under the conduct of Brigadier General Harmar.—
I expected little from the moment I heard he was a drunkard.—I expected less as soon as I heard that on this account no confidence was reposed in him by the people of the Western Country.—And I gave up all hope of success, as soon as I heard that there were disputes with him about command.—
The latter information is from report only; but the report of bad news is rarely without foundation.—If the issue of this Expedition is honorable to the Concerters of it, and favorable to our arms, it will be double pleasing to me; but my mind, from the silence which reigns, and other circumstances, is prepared for the worst;—that is—for expence without honor or profit.—1
If any thing more than the statement of this business for the information of Congress should occur to you, previous to my arrival, be so good as to digest it, for it is my wish to have every matter which may occur to the heads of Departments as well as to myself, ready, if proper to lay before that body, at the opening of the Session.
With sincere friendship, &c.
P. S. I expect to commence my journey for Philadelphia on Monday1 —but from the state of the Roads after the incessant and heavy rains which have fallen, my progress must be slow.—
TO GEORGE STEPTOE WASHINGTON.
Philadelphia, 5 December, 1790.
Agreeably to the promise, which I gave to you in Virginia, I have made the necessary inquiries respecting the course of studies and expenses, which would enable you and your brother Lawrence to finish your education at the college in this place, provided you are masters of those books and studies, which you informed me you had passed through.
The enclosed account of studies and expenses, which I wish you to return to me, you will see is under the hand of the Reverend Dr. Smith, provost of the college, and may therefore be relied upon for its accuracy. After you and Lawrence have carefully perused and well considered the enclosed statement, I wish you to determine whether you will come or not. If your determination should be in favor of coming on, I must impress this upon you both in the strongest manner, namely, that you come with good dispositions, and full resolution to pursue your studies closely, conform to the established rules and customs of the college, and to conduct yourselves on all occasions with decency and propriety.
To you, George, I would more particularly address myself at this time, as from your advanced age it may be presumed, that such advice, as I am about to give, will make a deeper impression upon you, than upon your brother, and your conduct may very probably mark the line of his; but, at the same time, Lawrence must remember, that this is equally applicable to him.
Should you enter upon the course of studies here marked out, you must consider it as the finishing of your education, and, therefore, as the time is limited, that every hour misspent is lost for ever, and that future years cannot compensate for lost days at this period of your life. This reflection must show the necessity of an unremitting application to your studies. To point out the importance of circumspection in your conduct, it may be proper to observe, that a good moral character is the first essential in a man, and that the habits contracted at your age are generally indelible, and your conduct here may stamp your character through life. It is therefore highly important, that you should endeavor not only to be learned, but virtuous. Much more might be said to show the necessity of application and regularity; but when you must know, that without them you can never be qualified to render service to your country, assistance to your friends, or consolation to your retired moments, nothing further need be said to prove their utility.
As to your clothing, it will, I presume, cost much the same here as in Alexandria. I shall always wish to see you clothed decently and becoming your stations; but I shall ever discountenance extravagance or foppishness in your dress. At all times, and upon all occasions, I shall be happy to give you both such marks of my approbation, as your progress and good conduct merit.
If you determine to come on, you had better do it immediately, and Major Washington will furnish you with such money as may be necessary for the stage and expenses from Alexandria to this place. But I must repeat what I have before enjoined, that you come with good dispositions and determined resolutions to conform to establishments and pursue your studies.
Your aunt joins me in love to you both, and best wishes to Dr. Craik and family. I am, dear George, your sincere friend and affectionate uncle.
end of vol. xi.
[1 ]Governor Pinckney’s letter related to a treaty with Spain, and with the southern Indians. As to the former, he said:
[1 ]This report is printed in Lowrie & Clarke’s American State Papers, vol. iv., p. 59.
[1 ]“I wrote you on what footing I had placed the President’s proposal to me to undertake the office of Secretary of State. His answer still left me at liberty to accept it or return to France; but I saw plainly he preferred the former, and have learned from several quarters it will be generally more agreeable. Consequently, to have gone back would have exposed me to the danger of giving disgust, and I value no office enough for that. I am, therefore, now on my way to enter on the new office.”—Jefferson to Short, 12 March, 1790.
[1 ]From Dr. Stuart’s Letter.—“A spirit of jealousy, which may become dangerous to the Union, towards the eastern States, seems to be growing fast among us. It is represented, that the northern phalanx is so firmly united, as to bear down all opposition, while Virginia is unsupported, even by those whose interests are similar to hers. It is the language of all I have seen on their return from New York. Colonel Lee tells me, that many, who were warm supporters of the government, are changing their sentiments, from a conviction of the impracticability of union with States, whose interests are so dissimilar to those of Virginia. I fear the Colonel is one of the number. The late applications to Congress, respecting the slaves, will certainly tend to promote this spirit. It gives particular umbrage, that the Quakers should be so busy in this business. That they will raise up a storm against themselves, appears to me very certain. Mr. Madison’s sentiments are variously spoken of; so much so, that it is impossible to ascertain whether they are approved of by a majority or not. The commercial and most noisy part is certainly against them. It appears to me to be such a deviation from the plain and beaten track, as must make every creditor of the public tremble. His plan of discrimination is founded too much on principles of equity to please even those, who have advocated always a discrimination. If the public was to gain what the original holders lost in their sales, I believe it would have pleased this description of citizens better.”—Abingdon, Virginia, March 15th.
[1 ]At the annual meetings of the Quakers, held at Philadelphia and New York, in the year 1789, they had sent memorials to Congress, praying that measures might be adopted for the abolition of the slave-trade. These memorials were referred to a committee, who brought in a report, which was debated from time to time, and after various amendments was reported by the committee of the whole House as follows:
[1 ]M. de la Luzerne had been raised to the rank of Marquis, and was now the Ambassador from the Court of France in London.
[2 ]From the Marquis de la Luzerne’s Letter.—“I dare flatter myself, that your Excellency does justice to the very tender and respectful attachment, which I have long entertained towards you, and that you will be persuaded of the great pleasure with which I have learned the success, that has followed the first movements of your administration. After having given freedom to your country, it was worthy of the virtues and great character of your Excellency to establish its happiness on a solid and permanent basis, which is assuredly the result of the new federal constitution, in framing which you assisted by your counsel, and which you now support, as much by the splendor of your talents and patriotism, as by the eminent situation confided to you by your fellow-citizens. They possess the advantage of enjoying more particularly your beneficence, and the honor of having you born among them; but I dare assure you, that the consideration which you enjoy throughout Europe, and particularly in my country, yields not even to that, which you have obtained in your native land; and, notwithstanding the prejudices of the people, with whom I here live, there is not one among them, who does not pronounce your name with sentiments of respect and veneration. All are acquainted with the services you have rendered to your country as their general in the course of the war, and with those, perhaps still greater, which you now render as a statesman in peace.
[1 ]The ratification took place on the 29th of May at Newport.
[1 ]Colonel Robert H. Harrison.
[1 ]From Dr. Stuart’s Letter: “I shall now endeavor to give you all the information I have been able to collect during my journey, respecting the present temper of mind of the people of Virginia, so far as I can judge from those I mixed with, and from what I could hear. I could wish indeed to speak more favorably of it; but it appears to me, that the late transactions of Congress have soured the public mind to a great degree; which was just recovering from the fever, which the slave business had occasioned, when the late much-agitated question of the State debts came on. With respect to the slave business, I am informed by Mr. Lomax, whom I met on his return from Pittsylvania, that great advantages had been taken of it in that distant quarter by many, who wished to purchase slaves, circulating a report, that Congress were about to pass an act for their general emancipation. This occasioned such an alarm, that many were sold for the merest trifle. The sellers were of course much enraged at Congress for taking up a subject they were precluded by the constitution from meddling with for the present, and thus furnishing the occasion for the alarm which induced them to sell. As the people in that part of the country were before much opposed to the government, it may naturally be supposed, that this circumstance has embittered them much more against it.
[1 ]In his report on Public Credit, 9th January, 1790, Hamilton gave it as his full conviction “that an assumption of the debts of the particular States by the Union, and a like provision for them as for those of the Union, will be a measure of sound policy and substantial justice.” He distinctly recognized that the principles of equitable settlement between the States and the United States would require all the moderation and wisdom of the government, and suggested that the balance in favor of each State be first determined, and then “to equalize the contributions of the States, let each be charged with its proportion of the aggregate of those balances, according to some equitable ratio, to be devised for that purpose.” On this point were made the heaviest attacks, for it was claimed Virginia would suffer peculiarly, while Massachusetts and South Carolina would benefit as greatly. On these divisions the various States ranged themselves according to their interest, and early in April the opposition obtained a rejection of the scheme in the House, but its advocates still held to the measure. This was the situation when Washington wrote. Jefferson hinted that the scruples of those who, in favoring the Constitution, had argued the improbability of Congress laying taxes where the States could do it separately, stood in the way of the assumption scheme. The blocking of the bill for a permanent residence of Congress afforded an opportunity to play the one measure against the other, and a bargain was made that passed the assumption and removed the seat of government to the Potomac. The President did not escape some abuse on the result, and Jefferson, through whom the bargain was effected, regarded himself as “duped” by Hamilton.
[1 ]“To be instrumental, in any degree to the accomplishment of the object, which is mentioned in your letter, would, I do assure you, give me pleasure; but with truth I can add that I know no person who has either money to lend or who seems willing to part with it. The most conclusive proof of which I shall give you: I was much in want of a sum, to answer some call upon me, which I did not care to have unsatisfied, when I set out for New York the Spring before last; but was unable to obtain more than half of it, (though it was not much I required,) and this at an advanced interest with other rigid conditions. After this I took an occasion to sound Mr. Carroll of Carrollton, as the most likely, being the most monied man, I was acquainted with—but without success—He assured me that he could not collect the interest of the money that had been loaned, by his father and himself, and his other resources were not more than adequate to his own occasions—thenceforward I made no further attempts, not knowing indeed where to apply.”—Washington to Charles Carter, 14 September, 1790.
[1 ]Key of the Bastile, sent through Thomas Paine, at this time an ardent believer in the revolution.
[1 ]“Give me leave, my dear General, to present you with a picture of the Bastille just as it looked a few days after I had ordered its demolition, with the main key of the fortress of despotism. It is a tribute which I owe as a son to my adopted father, as an aid-de-camp to my general, as a missionary of liberty to its patriarch.”—Lafayette to Washington, 17 March, 1790.
[1 ]The treaty was important “as drawing a line between the Creeks and Georgia, and enabling the government to do, as it will do, justice against either party offending.”—Jefferson to Randolph, 14 August, 1790. The treaty was attacked by Jackson, one of the Georgia delegation, as sacrificing the recognized claims of that State.
[1 ]The Spaniards had seized and looted a British vessel at Nootka Sound, on the ground of trespassing on Spanish territory, and were unwilling to make reparation. As Spain would be anxious to secure the aid, or at least the neutrality, of the United States in the event of war, for the protection of her American possessions, Washington thought this a fitting opportunity to open negotiations at Madrid for the opening of the Mississippi. Humphreys was sent to co-operate with Carmichael in this negotiation, and the influence of France was to be invoked; but before the envoy reached Madrid an agreement had been arrived at between the two powers, and the fears or interest of Spain could no longer be worked upon to secure the coveted privilege.
[1 ]Congress adjourned on the 12th of August, and Washington took the opportunity to visit Rhode Island, where he did not touch on his Eastern tour, because that State had not then acceded to the Union. A short sketch of this visit was made by William Smith, a member of Congress from South Carolina, who accompanied the President’s party for a part of the journey, and, as this record is but little known, I give the main points:
[1 ]Acting upon a suggestion from the English Cabinet, Lord Dorchester sent Major George Beckwith to Philadelphia to sound the Executive upon the attitude of the United States in the event of a war between Great Britain and Spain. The results of this informal mission were communicated to Dorchester, and Beckwith was retained at Philadelphia, as the unrecognized diplomatic agent of the British government, a convenience while no regular minister had been appointed. In this capacity he had approached Hamilton with hints that Gouverneur Morris in his informal mission, was not so discreet as he might be, as he was in too close intimacy with the French Minister in London (Luzerne), and had given offence to the court by consorting with the opposition party, of which Fox was the leader.—Hamilton’s Works (Lodge), iv., 49. Diary and Letters of Gouverneur Morris, i., 310 et seq.
[1 ]From Mr. Hamilton’s Reply: “The subject suggested in your letter, as preparatory to the meeting of the legislature, shall engage my particular attention. The papers of the departments of state and the treasury, and of the commissioners for settling accounts, are on their way to Philadelphia. On the 20th I propose with my family to set out for the same place.”
[2 ]Relating to a house in Philadelphia, belonging to Mr. Morris, which was fitting up for the residence of the President, when Congress should remove to that place. Mr. Lear was in Philadelphia making preparation for the President’s arrival and accommodation.
[1 ]In transcribing, some words or lines appear to have been omitted. The letter is printed as transcribed by William Jackson, one of Washington’s Secretaries.
[1 ]“Your favor of the 26th ultimo came to my hands last night. If the information of Captain Brant be true, the issue of the expedition against the Indians will indeed prove unfortunate and disgraceful to the troops, who suffered themselves to be ambuscaded.
[1 ]Philadelphia was now the seat of government.