Front Page Titles (by Subject) TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. - The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794)
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS. - George Washington, The Writings of George Washington, vol. XII (1790-1794) 
The Writings of George Washington, collected and edited by Worthington Chauncey Ford (New York and London: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1890). Vol. XII (1790-1794).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
TO GOUVERNEUR MORRIS.
Philadelphia, 28 July, 1791.
I have not before me your favors of the 22 of November, 1 and 24 of December, 1790, and of the 9th of March, 1791.
The plateaux which you had the goodness to procure for me arrived safe and the account of them has been settled as you desired with Mr. Robert Morris. For this additional mark of attention to my wishes you must accept my thanks.
The communications in your several letters, relative to the state of affairs in Europe, are very gratefully received; and I should be glad if it was in my power to reply to them more in detail than I am able to do. But my public duties, which are at all times sufficiently numerous, being now much accumulated by an absence of more than three months from the seat of government, make the present a very busy moment for me.
The change of systems, which have so long prevailed in Europe, will, undoubtedly, affect us in a degree proportioned to our political or commercial connexions with the several nations of it. But I trust we shall never so far lose sight of our own interest and happiness as to become, unnecessarily, a party in their political disputes. Our local situation enables us to keep that state, with them, which otherwise could not, perhaps, be preserved by human wisdom. The present moment seems pregnant with great events; but, as you observe, it is beyond the ken of mortal foresight to determine what will be the result of those changes, which are either making, or contemplated, in the general system of Europe. Although, as fellow men, we sincerely lament the disorders, oppressions, and incertitude, which frequently attend national events, and which our European brethren must feel, yet we cannot but hope, that it will terminate very much in favor of the rights of man. And, that a change there will be favorable to this country, I have no doubt. For under the former system we were seen either in the distresses of war, or viewed after the peace in a most unfavorable light through the medium of our distracted state. In neither point could we appear of much consequence among nations. And should affairs continue in Europe in the same state they were, when these impressions respecting us were received, it would not be an easy matter to remove the prejudices imbibed against us. A change of system will open a new view of things, and we shall then burst upon them, as it were, with redoubled advantages.
Should we, under the present state of affairs, form connexions other than we now have with any European powers, much must be considered in effecting them, on the score of our increasing importance as a nation; and, at the same time, should a treaty be formed with a nation, whose circumstances may not at this moment be very bright, much delicacy would be necessary in order to show that no undue advantages were taken on that account. For unless treaties are mutually beneficial to the parties, it is in vain to hope for a continuance of them beyond the moment when the one, which conceives itself overreached, is in a situation to break off the connexion. And I believe it is among nations as with individuals, that the party taking advantage of the distresses of another will lose infinitely more in the opinion of mankind, and in subsequent events, than he will gain by the stroke of the moment.
In my late tour through the southern States, I experienced great satisfaction in seeing the good effects of the general government in that part of the Union. The people at large have felt the security which it gives, and the equal justice which it administers to them. The farmer, the merchant, and the mechanic have seen their several interests attended to, and from thence they unite in placing a confidence in their representatives, as well as in those in whose hands the execution of the laws is placed. Industry has there taken place of idleness, and economy of dissipation. Two or three years of good crops, and a ready market for the produce of their lands, has put every one in good humor; and in some instances they even impute to the government what is due only to the goodness of Providence.
The establishment of public credit is an immense point gained in our national concerns. This, I believe, exceeds the expectation of the most sanguine among us. And a late instance, unparalleled in this country, has been given of the confidence reposed in our measures, by the rapidity with which the subscriptions to the bank of the United States were filled. In two hours after the books were opened by the commissioners, the whole number of shares was taken up, and four thousand more applied for than were allowed by the institution. This circumstance was not only pleasing, as it related to the confidence in government, but as it exhibited an unexpected proof of the resources of our citizens.
In one of my letters to you, the account which I gave of the number of inhabitants, which would probably be found in the United States on enumeration, was too large. The estimate was then founded on the ideas held out by the gentlemen in Congress of the population of their several States, each of whom (as was very natural) looking through a magnifier, would speak of the greatest extent, to which there was any probability of their numbers reaching. Returns of the census have already been made from several of the States, and a tolerably just estimate has been formed now in others; by which it appears, that we shall hardly reach four millions; but this you are to take along with it, that the real number will greatly exceed the official returns of them; because, from religious scruples, some would not give in their lists; that it was intended as the foundation of a tax, the fears of others induced them to conceal, or diminished theirs; and from the indolence of the mass, and want of activity in many of the deputy enumerators, numbers are omitted. The authenticated number will, however, be far greater, I believe, than has ever been allowed in Europe; and will have no small influence in enabling them to form a more just opinion of our present growing importance, than has yet been entertained there.
This letter goes with one from Mr. Jefferson, to which I must refer you for what respects your public transactions; and I shall only add to it the repeated assurances of regard and affection, with which I am, dear Sir, your obedient and obliged, &c.