Front Page Titles (by Subject) 1785 - TO NATHANAEL GREENE 1 - The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786)
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1785 - TO NATHANAEL GREENE 1 - Thomas Jefferson, The Works, vol. 4 (Notes on Virginia II, Correspondence 1782-1786) 
The Works of Thomas Jefferson, Federal Edition (New York and London, G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1904-5). Vol. 4.
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TO NATHANAEL GREENE1
Paris, Jan. 12, 1785.
—Everything in Europe is quiet, & promises quiet for at least a year to come. We do not find it easy to make commercial arrangements in Europe. There is a want of confidence in us. This country has lately reduced the duties on American whale oil to about a guinea & a half a ton, and I think they will take the greatest part of what we can furnish. I hope therefore that this branch of our commerce will resume its activity. Portugal shews a disposition to court our trade, but this has for some time been discouraged by the hostilities of the pyratical states of Barbary. The Emperor of Morocco who had taken one of our vessels, immediately consented to suspend hostilities, & ultimately gave up the vessel, cargo & crew. I think we shall be able to settle matters with him, but I am not sanguine as to the Algerines. They have taken two of our vessels, and I fear will ask such a tribute for the forbearance of their piracies as the U. S. would be unwilling to pay.—When this idea comes across my mind my faculties are absolutely suspended between indignation & impotence.—I think whatever sums we are obliged to pay for freedom of navigation in the European seas, should be levied on European commerce with us, by a separate impost, that these powers may see that they protect these enormities for their own loss.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA (PATRICK HENRY)
v. s. a.
Paris, Jan. 12. 1785.
—The letter of July 20. 1784 with which your Excellency was pleased to honour me & which inclosed the resolution of assembly for the statue of Gen’l Washington came to my hands on the 29th of Nov. by Mr. Short: & a few days afterwards I received a duplicate of it. As it was not practicable to get the business into any train before the sailing of the December packet, I omitted acknowledging its receipt till the packet of this month should sail. There could be no question raised as to the Sculptor who should be employed; the reputation of Monsr. Houdon of this city being unrivalled in Europe. He is resorted to for the statues of most of the sovereigns in Europe. On conversing with him Doct’r Franklin & myself became satisfied that no statue could be executed so as to obtain the approbation of those to whom the figure of the original is known, but on an actual view by the artist. Of course no statue of Genl. Washington, which might be a true evidence of his figure to posterity, could be made from his picture. Statues are made every day from portraits: but if the person be living, they are always condemned by those who know him for a want of resemblance, and this furnishes a conclusive presumption that similar representations of the dead are equally unfaithfull. Monsr. Houdon, whose reputation is such as to make it his principal object, was so anxious to be the person who should hand down the figure of the General to future ages, that without hesitating a moment he offered to abandon his business here, to leave the statues of kings unfinished, & to go to America to take the true figure by actual inspection & mensuration. We believe, from his character, that he will not propose any very considerable sum for making this journey; probably two or three hundred guineas, as he must necessarily be absent three or four months & his expences will make at least a hundred guineas of the money. When the whole merit of the piece was to depend on this previous expenditure, we could not doubt your approbation of the measure; and that you would think with us that things which are just or handsome should never be done by halves. We shall regulate the article of expence as œconomically as we can with justice to the wishes of the world. This article, together with the habit, attitude, devices &c. are now under consideration, & till they be decided on, we cannot ultimately contract with Monsr. Houdon. We are agreed in one circumstance, that the size shall be precisely that of life. Were we to have executed a statue in any other case, we should have preferred making it somewhat larger than life; because as they are generally a little elivated, they appear smaller, but we think it important that some one monument should be preserved of the true size as well as figure, from which all other countries (and our own at any future day when they shall desire it) may take copies, varying them in their dimensions as may suit the particular situation in which they wish to place them. The duty as well as the glory of this presentation we think belongs peculiarly to Virginia. We are sensible that the eye, alone considered, will not be quite as well satisfied; but connecting the consideration that the whole, & every part of it presents the true size of the life, we suppose the beholders will receive a greater pleasure on the whole. Should we agree with Monsr. Houdon, he will come over in the April packet & of course may be expected in Virginia about the last of May. His stay with the General will be about a month. This will be employed in forming his bust of plaister. With this he will return to Paris, & will then be between two & three years in executing the whole in Marble. I have thought it my duty to detail to your Excellency our ideas on the subject as far as they are settled, that if in any point we are varying from the wishes of the Executive or legislature, we may be set right in time. I conjecture that you will receive this about the latter end of February and as Monsr. Houdon will not set out till about the 12th. or 14th. of April there may be time to receive your pleasure in the mean while. We think that the whole expence of the journey & execution of the figure will be within the limits conjectured by your excellency; but of this we cannot be certain as yet.
TO JAMES MONROE
—You were informed by my letters of Nov. 11. & Jan. 14. that the cypher established between us would not explain a syllable of your letters.—Those of Nov. 1. & Dec. 14. having rendered me extremely desirous of deciphering them, I set to work with a resolution to effect it if possible. I soon found that they were written by your first cypher. To this, therefore, I applied myself and after several days spent on it I was able to set to rights the many errors of your copyist, whose inattention alone had inducted those difficulties. I found the numbers in my copy & yours to correspond as follows.
From 1–153 was right.
154. in yours corresponded to 185 in mine.
From 156 to 205 in yours corresponded to from 186 to 235 in mine.
From 206 to 236 in yours corresponded to from 154 to 184 in mine.
From 237 to 248 in yours corresponded to from 236 to 247 in mine.
From 268 to 352 in yours corresponded to from 266 to 350 in mine.
From 359 to 454 in yours corresponded to from 356 to 451 in mine.
From 456 to 551 in yours corresponded to from 452 to 547 in mine.
From 558 to 989 in yours corresponded to from 553 to 984 in mine.
994 in yours corresponded to 988, 989 in mine.
996, 997 in yours corresponded to 01. 02 in mine.
02. 03. 04. 05. 06. 07. 08. 09. in yours corresponded to 06. 07. 08.09. 009. 008. 007. 006. in mine.
006. 002. 017. 016. 060. 050. 032. 041. 042. in yours corresponds to 002. 017. 013. 012. 020. 021. 036. 045. 046.
The remaining numbers of the cypher either did not enter into your letters at all, or not often enough to detect the errors. I have now therefore completely deciphered your letters of June 1. June 25. Nov. 1. and Dec. 14. At present my only uneasiness is about my letters which have gone to you in cypher. That of Nov. 11. must have been in the 1st cypher. For this reason I have noted to you the differences in our copies as above that you may translate my numbers into yours. As I received the 2d cypher the 29th of Nov., I think it probable that my letters of Dec. 10. & Jan. 14. were written by that. If they were, I am in hopes you will have understood them. If they were written by the 1st. you will now be able by translating the numbers to understand them also; and thus this comedy of errors will be cleared up. Since writing so far I have made out a table adjusting the numbers in my copy to those in yours, which will enable you to translate with ease. Our business goes on very slowly. No answers from Spain or Britain. The backwardness of the latter is not new. Perhaps Mr. Jay or Mr. Laurens who have been at that court since the present ministry has been in place may have been able to account for this on better grounds than we can. The English Parliament, Irish Parliament and Irish Convention sitting together will surely bring their disputes to a crisis. Scotland too seems to be stepping in as a third party with her difficulties, and their affairs in the East Indies are in a wretched situation. The opposition have opened their campaign on the East India regulations, the proceedings with Ireland, & the late taxes. The minister having declared he will propose a plan of parliamentary reform, they have taken the contrary side of course on that question. I am anxious to see whether the parliament will take any and what steps as to our commerce. The effecting treaties with the powers holding positions in the West Indies, I consider as the important part of our business. It is not of great consequence whether the others treat or not. Perhaps trade may go on with them well enough without. But Britain, Spain, Portugal, France are consequent, and Holland, Denmark, Sweden may be of service too. We have hitherto waited for favorable circumstances to press matters with France. We are now about to do it tho I cannot say the prospect is good. The merchants of this country are very clamorous against our admission into the West Indies and ministers are afraid for their places. The pamphlet which I sent you is approved by the sensible people here and I am in hopes has been of some service. There are warm ones written against it. Our affairs with the pyratical states are distressing. It is impossible I fear to find out what is given by other countries. Either shame or jealousy makes them wish to keep it secret. Several of their ministers to whom we have applied have promised to procure information. These pyrates are contemptibly weak. Morocco who has just dared to commit an outrage on us owns only four or five frigates of 18 or 20 guns. There is not a port in their country which has more than 13 feet water. Tunis is not quite so strong (having 3 or 4 frigates only, small and worthless) is more mercantile than predatory, and would easily be led to treat either by money or fear. Tripoli has one frigate only. Algiers alone possesses any power, & they are brave. As far as I have been able to discover she possesses about 16 vessels from 22 up to 52 guns, but the vessels of all these powers are wretched in the last degree, being mostly built of the discordant pieces of other vessels which they take and pull asunder, their cordage & sails are of the same kind, taken from vessels of different sizes & powers, seldom any two guns of the same bore, & all of them light. These States too are divided, & jealous of each other, & especially of Algiers the most powerful. The others would willingly see her reduced. We have two plans to pursue. The one to carry nothing for ourselves, & thereby render ourselves invulnerable to the European states, the other (which our country will be for) is to carry as much as possible. But this will require a protecting force on the sea. Otherwise the smallest power in Europe, every one which possesses a single ship of the line, may dictate to us, and enforce their demands by captures on our commerce. Some naval force then is necessary if we mean to be commercial. Can we have a better occasion of beginning one? or find a foe more certainly within our dimensions? The motives pleading for war rather than tribute are numerous & honorable, those opposing them are mean & short sighted. However if it be decided that their peace shall be bought it shall engage my most earnest endeavours.—it is as uncertain as ever whether we are to have war or peace. The ministers of this country intimate peace and Monst. de Maillebois who is to command the Dutch army is not set out. I should consider his departure as an indication of war.
I must pray you to send your letters by the French packet. They come by that conveyance with certainty, having first undergone the Ceremony of being opened & read in the post office which I am told is done in every country in Europe. Letters by the way of England are sometimes months getting from London here. Give me fully always the Congressional news, & by every letter if you please the journals of Congress.
I would make an additional observation or two as to the pyratical states. If we enter into treaty there, a consul must be kept with each to recover our vessels taken in breach of their treaty. For these violations they practise constantly against the strongest nations & the vessels so taken are recovered with trouble & always some loss & considerable delay. The attempts heretofore made to suppress these powers have been to exterminate them at one blow. They are too numerous and powerful by land for that. A small effort, but long continued, seems to be the only method. By suppressing their marine & trade totally and continuing this till the present race of seamen should be pretty well out of the way & the younger people betake themselves to husbandry for which their toil & climate is well fitted, these nests of banditti might be reformed. I am not well enough acquainted with the present disposition of the European courts to say whether a general confederacy might be formed for suppressing these Pyracies. Such as should refuse would give us a just right to turn pyrates also on their West India trade, and to require an annual tribute which might reimburse what we may be obliged to pay to obtain a safe navigation in their seas. Were we possessed even of a small naval force what a bridle would it be in the mouths of the West Indian powers and how respectfully would they demean themselves towards us. Be assured that the present disrespect of the nations of Europe for us will inevitably bring on insults which must involve us in war. A coward is much more exposed to quarrels than a man of spirit.
Be so good as to present one of the pamphlets with my esteem to Mr. Gherry & let him know he is a letter in my debt.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris Mar. 18. 1785.
—My last to you was dated Dec. 8. Since that yours of Feb. 1, has come to hand; and I am in hopes I shall shortly receive from you the history of the last session of our assembly. I will pray you always to send your letters by the French packet which sails from N. York the 15th of every Month. I had made Neill Jamieson my post master general there, who will always take care of my letters and confide them to passengers when there are any worthy of confidence. Since the removal of Congress to that place, you can chuse between N. Jamieson & our delegates there, to which you would rather address my letters. The worst conveyances you can possibly find are private hands, or Merchant ships coming from Virginia directly to France. Those letters either come not at all, or like the histories of antient times they detail to us events after their influence is spent.
Your character of the 446. magistrate1 is precisely agreeable to the idea I had formed of him. I take him to be of unmeasured ambition but that the men he uses are virtuous. He is re. 476. ed fraught with affection to 375. and dispose merchants to render every 1071. service. Of the cause which separated the com. of the states we never have had. 945. 578. 394. 957. 421. 574. 1040. 130. 421 and 360. 561. 164. 400. 597. From newspapers & private letters have excited without satisfying our curiosity. As your cipher is safe pay 792. me a de 13 of it. The navigation of the Scheld had for a great while agitated the politics of Europe & seemed to threaten the involving it in a general war. All of a sudden another subject, infinitely more interesting is brought on the carpet. There is reason to believe that the Emperor has made an exchange of territories with the Elector of Bavaria, & that while the Scheld has been the ostensible, Bavaria has been the real object of his Military preparations. When the proposition was communicated to the King of Prussia it is said he declared qu’il Moverroit le cul sur le selle rather than see it take effect. The 895. 421. 1009. it is thought would be secretly 1070. 495. 359. with it. And some think that certain 8 said to be 564. 333. 719. 359. By the Emperor on the 781. 763. 561. of 103. are meant to be given to the latter for her acquiescence. I am attending with anxiety to the part she will act. On this occasion I shall change my opinion of her system. Of policy if it be not executable. If the Dutch escape war, they seem still to be in danger of internal revolution. The Stadholder & aristocracy can carry their differences no further without an appeal to the sword. The people are on the side of the 185. The conduct of the aristocracy in pushing their measures to such extremity is inexplicable but on the supposition that 103. has promised to support them which it is 39. 543. was 971. 359. to do before they would enter into the late treaty. We hear nothing from England. This circumstance, with the passage of their N. F. land bill thro’ the house of commons, & the sending a Consul to America (which we hear they have done) sufficiently prove a perseverance in the system of managing for us as well as for themselves in their connection with us. The administration of that country are governed by the people, & the people by their own interested wishes without calculating whether they are just or capable of being effected. Nothing will bring them to reason but physical obstruction, applied to their bodily senses. We must show that we are capable of foregoing commerce with them, before they will be capable of consenting to an equal commerce. We have all the world besides open to supply us with gew-gaws, and all the world to buy our tobacco, for in such an event England must buy it from Amsterdam, l’Orient or any other place at which we should think proper to deposit it for them. They allow our commodities to be taken from our own ports to the W. Indies in their vessels only. Let us allow their vessels to take them to no port. The transportation of our own produce is worth 750.000 £ sterl. annually, will employ 200.000 tonnage of ships, & 12.000 seamen constantly. It will be no misfortune that Gr. Br. obliges us to exclude her from a participation in this business. Our own shipping will grow fast under the exclusion, & till it is equal to the object the Dutch will supply us. The commerce with the Eng. W. I. is valuable & would be worth a sacrifice to us. But the commerce with the British dominion in Europe is a losing one & deserves no sacrifice. Our tobacco they must have from whatever place we make it’s deposit, because they can get no other whose quality so well suits the habits of their people. It is not a commodity like wheat, which will not bear a double voyage. Were it so, the privilege of carrying it directly to England might be worth something. I know nothing which would act more powerfully as a sumptuary law with our people than an inhibition of commerce with England. They are habituated to the luxuries of that Country & will have them while they can get them. They are unacquainted with those of other countries, and therefore will not very soon bring them so far into fashion as that it shall be thought disreputable not to have them in one’s house or on their table.—It is to be considered how far an exemption of Ireland from this inhibition would embarrass the councils of Engld. on the one hand, and defeat the regulation itself on the other. I rather believe it would do more harm in the latter way than good in the former. In fact a heavy aristocracy & corruption are two bridles in the mouths of the Irish which will prevent them from making any effectual efforts against their masters. We shall now 406. 643. call for decisive answer to certain points interesting to the 826. and unconnected with the general treaty which they have a right to decline. I mentioned to you in a former letter a very good dictionary of universal law called the Code d’humanité in 13 vols 4to. Meeting by chance an opportunity of buying a copy, new & well bound for 104 livres I purchased it for you. It comes to 8 livres a volume which is a fraction over a dollar & a half, & in England costs 15/sterl. a volume. I shall have an opportunity of sending this & what other books I have bought for you in May. But new information throws me all into doubt what to do with them. Late letters tell us you are nominated for the 80. of Spain.1 I must depend on further intelligence therefore to decide whether to send them or to await your orders. I need not tell you how much I shall be pleased with such an event. Yet it has it’s displeasing sides also. I sent in the 170. 110. and also in 730. Yet we cannot have 312. 378. 823 485. We must therefore be contented to have 312. 485. 312. 1009. 638. Adieu, yours affectionately &c.
TO JAMES MONROE
Paris Mar. 18. 1785.
—I wrote you by the packet which sailed from hence in Feb. and then acknowledged the receipt of yours of Dec. 14. which came by the packet arriving here in Jan. That which sailed from N. Y. in Jan. & arrived here in Feb. brings me no letter from any body except from Mr Jay to Mr Adams, Dr. F. & myself jointly. Since my last the rumor of an exchange proposed between the Emperor & El. of Bavaria has proved to have some foundation. What issue it will be permitted to have is doubtful. The K. of Prussia will risk his own annihilation to prevent it. The Dutch would rather be pleased with it; and it is thought by some that it will not be disagreeable to France. It has even been said that certain places are reserved by the emperor on the borders of France to give to this court by way of trust money. I am watching with anxiety the part which this court will act. If the sordid one suspected by some, I shall renounce all faith in national rectitude, and believe that in public conduct we are not yet emerged from the rascality of the 16th century. There are great numbers of well enlightened men in this nation. The ministry is such. The King has an honest heart. The line of policy hitherto pursued by them has been such as virtue would dictate and wisdom approve, relying on their wisdom only I think they would not accept the bribe suppose it would be to relinquish that honorable character of disinterestedness and new faith which they have acquired by many sacrifices and which has put in their hands the government as it were of Europe. A wise man, if nature has not formed him honest, will yet act as if he were honest: because he will find it the most advantageous & wise part in the long run. I have believed that this court possesses this high species of wisdom even if it’s new faith be ostensible only. If they trip on any occasion it will be warning to us. I do not expect they will, but it is our business to be on the watch. The Dutch seem to be on the brink of some internal revolution, even if they escape being engaged in war, as appearances at present seem to indicate. The division between the Stadholder and the aristocracy cannot be greater & the people are on the side of the former. The fury with which the aristocracy drive their measures is inexplicable but on the supposition that France has promised to support and this I believe she did to induce them to the late treaty. We hear nothing from England. This circumstance, with the passage of their N. F. land bill through the H. of Commons and the sending a Consul to America (which we hear they have done) sufficiently prove a perseverance in the system of managing for both sides in their connection with us. Our people and merchants must consider their business as not yet settled with England. After exercising the self denial which was requisite to carry us thro’ the war, they must push it a little further to obtain proper peace arrangements with them. They can do it the better as all the world is open to them; and it is very extraordinary if the whole world besides cannot supply them with what they may want. I think it essential to exclude them from the carriage of American produce. We wait the arrival of the packet which left you in Feb. in expectation of some instructions on the subject of England. Should none come, we shall immediately press them for an answer on those subjects which were unconnected with a treaty of commerce.—It is to be considered how far an exception in favor of Ireland in our commercial regulations might embarrass the councils of England on the one hand, & on the other how far it might give room to an evasion of the regulations.—Mr Carmichael has obtained the interference of the court of Madrid for the vessel & crew taken by the Emperor of Morocco: & I understand there is a prospect of their being restored. A letter on this subject is come to Doctr. Franklin. I have not yet seen it & I doubt whether it will be in time to be copied & communicated by this packet, the post being near it’s departure. On the arrival of the packet now expected here, whether she brings us new instructions or not as to those states, we shall proceed to act for the best on the ground before marked out for us. The Marquis Fayette has arrived here in good health, and in the best dispositions towards us. I have had a very bad winter, having been confined the greatest part of it. A seasoning as they call it is the lot of most strangers: & none I believe have experienced a more severe one than myself. The air is extremely damp, and the waters very unwholesome. We have had for three weeks past a warm visit from the sun (my almighty physician) and I find myself almost reestablished. I begin now to be able to walk 4 or 5 miles a day, & find myself much better for it. If the state of our business will permit I wish much to take a tour through the South of France for three or four weeks. The climate & exercise would I think restore my health.—I have used the second cypher in this letter. Either by a gentleman who will go to America in the April packet, or by young Mr Adams who will go in May, I will send you a new cypher which I have prepared on a large & commodious plan. This young gentleman is I think very promising. To a vast thirst after useful knowledge he adds a facility in acquiring it. What his judgement may be I am not well enough acquainted with him to decide: but I expect it is good, & much hope it, as he may become a valuable & useful citizen.—I sent you by the former packet the Pour and Contre for the emancipation of the French W. I. Trade. I now send you the answer to it. The mass of the nation is with the latter. Adieu.
TO JAMES MONROE
Paris, Apr. 15. 1785.
—We wrote a public letter to Mr. Jay the day before yesterday. We were induced to hasten it, because young Mr Chaumont was to set out yesterday for l’Orient to go to N. York in the packet, & a private conveyance is alone to be depended on for secracy. I have put off writing any letters as long as I could, expecting the arrival of the packet. She is arrived as the packet of the last month did without bringing a scrip of a pen public or private to any American here. This perplexes us extremely. From your letter of Dec. 14. and from one written at the same time by Mr Jay to Dr Franklin we have reason to believe congress have done some thing in the affairs with England and Spain. We also thought something would be said to us on the subject of the barbary state. We therefore deferred moving lest we should have to change our move which is always dishonorable. We particularly expected instructions as to the posts still held by the English. We shall do the best we can under our old instructions. The letter from the duke of Dorset will dare say surprise you all. It is a folly above the highest that could have been expected. I know from one who saw his instructions that he softened them much in the letter to us. The following paragraph is from a letter I received from Doctor Price about ten days ago. “There is, I fancy no probability that Britain can be brought to consent to that reciprocity in trade which the United States expect. This is bad policy for Britain but it may turn out to be best for America and should the issue be our exclusion from the American ports we may be ruined but I do not see that trade would suffer in it’s true interest. The fixed conviction however is that we are able to employ America on so much better terms than any other country that do what we will we must have its trade.” It is dated March twenty. He is said to be in great intimacy with Mr. Pitt, and I verily believe this paragraph contains the genuine creed of the nation and ministry. You will observe that the 4th article of our original draught of a treaty transmitted to the several courts was contrary to a right reserved by the states in the confederation. We shall correct it in every instance.
War and peace still doubtful. It rather seems that the peace may continue a while yet but not very long. The Emperor has a head too combustible to be quiet. He is an eccentric character, all enterprise, without calculation, without principle, without feelings. Ambitious in the extreme but too unsteady to surmount difficulties. He had in view at one time to open the Scheld, to get Maestricht from the Dutch, to take a large district from the Turks, to exchange some of his Austrian Dominions for Bavaria, to create a ninth electorate, to make his nephew King of the Romans, and to change totally the Constitution of Hungary. Any one of these was as much as a wise prince would have undertaken at any one time. Quod ault, valde ault, sed non diu ault.
I send you Voltaire’s legacy to the K. of Prussia, a libel which will do much more injury to Voltaire than to the King. Many of the traits in the character of the latter to which the former gives a turn satyrical & malicious, are real virtues. I should remind you that two packets have now come without bringing me a letter from you, and should scold you soundly, but that I consider it as certain evidence of your being sick. If this be so, you know you have my sincere prayers for better health, but why has no body else written to me? Is it that one is forgotten as soon as their back is turned? I have a better opinion of men. It must be either that they think that the details known to themselves are known to every body & so come to us thro’ a thousand channels, or that we should set no value on them. Nothing can be more erroneous than both those opinions. We value those details little & great, public & private in proportion to our distance from our own country: and so far are they from getting to us through a thousand channels, that we hear no more of them or of our country here than if we were among the dead. I have never received a tittle from any member of Congress but yourself & one letter from Dr. Williamson.—The D. de Rochefoucault is kind enough to communicate to us the intelligence which he receives from Mr. St John, & the M. de la F. what he gets from his correspondents. These have been our only sources of intelligence since the middle of December.
There are particular public papers here which collect and publish with a good deal of accuracy the facts connected with political arithmetic. In one of these I have just read the following table of the proportion between the value of gold & silver in several countries. Germany 1. to 14 11/71. Spain 1. to 14 3/10. Holland 1. to 14¾. England 1 to 15½. France 1 to 14 42/100. Savoy 1. to 14⅗. Russia 1 to 15. The average is 1. to 14⅝. As Congress were on this subject when I left them & I have not heard of their having finished it, I thought this worth your notice.
Since the warm weather has set in I am almost perfectly re-established. I am able now to walk six or eight miles a day which I do very regularly. This must supply the place of the journey I had meditated into the South of France. Tho’ our business does not afford constant occupation, it is of such a nature one does not know when our presence may be wanted. I need add no signature but wishing you every happiness bid you adieu.
TO JAMES MADISON
Paris, May 11, 1785.
—Your favor of Jan. 9 came to my hands on the 13th of April. The very full and satisfactory detail of the proceedings of Assembly which it contained, gave me the highest pleasure. The value of these communications can not be calculated at a shorter distance than the breadth of the Atlantic. Having lately made a cypher on a more convenient plan than the one we have used, I now transmit it to you by a Monsr. Doradour, who goes to settle in Virginia. His family will follow him next year. Should he have occasion of your patronage I beg leave to solicit it for him. They yesterday finished printing my notes. I had 200 copies printed, but do not put them out of my own hands, except two or three copies here & two which I shall send to America, to yourself & Colo Monroe, if they can be ready this evening, as promised. In this case you will receive one by Monsr. Doradour. I beg you to peruse it carefully, because I ask your advice on it & ask no body’s else. I wish to put it into the hands of the young men at the college, as well on account of the political as physical parts. But there are sentiments on some subjects which I apprehend might be displeasing to the country, perhaps to the assembly or to some who lead it. I do not wish to be exposed to their censure; nor do I know how far their influence, if exerted, might effect a misapplication of law to such a publication were it made. Communicate it then in confidence to those whose judgments & information you would pay respect to, & if you think it will give no offence I will send a copy to each of the students of W. M. C. and some others to my friends & to your disposal, otherwise I shall only send over a very few copies to particular friends in confidence & burn the rest.—Answer me soon & without reserve. Do not view me as an author & attached to what he has written. I am neither. They were at first intended only for Marbois. When I had enlarged them, I thought first of giving copies to three or four friends. I have since supposed they might set our young students into a useful train of thought, and in no event do I propose to admit them to go to the public at large. A variety of accidents have postponed my writing to you till I have no further time to continue my letter. The next packet will sail from Havre. I will then send your books & write more fully. But answer me immediately on the preceding subject.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA (PATRICK HENRY)
v. s. a.
Paris, June 16, 1785.
—I had the honor of receiving the day before yesterday the resolution of council of Mar. 10, and your letter of Mar. 30, and shall with great pleasure unite my endeavours with those of the M. de la Fayette and Mr. Barclay for the purpose of procuring the arms desired. Nothing can be more wise than this determination to arm our people as it is impossible to say when our neighbors may think proper to give them exercise. I suppose that the establishing a manufacture of arms to go hand in hand with the purchase of them from hence is at present opposed by good reasons. This alone would make us independent for an article essential to our preservation, and workmen could probably be either got here, or drawn from England to be embarked hence.
In a letter of Jan. 12, to Govr. Harrison I informed him of the necessity that the statuary should see Genl. Washington, that we should accordingly send him over unless the Executive disapproved of it, in which case I prayed to receive their pleasure. Mr. Houdon being now re-established in his health, and no countermand received, I hope this measure meet the approbation of the Executive; Mr. Houdon will therefore go over with Dr. Franklin some time in the next month.
I have the honour of inclosing you the substance of propositions which have been made from London to the Farmers general of this country to furnish them with the tobaccoes of Virginia & Maryland which propositions were procured for me by the M. de la Fayette. I take the liberty of troubling you with them on a supposition that it may be possible to have this article furnished from those two States to this country immediately without its passing through the entrepot of London, & the returns for it being made of course in London merchandise. 20,000 hhds of tobō a year delivered here in exchange for the produce and manufactures of this country, many of which are as good, some better, & most of them cheaper than in England, would establish a rivalship for our commerce which would have happy effects in all the three countries. Whether this end will be best effected by giving out these propositions to our merchants, & exciting them to become candidates with the farmers general for this contract or by any other means, your Excellency will best judge on the spot.
TO JAMES MONROE1
Paris, June 17. 1785.
—I received three days ago your favor of Apr. 12. You therein speak of a former letter to me, but it has not come to hand, nor any other of later date than the 14th of December. My last letter to you was of the 11th of May by Mr. Adams who went in the packet of that month. These conveiances are now becoming deranged. We have had expectations of their coming to Havre which would infinitely facilitate the communication between Paris & Congress: but their deliberations on the subject seem to be taking another turn. They complain of the expence, and that their commerce with us is too small to justify it. They therefore talk of sending a packet every six weeks only. The present one therefore, which should have sailed about this time, will not sail until the 1st of July. However the whole matter is as yet undecided. I have hoped that when Mr. St. John arrives from N. York he will get them replaced on their monthly system. By the bye what is the meaning of a very angry resolution of Congress on this subject? I have it not by me and therefore cannot cite it by date, but you will remember it, and will oblige me by explaining it’s foundation. This will be handed you by Mr. Otto who comes to America as Chargé des Affaires in the room of Mr. Marbois promoted to the Intendancy of Hispaniola, which office is next to that of Governor. He becomes the head of the civil as the Governor is of the military department. I am much pleased with Otto’s appointment. He is good humored, affectionate to America, will see things in a friendly light when they admit of it, in a rational one always, and will not pique himself on writing every trifling circumstance of irritation to his court. I wish you to be acquainted with him, as a friendly intercourse between individuals who do business together produces a mutual spirit of accommodation useful to both parties. It is very much our interest to keep up the affection of this country for us, which is considerable. A court has no affections, but those of the people whom they govern influence their decisions even in the most arbitrary governments.—The negociations between the Emperor & Dutch are spun out to an amazing length. At present there is no apprehension but that they will terminate in peace. This court seems to press it with ardour and the Dutch are averse considering the terms cruel & unjust as they evidently are. The present delays therefore are imputed to their coldness & to their forms. In the mean time the Turk is delaying the demarcation of limits between him and the emperor, is making the most vigorous preparations for war, and has composed his ministry of war-like characters deemed personally hostile to the emperor. Thus time seems to be spinning out both by the Dutch & Turks, & time is wanting for France. Every year’s delay is a great thing to her. It is not impossible therefore but that she may secretly encourage the delays of the Dutch & hasten the preparations of the Porte while she is recovering vigour herself and, in order to be able to present such a combination to the emperor as may dictate to him to be quiet. But the designs of these courts are inscrutable. It is our interest to pray that this country may have no continental war till our peace with England is perfectly settled. The merchants of this country continue as loud & furious as ever against the Arret of August 1784, permitting our commerce with their islands to a certain degree. Many of them have actually abandoned their trade. The Ministry are disposed to be firm, but there is a point at which they will give way, that is if the clamours should become such as to endanger their places. It is evident that nothing can be done by us, at this time, if we may hope it hereafter. I like your removal to N. York, and hope Congress will continue there and never execute the idea of building their federal town. Before it could be finished a change of Members in Congress or the admission of new states would remove them somewhere else. It is evident that when a sufficient number of the Western states come in they will remove it to George town. In the mean time it is our interest that it should remain where it is, and give no new pretensions to any other place. I am also much pleased with the proposition to the states to invest Congress with the regulation of their trade, reserving its revenue to the states. I think it a happy idea, removing the only objection which could have been justly made to the proposition. The time too is the present, before the admission of the Western states. I am very differently affected towards the new plan of opening our land office by dividing the lands among the states and selling them at vendue. It separates still more the interests of the states which ought to be made joint in every possible instance in order to cultivate the idea of our being one nation, and to multiply the instances in which the people shall look up to Congress as their head. And when the states get their portions they will either fool them away, or make a job of it to serve individuals. Proofs of both these practices have been furnished, and by either of them that invaluable fund is lost which ought to pay our public debt. To sell them at vendue, is to give them to the bidders of the day be they many or few. It is ripping up the hen which lays golden eggs. If sold in lots at a fixed price as first proposed, the best lots will be sold first. As these become occupied it gives a value to the interjacent ones, and raises them, tho’ of inferior quality, to the price of the first. I send you by Mr. Otto a copy of my book. Be so good as to apologize to Mr, Thomson for my not sending him one by this conveiance. I could not burthen Mr. Otto with more on so long a road as that from here to l’Orient. I will send him one by a Mr. Williams who will go ere long. I have taken measures to prevent it’s publication. My reason is that I fear the terms in which I speak of slavery and of our constitution may produce an irritation which will revolt the minds of our countrymen against reformation in these two articles, and thus do more harm than good. I have asked of Mr. Madison to sound this matter as far as he can, and if he thinks it will not produce that effect, I have then copies enough printed to give one to each of the young men at the college, and to my friends in the country.
I am sorry to see a possibility of A. L.’s1being put into the Treasury. He has no talents for the office, and what he has will be employed in rummaging old accounts to involve you in eternal war with R. M.2 and he will in a short time introduce such dissensions into the Commission as to break it up. If he goes on the other appointment to Kaskaskia he will produce a revolt of that settlement from the U. S. I thank you for your attention to my outfit. For the articles of household furniture, clothes, and a carriage, I have already paid 28,000 livres and have still more to pay. For the greatest part of this I have been obliged to anticipate my salary from which however I shall never be able to repay it. I find that by a rigid economy, bordering however on meanness I can save perhaps $500 a month, at least in the summer. The residue goes for expences so much of course & of necessity that I cannot avoid them without abandoning all respect to my public character. Yet I will pray you to touch this string, which I know to be a tender one with Congress with the utmost delicacy. I had rather be ruined in my fortune, than in their esteem. If they allow me half a year’s salary as an outfit I can get through my debts in time. If they raise the salary to what it was, or even pay our house rent & taxes, I can live with more decency. I trust that Mr. A.’s house at the Hague & Dr. F.’s at Passy the rent of which had been always allowed him will give just expectations of the same allowance to me. Mr. Jay however did not charge it. But he lived œconomically and laid up money. I will take the liberty of hazarding to you some thoughts on the policy of entering into treaties with the European nations, and the nature of them. I am not wedded to these ideas, and therefore shall relinquish them cheerfully when Congress shall adopt others, and zealously endeavor to carry theirs into effect. First as to the policy of making treaties. Congress, by the Confederation have no original and inherent power over the commerce of the states. But by the 9th. article they are authorized to enter into treaties of commerce. The moment these treaties are concluded the jurisdiction of Congress over the commerce of the states springs into existence, and that of the particular states is superseded so far as the articles of the treaty may have taken up the subject. There are two restrictions only on the exercise of the power of treaty by Congress. 1st. that they shall not by such treaty restrain the legislatures of the states from imposing such duties on foreigners as their own people are subject to. 2dly. nor from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any particular species of goods. Leaving these two points free, Congress may by treaty establish any system of commerce they please. But, as I before observed, it is by treaty alone they can do it. Though they may exercise their other powers by resolution or ordinance, those over commerce can only be exercised by forming a treaty, and this probably by an accidental wording of our Confederation. If therefore it is better for the states that Congress should regulate their commerce, it is proper that they should form treaties with all nations with whom we may possibly trade. You see that my primary object in the formation of treaties is to take the commerce of the states out of the hands of the states, and to place it under the superintendence of Congress, so far as the imperfect provisions of our constitution will admit, and until the states shall by new compact make them more perfect. I would say then to every nation on earth, by treaty, your people shall trade freely with us, & ours with you, paying no more than the most favoured nation, in order to put an end to the right of individual states acting by fits and starts to interrupt our commerce or to embroil us with any nation. As to the terms of these treaties, the question becomes more difficult. I will mention three different plans. 1. that no duties shall be laid by either party on the productions of the other. 2. that each may be permitted to equalize their duties to those laid by the other. 3. that each shall pay in the ports of the other such duties only as the most favoured nations pay. 1. Were the nations of Europe as free and unembarrassed of established system as we are, I do verily believe they would concur with us in the first plan. But it is impossible. These establishments are fixed upon them, they are interwoven with the body of their laws & the organization of their government & they make a great part of their revenue; they cannot then get rid of them. 2. The plan of equal imposts presents difficulties insurmountable. For how are the equal imposts to be effected? Is it by laying in the ports of A. an equal percent on the goods of B. with that which B. has laid in his ports on the goods of A.? But how are we to find what is that percent? For this is not the usual form of imposts. They generally pay by the ton, by the measure, by the weight, & not by the value. Besides if A. sends a million’s worth of goods to B. & takes back but the half of that, and each pays the same percent, it is evident that A. pays the double of what he recovers in the same way with B. This would be our case with Spain. Shall we endeavour to effect equality then by saying A. may levy so much on the sum of B.’s importations into his ports, as B. does on the sum of A’s importations into the ports of B.? But how find out that sum? Will either party lay open their custom house books candidly to evince this sum? Does either keep their books so exactly as to be able to do it? This proposition was started in Congress when our institutions were formed, as you may remember, and the impossibility of executing it occasioned it to be disapproved. Besides who should have a right of deciding when the imposts were equal. A. would say to B. my imposts do not raise so much as yours; I raise them therefore. B. would then say you have made them greater than mine, I will raise mine, and thus a kind of auction would be carried on between them, and a mutual imitation, which would end in anything sooner than equality, and right. 3. I confess then to you that I see no alternative left but that which Congress adopted, of each party placing the other on the footing of the most favoured nation. If the nations of Europe from their actual establishments are not at liberty to say to America that she shall trade in their ports duty free they may say she may trade there paying no higher duties than the most favoured nation. And this is valuable in many of these countries where a very great difference is made between different nations. There is no difficulty in the execution of this contract, because there is not a merchant who does not know, or may not know, the duty paid by every nation on every article. This stipulation leaves each party at liberty to regulate their own commerce by general rules; while it secures the other from partial and oppressive discriminations. The difficulty which arises in our case is, with the nations having American territory. Access to the West Indies is indispensably necessary to us. Yet how to gain it, when it is the established system of these nations to exclude all foreigners from their colonies. The only chance seems to be this, our commerce to the mother countries is valuable to them. We must endeavor then to make this the price of an admission into their West Indies, and to those who refuse the admission we must refuse our commerce or load theirs by odious discriminations in our ports. We have this circumstance in our favour too, that what one grants us in their islands, the others will not find it worth their while to refuse. The misfortune is that with this country we gave this price for their aid in the war, and we have now nothing more to offer. She being withdrawn from the competition leaves Gr. Britain much more at liberty to hold out against us. This is the difficult part of the business of treaty, and I own it does not hold out the most flattering prospect.—I wish you would consider this subject and write me your thoughts on it. Mr. Gherry [sic] wrote me on the same subject. Will you give me leave to impose on you the trouble of communicating this to him? It is long, and will save me much labour in copying. I hope he will be so indulgent as to consider it as an answer to that part of his letter, and will give me his further thoughts on it.
Shall I send you so much of the Encyclopedia as is already published or reserve it here till you come? It is about 40 vols. which probably is about half the work. Give yourself no uneasiness about the money. Perhaps I may find it convenient to ask you to pay trifles occasionally for me in America. I sincerely wish you may find it convenient to come here. The pleasure of the trip will be less than you expect but the utility greater. It will make you adore your own country, it’s soil, it’s climate, it’s equality, liberty, laws, people & manners. My God! how little do my country men know what precious blessings they are in possession of, and which no other people on earth enjoy. I confess I had no idea of it myself. While we shall see multiplied instances of Europeans going to live in America, I will venture to say no man now living will ever see an instance of an American removing to settle in Europe & continuing there. Come then & see the proofs of this, and on your return add your testimony to that of every thinking American, in order to satisfy our countrymen how much it is their interest to preserve uninfected by contagion those peculiarities in their government & manners to which they are indebted for these blessings. Adieu, my dear friend. Present me affectionately to your collegues. If any of them think me worth writing to, they may be assured that in the epistolary account I will keep the debit side against them. Once more adieu.
June 19. Since writing the above we receive the following account. Mons. Pilatre de Rosiere, who has been waiting some months at Boulogne for a fair wind to cross the channel, at length took his ascent with a companion. The wind changed after a while & brought him back on the French coast. Being at a height of about 6000 f. some accident happened to his baloon of inflammable air. It burst, they fell from that height & were crushed to atoms. There was a Montgolfier combined with the baloon of inflammable air. It is suspected the heat of the Montgolfier rarified too much the inflammable air of the other & occasioned it to burst. The Montgolfier came down in good order.
TO MRS. JOHN (ABIGAIL) ADAMS
Paris, June 21 .
— I have received duly the honour of your letter and am now to return you thanks for your condescension in having taken the first steps for settling a correspondence which I so much desired; for I now consider it as settled and proceed accordingly. I have always found it best to remove obstacles first. I will do so therefore in the present case by telling you that I consider your boasts of the splendour of your city and of it’s superb hackney coaches as a flout, and declaring that I would not give the polite, self-denying, feeling, hospitable, good-humoured people of this country & their amability in every point of view, (tho’ it must be confessed our streets are somewhat dirty, & our fiacres rather indifferent) for ten such races of rich, proud hectoring, swearing, squibbling, carnivorous animals as those among whom you are; and that I do love this people with all my heart, and think that with a better religion, a better form of Government and their present governors their condition & Country would be most enviable. I pray you to observe that I have used the term people and that this is a noun of the masculine as well as feminine gender. I must add too that we are about reforming our fiacres, and that I expect soon an ordnance that all their drivers shall wear breeches unless any difficulty should arise whether this is a subject for the police or for the general legislation of the country to take care of.
We have lately had an incident of some consequence, as it shews a spirit of treason, and audaciousness which was hardly thought to exist in this Country. Some eight or ten years ago a Chevalr. was sent on a message of state to the princess of—of— of (before I proceed an inch further I must confess my profound stupidity. For tho’ I have heard this story told fifty times in all it’s circumstances, I declare I am unable to recollect the name of the Ambassador, the name of the Princess & the nation he was sent to; I must therefore proceed to tell you the naked story, shorn of all those precious circumstances) some chevalier or other was sent on some business or other to some princess or other. Not succeeding in his negociation, he wrote on his return the following song:
This song run thro all companies and was known to everybody. A book was afterwards printed with a regular license, called “Les quatres saisons litteraires,” which being a collection of little things, contained this also, and all the world bought it or might buy it if they would, the Government taking no notice of it; it being the office of the Journal de Paris to give an account and criticism of new publications, this book came in turn to be criticised by the redacteur, and he happened to select and print in his Journal this song as a specimen of what the collection contained. He was seized in his bed that night and has been never since heard of. Our excellent Journal de Paris then is suppressed and this bold traitor has been in jail now three weeks, and for ought any body knows will end his days there. Thus you see, madam, the value of energy in Government; our feeble republic would in such a case have probably been wrapt in the flames of war & desolation for want of a power lodged in a single hand to punish summarily those who write songs. The fate of poor Pilatre de Rosiere will have reached you before this does, and with more certainty than we yet know it. This will damp for a while the ardor of the Phaetons of our race who are endeavoring to learn us the way to heaven on wings of our own. I took a trip yesterday to Saunois and commenced an acquaintance with the old Countess d’ Hocquetout. I received much pleasure from it and hope it has opened a door of admission for me to the circle of literati with which she is environed. I heard there the nightingale in all its perfection: and I do not hesitate to pronounce that in America it would be deemed a bird of the third rank only, our mocking bird, & fox-coloured thrush being unquestionably superior to it.—The squibs against Mr. Adams are such as I expected from the polished, mild tempered, truth-speaking people he is sent to. It would be ill policy to attempt to answer or refute them, but counter-squibs I think would be good policy. Be pleased to tell him that as I had before ordered his Madeira Frontignac to be forwarded, and had asked his orders to Mr. Garvey as to the residue, which I doubt not he has given, I was afraid to send another order about the Bourdeaux lest it should produce confusion. In stating my accounts with the United States, I am at a loss whether to charge house rent or not. It has always been allowed to Dr. Franklin. Does Mr. Adams mean to charge this for Auteuil & London? Because if he does, I certainly will, being convinced by experience that my expenses here will otherwise exceed my allowance. I ask this information of you Madam, because I think you know better than Mr. Adams what may be necessary & right for him to do in occasions of this class. I will beg the favor of you to present my respects to Miss Adams. I have no secrets to communicate to her in cypher at this moment, what I write to Mr. Adams being mere commonplace stuff, not meriting a communication to the Secretary.
I have the honor to be with the most perfect esteem Dr. Madam. Your most obedient & most humble servt.
TO JAMES MONROE
Paris, July 5, 1785.
—I wrote you by Mr. Adams, May 11, and by Mr. Otto June 17. The latter acknowledged the receipt of yours of Apr. 12, which is the only one come to hand of later date than Dec. 14. Little new has occurred since my last. Peace seems to shew herself under a more decided form. The emperor is now on a journey to Italy, and the two Dutch plenipotentiaries have set out for Vienna; there to make an apology for their state having dared to fire a gun in defence of their invaded rights; this is insisted on as a preliminary condition. The emperor seems to prefer the glory of terror to that of justice; and to satisfy this tinsel passion, plants a dagger in the heart of every Dutchman which no time will extract; I enquired lately of a gentleman who lived long at Constantinople, in a public character, and enjoyed the confidence of that government, insomuch as to become well acquainted with it ’s spirit & it ’s powers, what he thought might be the issue of the present affairs between the emperor & the porte. He thinks the latter will not push matters to a war; and if they do they must fail under it. They have lost their warlike spirit, and their troops cannot be induced to adopt the European arms. We have no news yet of Mr. Lambe; of course our Barbary proceedings are still at a stand. This will be br. you by Master Franklin. He has a separate letter of introduction to you. I have never been with him enough to unravel his character with certainty. Seems to be good in the main, but 640. I see sometimes an attempt to keep himself unpenetrated, which perhaps is the effect of the old lesson of his grandfather; his understanding is good enough for common use, but not great enough for uncommon ones. However, you will have better opportunity of knowing him. The Doctor is extremely wounded by the inattention of Congress to his application for him. He expects something to be done as a reward for his service. He will present 587. 8. a determined silence on this subject in future. Adieu. Yours affectionately.
P. S. Europe fixes an attentive eye on your reception of Doct. Franklin. He is infinitely esteemed. Do not neglect any mark of your approbation which you think 639. 1543. or proper. It will honor you here.
TO MRS. SPROWLE
Paris, July 5, 1785.
—Your letter of the 21st of June has come safely to hand. That which you had done me the honour of writing before has not yet been received. Having gone by Dr. Witherspoon to America, which I had left before his return to it, the delay is easily accounted for.
I wish you may be rightly informed that the property of Mr. Sprowle is yet unsold. It was advertised for sale so long ago as to found a presumption that the sale has taken place. In any event, you may go safely to Virginia. It is in the London newspapers only that exist those mobs and riots which are fabricated to deter strangers from going to America. Your person will be sacredly safe, & free from insult. You can best judge from the character and qualities of your son whether he may be an useful coadjutor to you there. I suppose him to have taken side with the British before our declaration of independence; and if this was the case, I respect the candour of the measure, tho I do not it’s wisdom. A right to take the side which every man’s conscience approves in a civil contest is too precious a right and too favourable to the preservation of liberty not to be protected by all it’s well informed friends. The Assembly of Virginia have given sanction to this right in several of their laws, discriminating honourably those who took side against us before the declaration of independence, from those who remained among us and strove to injure us by their treacheries. I sincerely wish that you & every other to whom this distinction applies favourably, may find in the Assembly of Virginia the good effects of that justice & generosity which have dictated to them this discrimination. It is a sentiment which will gain strength in their breasts in proportion as they can forget the savage cruelties committed on them, and will I hope in the end induce them to restore the property itself wherever it is unsold, and the price received for it where it has been actually sold. I am Madam Your very humble servt,
TO MRS. JOHN (ABIGAIL) ADAMS
Paris, July 7, 1785.
—I had the honor of writing you on the 21st of June, but the letter being full of treason, has waited a private conveiance. Since that date there has been received for you at Auteuil a cask of about 60 gallons of wine. I would have examined its quality, & have ventured to decide on it’s disposal, but it is in a cask within a cask, and therefore cannot be got at but by operations which would muddy it and disguise its quality. As you probably know what it is, what it cost, &c., be so good as to give me your orders on the subject & they shall be complied with.
Since my last I can add another chapter to the history of the redacteur of the Journal de Paris. After the paper had been discontinued about three weeks it appeared again, but announcing in the first sentence a changement de domicile of the redacteur, the English of which, is that the redaction of the paper had been taken from the imprisoned culprit, and given to another. Whether the imprisonment of the former has been made to cease, or what will be the last chapter of his history I cannot tell. I love energy in Government dearly,—it is evident it was become necessary on this occasion, & that a very daring spirit has lately appeared in this country, for notwithstanding the several examples lately made of suppressing the London papers, suppressing the Leyden Gazette, imprisoning Beaumarchais, & imprisoning the redacteur of the Journal, the Author of the Mercure of the last week has had the presumption, speaking of the German newspapers, to say ‘car les journaux de ce pays—la ne sont pas forcés de s’en tenir à juger des hemistiches ou à annoncer des programes academiques.’—Probably he is now suffering in a jail the just punishments of his insolent sneer on this mild Government tho’ as yet we do not know the fact.
The settlement of the affairs of the Abbie Mably is likely to detain his friends Arnoud & Chault in Paris the greatest part of the summer. It is a fortunate circumstance for me, as I have much society, with them.—What mischief is this which is brewing anew between Faneuil hall and the nation of God-demmees? Will that focus of sedition be never extinguished? I apprehend the fire will take thro’ all the states and involve us again in the displeasure of our Mother Country.
TO RICHARD HENRY LEE
Paris, July 12, 1785.
—I was honoured two days ago with yours of May 16. and thank you for the intelligence it contained, much of which was new to me. It was the only letter I received by this packet except one from Mr. Hopkinson on philosophical subjects. I generally write about a dozen by every packet, & receive sometimes one, sometimes two, & sometimes n’er a one. You are right in supposing all letters opened which come either thro’ the French or English channel, unless trusted to a passenger. Yours had been evidently opened, and I think I never received one through the post office which had not been. It is generally discoverable by the smoakiness of the wax & faintness of the reimpression. Once they sent me a letter open, having forgotten to reseal it. I should be happy to hear that Congress thought of establishing packets of their own between N. York and Havre. To send a packet from each port once in two months, the business might possibly be done by two packets, as will be seen by the following scheme, wherein we will call the two packets A. and B.
Jan. A. sails from New York, B. from Havre.
Mar. B. New York. A. Havre.
May A. New York. B. Havre.
July B. New York. A. Havre.
Sep. A. New York. B. Havre.
Nov. B. New York. A. Havre.
I am persuaded this government would gladly arrange this matter with us, and send their packets in the intermediate months, as they are tired of the expence. We should then have a safe conveiance every two months, & one for common matters every month. A courier would pass between this & Havre in twenty-four hours. Could not the surplus of the Post office revenue be applied to this? This establishment would look like the commencement of a little Navy, the only kind of force we ought to possess. You mention that Congress is on the subject of requisition. No subject is more interesting to the honour of the states. It is an opinion which prevails much in Europe that our government wants authority to draw money from the states, & that the states want faith to pay their debts. I shall wish much to hear how far the requisitions on the states are productive of actual cash. Mr. Grand informed me the other day that the Commissioners were dissatisfied with his having paid to this country but 200,000 livres of the 400,000 for which Mr. Adams drew on Holland, reserving the residue to replace his advances & furnish current expenses. They observe that these last objects might have been effected by the residue of the money in Holland which was lying dead. Mr. Grand’s observation to me was that Mr. Adams did not like to draw for these purposes, that he himself had no authority, and that the Commissioners had not accompanied their complaint with any draught on that fund, so that the debt still remains unpaid while the money is lying dead in Holland. He did not desire me to mention this circumstance, but should you see the Commissioners it might not be amiss to communicate it to them, that they may take any measures they please, if they think it proper to do anything in it. I am anxious to hear what is done with the states of Vermont & Franklin. I think that the former is the only innovation on the system of Apr. 23, 1784, which ought ever possibly to be admitted. If Congress are not firm on that head, our several states will crumble to atoms by the spirit of establishing every little canton into a separate state. I hope Virginia will concur in that plan as to her territory South of the Ohio & not leave to the Western country to withdraw themselves by force & become our worst enemies instead of our best friends. Europe is likely to be quiet. The departure of the Dutch deputies for Vienna, is a proof that matters are arranged between the Emperor & Dutch. The Turks shew a disposition to rally against the pursuits of the Emperor: but if this country can preserve the peace she will do it. She is not ready for war, and yet could not see peaceably any new accession of power to him. A lover of humanity would wish to see that charming country from which the Turks exclude science & freedom, in any hands rather than theirs, & in those of the native Greeks rather than any others. The recovery of their antient language would not be desperate, could they recover their antient liberty. But those who wish to remove the Turks, wish to put themselves in their places. This would be exchanging one set of Barbarians for another only.—I am sorry to hear your health is not yet established. I was in hopes a change of climate would have effected it. Perhaps the summer of N. York may have produced that good effect.
This will be handed you by Monsr. Houdon. The letter which I give him to our delegation will apprise you of his character and mission, as well as of the object he would propose with Congress. I will here only add my request to you personally to render him such civilities as may be convenient, and to avail him of those opportunities which are in your power of making him acquainted with the members of Congress and of disposing them in his favour. He will well merit their notice.
TO THE VIRGINIA DELEGATES IN CONGRESS
Paris, July 12, 1785.
—In consequence of the orders of the Legislative & Executive bodies of Virginia, I have engaged Monsr. Houdon to make the Statue of Genl. Washington. For this purpose it is necessary for him to see the General. He therefore goes with Doctr. Franklin, & will have the honor of delivering you this himself. As his journey is at the expence of the State according to our contract, I will pray you to favor him with your patronage & counsels, and to protect him as much as possible from those impositions to which strangers are but too much exposed. I have advised him to proceed in the stages to the General’s. I have also agreed, if he can see General Greene & Gates, whose busts he has a desire to make, that he may make a moderate deviation for this purpose, after he is done with General Washington.
But the most important object with him is to be employed to make General Washington’s equestrian statue for Congress. Nothing but the expectation of this could have engaged him to have undertaken this voyage. The pedestrian statue for Virginia will not make it worth the business he loses by absenting himself. I was therefore obliged to assure him of my recommendations for this greater work. Having acted in this for the state, you will I hope think yourselves in some measure bound to patronize & urge his being employed by Congress. I would not have done this myself, nor asked you to do it, did I not see that it would be better for Congress to put this business into his hands, than those of any other person living, for these reasons: 1. he is without rivalship the first statuary of this age; as a proof of which he receives orders from every other country for things intended to be capital: 2. he will have seen General Washington, have taken his measures in every part, and of course whatever he does of him will have the merit of being original, from which other workmen can only furnish copies. 3. He is in possession of the house, the furnaces, & all the apparatus provided for making the statue of Louis XV. If any other workman is employed, this will all be to be provided anew and of course to be added to the price of the statue, for no man can ever expect to make two equestrian statues. The addition which this would be to the price will much exceed the expectation of any person who has not seen that apparatus. In truth it is immense. As to the price of the work it will be much greater than Congress is aware of, probably. I have enquired somewhat into this circumstance, and find the prices of those made for two centuries past have been from 120.000 guineas down to 16.000 guineas, according to the size. And as far as I have seen, the smaller they are, the more agreeable. The smallest yet made is infinitely above the size of the life, and they all appear outrée and monstrous. That of Louis XV. is probably the best in the world, and it is the smallest here. Yet it is impossible to find a point of view from which it does not appear a monster, unless you go so far as to lose sight of the features and finer lineaments of the face and body. A statue is not made, like a mountain, to be seen at a great distance. To perceive those minuter circumstances which constitute its beauty you must be near it, and, in that case, it should be so little above the size of the life, as to appear actually of that size from your point of view. I should not therefore fear to propose that the one intended by Congress should be considerably smaller than any of those to be seen here; as I think it will be more beautiful, and also cheaper. I have troubled you with these observations as they have been suggested to me from an actual sight of works in this kind, & supposed they might assist you in making up your minds on this subject. In making a contract with Monsr. Houdon it would not be proper to advance money, but as his disbursements and labour advance. As it is a work of many years, this will render the expence insensible. The pedestrian statue of marble is to take three years. The equestrian of course much more. Therefore the sooner it is begun the better.
TO THE GOVERNOR OF VIRGINIA (PATRICK HENRY)
v. s. a.
Paris, July 15.
—Mr Houdon’s long & desperate illness has retarded till now his departure for Virginia, and we had hoped from our first conversations with him that it would be easy to make our terms, and that the cost of the statue and expence of sending him would be but about a thousand guineas but when we came to settle this precisely, he thought himself obliged to ask vastly more. Insomuch that at one moment we thought our treaty at an end. But unwilling to commit such a work to an inferior hand, we made him an ultimate proposition on our part. He was as much mortified at the prospect of not being the executor of such a work, as we were, not to have it done by such a hand. He therefore acceded to our terms, tho’ we are satisfied he will be a considerable loser. We were led to insist on them because in a former letter to the Governor I had given the hope we entertained of bringing the whole within 1000 guineas. The terms are 25,000 livres or 1000 English guineas (the English guinea being worth 25 livres) for the statue & pedistal. Besides this we pay his expences going & returning, which we expect will be between four and five thousand livres: and if he dies in the voyage we pay his family 10,000 livres. This latter proposition was disagreeable to us. But he has a father, mother & sisters who have no resource but in his labour: and he is himself one of the best men in the world. He therefore made it a sine qua non, without which all would have been off. We have reconciled it to ourselves by determining to get insurance on his life made in London, which we expect can be done for 5 per cent, so that it becomes an additional sum of 500 livres. I have written to Mr Adams to know for what per cent the insurance can be had. I inclose you for a more particular detail, a copy of the agreement. Dr Franklin being on his departure did not become a party to the instrum’t, tho it has been concluded with his approbation. He was disposed to give 250 guineas more, which would have split the difference between the actual terms & Mr Houdon’s demand. I wish the state, at the conclusion of the work may agree to give him this much more, because I am persuaded he will be a loser, which I am sure their generosity would not wish. But I have not given him the smallest expectation of it, chusing the proposition should come from the state which will be more honourable. You will perceive by the agreement that I pay him immediately 8333⅓ livres, which is to be employed in getting the marble in Italy, it’s transportation &c. The package & transportation of his stucco to make the moulds will be about 500 livres. I shall furnish him with money for his expences in France & I have authorised Dr Franklin when he arrives in Philadelphia to draw on me for money for his other expences going, staying & returning. These draughts will have been made probably & will be on their way to me before you receive this, & with the paiments made here will amount to about 5000 livres more than the amount of the bill remitted me. Another third, of 8333⅓ will become due at the end of the ensuing year. Dr Franklin leaves Passy this morning. As he travels in a litter, Mr Houdon will follow him some days hence and will embark with him for Philadelphia. I am in hopes he will not stay in America more than a month.
TO N. AND J. VAN STAPHORST1
Paris, July 30, 1785.
—I received yesterday your favor of the 25th. Supposing that the funds which are the object of your enquiry are those which constitute what we call our Domestic debt, it is my opinion that they are absolutely secure: I have no doubt at all but that they will be paid with their interest at six per cent. But I cannot say that they are as secure and solid as the funds which constitute our foreign debt; because no man in America ever entertained a doubt that our foreign debt is to be paid fully; but some people in America have seriously contended that the certificates & other evidences of our domestic debt ought to be redeemed only at what they have cost the holder; for I must observe to you, that these certificates of Domestic debt having as yet no provision for the payment either of principal or interest, and the original holders being mostly needy, they have been sold at a very great discount. When I left America (July 1784) they sold in different states at from 15/ to 2/6 in the pound, and any amount of them might then have been purchased. Hence some thought that full justice would be done if the public paid the purchasers of them what they actually paid for them, & interest on that. But this is very far from being a general opinion; a very great majority being firmly decided that they shall be paid fully. Were I the holder of any of them, I should not have the least fear of their full paiment. There is also a difference between different species of certificates, some of them being receivable in taxes, others having the benefit of particular assurances, &c. Again some of these certificates are for paper money debts. A deception here must be guarded against. Congress ordered all such to be re-settled by the depreciation tables, and a new certificate to be given in exchange for them expressing their value in real money. Yet all have not yet been resettled. In short this is a science in which few in America are expert, and no person in a foreign country can be so. Foreigners should therefore be sure that they are well advised before they meddle with them, or they may suffer. If you will reflect with what degree of success persons actually in America could speculate in the European funds which rise and fall daily, you may judge how far those in Europe may do it in the American funds, which are more variable from a variety of causes.
I am not at all acquainted with Mr. Daniel Parker, but as having once seen him in Philadelphia. He is of Massachusetts (I believe) and I am of Virginia. His circumstances are utterly unknown to me. I think there are few men in America, if there is a single one, who could command a hundred thousand pounds sterling’s worth of these notes, at their real value. At their nominal amount this might be done perhaps with 25.000£ sterling, if the market price of them be as low as when I left America.
TO JOHN ADAMS1
Paris, July 31, 1785.
—I was honoured yesterday with yours of the 24th instant. When the 1st article of our instrns of May 7. 1784, was under debate in Congress, it was proposed that neither party should make the other pay in their ports greater duties than they paid in the ports of the other. One objection to this was it’s impracticability, another that it would put it out of our power to lay such duties on alien importation as might encourage importation by natives. Some members much attached to English policy thought such a distinction should actually be established. Some thought the power to do it should be reserved in case any peculiar circumstances should call for it, tho under the present or perhaps any probable circumstances they did not think it would be good policy ever to exercise it. The footing gentis amicissimæ was therefore adopted as you see in the instruction. As far as my inquiries enable me to judge France and Holland make no distinction of duties between aliens and natives. I also rather believe that the other states of Europe make none, England excepted, to whom this policy, as that of her navigation act, seems peculiar. The question then is, should we disarm ourselves of the power to make this distinction against all nations in order to purchase an exception from the alien duties in England only; for if we put her importations on the footing of native, all other nations with whom we treat will have a right to claim the same. I think we should because against other nations who make no distinction in their ports between us & their own subjects, we ought not to make a distinction in ours. And if the English will agree, in like manner to make none, we should with equal reason abandon the right as against them. I think all the world would gain by setting commerce at perfect liberty. I remember this proposition to put foreigners and natives on the same footing was considered; and we were all three Dr. F. as well as you & myself in favor of it. We finally however did not admit it partly from the objection you mention, but more still on account of our instructions. But tho’ the English proclamation had appeared in America at the time of framing these instructions I think it’s effect as to alien duties had not yet been experienced & therefore was not attended to. If it had been noted in the debate I am sure that the annihilation of our whole trade would have been thought too great a price to pay for the reservation of a barren power which a majority of the members did not propose ever to exercise tho they were willing to retain it. Stipulating for equal rights for foreigners & natives we obtain more in foreign ports than our instructions required, and we only part with, in our own ports, a power of which sound policy would probably forever forbid the exercise. Add to this, that our treaty will be for a very short term, and if any evil be experienced under it, a reformation will soon be in our power. I am therefore for putting this among our original propositions to the court of London. If it should prove an insuperable obstacle with them, or if it should stand in the way of a greater advantage, we can but abandon it in the course of the negotiation,
In my copy of the cypher, on the alphabetical side, numbers are wanting from “Denmark” to “disc” inclusive, and from “gone” to “governor” inclusive. I suppose them to have been omitted in copying. Will you be so good as to send them to me from yours by the first safe conveyance?
TO DR. RICHARD PRICE
Paris, Aug. 7, 1785.
—Your favor of July 2. came duly to hand. The concern you therein express as to the effect of your pamphlet in America, induces me to trouble you with some observations on that subject. From my acquaintance with that country I think I am able to judge with some degree of certainty of the manner in which it will have been received. Southward of the Chesapeak it will find but few readers concurring with it in sentiment on the subject of slavery. From the mouth to the head of the Chesapeak, the bulk of the people will approve it in theory, and it will find a respectable minority ready to adopt it in practice, a minority which for weight & worth of character preponderates against the greater number, who have not the courage to divest their families of a property which however keeps their conscience inquiet. Northward of the Chesapeak you may find here & there an opponent to your doctrine as you may find here & there a robber & a murderer, but in no greater number. In that part of America, there being but few slaves, they can easily disencumber themselves of them, and emancipation is put into such a train that in a few years there will be no slaves northward of Maryland. In Maryland I do not find such a disposition to begin the redress of this enormity as in Virginia. This is the next state to which we may turn our eyes for the interesting spectacle of justice in conflict with avarice & oppression: a conflict wherein the sacred side is gaining daily recruits, from the influx into office of young men grown & growing up. These have sucked in the principles of liberty as it were with their mother’s milk; and it is to them I look with anxiety to turn the fate of this question. Be not therefore discouraged. What you have written will do a great deal of good: and could you still trouble yourself with our welfare, no man is more able to give aid to the labouring side. The college of William & Mary in Williamsburg, since the remodelling of it’s plan, is the place where are collected together all the young men (of Virginia) under preparation for public life. They are there under the direction (most of them) of a Mr. Wythe one of the most virtuous of characters, and whose sentiments on the subject of slavery are unequivocal. I am satisfied if you could resolve to address an exhortation to those young men, with all that eloquence of which you are master, that it’s influence on the future decision of this important question would be great, perhaps decisive. Thus you see that, so far from thinking you have cause to repent of what you have done, I wish you to do more, and wish it on an assurance of it’s effect. The information I have received from America of the reception of your pamphlet in the different states agrees with the expectations I had formed. Our country is getting into a ferment against yours, or rather has caught it from yours. God knows how this will end; but assuredly in one extreme or the other. There can be no medium between those who have loved so much. I think the decision is in your power as yet, but will not be so long. I pray you to be assured of the sincerity of the esteem & respect with which I have the honour to be Sir your most obedt humble servt.
TO JOHN JAY
Paris Aug 23 1785.
—I shall sometimes ask your permission to write you letters, not official but private. The present is of this kind, and is occasioned by the question proposed in yours of June 14. “whether it would be useful to us to carry all our own productions, or none?” Were we perfectly free to decide this question, I should reason as follows. We have now lands enough to employ an infinite number of people in their cultivation. Cultivators of the earth are the most valuable citizens. They are the most vigorous, the most independant, the most virtuous, & they are tied to their country & wedded to it’s liberty & interests by the most lasting bonds. As long therefore as they can find employment in this line, I would not convert them into mariners, artisans or anything else. But our citizens will find employment in this line till their numbers, & of course their productions, become too great for the demand both internal & foreign. This is not the case as yet, & probably will not be for a considerable time. As soon as it is, the surplus of hands must be turned to something else. I should then perhaps wish to turn them to the sea in preference to manufactures, because comparing the characters of the two classes I find the former the most valuable citizens. I consider the class of artificers as the panders of vice & the instruments by which the liberties of a country are generally overturned. However we are not free to decide this question on principles of theory only. Our people are decided in the opinion that it is necessary for us to take a share in the occupation of the ocean, & their established habits induce them to require that the sea be kept open to them, and that that line of policy be pursued which will render the use of that element as great as possible to them. I think it a duty in those entrusted with the administration of their affairs to conform themselves to the decided choice of their constituents: and that therefore we should in every instance preserve an equality of right to them in the transportation of commodities, in the right of fishing, & in the other uses of the sea. But what will be the consequence? Frequent wars without a doubt. Their property will be violated on the sea, & in foreign ports, their persons will be insulted, imprisoned &c. for pretended debts, contracts, crimes, contraband, &c., &c. These insults must be resented, even if we had no feelings, yet to prevent their eternal repetition, or in other words, our commerce on the ocean & in other countries must be paid for by frequent war. The justest dispositions possible in ourselves will not secure us against it. It would be necessary that all other nations were just also. Justice indeed on our part will save us from those wars which would have been produced by a contrary disposition. But to prevent those produced by the wrongs of other nations? By putting ourselves in a condition to punish them. Weakness provokes insult & injury, while a condition to punish it often prevents it. This reasoning leads to the necessity of some naval force, that being the only weapon with which we can reach an enemy. I think it to our interest to punish the first insult; because an insult unpunished is the parent of many others. We are not at this moment in a condition to do it, but we should put ourselves into it as soon as possible. If a war with England should take place, it seems to me that the first thing necessary would be a resolution to abandon the carrying trade because we cannot protect it. Foreign nations must in that case be invited to bring us what we want & to take our productions in their own bottoms. This alone could prevent the loss of those productions to us & the acquisition of them to our enemy. Our seamen might be employed in depredations on their trade. But how dreadfully we shall suffer on our coasts, if we have no force on the water, former experience has taught us. Indeed I look forward with horror to the very possible case of war with an European power, & think there is no protection against them but from the possession of some force on the sea. Our vicinity to their West India possessions & to the fisheries is a bridle which a small naval force on our part would hold in the mouths of the most powerful of these countries. I hope our land office will rid us of our debts, & that our first attention then will be to the beginning a naval force of some sort. This alone can countenance our people as carriers on the water, & I suppose them to be determined to continue such.
I wrote you two public letters on the 14th inst., since which I have received yours of July 13. I shall always be pleased to receive from you in a private way such communications as you might not chuse to put into a public letter.
TO JAMES MONROE1
Paris Aug. 28, 1785.
—I wrote you on the 5th of July by Mr. Franklin & on the 12th of the same month by Monsr. Houdon. Since that date yours of June 16. by Mr. Mazzei is received. Everything looks like peace here. The settlement between the Emperor & Dutch is not yet published, but it is believed to be agreed. Nothing is done as yet between him & the Porte. He is much wounded by the Confederation of several of the Germanic body at the head of which is the King of Prussia, & to which the King of England as elector of Hanover is believed to accede. The object is to preserve the constitution of that empire. It shews that these princes entertain serious jealousies of the ambition of the Emperor, and this will very much endanger the election of his nephew as King of the Romans. A late arret of this court against the admission of British Manufactures produces a great sensation in England. I wish it may produce a disposition there to receive our commerce in all their dominions on advantageous terms. This is the only balm which can heal the wound that it has received. It is but too true that that country furnishes market, three fourths of the exports of the eight northern most states. A truth not proper to be spoken of, but which should influence our proceedings with them. How that negotiation advances you are probably better informed than I am. The infidelity of the post offices rendering the communication between Master Adams and myself difficult. The improvement of our commerce with France will be advanced more by negotiation at Saint James than at Versailles.
The July French packet being arrived without bringing any news of Mr Lambe. If the English one of the same month be also arrived without news of him, I expect Mr Adams will concur with me in sending some other person to treat with the Barbary states. Mr. Barclay is willing to go, & I have proposed him to Mr. Adams but have not yet received his answer. The peace expected between Spain & Algiers will probably not take place. It is said the former was to have given a million of dollars. Would it not be prudent to send a minister to Portugal? Our commerce with that country is very important. Perhaps more so than with any other country in Europe. It is possible too that they might permit our whaling vessels to refresh in Brazil or give some other indulgence in South America. The lethargic character of their ambassador here gives a very unhopeful aspect to a treaty on this ground. I lately spoke with him on the subject and he has promised to interest himself in obtaining an answer from his court. I have waited to see what was the pleasure of Congress as to the secretaryship of my office here; that is, to see whether they proposed to appoint a secretary of legation, or leave me to appoint a private secretary. Colo. Humphrey’s occupation in the dispatches & record of the matters which relate to the general commissions does not afford him leisure to aid me in my office, were I entitled to ask that aid. In the meantime the lengthy papers which often accompany the communications between the ministers here & myself, & the other business of the office absolutely require a scribe. I shall therefore on Mr. Short’s return from the Hague appoint him my private secretary till Congress shall think proper to signify their pleasure. The salary allowed Mr. Franklin in the same office was 1000 Dollars a year. I shall presume that Mr Short may draw the same allowance from the funds of the N. T. here as soon as I shall have made this appointment. I shall give official notice of it to Mr. Jay, that Congress may, if they disapprove of it, say so.
I am much pleased with your land ordinance, & think it improved from the first in the most material circumstances. I had mistaken the object of the division of the lands among the states. I am sanguine in my expectations of lessening our debts by this fund, and have expressed my expectations to the Minister & others here. I see by the public papers you have adopted the dollar as your money unit. In the arrangement of coins I had proposed, I ought to have inserted a gold coin of 5. dollars, which being within 2/ of the value of a guinea will be very convenient.—The English papers are incessantly repeating their lies about the tumults, the anarchy, the bankruptcies & distresses of America, these ideas prevail very generally in Europe. At a large table where I dined the other day, a gentleman from Switzerland expressed his apprehensions for the fate of Doctr. Franklin as he said he had been informed he would be received with stones by the people, who were generally dissatisfied with the revolution & incensed against all those who had assisted in bringing it about. I told him his apprehensions were just, & that the People of America would probably salute Dr. Franklin with the same stones they had thrown at the Marquis Fayette. The reception of the Doctor is an object of very general attention, and will weigh in Europe as an evidence of the satisfaction or dissatisfaction of America with their revolution. As you are to be in Williamsburgh early in November, this is the last letter I shall write you till about that time; I am with very sincere esteem Dr. Sir Your friend and servt.
TO DAVID HARTLEY
Paris Sep 5, 1785.
—Your favour of Apr 15, happened to be put into my hands at the same time with a large parcel of letters from America, which contained a variety of intelligence. It was then put where I usually place my unanswered letters, & I from time to time put off acknoleging the receipt of it till I should be able to furnish you American intelligence worth communicating. A favourable opportunity, by a courier, of writing to you occurring this morning, what has been my astonishment & chagrin on reading your letter again to find there was a case in it which required an immediate answer, but which, by the variety of matters which happened to be presented to my mind at the same time had utterly escaped my recollection. I pray you to be assured that nothing but this slip of memory would have prevented my immediate answer, & no other circumstance would have prevented it’s making such an impression on my mind as that it could not have escaped. I hope you will therefore obliterate the imputation of want of respect, which under actual appearances must have arisen in your mind, but which would refer to an untrue cause the occasion of my silence. I am not sufficiently acquainted with the proceedings of the New York Assembly to say with certainty in what predicament the lands of Mr. Upton may stand. But on conferring with Colo Humphreys, who being from the neighboring state was more in the way of knowing what passed in New York, he thinks that the descriptions in their confiscation laws were such as not to include a case of this nature. The first thing to be done by Mr. Upton is to state his case to some intelligent lawyer of the country, that he may know with certainty whether they be confiscated, or not; & if not confiscated, to know what measures are necessary for completing & securing his grant. But if confiscated, there is then no other tribunal of redress but their general assembly. If he is unacquainted there, I would advise him to apply to Colo Hamilton (who was aid to Genl. Washington) and is now very eminent at the bar, and much to be relied on. Your letter in his favor to Mr. Jay will also procure him the benefit of his council.
With respect to America I will rather give you a general view of its situation, than merely relate recent events. The impost is still unpassed by the two states of New York & Rhode Island; for the manner in which the latter has passed it does not appear to me to answer the principal object, of establishing a fund, which, by being subject to Congress alone, may give such credit to the certificates of public debt as will make them negotiable. This matter then is still suspended.
Congress have lately purchased the Indian right to nearly the whole of the land lying in the new state bounded by lake Erie, Pennsylvania & the Ohio. The northwestern corner alone is reserved to the Delawares & Wiandots. I expect a purchase is also concluded with other tribes for a considerable proportion of the state next to this on the north side of the Ohio. They have passed an ordinance establishing a land office, considerably improved I think on the plan of which I had the honor of giving you a copy. The lands are to be offered for sale to the highest bidder. For this purpose portions of them are to be proposed in each state, that each may have the means of purchase carried equally to their doors, & that the purchasers may be a proper mixture of the citizens from all the different states. But such lots as cannot be sold for a dollar an acre are not to be parted with. They will receive as money the certificates of public debt. I flatter myself that this arrangement will very soon absorb the whole of these certificates, & thus rid us of our domestic debt, which is four fifths of our whole debt. Our foreign debt will then be a bagatelle.
I think it probable that Vermont will be made independant, as I am told the state of New York is likely to agree to it. Le-Maine will probably in time be also permitted to separate from Massachusetts. As yet they only begin to think of it. Whenever the people of Kentucky shall have agreed among themselves, my friends write me word that Virginia will consent to their separation. They will constitute the new state on the South side of Ohio, joining Virginia. North Carolina, by an act of their assembly, ceded to Congress all their lands Westward of the Alleghany. The people inhabiting that territory thereon declared themselves independant, called their state by the name of Franklin, & solicited Congress to be received into the Union. But before Congress met, N. Carolina (for what reasons I could never learn) resumed their cession. The people however persist; Congress recommended to the state to desist from their opposition, & I have no doubt they will do it. It will therefore result from the act of Congress laying off the Western country into new states, that these states will come into the union in the manner therein provided, & without any disputes as to their boundaries.
I am told that some hostile transaction by our people at the Natchez against the Spaniards has taken place. If it be fact Congress will certainly not protect them, but leave them to be chastised by the Spaniards, saving the right to the territory. A Spanish minister being now with Congress, & both parties interested in keeping the peace I think, if such an event has happened, it will be easily arranged.
I told you when here of the propositions made by Congress to the States to be authorized to make certain regulations in their commerce; & that from the disposition to strengthen the hands of Congress, which was then growing fast, I thought they would consent to it. Most of them did so, & I suppose all of them would have done it, if they have not actually done it, but that events proved a much more extensive power would be requisite. Congress have therefore desired to be invested with the whole regulation of their trade, & forever: & to prevent all temptations to abuse & all fears of it, they propose that whatever monies shall be levied on commerce, either for the purpose of revenue or by way of forfeitures or penalty, shall go directly into the coffers of the state wherein it is levied without being touched by Congress. From the present temper of the states & the conviction which your country has carried home to their minds that there is no other method of defeating the greedy attempts of other countries to trade with them on equal terms, I think they will add an article for this purpose to their confederation. But the present powers of Congress over the commerce of the states under the Confederation seems not at all understood by your ministry. They say that body has no power to enter into a treaty of commerce; why then make one? This is a mistake. By the 6th art. of the confederation the states renounce individually all power to make any treaty of whatever nature with a foreign nation. By the 9th article they give the power of making treaties wholly to Congress, with two reservations only. 1. That no treaty of commerce shall be made which shall restrain the legislatures from making foreigners pay the same imposts with their own people: nor 2, from prohibiting the exportation or importation of any species of merchandize which they might think proper. Were any treaty to be made which should violate either of these two reservations, it would be so far void. In the treaties therefore made with France, Holland, &c. this has been cautiously avoided. But are these treaties of no advantage to those nations? Besides the advantages expressly given by them, there results another of great value. The commerce of those nations with the U. S. is thereby under the protection of Congress, & no particular state, acting by fits & starts, can harass the trade of France, Holland, &c. by such measures as several of them have practiced against England by loading her merchandize with partial impost, refusing admittance to it altogether, excluding her merchants, &c. &c. For you will observe that tho by the 2d. reservation before-mentioned they can prohibit the importation of any species of merchandize, as for instance tho’ they may prohibit the importation of wines in general, yet they cannot prohibit that of French wines in particular. Another advantage is that the nations having treaties with Congress can & do provide in such treaties for the admission of their consuls, a kind of officer very necessary for the regulation & protection of commerce. You know that a Consul is the creature of treaty. No nation, without an agreement, can place an officer in another country with any powers or jurisdiction whatever. But as the states have renounced the separate power of making treaties with foreign nations, they cannot separately receive a consul; & as Congress have by the Confederation no immediate jurisdiction over commerce, as they have only a power bringing that jurisdiction into existence by entering into a treaty, till such treaty be entered into Congress themselves cannot receive a Consul. Till a treaty then there exists no power in any part of our government, federal or particular, to admit a Consul among us; & if it be true as the papers say that you have lately sent one over, he cannot be admitted by any power in existence to an exercise of any function. Nothing less than a new article to be agreed to by all the states would enable Congress or the particular states to receive him. You must not be surprised then if he be not received.
I think I have by this time tired you with American politics & will therefore only add assurances of the sincere regard & esteem with which I have the honour to be dr Sir your most obedient humble servt.
TO MARY JEFFERSON1
Paris, Sept. 20th, 1785.
My Dear Polly,
—I have not received a letter from you since I came to France If you knew how much I love you and what pleasure the receipt of your letters gave me at Philadelphia, you would have written to me, or at least have told your aunt what to write, and her goodness would have induced her to take the trouble of writing it I wish so much to see you, that I have desired your uncle and aunt to send you to me. I know, my dear Polly, how sorry you will be, and ought to be, to leave them and your cousins; but your sister and myself cannot live without you, and after a while we will carry you back again to see your friends in Virginia. In the meantime you shall be taught here to play on the harpsichord, to draw, to read and talk French, and such other things as will make you more worthy of the love of your friends; but above all things by our care and love of you, we will teach you to love us more than you will do if you stay so far from us I had no opportunity since Colonel Le Maire went, to send you anything; but when you come here you shall have as many dolls and playthings as you want for yourself, or to send to your cousins whenever you shall have opportunities. I hope you are a very good girl, that you love your uncle and aunt very much, and are very thankful to them all for their goodness to you; that you never suffer yourself to be angry with any body, that you give your playthings to those who want them, that you do whatever any body desires of you that is right, that you never tell stories, never beg for anything, mind your books and your work when your aunt tells you, never play but when she permits you, nor go where she forbids you; remember, too, as a constant charge, not to go out without your bonnet, because it will make you very ugly, and then we shall not love you so much. If you always practice these lessons we shall continue to love you as we do now, and it is impossible to love you any more. We shall hope to have you with us next summer, to find you a very good girl, and to assure you of the truth of our affection for you. Adieu, my dear child. Yours affectionately.
TO MRS JOHN (ABIGAIL) ADAMS
Paris Sep. 25. 1785.
—Mr. Short’s return the night before last availed me of your favor of Aug. 12. I immediately ordered the shoes you desired which will be ready tomorrow. I am not certain whether this will be in time for the departure of Mr. Barclay or of Colo. Franks, for it is not yet decided which of them goes to London. I have also procured for you three plateaux de dessert with a silvered ballustrade round them, and four figures. Of Biscuit the former cost 192#, the latter 12# each, making together 240. livres or 10. Louis. The merchant undertakes to send them by the way of Rouen through the hands of Mr. Garvey & to have them delivered in London. There will be some additional expenses of packing, transportation & duties here. Those in England I imagine you can save. When I know the amount I will inform you of it, but there will be no occasion to remit it here. With respect to the figures I could only find three of those you named, matched in size. These were Minerva, Diana, and Apollo, I was obliged to add a fourth, unguided by your choice. They offered me a fine Venus; but I thought it out of taste to have two at table at the same time. Paris & Helen were represented. I conceived it would be cruel to remove them from their peculiar shrine. When they shall pass the Atlantic, it will be to sing a requiem over our freedom & happiness. At length a fine Mars was offered, calm, bold, his faulchion not drawn but ready to be drawn. This will do, thinks I, for the table of the American Minister in London, where those whom it may concern may look and learn that though Wisdom is our guide, and the Song and Chase our supreme delight, yet we offer adoration to that tutelar God also who rocked the cradle of our birth, who has accepted our infant offerings & has shown himself the patron of our rights & avenger of our wrongs. The group then was closed, and your party formed. Envy & malice will never be quiet. I hear it already whispered to you that in admitting Minerva to your table I have departed from the principle which made me reject Venus: in plain English that I have paid a just respect to the daughter but failed to the mother. No Madam, my respect to both is sincere. Wisdom, I know, is social. She seeks her fellows, but Beauty is jealous, and illy bears the presence of a rival.—But, Allons, let us turn over another leaf, & begin the next chapter, I receive by Mr. Short a budget of London papers, they teem with every horror of which human nature is capable, assassinations, suicides, thefts, robberies, &, what is worse than assassination, theft, suicide, or robbery, the blackest slanders! indeed the man must be of rock, who can stand all this; to Mr Adams it will be but one victory the more. It would have illy suited me. I do not love difficulties. I am fond of quiet, willing to do my duty, but irritable by slander & apt to be forced by it to abandon my post. These are weaknesses from which reason & your counsels will preserve Mr. Adams. I fancy it must be the quantity of animal food eaten by the English which renders their character insusceptible of civilization. I suspect it is in their kitchens & not in their churches that their reformation must be worked, & that Missionaries of that description from hence would avail more than those who should endeavor to tame them by precepts of religion or philosophy. But what do the foolish printers of America mean by retailing all this stuff in our papers? As if it was not enough to be slandered by one’s enemies without circulating the slanders among his friends also.
To show you how willingly, I shall ever receive & execute your commissions, I venture to impose one on you. From what I recollect of the diaper & damask we used to import from England I think they were better & cheaper than here, you are well acquainted with those of both countries, if you are of the same opinion I would trouble you to send me two sets of tablecloths & napkins for 20 covers each, by Colo. Franks or Mr. Barclay who will bring them to me, but if you think they can be better got here I would rather avoid the trouble this commission will give. I enclose you a specimen of what is offered me at 100 livres for the tablecloth & 12 napkins. I suppose that, of the same quality, a table cloth. 2 aunes wide &. 4 aunes long & 20 napkins of 1 aune each, would cost 7. guineas.—I shall certainly charge the publick my houserent & court taxes. I shall do more. I shall charge my outfit. Without this I can never get out of debt. I think it will be allowed. Congress is too reasonable to expect, where no imprudent expenses are incurred, none but those which are required by a decent respect for the mantle with which they cover the public servants that such expences should be left as a burthen on our private fortunes.—But when writing to you I fancy myself at Auteuil, and chatter on till the last page of my paper awakes me from my reverie, & tells me it is time to assure you of the sincere respect & esteem with which I have the honor to be Dear Madam,
Your most obedient & Most humble servt.
P.S. The cask of wine at Auteuil, I take chearfully. I suppose the seller will apply to me for the price. Otherwise, as I do not know who he is, I shall not be able to find him out.